Category Archives: Polling

“If the facts don’t fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off”

Galaxy Research and Essential Media Communications have thrown up some interesting qualitative results in the last few days in relation to perceptions of the ALP leadership change.

Before I get to that, I want to examine the AC Nielsen poll results from last month in relation to ALP voters responses on the question of preferred ALP leader.

AC Nielsen, preferred ALP leader, ALP voters 16th June: Julia Gillard 52%, Rudd 46%

Over the last three years, this sort of result was replicated month after month and many on the various social media platforms that discuss Australian politics used these sorts of results to suggest that Rudd wasn’t liked by ALP voters and it was all a Liberal Party/media conspiracy to destabilise Julia Gillard’s leadership.

On Sunday, Galaxy Research produced these results that suggest a very different narrative:

Q. “In your opinion did Labor make the right decision by rejecting Julia Gillard and endorsing Kevin Rudd?”

Total: Yes 57%, No 31%

ALP Voters: Yes 75%, No 17%,

Coalition Voters: Yes 50%, No 41%

Even more profound was Galaxy’s results for the actions of Bill Shorten who was one of the “faceless men” in the June 2010 leadership change:

Q, Do you think Bill Shorten did the right thing for the Labor Party by shifting support from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd?

Total: Yes 52%, No 30%

ALP Voters: Yes 75%, No 13%

Coalition Voters: Yes 40%, No 44%

Essential Media Communications from yesterday showed similar results however, they have breakdowns that show intensity of response. I find these results very interesting:

Q. Do you approve or disapprove of Kevin Rudd replacing Julia Gillard as leader of the Labor Party?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total approve

55%

77%

40%

48%

Total disapprove

31%

13%

49%

37%

Strongly approve

24%

45%

12%

8%

Approve

31%

32%

28%

40%

Disapprove

15%

8%

22%

23%

Strongly disapprove

16%

5%

27%

14%

Don’t know

14%

10%

12%

16%

Of particular note is the strongly approved category in relation to ALP voters. If this leadership change was seen as a cynical manipulation of the political process, the intensities of response would not be so strong.

According to this Essential Media poll, 45% of ALP respondents strongly approved of last weeks events!

We aren’t talking about a mere passive approval of what happened which could easily fall off into neutrality and disapproval over the coming weeks and months. We’re talking about a very large group of ALP voters who are very satisfied with what happened. In order to change the perceptions of these voters, you’ve got to do A HELL OF A LOT of work as they’ve emotionally bought what has happened and are in strong approval of it.

It is also worth comparing the AC Nielsen polling above with the Galaxy Research and Essential Media polling from after the event because how people think they will respond to a potential event and how they will actually respond after that potential event has occurred are not mutually exclusive. Put simply: people are extremely poor judges of predicting how they will respond to potential and future events.

George Lakoff in his book “Don’t Think of an Elephant” has a great quote:

“To be accepted, the facts must fit people’s frames. If the facts don’t fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off”

If the Coalition attempt to try and play their game of “let’s all feel sorry for Julia because she was knifed by the faceless men and that evil Kevin Rudd” they will be paddling viciously upstream because first they have to deal with the fact that they will be contradicting the three year period they have spent deriding and destroying her leadership (to ordinary people, the events of last week were a consequence of this behaviour from the Coalition) and second they have to deal with the perception battle because people approved of what happened and in ALP voters case, a majority strongly approved of what happened (the emotional component).

The more they yell, shout and scream the sort of lines they have all parroted verbatim over the last three years, the more they will be building Kevin Rudd’s reputation, authority, credibility and approval from the community.

It’s not just the Liberal Party who have to deal with this uncomfortable reality. Author Kerry Anne-Walsh, whose book “The Stalking of Julia Gillard: How the media and Team Rudd contrived to bring down the Prime Minister” goes on sale today also will encounter this framing from people (that is of course if people actually bother to buy and read the book).

How this plays out with the emotional dynamic over the coming weeks and months should be fascinating.

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Sugar do, do, do, do, do, do, oh honey, honey, do, do, do, do, do, do

Over the last five days we’ve had four polls from Morgan, ReachTEL, Galaxy Research and Newspoll which all show similar voting intention results:

Morgan (SMS) 26th June 2013: ALP 38%, Coalition 41%

ReachTEL 27th June 2013: ALP 38.3%, Coalition 45.1%

Galaxy Research 27th-28th June 2013: ALP 38%, Coalition 44%

Newspoll 28th-30th June 2013: ALP 35%, Coalition 43%

In a previous post, I wrote that the structural primary votes of the major parties in Australia are ALP 38%, Coalition 43%.

