Category Archives: Marketing

Values rhetoric: what the “class warfare” name calling is really about

The big talking points from the last few weeks in relation to federal politics have been around the apparent split in the ALP over compulsory superannuation and whether taxing the top two percent of income earners constitutes “class warfare.”

In a previous post, I made it clear that I’m not a policy person. I honestly don’t know whether what the government plans to do in relation to compulsory superannuation is good, not good or somewhere in between.

My understanding is that compulsory superannuation was a policy enacted by the ALP in the 1980’s and 1990’s to turn every member of the workforce into a capitalist and make every working person responsible for their own destiny by making it possible for them to pay for their own retirement rather than relying solely on the pension in their old age.

It had both micro and a macro objectives. The micro objectives revolved around making sure everyone maintained a decent standard of living by providing them with an annuity income to sustain themselves for the rest of their lives after they retired from the workforce (most of this objective got lost during the Howard period of government) and the macro objectives related to issues like the demographics of Australia in the 21st century, making sure wages growth and inflation were under control, building the financial services industry and giving the union movement a renewed purpose in the information age.

This policy has created a $1.5 trillion industry in Australia and is one of the most important economic reforms of any government (ALP or Coalition) in the country’s history.

The actual policy is not the issue I want to address in this post as what I’ve written above is pretty much all that I know in relation to it.

What is very interesting to observe is people who are experts on policy feeling extremely depressed about the national political conversation devolving to petty name calling and accusations of “class warfare” when what the current ALP government is doing in a policy sense is no different to what the Hawke and Keating government did when they were in power.

For example: the current ALP government has tripled the tax-free threshold under its carbon pricing policy, yet this gets derided as “class warfare” and socialism when it’s taking one million people out of the tax system!

How is taking one million people out of the tax system “class warfare?”

The reason it gets lumped in this sort of category and all of that other “bad stuff” the political “right” often accuses the political “left” of doing to the economy has zero to do with the actual policies the government is implementing. The reason it happens is mostly because of the values rhetoric coming from the ALP and more specifically the constituency they’re targeting in their communications!

The mere act of writing that last paragraph probably puts me at risk of being strangled by people dealing with extremely complex policy issues as it trivialises what they do for a living and the many years they’ve spent mastering such knowledge in order to provide value to the community, but it’s the truth!

When Paul Keating talks about compulsory superannuation, you’ll hear him talk in terms of financial capitalism, why it’s strange that the Coalition are opposed to universal compulsory retirement savings when such a policy would be the dream of pretty much every conservative political party around the world.

While doing this, Keating will often tell the personal story of how Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein told him that the Republicans would have kissed the Democrats if they had gotten the union movement to agree to the entire workforce saving 1% of their income for retirement let alone 9% with an agreement to get it to 15% and how strange the Coalition were to back-flip on their 1996 election promise to take the super guarantee charge to 15% of employees incomes when it was already agreed to by the union movement and they would have been the beneficiaries of any political benefits resulting from the change.

When saying these sorts of things, Keating isn’t only targeting what you’d consider the average ALP “base” voter. He’s targeting a much larger audience and aligning the ALP’s values to what they value.

When the current government talks about superannuation, all they talk about is making sure that everyone gets a “fair go” and it being an important “Labor” reform. The values rhetoric, the communication style and who the messages are targeted at are entirely different.

Another example is industrial relations. When the Keating government talked about enterprise bargaining, the emphasis of the message was on moving away from the old centralised wage fixing system and towards a system that was focused on productivity while making sure no one got left behind (which is why the “no disadvantage test” was a key part of the policy and one of the big differences between it and WorkChoices).

At the time, this was considered extremely radical. Keating will often describe the process of implementing the policy as similar to “putting the union movement in a headlock and pulling out their rotten teeth with an old pair of pliers.”

When the current government introduced the Fair Work Act, the policy wasn’t that much different to the Keating enterprise bargaining system, yet the policy is derided as a return to the old union biased centralised wage fixing system and all the bad things that were associated with it (wages breakouts, high inflation, declining productivity etc, etc, etc) without any evidence or data.

Maybe this is because the business community and certain sections of the media are angry that the government got rid of WorkChoices and want to punish the ALP out of spite.

I take a different view.

The reason there is now a call from within the ALP for a return to the Hawke/Keating method of governance has nothing to do with the policies of the current government. It’s entirely due to the values rhetoric, communication and tone coming from the current ALP leadership team and their supporters, how it’s unsustainable and how it’s contributed significantly to the ALP government’s significant decline in support.

