A weekend of politics

A weekend of polling has seen a swing from Labor to Liberal in Tasmania, although it looks as though Independents will hold the key to power in South Australia. And while protestors have taken to the streets in other states to voice their displeasure with Federal Government policies, Tony Abbott holds a narrow lead as preferred Prime Minister in the latest Fairfax/Neilson Poll.

Politics, both state and federal have featured prominently in the news this weekend. After 16 years at the helm in Tasmania, the Labor Government, lead by Premier Lara Giddings, has been ousted by Liberal Opposition candidate Will Hodgman. With 80 per cent of the votes counted, Labor has just six seats in the lower house, with the Liberals taking 14. As the longest serving Opposition Leader in Australia, Mr Hodgman, whose father Michael served in the former Fraser government and was known as the ‘mouth from the south’, will lead a majority Liberal Government in the Island State.

The outcome of South Australia’s trip to the polls won’t be known for some time yet, with the result too close to call, with postal and pre-polling votes likely to hold the key to the final outcome. While both the Labor and Liberal Parties are keen to claim victory, a hung parliament is the most likely outcome, with independents in two key seats giving the balance of power to whichever party they choose.

Elsewhere in Australia, March in March protestors took to the streets in their thousands to voice concern at the policies being implemented by the Abbott Government and the long-term effects they will have on the country. Although, most protestors claimed to be non-partisan, it was definitely Coalition policies which were coming under fire, although Labor didn’t go unmentioned. When asked about the Sydney protest, Mr Abbott dismissed it by saying, “My understanding is that the only big rally in Sydney is the St Patrick’s Day parade.

“That is the big event in Sydney today. I wish all of them well.

“If their parade is rained on, there is always some Guinness available around the city.”

And finally an Age/Neilson poll reports that the Coalition is still the preferred party, despite the recent spike in job losses. Polling found that 51 per cent support the Government with 49 per cent voting for Labor. The Coalition also had a strong lead on primary voting intention, with 45 per cent of the vote and Labor 35 per cent, an increase of two per cent since the February poll. The Greens claimed 12 per cent. Polster John Stirton said the polls indicated that should an election be held now, the Coalition may struggle to maintain power, “What all recent polling has made clear is that an election held now would be much closer than it was last year and that there has been a swing against the government since the election,” he said.

Read more about the election in Tasmania.

Read more about the South Australian polling

Read more about the March in March protests.

Read more about The Age/Neilson poll.

Opinion: Has Australia found its voice?

Politics dominated the news this weekend and it looks as though Australians young and old have been only too happy to express their views on leadership and policies.

Often it is those who have the most to lose who shout the loudest. In Tasmania and South Australia the shouting was done at the polls. Over the remainder of the country, it was done on the streets of our cities, with tens of thousands of protestors, young and old, taking aim at the policies which have, or could, hurt them most.

But it was those quietly giving their view over the telephone which surprised me most. Not that they had backed Tony Abbott and his Coalition Government over Labor, but that most seem not to be too fussed about proposed changes to the Age Pension age, Medicare changes and bulk-billing charges for GPs.

The Age/Neilson Poll which was held over the same politically-charged weekend as the state elections and protests, found that 52 per cent of those polled would support a means test to limit Medicare bulk billing. A further 49 per cent backed the co-payment idea of charging those who wish to be bulk-billed. And half of those polled agreed that the Government should act to curb the cost of Medicare.

From these results, it can only be concluded that those who are contacted by pollsters are either pensioners who will not be affected by such changes or, sufficiently well-off so as not to be concerned about how much it costs to visit the GP. The reality of means-testing and the actual implementation of charging extra for bulk-bulling or not offering it at all are quite removed from one and other. Families with two or more children where both parents work may well, on paper, appear to earn enough, but when all the children become sick at once and GPs are charging $65 to see each one, that soon eats into a family’s budget. And a 63-year-old who has not yet qualified for a pension card has to visit a doctor frequently due to chronic illness, may find themselves having to choose between paying a utility bill or missing a doctor’s appointment. Are these the situations we want to create?

So I applaud those who have taken to the streets to voice their concerns about where our health care system is heading, how Medicare changes need to be carefully considered and how our manufacturing industry is being decimated. But to those who give their opinions to pollsters over the phone, perhaps you want to think before you speak.

What are the biggest issues in politics facing Australians at the moment? Do you back changes to Medicare and bulk-billing means testing? Do you think protesting makes a difference?

Written by Debbie McTaggart