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21 responses to “Telling stories”

  1. Mark Bahnisch

    A good post, Anna.

    Waleed Aly’s point, and yours, are right insofar as we obsess too much about whether a particular commitment is a “promise” (circumstances do change, and it’s probably uncertainty about that that fuels anger at perceived breaches of promises). That, in turn, probably does come down to the idea that voters should rationally assess each policy on its merits and make some sort of calculation. That’s the sort of utilitarian notion that’s embedded in the sorts of ideas about democracy which decry ideology and paint a picture of the ‘rational voter’. It also implies that there is little difference between pro-systemic political parties in fundamental value-orientations.

    I wonder, then, whether ‘narrative’ isn’t some sort of substitute for the missing term ‘ideology’ or even ‘values’?

  2. Paul Norton

    Anna, a question about the WA election to you in your capacity as our resident WA expert.

    Newspoll had the Greens vote around 12 per cent for much of the period since the last election until the end of 2012, yet in the two Newspolls this year the Greens vote had dropped to 8 per cent, which is what the Greens polled in the election itself. The polls and the election result suggest an almost corresponding recovery in the Labor primary vote.

    In your view, is there anything in particular that would explain these movements in support during the period in question?

    Sorry about the potential thread derail.

  3. Geoff Robinson

    I think voters have an overall view on a party and adjust their views about policy to fit with this not vice versa. Labor tried to campaign on policy but Libs had the brand.

  4. Mark Bahnisch

    Anna, that makes sense.

    I guess my further point is that I’d like Labor to be more explicit about what makes up the “values” part of the equation. In that light, I regard contributions by people like Andrew Leigh, Tim Watts and dare I say, Mark Latham as positives, even though I don’t necessarily agree. There’s the possibility of a good debate around the tensions between social liberalism, progressivism, Social Democracy and Labourism and I’d like to see that result in more than a lowest common denominator set of values.

    If that makes sense!

  5. Mark Bahnisch

    @5 – I’d agree with that too, Anna.

    In my post the other day on privatisation, I was arguing that the logic of LNP politics led to an attack on the role of the state, even if it’s not clear in the policies taken to the election. Perhaps the LNP is a good example. As a hybrid entity, its brand is unclear (the Nats certainly had one in Queensland). How it’s now being ‘branded’ is probably not to its liking. But that’s their problem!

    I do always dislike the marketing assumptions implicit in the idea of the brand of a political party, though. Call me old-fashioned, perhaps 😉

  6. Mark Bahnisch

    I suspect we possibly could! A bit of appropriation! 😉

  7. Hoa Minh Truong

    The political party’s policy is the most important decision of voter, however the leader dignity effected too. Labor has been facing the losing opinion poll that comes from both:
    -Policy: carbon tax, mining tax create people upset, actually carbon tax doesn’t change the climate while the most dioxide release country as China, US, Russia, India ignore, but Australia releases small quantity dioxide reduces by carbon tax, that changes for nothing. The company should shift to China, India and the other laborer cheap to avoid the cost, but the offshore product has to release the same dioxide as in Australia, so the worker lost job, then Union struck ( they have to strike against their comrade, the Labor government that causes of loss job, but the Liberals doesn’t, sometimes Union strike against the state Liberals government, it is not fair.).
    -The leader dignity: now Mr. Kevin Rudd, a bright face of Labor, but he was the cause the asylum seeker, he eliminated the border protection of John Howard and tax pay wasted more than $ 5 billion. People also dislike PM Julia Gillard by her broken promises internal and external party, actually she has tried to cover up MP Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper and herself with the slater & Gordon’s black fund is up to $400,000.
    Labor has failed the people credit from policy and the leader personals, they couldn’t regain by any effort, even changing the leader. The bright faces in Labor are such as Kevin Rudd, Craig Combet, Bill Shorten, Craig Emerson…should not want to replace Julia Gillard, probably they don’t want to suicide the political life, they should know julia Gillard who couldn’t won the next election on September 14, 2013.
    Recently the fresh opinion poll is such as a remedy for Labor after big loss in WA poll on March 9, 2013. However some Labor high ranking members as Craig Emerson, actually Stephen Conroy who have not seen the coffin, so they have no crying yet.

  8. Andreas De Bruin

    Having worked on many election campaigns in 3 countries and 3 states in Aus including WA for both right and left wing statist parties, I have become much more cynical about the value of policies in winning votes. It seems to me that the vast majority of voters depend on their view of the party leader along with general feelings about a party to decide on where to place the “1”. Australia’s voting system seems to concentrate these thought patterns.

    Voters want to primarily know the government will be competent, then decisions will be made in a reasonable timeframe that actually resolve the problems that will happen in the future and the financial impact of policies will be worthwhile. Rarely does a set of policies (outside of taxation) win votes. I think they can lose votes, as if voters believe a policy is daft the party looks incompetent (citizens assembly, canal from the Ord, rollback GST, so many,many more on all sides). Voters also only notice a small number of policies. The majority want to have a quite life, be able to get a job that pays okay and lets them have the occasional party while their kids are able to get on and have their own life. Everything else is almost superfluous. There are exceptions to this but not often. As long as a government appears competent they will usually win as you don’t really know if the opposition will be competent. If both main parties look incompetent it becomes a coin toss.

    Labor lost in WA because the Barnett Government was as competent as you can expect from a state government and the Feds are hated. Eastern state people have little idea of how much Canberra is disliked in WA. Federal Labor has copped most of that and to be honest clearly decided they could burn WA for votes elsewhere. The Western Sydney sojourn re-enforced that in the last week of the campaign. Terrible timing that showed how much WA is considered by Federal Labor when decisions are made.

