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Gillard was wrong, but we don't care

By Graham Young - posted Thursday, 13 December 2012


The Prime Minister says she has "done nothing wrong", but it seems that hardly any Australians accept that. Whether that is a problem for the government is another matter, as Australians are not enamoured of the opposition's pursuit of the issue either.

While Newspoll finds that the government's vote dived over the same week that Julie Bishop relentlessly grilled Julia Gillard over the AWU scandal, the grilling may not be the principal cause.

Out of a virtual online focus group of 587 balanced by voting intentions, only 11 per cent approve of the Prime Minister's actions in the early 90s when she established a "slush fund" for her then boyfriend while 49% disapprove.

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As would be expected Liberal voters are vehemently disapproving, but this isn't counter-balanced by support from Labor voter.

While 4 per cent of Labor voters disapprove of her actions, only 26 per cent approve. That means that 67 per cent are neutral - neutrality being the position of those who do not want to defend her, but do not want to be disloyal either.

More worryingly for the government only 5 per cent of undecided voters approve, while 50 per cent disapprove. The position with Greens voters is not strong either, with 19 per cent approving and 14 per cent disapproving.

Superficially this looks like good news for the Opposition, but it isn't. Only 41 per cent approve of their tactics in pursuing the matter, with fewer (25 per cent) agreeing with Senator Brandis's proposition that "there is a criminal in the lodge".

So when it comes to whether it changes votes, only 11 per cent say it will, although, amongst swinging voters this is considerably higher at 30 per cent.

There are a number of reasons why the situation appears to be a stalemate.

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There is a difference between thinking that someone has done something wrong, and thinking that it matters. It is only the strongest supporters of Gillard's who buy the "young and naïve" line, but there is a large body of opinion that thinks while she is dishonest, she is still honest enough.

As a lawyer and a politician she is a member of two professions with an indifferent reputation for honesty. Her main accuser, Julie Bishop, shares the same disability. So when they confront each other in the house for many voters it is a case of "pot, meet kettle".

Then there is the question of relevance. If you think that both sides of parliament are equally dishonest, the only relevant question is which one will look after your interests better.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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