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Aug 26, 2014

Essential: Liberals the 'upper class' party? And Costello best treasurer

Australia is a class-riddled society, today's Essential Report shows, but few people claim to be upper class, despite believing the Liberal Party supports that group most.


Social class is alive and well in Australia, but few voters will admit to being “upper class”, today’s Essential Report finds. And Peter Costello gets the gong as Australia’s greatest ever treasurer.

Some  79% of voters agree social class exists in Australia; 31% deem themselves “working class”, and 49% describe themselves as “middle class”, but only 2% will admit to being “upper class”. Labor voters (36%) and other/Palmer United Party voters (38%) are more likely to nominate themselves as working class, whereas Greens (24%) and Liberals (27%) are less likely, though Liberal voters (58%) are the most likely to identify as middle class. Greens and other/PUP voters are also more likely to decline to describe themselves in class terms. But even voters earning over $1600 per week (3%) declined to refer to themselves as “upper class”, preferring “middle class” (64%).

Class also strongly affects how voters view the major political parties. About 41% of voters thought Labor mainly represented the interests of the working class — oddly enough — but 47% of voters thought the Liberal Party represented the interests not of the middle class but of the “upper class”. Unlike Labor voters, who agreed with Labor’s “working class” identification, Liberal voters preferred to see Liberal Party as representing the middle class (31%) or “all of them” (32%). But there was no such split among voters identifying as “working class” or “middle class” — both tended to see Labor as working class and the Liberals as upper class.

Both sides have strengthened their identification since April last year, when similar questions were asked: Labor’s identification as representing the “working class” went from 30% to 41%, while the Liberals’ identification as representing the “upper class” has lifted from 40% to 47%.

The parties have also shifted fortunes on voter perceptions since the budget. Asked which party represents the interests of the large corporate and financial interests, 59% of voters said the Liberals, compared to 9% Labor, an increase from the 41% gap that separated the parties on that question in May. Labor strengthened its lead on “being more concerned about the interests of working families in Australia than the rich and large business and financial interests” from 29 points to 32 points, but failed to make a dent on the Liberals’ 14 point lead on “handling the economy overall”.

There’s also good news for the Liberals on the question of who Australia’s greatest treasurer was: Peter Costello gets the gong, with 30%, compared to Paul Keating’s 23%, although “don’t know” is the big winner, on 35%; in the battle of the recent treasurers, Wayne Swan beats Joe Hockey, 8% to 5%. Apart from having the benefit of being treasurer within recent memory, Costello also benefited from great ambivalence from Greens voters, 52% of whom declared “don’t know” rather than endorse the more progressive Keating.

Voters are also ambivalent about Chinese investment, with 38% agreeing it is good for the Australian economy but 36% saying it isn’t. Liberal voters are the least xenophobic on the issue, splitting 50%-30%, whereas Labor voters (37%-34%) and Greens voters (34%-38%) are less enthusiastic; the result from other/PUP voters suggests Clive Palmer’s wild attack on Chinese investment last week played well to his party base: 52% say it is bad, compared to just 29% who say it is good.

On voting intention, both the Coalition (39%) and Labor (37%) have lost a point on their primary votes, while the Greens are up a point to 10%. The two-party preferred result is the same as last week, 52%-48% in Labor’s favour.


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16 thoughts on “Essential: Liberals the ‘upper class’ party? And Costello best treasurer

  1. Dogs breakfast

    Costello as Australia’s greatest Treasurer.

    Gawd help us all.

  2. Scott

    “Costello also benefited from great ambivalence from Greens voters, 52% of whom declared “don’t know” rather than endorse the more progressive Keating.”

    I think that pretty much sums up the average Green voter’s knowledge of Finance and Economics. If you asked them who Balmain’s best basket weaver was on the other hand….”don’t know” vote would be 0.001%!

