Monthly Archives: February 2013

Voting against one’s rational interests

Right now, most of the talk in the national political conversation is about who is going to win the next federal election and what is happening to the federal ALP.

The Essential Media Communications (EMC) poll this week (25th of February, 2013) produced some very interesting results that tell us far more than most of the media commentary surrounding federal politics of late. Normally I’d analyse dynamics with information pulled from multiple sources but EMC did their job so well this week that I’m going to ignore everything else and use their poll alone.

We’ll start by looking at whether voters believe the federal ALP government deserves to be re-elected or not.

Q. As of now, do you think the current Federal Labor Government of Julia Gillard deserves to be re-elected?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Yes, deserves to be re-elected

26%

66%

4%

31%

No, does not deserve to be re-elected

57%

17%

88%

38%

Don’t know

17%

17%

8%

31%

This alone tells quite a story. 26% of respondents believe the federal ALP government deserves to be re-elected compared with 57% who believe they don’t deserve to be re-elected. If you go into the partisan breakdowns you can see that 88% of Coalition voters are waiting to take baseball bats to this government.

What about the other “side” of politics? Do the public trust the Coalition to govern Australia?

Q. Do you think the Liberal Party led by Tony Abbott has shown it has the policies and leadership to be ready to govern?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Liberals are ready to govern

36%

6%

72%

4%

Liberals are not ready to govern

45%

82%

12%

79%

Don’t know

19%

13%

16%

17%

This says a lot as well. 36% believe the Liberals are ready to govern compared to 45% who say they’re not ready to govern. Sure, the response is a bit closer than it was when the same question was asked in relation to the federal ALP government, but it’s still quite telling. People don’t trust the Liberal Party!

Next we’ll look at whether voters think they’d be better or worse off under a Coalition government lead by Tony Abbott.

Q. If the Labor Party lost the next election, do you think the following would be better or worse under a Liberal/National Government led by Tony Abbott?

A lot better

A little better

Stay much the same

A little worse

A lot worse

Don’t use

NET (Better-Worse)

Political leadership

16%

19%

27%

10%

24%

4%

+1

Trust in Government

13%

19%

29%

12%

22%

4%

-2

Unemployment

7%

18%

39%

13%

19%

5%

-7

The economy overall

16%

22%

31%

12%

16%

4%

+10

The cost of living

6%

19%

36%

14%

21%

4%

-10

Interest rates

5%

13%

48%

14%

16%

5%

-12

Health services

6%

19%

36%

16%

20%

4%

-11

Job security

7%

17%

36%

14%

22%

4%

-12

Workers rights and conditions

5%

13%

37%

15%

25%

5%

-22

Company profits

13%

28%

37%

6%

10%

6%

+25

The environment

5%

13%

47%

11%

21%

4%

-14

Job creation

8%

20%

39%

13%

16%

4%

-1

Public services

6%

15%

42%

13%

20%

4%

-12

Benefits for people on Government support – such as pensioners and the unemployed

5%

13%

39%

16%

23%

5%

-21

Your personal financial situation

6%

16%

42%

15%

16%

4%

-9

What on earth is going on here? The numbers to focus on are the ones in bold. They show that on most of these attributes, voters overwhelmingly believe they’re not going to get a better government than the one they have right now. In many areas such as unemployment, cost of living, interest rates, health services, job security, workers rights and conditions, the environment, the public service, benefits for people on government support such as pensioners and the unemployed and voters personal financial situation, they think things will either remain the same or be much worse under an Abbott lead Coalition government. There is no positive sentiment towards the opposition which is what you’d usually in this sort of situation.

Most interestingly, voters believe the Coalition will be better with the economy than the current government but worse on everything that relates to the economy such as unemployment, interest rates, cost of living, their personal financial situation and so on.

The mood towards a potential Coalition government is either status quo or

Finally, we’ll look at the voting intention and two party preferred vote for this poll.

Q. If a Federal Election was held today to which party will you probably give your first preference vote? If not sure, which party are you currently leaning toward?

Q. If don’t know -Well which party are you currently leaning to?

Sample size = 1,899 respondents

First preference/leaning to

Election

21 Aug 10

4 weeks ago

29/1/13

2 weeks ago

11/2/13

Last week

18/2/13

This week

25/2/13

Liberal

44%

45%

44%

46%

National

3%

3%

3%

3%

Total Lib/Nat

43.6%

48%

48%

47%

49%

Labor

38.0%

35%

34%

35%

34%

Greens

11.8%

10%

9%

9%

9%

Other/Independent

6.6%

7%

9%

8%

8%

2PP

Election

21 Aug 10

4 weeks ago

2 weeks ago

Last week

This week

Total Lib/Nat

49.9%

54%

55%

54%

56%

Labor

50.1%

46%

45%

46%

44%

As you can see, the Coalition are miles ahead of the ALP on voting intention and the two party preferred vote. It’s been this way for quite some time and it’s the same story across pretty much every reputable outfit that conducts opinion polls on federal politics.

So the question is why do voters think the federal ALP government doesn’t deserve to be re-elected when they distrust and probably fear a potential Abbott lead Coalition government?

There are a couple of important points in relation to human psychology that need to be explored before we go any further.

Firstly people aren’t rational and often think things and do things that are inconsistent with their best interests. I’ve shown that above in relation to voters thinking a potential Coalition government would be better at handling the economy yet on every issue related to the economy they believe they will the Coalition will be worse than the current government.

American commentator Thomas Frank wrote a superb book titled “What’s The Matter With Kansas” that showed this dynamic in great detail. Most people would rationally assume that the people of Kansas would be far better off with the policies of a Democratic administration yet Kansas is a very solid Republican voting state because the Republicans figured out how to communicate in a way that persuaded the people of Kansas to vote for them. Some of the methods they’ve used to do that are quite ethically/morally questionable but that’s another topic for another day.

The same dynamic appears to be true with a lot of the Australian political debate.

The Liberal Party have figured out how to communicate to voters who you would rationally expect to be better off under an ALP government to vote for them even though it’s against their interests. I’ve covered how the Liberal Party have gone about doing this in reasonable detail as it relates to the issue of Industrial Relations and how they’ve gone about framing the political conversation.

People make decisions and behave emotionally and justify their decisions and behaviour rationally!

Secondly is the cognitive bias known as ‘the backfire effect.’ When information is presented to people who hold a particular view on an issue, there is a tendency for people to believe the opposite of what the information is saying with more emotional intensity.

For example, if I were to say under the ALP, interest rates have been lower than at any point during the Howard Coalition government, a Liberal voter would likely ignore that information and become more emotionally entrenched in the view that the Labor Party equates to debt and deficits.

Another example is where I might say the media has little to no influence over public opinion or how people vote on election day. It doesn’t matter how much information I provide that shows it to be true, many supporters of progressive politics simply can’t accept it and the view that the media has control over public opinion and how people vote on election day becomes more ingrained in their belief systems regardless of the evidence.

The best example I can think of that shows ‘the backfire effect’ in action in the national political conversation is what has happened with the carbon tax. It doesn’t matter how much information you provide people on how beneficial the policy is to the environment, what good it has done for the economy or how people’s living standards haven’t been affected, the view that it’s a bad policy at least in the short term, remains firmly entrenched in the minds of many of voters.

Framing and communication matter! It’s all well and good to cite long policy lists of achievement and what the data says in regards to how certain policies are working but if you aren’t dealing with people on an interpersonal level and there is no process of illustration or persuasion mechanism to get people to buy what you’re saying, it all falls on deaf ears.

Going back to the question of why people think the ALP government doesn’t deserve to be relected when there is overwhelming distrust of an Abbott Coalition government, I think it has to do with the ALP’s complete lack of understanding of how human psychology works.

Most of the strategy has been to rally the base. Maybe it has to do with an insecure party identity. Maybe it has to do with certain people wanting to hold onto their positions of power regardless of the larger interests of the party and the federal government. Maybe it has to do with ALP members and supporters not liking the society the party created during the Hawke and Keating governments. Maybe it’s a combination of those things.

In the end, I believe the ALP have failed to communicate to Coalition voters. There is no real emphasis on what people value in the economy and framing communication to seize control of the national conversation. It’s all be been targeted at people who will vote for the ALP regardless of what they say.

There has been no real attempt to get inside the mind of how someone who is prepared to vote for the Liberal Party thinks and what would persuade them to vote for the ALP and this is where the Coalition have a major advantage. They have thought in terms of how a blue collar Labor voter thinks. They have hit on the hot buttons of economic security and protection by constantly talking about how this government operates in terms of processes and focusing on the emotions behind policies such as the carbon tax, the mining tax and asylum seeker policy and framing all of their communication in a negative way towards the Labor base.

It’s very hard to persuade someone to see issues in the same way you see them if you don’t understand where your opponents supporters are coming from and where they have common ground with you. The ALP’s lack of understanding of this point is why you’ll see polling on issues that shows Coalition voters overwhelmingly disapproving of ALP policies even if those policies are what they’d support on another level of awareness.

The longer the ALP remains in the mode of thinking that believes people rationally follow their own self interest and make decisions without any reference to emotional values, the longer the Coalition will get away with being avoiding scrutiny in relation to key policies and petty political game playing.

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Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

A few months ago I wrote this post in relation to Tony Abbott. It was based upon the ideas in George Lakoff’s book “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and it had to do with how the ALP’s relentless obsession with attacking Tony Abbott was allowing him to dictate the terms of the national conversation rather than causing him or the Coalition any real political damage.

The exact same principles apply to Kevin Rudd although there are three major differences: it’s coming from all sides of politics, it has many more dimensions and it’s far more emotionally intense.

Everything in the national debate at this very moment is falling into this dynamic and it will only amplify up until election day on September 14th this year or until there is some sort of dramatic intervention in the ALP.

You’ll see stories like this one today in the Courier Mail that suggest banning all talk of Kevin Rudd. What this sort of mentality does is induce the backfire effect. “Let’s ban all talk of Kevin Rudd” makes the voices of people who support Kevin Rudd even louder and more profound than they already are. This is a very common occurrence.

Perversely for many who hate him, if talk of Kevin Rudd were to stop or if he was to simply walk away from public life all together or if he was simply run over by a bus, nothing in national politics would change. The ALP would still be committing the same political mistakes day after day. Tony Abbott would still control the frame of the national conversation and public disillusionment with federal politics would remain where it is. Without Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull would probably be the only island of hope remaining for many people. They are the only two politicians in Australia right now that the public overwhelmingly respect.

This dynamic of conscious and unconscious Kevin Rudd invoking is out of the box and firmly in place because of the extremely high levels of uncertainty in the community both culturally and economically, the strong disapproval towards both federal leaders, the high expectations of what government (the Prime Minister) can do to improve people’s quality of life and the need for people to relate to someone in the national political conversation.

Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

You heard me, don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

Why are you still thinking about Kevin Rudd?

Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd!

Kevin Rudd is politically dead!

Kevin Rudd is never coming back!

Kevin Rudd did <insert bad thing>!

Kevin Rudd said <insert nasty thing>!

Kevin Rudd visited a strip club!

Kevin Rudd uses his family for political purposes!

Kevin Rudd is a psychopath!

Kevin Rudd behind the scenes is mean to puppies, small children and ALP MP’s!

Kevin Rudd runs/ran a dysfunctional office! (note: so do 90% of politicians)

Kevin Rudd is a man who has no Labor values!

Kevin Rudd is narcissistic!

I hate Kevin Rudd!

Kevin Rudd has sabotaged the ALP!

Kevin Rudd is anti trade union!

Kevin Rudd leaked during the election campaign!

Kevin Rudd is politically finished!

Kevin Rudd got nothing done as Prime Minister!

Kevin Rudd was a lemon!

Kevin Rudd is a Liberal Party double agent!

Kevin Rudd is civil to Liberal Party MP’s!

Kevin Rudd is superficial!

Kevin Rudd has no substance or depth!

Kevin Rudd uses his church for political purposes!

Kevin Rudd is a media tart!

Kevin Rudd is embarrassing!

Kevin Rudd briefs journalists off the record!

Kevin Rudd is “white-anting” Julia Gillard’s leadership!

Kevin Rudd took away certain people’s printing money!

What an evil man Kevin Rudd is!

Why does everyone in politics and the media keep focusing on Kevin Rudd?

Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

I declare that we ban all talk of Kevin Rudd!

A poll said <insert negative thing> in regards to Kevin Rudd!

