As this period before an election is like the night before Christmas, it might be an appropriate time to draw together some of the disparate points that have emerged during the federal election campaign or at least those that have occurred to me. Tony Abbott and his team have performed extremely well and should win. One of the results of the team campaigning so well together, in opposition, has been the emergence of a strong leadership group that will be the powerhouse of a good government. The strange thing about the Labor party’s campaign was its total lack of a theme. It seems that the tactic was to promote Kevin Rudd in a presidential style and hope for the best. But I suspect that the more the people saw of him the more they were reminded of the low points in his previous time as Prime Minister. It deserves a longer discussion, but what has happened is that the ALP staked its future on Rudd and when that asset turned out to be of no value, the party was left with nothing. On economics, most people are now thoroughly confused about budgets, the cost of promises and programs and all of the bizarre terminology that goes with them. So they decided to vote on the basis of a general impression of each side’s position. Let us try to keep that impression favourable. I was struck by the number of smaller promises of grants, or funding as they call it now, to what seemed like every club in Australia. Very good for them no doubt and it shows how wide the ambit of the Federal Government already is.
During the election campaign I came to realise how things have changed since my day: there is not much wit or sparkle in campaigns now and I think this comes from the unfortunate tightening up on public discourse; it worries me that politicians are now so scared of the thought police or being hauled up before some tribunal and having to justify themselves, that they cannot speak their minds like normal people. One of Tony Abbott’s real contributions has been to speak his mind and not only has it been refreshing, but it has produced the trust and confidence in him that is clearly there. Undoubtedly, the pyrotechnic highlight of the campaign was the incendiary reaction of Rudd to newspapers that dared disagree with him. The logic or political science behind that tactic eludes me.
Also on the media front, the ABC of course comes in for attention, but this time from a different angle: how can it be that it has so many programs on so many stations and channels, all repeating each other and no doubt demanding instant attention from anyone they want to interview? Surely we are not maligning the public broadcaster to say that this layering of programs is crazy duplication and completely uneconomic. The chutzpah prize for sheer audacity during the campaign goes to the authors of the ALP pamphlet circulating widely that proudly claims that Kevin Rudd has repealed the carbon tax. By no stretch of the normal use of language could Rudd’s abandoning Gillard’s tax and announcing his own tax be called repealing it. But the claim had its good side: people see straight through that sort of hypocrisy and reject those who promote it.
I knew it was only a matter of time before the story of Kevin Rudd living in the back seat of a car was given another outing and, sure enough, right on cue, there it was, told with touching affection by the good wife at his campaign opening. The folksy story is presumably intended to develop some mythology about Rudd’s operatic rise from such humble origins to the highest office in the land, a sort of Australian version of From Log Cabin to White House. It could be called From Kingswood to Kirribilli. The difficulty with the narrative is that Kevin Rudd is no Abe Lincoln.
The other night I caught one of my neighbours throwing out his ALP signs that were supposed to be used in the campaign. I had been threatening him all year with some dire consequences about those signs, not for displaying them but for not displaying them. It seemed to me perfectly clear that exposing the ALP message could do wonders in geeing up the vote for more responsible parties at a time when the mere mention of the names Gillard or Rudd sends the gentrified denizens of South Yarra into a frenzy. But I half-suspected that he might feel too embarrassed to show the flag and weaken at the last moment and so it has turned out to be. Naturally I pressed him about this gross act of disloyalty. I cannot give you his verbatim reply as this is a family magazine and does not welcome such exotic language. However, its gist was that the Australian Labor party was doomed, Kevin Rudd was a dreadful creep who even refused to mention Julia Gillard’s achievements, the campaign was all about Rudd and that whatever people saw about Rudd they did not like. Yes. I could not put it better myself.
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