Friday, August 20, 2010

Contempt Does Not Pay

Today’s opinion polling shows a late surge of support for Tony Abbott and the Coalition for tomorrow’s Federal election. Support for the coalition is also evident in late money placed with the bookies, although that might have something to do with how attractive the odds have been for people looking to cash in on an outside chance. Editorials in the News Limited papers have predominantly supported Tony Abbott, while the editorials in the Fairfax papers have favoured Julia Gillard. It is literally too close to call as we approach polling day tomorrow. But if the Labor Government does lose tomorrow, I suspect that it will largely be due to the lingering sentiment expressed exceptionally well by the Telegraph editorial written by Garry Linnell. The Daily Telegraph says, “If ever there was a blatant admission by a party of its own failings… the South American-style coup that ended Rudd’s prime ministership… was it.”

While I support the plan for a National Broadband Network, I want public hospital reform to be delivered, and I believe that a Mineral Resources Rent Tax is fair and reasonable, I share with many Australians the disappointment that when the opinion polls began to reflect that the government had some problems the Labor Party tried to fix the polls instead of fixing the problems. I share with many Australians the disappointment that instead of changing the policies, the Party chose to simply change its leader, apparently expecting us all to fall for a pea and thimble trick without actually doing anything about the underlying problems which had prompted the Party’s decline in popularity in the first place. While many people feel a great unease about the way Kevin Rudd was betrayed by his own colleagues, the greater resentment stems from the sense that the rest of us have been treated with contempt by a handful of powerbrokers who have been perceived as putting Party before principle.

The decline in popularity experienced by the Rudd government was the direct manifestation of the people of Australia sending the government a message. The response of the Labor Party indicates that they did not get the message, and that’s why the polls today are still at the same level they were when Kevin Rudd was dumped. Our message to the government was quite simply that we were unhappy with the mismanagement of government programs like the Building The Education Revolution and the Home Insulation Program, the hamfisted attempts to introduce the mining tax, and the perceived abandonment of any credible climate change policy.

But the message sent by the Australian people was not a call for a change of leader, it was a call for an improvement in the government’s performance. But this is the core of the problem. We measure the performance of a government by the outcomes that are delivered in hospitals and highways, infrastructure and services. The powerbrokers measure performance by opinion polls. What they have failed to understand is that good opinion polls are not the goal. It’s good government that is the goal, and the best way to achieve the former is to deliver the latter. It is the same lesson that the New South Wales Labor Government has consistently failed to learn, and could well be enough to see this government lose office tomorrow.

Perhaps then they will finally understand that it does not pay to treat the voters with such contempt.

No comments: