For those of us who are proudly parochial Queenslanders, the Labor launch in one of Australia’s “magnificent cities” (to quote Kevin07) yesterday certainly warmed the heart. And Kevin Rudd very cleverly wove his upbringing and values together into a thread that unified many of his key themes. As well as being the “boy from Nambour”, he was fleshing out the story of his beliefs and what he stands for, while Anna Bligh sought to defuse the “wall to wall Labor” attack.

Even if Rudd wasn’t quite from a town called Hope, it was all a tad Clintonesque.

As was the contrast with the Coalition launch on Monday – a veritable blokefest with Peter Costello’s testosterone heavy mockery offset only by the appearance of women solely in the guise of wives. Bill Clinton famously promised a Cabinet which looked like America, and as Dennis Altman wrote in the Financial Review yesterday, woman are sparsely represented on the Coalition’s front bench.

There’s something in that rather clever YouTube video from the Ministry of Truth which parodies the Libs’ ads and reminds all of us that 87% of Ministers are “old, rich white guys”.

The appearance of Anna Bligh and Julia Gillard on stage helps create the perception that Labor really are modern and “fresh”, compared to a PM whose flights of rhetoric about a speech Menzies made in 1942 probably does make him seem “exotic”.

Something similar was at work when Wayne Goss’ Labor opposition ran against a National Party government in 1989 seemingly composed of identikit graziers and a Premier who was picked because he looked and sounded like Joh. Goss’ success owed much to a desire among urban and educated Queenslanders to sweep the Cabinet table clean of Ministers who symbolised the past rather than looked to a more cosmopolitan future.

Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan, Nambour High boys both, will understand that point very well indeed.

There’ll be a lot of commentary on the clever politics of the Labor launch, and the “stop the spending spree” call is very clever indeed. But it’s well worth attending to what the presentation says – and not just in terms of the slogans. Rudd is banking on the fact that there are future-oriented Australians out there in sufficient number who believe that as far as John Howard is concerned, they’re the forgotten people.

It’s probably a good punt.

Peter Fray

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