Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Tonight there’s still no agreement on a time, place or duration. At the start of the campaign Tony Abbott wanted three debates, Julia Gillard said one was enough. Then she wanted a second on the economy, but Tony Abbott did not. Then last night he called for half hour debate tonight and she said she wanted an hour.
Kerry O’Brien trying to explain what is dividing the parties at the campaign’s climax
Prime Minister, just a quick one: do you think tomato sauce should be free when you buy a meat pie from the bakery? It’s a big debate at the moment in the Townsville. It really is.
A local journalist tries to bring it back to issues
Oh lord, is there anyone out there still following this campaign?
What is this economic debate they are fighting over the timing of? Oh yeah, right. The Liberals want to bring the Budget back to surplus at the same time as Labor, but really bring it into surplus, while Labor wants to pretend that spending on a utility like broadband counts as economic policy. It’s hard to think of a more farcical way to end this campaign than arguing about when to debate an issue on which there is no debate to be had. Hockey and Swan already debated the economy and run out of things to say well before the half hour. Are their leaders going to be any different?
Barry Cassidy thinks that after the tumultuous first few weeks of the campaign, it was now returning to a more traditional campaign: issues, policies, both parties treated equally. Actually a focus on issues, or rather lack of them has only highlighted how odd this campaign is. While the leaks and the so-called Rudd factor made an issue of the instability of the government, the stabilising of Labor’s campaign has only highlighted what really underlies that instability.
Actually the 2007 election was stranger than it appeared at the time, but hidden behind an international issue like climate change and a phoney domestic one like WorkChoices to conceal that neither party really had an agenda in the traditional sense. Now with the international one faded and business encouraging the Liberals to dump their IR shtick, there is nothing to run an election campaign on and both parties are just limping to election having nothing to say but how they might debate it if they did.
Annabel Crabb has noted that the federal campaign has ‘gone local’. ‘Imploded’ would be a better description. No better example of this was Labor’s campaign launch. Other than the amusing standing ovation that conveniently blocked an arriving Rudd from the cameras, the only notable thing about it was how much it was not like a normal federal campaign launch. From the slogan of ‘Stronger Economy. Better Hospitals and Schools’ to the contents of Gillard’s ‘off the cuff’ speech, this was more a state Labor launch rather than a federal campaign. Even the more international themes that Gillard started her campaign with were dropped; not a word on the Citizen’s Assembly or any other action on climate change (and barely a mention of the issue itself), and certainly nothing on East Timor, or any other solution, for asylum seekers. It was mainly about the areas where federal government is now increasingly encroaching on what had previously been the domain of state governments; schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
As the federal government moves in on the states’ agenda, however, it is getting caught up in the politics of it. That is probably why we are seeing this strange divide in the national voting with Labor’s vote getting almost driven by its popularity at the state level. Of course, state governments have influenced federal results before, Victoria in 1990, for example. But this is the first time that the federal campaign has so struggled to escape from it.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 18 August 2010.Filed under State and federal politics