The reason the Fair Work Act gets derided so much by certain sections of the media and the business community is not because of the policy itself. That was evident in the QANTAS dispute in November 2011. The reason it gets derided so much is because certain people in the ALP want to pretend that the policy IS centralised wage fixing in order to play to a certain constituency that they are extremely insecure about holding as their positions and power rely on their patronage and belief in the status quo.

In short: the ALP’s messaging isn’t targeting the entire Australian community. They are only focusing their messaging towards the ALP base and the union movement.

The battle right now that is going on between people like Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson and others on one side and Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and others on the other side is not one over policy.

The current policy “debate” the ALP are engaged in publicly is merely a sideshow for the real issue which revolves around the party’s long-term electoral strategy. Whenever the Hawke/Keating model is invoked by anyone, it’s really a call to end the ALP’s relentless obsession with targeting their communication to the base and their supporters and start focusing on what resonates with the rest of Australia as well as a reduction of union influence both on and within the party.

Had Hawke or Keating been accused of class warfare, they would have laughed at it because their messaging and values rhetoric was immune to such accusations and whoever was making them would simply look ridiculous. The reason the current government gets bogged down by it is because their messaging and values rhetoric is targeted squarely at “the base.” There is no persuasion mechanism to get people who aren’t voting for the ALP to vote for the ALP.

You’ll often hear Wayne Swan talk about the “fair go” while attacking billionaires such as Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest. When the ALP are labelled divisive, this is an example of what’s causing it.

What the ALP should be doing is demonstrating how without their governance and economic stewardship during the events of the global financial crisis, their investments in infrastructure, the productive workforce and the Australian community these people wouldn’t be billionaires.

I think they should be showing how the ALP made these people rich through their actions while framing prosperity and economic aspiration as a concept that can only be achieved by an active, pragmatic government rather than deriding these people as “not one of the base” and taking every opportunity to attack them for that fact.

This week’s poll from Essential Media Communications (2nd April 2013) asked respondents to rate both the ALP and the Liberal Party in relation to what attributes they associated with them. One of the most telling results was on the “divided” attribute.

Here’s the ALP’s results:

  6 July 09 14 Mar 10 27 April 11 28 May 12 2 April 13 Change since Jul 09
Divided 30% 36% 66% 73% 82% +52%

As we can see, the divided attribute has gone up 52% since July 2009. Over the last few weeks, it’s become very evident that the divide is far more than a mere personality contest over the leadership of the party. There is a real divide over policy in the ALP that has manifested itself the public debate and they have been unable to resolve it over the past three years.

Here’s the Liberal Party’s results:

  6 July 09 14 Mar 10 27 April 11 28 May 12 2 April 13 Change since Jul 09
Divided 74% 66% 49% 37% 32% +42%

This table shows that the Liberals divided attribute has fallen from 42% from 74% in July 2009 to 32% now.

I think the reason for the sharp rise in the divided attribute rating for the ALP and the sharp fall in the rating for the Liberal Party is because of values rhetoric. The ALP has forgotten where the splits are in the Liberal Party’s ideology and allowed them to unite as a party against anything the ALP propose, implement or stand for.

One of the reasons the Hawke and Keating government were able to win five elections was because they knew how to take large chunks of the Liberal Party’s philosophy and values (open markets, competition, productivity, achievement, excellence, entrepreneurial spirit) and then re-frame them on progressive, socially democratic terms.

The current ALP government seems to have forgotten how to do that. Policy positions on issues and values rhetoric are not the same thing! Tony Abbott understands this which explains why he has made such a big deal out of campaigning around blue collar, manufacturing, unionised areas and making it clear he won’t reintroduce radical free market policies such as WorkChoices.

While the ALP primary vote remains below 38%, expect the values rhetoric battles within the ALP such as the present one over “taxing” compulsory superannuation contributions to continue.

Remember to tune in for next week’s episode of “ALP Values Rhetoric Debates on public display” featuring an all time favourite of many: asylum seeker policy! … “<inaudible>”

Advertisements

Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

A few months ago I wrote this post in relation to Tony Abbott. It was based upon the ideas in George Lakoff’s book “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and it had to do with how the ALP’s relentless obsession with attacking Tony Abbott was allowing him to dictate the terms of the national conversation rather than causing him or the Coalition any real political damage.

