What do you do when your tactics are completely failing and defeat is looming? Some people might decide to try something different but not the Australian Labor Party. Its response to medicine that makes things worse rather than better is to increase the dose.

The government of Julia Gillard is now a victim of its inability to stop playing politics in the way dictated by its opponents. The Prime Minister seems to believe she has to respond to the bully-boy tactics of Tony Abbott in kind. Insult is matched by insult; distortion by distortion; spin by spin. Running the country is reduced to a series of corny photo opportunities

The topics for this unedifying national debate are chosen by the Liberals and Nationals. And if opinion polls mean anything at all then Labor is sick and getting sicker.

A radical change in approach is called for. It is time for Labor to become the serious ones that avoid the gimmickry of modern perpetual campaigning. Forget the 24-hour news cycle. Stop the farce of what they these day call “the doors” where members repeat the carefully crafted and meaningless attack or defence words of the day.

Actually answer Opposition questions in parliament as they deserve to be answered, with a brief yes or no normally, without the debating school rhetoric. Abolish Dorothy Dixers from your own side. Let Labor backbenchers actually think for themselves and seek information about things of interest to them rather than raise subjects some whiz-kid thinks will make for a telling grab on the nightly television news.

Let Tony Abbott bore everyone on his own.

Put away the funny hats and fluoro vests. Keep the Prime Minister in her office most of the time and let her out to give an occasional speech that actually says something. And instead of those door-stop interviews, schedule a formal press conference once a fortnight.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey