||Issue No. 272||15 July 2005|
Home Ground Advantage
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
The vision thing
You C.A.N. Do It
Home Ground Advantage
That such a message should be a revelation is a sad indication of where left of centre politics has gone in Australia - but it may also be reassuring that in this we are not alone.
Over more than three decades Fingerhut has been researching campaigns for unions and progressive parties in the USA, Canada, Britain and Germany - polling people on their perceptions of issues and the differences between major parties.
And what he has discovered is a sort of immutable truth - there are some issues that belong to the Right and others that belong to the Left and it's not about policy either. It's about language and the way you frame an issue.
As a general rule where the issue is about managing the economy or handling terrorism or keeping taxes low, Republicans and conservatives have a marked advantage, with more than two thirds of voters perceiving they are superior on the issue.
But bring people into the equation, particularly working people, and the numbers swing around. By merely adding the words 'for working people' to the question 'who is better at managing the economy?', Democrats pick up 30 percentage points.
Likewise change the proposition 'keeping taxes down' to 'fighting for fairer taxes for working people' and the issue goes from being a negative for the left to a positive.
It's early days, but the trends seem to translate into Australian politics as well. And if they do they add a new dimension to the 'accepted wisdom' that Labor needs to be stronger on the economy.
As Fingerhut observes, merely going out and engaging in an economic argument - even when you have better arguments than your conservative opponents - does nothing more than shift the debate onto their turf.
In other words, becoming a daily commentator on the current account deficit, employment figures and interest rates might get media, but if you do not draw the connection between economic indicators and people's lives you are not advancing your cause.
This is where the current campaign over industrial relations comes in - this is where the economy actually impacts on people's working lives.
Stripped of the fluff, the Prime Minister's pitch appears to be "if we are going to compete with China and India, then you will have to give up rights and drop your wages".
All of a sudden he is on our turf and, as the polls are showing, it is not a place he wants to be.
All of which means two things at this early stage of the campaign: Howard is taking a major political risk in pushing through these laws and, finally, Labor has an issue where they can play on their home ground.
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