The Coalition will use all of this material in an advertising campaign against Kevin Rudd!

Why are you still thinking about Kevin Rudd?

STOP THINKING ABOUT KEVIN RUDD!!!

Rudd protest

Image: Dave Hunt AAP via the ABC September 6th 2012

It’s all water off a duck’s back mate!

Firing blanks on industrial relations

This week has seen the ALP attempt to galvanise the union movement to fight for them in order to prevent the Coalition from winning the next federal election. This has meant that union leaders such as Paul Howes have featured prominently in the media.

I thought I’d take a look at how unions are viewed by the Australian public to see if this would have any benefit to the ALP. Firstly, I’m going to look at how the public views unions, then I’m going to look at how the public views industrial relations as an election issue and finally how it all plays out in the national political debate.

Firstly we’ll start with some issues polling from Essential Media Communications from September 10th 2012.

Q. Overall, do you think unions have been good or bad for Australian working people?

19 Mar 2012

This week 10 Sept 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total good

48%

45%

67%

30%

74%

47%

51%

Total bad

17%

20%

4%

36%

6%

22%

18%

Very good

12%

11%

20%

4%

28%

11%

12%

Good

36%

34%

47%

26%

46%

36%

39%

Neither good nor bad

28%

27%

24%

30%

13%

25%

21%

Bad

11%

12%

3%

20%

5%

12%

11%

Very bad

6%

8%

1%

16%

1%

10%

7%

Don’t know

6%

8%

6%

4%

7%

5%

9%

This is fairly straight forward. A majority of respondents believe unions have been good for Australian working people. Next we’ll look at the importance of unions to Australian working people today.

Q. And how important are unions for Australian working people today?

19 Mar 2012

This week 10 Sept 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total Important

56%

52%

72%

34%

82%

52%

56%

Total Not Important

35%

38%

21%

58%

11%

42%

33%

Very important

19%

16%

28%

6%

37%

19%

15%

Quite important

37%

36%

44%

28%

45%

33%

41%

Not very important

27%

28%

19%

40%

9%

31%

25%

Not at all important

8%

10%

2%

18%

2%

11%

8%

Don’t know

9%

10%

6%

8%

7%

6%

10%

Again, pretty straight forward. A majority of respondents appreciate the importance of unions to Australian working people. The next question is where things start to get a little interesting.

Q. Overall, would workers be better off or worse off if unions in Australia were stronger?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total better off

39%

58%

24%

71%

40%

40%

Total worse off

30%

17%

47%

9%

35%

24%

A lot better off

13%

24%

7%

20%

15%

13%

A little better off

26%

34%

17%

51%

25%

27%

A little worse off

15%

13%

20%

5%

16%

12%

A lot worse off

15%

4%

27%

4%

19%

12%

Make no difference

15%

12%

18%

7%

16%

15%

Don’t know

15%

14%

12%

13%

9%

21%

This result shows a majority consider Australian working people would be better off if unions were stronger, but it’s not as intense as the response to the previous two questions. A decent chunk of the response is either indifferent or simply doesn’t know. If we were combining the results we could say 60% of respondents consider Australian working people would be worse off, no different or unsure about whether they’d be better or worse off if unions were stronger. If we look at the intensity of response, we can see that only 13% of respondents believe Australian working people would be a lot better off if unions were stronger compared to 26% who believe they’d be a little better off. This is not very encouraging news if you believe in the importance and good that unions do.

Next is another Essential Media Communications Poll from October 22nd, 2012 which looked at trust in organisations and institutions.

Q. How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?

Total

trust

26 Sep 11

Total

trust

12 Jun 12

Total trust

22 Oct 12

A lot of trust

Some trust

A little trust

No trust

Don’t know

% change

The High Court

72%

60%

63%

26%

37%

21%

10%

6%

+3

The ABC

46%

54%

59%

20%

39%

26%

8%

6%

+5

The Reserve Bank

67%

49%

53%

16%

37%

28%

12%

8%

+4

Charitable organisations

61%

50%

53%

9%

44%

33%

10%

5%

+3

Environment groups

45%

32%

36%

8%

28%

35%

24%

6%

+4

The Commonwealth Public Service

49%*

30%

33%

6%

27%

41%

16%

10%

+3

Your local council

na

na

32%

4%

28%

39%

22%

6%

na

Religious organisations

29%

27%

31%

7%

24%

28%

35%

6%

+4

Newspapers

na

26%

31%

4%

27%

45%

20%

4%

+5

Online news media

na

23%

28%

4%

24%

45%

20%

6%

+5

TV news media

na

21%

26%

5%

21%

44%

26%

4%

+5

Federal Parliament

55%

22%

26%

4%

22%

37%

32%

5%

+4

State Parliament

na

na

25%

4%

21%

37%

33%

5%

na

Business groups

38%

22%

25%

3%

22%

45%

21%

9%

+3

Trade unions

39%

22%

23%

5%

18%

32%

36%

9%

+1

Political parties

na

12%

16%

2%

14%

36%

42%

6%

+4

What this table shows is that unions have a very low degree of trust in the Australian community. Very similar levels of trust to the business community. That might be due to the larger dynamics in relation to the changing nature of the Australian economy or it could simply be how the public are viewing the fight between business and unions in the debate around industrial relations issues i.e come to consensus rather than tear each other apart.

Next we’ll look at another Essential Media Communications poll from July 30th, 2012 on public views in relation to the Fair Work Act.

Q. Business groups have said that Australia’s industrial relations laws favour workers and unions and should be changed so that businesses can increase productivity and have more flexibility with their workforce. Do you think Australia’s industrial relations laws favour employers or workers or do they balance the interests of workers and employers?

6 Feb 12

Total

30 Jul 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Full time workers

Part time workers

Favour employers

25%

20%

25%

16%

33%

22%

16%

Favour workers

24%

26%

12%

43%

14%

29%

24%

Balance the interests of employers and workers

34%

34%

49%

26%

26%

33%

37%

Don’t know

17%

20%

13%

15%

26%

17%

23%

This result shows the majority believe the current industrial relations system balances the interests of employers and workers, but what’s interesting is the partisan responses. Labor and Greens respondents believe the current laws favour employers more than workers and Coalition respondents believe the laws favour workers more than employers, yet there seems to be a fair amount of agreement across the partisan spectrum that the laws find a balance between both groups. This suggests that a message that transcends the partisan divide from either political party would get a positive response from the community. I’ll talk about this a bit more in a minute.

