The Satchel Review - Saturday August 11, 2012

What a strange and unusual turn of events before the return of spring parliament, that we should see the Prime Minister, so out of favour with the Australian public, turn around her fortunes almost as quickly as Usain Bolt can run a hundred metres.

Once given the dubious title of leading "the most unpopular Australian government in the past 40 years" by The Guardian, Gillard has seemingly overnight leapt to heights she cannot have imagined circa June 2011 when her personal approval rating hovered around 27 per cent and Kevin Rudd (Foreign Minister at the time) was preferred Labor leader.

Gillard's personal standing amongst Aussie voters rebounded 6 percentage points to 39 per cent in the latest Herald/Nielsen poll. Her disapproval rate has fallen 5 points to 57 per cent. She is now almost even-stevens with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister (45 per cent want him as PM), whose approval rating sits at 41 per cent.

Whether this says more about Gillard's abilities relative to Abbott's, or is a case of choosing the least worst one, remains to be seen.

This unexpected achievement comes amidst the implementation of the Carbon Tax, further electricity price rises, industrial relations disputes (Qantas, Ford, Holden) and the NBN spending fiasco.

On the flip side, positive policy implementation includes the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), $2 billion more over six years to improve the wages of lowly paid, predominantly female, social and community sector workers, and the Gonski education review (which now has its own "I Give a Gonski" Facebook page).

These make Gillard look like Cinderella's fairy-godmother, while the conservative state premiers play the ugly step-sisters up to their arms in electricity costs and job losses, and Tony Abbott plays the evil step-mother ruining all the good things with his constant negativity.

However, Labor will not be resting on its laurels in the lead up to next year's federal election. If an election were to be called now, the Coalition would win. Still the preferred party, the Liberal/Nationals command 45 per cent of the primary vote compared to Labor's 30 per cent and the Greens' 14 per cent.

Should he win, Abbott has his work cut out repealing the Carbon Tax and the mining tax. A poll last month showed 59 per cent of Australian oppose the Carbon Tax and 37 per cent support it. In contrast, 53 per cent support the mining tax, while 38 per cent are opposed.

All in all, Australia remains the land of the "fair go" where the majority believe in taxing big business over small, not being bullied into paying more than they should (either by unions or government), and in ensuring the pockets of the most needy are filled a'plenty.

While the London Olympics has taught we Aussies humility in defeat, knocking us off our now perilous top-sporting-nation perch, Gillard's momentary spike in popularity may be the extra kick up the pants the coalition needs to come up with a strategy that is less about just saying no to the government's every suggestion and more saying yes to its vision for the country.

While the NDIS and renewable energy targets have bipartisan support, the big white elephants lingering over the Gillard Government right now are the prospective slowing of China trade, which is helping to bolster national revenue, pressure on household and business incomes from electricity prices, and asylum seeker policy. This as the Manila floods leave thousands of Filipinos homeless, impacting those who live in slums and shanty towns most. 

Girl With a Satchel