||Issue No. 240||01 October 2004|
The Premiership Quarter
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
How To Run Society
The Premiership Quarter
And if Labor does win the federal election on October 9, then this will be the week when the campaign turned around. It was Medicare Gold, it was Howard desperation, and it was so much more.
For the past four weeks the PM has been hammering a single message, the one emblazoned across his lectern, subliminally flashing its evil, distorted message to middle Australia every night 'Keeping Interest Rates Low'
It was a message designed to bring forth all our economic fears, in the same way that border protection bought forth our cultural fears - we are alone, exposed, vulnerable. We are holding on by the skin of our teeth but any change could be fatal.
It was a message stronger than Howard's loss in the carefully concealed Great Debate, more enduring than his own goal of pre-emption, more diverting than his relentless attacks on Latham's inexperience.
But something happened at the Liberal Policy Launch that seems to me to have shifted the momentum of this arduous campaign.
Whether he panicked or decided to go to his final election all guns blazing, Howard over-played his hand - snowing us with $6 billion worth of spending commitments.
The man who was putting himself forward as the only one responsible enough to run the national economy was spending like a drunken sailor - playing the sort of game that could only put upward pressure on the one thing he was promising to keep low.
Voters aren't mugs and they see through payola - who can forget the 1999 NSW election when voters actually rejected a Liberals pitch to give every voter $1,000! This sort of money doesn't grow on trees and people know it.
Having mixed his messages the Liberals then sought to whip up a scare campaign about Labor's IR policy and the bogey man of union influence.
Ignoring the fact that the nation's biggest, strongest economy operates under the set of rules on which Labor's IR policy is based, Howard, Andrews and his neo-con cheer squad at News Ltd let loose with a fast and furious scare campaign.
The beautiful thing about far right rhetoric is that it works best when people are not involved - that way businesses can be productive and unemployment low without actually looking at the quality of work or working life coming out the other end.
In this way, AWAs pay more than collective agreements - if you discount the fact that managers' super salaries are included on the AWA side of the ledger and count part-timers with the collectivists.
As for union bully-boys, research from ACIRRT shows it is bosses who are responsible for most industrial action these days, using the lock-out provisions to bludgeon employees into submission.
But even these porkies got sidelined by Latham's Brisbane Bash, the first campaign launch since the Keating era when you could understand what the leader was actually on about.
Like an AFL team with a star full forward. Latham cleared his attacking zone, leaving space for his single strategic pitch to hit home.
Medicare Gold was about health - it was also about respecting older Australians and assuaging their children's guilt and - truth be known - greed, in the process.
Latham's success was in cutting through the detail of public policy and making his campaign about a couple of simple values.
Howard the manager is now desperately trying to punch holes in it, but it's starting to seem just a little desperate. Like no election before it, the Liberal pitch is a fistful of dollars - hand-outs and rebates rather than a coherent policy agenda.
The PM's payola stands as testimony to the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of this government - despite all the public services resources available to it the only policy solutions it can deliver are simple vote buying exercises. It has been left to Labor from Opposition to devise the bold approaches.
This election is not won but it is definitely there for the taking - Mark Latham has put Labor in the game at three-quarters time. All Australians with an eye to the future will be hoping he has a few goals left to kick.
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