The exact same principles apply to Kevin Rudd although there are three major differences: it’s coming from all sides of politics, it has many more dimensions and it’s far more emotionally intense.

Everything in the national debate at this very moment is falling into this dynamic and it will only amplify up until election day on September 14th this year or until there is some sort of dramatic intervention in the ALP.

You’ll see stories like this one today in the Courier Mail that suggest banning all talk of Kevin Rudd. What this sort of mentality does is induce the backfire effect. “Let’s ban all talk of Kevin Rudd” makes the voices of people who support Kevin Rudd even louder and more profound than they already are. This is a very common occurrence.

Perversely for many who hate him, if talk of Kevin Rudd were to stop or if he was to simply walk away from public life all together or if he was simply run over by a bus, nothing in national politics would change. The ALP would still be committing the same political mistakes day after day. Tony Abbott would still control the frame of the national conversation and public disillusionment with federal politics would remain where it is. Without Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull would probably be the only island of hope remaining for many people. They are the only two politicians in Australia right now that the public overwhelmingly respect.

This dynamic of conscious and unconscious Kevin Rudd invoking is out of the box and firmly in place because of the extremely high levels of uncertainty in the community both culturally and economically, the strong disapproval towards both federal leaders, the high expectations of what government (the Prime Minister) can do to improve people’s quality of life and the need for people to relate to someone in the national political conversation.

Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

You heard me, don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

Why are you still thinking about Kevin Rudd?

Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd!

Kevin Rudd is politically dead!

Kevin Rudd is never coming back!

Kevin Rudd did <insert bad thing>!

Kevin Rudd said <insert nasty thing>!

Kevin Rudd visited a strip club!

Kevin Rudd uses his family for political purposes!

Kevin Rudd is a psychopath!

Kevin Rudd behind the scenes is mean to puppies, small children and ALP MP’s!

Kevin Rudd runs/ran a dysfunctional office! (note: so do 90% of politicians)

Kevin Rudd is a man who has no Labor values!

Kevin Rudd is narcissistic!

I hate Kevin Rudd!

Kevin Rudd has sabotaged the ALP!

Kevin Rudd is anti trade union!

Kevin Rudd leaked during the election campaign!

Kevin Rudd is politically finished!

Kevin Rudd got nothing done as Prime Minister!

Kevin Rudd was a lemon!

Kevin Rudd is a Liberal Party double agent!

Kevin Rudd is civil to Liberal Party MP’s!

Kevin Rudd is superficial!

Kevin Rudd has no substance or depth!

Kevin Rudd uses his church for political purposes!

Kevin Rudd is a media tart!

Kevin Rudd is embarrassing!

Kevin Rudd briefs journalists off the record!

Kevin Rudd is “white-anting” Julia Gillard’s leadership!

Kevin Rudd took away certain people’s printing money!

What an evil man Kevin Rudd is!

Why does everyone in politics and the media keep focusing on Kevin Rudd?

Don’t think of Kevin Rudd!

I declare that we ban all talk of Kevin Rudd!

A poll said <insert negative thing> in regards to Kevin Rudd!

The Coalition will use all of this material in an advertising campaign against Kevin Rudd!

Why are you still thinking about Kevin Rudd?

STOP THINKING ABOUT KEVIN RUDD!!!

Rudd protest

Image: Dave Hunt AAP via the ABC September 6th 2012

It’s all water off a duck’s back mate!

Firing blanks on industrial relations

This week has seen the ALP attempt to galvanise the union movement to fight for them in order to prevent the Coalition from winning the next federal election. This has meant that union leaders such as Paul Howes have featured prominently in the media.

I thought I’d take a look at how unions are viewed by the Australian public to see if this would have any benefit to the ALP. Firstly, I’m going to look at how the public views unions, then I’m going to look at how the public views industrial relations as an election issue and finally how it all plays out in the national political debate.

Firstly we’ll start with some issues polling from Essential Media Communications from September 10th 2012.

Q. Overall, do you think unions have been good or bad for Australian working people?

19 Mar 2012

This week 10 Sept 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total good

48%

45%

67%

30%

74%

47%

51%

Total bad

17%

20%

4%

36%

6%

22%

18%

Very good

12%

11%

20%

4%

28%

11%

12%

Good

36%

34%

47%

26%

46%

36%

39%

Neither good nor bad

28%

27%

24%

30%

13%

25%

21%

Bad

11%

12%

3%

20%

5%

12%

11%

Very bad

6%

8%

1%

16%

1%

10%

7%

Don’t know

6%

8%

6%

4%

7%

5%

9%

This is fairly straight forward. A majority of respondents believe unions have been good for Australian working people. Next we’ll look at the importance of unions to Australian working people today.

