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The election: hope versus fear

Abbott is gearing up for an election. First he wants to ensure he will be the leader who takes the Liberal National Coalition to an election, and this is by no means a done deal. And then he is convinced that he can sloganeer away the poll deficit he needs to win a second term. Or rather, his strategists are convinced they can come up with effective slogans to take Abbott to victory, and Abbott is happy to believe them.

As reported in the Guardian this week, Lynton Crosby of campaign strategist firm Crosby Textor, is confident he can use the Liberal staple of simplistic messaging around ‘economic competence’ to convince a not-very-interested-in-politics electorate to forgive everything Abbott’s wrecked with his wrecking ball, and to have permission to fire up an even bigger wrecking ball in a second term. But the question is, will the electorate fall for what basically comes down to a dirty, negative, fear campaign again? Because that’s what Crosby really means when he says Abbott needs to rely on a simple message focused on economic competence. He really means that Abbott needs to scare the electorate into thinking they’ll lose their jobs, they’ll lose their homes, they’ll be destitute and on the street if they don’t do what they’re told and vote for Abbott’s Liberals. It really is as simple as that apparently.

But are Australians going to fall for this again? Are the Turkeys really going to vote for Christmas? Will Australians again drink up ‘Great Big Tax’, ‘Axe the Tax’, ‘Stop The Boats’ and more recently ‘Jobs and Growth’ – the bogan slogans that make Abbott sound like a 2-year-old whose just learned a new word and wants to wear it out on his parents?

This is where I pause from typing and I sit back and worry. It doesn’t make rational sense that Australia would be so gullible to fall hook-line-and-sinker for such an obvious, shallow, implausible slogan to scare them into making the second biggest mistake of their lives after their first mistake elected Abbott in the first place. But there is nothing rational about politics. Especially when you mix irrationality with fear, a fear that experts like Crosby and Textor are very good at whipping up. This is why the re-election of Cameron in the UK sent chills down my spine. Cameron was just as unpopular as Abbott and resided over just as big an austerity-caused-badly-managed-economy with high unemployment and barely any growth. Yet he still was given the keys to the country again to wreak more havoc on not just the UK economy, but also to hammer the UK health system, education and social welfare system. But Crosby and Textor helped the very-easily-frightened electorate to forget about all this havoc and they’ve given Cameron a mandate to make the situation even worse. Fear really does make people do stupid things.

It seems like a simple problem to solve, however, it’s not. If you were working as a campaign strategist for Labor, you would think you could just point out to voters how utterly hollow Abbott’s ‘economic competence’ slogan is, how unfounded in reality, and how dangerous it would be to let Abbott’s economic incompetence continue to hurt the economy and to destroy jobs. The statistics are easy to quote – Abbott’s unemployment rate of 6.34% is the highest in 13 years, growth is stagnant and even Abbott’s favourite stick to beat Labor with – government debt – is up $100 billion since Abbott took over the job. The ironic thing is that Australia’s debt and deficit wasn’t even a major problem when Abbott turned it into a vote-winning-slogan, and yet he’s gone on to make this debt even larger. Yet still his strategists feel confident that they can run a fear campaign based on the strongly held electoral perception that Liberal governments are better economic managers than Labor governments. Even after Labor saved the country from a recession during the GFC, a GFC the Liberals claimed never happened, which Labor says didn’t happen to Australia because of Labor’s good economic management, which the Liberals now say is the reason the Australian economy isn’t strong – because the world economy still hasn’t recovered. See how irrational politics is? Facts are irrelevant when it comes to emotional responses to fear campaigns. Labor strategists have hopefully worked this out.

But what’s the answer then? If you can’t convince the electorate that Abbott’s claims of economic competence are as baseless as all the promises he made during the election, which have now been broken, how does Labor ensure that Abbott doesn’t win a second term?

I suggest Labor should learn from Abbott’s success and forget about quoting facts. Facts are really good at convincing people they are right when they can use them to back up their own preconceived, emotional beliefs. For instance – I know Abbott’s the most incompetent and unproductive Prime Minister Australia has ever had, and this article gives me the facts to prove it. A swing voter, on the other hand, doesn’t care about such analysis. So what Labor needs to do is forget about facts and appeal to emotions. In doing so they have two options: the first is to use the dark-arts of Crosby and Textor by scaring people about the prospect of an Abbott second term. This should be relatively easy. The very thought of such a thing terrifies me and although I know I’m not your average swing voter, surely Abbott has done enough scary things in the last two years for Labor to be able to convincingly show how things could get much scarier if Abbott has another go? And surely he’s given enough hints about what he might do in a second term – such as his promise not to increase the GST this term or to make any industrial relations changes this term – to scare people off living this reality?

