Monday, August 2, 2010

Election 2010: Day 17 (or alea iacta est)

imagesAs Kent Brockman would say “Treason season started early this year”, as we had the rather bizarre sight on twitter of David Speers informing us:

Julia Gillard autographed an Australian flag today. Woops. Breach of official govt protocols. Full details at 3pm on Sky News.

Oh gosh, would Julia be spending election day in stir? Or would she be sent to the bloody tower ala Mary Queen of Scots?

Fortunately it was discovered via some some quick fire ALP operatives that John Howard himself had signed a flag (and as we all know there is no way John Howard would have ever done anything un-Australian), so it seemed our Julia would be safe and the “full details” did not come. In fact by the 6pm news it was reduced to a “Julia even had time to sign a flag” line. Maybe all the “give us a break” and “FFS” and “WTF?” “Who gives a damn?” tweets that went Speers’s way also played a role. Who’s to say, but for a whole 3 minutes on twitter it was the topic of political discussion, proof that when it comes to making molehills out of anthills, nothing does it better than social media.

100802_election_fp_2Today was the day that (to quote every single West Wing fan) it was decided to “Let Julia be Julia”. Plastered all over the front pages of the pages was the declaration that Julia was taking control.

We were going to see the “Real Julia”.

Now of course I had been calling for this all last week but I wasn’t suggesting she tell everyone that she was doing it!

The big risk is not taking control, the big risk was saying that that is what she was doing. Bold? Yep. Refreshing? Yes, unless you think she is cynically “being real”. Smart? Not so sure.

Whatever the case, the Rubicon of this election has now been crossed for Julia Gillard and the ALP. There’s no changing from here. Win or lose we can trace it back to today (or of course back to her challenging Rudd, or of course back to Rudd backing down on the ETS, or of course Rudd being all mea culpa on insulation, or of course back to Rudd and Swann not being able to sell the deficit). She was in effect started the kick for home and it’s a long way out.

The reason why it is a risk to say she is now the “real Julia” is it does open her up to claim she had been “fake Julia” – or as is going round the twitterverse “foolya Julia”. Mark Bahnish on The Drum nails it nicely writing “First rule of The West Wing, you don’t talk about what you decide in the West Wing”. Do Julia, not say!

Of course what she means when she says she is being real is not that she has been fake, but that she has actually been a shadow of herself – a sort of on display-self. Anyone who follows politics could see this. Election campaigns are highly scripted and controlled things and some leaders work well within such constraints. Rudd for eg loved it. Julia though needs the shackles removed (I think she should actually comment on how good it feels). Perhaps they felt the best way to give the campaign a bit of an electric shock therapy was to make the announcement – take control of the media (which it certainly did) and then talk about what she wants to talk about.

What she wanted to talk about today was education – announcing a change to Family Tax Benefit A so that it wouldn’t go down when kids reach 16. Yeah it’s welfare, but not really middle class welfare, more – as George Orwell would write – lower-upper-middle class welfare. And to be honest it does seem a bit of a no brainer given a vast majority of kids stay at school till 17-18. She also proposed giving principals at public schools more autonomy. This one would annoy the hell out of the Liberal Party because it is something they would like to do as well.

Tony Abbott was meanwhile up in Cairns, making it the only time thus far I have wished I was with Abbott. He was talking about tourism, which is nice – it is a huge industry. Having lived there for 11 years however, I can say that the real killer for tourism in places like Cairns is not a lack of Government programs, but a high Australian dollar. As Matt Cowill pointed out to me, the one policy that might actually have helped reduce the Australian dollar was the RSPT.  I doubt that was part of Abbott’s announcement.

Of course tied with the “let Julia be Julia” line is also my asking (ok shouting at) the ALP to start talking about the economy. For example today came this nice little tidbit:

Aust to keep triple-A rating for years: Moody's

Australia's strong institutions and low government debt levels mean the country is highly likely to keep its valued triple-A rating for years to come, a Moody's analyst said.

Australia enjoys one of the lowest ratios of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) in the world with an average of 16.4 per cent between 2004 and 2007, according to Moody's.

Despite a "permanent" deterioration in debt ratios among triple-A nations, Australia is still expected to outshine, and by far, most of its peers with a meagre 22.5 per cent in 2013, according to Moody's.

Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States all show debt levels exceeding 80 per cent of GDP in 2013.

Hang on, low debt? Someone better not tell Joe Hockey, lest you want Grumpy Joe to make a return. But someone sure as hell should be telling the Australian public…

It seems Julia has finally remembered that it is her job to tell the public the good news on the economy. Tonight on Today Tonight she accepted the challenge to again debate Tony Abbott. Her condition though was that the topic would just be the economy. The problem for Tony Abbott is the date is set for this Sunday, which is also the date of the Liberal Party’s campaign launch, meaning there is no chance he will do it. (Nice move by her by the way – she would have known the date; no rule you have to be sporting in a campaign).

But he will have to agree to another date and he will have to agree to it being about the economy. He’ll most likely counter with wanting a debate about asylum seekers – she should ignore it, and say yes that and education and health and broadband etc etc etc.

So finally we not only get the real Julia, but the ALP have realised “It’s the economy, stupid”. Only Day 17. Well done guys.


All of this Real Julia news of course comes off the back of the Neilson Polls and today’s Newspoll which has the ALP and LNP 50-50, but the ALP way back on primary votes. This apparently is panic stations for all in the ALP – with a few commentators doing everything but calling the election for the Libs. I think we should all just relax a little (easy to do when you’re not in the ALP and wondering if you’ve blown it). First we have 20 days to go. Secondly, Julia and the ALP had a crap week last week. It was absolutely horrible. Coming off the back of the misguided inclusion of the citizen’s assembly (which Julia this morning tried to clarify somewhat, making it sound less like a policy advisory group than it has been made out to be) and then the Laurie Oakes leaks and then the other leaks and Rudd and Latham and earlobes and yada yada there was zero chance for any message to get out, and zero chance for any positive view of the ALP or Julia.