Q. And how important are unions for Australian working people today?

19 Mar 2012

This week 10 Sept 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total Important

56%

52%

72%

34%

82%

52%

56%

Total Not Important

35%

38%

21%

58%

11%

42%

33%

Very important

19%

16%

28%

6%

37%

19%

15%

Quite important

37%

36%

44%

28%

45%

33%

41%

Not very important

27%

28%

19%

40%

9%

31%

25%

Not at all important

8%

10%

2%

18%

2%

11%

8%

Don’t know

9%

10%

6%

8%

7%

6%

10%

Again, pretty straight forward. A majority of respondents appreciate the importance of unions to Australian working people. The next question is where things start to get a little interesting.

Q. Overall, would workers be better off or worse off if unions in Australia were stronger?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Work full time

Work part time

Total better off

39%

58%

24%

71%

40%

40%

Total worse off

30%

17%

47%

9%

35%

24%

A lot better off

13%

24%

7%

20%

15%

13%

A little better off

26%

34%

17%

51%

25%

27%

A little worse off

15%

13%

20%

5%

16%

12%

A lot worse off

15%

4%

27%

4%

19%

12%

Make no difference

15%

12%

18%

7%

16%

15%

Don’t know

15%

14%

12%

13%

9%

21%

This result shows a majority consider Australian working people would be better off if unions were stronger, but it’s not as intense as the response to the previous two questions. A decent chunk of the response is either indifferent or simply doesn’t know. If we were combining the results we could say 60% of respondents consider Australian working people would be worse off, no different or unsure about whether they’d be better or worse off if unions were stronger. If we look at the intensity of response, we can see that only 13% of respondents believe Australian working people would be a lot better off if unions were stronger compared to 26% who believe they’d be a little better off. This is not very encouraging news if you believe in the importance and good that unions do.

Next is another Essential Media Communications Poll from October 22nd, 2012 which looked at trust in organisations and institutions.

Q. How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?

Total

trust

26 Sep 11

Total

trust

12 Jun 12

Total trust

22 Oct 12

A lot of trust

Some trust

A little trust

No trust

Don’t know

% change

The High Court

72%

60%

63%

26%

37%

21%

10%

6%

+3

The ABC

46%

54%

59%

20%

39%

26%

8%

6%

+5

The Reserve Bank

67%

49%

53%

16%

37%

28%

12%

8%

+4

Charitable organisations

61%

50%

53%

9%

44%

33%

10%

5%

+3

Environment groups

45%

32%

36%

8%

28%

35%

24%

6%

+4

The Commonwealth Public Service

49%*

30%

33%

6%

27%

41%

16%

10%

+3

Your local council

na

na

32%

4%

28%

39%

22%

6%

na

Religious organisations

29%

27%

31%

7%

24%

28%

35%

6%

+4

Newspapers

na

26%

31%

4%

27%

45%

20%

4%

+5

Online news media

na

23%

28%

4%

24%

45%

20%

6%

+5

TV news media

na

21%

26%

5%

21%

44%

26%

4%

+5

Federal Parliament

55%

22%

26%

4%

22%

37%

32%

5%

+4

State Parliament

na

na

25%

4%

21%

37%

33%

5%

na

Business groups

38%

22%

25%

3%

22%

45%

21%

9%

+3

Trade unions

39%

22%

23%

5%

18%

32%

36%

9%

+1

Political parties

na

12%

16%

2%

14%

36%

42%

6%

+4

What this table shows is that unions have a very low degree of trust in the Australian community. Very similar levels of trust to the business community. That might be due to the larger dynamics in relation to the changing nature of the Australian economy or it could simply be how the public are viewing the fight between business and unions in the debate around industrial relations issues i.e come to consensus rather than tear each other apart.

Next we’ll look at another Essential Media Communications poll from July 30th, 2012 on public views in relation to the Fair Work Act.

Q. Business groups have said that Australia’s industrial relations laws favour workers and unions and should be changed so that businesses can increase productivity and have more flexibility with their workforce. Do you think Australia’s industrial relations laws favour employers or workers or do they balance the interests of workers and employers?

