Australia demands a change in direction according to the latest Essential Poll

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty: Anthony Albanese
By Joe Montero

In the wake of the fiasco of the voice referendum and a response to Israel’s attack on Israel that pleases no-one, the Essential Poll commissioned by the Guardian newspaper has revealed that more people disapprove than approve of Anthony Albanese’s performance as Prime Minister of Australia and the direction in which the country is going.

No doubt these two events have been part of it.  But there is something else that overrides everything else. This is a growing dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the government within the Labor Party’s political base, mostly fed by a perceived failure to do enough to combat the rising cost of living.

According to this poll, 66 percent of respondents say Labor is not doing enough on this issue. The essential Poll is widely regarded as the most accurate of the various pollsters operating in Australia. In any case, Newspoll, the polling firm favoured by Murdoch’s media, tells a broadly similar story.

Growing unpopularity of the Prime Minister and Labor government is hardly surprising. On most critical issues, including the cost of living, it has more or less followed along the road of the previous Morrison government, and there is no political will to change direction in evidence.

Bipartisanship of key matters isn’t new. Albanese didn’t invent it. This has been part of the Australian political scene for some time, federally and across the states. The difference today is that the context has changed.

The Australian population is less forgiving. Trust in political leadership has fallen away. The electorate is less rusted on to Labor or the Coalition. The shift is most marked in younger Australians, the first generation to be worse off than their parents.

Labor’s declining stocks pose a major risk for the next election. Its failures according to the public, may well create a path towards the return of a coalition government, as voters turn to punish the incumbent government. This would lead to far worse than what we have now and drag Australia into a bleak future.

Another possible scenario, one that is more probable, is to move into an era where a majority government is no longer possible. This will mean minority government or government by coalitions. Australia is already moving in this direction. The last federal election brought Labor into government by default. Its vote shrank. It’s just that the Coalition’s vote shrank even more. It was the greens and independents that got more votes.

Nothing is written in stone. But this seems like the most likely outcome because it matches the political mood unfolding in this country.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Prime Minister and Labor can choose to change direction. The Essential Poll shows that Australians want significant government intervention. A big 70 percent want price caps to be put on electricity and gas, 62 percent want limits on rent increases, 55 percent support an excessive profits tax on retailers, and 53 percent are in favour of a one-off levy on people paid more than $1 million a year.

Disapproval on the response to rising prices is at 66 percent, on housing affordability measures at 65 percent, and on climate action 39 percent. A massive 80 percent believe that the stage three tax cuts for the top end should go ahead, and 53 percent want an end to negative gearing for property investors.

These are the answers to the questions asked by the poll. They are only a few examples of the public mindset right now. They are enough to truly spell out a demand for a new direction. Australia wants an end to government that takes care of the few wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.

As stated at the beginning, the referendum debacle and response to the massacre in Gaza are factors. There’s growing disquiet over the nature of our relationship with the United States and the and the pro war stance in international relations. Two key examples are the unpopularity of AUKUS and the nuclear submarine deal, and the failure of adequate support for Julian Assange, when the polls show support for him from the public of up to 88 percent.

More than half of Australia (51 percent), the Poll suggests believes the country in on the wrong track. Only 30 percent believe if is on the right track and 19 percent are unsure.

As the cost of living bites harder, as it is on course to do, this perception will become more entrenched and strengthen. An absence of a will by Labor to listen and adopt the will of the people, will feed a continuation of political polarisation.

Australia will see a drift towards to what is generally known as far-right sentiment. There will also be a move in the opposite direction. Which will prove to dominate depends on a range of factors. But rising political instability will become normalised.

This poses both a threat and an opportunity to move forward.

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