The recent recruitment of ex-Channel Niners and placing them at the heart of the Iemma Government’s media offensive is off to an inglorious start.

Last night, Sydney audiences were treated to a Nine “exclusive” involving “secret ALP polling”.

Yes, folks, the old “secret ALP polling trick”, the hoariest device in the business. It normally involves a government propagandist or party hack handing a reporter a piece of paper which is unsourced and unsigned allegedly detailing “internal party polling”.

The reporter writes an article around the polling and then asks the party leader for a comment which he/she is prepped to deliver from prepared notes.

In this instance, the polling revealed (surprise, surprise) that the Iemma Government is in dire straits. The news reader intoned breathlessly:

NSW Labor would lose 21 seats and be swept from government if a state election were held today, the party’s internal polling shows.

Documents leaked to the Nine Network show Labor would shed 21 seats and lose by five seats if the elections were held now.

It then posted a graphic showing one of the threatened seats was Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle.

Oh really? Sadly, Labor has already lost Port Stephens, at the March 2007 election. The current member is Liberal Craig Baumann.

The blunder prompted Liberal frontbencher Jillian Skinner to comment acidly:

“Memo to Morris Iemma and the Labor Party, you lost Port Stephens at the 2007 election,” adding: “It appears the government is so out of touch it doesn’t even know what seats it holds.”

Further into the news item, six other Labor-held seats were declared “up for grabs”. But hang on a minute, one of those named was Tweed. Labor lost that one too at the 2007 election: its current member is Geoff Provest from the Nationals.

Nevertheless, the chaotic “secret” and “leaked” polling gave Nine the opportunity to interview Iemma who said (again): “This certainly is sending a message to the Government to lift its performance, lift its game. To myself to work harder.”

And it gave him a golden opportunity to reinforce his campaign for the privatization of the electricity and to tell Nine’s viewers: “We run the state, not the unions.”

Mission accomplished! The whole charade works like this:

  1. Give eager reporter “leaked polling” in return for guaranteed top spot on news bulletin;
  2. Name endangered seats to put the frighteners on panicked backbenchers who might be thinking of changing leaders;
  3. Provide a prime time platform for the premier to repeat his power sell-off plans and to appear contrite.

The only trouble with this strategy is that voters aren’t listening any more. They simply don’t believe what he or his ministers are saying. The majority of voters have given up on Iemma and his government and can’t wait for the next election in March 2011 to let them know. And that’s not from “secret internal ALP polling”, that’s from AC Nielsen, Newspoll and any workplace, pub, club or board room in the State.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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