So far, the parties appear to have reverted to their structural base positions. This is very encouraging news for the ALP and disturbing news for the Coalition who have spent the last three years establishing a very well detailed, sophisticated and effective campaign strategy only to find a sudden change of battlefield and their canned lines having no real significance to people’s lives anymore.

In another previous post, I suggested that the ALP needed to win seats in Queensland in order to win the next election. Early reports suggest that the ALP is seeing a massive turnaround in the state.

Here are some examples over the last year of what Kevin Rudd has been doing in Queensland:

In recent days there have been reports that the ALP is seeing a massive recovery in it’s position in Queensland. Given that Kevin Rudd has been campaigning heavily for over a year against the very unpopular actions of the Newman LNP state government, I wouldn’t be surprised if this local campaign begins to take on a national significance. There’s very little that Tony Abbott or the Coalition can do to compete with this type of personal, sophisticated, localised, relevant and timely campaigning.

There’s also been a few conservative mouth pieces and associates (when this guy starts freaking out, you know they’re in trouble) in recent days attempting to spin the recent rise in the ALP’s position as merely a “sugar hit” that will dissipate in the coming weeks and months as people see how much of a brutal tyrant Kevin Rudd is towards his colleagues, how the ALP are disrespecting “the people’s mandate” by not calling an early election as well as the tired old lines like “tax, tax, tax, debt, debt, debt” and so on.

The only “sugar hit” I’m hearing right now is this one

“The Hierarchy of Political Pain” and “The Slippery Slope of Doom”

In previous posts, I have attempted to describe some of the dynamics in relation to voter’s dramatic loss of respect for the ALP. I described how the Coalition had used the carbon tax and all the emotions associated with it to infect every other policy area like a virus in a negative way for the ALP. I also attempted to describe the predisposition prism in which Prime Minister Gillard is viewed and how people have stopped listening to anything she has to say.

In this post, what I intend to do is attempt to explain how the Coalition have facilitated an environment where the ALP can’t get any traction on issues and how the ALP have fallen right into the communication mechanisms they use to create their political material.

I have two structures to describe what the Coalition are doing. For this post, I thought about describing it in just one structure but I’ve decided to try to explain both as there are various nuances that are unique to each structure and both of them connect together. More on that later.

The first structure is an ascending hierarchy of emotions focused on the content and context of what voters feel and the second is a descending hierarchy of behaviours by the ALP over this term of parliament. I think the Coalition’s communications people are using something similar to these two models in order to construct their messages.

The Hierarchy of Political Pain

Imagine a hierarchy. The levels at the bottom are core emotional trigger points in voters. Each level above the bottom has been constructed on top of the previous level. The higher up the hierarchy you go, the more complex the emotional system in people’s minds and the more entrenched it becomes in people’s belief and values systems.

The Pyramid of Political Pain

At the very bottom of the diagram, we have truth. The Coalition’s game plan during this term of parliament has been to trash the Prime Minister’s reputation in the electorate by focusing on the line “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.” They’ll replay this line over and over and over again because it is a direct quote and it works. It has nothing to do with the policy, it has to do with the Prime Minister’s character and what that represents to people in their lives. Truth is everything to the Coalition. Any backflip, lie, false accusation or anything else that relates to truth is jumped on immediately and hammered home with a ferocious and fanatical zeal. More on this later.

Once they have solidified that stage of the hierarchy, they’ll build on it by focusing on trust. They’ll do this by highlighting backflips on policy, deals, agreements, mistakes, inconsistencies, hypocrisy and so on (this is amplified by the hung parliament scenario). Once that’s solidly in place, they can now focus on fear which we’ve seen in the form of the carbon tax scare campaign and the rhetoric around asylum seekers. Then they go to the next stage and so on.

What the ALP might think is that all of those stages the electorate have experienced can be spun as the Prime Minister’s virtues of “toughness”, “resilience” and “getting the big things done.” That’s why I’ve listed “consequence”, “burden” and “disengagement” as the higher levels of the hierarchy. The “consequence” is everything below that level, which is solidly in place and that leads to the electorate being burdened by the Prime Minister and ultimately leads to disengagement from the political process and the life being gutted out of politics, policies, issues and the national conversation.

