Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day: Where’s the political love?

So the ALP and Julia Gillard had a pretty good week, it’s Valentine’s Day, love is in the air, so time for a bounce in the polls? Eh, that’d be a no.

The Nielsen comes out today showing the ALP taking a 3 point hit, and now down to a Two Party Preferred of 46-54. Worse still for the ALP, its primary is on 32%. That ain’t a winning proposition, no matter what the Greens polls and send their way in preferences. Oddly the flood levy gets a 52 per cent approval rating, which more than a few have suggested means the government is now less popular than a tax.

Peter Hartcher suggests there is no panic from the Government, which if true is about bloody time given the concern the ALP since 2006 has placed on every damn poll. In the SMH, Phil Coorey, when writing about the results of some focus groups (names that no one really gives a damn), also noted that “Labor is expecting no significant poll shift for at least a year until its work program is delivered.image

That is probably just as well. I still think we only need to really worry about the polls after the NSW election – at this point most NSW voters would not be discriminating too much between state and federal when asked in a poll what they think of the ALP.

But that doesn’t mean the ALP can ignore them. They should take note of them; just not do anything about them. The Government and Gillard did have a good week last week. Yes most of the population actually have lives and so didn’t notice, but that doesn’t mean they should get the shakes – keep up what they did, in time the voters will notice and respond.

The same can be said of the Health agreement. It got some decent headlines from both Fairfax and papers. But will it bring about a big change in polling fortunes? Of course not. It doesn’t matter how big a change the deal is (or is not if you want to agree with Abbott), the voters will never think it is all that big because they won’t change one thing about how they go about doing things.

Medicare changed the way people did things – and they also got a nice Medicare card to remind everyone that life was different. That type of massive shift is never going to happen again. Sure we might get better wait times at emergency rooms and less waiting for elective surgery but individually it probably won’t change too much how we go about things – it might just mean we go about it a bit quicker. And so any health reform is never going to be a “game changer” in the polls, because why change your vote as a result of a policy that doesn't seem to affect your life?

But it still needs to be done (though to be honest I do think we in Australia get a little bit “first-world problem” about our health care. It’s not as though our health system is laughed at by other countries. No tourists ever worries about getting sick here, like you do if in America).

imageSo what was the reaction to the deal? Pretty good:

The Oz was running with a positive Page One, and over on Fairfax (after you got past the Nielsen Poll), was likewise positive.

The theme was definitely one the ALP would want – because it is one they have themselves put out. Lenore Taylor gets straight to it:

Julia Gillard said 2011 would be her year of ''delivery''.

Mathew Franklin at The Oz also is on it:

In Gillard's "year of decision and delivery", failing to win agreement for national health reform was not an option.

The meme of this year as being the year the Government will “deliver” has certainly taken hold, but I’m not sure it is such a good thing. Yes it is good to reinforce that picture, but the phrase also carries with it the implication that they haven’t done anything since 2007. Franklin notes this:

Had Labor gone to the next federal election with nothing to show on health, voters would have been entitled to see the Prime Minister as a dud and a fraud.

This political reality explains why Gillard has been so intent on accommodating the state and territory leaders on health reform.

I have to agree with that – having set the table, Gillard now needs to serve up the dinner. Thankfully she hasn’t gone over the top like Rudd was want to do and make us think we were about to be served a meal fit a Michelin 3 Star restaurant, but she still needs to make sure the voters don’t go policy-hungry.

Annabel Crabb was pretty cynical about the result:

Last night, when the premiers were still in with the Prime Minister agonising over their health decision ("Hmmm. Let me see. Money? Or no money?")

Obviously the Premiers didn’t stay in the room for 7 hours just for effect, and most reports highlighted that the deal will lead (or at least hopefully will) to greater transparency – a scary thing for Premiers given they know it will inevitably lead to comparisons across states, but despite any praise for the deal, most commentary also quite rightly pointed out (as The Oz stated in its headline):

Devil will be in the detail of deal

And so while Gillard has done well to get all the Premiers signing off on the heads of agreement, when it comes to the health reform, I think we can say we have conception, but delivery is still a ways off (but you can’t have the later without the first).


There wasn’t much love in Paul Sheehan’s latest column.

