When You Apply The Pub Test To Australian Political Issues

Video by Tom Compagnoni & Josh Butler

"The Pub Test". It's the new catchcry of politicians hoping to put their opponents on the wrong side of public opinion, claiming new developments -- whether its MPs using helicopters to shuttle between events, or Border Force agents descending on Melbourne, or refugee policy, or the boss of a royal commission agreeing to speak at a Liberal-sponsored event -- wouldn't be warmly received by the crowd at your local watering hole.

A Google search for "pub test" returns 61,000 results and 2600 news results. The catchphrase has been used by Bill Shorten, Christopher Pyne, Sam Dastyari, Pat Conroy, former NSW Premier Nick Greiner, and publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, Nine News, the Daily Telegraph, Crikey and radio host Alan Jones.

"To win an election, you've got to pass the pub test," Jones lectured Tony Abbott last year.

“Agreeing to attend a Liberal fundraiser doesn’t pass the pub test," Greens MP Adam Bandt said of Dyson Heydon agreeing to speak at a Liberal party event.

Waleed Aly, writing in Fairfax Media on Friday, called for the catchphrase to fall out of existence.

"For starters, it's never clear what kind of pub we're talking about. One of those groovy inner-city ones populated by kale-fuelled hipsters? One of those (increasingly rare) suburban ones that swallowed a bistro back in the '80s and is now kept afloat by pokies? One of those pillar-of-the-community ones in the country, across the road from the church and the footy ground?" he asked.

"I have this sneaky feeling the people who talk about the "pub test" are usually people who never actually go to pubs unless there's some magnetic photo opportunity pulling them there."

But lost in all the chatter, is the most obvious question -- what do people at the pub actually think about these issues? So ,we went to a pub and applied the pub test. Several pubs, in fact. A few upmarket ones near the water at Circular Quay where suit-clad businesspeople sipped on expensive spirits, and a few where fluoro-clad tradies knocked back a few schooners. We wanted to find out: what actually passes the pub test, and what doesn't?

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