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May 09th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

The Yawning Gap

It's not as if the PM lacks the wit to put his case, yet it is the agile Bill Shorten who is making the running. If Malcolm Turnbull is husbanding energy and response until later in this most exciting time to have an election, he could do better in the meantime than sonorous profundities

53He said it. He actually said it. Announcing the election campaign six short sentences into his speech formalising what we have all known since before Easter – that we are going to the polls on July 2, – Malcolm Turnbull came out with  “It is the most exciting time to be an Australian!” The anti-zinger, one might call it. A line Turnbull often has parodied himself.  A leaden leitmotif. But even worse was the verbal packaging it came wrapped in; packaging, as one would cringe from calling it rhetoric or prose.

“Our economic plan for jobs and growth is as clear as it is critical to support this transition to the new economy of the 21st century,” Turnbull trumpeted. “It is the most exciting time to be an Australian! These are exciting times. But we must embark on these times, embrace these opportunities, meet these challenges, with a plan and we have laid out a clear economic plan to enable us to succeed.”

“We have set up an Innovation and Science Agenda which will ensure that right across our nation we are more innovative in business, in academia, in government, ensuring that we are able in these times of rapid change to meet them with the agility and the ingenuity and the imagination that makes for success.”

As of today, 53 more days of this go.

Tony Blair’s speeches used to sound as if he was reciting mission statements, but in the main they each had pith and punch. The Coalition’s 2007 election slogan “Go for growth” was a different kettle of fish.  It was sharp and succinct but its meaning was vague. It offered nothing specific for voters to relate to.  And if that was the case what hope does the turgid Turnbull have?

The signs of a message are there – Labor means more tax; much more tax and that’s bad news for the economy – but it needs to be delivered with much tighter focus and sense of purpose. For at the start of this campaign it looks as if the opposition in managing to outflank the government on the cost-of-living themes it needs to put at the very heart of its campaign.

Labor won a primary vote swing in its favour of just under 5.5 % against all odds in 1993 by constantly thumping home the message “You’ll be worse off with a GST”. It went .25% better with a “Workchoices will take money from your pocket” in 2007. At the start of this campaign it’s simply trotted out the theme we’ve heard so often since the budget of 2014, “fairness”.

“It will be a choice about two very different views of the future,” Labor campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong said this morning. “The government is saying ‘We want to give a very big tax cut to big business and put the budget in a more frail position as a result’ and Labor which says ‘You know what. We want to invest in our people … They are very different plans for our future, but only one is about putting people first.”

Taxing voters more and narrowing their opportunities is an odd way of achieving that task, but at the moment Labor’s pitch sounds better. The government needs an unambiguous riposte – and quickly. It has eight weeks until the election not to make its case. Electors will soon shut down, their votes decided.

Comments [5]

  1. Joel B1 says:

    I’ve already decided. And a note to M Devine, I determine my vote and puerile name calling merely hardens my position.

  2. Bill Leak’s cartoons in THE AUSTRALIAN are by far the most sensible analysis and comment I have seen concerning the impending election. No journalist/commentator has come even close. Bill Leak has shown up Bill Shorten’s shortcomings far more effectively than endless hours of waffling from MT. Bill Shorten even endorses Leak’s cartoons by openly admitting he’ll run the country as PM on union [lack of] ‘principles’.
    Unfortunately Leak’s cartoons also reveal MT’s weaknesses. MT gets bored and distracted so easily, and is so naïve that he thinks the media won’t turn on him now that the election has been called. MT has no desire to fight, he has achieved what he wanted – i.e. to become PM. He just has no idea what to do now that he has become PM.
    For conservatives everywhere, Daniel Hannan [UK - EU 'politician]summed things up very accurately with his observations:- “Greed: Wanting to keep your own money. Need: Wanting to be given someone else’s money. Compassion: A politician arranging the transfer.”
    That is why BS, Penny Wong and Di Natale regard themselves as ‘compassionate’. They want to get credit for transferring/re-distributing wealth from those who create it to those who don’t create it or refuse to create it. The latter group i.e. the recipients, are the ‘people’ who BS is ‘putting first’. He will never stand up for the wealth creators.
    As you stated earlier in your article MT has the ‘wit’ to fight this election on policies and principles and win easily, but I suspect he doesn’t have the desire to fight – he’d rather remain ‘popular’ with the Inner City Elite who vote GREEN and watch the ABC.

    • Egil says:

      Good summation!
      Bill Leak nails it on a very regular basis these days.
      A major transformation since before 2007 election when he and The Oz…………
      Oh well, that is history, so forgive and forget.
      But…..
      If even people like Jonathon Holmes and Queen of Sales of 7-30 are waking up to and adjusting to reality,
      all is not lost, one can hope.
      “Turnbull’s Liberal Party” [WT.....??] may well, in the end, fail to keep CFMEU/BS/”The Commpassionistas” & The Frauds out of office.
      Pain plenty ahead is very much on the cards..

      What Australia desperately needs, of course, is a leader like old Mr Lee of Singapore.
      Until such time that a benign/wise Leader emerges, we shall have to choose between going down the drain semi okayishly{?}
      or going down the drain at speed.
      Fun/agile times?
      Not at all.

  3. Lawrie Ayres says:

    I’m with Daniel Hannan.A succinct description of the difference between conservative and socialist policy as well as the duplicitous nature of politicians. The latter will continue to give away your money until you either run out or enough stand up and through the bums out.

  4. Peter says:

    Don’t bring dulcet tones to a street fight. Shorten is a street fighter so is Abbott. Unfortunately Turnbull is simply not made for it.