If this election proves anything, it proves that both parties have taken the notion of polling driven strategy to ever greater heights. Once, policies were road tested via focus groups to guage their acceptability and to refine selling points. Now, policy is made to move micro-demographics in marginal seats and to send messages about ‘values’.
An exemplary case in point is the issue of asylum seekers, an issue on which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has repeatedly asserted is now one on which there’s much common ground between Labor and the Coalition.
Questions about the merits of a regional processing centre for asylum seekers have largely focused on the feasibility of a regional processing centre, and the manner in which Julia Gillard laid the ground for her announcement in the second week of her incumbency, in a speech at the Lowy Institute.
The debate then moved on the idea that the policy was ‘unravelling’, and quickly got caught up in meta-debate about its capacity to do what it was designed to do – move the polls and neutralise a perceived electoral disadvantage for the ALP on an issue Kevin Rudd was said to have been weak on.
In all this febrile debate, very little attention has been paid to its actual merits.
Frank Brennan, writing in today’s Eureka Street, has now done precisely that. I’d recommend you read his piece in full.