Budget 2011: one pass conceded and several fails

Was the 2011 budget “...a dog's breakfast. Give some, take some, end up where you were before”?

Or “Very well-balanced between the need for fiscal rectitude and the need to address outstanding social/health issues. Also a modest windback of middle class welfare”?

The problem for the government is that it could easily be either, and while these quotes come from opposite ends of the spectrum, it explains why in our virtual online focus group of opinion-leading Australians no-one is overly impressed with it.

A poll of the 633 participants showed 38% approval, 41% disapproval and 21% neutral or unsure. It's at best a pass conceded.

That's the good news. The bad news is that as a vote winning device it definitely was a fail. Only 19% were more inclined to vote for Gillard because of it, while 41% were less likely, a net move of -21%. Not all of this transferred to Tony Abbott: only 32% said they were more likely to vote for him while 32% were also less likely - a draw.

Labor is suffering because it is trying to fight on all fronts. It wants to win back blue collar conservatives from the Liberals, but it thinks it needs to hold the Greens and left-wing independents close as well.

And this is in the context of the broader picture where voters are unsure of themselves and their prospects, feel squeezed by increasing costs and believe that the country is probably heading in the wrong direction, led by two politicians that they don't particularly like.

This is leading voters to focus more on personal benefits, like money in the pocket, and less on intangibles, like climate change.

When we put responses into a Leximancer concept map it finds three themes: “Debt” (associated with Liberal voters), “Welfare” (associated with Greens and Labor voters) and “Tax” (contestable territory between the two).

You can see Labor struggling to be in all three places at once with dubious results. At the macro level they save $22 B (debt), in order to spend $21 B (welfare), and tax stays the same.

This manifests itself at a micro level where, for example, they increase the fringe benefits on company cars – Greens might like it as it reduces milage and thus emissions - but offer $5,000 to businesses to buy new ones – a sop to the many self-employed contractors and businesses who in fact mostly use their cars for work and so can't reduce milage.

The result is that both sides are dissatisfied – there are no fewer cars on the road and with times being tough companies aren't buying new equipment, so they'll just end up paying more tax.

Some policies in the budget, such as the increased expenditure on mental health, were welcomed across the board. But others, such as the promise of a set-top box for every pensioner missed the mark. Many pensioners reckoned they could spend the money better themselves.

Sales rhetoric was also a problem.

Few bought the line that the budget was “tough”, although there was some approval for cuts to middle class welfare. And “jobs” failed to cut through being mentioned by only 3% of respondents.

In fact, by talking the budget up in terms that voters don't accept Wayne Swan has actually eroded the credibility of the government, reinforcing a perception that it is about spin and not reality.

Labor is dying in the polls because it has failed to enunciate a compelling vision.. This budget was an opportunity to change that. On this measure, it failed too.

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0 #11 Doubt new party will help improve thingsPaul Parker 2011-05-27 10:38
Doubt new party will help improve things.

Problem is so many politicians seeking to exercise two separate powers - legislative and executive, at same time.

Petty political power games to destroy our principals of the separation of powers.

History demonstrates requirement for these powers/authorit ies to be divided between three separate authorities - Legislators, Executives, and Judiciary.

Solution to this problem awaits us - elect our Governor-Genera l !

Australia's Constitution was prepared for this to happen - when Australians were ready.

We are ready !

Popular election of our Governor-Genera l is a simple act of Parliament.

IF one house passes whilst other rejects, then determine by a vote per Constitution s.128.

Clearly majority of Australians wish to elect their Governor-Genera l.

Australia's popularly elected Governor-Genera l can govern.

Australia's Constitution requires our Governor-Genera l to select their Ministers from members of either House of Parliament.

Australia's Constitution is owned and subject to amendment by the People, not by Parliament.

0 #12 Paul Parker's comments smack of republicDisillusioned 2011-06-16 08:38
Paul Parker's comments smack of republicanism when HE wants to have the Governor-Genera l directly elected. Perhaps he might also want to go the whole hog and revise the title of our country from the 'Commonwealth of Australia' to the 'Democratic People's Fundamentalist Republic of Australia'! That might just satisfy Mr Parker's selfish extremist vision of this country!