6 Feb 12

Total

30 Jul 12

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Full time workers

Part time workers

Favour employers

25%

20%

25%

16%

33%

22%

16%

Favour workers

24%

26%

12%

43%

14%

29%

24%

Balance the interests of employers and workers

34%

34%

49%

26%

26%

33%

37%

Don’t know

17%

20%

13%

15%

26%

17%

23%

This result shows the majority believe the current industrial relations system balances the interests of employers and workers, but what’s interesting is the partisan responses. Labor and Greens respondents believe the current laws favour employers more than workers and Coalition respondents believe the laws favour workers more than employers, yet there seems to be a fair amount of agreement across the partisan spectrum that the laws find a balance between both groups. This suggests that a message that transcends the partisan divide from either political party would get a positive response from the community. I’ll talk about this a bit more in a minute.

Next we’ll look at industrial relations as important election issue and which political party is more trusted to handle it. For this I’ll use both the last Newspoll and Essential Media Communications poll that asked these questions. We’ll start with Newspoll from February 2013:

Thinking about federal politics. would you say each of the following issues is very important, fairly important or not important on how you personally would vote in a federal election? (issues rated as very important)

Interest Rates Health and Medicare Education National Security Leadership IndustrialRelations The Economy Climate Change Asylum Seekers arriving in Australia Unemployment
% % % % % % % % % %
1-3 Feb 2013 38 80 77 57 62 39 74 35 48 56

This result shows Industrial Relations is not high on the list of important issues in terms of what would decide how one would vote at a federal election. Then we get:

Which one of the (ALP, Liberal and National Party Coalition or someone else) do you think would best handle the issue of industrial relations?

Liberal/National Coalition ALP Someone Else None Uncommitted
% % % % %
1-3 Feb 2013 36 41 4 3 16

This result shows more respondents think the ALP are best to handle the issue of industrial relations but not by much. This is a bit alarming given how often the ALP talk about the threat of a Coalition government bringing back WorkChoices and other forms of draconian industrial relations legislation.

Next we’ll look at the Essential Media Communications results on important election issues and the political party best to handle those issues. These results are from February 11th 2013:

Q. Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election?

Total

11 Feb 13

19 Nov 12

30 Jul 12

5 Dec 11

6 June 11

25 Jan 10

Management of the economy

62%

66%

64%

62%

61%

63%

Ensuring a quality education for all children

29%

35%

26%

22%

26%

23%

Ensuring the quality of Australia’s health system

52%

57%

47%

47%

49%

48%

Protecting the environment

14%

14%

11%

13%

15%

16%

A fair industrial relations system

12%

8%

12%

11%

8%

na

Political leadership

14%

15%

25%

18%

17%

23%

Addressing climate change

9%

9%

9%

10%

15%

16%

Controlling interest rates

9%

11%

9%

11%

13%

15%

Australian jobs and protection of local industries

40%

32%

41%

36%

32%

33%

Ensuring a quality water supply

4%

5%

3%

4%

5%

12%

Housing affordability

11%

14%

13%

13%

16%

14%

Ensuring a fair taxation system

21%

17%

18%

16%

17%

14%

Security and the war on terrorism

6%

5%

5%

4%

8%

9%

Treatment of asylum seekers

6%

6%

10%

8%

5%

na

Managing population growth

9%

7%

8%

8%

12%

na

There are many more issues for respondents to choose from in this poll than the Newspoll but again it shows “A fair indutrial relations system” not high on the list with only 12% considering it an important election issue.

Q. Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues?

Labor

Liberal

Greens

Don’t know

Diff
11
Feb
13

Diff
19
Nov
12

Diff
18
Jun
12

Management of the economy

31%

46%

3%

21%

-15

-14

-18

Ensuring a quality education for all children

37%

35%

6%

22%

+2

+5

-2

Ensuring the quality of Australia’s health system

33%

36%

6%

25%

-3

-3

-6

Protecting the environment

20%

21%

39%

20%

+18

+16

+17

A fair industrial relations system

39%

33%

4%

23%

+6

+9

+6

Political leadership

29%

37%

6%

29%

-8

-12

-16

Addressing climate change

21%

24%

29%

26%

+5

+9

+7

Controlling interest rates

27%

41%

3%

30%

-14

-11

-18

Protecting Australian jobs and protection of local industries

33%

36%

4%

27%

-3

-2

-6

Ensuring a quality water supply

21%

27%

23%

29%

-6

-7

-12

Housing affordability

27%

33%

5%

35%

-6

-5

-11

Ensuring a fair taxation system

31%

37%

4%

28%

-6

-9

-10

Security and the war on terrorism

25%

38%

4%

33%

-13

-15

-22

Treatment of asylum seekers

20%

37%

14%

30%

-17

-18

-20

Managing population growth

21%

33%

7%

39%

-12

-15

-19

This table shows that one of the only issues where respondents trust the ALP more than the Coalition is industrial relations. But even then it’s only by a margin of 6%. It’s not exactly the margin many in the ALP would like to see in relation to this contest given the amount of time they’ve spent hammering on the issue.

