Contributed by Joe Montero
Some of us have been saying it for some time. Australians don’t like our prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
No makeover can change this. The antipathy comes out of deep seated anger over the continuation of economic and social policies that not only fail to bring benefit to most, but are seen to be destroying the nation’s economic well being, our social needs and our future.
Lack of jobs and affordable housing, falling living standards, a sense of rising injustice and the threat of global warming. Traffic congestion is another important issue. These, combined with a lack of leadership and courage to change course, an image of opportunism and dishonesty in government are dogging Malcolm Turnbull.
To be fair, any leader of the Coalition government would be facing a wave of unpopularity, if they persist with the same politics.The Coalition is incapable of breaking loose, because it bound by the golden chains of the wealthiest section of Australian society, as well as tycoons sitting in board rooms in New York, London and other places.
They are bound, not only because these are the people who supply the dollars that fund political careers, but because most of the Coalition members of parliament and leading party functionaries are part of the same social set, tending to carry a common view of the world, based on the belief that their set is society. The rest of us are merely nuisance to be managed, like the servant who should use the back door and not be noticed. This might be a generalisation that does not necessarily apply to every individual, but it there, and strong enough to be decisive.
It is a world view that clashes against the harsher reality being faced by ordinary Australians. Distrust of the government is an inevitable outcome.
Bill Shorten and the Labor Party should be experiencing a whirlwind of popular support and on such scale that Turnbull and the Coalition should be blown out of the water.
It is not happening and there are some very good reasons for this. Bill Shorten and Labor are not really trusted either. A long history of marginal differences form the Coalition has left its mark. It is as tough legacy to overcome.
The IPSOS study confirms that the news is also bad for Labor.
Within Labor there has been some recognition of the need to break this perception of being a pale copy of the other lot. But action has been tentative and marginal at best. Perhaps it has something to do with the strategy of giving the other side enough rope to hang themselves, focus on the personality of the prime minister and do nothing to take attention off this.
A deeper problem is that up to now, there has remained a deep-seated belief among the Labor politicians and power brokers that the legacy of Labor, from the Hawke era to now, is fundamentally correct. There is acceptance of a belief in holding the line against any major turn from neoliberalism. Although arguing for a less extreme version, there acceptance government cuts, privatisation and budget surpluses at all costs, as the only legitimate possibility.
By holding onto this ideology, arguably helped along by Labor’s own dependency on money rolling in from the big end of town, and a minimalist strategy,what should have been a surge of support, has been no more than slowly inching forward. Labor is showing an incapacity to break from its own chains and unable to offer a clear cut alternative, which means a failure to break from the pent up mistrust that has built up.
The IPSOS study found that the Coalition and Labor agendas are still considered to be almost identical and the perception is that Australia’s political leaders are out of touch, do not understand how most Australians live and are out for themselves.
The feeling is strongest among the young and middle aged, who feel betrayed by what they see as a political elite.
Labor has a problem. Unless it is able to convince the doubters that it is different, the longer-term prospect is not too good.
In recent years, we have seen how similar political parties across a range of countries have cut their won throats and faced the rise of new political movements, whether from within the ranks or outside. Discontent has forced a grasping of the politics of change. Could it happen in Australia? If the present leadership fails to move sufficiently, it is on the cards.
The prospect for the Coalition is not any rosier. It could find itself down for the count.