Political experts believe the battle to sell the carbon tax to the Australian public has been lost and the Prime Minister can do nothing to change voters’ minds on the issue.
A poll by ReachTel has shown a week of public campaigning on the climate change reform by Julia Gillard has failed to sway voter opinion on the tax in the past seven days.
Despite the issue dominating the news cycle for the past week, support for the carbon tax (32.4 per cent) remained 28.6 points behind support against the reform (61 per cent) over the past seven days.
Reader in politics at the University of Queensland Ian Ward said the public had made their minds up on the issue and any effort to sell the tax was “a lost cause”.
“This is an issue that voters have made their minds up on and even if a significant chunk of the electorate moved in favour there is still going to be substantial antagonism and opposition to the government and its policy,” he said.
“So a government advertising campaign and some explanation in the media, it’s really not likely to fundamentally change the government’s position in the polls.”
Dr Ward said the tax was being used as a fulcrum for wider resentment and anger towards the Labor government over failures to manage past problems such as the asylum seeker issue.
“It’s not as if the carbon tax issue has damaged the government, the government was damaged when it took up this issue,” he said.
“This is an issue on which opinion is entrenched, it’s an issue which is a touchstone for much wider resentment of the Labor government.
“Some advertising about the carbon tax, some explanation that it is not as threatening as its opponents have made it out to be is not going to placate more than a small percentage of the electorate.”
Political communication lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology Wayne Murphy said the prime minister had been most effective selling the tax in the past week by providing everyday examples of the tax’s effect for audience members on Q&A.
He said if the government could put up another politician, such as former ACTU secretary Greg Combet, to simplify the issue for the public, they may be able to make inroads.
“Generally people don’t want to think too much about complex issues, they’d rather try and boil things down into simple terms which is what Tony Abbott has been able to do with his ‘great big new tax’ line,” he said.
“This is an issue where if you do want to understand it, you do need to understand the sorts of detail that people just don’t want to know.”
The poll also revealed 58.3 per cent of people said they were less likely to vote for the government on the basis on the carbon tax announcement.