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Journalism

Jun 28, 2012

Coalition's talking points delve into a bag of rhetorical tricks

The Coalition's daily talking points obtained by Crikey provide an insight into the basics of political spin.

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When you spin, make sure you spin alliteratively. It’s much easier to remember.

Crikey has obtained yesterday’s and today’s internal Coalition talking points, distributed daily to MPs and staff by Abbott media adviser and veteran PR man Paul Ritchie (who declined to respond to Crikey). And you can’t move for alliteration. “Labor chose a stalemate and not a solution,” today’s points insist about the asylum seeker bill passed yesterday. “The government is divided and dysfunctional.” The Coalition supports “offshore processing” and “offshore protections”.

There’s also the issue of balance — not of policy, but of phrases. The Coalition offered “a principled compromise to get a workable bill”. “Too many people have made the dangerous journey on leaky boats and too many have lost their lives in attempting to do so.” And few nouns go unadjectivised. Gillard’s rejection is “wilful”. Gillard herself is a “failing” PM. Oakeshott was doing the bidding of a “failed government”. There is, painfully, “a policy cul de sac on asylum seekers with no way forward”, which tends to be the problem with cul-de-sacs.

What the points show is that yesterday the Coalition had hoped to keep the political debate on the carbon price. Yesterday’s key message was that “[t]he world’s biggest carbon tax will add $4.6 billion to the costs of electricity generators, risk critical investment in the sector and drive up the electricity prices of every Australian household and business. The carbon tax will drive up electricity prices and put jobs and investment at risk.”

The leadership team was going to focus on the carbon price impact in the electricity generation sector and the impact on small business. Asylum seekers were an afterthought, down with the Clive Palmer and Peter Slipper talking points.

That of course was wrecked by news of the latest boat sinking and the subsequent events in parliament. Today’s talking points are given over to justifying the Coalition’s position — “consistent and principled”, or just “principled” and attacking the Malaysian solution as unworkable.

But the old theme of border security is never far away. Yesterday’s points focused on how the government “never really wanted to stop the boats” and turned the theme of compromise around: “We don’t want compromised borders, we want strong borders.” Today there’s more mention of “good and decent people”, but the borders aren’t far away.

Yesterday’s tragedy was “a grim day on our borders”; Gillard would “ensure our borders remained weak and compromised, rather than strong [and] secure.”

Today’s Coalition talking points …

Coalition message:

The Coalition will restore hope, reward and opportunity for all Australians

The Gillard government is weak and incompetent, divided and dysfunctional

Today’s message:

The Coalition has a consistent and principled position on protecting our borders. Yesterday, we offered a principled compromise to get a workable bill. Instead, Julia Gillard and Labor chose a stalemate and not a solution. Labor’s bill is not good legislation — it is doomed to fail because it compromises the standards of a good and decent people and it won’t stop the boats.

Issues that the leadership team will focus on:

The Coalition has a consistent and principled position on borders

  • We support offshore processing.
  • We support offshore protections.
  • We support Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs).
  • We support turning boats around where it is safe to do so.
  • We do not support the Malaysia people swap because it will not work and it fails the test of a good and decent people.

In good faith, the Coalition offered a principled compromise yesterday, consistent with our values. This included:

  • We offered to increase Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake from the current level to 20,000 a year within three years. We did so with the purpose of offering this compromise is to try to get support for a workable bill.
  • We believe it makes sense to offer people who are prepared to try to come to Australia the right way rather than the wrong way more opportunity to do so.
  • We offered to the Parliament humane offshore processing plus a somewhat larger refugee and humanitarian intake in a bid to break the impasse.
  • We also offered that people who are processed at any centre would have the processing of claims done within 12 months and that there would be a multi-party committee that would be established to work out how to successfully settle 20,000 people.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives voted for a stalemate and not a solution

  • Yesterday, was a grim day on our borders
  • Too many people have made the dangerous journey on leaky boats and too many have lost their lives in attempting to do so.
  • The Coalition had hoped that yesterday we could end the evil people trade and vote for a policy solution.
  • Instead, Julia Gillard drove the parliament back into deadlock when she had the opportunity to reach a genuine consensus and enable us to move forward.
  • The House of Representatives voted not for a solution, but for a stalemate.
  • Julia Gillard’s wilful rejections of the coalition’s genuine offer to help break the deadlock in the House of Representatives has taken the parliament back into a policy cul de sac on asylum seekers with no way forward, unless today she chooses to a u–turn in the Senate, where the Coalition’s offer remains good.
  • The government and Independents chose yesterday to secure a cheap and hollow 24 hour political victory to prop up a failing prime minister, rather than ensure that the real consensus on offshore processing was made law, providing a way forward.
  • Mr Oakeshott’s bill did the bidding of a failed Government to aid a failing Prime Minister and rejected the true consensus that was on the table in the parliament. Mr Oakeshott’s bill rejected the Coalition’s Policy and embraced more failure from the Government.
  • More than 1500 people have arrived this month, almost double the cap of the Malaysian People swap.
  • This is a dud dead for Australia and a cruel deal for asylum seekers. Labor always votes for more failure on asylum policy when proven success is available
  • The Prime Minister once again chose ensure our borders remained weak and compromised, rather than strong secure. That is why almost 20,000 people have turned up on illegal boats since labor first weakened our borders, more than 5000 just this year alone.
  • The bill as it stands is doomed to fail in the Senate and it should fail in the Senate because it is not good legislation. It compromises our standards and it will not stop the boats.

If asked re Clive Palmer’s proposal for a motion at Federal Council

  • The matter will be resolved in the normal party forums on the weekend.

If asked, re the Slipper case

  • We will not provide a running commentary on court cases.
  • The only question that is relevant is did Mr Slipper sexually harass a staff member?

Paul Ritchie, Press Secretary
Office of the Hon Tony Abbott MHR, Leader of the Opposition

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