December 28

Out of touch

The revelation that Labor spent $31 million on market research in the year before the August election shows just how out of touch our 21st-century politicians are with the voters they seek to represent.

So began the editorial in The Australian on 28 December, 2010, “Forget the focus groups, just eyeball the voters.” 


The editor continued:

 It is hard to imagine Ben Chifley or Robert Menzies or even Bob Hawke finding it so difficult to divine the views of their constituents. These prime ministers had the sort of political antennae that seem to have gone missing as politicians turn to focus groups to determine their platform.

The problem is not confined to Labor. John Howard spent almost as much, $30 million, in 2006-07, his final year in office. But Labor's 42 per cent spending increase in 2009-10 — designed to read the public mood on broadband, welfare, climate change, health reform and the mining tax — is particularly embarrassing for a party founded on engagement with "the common man". It is a long way too from the days when Mr Hawke and Paul Keating decided what Australians needed and then set out to persuade voters.

…scourge emerged in the nineties…..

The scourge of politicians being out of touch in significant numbers seems to have emerged in the nineties.

A clear symptom of this was when so many in the political class jumped onto the republican bandwagon.  There was of course no good reason to remove our oldest institution from our constitutional system or to change our flag.

But about two thirds of our politicians, all of capital city newspapers (the West Australian and possibly the Financial Review dissenting as to the model), most of the broadcast media (with the exception of some commercial talkback), eagerly supported change to a politicians' republic.

[continued below]

And it wasn’t that the proposed change clearly offered a better way to govern the country. Indeed the then dominant republican movement was forced to abandon its first choice of republican model. This was only when we pointed out  a central flaw in the model which would have destabilised the constitutional system.

With the massive propaganda juggernaut which was assembled in the nineties, the republicans were no doubt surprised that they performed so poorly.

 The only group the republicans won over were the inner city elites. Among the rank and file, where common sense prevails, the best model the best republican brains could devise carried no favour.

…monarchists are not whingers…

That is why the No case prevailed in all States and 72% of electorates. It is no answer for the republicans to whinge about this and blame John Howard and the manipulation of the question.

Neither ACM nor the ARM were entirely happy with the question.

We argued that the prime ministerial power of instant presidential dismissal unknown in the world should be mentioned. The ARM famously tried to have the words “president” and “republic” removed. This caused such ridicule for the ARM, even in the republican press, it was soon withdrawn.

ACM did not  withdraw ours, but of course accepted the decision of Parliament. Constitutional monarchists are not given to  whinging .

…the question…


The falsehood that John Howard manipulated the question and that is why the republicans lost must finally be laid to rest. It is foolish of republicans to keep arguing that.The question was approved by both Houses of Parliament. 

There was no more than a minority of constitutional monarchists in either.  And it was approved by the republican leadership  in Parliament. 

The referendum showed that the rank and file know they have nothing to fear from the Crown. They remain wary about the increase in power to the political class which will be a feature of a politicians’ republic whatever form is finally revealed.      


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