Holistic local sustainability; food, water, energy, money, people
A cross-section of media polling and surveys paint a picture of Australian voters concerned about climate change, cost of living and the economy in that order (ABC Vote Compass, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald). Integrity and health/aged care are close runner-ups.
These results are weighted across party lines and are reflected most clearly in swinging voters’ concerns. They bode well for the Teal Independents, whose priorities are climate change, integrity and (gender) equality.
The disconnect between voters and politicians on climate change speaks to the skewed influence of party donors from industry lobbyists and other private interests. This probably goes a long way toward explaining why integrity has finally become a major issue this election, even though it’s been a problem for a long time. If enough voters are connecting the dots between climate inaction in politics and the corrupting influence of money from, among others, the fossil fuel industry, the Federal ICAC Now (FIN) party may reasonably hope to attract enough votes to get a senator elected. FIN vows to vet all legislation for any potential corrupting influence.
But what is most surprising to me – not least because few others seem surprised – is that the cost of living is such a prominent issue in a wealthy country like Australia. It is reported in the news as normal, ‘the bottom line’ and a ‘hip-pocket issue’. What does this say about us? How can this be in one of the richest countries in the world?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain that if so many citizens are being affected by the cost of living in a rich country, the spread of wealth is a problem. Economic inequality should, therefore, be right up there with climate change. But instead, economic management (efficiency) ranks far higher than poverty and inequality (ABC Vote Compass). This implies that most people who are concerned about the cost of living think the cause is merely economic management, not inequality. For people who are not in poverty, this makes sense, and most of those concerned about economic management are Coalition voters. However, it can no longer be assumed that Coalition voters are generally the better-off sections of society, as many so-called working class voters have abandoned Labor which, they feel, betrayed their interests by supporting globalization, undermining wages, working conditions and even their cultural identity.
Nonetheless, it appears that for the poor, the impact of cost of living pressures concern them more than the causes (inequality) and therefore the solution escapes their attention. Not surprising, when you think that those struggling to pay the next bill are unlikely to have the time, resources or wherewithal to connect the dots. So it’s a chicken and egg situation. The cycle of poverty grinds on. Or perhaps there are not that many ‘poor’ people? Yet a better redistribution of wealth would help even the wealthy. There is ample evidence that more equal societies work better for everyone. It is as major a roadblock to action on climate change (to mention only one issue) as the corrupting influence of money in politics. Are too many people focussed [sic] on their own immediate and short term future interests, be they poor or well-off? The only way it’ll break is when enough in-betweeners (those wealthy enough to be able to act and who care enough about the wider community they want to live in and those who are too wealthy and greedy to do anything ‘against their interests’) do something… or as history has shown, there’s a crisis that leads to war, the great leveler. Those in-betweeners were called the middle class. Sadly their ranks have been decimated by economic rationalism and neo-liberalism.
Simon Cole (This report appeared in Independent Australia May, 2022)
I’m surprised housing isn’t also in that list – although it does have overlap with cost of living. It’s an issue being played a lot in the media cycle, but also statistically affecting a lot of people, mainly renters (around 32% of the population) who have faced rental increases of 15% on average in major cities across the year, and new home buyers (around 0.9% of the population) who have faced price a price increase of 23% on average.
On the other hand, the remaining 66% are less affected by price increases. Some may even want prices to increase, such as investors, federal politicians (who own around 2 homes on average) and self-funded retirees using their home as a store of value.
Proposed solutions to this problem have been interesting to say the least. The ALP dumped policies around tax treatment of investment properties and otherwise (neg gearing, CGT discount), because they were perceived to be unpopular. In its place they are funding more affordable and social housing, and co-buying a limited number of homes for first home buyers. The LNP have proposed general superannuation access for first home buyers. The co-buying and superannuation policies on their own will increase demand for housing and thereby prices, appeasing investors and those using the home as a store of value.
What I’m getting at is that at least from a housing perspective, this election cycle is about trying to appease the majority rather than fix issues. This is short-termism over long-term thinking, basically as simple as “how can we get in for the next 3 years / how can we stay in over the next 3 years”.
A good wrap of what’s on offer this election, Andrew – thanks. Perhaps you’re surprised housing isn’t separated out from cost of living as a distinct issue by pollsters like Vote Compass? It does seem to figure prominently in the media.