While Italian politics is unable to go a week without some 18-year-old girl claiming to have had a sixsome with the Prime Minister, Australian politics has more of an unusual fetish for utility vehicles.

Barely a week after things settled down with the utegate scandal we are now confronted by “Truckasaurus 09” or “The battle of competing political propaganda trucks” (I prefer the former).

This of course being a perfect example of the political maxim of letting the ute pull the debt truck.

This is a new model of what was an old Coalition campaign introduced to draw attention to the Keating Government’s foreign debt in 1996.

It was also the same year that the Coalition took control of Government from Labor after ten years in trucking wilderness. 

Following Malcolm Turnbull’s recent stuff-up in the utegate affair there was obviously some conversation at Liberal HQ about “getting back to basics” or some such thing:

“Well it worked in 1996. It’s all about debt, debt, debt with trucks, trucks, trucks don’t you get it?”

So out strode Malcolm Turnbull yesterday morning and awkwardly unveiled the “debt truck”, more awkwardly it was being pulled by a ute.

Mr Turnbull denied that the debt truck was a stunt:

“The debt truck is an important way of drawing to the reality of this debt. This is not a question of spin.”

Not a stunt? The debt truck could only be considered more of a stunt if it were being launched off a ramp across the Grand Canyon with rockets strapped to the thing and Evil Knievel in the driver’s seat.

“The one thing that Australians need to know is that the debt is there, it is rising and it has to be paid for,” Mr Turnbull said.

Not to be outdone just a few hours later assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen made an annoucement. From the man that brought you FuelWatch and GroceryChoice (oh no wait, those never happened), the “Labor Supporting Jobs” truck was being launched in Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate. 

We were told truck politics were all well and good but you couldn’t just write any old rubbish on the back of your truck:

“Well, I believe in modern political engagement. Parties can engage in that in this way. Mr Turnbull is entitled to have his truck but he should have facts on it, not erroneous claims,” Mr Bowen said.

Another golden rule of politics is that there is no better comeback than another truck

It is hard to workout what is most disturbing about “Truckasaurus 09”. Is it the fact that the Coalition see a truck with writing as it as the most powerful weapon in getting reelected? Is it the fact that Labor immediately counter-strike with a their own truck? Or is it that both think that the Australian people will have their vote swayed by either truck?

But what is interesting about “Truckasaurus 09” is that in the age of advanced digital campaigning tactics (what with the twitter and the myface pages and such) truck politics must still be seen as one of the most effective campaign tactics a political party can engage in.

What else would possess Labor to launch its own Truth Truck (I decided to give it a better name) just hours after the Coalition’s truck took off?

One can only assume that it was anticipated months earlier by those in the smoke filled rooms at Labor HQ and they had it in the “special projects” garage ready to go.

No doubt Kevin Rudd was briefed from his overseas trip: “Mr Prime Minister with this advance in technology we simply cannot allow there to be a truck billboard gap”. 

Furthermore Chris Bowen today hinted that there were more trucks to come:

“You would need to put that question to the party organisation as to how many trucks there are.”

So be aware that while driving a fleet of Truth Trucks could emerge Bat Cave style from anywhere at any time.

Ultimately there is nothing wrong with stunts like this in politics – the boring argument that they distract from “real debate about real issues” only holds water to the extent that people actually listen to “real debate” about “real issues”.

Like it or not the message from the truck may be all a lot of people take from politics on any given day, and if they want to take more from wherever else they can.

It’s just a little disappointing that the great minds behind party politics in this country can’t come up with something a little more creative than “hey ya bastard, look what’s on the back of my big truck”.

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    • Tera_d says:

      08:26am | 08/07/09

      Do we get the the politics we deserve? Of course we do and with no disrespect to the trucking fraternity, when have we demanded more?  Most people aren’t engaged and how else are they going to get the message? Any more questions just add them on below….

    • wolf says:

      08:41am | 08/07/09

      Hilarous that the coalition chose a ute to pull theirs, and more than a little couragous given the public backlash over utegate…

      Kudos for slipping in a Dr Strangelove reference too.

    • Jeff from Meroo says:

      08:51am | 08/07/09

      Reminds me of the scene from Oh Brother Where Art Thou where Pappy O’Daniel is sitting with his staff discussing how to counter the opposition’s stunt of using a midget.  One of his staff suggests “we could hire our own midget, even shorter than his!”

      At least Pappy had the sense to say “We’d look like a bunch of Johnny-Come-Latelies, bragging on our own midget, doesn’t matter how stumpy” before giving him a whack across the back of the head.

      I’m with your first suggestion Leo, “Truckasaurus 09” has my vote and I hope it catches on at other media outlets.

    • iansand says:

      09:05am | 08/07/09

      Gosh.  Whatever will they think of next?  Please tell me that they will proceed in convoy.

    • Shelley says:

      09:21am | 08/07/09

      Just goes to show how worried either party really is about global warming. There’s no need for the introduction of a carbon tax after all. Boy’s and their toys, eh? Still playing with their dinkies.

    • Eric says:

      09:43am | 08/07/09

      Thanks for that gratuitously sexist comment, Shelley.

