The altar boys at The Australian

The usually reliable NewsPoll last week delivered a bombshell as unexpected as it was unwelcome to its Murdochratic media proprietors

It was a result that the sports commentators would have described as against the run of play.

The script was supposed to be yet another win for the invincible and immaculate government of Scott Morrison. The blockbusting budget had been unveiled with gasps of astonishment and applause, at least to the writers and readers of The Australian.

The headlines were ready to go: another crushing blow to Anthony Albanese and his quasi-socialists insurgents.

Well actually it wasn’t all that crushing The Labor leader’s disapproval rate rose by three points, but his approval remained static. And Morrison failed to pick up any of the slack, his own figures unchanged.

The government did gain one percent on the two party preferred vote. but that was well within the poll’s margin of error and at 52-48 with many months to go before an election is hardly significant.

And the budget itself, while favourably received, could not be called spectacularly successful. Josh Frydenberg’s previous effort in 2019 actually got a better reception, and Joe Jockey’s offering in 2015 – the year after his 2014 disaster – eclipsed both of them.

The punters loved the tax cuts; well, they would, wouldn’t they. But nearly a quarter thought they would be worse off and more than twice that number were reserving judgement. And while a small trust the government to manage some sort of recovery, the verdict was far from overwhelming.

So hold the champagne – no, send it back to the wine shops, because here’s the terrible news: Albanese picked up a point over Morrison as the preferred prime minister. Morrison is still a long way ahead – no need to panic. And given the other numbers, this can be easily be dismissed a rogue result or just statistical static

But obviously the NewsGhouls did not like it, and buried the unwanted figure—the only real news in the entire poll – well back in the nether reaches of the inside pages.

Perhaps they are right, because it could be thought that the real mood is still very much that of a plague on both your houses – other surveys, both national and international have discerned a deep and ongoing disillusionment, a despair of any long term strategy, let alone a genuine vision.

There is a search for saviours: the voters willingly forgive New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern for her lack of economic cut through as long as she can still inspire them with her innate sincerity and decency. There is no one in the Australian parliament in the same race.

But the fact that our own prime minster could lose ground, however marginally, as the nation’s chosen leader when he thought he was on a roll, must be deeply discouraging. It is more than counter-intuitive; for our miracle worker’s altar boys at The Australian it is against the natural order, almost sacrilegious.

They will be poring over their bible, Newspoll, desperate to find a more            appealing text, a revised authorised version which will reflect the true meaning of their gospel. In the meantime, the rest of us will just have to get used to yet another quirky outcome in this year of the unprecedented.

 

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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