It seems like the protection versus free trade argument may have been won by the free traders in Australia.
This could be a first for anywhere in the world, and is an argument that we have been having with ourselves since before Federation, with the protection side winning the initial post-Federation argument resulting in what Paul Kelly calls the "Deakinite Settlement", of high tariffs, minimum wages, White Australia and universal social security.
The free trade argument runs counter to reflexive commonsense, so it says a lot about how the modern Australian economy runs that it now appears to be in the ascendant.
In December we asked our respondents whether Tony Abbott was right to rule out giving more money to Toyota to stay in Australia. 52% agreed that he was right while only 28% agreed that he was wrong, giving a net support of 24%.
Support was strongest amongst Liberals, where protectionism seems to have almost completely vanished, and weakest amongst Labour voters, where 51% favoured providing funds. While only small numbers of Greens agreed with the government position, the highest proportion of Greens voters were neutral on the issue.
Importantly for the government, minor party voters supported their position, with only 30% disagreeing.
The position of ALP supporters is interesting because through history since 1972, it has been Labor that has done more to dismantley tariffs in general, and specifically on the motor vehicle industry, than Liberal.
This has probably been against the natural bent of their constituency, and in large part owes much to the superb salesmanship of Paul Keating whose disdain for "spivs" asking for more government money was visceral.
The Leximancer map shows pretty clearly how the arguments run (click on the image for a larger version).
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