Henry Innis discovers who is behind the ‘popular support’ for Canberra’s lock out laws
There’s a pretty interesting piece of research coming out of Canberra today — a poll showing most Canberra residents want 3am last drinks implemented.
At a glance, it’s fairly innocuous. A poll in a newspaper shouldn’t be a big deal. But the results are somewhat surprising. Why would most Canberrans want this to be the case?
When I studied history at Sydney University, one of the critical parts of your research was to identify your source and account for their bias. It’s as important in current affairs reporting as it is in history essays. Here’s a fact — every single poll commissioned that was in favour of lockout laws was commissioned by one body: FARE.
FARE was established in 2001 with $115 million of taxpayers money. There’s no evidence to suggest it reflects the will of taxpayers in any way, shape or form. Worse still, the organisation has very little accountability to the everyday taxpayer.
Public health lobbies are murky at the best of times. They’re organisations which are less about policy outcomes as they are about absolutes. Stopping all of something is never a realistic goal (FARE’s strategy is to “stop harm caused by alcohol”). So of course they pump out study after study designed to scare the public into submission.
Here’s some key facts about polling, from someone who has experience in market research:
- Polls can be upweighted to get a specific outcome (e.g targeting parents in the poll).
- They also typically skew older as they target landlines (ReachTEL is notorious for this).
- Methodology is critical – they all have methodologies and certain questions framed a certain way to get it right.
None of FARE’s polls disclose any of this. Why? Because they’ve probably briefed their market research agencies to get a certain result. Controlling the poll and making it the central source of truth is the best way to shift public policy opinion – even if the poll is a cynical reflection of the public will.
Here’s the thing about the public health lobby: they’re constantly commissioning research for an objective, passing it off as fact and using that to steer the public debate. Forget objectivity. These guys just want to sucker in your politicians and convince them that you’re thinking something you aren’t.
Worse still, the public health lobby is run by staffers. The CEO of FARE isn’t a doctor. He’s a staffer with a history in Crime Prevention. Not a medical professional. Not even anyone with a history in understanding the impact of alcohol harms or policy.
So when you see polls like the Canberra one from organisations like FARE, don’t take them at face value. Because underneath all the stats is a public health lobby pushing its own agenda.