If there’s one issue Tony Abbott has been very clever with, it would be in relation to his political tactics on industrial relations. Many in the Liberal Party would like to see a return to WorkChoices. It’s a reason many people join the Liberal Party in the first place: to shift the policy needles in favour of the business community and crush the union movement. What Tony Abbott has done by contrast is take a different approach.

Instead of advocating for a return to WorkChoices, he’s attempted to position the Liberal Party as the party that favours a fair and balanced industrial relations system. So whenever he talks about flexibility, it’s framing the issue in terms of the pendulum being tilted too far in one direction. The polling above shows many prefer an industrial relations system that balances employers and workers interests. His message is framed towards this group: the middle. So whenever the ALP say he’ll bring back WorkChoices if he becomes Prime Minister, all he does is say he’s for a fair system and the ALP are for an unbalanced system.

Then he associates himself with people from the trade union movement such as Kathy Jackson who are seen as extremely dodgy to Labor people because he’s trying to frame his message in terms of how the ALP behave rather than what he does. It’s part of the reason he’ll also advocate for the reestablishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. People in the union movement know what that means but communicating it with all the noise and framing it in a way that makes him look extreme is extremely difficult when he’s framed it around the way the ALP and the union movement behave.

And to drive the dagger in as firmly in as possible, he then addresses the National Press Club in January and says things like:

“As my personal history shows, I’ve never been anti-union.

I support unions that are honestly managed and genuinely focused on a fair deal for their members.

That’s why a big part of the Coalition’s workplace policy will be tackling the rorts we’ve seen in the Health Services Union and the Australian Workers Union.

These are the sorts of measures that a less-compromised Labor government could introduce and that decent Labor people would support.

I have never believed that Australian workers are overpaid and will never begrudge the decent working people of our country a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

That’s why our workplace policy will ensure that changes have to benefit a business’s workers as well as its owners, managers and customers – because you can’t have a successful business without motivated workers”

http://australianpolitics.com/2013/01/31/tony-abbott-address-to-national-press-club.html

This sort of rhetoric completely floors people who support the ALP and the union movement as it’s the exact opposite of their message that he’ll bring WorkChoices back and worse. It looks like the “Evil Bunny” all over again but this time, it’s the ALP using the tactics.

The ALP: “A government lead by Tony Abbott would bring back WorkChoices”, The Public: “So what? Look at the way you behave!” … That’s pretty much the dynamic Abbott’s trying to create around this issue and I’d say he’s been quite successful at it.

The problem is only exacerbated when the Prime Minister says things such as the passage below

“I’m not the leader of a party called the progressive party.

I’m not the leader of a party called the moderate party.

I’m not the leader of a party even called the socialist democratic party.

I’m a leader of the party called the Labor Party deliberately because that is what we come from.

That is what we believe in and that is who we are.”

http://australianpolitics.com/2013/02/18/julia-gillard-speech-to-awu-conference.html

All this sort of rhetoric does is allow Tony Abbott to firmly plant the Coalition as representatives of the middle in terms of industrial relations and other issues in the national political debate.

Then you see people like Paul Howes on Lateline and the point becomes more profound.

In my opinion, what the ALP should be doing is emphasising the socially democratic, progressive, moderate side of the party. A party with unions attached to it but not one where they’re calling the shots. After all, collective bargaining is a democratic right! It’s not just a plaything for political parties to score points. These are people’s lives and living standards we’re talking about!

The union movement during the Hawke and Keating governments did three very important things that were painful to their membership but were in the best interests of the nation:

1. The Prices and Incomes Accord

2. Ending 100 years of Centralised Wage Fixing and shifting to Enterprise Bargaining

3. Compulsory Superannuation

If you listen to Paul Keating as often as I have, you’ll eventually hear him talk about how he had to put the union movement in a headlock and pull out their rotten teeth with a pair of pliers in order to get some of these things done and he’ll include extreme amounts of praise towards Bill Kelty who was the head of the ACTU at the time for making those sacrifices for the greater good of the nation.

