May 17, 2012

Come in Spinner: a new narrative for Julia Gillard

Australians pride themselves on their resilience and the belief in our resilience is so strong that it can be used as a basis for a national narrative.

Noel Turnbull

Adjunct professor of media and communications at RMIT University.

Well, what would you suggest? That is a question that has the capacity to deflate most punditry — whether the punditry be pompous or perceptive.

A student asked it a week or so ago during a discussion about what strategy PR people could recommend for Julia Gillard. “A good question” is the easiest response, followed by a rapid segue into using the question as a platform for a discussion about what options there might be. But it’s interesting how often the question is asked of people in the political persuasion business and how unconvincing most of the answers are. For most of the Canberra press gallery the question is moot because they have already written her off and are just waiting anxiously for the opportunity to write the next leadership tension story.

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2 thoughts on “Come in Spinner: a new narrative for Julia Gillard

  1. DF

    Mate and I have been discussing this for some time. Our ideas include:

    1. Zero tolerance for lies and inaccuracies. Whenever an opponent or media person refers to high-taxing, high-spending or whatever, quote the true figures back at them. Stephen Koukoulas had them on his blog recently – in terms of percentage of GDP, this is the lowest taxing and spending govt since at least 1980. I sent the figures to Joel Fitzgibbon (Chief Govt Whip) and suggested he get them printed on a credit card and laminated so all MPs could whip it out whenever required – but he’s next to useless so I’ll bet he did nothing. Ditto the BER school halls success rate and the insulation fire deaths stats which were debunked by Possum Comitatus – never never never let an inaccuracy go by without correction. Watch Judith Sloan do this – she argues argues argues every point and concedes nothing. And when Chris Uhlmann or the Sydney shock jocks gets uppity, stop them in their tracks and tell them in your best Thatcher imitation that you won’t put up with unacceptable behaviour and you demand respect as a person and because of the office you hold. No-one likes or trusts the media anyway.

    2. It’s probably too late but every reference to the carbon “tax” should be corrected to “emissions trading scheme”. No ifs or buts, just pull the speaker up and correct the record. If asked why now, it’s because “I’m tired of the lies being told about the govt”. And do it every single time until the interviewer realises his interview is going to be a dud unless he falls into line. And ask the interviewer what did Tony Abbott say when the interviewer asked him about the Direct Action Plan and using taxpayers’ money to subsidise multinational corporations, and when the interviewer says he doesn’t know then remind the interviewer it’s his job to do that. In other words, control the agenda and narrative and remember an interview is an opportunity for you to make your point, not to answer some idiot’s gotcha-seeking questions. Hawke won great kudos for telling Carleton he was impudent when he asked the blood on the hands question in 1983.

    3. Compare the risk-averse small target do-nothing approach of the Opposition to the great achievements of Australians working together, with the help of govt, in the past. This Opposition would never have supported the Snowy Mountains Scheme or built the Harbour Bridge or put a railway line from Sydney to Perth, or built the Great Ocean Road during the Depression, or lead Australia during the Depression and WW2. The Liberals don’t do social reforms – it’s not in their DNA – they only do economic stuff and always to the benefit of capital and detriment of labour.

    4. Remind people that it has been Labor govts who have been responsible for the great social reforms, eg Medicare and old age pensions, in the past. Conservative govts don’t do these things. Get Gillard to back down on gay marriage – it’s a no-brainer but she seems to have an unerring ability to make the politically maladroit call on so many simple issues. Ditto pokies reform – chuck out the silly voluntary commitment cards, just limit machines to a one dollar maximum bet which everyone can understand easily and bring it on. To hell with the clubs – the move would be popular, the clubs can be seen as self-serving and anyway their vote is already lost so there’s nothing to lose. Tell the punters you are doing them a favour – they can still get their rush from the spinning wheels, it just won’t cost them as much to do it.

    5. Play the class war for all it’s worth. Since Australians have a sense of entitlement, tell them they could have more if only the miners would pay their fair share of taxes on their super profits. Frighten people by reminding them their govt goodies will disappear along with the mining tax if Abbott gets in. As we have seen from Abbott, the critical thing is not the truth, it is getting people to believe you. Facts have their place but cannot make the journey unless accompanied by faith.

    6. Remember the point of govt is not to be re-elected but to introduce and implement policies you believe in (there was a good piece by Tim Dunlop in The Drum yesterday). Accordingly, don’t hold back – bring in all the things you think would be good for the country and the nation, sell the policies by explaining why they will be good, and then, if Abbott does win the next election, he can show his true colours by either winding them all back (and risking a poll backlash) or leaving them in place, in which case the outcome is what you were after.

  2. Blaggers

    although generally speaking we are actually a mob of whingers and lurk merchants with an over-developed sense of entitlement

    Sad, but grudgingly true…

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