By Jim Hayes
The latest Guardian Essential poll pinpointed some telling truths about how Australians feel about where Australia is heading and how our political leaders are responding to the challenges of the day. This is just one poll, of course, and one poll can never tell the whole truth.
But this one does make sense. It represents what many polls have been saying and other evidence is backing. What is notable about this poll, is the extent to which the alienation of our political leaders from society stands now.
Being the Prime Minister, means that Anthony Albanese has seen his approval fall to the lowest point since the 2022 election. The opinion is that he is not doing enough to tackle the high cost of rentals (68 percent), and especially the overall rising cost of living (75 percent).
About Australia not going in the right direction overall. Well, the poll shows that the opinion of 47 percent of Australia believes this is the wrong one. Another 21 percent are unsure. Only 38 percent believe the direction is the right one. This is important. It tells us that Australia is pessimistic about the future.
Remembering that towards the end of the Morrison government, 40 percent believed Australia was then heading in the right direction puts the present situation into some context. The number was a low number then and it is even lower today.
Add to this that majority (51 percent) now believes that not enough is being done about the environment. Preoccupation with concern over bread-and-butter economic issues hasn’t sent this in the other direction.
Labor is in the firing line by virtue of being in government. they are perceived as failing to deliver enough on what the community expected. This is cold comfort for the Coalition. Their leader, Peter Dutton, remains somewhat more unpopular, with only 27 percent seeing him in a positive light.
But over focus on personalities, and even political parties, detracts from hat is even more important. Australia is losing faith in the whole set up. This poll and other evidenceshows the younger the person, the more likely he or she will feel alienated.
The Essential Poll does not try to explain why Australia feels the way, and consequently it avoids some critical matters. especially that the institutions that our political leaders operate in do does not meet the needs of the day. Chief among these is that Australia np longer believes that the political institutions and those operating within them meet the needs of Australia.
Anyone should be able to see that most are feeling the bite of a poorly performing economy. Living standards are continuing to fall. Prices go up and the gap between them and income keeps on widening. The younger are the worst off, and a permanent decent job, one’s own home, and future opportunities overall have become unattainable. And they expect to be the ones to wear the main brunt of the effects of climate change.
Political leaders are perceived to not be listening and not caring a jolt about the needs of ordinary people. Politicians are increasingly seen as opportunists fawning at the table of the powerful. Australia yearns to be heard and its needs met.
The absence of both is a recipe for political polarisation, and we are already seeing an element of this at federal and state elections, where the support base for the major parties is shrinking. If this continues, the chances are that new political trends towards the left and right will become more entrenched and grow. A growing proportion of alienated Australia inevitably seeks for new answers to the real problems it faces.
This is not necessarily bad. It can bring opportunities, through a transforming involvement of many in the rise of a new politics and institutions that value real and active democracy, build unity, empower all, and deliver in the interests of the majority.
Isn’t this a worthwhile goal to work towards?