  3. JennyWren

    Oh hello another global labeller there Scottie boy, I suppose it’s an alternative to real thought when banging out a reply

  4. JennyWren

    Did you ever consider that most Greens are rather young? They actually may not have even been born when PJK was treasurer! Also, last time I consulted a thesaurus, ambivalence wasn’t a synonym of endorsement. I think they probably went with a “better the devil you know” reply.
    Disclaimer: I’m a green, studied economics more than the average person and would’ve chosen Keating in a heartbeat.

  5. Hiroya Sugita

    I would say Peter Costello was the luckiest Treasurer Australia has ever had, surpassing Billy McMahon.

  6. bushby jane

    Yes I agree Hiroya Sugita. He never had to make a hard decision, but made a few dumb ones without even trying e.g. tax cuts galore. There was certainly very little infrastructure spending on his watch, the mining boom thrown away.

  7. klewso

    Lucky “Howard’s Dummy” didn’t have anything harder to handle than his engorged ego?
    Shows how “engaged” your average punter is with politics?

    [But “9%” of respondents reckon Labor “represents the interests of the large corporate and financial interests”? That’s it for me when it comes to polls – what’s the margin for error?]

  8. Steve777

    “Don’t Know” would be a far better Treasurer than Joe Hockey. So would my cat.

  9. Marwill10

    Essential Report finds Peter Costello gets the gong as Australia’s greatest ever treasurer. What a joke.

  10. CML

    Wasn’t it Costello who sold off our gold reserves when the price was around $300/oz? Says it all really!
    And didn’t all those people around the world, who know about these things, nominate first Keating, then Swan, as ‘treasurer of the year’ during their respective reigns?
    If my memory serves me correctly, Costello didn’t even make the short list!
    Just goes to show how much the bogans know about economics!!

  11. Jimmyhaz

    Reading things like this makes me wish we had a compulsory basic macro-economics course at a high school level.

    Costello is Australia’s greatest treasurer in a world where Hockey is a competent one.

  12. CML

    Jimmyhaz – ARE YOU SERIOUS????!!! (Comment on your last sentence).

  13. AR

    CML – I think JimmyH was indulging in litotes.

  14. Neutral

    Costello was an accounts clerk who got lucky when revenue exceeded treasury forecasts.

    Between 2004 and 2007, $334 billion in windfall gains was added to the budget surplus. All but $20 billion was spent or given away.

    This doesn’t include the $72 billion raised from asset sales so where did that money go?

    The Libs failed to pour these ‘rivers of gold’ into infrastructure to improve productivity which has come back to bite us today. While he wanted to, Costello didn’t have the ticker to curb Howard’s massive spending binge on voter bribes – the so called ‘middle class welfare’.

    Yes, the gold sell off. 167 tonnes of our reserves for around $2.4 billion at the bottom of the market cycle. A bit of basic technical analysis of the financial markets wouldn’t have gone astray but having already lost $4.5 billion in forex trading that is probably a bit too much to expect.

    One thing they did do well though was the GST. I was on the project team for a corporate rollout and while there were a few loose ends and hiccups there were no show stoppers when dealing with the beauracracy for the implementation according to the letter of the law and legislation.

    Another positive initiative was the Future Fund but while they sold it as securing Australia’s future all it does is cover federal public servants super. Imagine if $100 billion (not even a third) of the windfall was put into a sovereign wealth fund along the lines of Norway.

    Australia’s greatest book keeper maybe but not treasurer.

  15. Jimmyhaz


    No, I wasn’t.

    It’s a hypothetical world, existing solely in the mind of the most delusional LNP supporters.

  16. tonyfunnywalker

    When you dole out billions in tax cuts of course you are the ” best Treasurer” in recent times. Whethter you are responsible by shepherding the Australian economy in tough times – goes unappreciated. If you are lazy, incompetent have no bloody idea of what you are doing then Hockey’s position as the ” worst ever” is not surprising.
    He is the ” Alan Joyce” of the Treasury Benches.


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