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Archives for August 2010

Julia Gillard’s Campaign Launch Speech

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has formally launched her campaign for Saturday’s election with a policy speech in Brisbane today.

The campaign launch was introduced by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. She was followed by Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. [Read more…]


Melbourne: Two Kinds Of Politics

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m standing in front of Melbourne’s State Library. A large crowd has gathered for the Equal Love rally in support of gay marriage.

It’s a motley crowd. Many carry placards, one of which reads, “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit”. Others demand amendment of the Marriage Act. There are calls for equal rights and many challenges to the conventional definition of “family”.

My interest is to see how the election candidates fare. In a week’s time, the electorate of Melbourne will have a new member in the House of Representatives. This Federation seat, established in 1901 and represented by the ALP since 1904, may be about to reject the Labor candidate in favour of the Greens. [Read more…]


Day 27: What Are They Thinking?

Day 27 of my election campaign began with a hair-cut.

The salon I visit lies close to the boundary between the safe Liberal electorate of Goldstein and the safe Labor electorate of Hotham. The local members, Andrew Robb and Simon Crean, are leading lights in their respective parties and one or other man will be a senior minister after the election.

Paul, my hairdresser, tells me interest in the election has tailed off in the past couple of weeks. The political talk around the time Gillard deposed Rudd has been replaced by other concerns.

A lot of people are annoyed with both sides, Paul says. Some are saying they won’t vote or will vote informal. I tell him the electoral statistics show that most of these people won’t do what they say they will. Nevertheless, he says they’re disillusioned with what’s on offer.

“It’s as if two apprentices are after a craftsman’s job,” is Paul’s interpretation of the mood. [Read more…]


Day 26: The Conventional Wisdom Turns

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong,” wrote H.L. Mencken. He might well have said something similar about interpreting Australian elections.

This week the conventional wisdom has turned. Whereas Julia Gillard was losing this time last week, now she is seen as “back on track”, “playing to Labor’s strengths” and “out-performing Tony Abbott”. Add your own cliché. Take your pick and pontificate.

The wisdom is supported by an assortment of events.

Tony Abbott admitted to Kerry O’Brien on Tuesday night that he’s not a “tech head” and doesn’t really understand the technicalities of broadband. [Read more…]


Day 24: The Government Resurgent

Thirty years ago this month, Azaria Chamberlain disappeared. Thirty years ago this October, the Fraser-led coalition government was elected to its third term in office.

The connection?

Yesterday’s News Limited daily papers splashed the story of jury notes from the Chamberlain trial all over their front pages. If newspaper front pages matter, what might have been the topic of conversation in work places and homes yesterday? Might the enduring mystery of what happened to an eight-week-old baby attract more attention than the federal election?

Last night, Julia Gillard appeared on the ABC’s QandA program. She performed well. The appearance came at the end of a day the ALP would have been pleased with. Just as the Fraser government fought back against a resurgent ALP in 1980 to win comfortably despite losing seats, there was a sense yesterday that the Gillard government is finally on the offensive. [Read more…]


Throwing The Switch To Burlesque

Parody and grotesque exaggeration are the key elements of theatrical burlesque. The entertainment genre is also known as travesty. As the Australian election campaign entered its final two weeks, political burlesque held sway over the weekend.

A Nielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday morning showed the coalition leading Labor by 51-49. Labor was up one point but still behind.

By mid-morning, Julia Gillard was meeting with her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in a secret location, somewhere in Brisbane. Unlike former US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s undisclosed locations, this one had little to do with national security but everything to do with managing the media.

Later, when Gillard appeared in the grounds of the Ballycara Retirement Village to face the media, the parody of political management skills fell apart. All that the assembled pack of reporters wanted to know about was Kevin Rudd. [Read more…]


Tony Abbott’s Campaign Launch Speech

This is Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s speech at the Liberal Party campaign launch.

  • Listen to Abbott (36m)

Day 20: New Hope

Mike Symon looks remarkably relaxed. It’s 6pm and the Labor member for Deakin is sitting on stage in the New Hope Baptist Church, in Blackburn North. At the mid-point in the election campaign, there is just the faintest whiff of new hope for the Labor Party.

Kevin Rudd is back in the news. Yesterday afternoon, he followed up his interview with Phillip Adams the night before and answered the call from Julia Gillard to step into the campaign. The vanquished and the victor will appear in public together today. After a disastrous start to their campaign, Labor is finally showing some unity of purpose.

The Labor Party has also had some success in getting back on track with the issues. Even though Wayne Swan was caught out yesterday by a question about interest on government borrowings, there has been a sense these past two days that the Labor campaign is, pardon the expression, moving forward. Bread and butter issues such as assistance to families, superannuation and health are getting media attention. [Read more…]


Day 19: Return To Norwood

Norwood Secondary College sits amongst acres of residential housing along Mullum Mullum Road, not far from the creek of the same name. This is Ringwood, just up the road from the giant Eastland shopping complex, and the centre of the electorate of Deakin, the Melbourne electorate held by the slender margin of 1.4% by the Labor Party’s Mike Symon.

It’s familiar territory for me. I taught here over twenty years ago. Returning today, I wonder whether the oval still floods when it rains. I note the familiar buildings, some now with assorted improvements and extensions. Students at recess mingle in groups, some sitting on the concrete outside the library, others leaning against fences and buildings. The atmosphere is calm and orderly. Norwood was always a “good school”.

A small number of former colleagues still work here. Mick Wilson, a 35-year veteran of the school, jokes that’s he found my unwashed coffee mug in the cupboard above the staffroom sink. Rosemary Homersham greets me a kiss. I scan the staff photo for familiar faces and then chat to a young English teacher who would have been in kindergarten when I was last here. [Read more…]


Day 18: Bloggers Galore And Not A Swinging Voter In Sight

A day away from the election campaign. No television, no radio, and I haven’t even looked at the newspapers.

The conference room at the Jika International Hotel, an establishment clearly named more in hope than reality, is packed with about 150 professional, amateur and beginning bloggers. They’ve been brought together by Australia’s best known “problogger”, Darren Rowse.

A Yorkshireman, Chris Garrett, is also here and, later, another Australian, Yaro Starak, makes an appearance. In the relatively hidden world of online bloggers and internet marketers – they prefer the more reassuring “entrepreneurs” – this is an A-list gathering. [Read more…]