And yet they’re only 50-50 and Julia leads the Preferred PM 50-35. Now usually the PM will have a better PM rating due to incumbency, but Julia has hardly any incumbency advantage so a 50-35 lead is certainly significant. If a party leads by miles (as the ALP did in 07) the preferred PM is a bit of a side show, but when it is close I think it take a bit more prominence.

Also today came out the weekly Essential Media Poll. It showed the ALP up 54-46. A big difference from the Newspoll, and yet on preferred PM, Julia only led 48-30 – not all that different from Newspoll. The one great advantage the ALP still has in this election is that Tony Abbott is the alternative. And regardless of what spin you want to put on any polls, none of them show that the people are hot on the idea of him as PM.

The old adage that oppositions don’t win elections, Governments win them is completely on display in this campaign. If Abbott is PM on August 22 the story will be how he won by doing nothing terribly bad, and that the Government threw it away. Today the ALP bet their entire stake on Julia and the economy.

Let the dice fly.


Shaun said...

Swan was up here on the Central Coast today and was interview on local ABC. First 5 minutes was about the GFC and how the government helped small businesses survive. Good stuff and with a local flavour as he just wandered through Erina Fair talking to business owners. There should be more of this.

Anonymous said...

Grog, your comment is reassuring in this cesspool laughably called the news. Yes Sky News does present themselves as ridiculous sometimes in their rush to get out "breaking news" even if its wrong. Watched Media Watch tonight and Jonathon Holmes commented on Sky newsreaders not being able to present the latest CPI rates correctly and how the RBA may act. Can only see ABC 24 going the same way. Question is Rupes does not like competition so who will come bloodied and bruised.

Darryl Snow said...

We have got to this.

Who Am I to Question the Die? (Luke Rhinehart)

Hopeful, but not quite sure, that enough has been done in the time allotted.

And Aug 21 is my birthday. I am looking for something other than a Sussex St save.

Go Julia. Give them the slip of history. All of them.

Be yourself, Julia. No-one is better qualified

Jaeger said...

It will be interesting to see if Abbott's pen^H^H^Hego will agree to a second debate. I think Julia has wedged him a ripper, given the previous position demanding more debates: "I'm busy" isn't going to cut it with the voters. Cue Gillard trotting out the quotes ("Smears!" insists Robb), both on the debates and the economy.

I would love her to accuse Abbott of not being "man" enough to face her on the economy - that should get his blood boiling. (Possibly too inflammatory for the misogynistic voters, though.)

Alastair Baillieu-McEwan said...

Grog, I heard Annabel Crabb talking with Red Symons on ABC Melbourne 774 this morning where she referred to "her" theory that what was being played out was an episode of West Wing. This was pretty much in exactly the same terms you wrote in your post on Wednesday 28 July ("letting Bartlett be Bartlett" etc). I was pretty amazed by this absolute coincidence (?). Is this just a meeting of minds with you and Annabel or is there more to it than that? Perhaps she is just following the Leader and not copying the Leader.

Grog said...

A.B.E - a meeting of minds, I think - AC acknowledged my post on twitter - but she hadn't read it when she wrote hers.

(gotta say there's been quite a few around talking the WW analogy)

StBob said...

Too much is being made of Abbott backing down on 2nd debate because it was on Liberal Party launch day. He could have just picked another day and challenged her back. In fact by picking that date she gave him an out so it looks like it was a stunt unless she knew that he knew that...uugh I've got a headache now.

StBob said...

Another strategy Abbott missed is he could have accepted debate on Economy provided Julia accepted debate on Border Protection a week later. They would have creamed it of course (but not for the right reasons IMO).

2353 said...

Is Grog really Annabel Crabb?

Seriously someone at work today was reading from an internet newsletter that Australia ranks well into the 100's out of 196 countries on public debt @ around 7% of GDP - Canada (with a Conservative Govt that you could argue Abbott would have acted in a similar way) was well above 20 with something like 70% of GDP.

Public debt - what public debt? Facts like this - properly argued - would blow the LNP out of the water for the next couple of elections. Why hasn't the ALP been shouting this from the rooftops for months?

RodH said...

Its rather funny that so many people were calling for Gillard to be her 'real self", but when she decided to be, and, being her "real self", was honest enough to say that she agreed with them, they panned her for doing so!

If the first rule about being your "real self" is that you aren't allowed to be up front about it, it rather limits the number of those who will genuinely be able to do so, don't you think? ;)

All too reminiscent of those journos who have been decrying the "bland" campaign, but then immediately jump all over any honest expression of belief as if it is evidence of possession by the devil and those who whine about the absence of "policy" discussion , but instantly divert any attempt by politicians to actually engage in it by jumping on puffed up stories about "leaks" and the like.

We only ever get the election campaigns that the supposed "political" journos and news editors are prepared to allow, I'm afraid.

Grog said...

The point Rob is those who wanted her to be the real Julia wanted her to just do it - we would all see it by her actions not by her telling us. By saying she was doing was I thought a bit odd - a bit like a magician explaining the trick as he does it.

BUT I think part of the reason she did it is because she wanted it to make an impact, and it certainly did.

There is no doubt the campaign has changed - for the good or bad, we shall see. I certainly think the way she has interacted and been over the last few days has been much improved. The only question is having said she is being "real" will the public think she is faking it?

Matt Cowgill said...

Thanks for the link!