Catching the wrong populist tram. Playing to the envy ordinary people have when they see others jetsetting off around the world at first blush might seem like good politics. Clearly the Federal Opposition thinks so. They have been courting as hard as they can the instinct of the populist press to attack Kevin Rudd for spending so much of his first year in office overseas and were at it with particular vigour on yesterday’s election anniversary day. Yet you could hardly say that the tactic is having much of an impact. The Prime Minister starts Year Two with incredibly high popularity ratings in all of the major opinion polls. Australians seem to be putting aside their envy and showing at least a grudging pride in having a leader who can mix it with the leaders of the world.

Stealing a good idea. Malcolm Turnbull seems very frustrated by the lack of impact he is having on that Rudd popularity, but he should learn that giving his opponent a good idea is not a way of changing it. Yesterday’s suggestion at the National Press Club by the Opposition Leader that company shareholders should be able to pass binding rather than just advisory resolutions about executive salaries and bonuses will surely be taken up by the Government. The Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard seemed quite gleeful about the prospect when she said in Question Time that she always liked it when the poacher turned game-keeper. Malcolm’s friends in the big end of town are not so likely to be happy about the prospect of lurks and perks being curbed but the traveler will be when he finds out. It is Rudd not Turnbull who will end up with the credit for a change that ordinary people will applaud.

News by survey update. The proportion of the “news” we read each day that comes from some kind of survey or other just seems to keep growing. The Melbourne Age this morning makes much of a Nielsen poll on the attitude of Victorians towards public transport with 61 per cent of people saying they are dissatisfied with the Brumby Government on public transport — and only 27 per cent satisfied. I don’t think most people needed an opinion poll to learn of that particular dissatisfaction but I was surprised with the finding that 62 per cent want the Government to give public transport priority over roads, compared with 24 per cent who want roads to have priority. Perhaps the 62 per cent figure is so high because motorists think that better bus, train and tram services might encourage other drivers to get off the road so things get easier for them. That would be in keeping with the finding of the last major survey of drivers for the Australian Automobile Association when their primary unprompted concern was the behaviour and attitudes of other drivers – especially their perceived aggression and impatience.

This morning’s newspapers did bring another of those special interest polls (like the “A wrong choice by Telstra” mentioned in Crikey yesterday) conducted as part of a lobbying campaign. The public relations boffins for the Advanced Medical Institute got a run with their version of research showing that the public is not as prudish as the advertising watchdog thinks and their posters using the words “longer lasting s-x” should therefore be allowed. They’ll probably be happy with this further plug as well!

Peter Fray

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