The view from Billinudgel

Premier league
Despite their highly criticised lockdowns, Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk remain popular in the polls

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

The indefatigable freedom fighters crusading to liberate Victorians from shutdown are quite right. The restrictions are stultifying, draconian, totalitarian. They are intolerable in a democracy, and an affront to Australia as we know it.

But what is absolutely unforgivable is that the restrictions are working. The curve of infections in the second wave of COVID-19 has been dramatically flattened, cases are regularly down to less than 20 and the running fortnightly average is well below 30. It is too soon to declare victory, but we can certainly report very good progress.

But wait, there’s worse. The really bad news, as faithfully recorded in The Australian, is that the national daily’s pride and joy, Newspoll, tells us that the deeply loathed Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, is not only successful but popular.

But how can that be? Isn’t he Dictator Dan, the totalitarian president of the communist state of Danistan? The readers of the Oz have been bombarded with this news for weeks. To them, Andrews is surely the most hated man in Australia, if not the planet.

Except that obviously he isn’t; he is liked and respected by almost two thirds of the populace. The paper’s “informed Australians” (as they are described in the masthead) are in a humiliating minority.

And the same applies in Queensland, where Annastacia Palaszczuk is moving determinedly towards the AFL grand final at the Gabba (the first time the deciding match has been played outside Melbourne) and the subsequent state election. The Murdoch media and Scott Morrison’s government have been piling on, trying to demand more comprehensive open borders, but she has held firm – and the voters agree with her.

Despite the faith of pollsters and publishers, however, Newspoll is not infallible (as the last federal election showed). But its errors are generally marginal, and it is highly unlikely to be wrong by more than 10 per cent. And, for various reasons, it pays particular attention to the Sunshine State. So, Labor must be encouraged by the result. Encouraged, but perhaps not entirely confident. The premier is not unpopular, but she is not embraced either. And there are many contested issues beyond the pandemic, so the premier’s success at the ballot box is far from sealed.

But if Palaszczuk has problems, so does her opposition. The unhappy union between the Nats and the Libs has seldom been more fraught than it currently is in Queensland.

Even if the ongoing leadership tussles can be resolved, or at least papered over, the ongoing feud has been stoked at the federal level by the retirement of the longstanding member for Groom, John McVeigh.

McVeigh has been around forever, and he was a minister in the Turnbull government. Although his career has been less than stellar, he has not been gaffe- or scandal-prone in the manner of so many of his colleagues. And his seat is safe; the byelection will be a formality.

But the preselection that precedes it will not. McVeigh is a Nat, and the two partners in Queensland are already at war over the impending spoils. More divisions, more acrimony. And so, perhaps, more chance of Labor remaining in power.

As Morrison likes to say, it is all about outcomes. Governments that deliver usually get rewarded. And, thankfully, idiot propagandists mostly don’t.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum was a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Much of his work can be found here: The View from Billinudgel.

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