Trying to stick non-designer labels on the government
There’s a school of political thought that goes something along the lines of, if you say something loud enough and long enough it’ll stick in people’s heads – true or not.
It’s a calculated tactic embraced most fervently by practitioners of conservative politics, which probably reached its nadir in U.S. style attack ads such as the Swift Boat Veterans.
Mind you, this week’s efforts to smear Barack Obama as a granny-killer over his health care reforms and depict him as a socialist Joker are giving the Swift Boat Vets a run for their money.
While Australian politics had the Lindsay pamphlet scandal in 2007, thankfully our conservatives haven’t stooped quite as low as their U.S. counterparts, yet.
What they do seem to be obsessed with, at least in Canberra, is labeling. Not the designer label kind. The kind of label designed to entrench negative perceptions.
Every time an Opposition figure opens his or her mouth on the subject of an Emissions Trading Scheme it’s always referred to as “flawed.” (Never mind as the Prime Minister pointed out in Question Time and elsewhere that the Opposition was in favour of a scheme when it was in Government.)
Similarly the Opposition always talks about ‘denying’ Youth Allowance to rural and regional students. In fact the Government is making Youth Allowance available to thousands more university students, including more rural and regional kids.
Cynical? Absolutely. Hypocritical? Totally. Accurate? Not even close. There’s also the river of negative messaging on the Government’s Education Revolution.
This week in Parliament the Opposition wasted a great deal of time in attacking the Government’s $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution program.
On Wednesday it spent an hour in the House on a Matter of Public Importance trying to pick holes in a policy that’s already been warmly embraced by parents and teachers around the country.
A succession of Coalition speakers, full of mock fury and outrage, mounted pea-and-thimble arguments. Even by the standards of Coalition parliamentary debate the argument was unsustainable.
That’s because wild hyperbole about “a litany of failures” is so far from the truth it’s laughable. The trouble for the Coalition is that the response on the ground to the BER has been overwhelmingly positive.
One parish priest in my electorate of Bennelong even wrote to me, describing the programs as “gifts of divine providence!”
In fact, one of the highlights of my year to date was the reception by teachers and students when the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard came to Eastwood Public school to announce the second round of BER funding for New South Wales. The whole state has now received more than $3.4 billion in sorely needed funding.
What the announcement that day meant for teachers and students in Eastwood was six new classrooms in a school that’s bursting at the seams. The parents of the Eastwood Public P & C are overjoyed. Truth is indeed a compelling defence.
The same goes for selective Coalition complaints about contracting issues. I meet many local government representatives in the Regional Development part of my portfolio.
Two I met this week from the NSW Central West said all local contractors had been employed on their infrastructure projects. Whether I’m traveling around the country on portfolio work or door-knocking constituents in Bennelong I’ve heard almost universal praise for the Federal Government’s investment in schools and infrastructure, and the tens of thousands of jobs they’ve supported in the process through the global economic downturn.
While I don’t believe there’s any cut through in any of the Opposition’s arguments, it still irks me. In our 20 months in office I believe the Rudd Government has elevated the tone of the Australian political conversation.
But it seems to me the Coalition is still struggling to make a break from the Howard years, and move on from the scaremongering, the wedge politics, and the culture wars.
Malcolm Turnbull showed up in Eastwood the other week, recreating his first job by stacking bananas. An honest job, sure enough.
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