When is is ok for politicians to break their commitments?

Today’s Essential Research poll asks about when politicians should be able to break commitments. Unfortunately it is marred by poor wording, especially in the options not being mutually exclusive, but the plurality for the option ‘as situations change, it is reasonable that politicians change their positions’ suggests a pragmatic attitude. It is the common sense morality that I expect most people apply in their own lives – commitment keeping is a virtue, but sometimes things we assumed in making that commitment turn out not to be the case, and that affects the morality of whether or not the original commitment should be kept.

The pragmatic position may well have secured more support had not respondents read it as excusing Julia Gillard’s carbon tax backflip. Other polls conducted in a more neutral context do not show Coalition supporters as more cynical about politicians than Labor supporters. Not only does the correct thing to do change when relevant facts change, but also according to the identity of the people involved.

3 thoughts on “When is is ok for politicians to break their commitments?

  1. An ETS was part of ALP policy.

    What is happening is an ETS with a fixed price NOT a carbon price.

    Gillard was badly advised yet again by her brilliant advisors to say it was a carbon tax.

    Gee they have a good record


  2. It’s a bit more subtle than how it’s put in the question. A lot comes down to whether people accept that external factors were responsible for the shift of position. It is one thing to step away from a promise, say, to return the budget to surplus if there is renewed global economic weakness; it is quite another thing to renege on a commitment such as the carbon tax when there is no credible exogenous reason for the change. Voters did not believe Gillard when she tried to argue that the switch was due to the hung parliament.

    BTW, as for carbon tax versus ETS, in the interview with the Australian just prior to the last election, Gillard said she didn’t rule out the possibility of legislating a CPRS in the next Parliament. This is a bit different from introducing a carbon price in the next Parliament. The text of the article also notes that any carbon price would not be triggered until ‘after the 2013 election’. So voters would have been entitled to treat this as a political and unserious statement, kind of like the L-A-W tax cuts.


  3. It ain’t a carbon tax. you cannot buy a carbon tax nor trade it you merely pay it.

    the LAW tax cuts were law, they were to be incorporated into Superannuation making the charge around 12%.


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