The second option is to rise above the negative fear campaign of what an Abbott second term would look like, and to appeal to a much more savoury emotion – hope. Labor’s ‘hope for the future’ campaign could focus on all the things Abbott is interested in wrecking that Labor wants to invest in. Jobs of the future. Technologies of the future. The educational needs for jobs of the future. A safer environment for the future. Energy needs and industries of the future. I love the idea of a ‘rise above’ campaign, but I also recognise it’s naïve to think the electorate is ready to put long term progress ahead of short-term Abbott-opportunism. So really there is a third option; a little from column A and a little from column B. Simplistically it looks something like this – ‘Abbott will wreck everything, so vote Labor for a brighter future’. Sounds good doesn’t it. If only it was so simple.


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  1. Andrew Elder

    … in other words, Victoria, emulate what Andrews and Palaszczuk and Weatherall did – not “forget about facts” but use them in a wider context of showing Coalition claims about the economy were bogus.

  2. paul walter

    Just back from another thread here, concerning the ABC and it strikes me that the crackdown on the ABC, including the announcement of Albrechtsen to a superintending position concerning it, offers a certain confirmation of Victoria Rollinson’s proposition that the encircled Abbott is trying for a breakout, before the horses get too spooked- hence the need to get any dissident news reportage packed away quickly.

    I couldn’t beleive the Brits could be so stupid as to re-elect Cameron, but then I never thought Australians would be so stupid as to vote in Abbott.

    As for that last paragraph, I sincerely hope so. The ALP and Greens have to realise that compromise is the order of the day , with focus on acceptable, practical and wellexplained policy that the public will accept. Without a bit of common sense to balance out the idealism, the battle is lost, perhaps for all time. There áre some things that can’t be changed immediately, but with Abbott re-elected, ALL is lost, at this stage in proceedings.

  3. John Lord

    “It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards” (Tony Abbott).

  4. paul walter

    I can’t blame John Lord for that bleak comment. Both major parties have made a virtue of snubbing voters post election, eg NSW and QLD state Labor concerning Privatisations.

    Abbott has tended to go one step further. He not only breaks promises for the sheer glee of it, but energetically and perversely always attempts to push malignant policies diametrically opposed to what both the public and common sense would advocate.

    I liked Victoria Rollinson’s last para: I want to see a bit more common sense from the Greens and a bit less timidity from Labor, I think we need a restatement of the 2007 Kevin 07 campagn, that combines good policy, delivered clearly, something that explains the situation as as it really is and fills the public with the hope of at least some improvement or escape from the present political sterility.

  5. Rezblah

    The only thing the bullying fascist pigs we call our government understand is a bigger bully with a bigger stick. It would be nice to be able to take the higher ground, but really, is it worth the risk of another abbot term?

    Unfortunately this is no longer the real world in Australian politics. if labor really want to win this, they will need to get a bloody big stick, get down in the gutter, and start whacking the endless stream of lollipops the government serves up out of the park, beginning with abbots dual citizenship.

    If they don’t then don’t be surprised if we go the way of the UK, the noble hand wringing approach just isn’t going to cut it when ur up against the seditious filth of the Murdoch propaganda machine.

  6. Keitha Granville

    Stick with Column A – frighten them. They won’t have to tell lies to do it.
    Rezblah is right – we need a bigger bully. It’s no longer time to turn the other cheek, it’s time to hit back. All the things you told your children not to do.
    SO, Labor has to tell people –
    They’re not going to do it IN THIS TERM, which means they are going to do it – probably in this term,because they lie all the time.
    Labor must pull out as many figures as they can to show how much ordinary costs wil rise for ordinary people with a GST increase – so that the average punter can see his groceries and rent and smokes and beer and EVERYTHING will cost more. And that he probably won’t have a job because all of the jobs are being given to Chinese companies and their workers. I hate the idea of being xenophobic, but I’d rather do that than have another minute with the LNP in government.

