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Mar 15, 2013

How do you beat Kevin Rudd? LNP farms out campaign to kids

Kevin Rudd's opponent for the seat of Griffith at the next election has roped in outside help for his campaign. He's asking students from QUT's Business School to help him attract more younger voters.

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Universities are supposedly hot beds of radicalism stuffed with pampered left-wing academia. But one Queensland university is working hard to bring down Kevin Rudd.

At the Queensland University of Technology’s Business School, students are developing a campaign to encourage young voters to support the Liberal-National Party’s candidate for Griffith, Bill Glasson. It’s all part of their course assessment.

“It smelled fishy but I figured that our work would not be shared with the client and it was simply a real-life example,” wrote student “Anidav” on an Australian politics forum.

That is until Glasson appeared at the lecture to discuss Rudd’s weaknesses and how students could best frame his campaign. An opthamologist and former president of the Australian Medical Association, it’s Glasson first run at politics.

According to Anidav, Glasson told the class the “the leadership quarrels of the Labor Party doesn’t connect well with young people” and instead Glasson was interested in how to best portray the former foreign minister as a “Big Fish in a Small Pond” who flies off to international events and ignores his electorate:

“His Young Liberal helpers also handed out pamphlets and gave talks about how the LNP uses social networking. This made it seem like we were more involved in the campaign, almost too close. So then our lecture ended with: ‘assignments I think are the best I will pass onto our client.'”

It’s understood students can choose if they’d like their campaign plan to be handed over to the LNP.

A spokesperson for Rudd says they received an email from a QUT student about the subject but have had no contact from QUT. The spokesperson wanted to learn more about the subject before commenting — but thought students should be able to hand in campaign material for either the LNP or Labor.

“University students are involved in political clubs and politics day-to-day. But I would have thought, as part of the curriculum, that it would strive for a balance,” they told Crikey.

Perhaps, Rudd’s office suggested, students should be asked how they feel about not getting the NBN: “I’d be interested to see what the student population’s reaction to that would be.”

Last month, as Crikey first revealed, Glasson backflipped on his support for the NBN after years of publicly encouraging the policy and working as one of the NBN’s “broadband champions”. Glasson’s office is yet to respond to Crikey‘s calls; we’ll update once they have.

Rudd currently holds Griffith with a sizeable 8.4% margin. But with the projected swings against Labor, students may hold out hope of getting Glasson over the line.

UPDATE: 2.25pm

The executive dean of the QUT Business School, Professor Robina Xavier, has just sent this response to Crikey:

“QUT’s Business School links its students with representatives from a broad range of industries to ensure student coursework is relevant in the ‘real world’.

“Once in the workforce advertising professionals can expect to work for a vast range of clients, some of whose philosophies, products and services they will be supportive of and some they will not.

“The completion of an assignment for third-year advertising students is an exercise in channel planning, not in politics, and will not involve the development of creative content.

“As is always the case with this type of coursework, the best assignments are offered to the “client” but only with the approval of the students concerned.”

Amber Jamieson —

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

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29 thoughts on “How do you beat Kevin Rudd? LNP farms out campaign to kids

  1. Jeannie Rea

    As a lecturer in public relations and public advocacy, I taught subjects on campaigning for many years to under and postgraduate students. It is not at all unusual to grab onto current issues for case studies and class exercises. Indeed a common practice is to encourage students to find a client and develop a real campaign as a major assessment task. I have had students develop campaigns on all sorts of topics and for different types of clients, including for profit businesses, NFPs, NGOs, government agencies and even their own university. Students make their choices moderated by the academic coordinator to ensure that there is no exploitation of the student or any involvement in unethical practice.
    However, going by the report here in Crikey, the trajectory of a QUT Business School’s marketing subject may have stepped too far in developing an awareness campaign for a Liberal-National Candidate in the coming federal election. It is one thing to start with a case study, which may even include the ‘client’ coming to pitch his case, but another for all students to be tied to producing their assessment on this case. I would be surprised if students were not given the choice to pick another candidate or party or issue on which to base their assignment. Whether the exercise was to be entirely hypothetical or shared with the ‘client’ is something to be decided amongst the class. However, it would be naive to think that students would not exercise their own judgement on their work product.
    University lecturers should not shy away for using real world cases and providing students with opportunities to learn within real world settings, even if these may be controversial. We have a federal election this year. Many university students will be voting for the first time. Encouraging a lively and engagement citizenship is indeed cited as a desirable graduate attribute by most universities and future employers. The QUT case demonstrated this, as Crikey discovered it by viewing a student post on another website, criticising the apparent promotion of one side of politics by a lecturer.

    Jeannie Rea
    National President
    National Tertiary Education Union

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