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Filling the vacuum

If you walk into a business that retails new cars, find a salesperson and have a discussion on what your specific wants and needs they will always be able to recommend something from the range of vehicles in the dealership. If you’re talking to a Toyota salesperson, they are most unlikely to suggest that a Hyundai or a Subaru would provide a closer fit with the requirements that you set out. Of course, the Toyota wouldn’t have everything you described as needing or wanting, to which the salesperson would go into great detail on why you didn’t need the missing feature or lead you towards a similar ‘better’ feature in the range of vehicles they sold.

It’s the process of making a sale. You can also observe similar practices if you were to wander into an Apple or Samsung store or one of the stores run by the big telcos. The Telcos are even more reliant on making a sale as the products they offer are almost identical. They all offer NBN services, mobile phones and fixed wireless internet. In the case of the NBN, they all resell the same service but claim a point of difference with the price, the quality of their call centre or the inclusion of ‘added extras’.

Everyone does it, Woolworths and Coles have access to the manufacturers of packaged goods, commercial arrangements with primary producers and contracts with logistics companies to get the goods from the paddock or warehouse to the plate as fast as possible with only minimal damage to the quality at worst. Woolworths prices are kept ‘down’ using similar practices to Coles who in turn sell equally ‘fresh’ food as Woolworths. The proof is Aldi who are in the same business, but rarely advertise the freshness or cost of items bought from their shops – but promote their ‘difference’.

It’s not hard to sell something. As we’ve seen business does it relentlessly and well. Bank staff ‘sell’ home loans, electronics manufacturers convince people to throw out perfectly good equipment because it doesn’t have the latest gadget with a multi-letter acronym that ‘guarantees’ a better experience. There are people employed to convince you to change your brand of shampoo as your current one doesn’t leave enough shine or bounce in your hair! So what is Prime Minister Albanese’s excuse for not selling his governments achievements?

In the chaotic last week of Parliament for the year, Albanese’s government managed to cement a deal with the states to ensure the NDIS is used for supporting those that need the support, which meant the states have to tip some additional money into the pot. A report on the NDIS was released that identified where considerable waste (hint: a lot of it is to do with the process the previous Government put in to manage the scheme). Albanese steered the original NDIS legislation through the Parliament when a minister in Gillard’s minority government. He should be shouting from the rooftops that they have fixed the problems with the system imposed by the government where the current Opposition Leader was a key Minister.

In the same week, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek landed a deal to increase the flows in the Murray-Darling river system that landowners, the Greens and the government could agree to. No, the deal isn’t perfect and each party to the agreement would be able to suggest ‘improvements’ but some improvement is better than the status quo. There was also movement on the long overdue ‘same work, same pay’ legislation.

So, a bit of competence all round eh? Maybe in an alternative universe there was some acknowledgement of a job well done that actually supports those who need some assistance to live in our society or comment on how the additional flows will assist in returning the environment in and around the Murray-Darling basin to something remotely resembling health. It certainly didn’t happen in this universe. Most of the media were reporting Coalition concerns that some refugees that the government had been forced to released from detention after they had completed sentences for criminal offences had been re-arrested, using the Coalitions talking point that it was all a government foul up. Katherine Murphy in The Guardian was one of the few exceptions.

The ‘refugee crisis’ always was a beat up by the Coalition. Apart from the tradition suggesting that once you have done the time associated with the crime, you are rehabilitated and free to go, the policy around permanent detention was written and implemented predominately by the Coalition when in government. In short, the Coalition was arguing that its own lawmaking process was incompetent or badly managed. Albanese folded and brought in rushed and ill-considered legislation before he even tried to make the argument. Maybe the Home Affairs and Immigration Ministers should have been out prior to the Court’s decision suggesting there was a chance that the refugees would have to be released and if that occurred, it was the Coalition’s poor legislation drafting that would cause it. Alternately having the discussion around the ethics and morals of keeping one group of people in detention indefinitely while others who had behaved in a similar way were free of restrictions would have made Australia a slightly fairer and more equal society could have been worth it.

The problem with generally competent governments is the media loses influence if it’s not seen to be driving the agenda and hammering home what you should believe. While some will have a genuine concern with some of the actions of a government, a lot of the output is aligned to the media owner’s individual political preferences. Nature abhors a vacuum and tries to fill it, so if you don’t get your positive message out to fill the available space, others will have no hesitation in filling the space with negativity.

In the 1970s, both the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council had regular five-minute TV broadcasts that gave their version on the benefits of the programs they were implementing. Rightly or wrongly, both the Premier (Joh Bjelke-Petersen) and Lord Mayor (Clem Jones) stayed in their roles through multiple elections. They both knew that if they drove the agenda it was harder for opposition to catch up, regardless of the issue of the day.

