Labor's tactics backfire

Caught between the hammer of the government's bad reputation and the anvil of demographic change, Wayne Swan's budget has toughened support for the Coalition while it has made Labor's more brittle.

It was seen by the greater proportion of voters as tricky, targeted at social groups that didn't matter to them, or bribing them with their own money, and unnecessarily focused on a surplus that may never be achieved.

It confirmed everything that Australians have come to believe about this government as untrustworthy, with many responses framed in outright contempt and anger.

The result is that in our online virtual focus group of 1041, while 22 per cent said they were more likely to vote Labor because of the budget, 42 per cent said they were less likely.

Somewhat predictably, Liberal voters were least impressed, with 80 per cent repelled by the budget, but in a measure of the softness of Labor's support only 53 per cent of Labor voters were more attracted to Labor by it.

Among Bob Katter's supporters, who hold the key to just how large the Coalition majority is after the next election, 53 per cent were less likely to vote Labor as a result of the budget, and only 11 per cent more likely.

Those who supported the budget dwelt on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the dental scheme, eHealth and spreading the benefits of the mining boom.

The most prominent criticism was that this was a political document, designed to bribe us with our own money, and to buy the government another term.

Interestingly, many respondents mentioned that John Howard had used some of the same tactics in his budgets. But Howard managed to present his bribes in some overarching plan that justified them. And Howard was regarded as someone who could deliver, whatever you thought about his honesty. This government is widely regarded as being just as incompetent as it is dishonest.

Underlying this criticism is one that is foundational to Labor's prospects of prospering, or even surviving, and that is that history no longer favours the concepts of class and sectional interest that underpin a union-based party.

The language of class doesn't cut it anymore and the nature of work, particularly with an ageing population, has changed.

Whatever our income, or backgrounds, we are all middle class nowadays, or at least that is the way we like to see ourselves.

Phrases such as "working Australian families", the focus-grouped child of "working class" is also seen as a meaningless distinction. In fact, it turns off many because they know it is meant to exclude them, while they wonder why they, too, aren't regarded as being "working" and "Australian" and just what it is that is denoted by "family".

One example of the destruction of class is the pay that is earned by many in trades and what once might have been labouring occupations in industries such as mining, where stupendous productivity leads to princely rates of pay.

Can someone who earns more than $100K a year truly view themselves as working class?

Another is the contract economy. What the ACTU, using the language of last century, portrays as "job insecurity" is viewed by its participants as "freedom", which is the difference between the worker and the upwardly mobile small-time entrepreneur. A third is the spread of tertiary education, turning working-class and trades jobs into university-credentialled quasi-professions, and providing more congenial white-collar occupations to people who once might have laboured in a factory.

These groups are interested in protecting what they have managed to put together, and are not interested in having it redistributed to others for the benefit of the government's re-election prospects.

Then there are those over 50, a significant group facing the prospect of a long period of semi-employment during what was retirement to previous generations, because they do not have the savings to match their longevity. They are also concerned to maintain what they have, and have no interest in their wealth being spread around. They worry an accelerating increase in the cost of living will be turbo-charged by the carbon tax. Not only that, but they are a growing group and depend on their superannuation, which will contain shares in miners, to ease their declining years.

In the past two elections, Labour has done well by owning the future through visionary projects such as the NBN and concerns about climate change. This budget and its sales pitch mortgage this asset, plunging them back into habits of the past, a country the bulk of Australians is not keen to visit.

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0 #1 MrBluey Quilty 2012-05-29 17:07
We cannot allow the limited virtues of polls dictate policy. This is tending towards the rule of the mob, and the ill-thought out world of Chicken Little. That is, when the sky seems to be falling, the electorate gets jumpy. It is up to our leaders, our journalists and our experts to inform the public.

The fate of the Labor government is unfortunate, but it is a fate brought upon themselves by a lack of charismatic leadership, of the power to ignite faith in the direction in which we should be travelling.

Bluey Quilty, KATOOMBA
-1 #2 Encouraging surveyMerv 2012-06-04 23:26
It looks like finally more Australians are waking up to the nonsense going on in Canberra. I can’t wait to get rid of this dictatorship, get rid of the tax scams disguised as “scientific proof” and return to a democracy again. Roll on election time.
-1 #3 Will Qld repeat nationally?Spencer 2012-06-05 06:52
Excellent analysis, Graham. I cannot trust Labor to balance a budget and talk of a surplus is like some of the stuff Micky Mouse is made of - a joke. :lol:

While Tony Abbott is not a leader with charisma and puts his foot in his mouth too much, the Coalition has a track record of small government and balanced budgets. I can trust them more with my money.

O for a hasty election! :zzz
+2 #4 RE: Labor's tactics backfireBruce Williams 2012-06-05 08:02
It will be great to once again have honesty decency ,compassion and good sound leadership when a LNP
Government is elected in Canberra. Please Mr Abbott stay on as leader of your party..

Cheers loobee NSW
-1 #5 MrNGS 2012-06-05 08:16
I think you have got it all wrong. Out here in the West Labor has 2% support, and that is just one fellow who likes to be contrary!
0 #6 RE: Labor's tactics backfireGraham Edward Young 2012-06-05 20:58
Thanks Bluey, but I think politicians have two responsibilitie s - one is to lead, and the other is to listen. Sometimes they have to take a risk and move ahead of the pack, but just as often they have to understand that there is wisdom in the crowd.