Next we’ll look at industrial relations as important election issue and which political party is more trusted to handle it. For this I’ll use both the last Newspoll and Essential Media Communications poll that asked these questions. We’ll start with Newspoll from February 2013:

Thinking about federal politics. would you say each of the following issues is very important, fairly important or not important on how you personally would vote in a federal election? (issues rated as very important)

Interest Rates Health and Medicare Education National Security Leadership IndustrialRelations The Economy Climate Change Asylum Seekers arriving in Australia Unemployment
% % % % % % % % % %
1-3 Feb 2013 38 80 77 57 62 39 74 35 48 56

This result shows Industrial Relations is not high on the list of important issues in terms of what would decide how one would vote at a federal election. Then we get:

Which one of the (ALP, Liberal and National Party Coalition or someone else) do you think would best handle the issue of industrial relations?

Liberal/National Coalition ALP Someone Else None Uncommitted
% % % % %
1-3 Feb 2013 36 41 4 3 16

This result shows more respondents think the ALP are best to handle the issue of industrial relations but not by much. This is a bit alarming given how often the ALP talk about the threat of a Coalition government bringing back WorkChoices and other forms of draconian industrial relations legislation.

Next we’ll look at the Essential Media Communications results on important election issues and the political party best to handle those issues. These results are from February 11th 2013:

Q. Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election?

Total

11 Feb 13

19 Nov 12

30 Jul 12

5 Dec 11

6 June 11

25 Jan 10

Management of the economy

62%

66%

64%

62%

61%

63%

Ensuring a quality education for all children

29%

35%

26%

22%

26%

23%

Ensuring the quality of Australia’s health system

52%

57%

47%

47%

49%

48%

Protecting the environment

14%

14%

11%

13%

15%

16%

A fair industrial relations system

12%

8%

12%

11%

8%

na

Political leadership

14%

15%

25%

18%

17%

23%

Addressing climate change

9%

9%

9%

10%

15%

16%

Controlling interest rates

9%

11%

9%

11%

13%

15%

Australian jobs and protection of local industries

40%

32%

41%

36%

32%

33%

Ensuring a quality water supply

4%

5%

3%

4%

5%

12%

Housing affordability

11%

14%

13%

13%

16%

14%

Ensuring a fair taxation system

21%

17%

18%

16%

17%

14%

Security and the war on terrorism

6%

5%

5%

4%

8%

9%

Treatment of asylum seekers

6%

6%

10%

8%

5%

na

Managing population growth

9%

7%

8%

8%

12%

na

There are many more issues for respondents to choose from in this poll than the Newspoll but again it shows “A fair indutrial relations system” not high on the list with only 12% considering it an important election issue.

Q. Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues?

Labor

Liberal

Greens

Don’t know

Diff
11
Feb
13

Diff
19
Nov
12

Diff
18
Jun
12

Management of the economy

31%

46%

3%

21%

-15

-14

-18

Ensuring a quality education for all children

37%

35%

6%

22%

+2

+5

-2

Ensuring the quality of Australia’s health system

33%

36%

6%

25%

-3

-3

-6

Protecting the environment

20%

21%

39%

20%

+18

+16

+17

A fair industrial relations system

39%

33%

4%

23%

+6

+9

+6

Political leadership

29%

37%

6%

29%

-8

-12

-16

Addressing climate change

21%

24%

29%

26%

+5

+9

+7

Controlling interest rates

27%

41%

3%

30%

-14

-11

-18

Protecting Australian jobs and protection of local industries

33%

36%

4%

27%

-3

-2

-6

Ensuring a quality water supply

21%

27%

23%

29%

-6

-7

-12

Housing affordability

27%

33%

5%

35%

-6

-5

-11

Ensuring a fair taxation system

31%

37%

4%

28%

-6

-9

-10

Security and the war on terrorism

25%

38%

4%

33%

-13

-15

-22

Treatment of asylum seekers

20%

37%

14%

30%

-17

-18

-20

Managing population growth

21%

33%

7%

39%

-12

-15

-19

This table shows that one of the only issues where respondents trust the ALP more than the Coalition is industrial relations. But even then it’s only by a margin of 6%. It’s not exactly the margin many in the ALP would like to see in relation to this contest given the amount of time they’ve spent hammering on the issue.

If there’s one issue Tony Abbott has been very clever with, it would be in relation to his political tactics on industrial relations. Many in the Liberal Party would like to see a return to WorkChoices. It’s a reason many people join the Liberal Party in the first place: to shift the policy needles in favour of the business community and crush the union movement. What Tony Abbott has done by contrast is take a different approach.

Instead of advocating for a return to WorkChoices, he’s attempted to position the Liberal Party as the party that favours a fair and balanced industrial relations system. So whenever he talks about flexibility, it’s framing the issue in terms of the pendulum being tilted too far in one direction. The polling above shows many prefer an industrial relations system that balances employers and workers interests. His message is framed towards this group: the middle. So whenever the ALP say he’ll bring back WorkChoices if he becomes Prime Minister, all he does is say he’s for a fair system and the ALP are for an unbalanced system.

Then he associates himself with people from the trade union movement such as Kathy Jackson who are seen as extremely dodgy to Labor people because he’s trying to frame his message in terms of how the ALP behave rather than what he does. It’s part of the reason he’ll also advocate for the reestablishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. People in the union movement know what that means but communicating it with all the noise and framing it in a way that makes him look extreme is extremely difficult when he’s framed it around the way the ALP and the union movement behave.

And to drive the dagger in as firmly in as possible, he then addresses the National Press Club in January and says things like:

“As my personal history shows, I’ve never been anti-union.

I support unions that are honestly managed and genuinely focused on a fair deal for their members.

That’s why a big part of the Coalition’s workplace policy will be tackling the rorts we’ve seen in the Health Services Union and the Australian Workers Union.

These are the sorts of measures that a less-compromised Labor government could introduce and that decent Labor people would support.