For the Government to succeed, they have to suck the venom out of the Opposition’s opposition to everything. A comprehensive demolition across the Dispatch Box won’t do it as most of us might see the 30 second version on the TV and decide it’s just politicians being politicians again. The media won’t help the government as there is a commercial imperative to sell the conflict. The government telling us to wait a little while until the release something clearly doesn’t work as it allows the vacuum to be filled by others to set the agendas in a competition where coming from behind is always difficult.

If the government doesn’t change how it markets itself – Dutton will be Prime Minister in 2025 and a textbook case of how to win government in one term.


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  1. Michael Taylor

    Everything here is so spot on.

  2. Steve Davis

    Exactly Michael.

    Back in the 70s the Qld ALP owned a Brisbane radio station. The free-market traitors in the party couldn’t wait to sell it.

  3. New England Cocky

    An excellent analysis that correctly identifies the failure of LABOR information flow against a hostile Murdoch Media Monopoly.

    In 1996 LABOR misogynists demonstrated their incompetence by ignoring the professional skills of Maxine McCue, the lady who kicked Little Johnnie Howard out of his Bennelong political sinecure & subsequently the disastrous Howard government out of office.

    McCue was a highly respected ABC journalist who properly should have been the easily recognised LABOR media person, telling Australian voters about the great policies and their progress towards achievement.

    The demise of the Rudd Gillard governments under pressure from American interference (AGAIN, remember Kissinger personally took charge of The Dismissal in 1975) was orchestrated from the Holt Street MMM HQ.

    I am reminded of the comment made by my late mother during 1975 when she worked for Murdoch; the editorial desk was directed, ”I don’t care what you write about Whitlam; just make him look bad!”

    This has been the strategy ever since in Australian politics ….. and LABOR lie down and are prepared to accept it….. without a whimper ….. or any practical opposition.

  4. Terence Mills

    The indefinite detention issue became a debacle when our High Court announced a decision through the media without simultaneously publishing the reasons for their decision ; to my recollection this is the first time it has occurred and was a bungle by the new Chief Justice, it won’t happen again.

    Labor foolishly allowed themselves to be rushed into releasing all detainees overnight. This should never have happened and Labor should have awaited the publication of the court’s rationale and then implemented sensible responsive legislation.

    Of course you cannot have politicians imposing indefinite detention on anybody in this country, citizens or non-citizens, and the High Court were absolutely correct, only our justice system and our judges can impose criminal sanctions.

    Overall, in its first eighteen months, this government has done very well in my view with ministers who have generally performed well in their portfolios.

  5. Phil Pryor

    The core of this refugee detention law/detention/release problem is found in coalition incompetence, and Dutton is up there as a spotlit dill. They intended to elbow and bend law, if not try to break it, but final adjudication by our High Court has started to settle this, with more to come. It is filthy conservative attitude to avoid reality, bend law to suit, contrive to cover up some irritation, and with no reserve plan when their incompetence in administraion and law application was found wrong.. Yet Dutton, known for favouring aspects of avoidance of “law” in visas and immigration requirements, puts up a front to feed the dills who hate “strangers” and “foreigners”. There is always media slime behind conservative doings, and a sniff of Merde Dog droppings floats about,.

  6. New Bruce

    Spot On.
    It feels as though our Guvvm’nt is afraid to raise it’s head above the parrapets of life, lest it gets mud slung at it.
    Personally, I don’t think much of Albo, but that is not the point. He, or Burke, or Wong, need to get out there each day both Before and after the parliamentary session and Sell, Sell, Sell.
    Slam the “old model’s” poor performance, and shout the
    New features from the rafters and rooftops.
    No, it does not help to have a biased media with a hatchet always in hand against them, and suppprtive of the spud, but to quote marketing 101, “A business with no sign is a sign of No Business”

  7. Bob

    Yes Terence, I found that odd at the time. Court throws its molotov-cocktail decision into the public arena, then ducks for cover. Kaboom. Why didn’t they release their reasoning on the day? It’d have saved a lot of angst. Then again, follow the $. Court$ are not a charity, or at least not in the usual sense of the word, that is, a charity set up to benefit others. The ‘judges might be playing games to generate more work down the road’ I heard someone say at the bus-stop the other day when they were relating a story to their friend, something to do with a conversation the storyteller over-heard at a Hearsay Conference the day before apparently.

  8. B Sullivan

    The court found that indefinite detention is illegal. Surprise, surprise, surprise! What difference would it have made if the court had simultaneously published their reasoning?

    The government failed to anticipate the obvious. Perhaps they expected the court to conveniently rule in favour of injustice. They had to obey the ruling or be guilty of illegally detaining people. They just hadn’t prepared for the foreseeable backlash that doing the right thing was inevitably going to attract from those who cannot comprehend the nature of justice or have a grievance against it being applied to everyone.

  9. Terence Mills

    B Sullivan

    I maintain that a government cannot exercise rational decision making processes based on a verbal High Court decision delivered via the media.

    The reasons (rationes decidendi) or “the rationale for the decision” is absolutely fundamental to the consequential decision making process.

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