Monday, May 10, 2010

Standing At The Electoral Precipice

Following the recent Newspoll showing a substantial decline in support for Kevin Rudd, today’s Neilson Poll shows that the result is no anomaly. Both polls show the Prime Minister’s popularity plummeting, both show the Prime Minister’s disapproval rating rising, and both polls show that the Liberal-National Coalition would win an election if it was held today. Between them the two polls are considered to be among the most reliable indicators of public opinion, and there’s no denying that a significant shift has occurred in a very short space of time. So why is Kevin Rudd, previously one of the most popular Prime Ministers of all time, all of a sudden so on the nose?

The conventional wisdom is that it all started with the Emissions Trading Scheme, and the success of Tony Abbott as the newly elevated Opposition Leader in spreading skepticism about climate change. Further damage was done by the deep embarrassment of the fatally flawed home insulation program, along with the wasteful spending of the Building the Education Revolution program, both of which further eroded confidence in the government’s competence. Even so, support for the government remained robust up until a couple of weeks ago. Then it all fell apart, so what has changed?

Firstly, the decision to postpone the Emissions Trading Scheme, no matter how pragmatic, has been interpreted as abandoning a policy which was one moment the “greatest moral challenge of our time”, and the next merely something that could wait until a more opportune moment. Even those who oppose such a scheme were left wondering just what the Prime Minister stands for. Then there was the supposedly monumental agreement to reform health and hospitals, which was supposed to bypass the states, but in the end still relies on those states to actually administer the funds. Far from ending the blame game, the game has simply moved to a new level. And even then, the agreement was only reached thanks to the negotiations of Kristina Keneally, who not only dug Victorian Premier John Brumby out of a hole, but could also be said to have done the same for Kevin Rudd.

Then there was the Henry Tax Review. Out of 138 recommendations, Kevin Rudd picked up just a handful. The big one of course is the proposed super tax on so called super profits of mining companies, which many people interpreted as being an attempt to buy votes with promises of better superannuation and better infrastructure paid for by big multinational mining companies. It turns out however that substantial numbers of those voters seem to believe the mining companies who claim that the tax will kill investment and cost jobs. And who can blame them. After all we have been told repeatedly that the prosperity which has seen us through the worst of the Global Financial Crisis has been delivered by the mining sector, and who in their right mind would want to jeopardize that?

Nobody is yet prepared to say that Tony Abbott has the election in the bag, but right now he appears to have sufficient support to become Australia’s next Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd is standing at the edge of the electoral precipice, and if tomorrow’s budget turns out to be a turkey, it could be the end of him.

No comments: