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Australians Hate Our Politicians and Political System

But are things likely to improve? Not really.

Katherine Gillespie

Katherine Gillespie

Illustration by Ashley Goodall

Australians have politics on the brain. But with the results of this year's Scanlon Foundation Social Cohesion Survey, it seems we are increasingly fed up with our political system.

In five or the past six Scanlon surveys since 2011, quality of government and of politicians has consistently ranked as the second most important issue facing Australia. But only a third of this year's 35,000 survey respondents said they trusted the Federal Government "most of the time."

Increasingly, we feel that our political system is in need of some kind of structural shake up—only around 15 percent of respondents think Australia's political system "works fine as it is." Around a third of people felt the system needs a "major change" up from just 23 percent in 2014.

After a particularly uninspiring election campaign, this year's Scanlon results were particularly damning. However, Australia's relationship with government has been deteriorating for almost a decade—since the rapid ascent and descent of the Rudd government from 2007 onwards. Which makes sense, because we've had about 50 different Prime Ministers in the past decade and each of them has been as unpopular as the last.

Of course, some people are more disillusioned by the system than others. Only seven percent of women aged between 18-24 years old reported to Scanlon that they had no interest in this year's federal election campaign. For men of the same age, around 23 percent said they didn't care.

But what this year's survey found was that a lack of trust in government is directly related to its failure to address the issues that are most important to people. Medicinal marijuana, supported by 83 percent of those surveyed, and euthanasia for terminal illness, which has 80 percent support, were two key areas that those surveyed felt the government had failed. The other big ones were renewable energy—70 percent of those surveyed wanted Australia to reduce its reliance on coal power—and marriage equality, with 67 percent support.

Are things likely to improve? Well, not really. The current Government's approval rating is abysmal, and Malcolm Turnbull's leadership is looking increasingly shaky. Instead of taking action any of the issues that the Scanlon Survey found people care about, the Senate stayed up until almost 3 AM on Monday to finally pass an industrial relations bill. This was the legislation that triggered Australia's double dissolution election a few months, and literally nobody asked for it.

On climate action and marriage equality things also aren't looking great. While Australia has finally ratified the Paris Agreement, our action on climate change isa global embarrassment. The death of the marriage equality plebiscite means the government will likely pull the issue from its agenda completely.

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