Polls that nobody wants to analyse

Wednesday, 6 June 2007 

After months during which the commentariat used every incident to predict the end of Rudd’s honeymoon, it is curious that after two polls (Galaxy, Morgan) showing a drop in Labor’s primary support, nobody now seems willing to link it to the events preceding it.

For the past few months Labor had been running with a problem that has now become exposed. Essentially it is the same as the coalition, no distinctive domestic agenda. This was especially the case in industrial relations where the Labor leadership was in agreement with key elements of Howard’s policy, maintaining the marginalisation of the unions and allowing individual contracts to replace collective bargaining.

The trouble with this, of course, is that internally such a stance would have problems in a party whose existence had historically been to politically safeguard the role of unions and collective bargaining. Labor managed this problem by attacking Workchoices. This allowed a double act in the leadership where Rudd talked vaguely about a ‘fair go’ to the external audience and Gillard could make more threatening noises to employers to keep the traditional support base onside and the unions happy – and quiet.

The lack of substance behind Labor’s IR attack would have inevitably been drawn out but it happened earlier than expected due to the publicity over Therese Rein’s business, which was run precisely on the lines the unions were supposed to formally oppose. The collapse of the ‘double act’ could feasibly have had a negative impact on Labor support. The primary vote could suffer as some supporters drift off to minor parties, while swinging voters might be turned off either by the details of Ingeus’s employment conditions or by the sudden resurgence of the unions’ voice. If it did, it is likely to be temporary as traditional supporters will inevitably return, even if only through preferences. Support from more swinging voters will be helped by Rudd’s clampdown on the unions, something that should be achievable against what is now a politically compromised union base.

So perhaps it is not so surprising after all, that few outside Morgan (who is being ignored), are willing to suggest the negative impact of the Rein affair. For the coalition and its supporters, it would not be pleasant that the public could react negatively to a business run on the lines that tie in with its ethos. For the left-wing commentariat, who had been deluding themselves that Labor’s attack on Workchoices was a real one, the exposure of the sham at the heart of Labor’s traditional project could simply be too awful to contemplate.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 6 June 2007.

Filed under Media analysis

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