As we near the end of a messy first week in this exhausting-by-any-measure election campaign, it’s worth taking a look at some of the missteps and oddities that have generated discussion in week one.
Election announcement lite
It’s not unusual for the major parties to kick off the first week of their campaigns with a substantial policy announcement. Former PM John Howard threw subtlety out the window by announcing the largest tax cut in Australian history in week one of his ultimately doomed 2007 campaign, while Bob Hawke offered voters a National Tax Summit. By comparison, announcements for week one of Election 2016 have been thin on the ground.
The Coalition played to its national security strengths by announcing new border protection funding to ‘beef up’ Visa checks. Labor embraced beef in a more literal manner, committing to fund Rockhampton’s ‘world-famous’ Beef Week for the next three years (to be fair to Labor, they did also announce some broad policies in the education space).
We predict that more meaningful policy and funding is in the works, with parties playing the long game in a marathon election.
The overused political buzzword ‘optics’ reared its head on a few occasions this week following some interesting images of the party leaders.
Bill Shorten’s newfound fitness regime resulted in some amusing critiques of his running style, and one of the most dreadful columns in recent memory from former Labor Leader Mark Latham.
Malcom Turnbull, or ‘Mr Harbourside Mansion’, as he is being referred to by Peta Credlin, was confronted by a couple of locals on a train in Western Sydney this week and asked ‘Who are you?’. The look on the PM’s face says it all.
In contrast, the informality of Australian political life was personified by Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minster Barnaby Joyce, who stood shoeless on top of a country bar in rural New South Wales whilst on the ‘Wombat Trail’, the nickname given to the campaign run by the Nationals.
Both parties faced trouble this week on messaging, after the ALP was criticised for overpromising the extent to which t its education boost would lead to economic growth, while the Coalition has been panned by its base over plans to change superannuation arrangements retrospectively.
However, the off-message award this week goes to Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer made reference to a cafe in her electorate taking advantage of changes in the Budget to write off a $6,000 toaster, leaving many to question the existence of such an elaborate machine. The throwaway line came in response to a question from controversial ‘national hero’ Duncan Storrar on the ABC’s Q&A program.
For avid political junkies, Friday evening will see the first leaders debate take place at the Windsor RSL in the western Sydney seat of Macquarie, with 100 undecided voters set to grill both leaders as part of a ‘People’s Forum’.
One suspects the vast majority of voters will have their channels switched to much lighter content at this point of the campaign. A program guide is available here.