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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Team Australia: divided we stand - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Team Australia: divided we stand - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Team Australia: divided we stand



Posted



Real leadership is about understanding
the differences and nuances and finding tangible ways of uniting a
nation, not just wrapping them in a flag and demanding they cheer, write
Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods.
Tony Abbott's "Team
Australia" is designed to unite us. But the risk is Australians will see
it more like the humiliation of primary school PE, with a captain who
overlooks the average kids and blatantly favours the jocks.


While
the Team is the PM's latest tool to unite the nation in the face of
external threats - insert terrorism, boats, debt - this week's Essential
Report suggests his Government is failing to unite the nation in a more
basic way.


Marxism might be old-school, but the vast majority of
Australians reject the popular notion that class divisions are a thing
of the past.


Rather, there's overwhelming agreement (79 per cent)
with the view that social classes still exist in Australia. If anything,
the intersection between social class and politics is becoming more
polarised.


And if Treasurer Joe Hockey is wondering why his
commentary on the driving habits of poor people hit such a raw nerve,
perhaps he should take a look at this finding: 


Q. Whose interests do you think the Liberal Party mainly represent? 


TotalApr-13
Working class 4%5%
Middle class 17%20%
Upper class 47%40%
All of them14%17%
None of them8%8%
Don't know 11%9%
While
only 2 per cent of Australians identify as upper class, nearly half of
all voters believe the Liberal Party mainly represents the interests of
upper class people.


That's not a new phenomenon. Voters came up
with the same answer when we asked them last year, and consistently
identify the Liberal brand with corporate interests. But the trend is
becoming more pronounced.


The perception that Liberals mainly
represent the upper class is up seven points since the Coalition took
office; with a drift away from working class, middle class and
critically - "all of them".


The perception of Labor's class representation is also becoming starker.

 Q. Whose interests do you think the Labor Party mainly represent? 


TotalApr-13
Working class 41%30%
Middle class 14%16%
Upper class 8%13%
All of them8%8%
None of them16%22%
Don't know 13%11%
Labor has had an 11-point jump in the perception it represents the interests of working class people since earlier last year.

There's
a case that for Labor in Opposition, boosting its perception as
representatives of the working class is a positive. After all, it needs
to rebuild its traditional voting base and brand after a complicated
period in government where people remembered who Labor was meant to
represent, but didn't especially trust them to do it.


And despite
structural changes to the economy that are leading to the decline of
industries employing blue-collar workers, about a third of voters still
identify as working class.


Entrenched views on which sections of
society the parties represent are reflected in our complicated views
about economic management.


While "the economy" is often presented
in the form of an abstract set of accounts, with the Liberals considered
better at managing the bank book; bring people and their class
interests into the equation - think jobs, housing, grocery prices,
pension payments - and we see some clear divides. 


Q. Which party - Labor or Liberal - do you think is best when it comes to: 

 LaborLiberalNo DifferenceDon't KnowDifference (Labor v. Liberal)
Representing the interests of Australian working families48%17%25%11%+31%
Standing up for the middle class in Australia30%28%27%15%+2%
Representing the interests of the large corporate and financial interests9%59%19%13%-50%
Handling the economy overall23%37%27%14%-14%
Handling the economy in a way that best helps small business24%32%27%17%-8%
Handling the economy in a way that best helps the middle class25%32%28%14%-7%
Handling the economy in a way that helps you and people like you the most32%27%27%14%+5%
Again,
most of these perceptions aren't new - but the divide is becoming
starker. Since the budget was delivered in May, the view that the
Liberals represent the interests of large corporate and financial
interests has risen five points.


But
back to Team Australia - half of us (49 per cent) see ourselves sitting
in the middle - the one place on the political spectrum where people
see neither party as championing their interests.


Uniting people
is an admirable thing that leaders should try to do but sport is
probably a poor device, given it is often a forum of competition and
exclusion for those on the field and blind acceptance from those on the
sideline.


Real leadership is about understanding the differences
and nuances and finding tangible ways of uniting a nation, not just
wrapping them in a flag and demanding they cheer.


The survey was conducted online from the August 22-25, 2014 and is based on 1008 respondents.

Peter Lewis is a director of Essential Media Communications. View his full profile here. Jackie Woods is a communications consultant at Essential Media Communications. View her full profile here.




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