By Peter McCarthy
I accept that I am a political junkie who delights in watching election campaigns, even to the point of trying to watch the last general election in the UK, but I’m somewhat bemused by the incessant complaining about our upcoming election in Australia.
It seems it’s now fashionable to whine long and loud about it being too long an adventure, and there is some sort of competition between voters and the political commentators, each trying for some sort of gold standard of showing off their dissatisfaction, or perhaps a better word is ignorance.
It’s frightfully unseemly and counterproductive if we want a healthy democracy, and dare I say a little bit immature not to recognise our thoughtful input is required to steer those we put in charge of the system?
It also flies in the face of the usual complaint that we don’t get enough information about party policies.
Granted, the Liberal Party has dropped back to ‘3-word slogans’ – much favored by their previous leader – after teasing the voters with the promise of straight talking, but on the Labor side we have seen a lot of ideas and the opportunity to review and criticize those ideas if we feel unhappy with the direction.
This is a great leap forward from the usual process and one we should be embracing wholeheartedly.
This time around Labor has surprised the voters – and to an even larger degree, the Liberal Party – by having a lot of policies already mapped out, and even more importantly, most of the team seem to be across the detail. This stands out starkly against their opponents where the slogans are being deployed, but the detail is often not understood by their team, and it’s now become fashionable to try and trip them up on radio interviews.
Add to that the supposed experts – like the Treasurer and the PM – are prone to becoming over excited and start making claims that crash and burn when examined in detail. The PM looked especially silly when it was discovered he was making his claims about negative gearing on gut feeling rather than any financial modelling. Even the impact of Labor’s policy confused the Liberals when it came to what would happen to prices. Malcolm called it one way while across town Kelly O’Dwyer, part of the Treasurer’s team and presumably with some economic expertise, was claiming the exact opposite.
But luckily for their party, commentators are pushing the line that it’s a long and boring campaign and they seem unaware they could be serving the community by actually doing their job and asking the harder questions.
The Liberal Party is painfully exposed to direct questions about “Jobs and Growth” and nobody appears interested in what that actually means. Even the discredited trickle-down economics generally gets a free pass and heaven help them if questions are asked about the delivery of government services or the sneaky increase in the cost of a doctor’s visit. Some Ministers even appear outraged if their policies are questioned. Michaelia Cash is especially outraged to be asked questions.
There is a mountain of opportunity out there for commentators to sink their teeth into, but it takes more effort than simply tweaking Party press releases and then you have some who are simply paid to spruik the Party line. For those folk the complaining about the length of the campaign is a helpful tool to disengage the voters and they are exploiting it to the max.
I suspect the boffins who are in charge of tactics over at Liberal HQ are having a serious rethink about how the long campaign idea is playing out. Normally it would be a good idea, but not when your opponent has their act together and your own team does not. The problems have been amplified by Mathias and his robotic delivery of the mantra “Jobs and Growth”. Folks’ eyes are glazing over before he get to the word “and”. Malcom has to share the blame too. Malcolm the likeable has terrible body language when he moves away from his comfortable social side and into over-the-top rhetoric about his opponents. He simply can’t hide his discomfort when he tries to push “Labor’s war on … ”
In all likelihood Malcolm will survive especially if he can avoid scrutiny of his mantra, but imagine what happens if they lose control of the media questions and voters start taking note of his simplistic tactic? He is certainly encouraging criticism when you see the startling video clip of his single-parent upbringing. That seemed more appropriate as a Labor negative campaign than actually out of Liberal ranks.
We still have 3 weeks to go and the negative adverts are due to start. I, for one, will be enjoying the battle and keeping an eye on the gullibility of Aussie voters. I’m thinking the Abbott experience should have heightened their awareness of ‘3-word slogans’ but how many have learned from it remains to be seen.
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