I have never believed that Australian workers are overpaid and will never begrudge the decent working people of our country a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

That’s why our workplace policy will ensure that changes have to benefit a business’s workers as well as its owners, managers and customers – because you can’t have a successful business without motivated workers”

http://australianpolitics.com/2013/01/31/tony-abbott-address-to-national-press-club.html

This sort of rhetoric completely floors people who support the ALP and the union movement as it’s the exact opposite of their message that he’ll bring WorkChoices back and worse. It looks like the “Evil Bunny” all over again but this time, it’s the ALP using the tactics.

The ALP: “A government lead by Tony Abbott would bring back WorkChoices”, The Public: “So what? Look at the way you behave!” … That’s pretty much the dynamic Abbott’s trying to create around this issue and I’d say he’s been quite successful at it.

The problem is only exacerbated when the Prime Minister says things such as the passage below

“I’m not the leader of a party called the progressive party.

I’m not the leader of a party called the moderate party.

I’m not the leader of a party even called the socialist democratic party.

I’m a leader of the party called the Labor Party deliberately because that is what we come from.

That is what we believe in and that is who we are.”

http://australianpolitics.com/2013/02/18/julia-gillard-speech-to-awu-conference.html

All this sort of rhetoric does is allow Tony Abbott to firmly plant the Coalition as representatives of the middle in terms of industrial relations and other issues in the national political debate.

Then you see people like Paul Howes on Lateline and the point becomes more profound.

In my opinion, what the ALP should be doing is emphasising the socially democratic, progressive, moderate side of the party. A party with unions attached to it but not one where they’re calling the shots. After all, collective bargaining is a democratic right! It’s not just a plaything for political parties to score points. These are people’s lives and living standards we’re talking about!

The union movement during the Hawke and Keating governments did three very important things that were painful to their membership but were in the best interests of the nation:

1. The Prices and Incomes Accord

2. Ending 100 years of Centralised Wage Fixing and shifting to Enterprise Bargaining

3. Compulsory Superannuation

If you listen to Paul Keating as often as I have, you’ll eventually hear him talk about how he had to put the union movement in a headlock and pull out their rotten teeth with a pair of pliers in order to get some of these things done and he’ll include extreme amounts of praise towards Bill Kelty who was the head of the ACTU at the time for making those sacrifices for the greater good of the nation.

These reforms allowed the union movement to survive in this age as well and made certain that even with the massive cultural and economic changes, the purpose of unions and the right for employees to collectively bargain was enshrined in the Australian social contract.

I think a lot of this history is either largely forgotten by the current ALP or is simply not understood or appreciated.

A lot of the rhetoric from the ALP on industrial relations is filled with good intentions. Fairness is very important to Australians but at the same time, most of the political points being made against the Coalition are simply firing blanks and while Abbott maintains the framing that the Coalition aren’t going to bring back WorkChoices if they form government (regardless of whether people believe him or not), that will continue to be the case.

Exclusion leading to concerned indifference

“I’m not the leader of a party called the progressive party, I’m not the leader of a party called the moderate party, I’m not the leader of a party even called the social democratic party. I’m the leader of the party called the Labor Party deliberately, because that is where we come from, that is what we believe in, that is who we are.” – Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Australian Workers Union National Conference, February 18th, 2013

When I heard the Prime Minister utter these words last night on Lateline, I felt a twinge of anger and despair in my stomach, not because of the words but because of their intended political purpose.

As someone who identifies with words such as “social democrat”, “progressive” and “moderate” and considers the Australian Labor Party to be the natural home for someone who believes in all of those approaches to issues, I felt quite alienated. I believe that emotion is the opposite of the very foundation of what the Australian Labor Party is meant to be about!

Many times Prime Minister Gillard has spoken about “Labor values” without specifically defining what they are in terms of what people value or values systems people have established throughout their lives.

I consider inclusion to be a core value of the Australian Labor Party and the words uttered by the Prime Minister last night were exclusionary and go a long way to explaining many of the political problems the party is currently experiencing.

Leaving aside words such as “social democrat” and “progressive”, the fact the Prime Minister would disassociate herself from the word “moderate” is a major mistake!

Many people who are supporters of a so called “centre-right” agenda identify themselves as “moderate.” These are people who need to vote for the ALP in order for the party to win the next federal election and they have many trigger points that will turn them away from the Liberal Party such as asylum seeker policy, an emotionally reassuring, pragmatic and optimistic approach to the economy, addressing dangerous climate change and the extreme social and economic positions of their current leader to name a few.

When many of these “moderates” see Tony Abbott, they feel a deep sense of concern. When they hear Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan dissociate themselves from the word “moderate” and “the middle ground” in order to re-appeal to the old anvil of the blue collar manufacturing base and the old economy of the industrial age, many feel passively indifferent about him.

They don’t lose the feelings of concern, they simply disassociate themselves emotionally from what is happening in the national conversation.

Whenever the ALP attack Abbott or any of the other Liberal state Premier for being extreme all it does is intensify this emotional state of concerned indifference.

There is a lot of talk right now that suggests the ALP should adopt the successful campaigning methods from the Democrats in the USA in order to win the next federal election. The exclusionary rhetoric on display last night is inconsistent with what the Democrats were doing during that campaign and why it was successful.

I have never once seen Barack Obama disassociate himself from a socially democratic, progressive, moderate position.

I have never once seen Bill Clinton disassociate himself from a socially democratic, progressive, moderate position.

I have never once seen Bob Hawke disassociate himself from a socially democratic, progressive, moderate position.

I have never once seen Paul Keating disassociate himself from a socially democratic, progressive, moderate position.

I have never once seen Kevin Rudd disassociate himself from a socially democratic, progressive, moderate position.

In short, no one who wins elections at a national level either in Australia or the United States says what Prime Minister Gillard said last night!

Many people in the ALP wonder why the party has struggled since 1996 to consistently get over 40% of the primary vote at a federal level. I believe excluding people in the community in order to play to the ever diminishing base vote goes a very long way to understanding why this is and has been the case for such a long time.

The Prime Minister and her people should think very long and hard about the effects of this exclusionary rhetoric before engaging in it again. It will not win the next federal election for the ALP and it’s extremely damaging when the party needs to be opening itself up to the community and the people living in it so they can win as many votes as possible rather than closing itself off and engaging in an ultimately self defeating race to the bottom with the Coalition parties.

