The boy who cried wolf

This is election year for Australian voters who are mostly feeling quite depressed at the available options for governing the nation.

Sure, the die-hard loyalists of the major and minor parties are eager to vent their frustrations at the ballot box. They have made up their minds on who they think will deliver the kind of society they admire. The rest of us live in fear that they may get their way!

The clear story of opinion polls over the past year is that many Australians are unhappy with any of the available options. We neither like nor trust the leaders of the primary parties and we remain suspicious about the influence of minor groups. It is a disconcerting dilemma.

But our chagrin must be as nothing to the man who would be Prime Minister, current Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. For well over two years now he has ceaselessly and stridently promised the sky would fall in because of the government’s carbon tax.

His denunciation of this broken promise has been relentless. His rant – for surely it has been just that – nearly delivered him the nation’s top elected post. But not quite. So, he stayed on song to claim the government carbon-pricing plan would cause prices to soar and jobs to evaporate.

Certainly there is plenty of evidence that that has happened. But, regardless, it is not persuading many voters that Tony is the messiah to put things right.

Like a catchy tune that initially captures audience attention but then becomes an infuriating annoyance that won’t get out of our head, Tony Abbott’s message has been tuned-out.

Latest statistics released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) show that the number of complaints about carbon pricing has plummeted in recent months. Even though this came off an admittedly small base, the remaining volume is negligible.

Which is a real headache for Abbott and his strategists. He and they really believed they could ride a wave of voter anger on this issue all the way to The Lodge.

What they refused to accept was that telling people several times a day for a couple of years that the sky would fall in only works if something utterly dramatic actually happens.  It hasn’t and while many voters remain frustrated by what they see as the Prime Minister’s betrayal by introducing a tax she said would never happen on her watch, their anger has simply subsided.

It is almost impossible to imagine that Tony Abbott can re-phrase his message in any way that will re-ignite intense voter anger. The search for Plan B is no doubt causing many a sleepless night for his campaign team.

Perhaps they should try an alternative tack: espouse a positive vision for the nation and provide us with policies that might persuade us they have the capacity to make Australia a better place.  Otherwise enough voters might just decide that the real wolf is the one in sheep’s clothing.