    Perceived competency and personally liking of the leader rules and to some degree narrative counts, policy that supports that narrative help somewhat. Little else matters.

  9. Patrickb

    Actually Anna, I find Andreas’ post to be far more satisfying in terms of explaining this rather annoying term ‘narrative’. At least AdeBs post tries to look at what might constitute a narrative; themes (or possibly traits) of competency, timeliness, responsibility are what go to make up the character of the political party. The party then attempts animate this character by telling stories that will demonstrate these traits and and how worthy these traits are. If we’re going to use literary theory as a substitute for political analysis then we might as well be up front about it.

  10. Cindel Towani

    [Moderator note: morphing your nym and other details to evade previous bans is a breach of the comments policy. Bye!]

  11. FDB

    If we’re going to use literary theory as a substitute for political analysis then we might as well be up front about it.

    Word up PB

    To further the point, our current style of political reportage is uniquely unsuited to supporting a ‘narrative’, at least as I understand the term.

    The need to say something every few hours about a thing which has not changed; the requirement to get comment every few hours from both sides of the often phoney argument, even when one or both are transparently unwilling to actually engage with the subject matter…

    How the fuck is a ‘narrative’ supposed to surface from this bog of idiocy? You’d find a more gripping plot In The Night Garden.

    I say let’s get Andi and Hoa Minh to build us a narrative. At least it’ll read well.

  12. Russell

    I also think Andreas’ comment is right.

    The ALP brand has been ruined by too much spin, dishonesty and confusion. In his first interview as leader McGowan said he would like, in government, to give tax cuts. And then went on to criticise the government for spending and borrowing too much, and then outlined some big spending projects of his own, and then went on to say he would fund these by savings – saving money, for example, by not building stage 8 of the Roe Hwy, when the government hasn’t set aside any money for the Roe Hwy anyway. He was going to save us money by not having city people subsidise the cost of electricity in the bush, but then said he would then fund this out of ‘general revenue’ which is us paying for it anyway. On and on it went. It seems he would say anything to get a vote from anywhere. Quite a contrast to Barnett.

    The Barnett liberal govenrment has been a very welcome surprise to me. Despite doing many things I don’t approve of, they have turned out to be the best labor government we could expect. They are spending more on health and education than the ALP ever would have, they gave a big pay rise to some of the lowest paid in the community (shouldn’t that have been an ALP sort of thing, why hadn’t they done it?) and overall, with all their borrowing and spending have created loads of jobs in these uncertain economic times.

    Re the Greens vote – I don’t really know why their vote declined, but for the first time in 30 years I didn’t vote for them. We have a Greens mayor in Fremantle, and one of the GReens councillors stood for the state seat of Fremantle. I’ve seen these Greens operate on the Fremantle Council and I don’t like their ideas, so I was put off by that.

    Then the Greens did a weird thing with their preferences: they preferred the Shooters & Fishers to the Nats (they very deliberately targetted the agriculture Minister, Terry Redman – I might disagree with some of the Nats policies, but Redman is one of the more intelligent and capable MPs and I would prefer him to stay in the parliament – and all in all I think maybe the Greens are heading off in a direction I probably won’t go in. Their public relations is woeful; I was really hoping that a combination of the resources given to MLA Adele Carles, MLC Lyn McLaren and Senator Scott Ludlum would become a hub of Greens activity in Fremantle, but the opportunity has been wasted.

  13. Paul Norton

    Russell @17:

    and all in all I think maybe the Greens are heading off in a direction I probably won’t go in.

    Russell, what do you see that direction as being?

  14. Russell


    I should also have mentioned other factors that were ‘local’ such as long-standing Green MLC Watson leaving her perch in ‘North Metropolitan’ to try for a seat down south: she didn’t win (or even campaign much as I understand from family down there) but her successor didn’t have the incumbent / name recognition advantage in North Metro …. so votes lost for the Greens. I did vote for the Green in my “South Metropolitan” upper house electorate, and she just scraped in.

    Maybe they put all their camaign eggs in the James Price Point issue – which is a long way from Perth and most people’s minds.

    The direction the W.A. Greens are heading in? Well, we in Fremantle have the local council to look at, and the Greens come up with dumb ideas like concreting over large parts of the limited parkland space for a skateboard facility, or building a large new building in King’s Square (not around the square where practically every building should be bull-dozed and replaced).

    Their preferences also reveal some disturbing new direction, or political game-playing. It looks like a lot of Greens voters didn’t follow the ticket – Redman would have lost his seat if they had – and that looks dangerous for the Greens: their own supporters having a differing view about where their preferences should go. There are many, many issues on which the Greens could form an alliance with the Nats, but I guess they have blown much chance of any relationship now.

  15. jumpy

    There are many, many issues on which the Greens could form an alliance with the Nats

    Other than the myth of ” devil gas poisoning the underground water ” the greens (intercity base ) have always bashed the Nats ( rural base ) even though our farmers have the best environmental practices by world standards.
    Resulting in the proliferation of imports from countries that have a vastly inferior environmental record ( not to mention human rights record)
    So no, a Nat would never vote green, we have memories.

  16. Russell

    Jumpy, I wasn’t suggesting a Nat would vote for a Green. But on issues like fracking, like drawing water from aquifers in the country to spray on our suburban lawns, the duopoly power of Coles and Woolies etc the Greens and Nats could work together.

    I think the reason the Greens declared war on the Nats was because of GMO trials. As a city Green who has never set a toe outside the salubrious western suburbs of Perth, I think GMO’s are probably a bad idea. But I don’t make a living by putting seeds in the ground and selling what can be harvested into a global market, so I’m prepared to let farmers make that decision for themselves.