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Oct 2, 2012

Fiscal restraint accepted in Queensland; Newspoll

As voters we tend to get used to the right talking of fiscal responsibility, cutting costs, reducing the size of government, and eliminating costly regulation.  It is a perpetual theme; even Kevin Rudd claimed the mantle of ‘fiscal conservative’ in 2007.  After elections are over, it is normal to see these politicians back off as they start to worry about becoming unpopular with the corporate welfare sector, surplus public servants, and companies on government contracts. 
In Queensland, the recently elected Newman government bit the bullet; it had to as the state was becoming uneconomic.  Unions and the state Labor Party have attacked these plans, especially the one to sack 14,000 public servants while lefties have been salivating at the electoral damage to come to the LNP.  Recently federal Labor, believing their own propaganda has launched attacks on Abbott, claiming he would do the same.
The trouble for Labor is; the latest polling seems to indicate an electoral backlash is not happening: 
The LNP commands a primary vote of 48 per cent, down only slightly on the 49.7 per cent it secured at the election on the back of a record swing against state Labor under Anna Bligh, but within the margin of error of Newspoll. Tellingly, Mr Newman's personal approval with voters remains rock solid on 47 per cent -- the same as it was going into the state poll on March 24. 
Dissatisfaction with his performance has actually eased slightly since he took office, from 40 per cent immediately before the election to 38 per cent over the three-month polling period from July to September. 
Dissatisfaction with his performance has actually eased slightly since he took office, from 40 per cent immediately before the election to 38 per cent over the three-month polling period from July to September. Mr Newman, as preferred premier, has more than twice the support of new state Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is yet to make a decisive impression. … 
… The Newspoll shows that Labor's attempts to capitalise on union protests against the state government's axing of up to 14,000 full-time and contract jobs in the public service are yet to gain traction with Queensland voters, who are set once again to be crucial to the outcome of the federal election due in the second half of next year.
Newman needs to do more, but it is reasonable to assume that after the initial cuts more can be achieved through natural attrition, but as yet there has been little reduction of spending programs. This is though, a good start in the most contentious area for cuts, and should give the government some added confidence to push harder.
The lesson here is quite clear; serious action to reduce expenditure, even to the point of big public service cuts can be made without an electoral backlash when the public understands the need.  This government has been in place for six months and the honeymoon is long over so the policies are accepted.
It will be interesting to see whether Abbott is prepared to adopt these actions although it seems unlikely.  Every time Labor comes up with another big spending initiative, Tony wants to spend at least as much on the same thing but with a different emphasis. 
Newman was brought in from the outside when the LNP was not gaining traction against an unpopular government, actually acting as opposition leader from outside parliament.  Abbott is a long serving career politician with entrenched ideas and the same belief Gillard has on being able to spend your money better than you.  The main difference is, he thinks he can spend your money better than Gillard as well.
Perhaps, in the absence of much in the way of leadership talent, the Liberal Party should look to draughting in an outsider, although it is difficult to imagine who.  Most people who are any good have little time for the antics of parliament.

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