Monday, August 02, 2010

The five-pack. Five essential - if depressing - reads about the election

Mark Latham in the Financial Review:

Just as her coup against Rudd was organised by the NSW right-wing machine, Gillard's campaign is being similarly directed. Its key personnel – her chief-of-staff, Amanda Lampe, her campaign manager, Karl Bitar, and Labor's senior strategists, Mark Arbib and Bruce Hawker, all learnt their trade sitting at the feet of the long-serving NSW Premier, Bob Carr.

The Carr brand is based on five strategic ploys. Let's look at how Labor has used them over the past month.

The first is The Time-Buyer, a way of postponing a decision on a difficult issue until after the election. This is the true purpose of the Citizens' Assembly on climate change.

The second is The Diversion, a way of shifting the agenda off a vote-losing issue onto a related but different subject. This is the reason for Gillard's focus on so-called population policy, to give the appearance of a tough line on migration and asylum seekers without actually doing anything.

The third is The Illusion (of taking action), evident in Gillard's announcement of the offshore processing of refugees in East Timor, even though she made next to no preparation for establishing such a centre.

The fourth is The Sacrificial Lamb, used when a government is in desperate trouble. Cutting someone's throat can be an effective way of soaking up the electorate's anger (thanks Kevin). This then allows the government to say it is 'moving forward'.

The fifth is The Micro-Announcement, to give the appearance of a positive message, given that the media will inevitably point to the vacuous, poll-driven nature of the campaign. The safest way of countering this kind of commentary is to announce a series of small, nugget-sized policies (inexpensive and ultimately ineffective), delivered in serious forums. This is why Gillard has been rolling out micro-policies, such as retail rebates, one for selling old cars, another for buying new school uniforms. She has also been making a high number of set-piece speeches during the campaign (as Carr always did), as these convey greater gravitas from a politician than stand-up press conferences and meet-the-people type exercises.

Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald

As Prime Minister, Gillard announced three quick political fixes, the areas where, she said, the Rudd government had ''lost its way''. It was Gillard the slick. But all three have come undone.

First, she cut an emergency compromise on the government's proposed mining tax.

The aim was to buy the silence of the three big mining companies that were running an aggressive ad campaign against Labor.

It worked, but the deal didn't include the rest of the industry. Many of the others are now banding together to start a new ad campaign against Labor.

Second, Gillard tried to blunt Tony Abbott's attack over the influx of boat people. But the plausibility of her plan to build an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers in East Timor fell apart within hours.

Third, she sought to staunch the bleeding from the gaping wound where Labor used to have a climate change policy. But her Band-Aid ''citizens' assembly'' has been greeted with derision.

Read the full thing.

Paul Barrett is a former Defence Department head:

"The problem with this suite of approaches is that, while they immeasurably enhance the power and influence of the spin doctors, they reduce the public service, upon which governments depend more than they realise, to a state of learned helplessness. Inherent in the spin approach is a massive concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s or Premier’s Office because the government stands or falls on micro-managing the government’s relationships with the media and ensuring that everyone stays “on message”. Hand in hand with this is the contraction of the government’s repertoire of available responses to a single response: media management."

Please read the full piece.

Imre Salusinszky in The Australian:

Labor's Orwellian dream of making Kevin Rudd into a "nonperson" within hours of his downfall, and "moving forward" to an election, was destined to fail, according to psychiatrists and other experts on the collective unconscious consulted by Inquirer...

Douglas Kirsner, an expert on the history of psychoanalysis at Deakin University, likens the demise of a popular politician -- and Rudd's approval ratings were in the 60s as recently as nine months ago -- to the end of a marriage or love affair.

"The public has had no time to process it," Kirsner told Inquirer...

"People feel they voted for something and somebody, and the rug's been pulled out from under their feet," he says. "The public is nonplussed about it all."

Please read the full thing. (HT: Judith Sloan)

Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Elect Gillard and what you'll get is Abbott populism at one remove. What you won't get is a government with the confidence to decide for itself what the economy needs and what is politically achievable, if there is a willingness to put up a fight and lose a bit of skin.

Why is the Rudd-Gillard government so reactive when it comes to economic management? Because, when the public is asked which party is better at managing the economy, its answer almost always favours the Liberals. By 47 per cent to 35 per cent, according to a recent Newspoll.

The public is convinced the party of the workers wouldn't be much good at running the economy. And in its heart, Labor fears the public is right.

Here's the full thing.


Related Posts

. Why Abbott is Gillard-lite; Why Gillard is Abbott-Lite

. Where to look

. "Moving forward" - now for the jingle