      Perhaps you could learn to criticise politicians without insulting half of the population?

    • Adam Dennis says:

      09:58am | 08/07/09

      There’s a perfectly good reason for both parties to be using trucks: the voters can’t respond. Naturally they would avoid using social networking tools, discussion forums etc. because people can ask them embarrassing questions and generally give them the hard time they deserve. No, much safer to roll out a large motor vehicle. It should go fast enough that it’s hard to aim at with eggs ... and must definitely be hose-down-able in the case of a direct hit.

      I cannot believe we’re still paying people to be politicians instead of genuinely undertaking their roles as the people’s representatives.

    • Tim says:

      10:23am | 08/07/09

      FACT “Australia - the lowest debt of any major advanced ecomomy”
      FACT “Thanks to the previous Liberal Government”

    • teecee says:

      10:45am | 08/07/09

      In response to Tim - “Australia - the lowest debt of any major advanced ecomomy”  Wow !!  That’s like my claim that I am the fastest blue eyed, white man, over 100kg with a disability.

      Also, people need to get over this fear of debt.  If the debt is working for you - why worry about it?

    • Eric says:

      10:55am | 08/07/09

      There may be another reason to use trucks—the declining interest in mainstream media.

      I don’t watch TV or read newspapers at all, and I only listen to music stations on the radio. However, I drive to and from work each day, so I just might see a message on a truck.

      I don’t think I’m the only one in the media-avoidant demographic.

    • Peter L says:

      10:58am | 08/07/09

      if the debt is working for you?????
      wait until your paying more for everything! tax etc…........to pay this unbelievable debt off!

    • iansand says:

      11:01am | 08/07/09

      My theory about debt obsession is that it is a single number that politicians can deploy to prove whatever they say it proves.  It is much simpler than actually trying to communicate the subtleties of managing an economy (I suspect because they don’t understand themselves).

      “No debt - good.  Big debt - bad” is the level of sophistication that sound bite journalism has reduced us to.

    • Troy says:

      11:39am | 08/07/09

      At least Turnbull is out there not hiding away after the last two weeks he’s had.
      Anyone seen Swan lately! Why isn’t he standing beside his truck!
      Too scared someone might ask him some questions he doesn’t want to answer????

    • SD says:

      11:54am | 08/07/09

      Great article Leo - I’m still chuckling.

      Is that a giant fuse coming out of Turnbull’s head?


    • Colin Campbell says:

      11:56am | 08/07/09

      Judging by Joe Hockey on ABC Radio this morning, stunts are the extent of the Lib response to the Rudd Government.

    • B says:

      12:02pm | 08/07/09

      Troy - how about the Libs give an answer to the question that they keep avoiding - what level of debt would they consider acceptable given the GFC?

      Seriously? Is this all they can come up with? And Turbull is only ‘out there’ trying to try steer the conversation in the hopes of trying to claw his way back up the opinion polls after taking a massive beating which might I remind you was through was no fault but his own!

    • Kellie says:

      12:08pm | 08/07/09

      Aren’t the Rudd Government playing the same stunt??

    • Luke says:

      12:35pm | 08/07/09

      Italian politicians are the only type that the average 22 yr old Australian finds interesting. It gives me a good ole laugh in the morning. There should be more of it and Silvio is awesome so don’t knock him.

    • Shelley says:

      12:36pm | 08/07/09

      When the two Jools pop a gimick out there that involves girls and Barbie dolls I’ll slag off about the girls playing with their toys also.

    • Murray says:

      12:44pm | 08/07/09

      Good to see Turnbull has some guts to get out there in front of the public! I agree. Rudd must be still hiding the nervous Swan under his desk until he gets back from seeing the Pope, and enlightning the world on climate change, also telling Malaysia not to send any more boat people cause Xmas Islands detention facility is running out of beds!

    • TomCat says:

      02:22pm | 08/07/09

      Luke, you say Silvio is awesome ? More like a sleazy womanizer if you ask me. I must admit, after watching the Michael Jackson memorial on TV, Silvio’s cheesy smile is what we all need now.

    • Murray says:

      02:48pm | 08/07/09

      lol @ TomCat.. Silvio’s Cheesy Smile.. LMAO !!

    • Kris says:

      02:53pm | 08/07/09

      I want Silvio’s minister who will be hosting the wives at the G8. She is gorgeous, she looks so damn spicy on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Homepage. Damn that Silvio !!

    • G says:

      09:39am | 09/07/09

      Not sure if it was Bowen I heard on the radio but the one and only comment that actually made the most sense was - the level of government debt can be compared to a household with an income of $100,000 borrowing an amount of $5,000.  The liberal scare campaign doesn’t wash and I can see this one coming back to bite Turnbull as well - he’s the equivalent of a dead man walking…

    • briperth says:

      12:03pm | 13/07/09

      The Australian dream.  To own your own home.  All pollies encourage us to borrow to buy our home, the debt to be paid off over 20 to 30 years.  BUT!!  some say it is not ok for the government to borrow money on our behalf, to be paid back over our lifetime.  What am i missing??


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