“Too many people in the Labor Party don’t like the society we created” – Paul Keating in conversation with Kerry O’Brien in 2011

Mr Keating has a very unique way of summarising situations and people in a single sentence. I think this one as applied to what was said last night is dead on the money!

Where’s my mining boom!!!

The mining tax has become a major issue over the past week since it was revealed that it had generated far less revenue than the government and the community originally anticipated in it’s first six months of operation.

At first glance, this issue might seem like a political minefield for the ALP as it plays into classic Liberal Party frames in relation to the ALP being wealth redistrubtors, the party that punishes success and so on.

The reality as you’re about to see is very much the opposite.

The mining tax has overwhelming support in the community and the general consensus is the miners and the mining industry aren’t contributing enough to the overall well being of the Australian economy and society in general. There are of course economic reasons for this dynamic such as the dramatic rise in the price of iron ore over the past decade and China’s intense demand for Australian resources to facilitate their rapidly growing economy.

What I’m going to focus on with this post is how it plays out in the realm of public opinion and the national political debate.

We’ll start with a poll conducted in June 2012 by Galaxy Research on behalf of the “free market think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs (The IPA). This poll asked the question:

“In your opinion, who do you think is more responsible for Australia’s strong economy? The Gillard government, or the mining industry?”

The results were:

The Gillard Government: 28%

The Mining Industry: 69%

Don’t Know 8%

Given the IPA’s close ties to mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Liberal Party of Australia, it’s fair to assume that they commissioned this poll and released it in order to humiliate the federal government. That doesn’t mean we should treat this poll with any more or less suspicion than any other poll.

Far from it!

I interpret these results a bit differently than they obviously do (if they saw it my way, I’m not sure they’d have released it). I think the public feels hostage to the mining industry and they want the government to act on their behalf! …

Moving right along!

Next, we’ll look at Essential Media’s polling on public opinion to both mining as an industry and the mining tax as a policy.

January 21, 2013:

Q. How much trust do you have in the following industries to act in the public interest

Total trust

A lot of trust

Some trust

Not much trust

No trust at all

Don’t know

Agriculture

72%

20%

52%

18%

4%

5%

Tourism

68%

12%

56%

22%

6%

5%

Manufacturing

56%

8%

48%

30%

8%

7%

Construction and development

48%

5%

43%

33%

12%

6%

Retail

47%

3%

44%

38%

12%

3%

Telecommunications

37%

3%

34%

41%

18%

3%

Banking

33%

5%

28%

36%

29%

3%

Mining

32%

3%

29%

35%

25%

8%

Media

30%

2%

28%

40%

27%

2%

Power companies

18%

1%

17%

37%

41%

4%

From the results above, we can see that mining is near the bottom of trusted industries in Australia only ahead of the media and power companies. This alone is quite telling. Let’s look deeper at the public’s opinion in regards to the actual policy. Again from Essential Media:

November 28, 2012:

Q. Do you support or oppose the following Government decisions?

Total Support

Total Oppose

NBN (National Broadband Network) – high speed broadband access across Australia

69%

20%

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) – a tax on large profits of mining companies

63%

22%

The carbon pricing scheme – a tax on industries based on the amount of carbon pollution they emit

46%

44%

If we break that down even further into intensities of response we get:

Strongly support

Support

Oppose

Strongly oppose

Don’t know

25%

38%

12%

10%

15%

It’s pretty clear when you see these results that the Australian public overwhelmingly support the mining tax. When you consider the IPA commissioned Galaxy Poll that shows Australian’s consider the mining industry as responsible for the country’s strong economy, it’s not hard to understand why this is the case. The mining industry is powerful and they need to be held accountable for the public’s economic well-being through the public’s elected representatives: the government.

But what about the Coalition’s initial argument in relation to miners leaving the country when the mining tax came into operation? Did the public buy it?

June 12, 2012:

Q. Which of the following statements is closest to your view?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Labour costs and taxes threaten the future of mining investment in Australia

32%

19%

47%

16%

Mining companies want Australian resources and they will continue to invest here despite labour costs and taxes

49%

62%

39%

69%

Don’t know

20%

19%

14%

15%

I think it’s safe to say that based on the results above the answer to that question is a very definitive no!

Here’s another question from Essential Media, this time in relation to whether mining companies pay enough, the right amount or not enough tax:

April 23, 2012:

Q. Overall, do you think mining companies pay too much tax, not enough tax or about the right amount of tax?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Pay too much tax

11%

8%

15%

2%

Don’t pay enough tax

37%

54%

25%

63%

Pay about the right amount of tax

27%

18%

37%

6%

Don’t know

25%

20%

22%

29%

Based on the results above, it’s pretty evident that the Australian public doesn’t seem to have a lot of sympathy for the mining industry. The point is made emphatically when you see results that show 37% of respondents believe mining companies don’t pay enough tax!

Lets see what polling conducted by other organisations and institutions tells us.

In mid 2011, UMR Research conducted a poll into attitudes towards the mining industry. it found that 41% of respondents felt the big mining companies were paying too little in federal taxes compared to 33% who felt the mining companies paid about the right amount. A mere 7% of respondents felt the miners paid too much!

In October 2011, the Australian National University released a poll on attitudes to government and government services which showed 12% of respondents believed mining companies were taxed too high compared to 29% who believed they were taxed about right and 59% who believed they were taxed too low. This poll also showed an overwhelming 81% of respondents approved of taxing very profitable mining companies.

Fast forward to April 2012 and AC Nielsen conducted a poll for the Australian Financial Review that showed only 12% of respondents felt they had personally benefited “a lot” from the mining boom. By contrast 33% of respondents felt they had benefited “a little” and an overwhelming 52% of respondents felt they “had not benefited at all.”

To make the point even more emphatic: in Western Australia, where you’d expect to see most of the benefit from the mining boom due to the incredible amount of mining investment and projects being implemented in the state, 23% of respondents felt they’ve benefited a lot compared to 35% who felt they’d benefited a little and 41% who felt they haven’t benefited at all! … In Western Australia! … The state that constantly threatens to secede because they’re doing the “hard work” for the rest of the country and overflowing with mining riches!

Finally UMR Research once again conducted another poll in September 2012 in relation to attitudes towards the mining industry. Although it found 41% of respondents thought they and their family were better off thanks to the mining boom compared to 23% who thought they and their family were worse off, their research also found that 61% of respondents agreed to the statement “Australia’s economy is too mining focused at the expense of other industry sectors” and 66% of respondents felt the industry is too dominated by big multinational companies.

