Today Bernard Keane writes of a time when politicians treated voters like they actually had half a brain:

“Political discourse was once much more than this. The Hawke, Keating and early Howard governments treated voters, to use Gillard’s praise of Gough Whitlam, like adults, capable of thinking beyond the next five minutes, capable of understanding more complex concepts than the malevolence of a carefully crafted, unAustralian other, capable of supporting economic reform that might have initial costs but would yield long-term benefits.

“Australians were receptive to such discourse, too. The reform wave of the 1980s was coupled with a sense of urgency, that Australia was slipping behind, that it had no choice but to open to the world if it wanted to halt the slide in its economic performance. Paul Keating’s deliberately alarmist “banana republic” line jolted the commentariat and voters and laid the groundwork for further rounds of major reform.  After two decades of economic growth and, now, a vast resources boom, there’s no longer such an accommodating public mood. The job of selling reform is accordingly that much harder.”

A romantic notion, these days. But today’s Essential Research questioning centered around the upcoming federal budget confirms the fact again — voters want leadership, they want long-term thinking, and they see through silly sound-bite guarantees. When asked the question:

“Q. Do you think it is more important for the government to return the budget to surplus by 2012-13 as planned — which may mean cutting services and raising taxes — OR should they delay the return to surplus and maintain services and invest in infrastructure?”

Sixty nine per cent answered “delay return to taxes.” And interestingly, that sentiment cut across all parties — 72% Labor,70% Lib/Nat, 72% Greens.

True to say voters of all stripes are united by a fear of higher taxes, but there’s also a common sentiment that there’s more to managing the economy than just the magic S word.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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