Monday, 4 March 2013

Australians do not choose

their Prime Minister. We go into an election with all parties having a party leader. The assumption is that the party which wins the election will choose their party leader as Prime Minister. There is no requirement for them to do this.
It is a simple enough fact although many Australians seem to be unaware of it. It is also one which the media conveniently ignores. How else could they have fun with those endless public polls about the "preferred Prime Minister"? 
Those public polls are designed to stir things up. There are other public polls that appear from time to time too. They are also designed to stir things up and remind people of the existence of an issue - or a non-issue. 
There are favourite topics like "should Australia become a republic" and "should we reinstate the death penalty". These get aired from time to time. Polling companies will get paid to do the public poll. If the poll goes the way those asking want then much will be made of the results. If the poll does not go the way those asking want then little or even nothing will be made of it. 
The questions in public polls are carefully designed too. If those asking for the poll to be undertaken want a certain outcome then it is possible to ask the question in a way which will encourage people to give the answer the pollster has been asked to get.
I have no doubt that someone like Roy Morgan, a man I once met briefly, would deny all this. So would his fellow pollsters. They are the public face of public polling. They claim it is possible to do a "random" sample of 1400 people and extrapolate it to the wider population.  They claim the questions are carefully designed to ensure that the answers are "not suggestive". Perhaps.
Just asking people to answer the question put to them and then announcing the results is designed to influence. For months now there have been polls asking about the preferred Prime Minister. Those asking were not too concerned while the government was on top and the Prime Minister had a sometimes double-digit lead over the Leader of the Opposition. When the situation was suddenly reversed there was a flurry of new polling. Phew! All would be well as long as the Government reinstates the previous Prime Minister. Much could be made of that. Or can it?
These polls make trouble. If we do not vote for the party leaders - and we don't - then this is a distraction from the government conducting the business of government and the opposition keeping an eye on the government. 
Perhaps we need a new poll. Should the leader of a political party be chosen by the elected members or by the electorate as a whole? How many people would think the elected members need to have someone they can work with? And how naughty of me to ask that last question.

No comments: