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Published 28 September 2012 06:03, Updated 28 September 2012 06:08
Uncomfortable ... More and more, Australians feel as if neither side of politics can end our national pity party. Photo: Andrew Meares
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has taken a moment in the middle of intense lobbying for a seat for Australia on the UN Security Council to give his Labor colleagues a stern talking to. Stop focusing on what the Party is getting wrong. He is sick of it. He thinks the public is sick of it, too.
He has a point.
I’ve found that Australians aren’t enthusiastic or comfortable focusing on party politics for too long. In general, when they hand a party the reins of government in a decisive way (as they did to Rudd’s Labor in 2007) they expect to relax for at least two terms before they have to start thinking about whether to replace one L for another.
Australian voters haven’t been able to shift their focus from politics much over the past two years, what with all the leadership changes and the brave new world of coalition government. And I have to say it’s making them cranky. And while you might blame federal Labor for this, that’s only half the story. Australians aren’t jazzed about the alternative either, as poll after poll shows us. What’s more the option of a protest vote for the Greens or an independent is not looking as attractive as it did at the last election. They feel trapped.
For over a year now, when clients have asked me, “Why are Australian consumers so pessimistic?” I have included “frustration with federal government” as part of the answer to that question. Of course, how we feel about our political leadership is intimately linked to how we feel about the economy.
More than that, however, federal Labor seems unable to convince the public that we should feel good about our economy now and in the near future. The Coalition is determined to be relentlessly negative. While there is truth to the view that the public have an almost perverse desire to be negative about a position situation, let’s consider for a second the failure of both sides to be effective cheerleaders for the nation. No wonder people are gloomy.
In our most recent round of fieldwork, we deviated for a moment from our usual method of not asking direct questions and asked our discussion groups a direct question – how are you feeling about the economy now compared with this time last year? Most groups came back with a critique about political leadership. “I think Labor talks [the economy] up a lot but I reckon they’re on their last legs. They can’t adjust the economy.” “I reckon if Abbott gets in the country will go even further backwards. They’re as bad as each other.” “They’re both trying to put their best foot forward and nobody really knows what they’re doing.”
Six months ago I was saying that a change of government might help bring about a change of mood. But now I’m not so sure. More and more, Australians feel as if neither side can end our national pity party.