Labor PR 101: It’s about families, stupid
This was a different budget. The SA Budget papers were coated in soft blue hues and carried a picture of a nurse and a baby. Even before state Treasurer Jack Snelling opened his mouth yesterday to tell assembled reporters all about his first budget the message was clear. This is a different Treasurer and a new era.
The hard edges that so oftened characterised his predecessor Kevin Foley were to be buffed smooth by Snelling. Foley used to love Budget day. He would relish the battle with the media, jumping in boots and all, to defend, sell and promote his budget.
That was all very well in the days when the Rann Government was flying high. When elections were being won and the cash was rolling in from Canberra there was plenty to shout loud about.
But now as the Government languishes in the polls, and struggles with issues such as credibility, arrogance and trust, the idea of a combatative Treasurer taking glee in slashing public servant numbers and conditions was not an option.
And so yesterday Snelling, dressed in the appropriate dark suit and sober tie, took a different tack. Only one small joke about losing his budget ``cherry’‘, little attempt to match egos with the watching hacks.
His favourite words were moderate, responsible, comfortable, restrained. So often did he repeat those words a new game may be born in time for next year’s budget. Budget drinking bingo. The only problem being we’d all be under the table before the press conference finishes.
And then there was family. Snelling, a father of six, told stories of his own family, of shopping for groceries, of catching the O-Bahn. Of how he had framed the State’s budget in the same way as a family would look after their own finances in hard times.
It all seemed to be another attempt to distance the new from the old. To empahise the solidity and ordinariness of Snelling against the volatility and flamboyance of Foley. And perhaps even at a darker, and unfair level, to say Snelling is a family man who loves his kids, where Foley was the ``Playboy of the Western Suburbs’‘.
But the ghost of Foley was still there yesterday. His hard yards in last year’s budget allowed Snelling to present an essentially inoffensive budget that required little of the drastic surgery seen last year. The new Treasurer was gracious enough to concede the point.
It may be the last time that happens though. Snelling and the Government understand they have to put as much room between them and the man who delivered the first nine State Labor budgets if they are to remake their image before the next election.
New faces and a new approach, they hope will mean a new Labor.
Disclaimer alert: Michael McGuire was Kevin Foley’s media adviser between 2004 and 2006.
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