Poll po­si­tion

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - OPENERS - What topic would you like to be polled on? saweek­[email protected]

Are you sick of the elec­tion or are you en­joy­ing it so much you can’t wait to put your vote into the bal­lot box on Septem­ber 7? It seems as if we have a polling day al­most ev­ery day th­ese days. There’s Newspoll and the Fair­fax poll and the Galaxy poll just to name a few and now you can go on a web­site and put in a bucket load of in­for­ma­tion about your likes and dis­likes on poli­cies and politi­cians and it will tell you where you sit in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape. You can poll your­self.

Vote Com­pass was launched the day the elec­tion was called and it had a hun­dred thou­sand vot­ers log into it af­ter one day! It’s now at­tracted nearly one mil­lion. The cre­ators are flab­ber­gasted by the num­bers us­ing it. It’s much more de­tailed than most phone polls and the sam­ple is so large you could say it is truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the whole na­tion. It asks you where you stand on a range of is­sues and then places you on a grid where you can see which party best suits you.

Is this the way of the fu­ture? Will you soon live in a world where you get an email ev­ery now and again or even ev­ery day ask­ing for your thoughts on a par­tic­u­lar is­sue? Should we send troops to Syria if that sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rates fur­ther? Or should we raise the GST to 12.5 per cent? (Please an­swer this hon­estly as it comes with a prom­ise that the Govern­ment will bal­ance the books, lower per­sonal in­come tax and put more money into health and ed­u­ca­tion. Log in with your se­cret pass­word and please email be­fore par­lia­ment sits again.)

The GST was so hated 20 years ago that it helped Paul Keat­ing to his “sweet­est vic­tory of all”. If John Hew­son had been able to email the na­tion he would have dis­cov­ered there were so many vot­ers op­posed to the GST he may have con­sid­ered dump­ing it and his­tory would have been very dif­fer­ent. He lost and John Howard won by promis­ing never to bring it in and then did with the help of Meg Lees and the Democrats. It’s now ac­cepted as a tax you have to have. It is a con­sump­tion tax that en­sures even the tax avoiders have to at least chip in a bit for the roads they drive around on and the hos­pi­tals they use when they get sick.

Back in 1970 a film called The Rise and Rise of Michael Rim­mer star­ring Peter Cook, John Cleese and Arthur Lowe looked at a world where the or­di­nary cit­i­zen took a di­rect role in ev­ery as­pect of govern­ment. There was no in­ter­net back then but there were tele­phones and tele­phone polls would be­come the keys to Michael Rim­mer’s rise to ab­so­lute power. The plot fore­shad­ows the poll-driven era we live in to­day. Rim­mer ap­pears out of the blue at a strug­gling ad­ver­tis­ing agency. He takes over the busi­ness and turns it into Bri­tain’s top polling or­gan­i­sa­tion, be­com­ing the na­tion’s top polling com­men­ta­tor. He uses this new knowl­edge to suc­ceed in pol­i­tics and be­come PM. But he’s a so­ciopath and he even­tu­ally polls the na­tion to the point of ap­a­thy and ex­haus­tion.

Imag­ine con­tin­ual ref­er­enda on pieces of pol­icy down to the last de­tail of, say, the size of a de­sali­na­tion plant. Some peo­ple would love it but even­tu­ally the bulk of the pop­u­la­tion would hate it and in the film they do. The fi­nal phone poll is a vote to hand over all de­ci­sions to Rim­mer. The peo­ple, by choice, give away all their demo­cratic rights and Rim­mer be­comes supreme ruler.

Now this vi­sion of polling a vast co­hort of vot­ers on a pub­lic web­site could work. A utopia for us and a dystopia for the politi­cians. They would all be to­tally an­swer­able to us. Per­haps the first mass email should be about the GST and the NBN. Now wouldn’t that be in­ter­est­ing to know what a sam­ple of a mil­lion Aus­tralians think? Then the pol­lies would truly be pol­lies in ev­ery sense of the word!

Ian Hen­schke can be heard in the morn­ing on ABC ra­dio 891.

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