In recent times we have had a number of polls in which the Australian people have shown good sense, though not all the time, as we shall see. However, the politics we deserve better than the politics we get.
The latest Essential Report has found that support for same-sex marriage is now at 61-32 in favour, with Labor voters almost as positive as the Greens. Whether you go to church or not does seem to make a difference. The more people go to church the less positive they are.
Of those who voted, 64% say they voted ‘yes’, as against 30% ‘no’ and 6% prefer not to say.
The ABS estimates that 57.5% of enrolled Australians have already cast their votes in the postal survey, while the Essential poll found 47% having voted.
If these figures are right, it is becoming hard to see how the ‘yes’ vote will lose from here.
Bob Hawke labelled the decision to spend $122 million on the survey as “the worst economic decision made by any Australian prime minister,” whereupon Tony Abbott basically called him a “silly old bugger”.
Meanwhile Ian Roberts, one of the toughest rugby league players to have played the game, wept as working-class fans went wild for Macklemore’s NRL finals show.
When voters were asked about trust in institutions and organisations, only the police, the High Court and the ABC did better than 50%. Trailing were state parliaments (31%), federal parliament (30%), business groups (28%), religious organisations (26%), trade unions (25%) and last of all political parties (18%).
When it came to trust in the media, only the ABC and SBS were in the black.
Last week voters preferred renewable energy to coal 64-18, and then there was this one which was to find how we discern reality in a post-truth world.
The answer is, not so well, according to Essential Report’s Peter Lewis.
A substantial minority believe that –
- Heaven and hell both exist as destinations after life. (40%)
- Angels and demons are active in the world. (39%)
- Ghosts exist and can influence their will on the living. (35%)
- Extra-terrestrials have visited the earth. (34%)
- The story of creation in the book of Genesis is a true account of the first man and woman. (34%)
A majority do not believe that –
- Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by scientists. (68%)
- The vibrations from wind farms cause long term health damage. (58%)
- Vaccines can cause autism. (70%)
Here’s the main part of the table:
While our participation in organised religion has been on the decline in recent decades, 40% of us still say we have a literal interpretation of the central tenants of heaven and hell. More than one third of us believe in angels and demons, ghosts with skin in the game, aliens who have visited the Earth and that Adam and Eve is more than a fable. While the number supporting popular conspiracy theories are lower, they still are at numbers that can influence the outcome of elections.
- Breaking these numbers down, Coalition voters are more likely to embrace all the propositions than Labor and Green voters, suggesting here too that it is from the right where the post-truth market is strongest. And in what surprised me most about these results, it is among younger voters that support for these propositions is strongest.
- When politics is built on shifting factual sands, it’s difficult to erect anything of substance. There’s no easy way to reverse the rise of post-truth in Australia.
Nevertheless, if you want to change the culture of an organisation, you need to start at the top. This can readily be seen every time a school changed principal, or a new CEO takes up his or her position.
In terms of the quality of political discourse, one of the most interesting items of the week was Laura Tingle’s report to Phillip Adams on her coverage of the German elections.
In the beginning Tingle experienced delay getting her journalist’s accreditation. A German said, “Why don’t you just turn up. No-one is going to stop you”.
This was quite possible, because Angela Merkel’s itinerary was made available two weeks in advance. In Australia you have to be on the official bus and don’t know where you are going until you get on the bus in the morning.
Tingle just went along, and no-one bothered her.
Party political TV ads are banned. The press is not obviously partisan, and generally speaking appears to be truth-seeking and interested in policies.
She said the whole thing was very civilised compared to what we get here, lacking slogans and personal attacks. The Germans may see it differently, but she said the difference was stark. It’s a world away from what we get here.
The Germans being efficient, the result was known about 10 minutes after the polls closed. Then there was a phenomenon known as the “Elephants Roundtable”:
- This is the moment of truth — the artifice of the election campaign is stripped away and politicians sit opposite each other for the first time since the polls closed in a spartan TV studio to review the result and make declarations on what should happen next.
Typically sparks fly, and you get raw politics without spin. Tingle said that this time Merkel sat there open-mouthed as her prospective coalition partners, the Greens and the Free Democrats, ripped into each other.
It will probably take until Christmas to form a coalition, which here would freak everyone out because of the uncertainty. People understand, however, that compromises have to be made. Not all the positions taken before the election can be sustained.
In general, it seems we could learn a few things from the political cultures in northern Europe.
Finally, here, as Turnbull celebrates passing his second anniversary of his ascension to power, the margin in Newspoll widened again to 54-46 in favour of Labor, replicated by Essential in the following week. They say that when Newspoll is out in the field, Abbott will be there too, stirring up strife. However, that is now 20 Newspolls in a row.
The clock is ticking.
Update: After finishing this and pressing the “publish” button, I had my ‘aha’ moment that brings all this together. I’ve changes the title from The people deserve better to We deserve better. By ‘we’ I mean those of us who are not dipsticks who believe weird stuff, and to whom the politicians on the right in particular seem to want to pander. Remember:
- Coalition voters are more likely to embrace all the propositions than Labor and Green voters, suggesting here too that it is from the right where the post-truth market is strongest.