Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Let the party’s focus groups take over

What happens now to the recommendations of the Federal Government’s Preventative Health Taskforce largely is in the hands of small groups of people meeting with Labor Party market researchers. How far the Government goes in implementing the sin-tax plans and the nanny-state proposals depends on what the focus groups say can be got away with without losing many votes.
The one hefty tax rise we are bound to get is on the tobacco excise. The Opposition will support a plan that over a few years puts the price of your average packet up to the $20 mark the taskforce recommends. Old smokers have shown in the past that they have no stomach for a fight and with no major party to turn to, we will shrug our shoulders and pay up.
When it comes to alcohol tax, I expect that the likes of Barnaby Joyce will not be able to resist arguing that the plans take the nanny state too far. With his National Party rump opposing excise increases this will be dangerous territory for the Government and the market-research findings will need to be very persuasive and Liberal Party support unequivocal before Labor will take the risk.
In terms of voter reaction, moving to severely limit alcohol and fast-food advertising is a “no brainer”. As long as they can still eat and drink what they want, people will not give a second thought to the absence of being told on television that now is the time to have a pizza home-delivered to go with the case of beer. The opponents in this area will not directly be people who vote but companies and especially those media companies that have an enormous capacity to influence what people think about a political party. Again the courage that Labor shows will depend on the stand taken by the Opposition parties. It is a case of united the propositions will stand but with any division they will not even get to the point where they fall. Without Liberal and National Party support they will not even be submitted to a vote.
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