There’s one message we can take from the consistency of the opinion polls. Sacking Brendan Nelson to put in Malcolm Turnbull as head of the Liberal Party did not work. Things are no better for the Coalition now than they were a year ago. If anything the situation is worse. Having been through a year of economic turmoil Kevin Rudd is now the preferred choice as Prime Minister of an even greater proportion of the voting public. In mid-September 2008 the Nielsen poll for the Fairfax papers had Rudd preferred by 56% of people to his opponent’s 33% with 11% in the undecided column. The Nielsen poll out this morning puts the figures at Rudd 69%, Turnbull 23% and undecided 8%. In terms of voting intention the improvement in Labor’s position is not as dramatic but still impressive enough. When Nelson was given the flick Nielsen had the two party preferred vote for Labor at 52% compared with 55% this morning.
The Opposition now seems to be putting all its hopes of a revival in to Australians being fearful when election day comes of the amount of debt Labor has run up in its efforts to soften the impact of the world recession. Methinks that is a vain hope because polling day will come before there is a justification for throwing fiscal policy into reverse with savage spending cuts and increased taxes. True the pre-election budget next May will not have the potential to be full of new vote buying goodies but the pork barrelling of this year’s stimulus packages will still be evident to the voters. And when you are as far ahead as Labor is you can afford to err a little on the mean side anyway.
Having spent so much time arguing that the Government’s economic stimulus was greater than needed, it is the Liberals and Nationals who in nine months time will find themselves in the position of having to argue for greater hardship than Labor tells the people is necessary. That is hardly a strategy designed to peg back a five percentage point opinion poll lead.