Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Liberals Have 170 Secret Policies

(Note: this article currently appears out of order and with one paragraph missing because I mistakenly saved a draft over it. The on-the-day coverage thread is below)

Yesterday I gave Labor and the Greens a serve for trying to take the moral high ground on campaign donations when their "attempt" to reform them in the previous parliament had been a token, late, poorly considered politicised flop.  Today - which happens to be election day, ho ho - it's the Liberal Party's turn.

On one of the strangest final days of a campaign that I can recall, the Liberals were forced into damage control after it became known that they had a policy of relaxing various gun laws.  However, rather than release this policy for public discussion, it had been provided to a firearms consultations group on 9 February.  The letter surfaced only on the final day of the campaign, after being posted on a shooting website.

Through the campaign I have been impressed by the energy and thoroughness with which the Government has released policy on pretty much anything that has come up.  I would never have guessed they were beavering away on twice as many policies again, to release them only to those they considered to be worthy.

In the case of guns, deciding that only stakeholder groups should be sent the policy before the election is completely unacceptable.  When it comes to protection from a repeat of the terrible events of Port Arthur in 1996, every Tasmanian is a stakeholder, every Tasmanian is directly affected, and to hide a policy to relax gun laws from any Tasmanian is wrong.   That is not to say the issues raised by farmers and shooters are invalid or the policies are necessarily wrong - just that this is not a thing to be rushed in terms of a broader public debate.  Especially not when Australia has a special responsibility to continue to set an example to the USA of how countries can reduce gun massacre risks.

The Liberals have said that this is not an isolated instance - they in fact have around 300 policies of which 100 have been uploaded with the rest just shown to stakeholder groups.  (The number of secret policies was clarified to be more like 170 than 200).  The either tone-deaf or wilfully secretive judgement shown by them in deciding that gun control was a matter fit for restricting to a "direct" stakeholder audience raises the question of what sort of judgement they might have shown regarding the remaining unreleased policies.  Gun control is hardly a minor issue here!

Of course, a secret policy ceases to be secret once someone from a target group decides it merits a wider audience (or even just puts it on the web), but there would be plenty of cases where nobody did this.  I would be especially interested in knowing whether any unpublished commitments had been given to religious groups, in view of the number of Liberals (by no means all) who have displayed what I consider poor form on same-sex marriage, abortion and similar issues.


  1. Why do you think the leaked information was given to The Australian newspaper and not The Mercury, or do you think The Mercury had it and gave it to The Australian instead, so they didn't feel obliged to run with the story in the paper edition on Friday. It's clear to almost everyone that The Mercury doesn't like to embarrass the Liberal party. You can take this as a comment rather than a question if you like, but I would have thought for maximum impact whoever leaked it would do so a couple of days before the final day.

    A question about the opinion polls, is there an example in recent times at state level, that opinion polls in the final week before the election, were significantly different to the election result? I am more interested in the primary votes of the major party.

  2. The Mercury would not have given such a story away. It's a big story. People often imagine that papers' politics cause them not to touch certain things, but it was the Daily Telegraph of all the papers that did the most to get rid of Barnaby Joyce.

    Re question: Newspoll had a 4.3 point error on the Tasmanian ALP vote last election, but that's about the biggest error anywhere since the 1990s. (It was a lopsided election which tends to increase error rates.) However the chance of a poll error today is bigger with Newspoll not in the field and all the data at least five days old.