Border security shemozzle proves Gillard unfit to govern

Essentially Sheehan, displaying zero political awareness, thinks Abbott should move a motion of no-confidence because our borders are unprotected from hoards of asylum seekers (yeah that’ll work). The entire article is all pretty untasteful, but it contains some lovely unintentional humour. Take this line:

That's why the phrase ''we will stop the boats'' were the first words of the mantra constantly repeated by Tony Abbott when he outperformed the robotic Julie Gillard in last year's election campaign.

So constantly repeating a statement created by a spin doctor is what it means to outperform someone? Wow, we really are setting the bar high aren’t we, Paul?

If an Australian government is perceived to be capitulating to the tactic of fait accompli on its borders by people demanding a right of entry, the government faces political death.

Except Sheehan believes the Government was perceived that way, and yet, here’s the thing, they are still in Government. If that is political death, the ALP wants more of it.

I used to assume that the Department of Immigration was rigorous, impartial and transparent.

Oh dear. Sheehan must have been asleep during that whole Cornelia Rau thing.

It does not automatically reject anyone who arrives without identity papers. Instead, it follows policies laid down by the United Nations Convention on Refugees and other UN protocols.

Yep, Sheehan is criticising the Government for adhering to the UN convention.

Normally on such pieces the best advice is to ignore the comments, but I have to say some of them were spot on:

Could the Herald just save us all time and just print the words "I hate the ALP" or "I hate the Greens" on alternate weeks in place of Paul Sheehan's column?

Well put.


Anonymous said...

Sheehan is too dumb to get the irony of his calling Gillard "robotic" in the same paragraph he praised Abbott for chanting a "mantra" of "stop the boats".
Sheehan provides a valuable service in that he reminds us just how lacking in charity and common decency are the bottom feeders of the world.

Doug said...

Sheehan wrote: " The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, responded: ''In 2010-11 the government will spend more than $760 million on people arriving illegally in Australia. This compares to less than $100 million in annual expenditure when the Howard government left office in 2007.''

Now I don't have the time or resources to research this statistic but there are some aspects to it which make me wonder. I would like Morrison to confirm that he is actually comparing apples with apples? Is the $760 million only on boat people or is that total spending on all "illegals" ie overstayers, those who came by plane, etc. Did the $100 million cover exactly the same groups or was it just spent on boat arrivals. The media cannot seem to remember that most "illegals" do not arrive by boat but come in on visas and become illegal when they overstay, work illegally, disappear into the community, etc.

I tend to be very wary when MPs throw stats around. I worked for four years (2001-04) in the ministerial liaison section of a govt dept in Canberra and our minister regularly quoted fictitious figures, supplied by his staffers, when giving answers given in Question Time. The relevant section in the dept would notify us and we would inform the minister's office the same day so the minister could correct the record the following day and thus not be seen to be misleading the parliament. (It also protected the dept because if he was caught out he couldn't blame the dept for supplying the wrong information.) You don't need to be told that the record was never corrected.

With regard to the polls today, a mate of mine emailed the following this evening: "PM Agenda David Speers on Foxtel does its own Polling. Today it showed 50/50 two party". I doubt Paul Sheehan or the News pit bulls will mention that any time soon.

My measure of how well Gillard is doing is the increasingly shrill desperation of the Opposition and its running dogs.

Minty said...

But did you see this on Crikey today?

Anonymous said...

Paul Sheehan has been in my "not worth reading" box for a very long time. One look at the headline of the offending article was enough warning for me to stay a long way away.

Doug said...

I don't know that there's much political love going around but I do welcome a breath of sanity when it appears:

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

Could Paul Sheehan be more pro Liberal if he tried? As a replacement for Alan Ramsay he is a dismal failure. He's a polemicist, not a columnist. He's definitely no impartial observer.

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

Also, it's just as well Sheehan and Morrison do not live in Greece or Italy, where 300-400 Asylum Seekers PER DAY come by boat to their 'Borders'. All I know is that if that were the case here the response from these xenophobic bigots would be so shrill you'd be likely to end up with tinnitus.

Sir Ian Crisp said...

The polls rise and fall depending on the issues. The Gillard/Brown government is taking a hit which I'm sure will move further South when the NSW ALP wreckage is inspected. The Lib-NP camorra should be well aware that a spike in popularity may not last the three years necessary for them to occupy the treasury benches.