Continuing our results from the fourth weekly survey, we now look at the issues of the Menindee Lakes Fish Kills, the Paladin Affair, and Captain GetUp.
Like the Franking Credits issue, we didn’t tell participants what these things were. Most knew what the Menindee Lakes Fish Kill was about, About half knew what the Paladin Affair was about, and well under half knew what Captain GetUp was.
The Menindee Lakes Fish Kill relates to the series of events in which it is believed up to a million fish died in a stretch of the Darling River near the town of Menindee, believed to be caused by a combination of drought, sharp temperature changes, algal bloom outbreaks, and the resulting decrease in oxygen level in the water. Voters were largely aware of this story, and concerned about it either from a water management/government incompetence point of view, or because they saw it as part of an over-arching climate change issue.
There was a lot of confusion with the more recent scandal that people insist on calling ‘Watergate’ involving the trade of a water licence in 2017, water allocation and licencing more generally, the zombie policy that Barnaby Joyce has revived called the Bradfield Scheme, and other water issues. A disturbing number of people blamed cotton farming as being the cause of the event, which would indicate that Twitter rumours have won out over fact and science.
The Paladin Affair is an excellent comparison issue for the Menindee Lakes Fish Kill, as it had a similar level of intensity on Twitter, calls for inquiries and a palpable level of outrage, and broke just a couple of weeks later. The considerable number of people who didn’t know what it was could indicate that either a) voters have short memories, particularly in this scandal drenched 45th parliament where there’s simply too much crazy and outrage to keep track of, or b) the powerful images of the Menindee story were more easily recalled. Given the number of people who said they googled and then remembered, and Paladin was actually a few weeks after Menindee, we’re tempted to lean towards the later.
The Paladin Affair refers to the story, broken by the Financial Review, that a company named Paladin, registered to a beach shack, had secured $423m in contracts to manage security and other site management services at the centre where refugees are being held on Manus Island.
In addition to being unable to recall the story (some even asked if I had made it up, or it was a trick question), some were incorrect in their recollections – a number of references to Angus Taylor and the Cayman islands indicates again a confusion with Watergate, and broader issues around corruption. Those who did recall (or googled) took the opportunity to have a good vent about Peter Dutton. Many commented that it felt like a long time ago, or they were sorry the story had been dropped.
It’s sad that it feels like so long ago, and so many revelations of corruption ago, that it seems to be having no impact on this campaign.
51 year old female voter
So the last of our set in’t really an issue, but it is absolutely one of those things that is difficult to explain, and is generally just referred to by the name. With some rolling of eyes. This is Captain GetUp:
Yeah. Ok. So this is conservative organisation Advance Australia’s contribution. It is the dumbest thing of the campaign, and we’re happy to call it an own-goal with most people not knowing what it is, and far too many blaming Young Liberals for it than I’m sure the Liberal Party will be happy about.
Plus, the effect of Captain GetUp has only been to convince a small number of people to vote for the various politicians they were denigrating, rather than convince anyone to vote conservative. What a stunning waste of time and money in an election where you really can’t afford to waste anything. You can see Menindee Lakes had some impact on vote decision, Paladin less so, and Captain GetUp next to none.
Thanks to all our participants. Enjoy your democracy sausage tomorrow!