  7. Blinkyewok

    Surely we can get rid of Abbott govt; but it will take a united effort from Greens, Labor and independents. Apart from Climate change organisations, Human rights groups, unions, the AMA, NGO’s, renewable energy companies, other business groups, Aboriginal legal services and every organisation or group which has had funding cut and been lied to by Abbott should be asked to campaign against govt. in lead up to election.

  8. panzerooBlackheathian

    to be fair the electoral system in the UK is different to the one here. Cameron got in on the back of just 30% of the votes and the Labour vote over there was split by the Scottish nationalist party.

  9. John Kelly

    Why not approach the campaign with the issue of trust? Surely Abbott has given enough ammunition to demonstrate he is untrustworthy.

  10. stephentardrew

    Right on John just bash the lying and deception day in and day out. Abbott would. Look what he did with Julia. If the opposition can’t get traction from his lies then they are as incompetent as they appear to many of us.

  11. mars08

    What would thrill me tremendously is the ALP deciding to NOT play the game the Coalition’s rules, on Abbott’s home ground.

    It’ would be great if the ALP could stop reinforcing the old fears around budget deficits, asylum seekers, data retention, terrorism and welfare payments. It would be lovely if the ALP could stop pandering to the fools, bogans and bedwetters who, by their ignorance and bigotry…. are afraid of every little bump in the night. Just stop confirming the bogus fears generated by the Coalition (and the sensationalist media)… stop collaborating and negotiating with Abbott and supporting his foolish fear-mongering.

  12. paul walter

    Mars.. I only live in hope, because there is not much else is left. I wrote my own response out of despair as much as anything.

  13. stephentardrew

    John Lord I think a version of that statement should be the mantra of the left. I keep waiting for a log and consistent attack from the opposition parties. The fact that they are all captured by neo-liberal capitalism prevents a truly critical analysis of the current state of affairs. The trouble is the next collapse is going to be a horror show while the militarised police will acts as deterrent to protesters.

    “Yes, many people will die when the New World Order is established, but it will be a much better world for those who survive.” – Henry Kissinger.

    Most just don’t get it this guy is a undeniable war criminal protected and revered by many of those who would crush any dissent.

    We are living in dangerous times when the Kissinger’s, Bushes, Howard’s and Blair’s are given deference as statesmen while they are all war criminals.

    This says one thing, and one thing alone, that they will willing use the same strategies to maintain power and control.

    On last night’s Drum the panel were discussing the GOP ragtag of evil, dysfunctional, irrational, morally-challenged narcissists as it they were normal people with the assumption that probably the US election will be between Bush and Clinton. No mention of Bernie Sanders. The political prejudice was wide open for all to see yet most people would see this as a rational discussion.

    As you know I am not a conspiracy theorist however these trends are worrying the hell out of me and I consider myself a rational player.

  14. John Hermann

    In the Cameron example, many had the impression that the opposition Labour leader and the Lib-Dem leader were weak, unprincipled and incompetent. That helped the Tories immensely, quite apart from their spin and propaganda campaigns.

    I have no doubt that the next Australian federal election will be unloseable for Labor if, and only if, they have the courage to change their leader well ahead of the election.

  15. Paolo Soprani

    The Labor Party is in on it, too heavily compromised to be able to lay a glove on Abbott. This is the main overwhelming problem. Look at Tony Burke for example.

  16. Pingback: The election: hope versus fear – » The Australian Independent Media Network | lmrh5

  17. David Stewart

    Its a rather sad moment when you sit back and realise that the LNP could actually win this next election – on the backs of ignorant Australian voters who couldn’t give a rats arse, until that ship sink, and the rats then desert that sinking ship… for a refugee boat! Hey! worse things have happened in this world. An old motto I told myself over and again when I was a young sailor in the RAN in the 80’s (when you could never trust a rumour) – never believe anything, unless and until it’s actually happened or happening!

  18. Matters Not

    Labor Party is in on it, too heavily compromised to be able to lay a glove on Abbott

    Perhaps. But it seems to me that they haven’t even tried. I wonder why this rort is not subject to an airing at the moment.

