Some comments on the Labor election review

By Joe Montero

Given that there is widespread concern over the Labor’s election review and the importance consequences of how it is acted on, there is good reason to make a few comments.

It seems like the analysis of the authors puts a great deal of weight on the view put forward by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp media empire. This includes the findings of its major polling arm Newspoll.

Newspoll is well known by anyone with a basic understanding of polling, for using suspect methodology, including framing questions designed to generate a given answer.

It would pay to remind ourselves, that NewsCorp has a history of misinformation. For evidence of this, we need go no further than findings of the Press Council, academic studies, parliamentary inquiries, the testimony of former executives and a list of court cases.

We should also listen to what Clive Palmer said about polls some time ago. There is a great deal of truth to it.

Video from the ABC via Independent Australia

Labor lost the election in Queensland. This is obvious. The narrative is, it happened because working Queenslanders were more concerned about their jobs and did not support measures to protect the environment.

Ignored by this narrative is that concern over jobs does not equate with opposing action to protect the environment. The evidence suggests that Labor did not do nearly enough to make the connection, and by the time it begun to roll out its policies, just weeks before the poll, it had already lost trust.

And here’s the rub. Labor failed to explain how it intended to transition from a coal economy to a low carbon emmision one.

In a place where jobs are hard to come by and people are insecure and focused on survival from week to week, it is not hard to see why many might put their livelihood and that of their family on top of the list of immediate priorities.

Anyone coming forward with policies that aren’t clear on how they will be protected was always going to be regarded with suspicion.

In 2017, Roy Morgan released findings for May of that year, that showed the main economic concerns of Australians. Although the sample was not very big, the result does tie in with other research. The situation has not changed much since then.

Labor did not do too well in other states either. The weak spots were the urban fringes, where the common thread is greater than average poverty, the lack of services and little sign of any improvement in the foreseeable future.

Polling used in the analysis suggested that 38 percent of respondents felt that the economy was the single biggest issue. Climate was second but well behind at 8.1 percent. This was followed by distrust of the political system at 8 percent.

Leave aside that other polling gives greater weight to the two other issues. It remains that taking a lost approach gives a false interpretation of what people are saying. The issues are intertwined and cannot be separated.

Concern over economic issues does not necessarily mean being against the building of a sustainable economy. But it does mean that those offering answers must come up with a path draws together the solving of economic concerns and shifting to a lower carbon economy.

The Lowy institute said in May, it’s own polling showed that 61 per cent of voters said climate change was so serious and pressing we should address it now.

The following graph from the Australia Institute shows most Australians accept the reality of climate change and the trends is upward.

Distrust in politicians and the political system, according to an Ipsos survey released in December 2018 has never been so high in Australia, at 40.6 percent of the population.

This is supported by research of Museum of Australian Democracy and the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra, which found that by 2018 distrust of the political system had risen to 41 percent and on target to hit 90n percent by 2025.

Labor’s strategy failed to make the connection between the economy, climate change and growing distrust.

Part of the reason is a failure to appreciate the necessity. The other part is that it announced its policies far too late, and this did not give enough time for them to be embraced.

This tells us something very important. The nature of politics in Australia has changed.

Were it not compulsory to turn out to the polling booth on election day, the primary vote for the major parties would be very low. Australia would share in the experience of a growing list of countries, where it is difficult to form a government with a stable majority. Our electoral system has hidden this so for.

This changing reality is especially challenging for Labor. Trust in the Labor brand is falling. It is seen as being too much like the Coalition, and this give rise to the increasingly popular view that Australian politics is in the control of an elite more concerned about servicing the big end of town than representing the citizens. Governments change. But everything remains much the same.

A shift towards policies more closely resembling those of the Coalition, is likely to further damage trust in Labor, even if it does win approval from NewsCorp.

It could even be that more people will seek answers to the problems through a new type of politics, which relies much less on election politics, than it does on making things happen outside the political establishment.

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