Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

possible possibles « Previous | |Next »
September 21, 2007

Regardless of who wins this election the perceived likelihood of a Labor win has opened up a window of possibility. As French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu put it,

"The political field...tends to produce an effect of closure by tacitly presenting the universe of realised possibles as the universe of possible possibles, thus delimiting the universe of the politically thinkable".

Howard's non-binding, possibly non-core, perhaps prevaricating announcement of aspirational retirement is provisionally on the table. We may get Rudd, we may get Costello. Whatever happens, the politically thinkable is no longer delimited by Howard's version of the possible, but the Costello and Rudd versions are still largely known unknowns.

In response to Andrew Leigh's suggestion that we should forget about the polls and start talking about what we want to become, commenter Mercurius wrote:

- An Australia in which our leaders seek constructive solutions instead of reflexively looking for a victim group to blame for our problems.
- An Australia in which our taxes pay for healthcare and infrastructure, instead of subsidising companies that use our taxes to profit from the provision of essential human services.
- An Australia in which people look first to what their co-citizens can contribute to the society, instead of focusing on how their co-citizens worship, what they wear, what languages they speak or their ethnic background.
- An Australia in which the public education system enjoys the confidence and respect of the entire community, so that people don't feel the need to opt-out and exercise a Hobson's 'choice' to unnecessarily pay tens of thousands of dollars for a good education they can get for free.
- An Australia in which newspapers report news instead of peddling opinion.
- An Australia in which we are immune to moral panics about whatever group of people are the demons-du-jour.
- An Australia that is excited to be engaged with the wider world, and especially our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region.
- An Australia that fosters strength through diversity. A strength built from harnessing the diverse talents, interests, ideas, cultures, skills and expertise of everybody in the community.
- An Australia that is economically prosperous, and which makes wise and sustainable use of our scarce resources.
- An Australia that faces the future with hope instead of suspicion and fear.

For the past decade this wishlist has been politically thinkable, but not possible.

Last night on Difference of Opinion (transcript's not up yet) John Hewson demonstrated that such things are thinkable for the Liberal Party. Just not the John Howard Liberal Party. For starters, it's politically unthinkable for Howard's party to be in broad agreement with Eva Cox.

This interminable election campaign has been a good thing. We've had a long period of uncertainty about what we'll be doing this time next year, a decent interval to imagine possibilities other than the limited set of the past decade. I wonder whether it would be politically thinkable for Hewson to throw a few ideas Rudd's way?

| Posted by Lyn at 11:48 AM | | Comments (14)


I have to admit that I'm not that much interested in the polls, though I am interested in the media's obsession with them.


It's interesting to think about what the media's obsession with the polls does to what Leigh calls our national conversation, given the role they're supposed to play in the public sphere.

In "The Civil Sphere" Jeff Alexander argues that by publishing opinion polls, the media tells us something about ourselves as a society, but at the moment they're just telling us about themselves.

Dear Mercurius,

Thanks for you wonderful letter :)

Unfortunately Santa will not be able to supply your full request of presents but please accept this shiny new bike.

Your Sincerely Santa

p.s. Ho Ho Ho

below is an example from the Sydney Morning Herald of your comment that:

'Whatever happens, the politically thinkable is no longer delimited by Howard's version of the possible, but the Costello and Rudd versions are still largely known unknowns.

The SMH reports that the Liberals fear they will lose a string of seats - even some held by wide margins - without the strong personal profile of the incumbents.An attempt to reverse the retirement decision of the South Australian MP Barry Wakelin hit a brick wall:
The fight to retain Mr Wakelin, who holds his giant outback seat by a 13.9 per cent margin, is an indication of the concern within the Coalition. It is the second safest Liberal seat in the state but the party's internal polling showed it would lose it to Labor unless Mr Wakelin reversed his decision to retire.The South Australian Liberal Party's state executive had been scheduled to hold an emergency meeting last night to reinstate Mr Wakelin. But the meeting was called off yesterday afternoon when Mr Wakelin, who had been talked into staying, changed his mind again and said he was going.

A rural seat with 13.9 per cent margin in SA is in such trouble the Liberal candidate forGrey,">">Grey, Rowan Ramsey, has been urged him to step aside.


This election has put an end to the romantic idea that elections are won by the party with the best policies.

They might still be talking as though that's the case, and the rhetoric is still the same, but the winning of elections has very little to do governance.

According to some of News Ltd's Canberra Press Gallery journo's the writing is on the wall. The events of last week show that Rudd is weak and so a risk to the country, that the momentum is back with the Coalition and the signs are that Coalition is getting back in the race. The cracks have started to appear in the Rudd armour, so the strategy is want to drag this battle out and expose Rudd's obvious inexperience (weakness). So its only a question of time before Rudd is roasted slowly by the indestructable one.

Talk about possible possibles!

that the winning of elections has very little do with governance is surely right.

On the ALP side Kevin Rudd's team has used deliberate tactics all year to try to drive opinion one way or another just before major polls are conducted. They have spiked their positive, Rudd-rich television ads in the few days before the pollsters from Galaxy, Newspoll and Nielsen have gone into the field, launched negative attacks on the government or rolled out voter-friendly proposals.This has been done in a very disciplined and determined way.

your example clearly shows that many journalists at News Ltd do little more than comment on how the spinmeisters are spinning possible possibles. Another example is Christopher Pearson's recent effort.

The The Bullring is much better.

another example of possible possibles: Paul Sheehan and Glenn Milne over the past two days acting as the conduit for smear and innuendo.

The former on Julia Gillard in the SMH; the latter in the Herald Sun about a "fact" sheet on a married male Federal Government minister visiting gay bathhouses and sexually harassing other men.The latter is very much in the bag of possible possibles.


"the indestructable one" That's an interesting myth isn't it? I'd argue the belief that Howard could not be beaten has had a powerful impact on our politics and our society for a long time now. Whether they're right or wrong, the polls have been important in shifting that belief.

On the Federal Minister question, I'm in two minds. On one hand sexuality is none of our business and Milne is being his usual, pathetic self. On the other hand, has the minister in question acted in any way against the interests of the gay community? What extent of honesty and accountability do we expect from politicians?

What do you think?


Everything Rudd has done has been controlled to within an inch of its life. This is the same as introducting an unpopular bit of legislation just before a public holiday to avoid questions.

We'll never know I guess whether that was calculated to demoralise the Liberals, but it has. Because of the polls the Liberals and the public think the Liberals will lose, something that would be impossible to contemplate without the poll results.

It's not watertight though. Plenty of other stuff, the Northern Territory intervention, Haneef, the Mersey takeover, APEC and similar stuff have had our attention while Rudd was making announcements.


I would like an Australian approach to fisheries management that acknowledges the value of recreational fishing to the economy, including angling tourism. I would like fisheries policy to acknowledge the vast difference between the damage done by, say, commercial trawling in nurseries and recreational angling in the same areas.

By-catch should be given much more consideration, as should the wider impacts of longlining and other similar practices. And can somebody please point out that canning fish for catfood is not necessary?

Mmmm, fishionable material?
btw Lyn,
My cat wants me to assure you, not so...

Fishionable material. LOL. Very clever.

My dog suggested you have a word with your cat about the difference between necessities and luxuries.

I see we are both fortunate enough to be in possession of talking animals, Lyn.
The sad thing is, if we shared this knowledg with others, we should be shot off to a lunatic asylum.
Or at least a drunk-tank until the shakes eased a bit.