A Po-Mo Campaign About a Campaign

Posted on Wed 08/04/2010 by


Remember: Australia’s Liberal (True definition) is comparable to the USA’s Republicans and their Labor is like our Democrats of today (not from the 1950’s). It’s interesting how similar the Lies and Tactics are! —ed

Andrew BoltBy Andrew Bolt

THIS is the election for morons. For the easily fooled. For people so clueless they wouldn’t vote if it wasn’t the law.

And so – as “the real” Julia Gillard spectacularly confirmed this week – we have the election almost entirely about spin.

In fact, it’s now a campaign about a campaign, as Labor spins even its spin.

Never before have I heard a Labor or Liberal leader concede mid-campaign their old spin was no good, even deceitful, and declare they would try a new “real” spin.

And never have I seen the news then dominated for two days by a debate about whether the new spin is better – a spin backed by not a single policy or action to make a scrap of difference to the lives of a single voter.

Prime Minister Gillard this week announced she was changing a floundering campaign that for weeks had presented her as an air-brushed, slogan-heavy, pearl-necklaced queen.

“I think it’s time for me to make sure that the real Julia is well and truly on display,” she declared.

But what did this actually mean? Gillard talked and talked about seeming more real, but what did she actually do to demonstrate the difference between “the real Julia” and the fake one?

In trouble, she changed not the substance but the spin. All the difference I can detect in the past two days is that Gillard’s accent has perhaps flattened again, that she meets a few more startled shoppers, that’s she’s more aggressive and that her pearls were yesterday replaced with a scarf of the Central Coast Mariners.

That’s it. Unless we include a promise on Monday to give state school principals more power to hire and fire teachers, and run their own budgets.

Great spin, showing Gillard as passionate about education (which she is) and having the guts to push policies she knows will be loathed by the teaching unions.

But, as I said, this is an election about spin, not substance – our first post-modernist campaign – and, as with so many policies of both sides, the fine print on this one showed it was yet again more about seeming than doing.

This policy would apply to only 1000 schools that volunteered, and relied on the agreement of the state governments that actually run schools and decide principals’ powers.

How many of the policies of both sides are likewise just spin, designed more to polish the leader than improve the nation?

Perhaps the biggest lint in this spin cycle is Gillard’s $400 million cash-for-clunkers plan to make Labor seem green.

Here’s a policy that pretends to clean up carbon dioxide emissions by handing $2000 to every driver of an old bomb who promises to buy a new green car instead – a car it will take a year’s emissions to build.

The cost: about 200 times more than you’d spend to plant trees to do the same job. Benefit to the planet: zero.

Spin, spin, spin. How many more examples do you want?

Gillard spends $16 billion on overpriced school buildings to keep builders in work and has the hide to brand it the “Building the Education Revolution”.

She promises a new detention centre in East Timor to seem like she really will stop the flood of boat people, even though East Timor’s parliament insists it will never be built.

To seem consultative, she promises a 150-strong citizens’ assembly to decide on an emissions trading scheme she says she’s committed to anyway.

And she makes “Moving Forward” her campaign slogan without revealing which disasters she’s moving forward from, or which future she’s moving forward to.

Just more spin. If you don’t believe me, name a single policy Gillard has announced that’s about making the country measurably better tomorrow than it is today.

Even Labor’s biggest spending commitment, made last year, is just a pretence of building our future.

What will the $43 billion national broadband scheme really mean to most Australians, even assuming it’s not a white elephant?

Answer: faster downloads of movies for couch potatoes who should get off their fat backsides.

Whoopi do. Moving forward – to change the channel on the idiot box.

If only the Liberals were much better.

But Tony Abbott, knowing Labor is self-destructing, is under no pressure to take risks by making big policy calls that could make him a target.

Lower taxes, Abbott cries, wanting to seem the traditional minding-your-money Liberal. Except, of course, the most he will do is promise the barest minimum – just 0.5 per cent lower business taxes than Labor, and then only for small companies.

True, he does promise to cut immigration to seem in touch with a mutinous public – but he’ll cut it by not much more than what we’d expect to occur without intervention.

And then there’s his wink to those who rightly fear that the great multicultural experiment has left us plagued by rival tribes, ethnic gangs and religious hate preachers.

“We’ve got to be confident that they’re going to join the team and they’re going to make a contribution,” he says, trumping Gillard’s even vaguer hint that we need “the right kind of migrants”.

Got a policy to back the slogan, Tony? Julia? Of course not. These were mere words to send a signal, not announce an action. It’s seeming, not doing.

Go through almost every line of political rhetoric and contrast it to what’s actually offered.

Gillard says she “believes in climate change”, yet has shelved the green tax on emissions that she once sold as our most urgently needed fix.

Abbott has long said he wants to “stop the new taxes”, yet will himself impose a new levy on big business to pay for his absurdly generous parental leave scheme, promised back when he was behind and still had to be bold.

That scheme, too, is meant as spin. Abbott never believed in such a flagrant discrimination against stay-at-home mothers, yet now flogs a plan that will give working mothers up to $75,000 each if they promise to go back to work and dump baby in child care before the poor thing turns even one.

Had to do it, you see. He was being made to seem a woman hater by Labor and the Left, and needed a policy to make him seem he was not.

That’s why he’s also dragged his shy wife and daughters on to the campaign, to seem not what Labor says.

Meanwhile Gillard calls in for five hours at the studios of Women’s Weekly, which publishes 13 pages of carefully posed and puffed pictures to make her seem more girly-next-door and not at all the “real Julia” she is this week.

All this seeming, and much of it to mask what both candidates once were.

Gillard was once a leader of the Socialist Forum, recycling former Communist Party members into Labor, and last year ran the most massively rorted Government program in our history – yet now wishes to seem a tough-on-boat-people hard-head who’d “run the heaviest ruler” on spending.

Abbott was once a fierce workplace reformist and Big Australia spruiker who now wishes to seem a go-slower who won’t touch workplace laws and wants immigration slashed.

Yes, all this seeming – and how much of it has anything to do with the doing of the next government?

Do you have any idea of how your life will change under either leader?

Heard either side talk, for instance, about some modern incarnation of a Snowy River Scheme? Of some inspiring new outreach to match the Colombo Plan? Of a reform to match what John Howard did on the docks?

No. One leader can’t think of a new idea, and the other barely dares. Safer to merely seem, not do.

So intelligent politicians must now resort to the trashiest spin to win the votes of fools who’ll be wowed more by the toss of a Gillard scarf or a spin, spin, spin of Abbott’s bike.

Hello, folks. Wake up. You’re about to vote on your future. Demand Gillard and Abbott at least offer one.

Andrew Bolt is a journalist and columnist writing for The Herald Sun in Melbourne Victoria Australia.
Read more excellent articles from Andrew Bolt’s Blog

Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and is a regular commentator on Channel 9’s Today show and ABC TV’s Insiders. He will be heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of new radio station MTR 1377. His book ‘Still Not Sorry’ was released in 2006.