Each stage builds on and incorporates the previous stage. For example, when the Coalition are focusing on trust, they have constructed that message on top of truth. When they focus on “the consequence” they’ve constructed that message on top of hate, fear, trust and truth etc. The more complex the system becomes the more difficult it is for the ALP to beat it.

The Slippery Slope of Doom

Imagine a slippery slope. Now imagine it being used as a metaphorical communications system to destroy a political party and it’s leader’s credibility. I’ve used an upside down triangle to list in descending order behaviours the Liberal Party is on the look out for from the ALP so they capture and frame it into political communication. The stages at the bottom are built upon the stages at the top.

Slippery Slope

At the top, we have lying and blaming. These are straight forward. If anyone in the ALP lies or blames, the Liberal Party just amplify the message. People consider the government to be the most powerful institution in the land. Any sort of lying or blaming demonstrates that the government isn’t in control of circumstances and if the government isn’t in control of circumstances they have little reason to be trusted (which connects to both the first and second stages of “The Hierarchy of Political Pain” above).

The next stage is anything that creates uncertainty in people. This tends to come in the form of economy and bad news related to it e.g the budget deficit, raising taxes and so on. Uncertainty can also be in the form of sociocultural things which the Coalition have focused on relentlessly in relation to asylum seeker policy. Again, they don’t care about the policy issues, all they’re focused on is people’s emotions.

Then we have confrontation which is anything that is seen as divisive. For example, the Coalition used the ALP’s rhetoric about the “North Shore of Sydney” (think about that for a moment) to emphasise class warfare and they used the vitriol sprayed at Kevin Rudd from certain senior people within the ALP to amplify confrontation, disharmony and disunity. Once that’s solidly in place they’ll go to the next stage which is selfishness which is what you see every time the Prime Minister or anyone else on the ALP leadership team uses the words “Labor values” or “Labor government.”

What all this inevitably leads to is what the Coalition wants people to associate with the ALP: pain … Labor equals pain. Economic pain, sociocultural pain and most importantly personal pain. What the advertisements I’ve linked to below are attempting to do is grease “The Slippery Slope of Doom.”

Notice that the Liberal Party aren’t saying anything. This is all material the ALP have given them. What that does is give and element of truth to what is being said (which again connects to the stage of Truth on “The Hierarchy of Political Pain” I’ve shown above).

The more of these sorts of advertisements the Liberal Party produce, the more material they tend to be given. It turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby everything the ALP doses goes straight up “The Hierarchy of Political Pain” or straight down “The Slippery Slope of Doom” and ends up in the Coalition’s communications mechanisms to produce political material.

It’s gotten to the point now where Tony Abbott can act bipartisan on policy and still activate all the vectors that damage Prime Minister Gillard’s credibility. The politics surrounding the National Disability Insurance Scheme this week were a perfect example of this in action. Abbott’s now dictating the framing of the policy as “a positive monument of this parliament” and “Gillard getting some of ‘her legacy.'”

Once these sorts of communication mechanisms are firmly established, it’s very difficult to overcome them. They have completely eroded Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan’s political capital so that whenever they say anything, it gets filtered through these kind of Liberal Party communication mechanisms and it ends up as annoying background noise to voters who are now disengaged (the highest stage of “The Hierarchy of Political Pain”).

In my view, there are three ways to counter “The Hierarchy of Political Pain” and “The Slippery Slope of Doom.” The first is to have your act together from the beginning. The second way is to destroy these communication mechanisms the Liberal Party are using by objectively identifying the root causes of the problems (in this case, it’s the people making the same mistakes over and over again), getting rid of them and giving the electorate what they really want in a way that communicates at an emotional level …

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.

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.

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)

“I think a budget surplus is important to myself and my country but I approve of the budget being in deficit”

We constantly hear talk from both sides of politics about the need for the budget to return to surplus for various economic reasons yet at the same time we know the public demands the government enact all kinds of policies to look after pretty much every community issue under the sun. The two major reforms people want right now seem to revolve around the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the reforms in relation to education funding recommended by David Gonski’s review.

So there becomes a conflict between the government getting the budget back to surplus and community demands on what they want the government to do for them and given the way things are experienced at the present moment in relation to the economy, this tends to create massive amounts of uncertainty for people.

This is one of the reasons why both sides of the national debate are now focusing on aspirational promises in relation to what they’ll do if they win the next federal election rather than real ones because on one level or another, they both believe it’s in both their political interests as well as the national interest to tighten the nation’s fiscal belt.

