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'

pork poverty « Previous | |Next »
November 3, 2007

A Liberal voting friend recently observed that our local Gold Coast newspapers are full of complaints that the Coast never gets attention from the federal government. During federal elections some parliamentary lightweight might drop in to announce funding for a new bus shelter on the way to a more significant appearance somewhere else, but that's about it. Oh for the attention and barrells of pork lavished on Eden-Monaro.

According to the polls the four safe coalition seats that make up the bulk of the Gold Coast would probably remain safe if the entire coalition resigned. The swing towards Labor is verging on the ridiculous in Queensland, but the Coast remains resolutely devoted to the coalition. So we sit in front of our televisions every night hearing of gold-plated toilet seats and rose garden memorials for somebody's lost kitten being promised to the folk of more marginal electorates. We watch other people's children being hugged and kissed by important people. Are our babies inferior?

The Gold Coast doesn't do too badly out of the state government with major money-spinning attractions like Indy, Schoolies and a more than half full dam. We're a good resource of revenue, water and state Labor votes. But at the federal level we can safely be ignored as a Liberal inevitability.

It's unlikely that droves of worthy Gold Coast residents are wishing they'd voted Labor last time. They're unlikely to be watching the evening news wishing they were as undecided as the people they see rejoicing over all sorts of promised infrastructure improvements. Nevertheless, it's a fact of life that if pork barrell politics has become a permanent feature of our electoral landscape, the permanently marginal stand a better chance of enjoying better outcomes than pockets of loyalty to either side.

My Liberal voting friend comes from a long line of Liberal voters and in an ideal world could reasonably expect some reward for that loyalty. But politics is far from an ideal world. He's in his 50s, insecure in his employment, unhappy with his AWA, annoyed at the state of the roads around here and angry at the distribution of wealth that he still associates with the old white shoe brigade. We both think that climate change is a big problem and if government doesn't start taking it seriously we're on our way to hell with or without the handbasket.

We talk about education psychology and the election. He explains how people have difficulty accepting new information that doesn't fit with their pre-existing beliefs and the various strategies they use to discount, avoid or minimise the relevance of contradictory evidence. I tell him about the polls, the sad state of Liberal Party finances and how last week's tactics fit into the overall strategy. Labor strategy. The Liberals don't seem to have one.

He nods, smiles politely, says the Liberal Party deserves to be massacred but still thinks they're the better choice, then we trundle off our separate ways. I wonder how come somebody who knows so much about psychology doesn't occasionally examine their own, and he probably wonders why somebody who knows so much stuff doesn't do something more useful with their time.

| Posted by Lyn at 4:00 PM | | Comments (7)


You mention pork barrelling for the Eden-Monaro electorate. Yes its been going on for the last ten years. The Regional Development Program is a great source of cash to keep your buddies on side. New stoves for the CWA, boat ramps and an occasional grant for weed control. Very little consistant pattern and no policy content behind the grants.

It is one way to run a country but not very sensible. Hardly good economic management.

Eden-Monaro has major weed problems. Down the coast it is fireweed a poisonous weed that is spreading and is now also on the Monaro-the high country where the weed serrated tussock flourishes.Other parts of the coumtry also have serious weed problems.The annual cost across Australia runs at over $4 Billion So what does the Government do. Withdraws its funding from The Co-operative Research Centre for Weed Management. The local member doesn't even answer letters about the matter.

Behaviour like this raises serious issues about "public Opinion" and "public policy". There is plenty of opinion but not much policy. The difference between the two in the case of Iraq, or the way our Government treats refugees
are of course far more serious from a humanitarian point of view.Both seem to be off the agenda at present.Your apathetic friend is part of the problem.I meet him many times a week.

To be fair the pork barrell has been around for more than a decade and has been used by both sides to sway voters in marginal seats. I don't know whether Howard is just more blatant about it, but people do notice and it's not a good look. There's a risk that the gains it brings in one electorate put another one offside.

The tendency to strangle organisations in favour of ad hoc 'targeted' funding is a consistent feature of this government, from your weed example to the Northern Territory intervention. It clearly doesn't work to solve problems, but it does locate power over just about everything in the government. That power is used inconsistently and unpredictably for overtly political purposes, rather than for the common good. You're right. It's no way to run a country.

I've tried to understand how my apathetic friend thinks and have come to the tentative conclusion that he just doesn't make the connection between politics and his own life. It's quite common. If we're all aspirational individuals responsible for our own fate, how can governments be held responsible for the situations we find ourselves in? I meet a lot of people like him as well, who think politics is irrelevant to their lives, but will be voting Labor this year for the first time in a decade. They treat it like Big Brother or Australian Idol.

Each to his or her own I guess.

It is timely to recall that Australia is actually a colony of sorts and not necessarily exclusively in the traditional sense of to another national power. Also post mod less straightforward influences involving globalisation, cultural manipulation, cultural imperialism.
You may rejoin "conspiracy theory", but is it ac cidental that even our political system seems inceasingly out of whack; increasingly too small an engine to cope with the psychic workload of a modern globalised economy?
Howardism (including loss of an independent senate), state technocrat Labor, centralisation yet deregulation; all these suit certain sections of society more than others. Like or not there has been a sort of political paedophilia at work for a generation, that has ruined the intent and function of a democratic system if you count back from the situation now, to the 'seventies.
We ALL find, once we have got past the finger-pointing, that we have been locked out.


I wonder how much of our present situation looks the way it does because we view it through the Howard era lens. Our possibilities have been shaped in particular ways for the past decade. It is not the only model available to us.

Also, since the oil crisis in the 70s we were inevitably going to become something else. The old model of governance doesn't do globalisation very well. We need a new model, but I don't think we've quite found it. Politics seems to take a long time to catch up.

you think you have problems on the Gold Coast. Despite the existence of three Liberal marginals in Adelaide--- Kingston, Wakefield and Makin--the pork barrel truck just has not appeared. I've been waiting patiently for it to go past my door. SA has swung away from the Liberals big time

The Liberals have conceded these marginals, so there is no need for the pork. Neither Sturt and Boothby are in play, as neither is expected to change hands unless the political stocks of the Government deteriorate even further in SA.

So the pork truck, by the looks of it, will make the rounds of the marginals in Queensland, Victoria and NSW. My desalinisation plant for Adelaide is not going to arrive. SA has do it on its own. It's not fair. It's inequitable.

However, I'm keeping my eye out for mometum. It's due to move by any day now.

the momentum is on. The latest poll-mix has the government making ground since the election was called, from 44.5 to 45.5, thereby closing the two party preferred gap from eleven points to nine.

The momentum will soon pass through SA. You just have to be patient.


Have you been around to Possum's place today? There's one of those expected swing/demographics mix things he/she does state-by-state.

Demographics can't account for the swing in SA. You people are just not behaving in the predictable way you're supposed to, so you're being punished apparently.

Cheer up though, it looks as though Alexander Downer has been wheeled out for Interest Rates Rise Week. Perhaps your largesse is imminent.

Crosby Textor wrote off SA very early in the piece, but the PM has been quite erratic lately. Apparently you're going to be promised roads tomorrow. Surely water can't be too far behind?


Even though Newspoll has increased its sample size the margin of error is still a bit over 2 points. 2.3 I think.