July 19, 2005 | Graham

Howard and Caesar’s Slave

The latest Newspoll shows the Coalition winning the same proportion of the vote now as at the last election (within the statistical margin for error). This is a very bad result for Labor as it comes at a time when popular commentary suggested that the Government was in trouble over its IR changes. If that was the case there should have been some statistically measurable decrease in the Government’s vote.
There appear to be a number of reasons for this. First, based on the online research we have done the IR issue only appears to be biting with Labor voters. The sample is a far too small to be definitive, but as it does tend to confirm what I think should be the case, I’ll go with it, subject to a larger sample. Coalition voters (Libs more than Nats) appear to be cool with them. (Don’t normally borrow from my kid’s slang, but in this case it is appropriate as while they don’t appear to mind the changes, they’re not particularly fussed about them either.) So, as an issue it is polarising the already polarised on the left, but it is not converting any from the right.
Second, John Howard appears now to be in “the zone”, that metaphysical space where he can do no wrong. In as much as people oppose his industrial relations changes, for a significant minority it is probably almost a virtue that he is doing something they oppose. “We might not agree with him, but at least we know where he stands.” For the last 4 years our research has shown that voters don’t like John Howard, don’t like what he promises to deliver, but vote for him because, at least, he will deliver. It’s perverse, but effective for Howard.
This leads onto the third point, which is that the ALP is at the moment struggling to prove it is relevant. Yesterday Kim Beazley was having trouble coming up with a position on the national ID card leaving Liberal backbenchers to run the civil liberties arguments. He allowed the same thing to happen on the refugee issue, with Petro Georgiou coming out the hero. Even on the IR issue, it is the unions running the campaign, not Labor.
A strange dynamic has occurred with the government’s control of the Senate. Now that the opposition and cross-bench senators are all emasculated, coalition senators have rushed to fill the vacuum. As a result we have almost a one-party universe where most voters can find most shades of opinion within the government. At the moment I suspect that this has the propensity to increase the government’s vote. A bit of disunity is good leavening for the Coalition loaf, but tends to deflate the Opposition because they have lost their power to amend.
Now I’m not saying that the next election is a foregone conclusion for the government, in fact their very success is their greatest risk as the signs are already there that it is leading to hubris. Which is why it is probably a good idea that Peter Costello is touring Australia trying to drum up support for his leadership bid. Costello wouldn’t think of it this way, but it is probably performing the same function for Howard as the servant that Roman Emperors took around with them to whisper in their ear “Remember Caesar that you are only human”. It’s another function that a Liberal Party representative has taken over from Kim Beazley!

Posted by Graham at 10:34 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. Some more lovely analysis which you are famous for. I will have to link to it. I think the remedy for the alp is simple. Step 1) change the constitution so that rank and file members elect the leader and deputy of both houses. step 2) change the constitution so that the leader has total control over the front bench.
    With these changes Labor will always be sure of having the best leaders and best front bench team. I suspect that the only people who would be elected under this system at present are Tanner, Gillard and Rudd and Lawrence all of which would beat howard at an election and costello as well with the possible exception of Lawrence (I don’t know much about her wider electroal appeal). Beazley is a dinosaur and will lead labor to a train wreck. or just yet another election loss.

    Comment by Benno — July 19, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

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