Scene: Inside Labor’s strategy office! Two strategists, Zoe and Joe, are discussing potential responses to the announcement from Turnbull of a very fast train.
Zoe: Have you read this? It’s rumoured that Turnbull is about to announce a Very Fast Train from Melbourne to Brisbane!
Joe: Shit! Have they really got that desperate?
Zoe: What do you mean?
Joe: Well, every time a government can’t actually think of anything to actually do, then they copy an idea from somewhere else.
Zoe: So who are they copying from?
Joe: Don’t you watch Utopia? Anyway Shorten’s already made the point that if they’re so committed to high speed rail, why did they scrap some of the funding for a high speed rail authority which Labor previously put in place.
Zoe: Well, that sort of locks Labor into supporting it, if he announces an actual intention to build it.
Joe: Does it?
Zoe: Yeah, you can’t say one thing this week and then do a complete backflip just a few days later just because of what the other side says … People’ll think we’re the Liberal Party.
Joe: Ok, so Labor supports it. How much of a problem can that be?
Zoe: That’d mean that Turnbull could go to the election suggesting that he’d actually be capable of following an idea through to its logical conclusion.
Joe: You actually think that he’d go through with it?
Zoe: No, by “logical conclusion” I meant until after the election when they’d call a feasibility study and hire a few ex-Liberal mates to meet over a few lunches and decide that the business case wasn’t economically viable because they’d spent too much on the feasibility study.
Joe: Well Labor can’t just oppose it! They’d look negative and it’d seem like they didn’t have a vision for the future.
Zoe: So what can we suggest?
Joe: Perhaps we could say that Labor’s plan is to build the very fast rail in the uninhabited areas between the cities and the fast train can use the existing rail lines when they get near the cities.
Zoe: But how will it be a very fast train then? Doesn’t a very fast train rely on having super efficient tracks? It’s not going to be much faster than our existing trains if it has to slow down every time it gets near a city.
Joe: Yes, but we can argue that in the future we don’t know what advances in track design will occur so it’s silly to lock the train in. If anyone actually needs the extra speed then they can pay for the track themselves. We can say that Labor will have the Very Fast Train built much sooner and it’ll be cheaper. We can use a slogan like Very Fast Train, Affordable, Sooner!
Zoe: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Who’d fall for that?
Joe: Well, it worked for Abbott and Turnbull with the NBN.
Zoe: That was different.
Zoe: People don’t know much about internet speed, but they know when a train’s going super fast.
Joe: We could put projections of scenery whizzing past at breakneck speeds.
Zoe: Yes, but they wouldn’t get to their destination any faster, and, besides, the point isn’t about when the thing’s actually built. We just need to worry about managing perceptions until the election.
Joe: Perhaps we could say that it’s great that Turnbull’s proposing a train that goes faster than download speeds under the NBN and that we’re pleased that he’s at least doing something that’s got more speed than when he changes his mind and takes things off the table.
Joe: Or we could say we support it because it’ll that the Liberal Party save on helicopter flights.
Zoe: Nah, that just sounds like a cheap shot. We want to be positive.
Joe: All right, what have you got in mind?
Zoe: Um… I know. We’ll announce that it’s good because it’ll reduce emissions and help save the planet.
Joe: Brilliant! That should stop it in its tracks… Oh sorry, pun not intended.
Zoe: Yep, as soon as we link it to climate change then the rest of the Liberals’ll will demand that Turnbull withdraw any support for such a lefty, greenie project!
Joe: Yeah, but what if he stands up to them?
Zoe: Gee, Joe that’s what I love about you: your droll sense of humour.
Joe: Ah. it was hard to keep a straight face when I said that one.
Zoe: Ok, let’s get to work on the speeches. Or even better, perhaps we should leak it to The Greens and hope that they steal it and announce their support before we do. That’ll kill it off even faster.
Joe: Yeah, the very fast train – it’s gone already!
Zoe: Hey that’s not bad. Perhaps we can use as one of Bill’s zingers when Turnbull kills the project.