    The then-Opposition leader claimed $9 347 in work expenses for the whirlwind visit – despite not even staying in the city overnight … I really don’t know how you could spend $10,000 in one day in Tamworth.

    “We desperately need new guidelines on what constitutes an entertainment expense and what’s government business because we’re heading nowhere at the moment

    That was back then. But nothing happened. Needless to say there’s more:

    The parliamentary entitlements register shows taxpayers forked out $8 800 for a private return charter flight for Mr Abbott from Sydney to Tamworth on January 25, 2012. There is no indication on the register of where the other $547 was spent.

    $547 suggests a fairly hefty bar bill. Chopper Bishop must feel particularly aggrieved.

    Please explain why the MSM won’t mention this? And why Labor is so silent.

    When it comes to ‘rorts’ Abbott is in a class of his own.

  19. bossa

    I’m sure Abbott will try to provoke a violent ‘racist’ event that can be portrayed as terrorism. Hell, the AFP might even throw in a few raids in the final week of the election campaign to scare the willies out of these armchair ANZACS.

    Evil can always find a way.

  20. Mr. T.M. Hassan

    I can easily see Toe Rag Abbott staging his own 9/11 to win an election. He could easily get a few robot controlled drone planes and fly them into some sky scrapers in Melb. and Sydney. That would clinch it with the bogan knuckle dragging rednecks for sure.

  21. ianmac

    Yep. Unfortunately find mesel’ as cynical as all of the above…
    B. Shorten is a Mole, and the majority of Labour opposition,followers.
    Australia 85%foreign owned by mining = 85% owned by merde-ocracy. Murdoch a puppet of Brezinzki &/or the CPR of amerika.
    Do so wish there was a credible opposition or a clearer understanding by the electorate of how corruptzi the politics (& politicians) in this country have become..! (Swearword).

  22. Annie B

    @ Victoria Rollison — a good, thought provoking and probing article.

    @Paul Walter – –

    Agree with your observations in your final paragraph ( August 8, 2015 at 11:56 am ) referring to a revisit of Rudd 07, with some very clear thinking to be put forward – and an appeal to the masses that makes sense – that they can understand, and get their teeth into.


    Have over some months, at appropriate times, ( & perhaps at risk of life and limb !! 😉 – ) … asked a number of people – friends, family and a couple of neighbors – quite simply ‘What do you think about Australias’ politics at the moment ? ‘ …. A more wide open question, one could not ask. I don’t need to enumerate the responses – just to summarise them. – ( only two brushed off the question ).

    The overall response was that most were not in any way concerned, either way ( Labor or LNP ) for the country … they were NOT afraid, ( I did ask ” are you afraid of say – terrorism ? ” ). A resounding ‘NO’. … Fear had not, apparently, got them – and it was largely apparent that they would sail along to the next election, and no doubt vote again, the way they would think to, when the time comes. .. The Greens did not come up very well, sadly – ( presumably because they could not make government – my supposition there ). …. I did not press the point.

    Anyway, THAT was the impression I got, without pushing any envelopes. …. Doesn’t take Einstein to see a pattern emerging – the laid-back, ‘who gives a rats’, unthinking, unblinking Aussie speaking. ….. However, that ‘something’ emerged … which was a complete lack of fear – – the fear-mongering monster at the helm is not getting his fear workings across. If he was, there’d have been much more said ( I believe ) about specific – and personally perceived – fears. …. It simply, was not there. …. And these were people quite willing to give a little time to the subject. … and many comments were quite willingly given.

    No-one ( and this surprised me ) told me to mind my own bloody business.

    So – the Abbutt does not appear to have won with fear mongering tactics, but then I did not canvass the entire population of Australia !!!!! …. but it has to be a bit of a plus ? … from a tiny cross section of the community ?

    Perhaps someone SHOULD canvass the entire population – in a different way to polls and forums ?

    ( I have no suggestions as to how that could be done, except perhaps by more of the probing and questioning phone calls made presumably to many in the population – and made to me, by both parties in the recent [ 2 years ] past – the last one, only 2 months or so back ). That might bring about perhaps a 40% response at best, but it is better than zero !!

  23. kathysutherland2013

    @ Blinkyewok, I don’t think there’s much chance of a united effort between Labor, Greens and Independents, sadly.

  24. eli nes

    sadly not ‘if only it was that simple’ ‘if only it were true’.
    Murdoch my be a lost cause but there are hundreds of windows that can be ‘poster-ised’ for passers by, every interview could have three slogans about the rabbutt’s men and economic mismanagement ie a few billion for SA and hundreds of billions to the yanks, japs, koreans, spanish and who knows who else. robb on sugar, robb on chinese fta now for them and as late as 2024 for us and by then the chinese will own everything and be exporting to themselves.go to colworth and look at home brand see where the contents are sourced. go to the fish counter see where the ‘barramundi’ is sourced. find some ammo and give karl and kochie the questions.

  25. paul walter

    I should add that although this story has been in the background for a day or two, only a TV report tonight really brought home just how sick, craven and cynical this politics is.

    I’m not a huge supporter of open borders, but this has nothing to do with border security or anything remotely the like. Cruelty for the fun of it, and/or typical Abbott diversionary tactics.
    The cynicism of it stuns me.

  26. Annie B

    According to the article Paul … the excuse was she was “moved to Darwin for operational reasons” ….

    ” Moved >> for operational reasons” – my a*se. …. A viciously cruel and vindictive way of getting a message across, and heaven help us, this draconian government seem to be successfully doing just that.

    A similar occurrence took place about 6 months back, with a husband removed to Darwin, to be deported – forever …

    A shameless, brazen, shameful and evil government, we have here.

    Sarah Hanson-Young is totally correct – it is INHUMANE to do this – and I hope the international authorities come down as hard as possible on abbutt and his cronies.

    I doubt it is a diversion – I think it is simply the mindset of a very vile fascist type government, with all that this implies. The Abbutt / Dutton combination is a union made in hell.


    Notice the ABC is getting into them at the moment … maybe the guv’mint should not have threatened ‘Aunty’ in any way, after all ?? …

  27. paul walter

    I can’t come to grips with their outlook.

  28. gangey1959

    “Abbott needs to scare the electorate into thinking they’ll lose their jobs, they’ll lose their homes, they’ll be destitute and on the street if they don’t do what they’re told and vote for Abbott’s Liberals.”
    I’m SORRY. It’s all my fault. I didn’t vote for the lying stealing misogynistic racist pommy bastard scum sucking leech of a pm. Or his party faithful representatives. As a result, I have no job, no longer do I own a mortgage, and I can’t afford my rent. Sadly, very sadly, I am not alone. As I said, I’M SORRY.
    Please mr abbott, you useless piece of crap, if I promise cross my heart and hope to die that I will not vote Green / Ind. but will vote for the 2 incumbents who share your colours and class can I and the rest of the people you took out as collateral damage have our jobs back? Please.
    On another topic, there has been much written about Labors silence an most important issues. What must the murdoch press have as a backlog of headlines waiting for election time? The mind boggles.

  29. Annie B

    @ Gangey1959 ….

    I am very sorry to hear that you are on the wrong end of things in your life. … But you know, as we all know, it is not your fault – for not voting this way or that etc. … As each has to take his / her own responsibilities, there are often situations where a person is indeed at fault – by their own un-disciplined approach to life. … I am however, – – NOT saying this about you.

    I do however, think you are wrong. … Australian are not so easily led, when it comes to the crunch – and the abbutts’ approach ( which you might have noticed he has dropped of late ), to dumb down, alienate and put under a blanket of fear, the Australian people, has not – overall worked. … Mind you, there is no telling when he will re-introduce this tactic of fear-mongering …. and if he does, it will be political timing ( as HE sees it ).

    There are many out there ( barring the hardened, ” I vote LNP no matter what ” bods ), who are waking up to this monster at the helm. … … His current unpopularity supports this shift in matters.

  30. kizhmet

    Splashed across several pages of the Daily Tele today – ALP will increase power bills 78%, job losses etc etc etc. The latest Newspoll – showing a significant swing to ALP in 2PPP – was relegated to page five; the other way around it would have been plastered on the front page.

    I read the comments sections of the major papers – rarely bother with the articles. I have seen a slight increase in those negatively reflecting Abbott and this horror government. Swinging voters seem to be swinging away from LNP presently. Let’s hope it continues!

  31. Pingback: ‘Abbott will wreck everything, so vote Labor for a brighter future’. | olddogthoughts

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