The 35 day romp that has been the 2010 Australian election campaign drew to a close last night. I am sure more than a few members of the Australian public will breathe a collective sigh of relief at the departure of political messaging from their television, mailboxes and lamp posts.
While I’m sure there were instances of clear communication and passionate people discussing policy in some detail across the electorate during this campaign, at a national level it seemed to me that fear was going head to head with ignorance for the prize.
Julia Gillard and Labor seemed to be focussed on telling everyone how bad Tony Abbott would be for the Australian economy and we would all be waking up to work choices come monday after the election. The five minute party political broadcast broadcast started out with how lucky it was they’d saved Australia from the GFC, a smiling line about new computers for schools and then back to how risky a vote for Abbott would be for all Australians.
It seemed like the couple of years I’ve now spent in Australia, Labor’s biggest issue has been the inability to take people along with policy and direction. The mining tax was boldly decreed, when a more measured approach might have delivered both the revenue and the popularity the government desired. It seemed leading into the campaign period, a change of leadership was not enough to learn the lesson and shift the stance from tell to talk.
A sitting government has got to show both that it has performed well and that energy, conviction and direction remain strong. Some of the messages seemed to be coming from a Labor party already in opposition, crying down the Work Choices policies of a sitting liberal government. I suppose if it worked last time, it might be worth rolling out again.
Julia did get some traction with her talk on the economy. The NBN also seemed to demonstrate her knowledge of what was going on and what it might mean for all Australians. It seems a bit of a pity that the rest of her agenda didn’t carry the same fresh and positive clarity.
Tony Abbott started the campaign with a set of attributed quotes that seem to put his set of views a long way from the rest of the world’s interpretation of the word liberal. It seemed like his daughter’s description of her dad as a “lame, gay, churchy loser” was scarily accurate.
You can always expect an opposition to invest heavily in attacking a government and their efficacy. Some might even say it is the very purpose of the loyal opposition to provide a most vigorous scrutiny of those who stalk the corridors of power. Even so, the liberal campaign was laser-like in its negative focus. Arresting the mistakes of a sitting government made up three out of four points on heavy repetition and the fourth…
Stopping the boats was one of the most blatant examples of using ignorance among a target audience I have ever seen. By the time the media picked up on it enough to start running out the “flow of boats would take XX years to fill the MCG”, the effect in electorates like Lindsay were apparent.
Tony’s biggest comms achievement might just have been not having a major gaff. There was talk last night of a man who, at the start of the campaign, had made a decision about what a Prime Minister should be, how one should behave and then set about being that man. A Statesman with stamina, able to cycle from one end of this vast country to the other. For me though, the fact he ordered a shandy Thursday ended any legend before it had begun, 36 hour campaign marathon or not.
Not much to separate them then on message or tone. When you define yourself by how unlike your counterpart you are, it makes the person you are talking to spend a lot of time contemplating someone who is, quite simply, not you. I’m sure there is sound logic as to how you get to this position, but as far as manifest behaviour goes it does not seem as though it’s a smart way to get people to pay attention and think about giving you a vote.
When we train our clients in how to deliver messages to the media. Planning what will make the broadcast news is essential when chances to get on camera are scarce. While the vigour with which Tony and Julia ran out their lines when the tapes were rolling would make our media trainers proud, the guys who were writing the lines seemed content to put trite lines that just seemed over-rehearsed when they are on repeat every hour on every channel.
You end up having a relationship with the faceless men, if you hear the name repeat twenty times in twenty sentences by Mr Abbott, and the sense of motion the repetition of ‘moving forward’ has, well, it borders more on queasy seasickness than driven locomotive when Prime Minister Gillard nods, smiles and utters her mantra again.
I’d like to think that given the amount of exposure the major parties have enjoyed over the last 35 days, you could make someone believe. It seems to me like the parties used repetition instead of conversation and 35 days of repitition? That’s quite annoying.
In the 2010 Australian Election, fear went up against ignorance. It is probably actually the best possible result for Australians that thing seems headed for a draw. I hope that in this new era of conciliation politics that Laurie Oakes and the channel nine team announced last night will bring a return to the politics of vision and a future focus for Australia, delivered in a much more positive and engaging tone.
Until the next time Australia votes, at least.