Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Showing what we stand for: Oi! Oi! Oi!

By Dave Bath - posted Tuesday, 17 November 2009

If we look at figures for actual engagement with government, making submissions to parliamentary or agency inquiries, we might be able to get a good idea about what Australians really care about.

A recent inquiry, not a high-profile parliamentary inquiry but a departmental one, had an extraordinarily large number of public submissions (323), suggesting the subject of the inquiry could be the philosopher's stone for politicians, the barbeque-stopper.

What was it? Climate change? Economic policy? Human rights? No, no, and no.


The thing that gets the electorate engaged is the issue of sport on TV.

The following table compares the number of submissions and submissions per day (between announcement and closing date) for the TV sport review compared to some inquiries at high-profile parliamentary websites on weightier issues that affect us all. The figures would be even more stark if we only included submissions from ordinary citizens, rather than the usual suspects of academics and companies with a direct commercial interest in the outcomes of the inquiries.




Date Initiated

  Date Closed

Days  Submissions

Submissions per Day

Senate Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - Mark 1






Senate Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - Mark 2






Senate Economic Stimulus Measures






Senate Gene Patents






Victorian Parliament Melbourne's Future Water Supply





0.3 Sport on Television Review






With more submissions in both absolute and per-day terms, the clear winner is TV sport, in this case, the anti-siphoning regulations that limit what sporting events pay-TV can broadcast.


For most issues, submissions to inquiries are far outnumbered by the number of news items, published letters to editors, and blog posts, suggesting that the so-called "nattering classes" are just that, nattering but not officially engaged. I suspect, however, that on this issue of TV sport, the number of submissions far outnumbered the news items and letters to editors.

Oddly enough, this might suggest that the TV sports buffs are much more efficient than the nattering classes when it comes to official engagement with the political process. For once, the couch potato is smarter than a self-styled member of the intellectual elite: if only everyone who wrote a letter to a broadsheet about an issue under inquiry made a submission, we might be better governed. Unless of course, the nattering classes are only nattering, appearing concerned about important issues only in front of their friends, while in truth, their inner bogans rule.

The data in the above table could be extended, looking at more inquiries homed both in parliamentary and agency websites, correlating against letters to editors, space in the news sections of the mainstream media, number of blog posts in the same time, only including submissions made by "ordinary citizens" rather than academics and organisations, as well as the many other things that sociologists might consider relevant. However, the take-home message probably wouldn't change: while the electorate as a whole might sometimes say some things are important, when it comes to actual engagement, engagement that probably reflects the vote-changing issues that politicians will devote their minds to, the electorate is little more than a Homer Simpson with a bogan accent.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This is an edited version of an article which was first published in the author's blog, Balneus, on November 4, 2009.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

5 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dave Bath is a former single custodial dad (and grandfather since early 2007), has developed software for nearly 30 years (both open source and commercial), has an academic background in biomedical sciences, and has spent much of his commercial IT work in the fields of health, risk management, resourcing and finance. He blogs at Balneus.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Dave Bath

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Dave Bath
Article Tools
Comment 5 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy