Journalists are suckers for internal
party polling. Press gallery members just love to think they know what’s
happening on the inside. So it should surprise no one that Liberal and Labor
apparatchiks alike regularly exploit the vanity.

Yesterday it was Labor’s turn for a
little bit of manipulation with Steve Lewis and Cath Hart of The Australian the
compliant victims.

Forget about that Newspoll earlier
in the week in which real people were actually surveyed. The good oil, according to
Lewis and Hart in this morning’s paper, was in the Opposition’s secret polling.

Labor national secretary Tim
Gartrell clearly knows that gullible journalists especially like revealing
secrets, and what a wonderful secret his briefing paper to state branches had to
reveal: Labor’s secret polling showed John Howard’s popularity has taken a
“considerable hit”.

Wow! There were even direct quotes
from actual people interviewed by Labor! “He [Prime Minister John Howard]
doesn’t care about ordinary people any more. These [industrial] laws are causing
trouble all over the country.”

But wait. We can reveal more. One
person actually told the Labor researchers that “the new industrial regulations
are horrifying because they disempower employees.”

Disempower indeed. Now there’s a
word that must be resonating through every marginal electorate.
It’s probably something said often
in the aspirational McMansions that Labor’s NSW state secretary Mark Arbib refers
to in the book Reconnecting Labor that Julia Gillard launched

Over in the Liberal Party,
meanwhile, they were not briefing journalists about internal polling but simply
using theirs to try and get something other than industrial relations on the
political agenda. Education Minister Julie Bishop chose yesterday to push for a
return of traditional Australian history to the nation’s schoolrooms, with a
threat to withhold funds from any naughty state Labor Government that refused to
do so.

I cannot wait to learn from Steve
and Cath what Labor’s secret polling shows about that.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey