Something truly remarkable is happening in Australian Politics. Unprecedented in my memory. An Australian Prime Minister is being given the chance to transform from bastard to saint. Or somewhere in-between.
Even after 40% of his colleagues have declared him unfit (and there were probably many more including 6 ministers) to lead our nation. Even in the face of polls that overwhelming reflect the public’s opinion of our leader.
Even after the media and his closest right wing supporters have condemned him. Even though he leads a dysfunctional and chaotic government.
They still think he is the best person for the highest office in our nation. Even after all the lies, his trust deficit, his support for inequality, his arrogance, inflexibility and hypocrisy, his governance for those who have, his inability to understand technology and science and an incapacity to understand women’s needs and sexual equality.
The captain’s calls, back flips, and his monarchist allegiance. His negativity, thuggish demeanor and his contempt for the conventions of parliament. Add to that his inability to adapt to the demands of office which stem from the fact that he is fundamentally a creature of the past. Yes, they still think he has all the characteristics of leadership.
If he is to transform himself who are we likely to end up with?
Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Program put it this way:
“We’ve had the Tony Abbott in opposition, the guy who promised no more chaos, the adults back in charge, the ‘no excuses and no broken promises’,” Ms Sales said.
“Then there’s the Tony Abbott we’ve had so far in government with the surprise policies and broken promises and the captain’s picks.
“Now you’re offering us a third Tony Abbott – one who’s going to change. Who are you?”
As David Marr puts it:
“The prime minister’s problem is not the captain’s picks, not his failure to consult, nor the micromanagement of the cabinet by his office. He just failed to grow”.
In his 20 years of parliamentary service he has been a politician of the past believing his duty is to save us from the future.
No Opposition Leader in Australian Political history has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.
No Prime Minister in Australian Political history has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.
Yet his party believes he can convert a lifetime of thuggish negativity into motivational, inspirational leadership. A Prime Minister in whom the people can trust. He deserves the chance they say. We owe it to him.
The conundrum of course for the LNP is that they don’t want to be portrayed like Labor who had little hesitation in dumping leaders but at the same time know they cannot win the next election with Abbott.
When the spill motion was defeated, what followed was an avalanche of contrived support spewed from the mouths of ministers and hangers on that could only be described as nauseating in its insincerity.
Everyone knows that the Abbott brand is dead. In all my years of political ears dropping, never have I seen such a cavalcade of fallaciousness from politicians who could only be described as silly enough to believe their own bullshit. Watching this line up of Abbott apologists was not only excruciatingly painful but seriously saddening. Do these idiots, I asked myself, really believe that I accept as true, the crap they are emitting?
Showing an exterior of suitable chastisement Tony Abbott announced that “Good Government starts today”. One was apt to wonder why it didn’t start when he said that the adults were in charge.
Then in Parliament the same day, when a no confidence motion was moved he immediately went to negative mode in a speech that amounted to nothing more than repetitive old Tony. Transformed Tony was nowhere to be seen. His near death experience seemed not to have registered. Perhaps he was blinded by the white light.
Later on The 7.30 Report the old Tony was still fighting like an Opposition Leader.
I beat Gillard, I beat Rudd and I will beat Shorten he said, missing the point that Australian’s are after a leader, not a pugilist.
It was as Malcolm Farr said on the Insiders program on Sunday:
“He can’t understand why people aren’t grateful”.
He, his Treasurer and his Ministers have never been able to admit that the budget was unfair. On the same program Mathias Coremann said that:
“no Minister had complained that the budget was unfair”.
He must have been lying because Malcolm Turnbull, the alternative leader that 50% of the party want as leader said this:
“it is vitally important, both as a matter of social justice and political reality, that structural changes are seen as being fair across the board”.
“That means not only must tough decisions be justified, but that the burden of adjustment is not borne disproportionately by one part of the community.”
An alcoholic cannot address his problem until he admits he has one. The Government cannot possibly govern for the common good until there is some kind of ministerial acknowledgement that indeed the budget was unfair.
The pugilist might have won round one, just, but the fight for Liberal leadership is far from over. He might have dodged a left hook but the Liberals remain deeply divided. They are all over the place with policy and a treasurer who seems incapable in the job. Pressure has mounted on Abbott to appease the back bench. It is demanding that Hockey and Credlin go.
Brand Abbott is dead. This is why.
For most of my working life I worked in marketing and advertising so I know how people are influenced, persuaded or swayed by such things as branding and repetitive advertising or recurring bullshit.
Companies spend millions of dollars to subtly brainwash you. To align you with a certain brand or product. They will use all manner of persuasive techniques including sex and deceptive packaging to solicit your good will and loyalty. They even measure the eye blink rate of women from hidden cameras in supermarkets to test colour reaction. Yes it’s that sophisticated. And brand loyalty is what they want. There are more psychologists employed in advertising in America than in the health industry. It is all calculated to take power over your decision-making.
Likewise, political parties want your loyalty, or at least they want to convince you that they are working in your best interests. They use the same repetitive techniques.
If you tell a lie often enough people will believe you. The Abbott government stating that asylum seekers are “illegal” and “she told a lie”, or that families received $550 dollars as a result of the removal of the carbon tax are but three examples.
The Abbott Government has taken persuasion to another level employing 37 communication and social media specialists to monitor social media and offer strategic communications advice costing taxpayers almost $4.3 million a year. In addition Peter Dutton’s departments employ more than 95 communications staff and spin doctors, costing at least $8million a year. In Dutton’s case it is about protecting a slogan. Nothing else.
That’s a lot of people to sell the brand, spin lies, omissions, monitoring social media and telling deliberate falsities. It’s about creating or promoting perceptions (rather than realities) about your political brand as opposed to that of your competitor. There are a number of ingredients in “successful” political branding. The product needs a positive image, and a leader with character who is surrounded by positive motivated people.
A fair dose of charisma is helpful but not entirely essential. What is essential is a well thought out narrative that the electorate can relate too and policies that are explainable. Even if they involve some pain. It doesn’t require popularism so long as it has credibility. John Howard was never popular but he had the perception of creditability.
Unfortunately the Abbott government and its ministers are nothing more than a compliment to mediocrity and intellectual barrenness. The brand has its genesis in contemptuous negativity and has failed to apply a label to any policy.
Its front bench is full of colorless dour depressive uninspiring types who will be intent on implementing a second budget of political expediency rather that economic necessity whilst the current one will remain an unfinished work in progress.
The collective personalities of Abbott (a self-confessed and proven liar and a PM for undoing), Pyne (arguably the most hated politician in Australia). Brandis (an Attorney General who believes bigotry is fine), Abetz (needs a personality transplant) Hockey (a serial blamer of everyone else), Joyce (potentially our next deputy PM, OMG). Dutton (cannot shake off his copper image), Hunt (no credibility on Climate Change after writing a thesis supporting a tax), Morrison (the un-Christian Christian. Don’t say I said that. It’s a secret.), Robb (still wanting Joe’s job), Truss (soon to retire) and Cormann (can’t throw off the accent), all of which reads like a list of appointments from a psychiatrist who specialises in personality disorders.
In terms of image the Abbott government comes across as, indignant angry men with chips on their shoulders. Make that logs. Haters of science and progressive policies. And some like Bernardi downright extreme.
In Abbott’s case you have to wonder if Australia has ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment and science. So oblivious of the needs of women and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society.
In the latest polling the Labor Party leads the LNP by 14 percentage points.
More alarming though is the Prime Minister’s popularity. Or more accurately his lack of it. And 63% of people think he is doing a terrible job.
The best public relations company in Australia couldn’t do much with the individual images of that lot.
“Australian political history is filled with the incompetence of unexceptional conservative men with born to rule mentalities”.
It’s hard to promote a political brand that blames everyone else, lies continuously, won’t listen to advice, is secretive, won’t compromise and is full of its own self-importance. Never in Australian political history has a budget been so motivated by ideology.
The result has been a public backlash of monumental proportions which is reflected in the polls. So blind is Abbott to his own shortcomings as a leader that he cannot see how badly he and his cabinet are governing. Even the right wing media, Murdoch publications and the shock jocks have deserted him. Social Media is leading the criticism. With the young in particular seeming to hate the Abbott brand with a vengeance.
Former Conservative UK Environment Minister Lord Deben put it succinctly:
“I think the Australian Government must be one of the most ignorant governments I’ve ever seen in the sense, right across the board, on immigration or about anything else, they’re totality unwilling to listen to science or logic”.