Harms Election Watch: Rd 7- ALP Launch

And so finally the ALP have their launch in Brisbane. It is a low-key affair. So low-key in the torpor of the Queensland winter that the faithful forget they are at a political rally and that they are supposed to respond spontaneously, like a Baptist congregation in Mississippi. Even the Silver Bodgie has to wait, and re-deliver a line or two, before he gets the applause necessary to create atmosphere. It’s as flat as the rest of the campaign.

Then he introduces the Prime Minister who speaks off the cuff so it is, as she tells us, from the heart. What she is doing is pedaling the same margarine as Mr. Rabbit – with a different label on it. This campaign is essentially a marketing exercise. But it’s the same old cheap margarine.

If you want butter you have to wait for Mr Katter and Mr Windsor on Lateline. More on that later.

Real Julia is hugged by Mr Hawke who has passed himself off in previous life-times as an ideological warrior, but really was the most potent bacteria to infect the health of ideological politics in this country. If you believe John Pilger.

We’d be better served if there were more reds under the beds, and the mainstream media ran stories of the legitimate grievances of trade unions and the unemployed. But Gramsci was right and the victory has been won: those who control the dissemination of ideas control the people. The conservative press have convinced much of the electorate that unionists are thugs and the radical side of politics is the Looney Left. They use Mark Latham as evidence. We have two right wing parties.

Real Julia launches. She tells the same yarn she’s been telling since the coup. That education is the saviour (which it is), and that she came from Wales with Jim and Moira, who didn’t have the opportunities she had. And that they instilled their marvelous values in her.

My advice: when you get in the ballot box on Saturday cross out your candidates’ names and vote for Jim and Moira Gillard.

Someone needs to write Real Julia a real second story, because this one is driving me nuts.

Tony Abbott is on QandA and is upstaged by a Kevin Rudd look-alike. Questioners are allowed to put him on the spot about his personal position on things, seeking to expose him on issues like gay marriage and his religion. He dances about. He seems like a man with what Douglas Adams called a huby in his book of invented (but necessary) words The Meaning of Liff. A huby is a half-erection which is noticeable enough to be embarrassing but of no use to anyone.

Then the highlight of the night, which tells us a lot about Australian life: the three sitting independents are to appear on Lateline. Bob Katter from the seat of Kennedy in far north Queensland (check out his campaign ad on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ_zYZBDmls). Mr Windsor from the seat of New England in northern NSW. Rob Oakeshott is also to appear but there is no facility to establish a live cross link to the ABC studio in Sydney. Indeed, Mr Windsor is at the Tamworth Racing Club which is where the right technology exists. We look after the important things in this country.

What follows is half an hour of what we haven’t heard for a few weeks: an understanding of the nation’s diversity and the importance of federalism as a concept, and the desire of local members to actually represent their electorates.

They expose the party machines for their pre-occupation with the marginal metropolitan seats, especially in western Sydney and Queensland where the apparatchiks think the election will be won and lost. Which really is an exposure of leadership as well, because Real Julia and Mr Abbott have subscribed to it.

It was all thrown into the pot yesterday, and the betting price remained pretty much the same. After Labor got as low as $1.28 it’s now out to $1.33. My guess is that Labor will drift a little mid-week, and a little more on Friday.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. David Downer says


    I don’t mean to reach directly for the lowest common denominator (perhaps I do), but the “huby” reference, and its subsequent definition, is undoubtedly the most enlightening and precise commentary of the campaign thus far!


  2. JTH – the election campaign, all jokes aside, has been rather sad. Since the split in the 1950s this “new” ALP has never really captured an identity. There have been a few true believers along the way (John Button, Frank Crean, Kim Beazley, Kim senior, and a few in Gough’s Cabinet. Though I exclude Gough because he was just a glorified salesman and I exclude Keating because he was a Sydney tosser) but the Party has gradually migrated to the middle ground like water finds a natural low point. They are about as Socialist as Bob Hawke’s Mercedes Benz.

