Opinion polling:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Richardson: opinion polling for beginners” (Monday, item 4). Polls are important for newspapers to generate headlines, commentary and sustain a perception that newspaper editors own the political agenda.

We don’t have to look very far to explain the difference between John Howard’s polling results before and after the elections in 2000 and 2004; weak opponents.

In each election the Liberals made a convincing case of portraying Kim Beazley as bumbling and not having the ticker for the job, and Mark Latham as an inexperienced, aggressive bovver boy from local government. While the Americans say “it’s the economy, stupid”, we Aussies say “it’s the leader’s character, stupid”.

Aussie voters want strong, reliable and credible leaders, but we get bored after a while, especially when our “dear leaders” hang around a little too long (Americans know it’s max two terms per leader so they have a leaving date). As Howard said, the times suited him; he won off the back of a swing against Keating, not on policies, mind, people just got fed up with Keating’s personality (he was overexposed). Same goes for Rudd; he won by being like Howard but slightly more in touch, especially with the yoof.

The 2013 election is difficult to call because Gillard hasn’t been in the job that long and she’s actually got stuff done; she can campaign on her record of achievement. The Liberals have found the issues that divide the centre (immigration, climate change) and run successful media campaigns like it’s a boxing match (hit same spot every time). If Gillard wants to start edging up in the polls, she’ll need to create outrage; this can be done by attacking:

  1. Liberal policy (getting easier as the nanny state policy demonstrated), and
  2. The Liberal leader; a focus on Tony’s gaffes and playing on other perceptions (was he funded by the Vatican? Does he hate women?)

Or, better yet, PM Gillard could go to war with a nasty dictator — that always boosts the ratings — luckily there’s plenty of dirty rotten scoundrels in Asia. Surely someone has WMD in Asia? Will Senator Carr oblige, I wonder?

McDonald’s journalism:

Livia Albeck-Ripka writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 18). As a young journalist I was appalled at channel Seven’s screening of the self-funded “McDonald’s Gets Grilled” documentary on Monday night.

Palming off this piece of shameless advertising as honest, investigative reporting was misleading, embarrassing and dangerous.

The “six ordinary Aussies” chosen were a far cry from the serious investigative reporters McDonald’s should have sent in to its factories and farms if it really wanted to prove it had nothing to hide. I don’t blame the participants for asking easy and stupid questions, because they are not reporters and do not know any better.

It was cringe-worthy to see their immense thanks at having the McDonald’s CEO grace them with her presence and “precious time”. One female participant described the CEO as being “thrown to the sharks”. Really? More like to a pond of lobotomised goldfish.

It is completely unacceptable to have this kind of crap broadcast to a public that don’t have the tools to analyse what they are seeing. To have viewers go away believing a company has been genuinely investigated, questioned and “grilled” on its operation and morals, when really they have been subjected to an hour of badly cut and poorly narrated fluff.

George Galloway:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Rundle: Big Brother’s Respect a sad tune for Labour Muppets” (yesterday, item 5). Guy Rundle’s coverage of the byelection victory by George Galloway is up to his usual colourful and comprehensive standards. But his concluding side-step “Whatever people think of Galloway … ” takes the same non-committal line as the British press.

On the day following Galloway’s victory, they devoted whole pages to anti-Galloway articles, which, despite their vitriolic tone, failed to land a blow. The worst that The Daily Mail, for example, could come up with was the dark hint that he had “never put a foot wrong”.

Rundle also could have mentioned Galloway’s forthright appearances before the US Congress — they are on YouTube and help explain his popularity.

Gambling on corporate governance:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Like episode of Underbelly, O’Farrell dragged into casino inquiry” (yesterday, item 2). Awards all around to James Packer, Barry O’Farrell, Peter Grimshaw and the entire supporting cast of bit players appearing in the Star Theatre’s long-running production of There’s a horse’s head in the bottom of my bed.

This highly entertaining melodrama is delivering a remarkable real-life insight into how the arts of politics and business come to terms with the requirements of corporate governance at the big end of town. In the words of one critically acclaimed director: “You guys are f-cked”.

Encore, encore!