Tony Abbott’s election campaign finally got into its stride yesterday with his “real action” ads that aired last night.

It had become clear that Tony Abbott’s focus on lower population growth was too subtle for the Liberals’ target audience.  All the talk about “sustainability” and infrastructure and Scott Morrison jabbering on about skilled migration wasn’t cutting through with the voters the Liberals wanted.  The core message of keeping undesirables out wasn’t getting across.

Brian Loughnane was clearly vexed and convinced Tony Abbott and his team of the need to ditch the nuance and go for the jugular.

The result is a bravura effort of button-punching that should do wonders for the Liberal vote in crucial outer-suburban and regional seats. No more shilly-shallying around with “population targets”.

The campaign was expertly orchestrated. Abbott’s own parliamentary secretary, South Australian senator Cory Bernardi, led the way last week, declaring he wanted to ban the burqa because it was the “preferred disguise of bandits and n’er do wells”. I originally thought “n’er do well” was some form of successful geek, but then I realised Bernardi meant “ne’er do well”, a quaint phrase that might normally suggest a rather old-fashioned writer, but Bernardi’s call to ban the burqa was the very latest in Islamophobia, even if rather at odds with his own professed belief in personal freedom.

Abbott, who has to maintain a civilized veneer befitting the alternative Prime Minister, had plausible deniability, and was happy to let the issue run whilst insisting that telling people how to dress wasn’t Coalition policy.

Then Loughnane and Abbott deployed their full suite of race-related iconography with their “real action” ad.


Check out those red – that’d be the colour of danger – arrows.  Not just loitering around the coastline ready to be picked up, but snaking their way deep into the very heart of our great nation.  The Indonesians are taking Darwin (having casually reoccupied East Timor) and are heading into western Queensland.  The Sri Lankans are attacking through Broome, doubtless using suspect delivery actions.  The Afghans are sweeping through Exmouth.

An Iranian expeditionary force has come through Geraldton and is heading toward South Australia. And the Iraqis are invading us (nice irony, that) way down south at Margaret River. Our wine! The bastards. They sure know our weak spots. Let’s hope no kiddies get scared watching this ad.

The graphic says “Stop Illegals Now” but we know, partly because of Cory, but mostly because four of the five countries listed are Islamic, that it actually means “Stop Towelheads Now”.

It’s not perfect, it has to be admitted. Those snaking arrows look a lot like “push” factors when of course they’re coming here because of “pull” factors. Given China is a bigger source of asylum seekers than any of the countries listed, there was a great opportunity to tap into outright racism with a huge arrow plunging fifties-style down from the north.

But that might have confused the “Stop Muslims Now” theme. And obviously one can’t be too hostile to China. Our entire economy is now dependent on the Chinese, whereas the Middle East only has economic significance as a destination for our live sheep trade. It wouldn’t do to emphasise the Yellow Peril too much, especially if the Coalition want to get Clive Palmer’s millions.

And since Zimbabwe provided more asylum seekers than either Iran or Iraq last year, it was disappointing to see no arrow coming from there, although that too might mess up the Islamophobic narrative, especially if they were white farmers.

That’s not really the point, though; this is all about accessing the same voters who responded so well to John Howard’s immortal words “we will determine who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Except, understanding that required a working knowledge of the English language.  The Abbott-Loughnane ad has simplified and refined the narrative still further.

The Islamic invasion has commenced.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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