    The Labor Party’s launch was remarkable for the complete lack of ALP identity. No banners, no colours flying, nothing. Are they embarrassed by it? Are they trying to become “Generic Labor” like a no frills breakfast cereal? Are they stuck between a rock and, as you put it, a huby?

    On the Gruen Transfer last night one of the advertising gurus (his name escapes me) made the point that the election has become a campaign to sell a product, just like you sell face cream from the Ponds Institute. Its staggering. Its sad. Gone are the days where people who disagree can argue the point. Now its about arguing the spin, or arguing who will get us into surplus the quickest (whether or not this is good for the country seems to have been lost), which Party will lose its way the least, how much middle class welfare needs to be handed out under the guise of “helping”, and which paid parental leave scheme will win the marginal seats. I must admit I’m disillusioned. There’s no ideological battle anymore; no content. Maybe people don’t want content anymore. Any message longer than a standard text will be lost.

    The Libs never really believed in anything so they have not disappointed.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    Did Julia forget it was mid winter in some parts of Australia?

    Snow is expected down to 800 metres to-morrow so getting into town to vote on Sat might be interesting.

  4. I’m baffled by the lack of branding JTH, but then again, A campaign launch days out from the election doesn’t make much sense to me either.

    The whole campaign from both parties has been disappointing to me. Obama won on a platform of change, a wave of positivity. There’s been nothing aspirational about this campaign. Just a combination of fear and negativity.

    What has been a breath of fresh air is The Greun Nation. Great analysis and given that elections are so dominated by Marketing, this show has been great for educating people in an enjoyable, easy to digest manner.

  5. JH,
    The increasing dominance of marginal electioneering this campaign has been nothing short of disgusting. Safe seats have got zip from either party while the house is being thrown at the marginal seats. The increasing irrelevance of the Greens is also concerning as they really are a one song party and hardly an alternative goverment. I feel we may see the emergence of a new party in the coming years as happened in the UK. Somethings got to give because both sides are very ordinary. The only things going for Labor is Abbott. BTW Are you going to the Mr Rileys pub in Barton on Saturday night?

  6. I agree with the general run of discussion through these threads. However, no matter how poorly Gillard has performed, Mr Rabbit, as PM, would be more dangerous and conservative in policy formation concerning wealth distribution, increasing the standard of living for all Australians and preparing us for a more sustainable environment by addressing the immediate and long term effects of climate change.

    Judith Brett, in an essay in The Monthy, a few years ago talked about how the Liberal Party had one singular goal in mind and that was to retain power no matter the cost. That is what I have observed of Mr Rabbit during this ungainly and mind numbing electoral process.

    On Q&A he found it difficult to dumb down his simplistic answers. That was telling. This is taken from the Tony Abbott (Mr Rabbit) Q&A apperance transcript: (The first question was in fact the last question of the show. I have placed it first to highlight his incredible hypocrisy and how little care is taken to disguise it).

    ELIZABETH DAKASH: With all due respect, Mr Abbott, will your religious faith determine the decisions you make for this secular country?

    TONY ABBOTT: The short answer is no. I have never made a political decision based on a religious value. I have always made my decisions as a politician based on what I think are the ordinary, rational considerations that are open to people of all faiths or none and I don’t think that my particular religious convictions should be held against me in this campaign any more than the prime minister’s lack of convictions should be held against her.

    ROB MONSON: Tony, last year my mum died of lung cancer, a horrible, grasping and undignified death. What I’d like to know is how you can, in all good conscious and especially as a former health minister, continue to lead a proud political party that still accepts donations from those corporate killers, big tobacco? How can you not categorically rule in plain packaging, not just consider it after the election? Surely voters deserve to know your direct action plan for plain packaging. Thank you.

    TONY ABBOTT: Look, I’ve never smoked myself. I dislike smoking. I think it’s a very bad habit. I wished no one smoked, always been my own position.

    TONY JONES: So to bring you to the question, how does it sit with your conscience to take donations from big tobacco?

    TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, in the end tobacco companies, rightly or wrongly, they are plying a legal trade. Not one that many of us like that much but they are legal businesses. They employ people in this country. If they want to donate, I’m certainly not going to say we won’t take their money

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