I think that’s enough polling data for you to get the picture of how the mining industry, mining companies and the mining tax are viewed by the Australian public.

What all of this tells us is there is a feeling that the mining industry is responsible for the economic success of Australia, yet at the same time it’s very clear that an overwhelming majority of people are feeling and thinking that something needs to be done to take advantage of the boom and they’re viewing the mining tax as a favourable policy response.

So when the mining companies and the lobbying firms produce advertisements like the one’s below, all they do is reinforce the view that they’re not doing enough for Australia and the public demand more from them and their government to make things right.

The results in terms of public opinion are pretty much the opposite of what we all think the mining industry wants which is to pay as little tax as possible and in some rare cases the diabolically ingenious idea of paying “less than” nothing.

With all of that firmly in place, what happens when the public hear that the mining companies spent $22 million on an advertising campaign in 2010 to roll a Prime Minister who was trying to look after the Australian people’s interests?

How do you think the public feel when they see mining companies (especially extremely large foreign mining companies) and the mining industry as a group attempting to avoid paying the mining tax by any means necessary and earning themselves hundreds of billions of dollars in profit over the next decade at the Australian people’s expense?

How do you think the public feel when they hear that the government’s policy to deal with this issue of securing Australia’s future prosperity after the mining boom ends only raised a mere $126 million in revenue in it’s first six months of it’s operation, not even scratching the surface of the $2 Billion in revenue the tax is meant to generate for this financial year?

How do you think the public feel if they read an essay by the Treasurer (big “if”) about the importance of “the fair go” in relation to Australia’s identity and talking about the influence of Bruce Springsteen in relation to how he goes about formulating policies while hearing, reading and feeling what the policies he espouses and has implemented are actually delivering to the Australian people?

How do you think the public feel when they hear about all of the global economic uncertainty and insecurity while having to keep up with the ever increasing demands and difficulties of modern life?

How do you think the public feel when they see television documentaries that demonstrate what these mining companies are doing and what they can afford such as their own private airports and fly in and fly out workers to these regional communities in which they operate?

How do you think the public feel when they see television, radio, and full page magazine advertisements such as the three I’ve posted above from companies and lobbyists on behalf of the mining industry that appear to have unlimited money and political power and a larger voice in the “democratic” process than the average person?

How do the public feel you ask?

Where’s my mining boom!!!

(That isn’t a question)

Policy exemplifies values, connection, authenticity, trust and identity

A key component of this years political debate will be who can communicate their vision for the nation to the public in a way that can persuade swing voters to vote for them in September.

You’re going to hear a lot of predictable talk about policies but what’s really going on is far more complex.

Ronald Reagan’s pollster Dick Wirthlin figured out that voters don’t vote for policies, they vote for who they measure as superior in the five areas I’m about to summarise and how the policies they advocate for exemplify them.

Values

Wirthlin defines values as the measures by which individuals determine their worth or importance of matters of concern in their lives.

The big mistake many politicians make, especially on the ALP “side” of politics is to confuse policies with values. The best example of this is whenever you hear Julia Gillard talk about “Labor values” you will always hear the word “education.”

Education isn’t a value. It’s a process and a policy area. The real question the ALP should be asking is why value education? Is it because we value opportunity? Is it because we value excellence? Is it because we value equality and social justice? Is it because we value creating a sustainable world? Is it because we value greater degrees of freedom? The deeper question on values never seems to be addressed by the Prime Minister.

The Coalition by contrast make it very clear where they stand on values. Every piece of communication they produce is targeted towards the values of individual success and freedom as well as respect of national history and what they define as an “Australian” identity.

There are also stages of values which I’ve gone over at reasonable length in previous posts that can be found here and here.

Connection

When I first visited Canberra, at a gut level I felt a reasonable degree of disconnection with the rest of the country. I’ve heard this is a common experience. There is a cold, artificial, bureaucratic feeling about the place.

Connection is an area many seem to have difficulty with on both “sides” of politics.

I think it’s fair to say that both Gillard and Abbott don’t connect too well with the electorate. Sure Gillard did connect with many women and men when she lashed out at Abbott’s repeated misogyny last year during Question Time, but that was merely one reactive speech that had been a very long time coming. Besides that one time, Gillard has been unable to connect with many people due to the inescapable negative prism she’s created for herself and most of her political decisions are viewed by people accordingly. It magnifies a lot when she says things like “we are us”, “a line has been crossed” and “I’ve made a ‘Captain’s Pick.'”

Abbott, although incredibly unpopular, initially connected with the public’s base level desires in relation to resolving the perceived uncertainty of the hung parliament, promising to get rid of the carbon tax, the mining tax, “stopping the boats, ending the waste” and bringing back the “golden years” of the Howard government.

As time has gone by many people see his platform for what it is: a fraud and they no longer feel that connection as people have more complex and difficult concerns to deal with and Abbott has shown that he doesn’t understand the public by constantly disregarding how they live their lives.

If normal people did what he has done over the last three years, they’d be fired from their job immediately!

Abbott’s new way of connecting is making everything he says about how bad the Labor Party is and how they need to be booted out of office as soon as possible. It has nothing to do with the policies, it is a very partisan message and it’s directed straight at Gillard, Labor and anything they touch. It connects with people because he has control of the way the national debate is framed and Labor appear too stupid to counteract what he’s doing.

Authenticity

It’s fair to say both Gillard and Abbott are seen to be inauthentic on many issues.

In the case of Gillard the obvious examples revolve around marriage equality and asylum seeker policy. On marriage equality, the authenticity issue arises due to her history as a progressive activist, her de-facto relationship and her atheism. How could someone who lives their life that way and hold those positions on “the big questions” possibly justify being against marriage equality? Sure, she can attempt to justify the position, but getting people to believe it is another matter entirely.

In relation to asylum seeker policy, Gillard advocates for “protecting lives at sea” yet the actual policy of locking refugees away in another country violates basic social justice and progressive principles of humanitarianism. It ends up looking like a desperate attempt to win votes in Western Sydney and pockets of Queensland. Whenever this is denied, it looks inauthentic.