In December 2012, Treasurer Wayne Swan decided to back down on a promise to deliver the budget back to surplus by 2013.

This week, Essential Media has conducted a poll asking respondents various questions about the budget surplus.

Firstly we will start with how important the surplus is to people in terms of the well-being of the country and their well-being personally.

Q. Thinking about the Federal Government budget, how important do you believe it is for the budget to be in surplus…?

Total important

Total
not important

Very important

Quite Important

Not very important

Not
at all important

Don’t know

Total important – 2 Oct
12

…for the country as a whole

69%

26%

28%

41%

22%

4%

5%

68%

…for you personally

54%

39%

20%

34%

29%

10%

7%

46%

As we can see, the majority of respondents judge the surplus as a concept to be important for both the country and themselves personally.

The next question in the poll was a slightly different one because it asked about the approval of the decision not to return the budget to surplus.

Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the Government’s decision not to return the budget to surplus this financial year?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total approve

42%

64%

29%

55%

Total disapprove

37%

12%

57%

25%

Strongly approve

9%

18%

5%

8%

Approve

33%

46%

24%

47%

Disapprove

27%

11%

39%

22%

Strongly disapprove

10%

1%

18%

3%

Don’t know

21%

23%

14%

20%

What’s going on here? On the one hand, a majority of respondents think the surplus is important for both the nation and themselves personally, yet at the same time a majority approve of the government’s decision not to return the budget to surplus this financial year.

Last but not least we have a question about a future Coalition government lead by Tony Abbott in relation to this issue.

Q. Do you think that if Tony Abbott and Coalition win the next election, they will deliver a budget surplus in their first year of Government?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Probably will deliver a surplus

19%

10%

31%

14%

Probably won’t deliver a surplus

60%

74%

52%

66%

Don’t know

20%

16%

18%

20%

Huh?

So the respondents to this poll consider a budget surplus important for the nation and themselves, yet they approve of the government’s decision to abandon the surplus and they mostly believe a Coalition government under Tony Abbott’s leadership probably won’t deliver a surplus in it’s first year in office.

Maybe the respondents to this poll understand what’s going on in the economy in relation to the various long term revenue raising problems the government is experiencing and will continue to experience in the future. In my opinion something about this seems a little irrational in relation to where things stand at the moment politically

Here’s something even more startling. Newspoll published a poll this week that showed which parties respondents trust to handle issues. According to this poll, on the issue of “handling the economy” the Coalition were more trusted than Labor by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.

If we believe the results from the Essential Media poll that show respondents approve of the ALP government’s decision to not return the budget to surplus as well as the view that a potential Coalition government lead by Tony Abbott in it’s first year probably won’t deliver a surplus either, why are the Coalition so far ahead of the ALP on the issue of who’s the better party to handle the economy when they are constantly raising the surplus promise issue in the national conversation?

I think the reason has to do with identity on both a national scale and a personal scale. The reason the surplus is important is not because of it’s pragmatic use to the economy, but because of the emotions it represents to people in relation to how they see Australia. These include emotions such as peace of mind, safety, security, freedom as well as values such as responsibility, hard work, self reliance and so on.

Whenever the Coalition talk about the government’s failure or broken promise to bring the budget back to surplus, that’s merely code. What they’re really saying is this government creates emotional feelings of distrust, insecurity and of course uncertainty (the big theme through this term of parliament). Whenever the ALP try to counter this message by talking about the facts they’re missing the heart of how people feel about the budget surplus which is the identity the Coalition have created in voters minds and souls around it.

Many ALP people wonder why the Coalition repeatedly hammer them when it comes to views on which party is best to handle the economy even when the ALP have saved the country from recession during the global financial crisis, have allowed the economy to experience remarkable levels growth, low levels of unemployment compared to other countries around the world and lower interest rates than they were at any stage during the Howard government. I think identity goes a long way to explaining the reason for it. First the conservatives start with the budget surplus and once it’s firmly ingrained in people’s souls, they go for everything else.

“No budget surplus and a carbon tax!”

“No budget surplus means higher costs of living!”

“No budget surplus means higher interest rates!”

“No budget surplus means national pride!”

It doesn’t matter to the conservatives whether it’s true or not. All they’re concerned with is framing Labor negatively on the economy and establishing an identity people can relate to which is favourable to their views of the world.

It’s all well and good to talk about the facts but if you aren’t engaging people at a deeper level of their being, all they hear is noise and they tune out.