These reforms allowed the union movement to survive in this age as well and made certain that even with the massive cultural and economic changes, the purpose of unions and the right for employees to collectively bargain was enshrined in the Australian social contract.

I think a lot of this history is either largely forgotten by the current ALP or is simply not understood or appreciated.

A lot of the rhetoric from the ALP on industrial relations is filled with good intentions. Fairness is very important to Australians but at the same time, most of the political points being made against the Coalition are simply firing blanks and while Abbott maintains the framing that the Coalition aren’t going to bring back WorkChoices if they form government (regardless of whether people believe him or not), that will continue to be the case.

Real Solutions, subtle provocations

Fox Symes and Associates … I beg your pardon, the Liberal Party of Australia held a mini campaign launch yesterday to kick off the election year. Their theme is based around the slogan “Real Solutions.”

It seems pretty boring and harmless at first. That is until you realise that “Real Solutions” has absolutely nothing to do with policy and what’s worse is the Liberal Party knows it. Reading the document makes that point very clear.

What this is all about is their new vector which is designed to distribute the message “Labor is damaged!” at every possible opportunity.

The difference now is they are no longer saying “Labor is damaged!” directly which is the way they’ve said it for the last two years. It’s now done in the guise of “constructive policy”, big smiles, peace, love and happiness. It’s quite “left wing” when you really think about it.

In effect, they’re trying to frame Labor as negative. They have little care about how they’re seen because they’re the opposition. Their goal is to make everything about Labor.

Yesterday was about being as provocative as possible to the ALP. They want to be attacked because it’s their way of controlling the frame of the national conversation. Make comments, announce policy with zero detail that has tiny emotional trigger points, get attacked by the ALP and other progressives, then exploit the vulnerabilities their attacks expose.

Consider the video below:

From what I’ve seen, there are two elements contained within this clip that have triggered an emotional response from people on one level or another, be it engaged or disengaged. The first is Abbott holding up his book of motherhood statements to the camera while speaking on the telephone. The second is Joe Hockey’s demeanor and body language.

Contrary to what appears to be the popular opinion, it seems to me that these two elements contained within the clip have been deliberately planned.

Holding up the book communicates on an auditory, visual and kinesthetic level. You can hear what he’s saying and see what he’s holding. This subtlety works on people at an unconscious level whether they’re aware of it or not.

Many seem to think Joe Hockey looks bored by what Abbott is saying. I’d be very cautious of jumping to that conclusion because this kind of video is usually done by professional people. My guess is that the reason he looks bored is because it gets talked about and the more it gets talked about, the more coverage it will get. The political relationship between Abbott and Hockey is irrelevant to the content contained in this clip. This all about winning 50% +1 of the votes in every piece of communication they produce, getting their message to people by any means necessary and making it very clear that they’re in control of the frame of the national debate.

If they wanted Hockey to look mesmerised by Abbott’s words and they thought he looked bored and disinterested, they would have simply reshot the video until they got that kind of reaction. If he was uncooperative or simply too stupid to follow their instructions, they’d have left him out of the clip and got someone more sycophantic like Christopher Pyne, Peter Dutton or Julie Bishop.

The two things the ALP seem to misunderstand in relation to responding to this kind of communication is how they’re viewed by the community and the subtle emotional components the Liberal Party use which are designed to trigger them.

It baffles me how often I’ve seen the ALP respond to this type of communication, thinking they’re making Abbott the issue when in reality what they’re doing says more about them as a government than what it says about the Liberal Party or their leader.

Whenever you see phrasing like “once again, Abbott rewrites history” something doesn’t feel right. It’s the ALP who should be rewriting history. They’re the government. The Liberal Party are merely the opposition.

On top of all this is the fact most of the response is all based around the content of what they say. Facts are important but what’s missing are the emotions and the context! The idea that Abbott might be breaking the social contract with the Australian people and that they feel a lot of contempt towards him tends to get missed in the detail. Worse, if there is an understanding, the response is all guns blazing which goes back to the previous point of how the community views the ALP.

I expect yesterday will only be the beginning of this type of shallow, immature, university style politics to be played throughout the year. It’s yet another part of what has disengaged the public from their politics which has allowed the Liberal Party to gain control of how policy issues are framed and defined in Australia.