In the case of Abbott, he’s spent his entire political career convincing everyone that he’s a crusader for the conservative cause. He has rejoiced in the nickname “Captain Catholic,” emotionally baiting “left wingers” and feminists as well as the negativity and cut and thrust of machine politics. Now he’s attempting to convince the public that he’s a crusader for taking action on dangerous climate change, women’s rights and social justice. Give us a break!

Trust

Trust is a fundamental component of political success. It’s often referred to as “political capital.” How much a government can do in office while maintaining their popularity in the electorate is heavily reliant on how much political capital they have stored in the bank. The more trust is broken by the government, the more unpopular they tend to become.

The trust issue with Gillard has frequently appeared during this term of parliament. Whether it has been the deal with the Greens and Independents on the “Carbon Tax” (saying it’s a carbon “price” is a big authenticity issue because every time it’s said, people think it’s spin), whether it’s been breaking the mandatory precommitment legislation deal with Andrew Wilkie, whether it’s been asylum seeker policy or whether it’s simply been internal ALP politics, it all comes back to trust, political capital and how that relates to certainty.

“How can we trust you given what you’ve done before?” is what it all comes down to and whenever there’s been an attempt at an answer it always gets framed in a negative light because that’s the predisposition towards Gillard’s decisions as Prime Minister.

The trust issue has been used with devastating effect by Tony Abbott (or should I say, Mark Textor) during this term of parliament. Everything they’ve said communicates “you can’t trust Labor and this Prime Minister” in one way or another. Most of this message now is in code as they’ve gone off the direct message and gone into a mode where they want to be seen as positive and constructive when in reality what they’re communicating is exactly the same as what’s been said over the previous three years of this term of parliament.

This will of course come back to bite Abbott big time if he ever becomes Prime Minister because there are very real and complex issues in relation to how he plans to repeal the carbon tax after it has been in operation for over a year and all the complexity that comes with that in relation to what’s happening around the world, how he plans to repeal the mining tax given how Australian’s view the issue and many other areas where he’s drawn a line in the sand without thinking about the long term implications of those promises.

In short, if you make a promise, make sure you keep it or look out!

Identity

Identity is interesting in relation to the two major parties. On the one hand, Labor is defining itself through it’s industrial relations agenda whereas the Coalition are defining themselves based upon anything that isn’t Labor unless Labor falls for their framing.

On the question of identity, I believe the most successful political parties are able to find points of agreement with their opponents as well as identifying those areas beneath the surface where the base are disillusioned with the political party they support and exploiting them as much as possible.

During this term of parliament, Abbott has made it his goal to split the ALP from their working class, blue collar, manufacturing base by linking the ALP to the Greens and playing hardball on the issue of border protection and asylum seeker policy.

The ALP by contrast seems to be making minimal impact in splitting the Coalition from the business community. This is probably due to the ALP’s rhetoric in relation to “Clive, Gina and Twiggy” as well as deliberately conflating various economic and industrial relations issues with a return to the time before Bob Hawke and Paul Keating revolutionised the Australian economy.

In my opinion, instead of declaring war on these wealthy people and accusing them of being evil and in control of the Coalition, the ALP should demonstrate how they made these people into what they are and without the policies of the Hawke and Keating governments, the cooperation of the union movement and the policies that saved Australia from recession during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and 2009, these people wouldn’t be anywhere near as wealthy as they are today!

As Paul Keating once said in a conversation with Malcolm Turnbull in 2008 “I made you rich!”

To make it brutally frank: the ALP are nowhere near as open to this disenfranchised group of generally Coalition supporters as they should be.

The five areas I’ve touched on above are what comes before we can get to a real policy discussion on any issue because they deal with people, knowing where one stands and being real.

To sum it up in a phrase: policy exemplifies values, connection, authenticity, trust and identity.

It’s all well and good to say you want to copy the sophisticated tactics of Barack Obama’s victorious 2012 US Presidential campaign, but if your policies are out of sync in relation to each other or they’re not communicated in a manner that is consistent with what you believe, it won’t work!

The party that is consistent in relation to this concept and injects optimism and inclusion into everything they communicate is the party that usually wins elections.

Self-referential processing

As someone who has been very introverted and socially isolated for a lot of my life, I have a bit of an understanding of what “self-referential processing” is, what it does and why it’s dysfunctional.

Put simply, “self-referential processing” is where you ascribe personality traits to yourself and they become your fixed physical, emotional and mental identity. When you’ve got no one to give you feedback or communicate with, you give feedback to yourself and you literally create a view of the world based around your identity regardless of whether it’s accurate or not.

This process can lead to very deep levels of depression, anxiety and social isolation if it becomes pathological and if it does it takes a lot of work to get out of in order to become or regain the ability to be a normal functioning person.

The main way recovery occurs is through reconnecting to something larger than oneself. Usually your community or maybe some sort of self actualised project that makes a difference. It’s often found that people who self referentially process tend to find a lot of benefit in helping and being of service to others. From personal experience, I know this is true. At times you feel like you can’t do it, but once you begin, things get progressively better and you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Meditation and handwriting also help a lot on a personal level but that’s another subject for another day.

From what I observe, I see a lot of pathological self-referential processing occurring on a much larger scale in both of the major political parties. In the ALP and their supporters it tends to be views in regards to their opponents and the media’s ability to influence public opinion. In the Coalition parties and their supporters, it tends to show up in the siege mentality and their fear that the world is on the verge of collapse unless they’re in control of the government.

I think these views (“core beliefs” might be a more realistic term) are inhibiting a functional conversation and contest of ideas because both views are full of internal contradictions and emotional baggage.

Getting over it is not something that can be done at the click of one’s fingers because when things become systems they become awfully difficult to break out of.

The clip below is of Bob Hawke when he was the leader of the opposition at the National Press Club during the 1983 election campaign. What it shows is someone who is charismatic, engaged, optimistic and relatable on multiple levels e.g interpersonally and in terms of the larger issues confronting the nation.

I think the cure to this self-referentially processed malaise that has infected Canberra, the major political parties and the national conversation is a confident articulation of the big picture, how things are getting better and the feeling that people can do something wherever they are to in order to make a difference. Otherwise all we get is the self-referential bickering for the sake of bickering that so often occupies social media, newspapers and television in relation to anything political rather than anything constructive and purposeful which is what people really need and want.