Now our Prime Minister is treating voters like heedless children who simply haven’t thought carefully enough about what change might mean.
Mr Howard says there is always a risk with changing Government.
And he warns voters flirting with the idea that a Labor election victory is not like an unwanted Christmas present, that can be returned on Boxing Day.
“It’s not like that. It’s much harder than that,” he said.
If you read Tony Abbott in today’s SMH, it’s more of the same – this utter disbelief that the voters could possibly have a mind at odds with the wishes of the current government, and that any voters who are thinking of voting the Coalition out of office have simply overlooked the bleeding obvious about how hopeless, scary and ruinacious a Rudd government will be. The title condescends from the start: The goods or a gamble?
Something unprecedented will happen on Saturday. A highly effective government will lose despite generally good economic circumstances or 12 months of opinion polls will turn out to be wrong. Australians are not reckless gamblers, at least not with the future of their country, so I think it’s much more likely voters will prove the polls wrong than change the government.
Hugh Mackay, talking on ABC Radio with Virginia Trioli this morning, made some excellent points which I found largely persuasive. He argues that until this year, the Australian electorate has been largely disengaged from politics for a decade, and that this is a situation which has suited the Coalition better, because disengaged voters tend to largely follow only their hip pocket nerve for short-term gains, don’t examine scaremongering skeptically, and have been willing to stick with the Coalition along “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” lines. But once voters do become more generally engaged with politics, they doubt the fear campaigns, they look beyond just the economy and beyond the short term, and that’s where the progressive parties have their strength (noting that Labor is not always a progressive party).
Workchoices has brought consideration to everyone of the way that industrial regulation legislation affects the balance of negotiating power between employees and employers, and the majority seem to find that the Coalition’s ideology in this area makes them apprehensive for the future of themselves, their families and their communities, even if right now it may not have harmed them (or may even have slightly benefited them) financially. Many voters seem particularly keen to end the Liberal majority in the Senate above all else, so that more IR bills cannot just be driven through to legislation without proper review.
The issue of climate change has made a lot of voters take a more long-term look at the likely consequences of continuing with “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” don’t-change-the-government scaremongering, and although it has been relegated largely to the background of this campaign this issue appears to be a major instigator of swings away from the Coalition – they are not trusted to put long-term environmental issues over the short-term profit margins of their mates in big business.
Then there’s the war: it hasn’t loomed large this campaign, and Howard seized the chance yesterday to present that datum as an implicit endorsement of the Coalition’s policy with respect to the Coalition of the Willing.
Defence and national security have not been high profile issues during the campaign and Mr Howard says that is partly because Labor has not had the ammunition to attack the Coalition.
“The Labor Party realises that there has been some improvement – not a big improvement but some improvement – in the security situation in Iraq,” he said.
“I think that is something that has meant that the Labor Party doesn’t feel it is politically expedient to talk about it.”
Howard has got that particular indicator badly wrong. Expedience is part of the Labor party’s strategy in not using Iraq as a major issue this campaign, but it hasn’t been for lack of ammunition. Labor has refused to be wedged on the issue, that’s all, so there haven’t been any big headlines. Again, it’s an issue that has pushed the swinging voters away from the Coalition, and it’s not because they haven’t thought hard about their reasons for mistrusting Howard et al in this area.
Finally, another issue which has been largely ignored this election campaign, yet which also does not mean that people don’t have ammunition to fling against the government on it: the NT “intervention” aka invasion and recolonisation. Yet another issue that has made many swinging voters turn away from the Coalition and to the minor parties, which realistically means that most of their preferences will flow to Labor in the Lower House.
None of these swings reflect simple boredom and a thoughtless yearning for change as the PM and Abbott are saying. They are a matter of passionate revulsion in most cases, and the recent onset of a broad understanding (due to recent interest rate rises) that no Australian government actually has that much control over an economy which is driven by foreign demand for our minerals and a few other primary products, therefore the economy scaremongering is irrelevant.
The rusted on supporters of the major parties haven’t changed their opinions or voting intentions much since 2004. It’s the swinging voters who have done so, and the Coalition has no idea about how to woo them back. The advertising blackout starts this evening too. Hooray!