The secret weapon of Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party has slowly dawned on me after spending a week with ordinary Australians on buses visiting the tourist spots of the Northern Territory.

My fellow country men love clichés. They use them endlessly as we cross lines in the sand without crying over spilt milk and Kevin Rudd understands the use of the cliché better than any of his contemporaries which means the voters easily understand what he is talking about. John Howard just doesn’t get it – with the “it” being the need to talk the language of the common people.

The latest attempt by the Opposition to claim all the good clichés as their own exclusive means of communication comes, in fact, with that very phrase “just doesn’t get it” as in John Howard doesn’t, etc.

The shadow minister for water, Anthony Albanese, was putting that cap on the Prime Minister’s head this morning when he told the ABC that a dazed Howard was “confused about climate change because he just doesn’t get it”.

His colleagues Wayne Swan and Peter Garrett had used similar words earlier in the month in a joint press statement on climate change and economics and the Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls attacked Howard’s refusal to say sorry to the stolen generation with: “I find it absolutely appalling that the Prime Minister just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand the need to say sorry”.

These Labor lesser lights, of course, were merely following the lead of the cliché king. It was Kevin Rudd who showed the way with his speech to the Labor Party national conference:

On climate change, as with the other great challenges facing this nation’s future, it becomes clearer by the day that Mr Howard just doesn’t get it.

The phrase has been repeated regularly since then as in this devastating extension of the verbal attack from the PM to his whole Government:

What risks are presented for the future when it comes to the Australian people seeing a government which just doesn’t get it when it comes to the need for a high-speed national broadband network?