Pinks Batts and Red Tape are not naughty words

ImcallingbullshitThe LNP government are experts at using a carefully selected set of ‘naughty, bad, bad Labor’ words to frame an issue to their advantage. They work hard to keep these words negative for Labor, to wed them to bad connotations, and to insert them into any situation, especially when they’re on the back foot. Negative words like ‘unions’, ‘pink batts’, ‘waste’, ‘red tape’ and ‘Craig Thomson’. It should be obvious that they’re doing this, but unfortunately the electorate don’t think very hard about what is actually being said. They just let the negativity wash over them, and Labor ends up getting bashed, unjustifiably, time and time again. And of course the media don’t help, because they adore anything that even looks like Labor bashing. So these negative words find themselves all over political sound bites all over the news. Like a virus, they get spread around the electorate, eating away at Labor’s credibility, particularly amongst disengaged voters.

It’s important to understand that this is not dog whistling. This is strategic framing. The Liberals are experts at this tactic, and Labor are terrible at combatting it. But if Labor are going to win the next election, they need to get better at communicating. They need to learn how to defend against these words, to shift the frame and to expose the Liberals for what they are really saying. They need to turn these ‘naughty’ words into toxic words for Tony Abbott.

I know it’s not easy. I know Labor’s first instinct is to try to explain the complexity of an issue, to throw facts at the problem. But this is not going to work. It’s time Labor realised that facts are the domain of the left, being abandoned by right-wingers long ago. As George Lakoff, framing expert and author of ‘Don’t think of an elephant’, explains, progressives need to get over the myth of ‘Enlightenment’ which is that:

“The truth will set us free. If we just tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings, they’ll all reach the right conclusions”.

I must admit, I’m a victim of this myth. I throw facts at Liberal bullshit all the time. But just as Lakoff says, facts just bounce off Abbott voters. They’re impervious to rational argument.

So what can Labor do? What should they say to combat these words being used against them time and time again? I’ve written before about Labor’s communication problems, and how these problems overshadow the great policy reforms of the previous Labor government. So it’s time Labor tried something new. Here are my tips about what Labor should be saying in the media (mainstream, independent and social), to build their own frame. Just by using two sets of these naughty words together, you can see that Labor can turn the negative words frame to their advantage:

Pink batts and Red Tape

This week, Joe Hockey said:

“If we don’t get on top of the proper management of the NDIS, not only would it not be sustainable, but it could end up as big a farce as the pink batts program or the $900 test program”

This is clearly Joe Hockey on the back foot, worried about how he will explain that his government is putting at risk the NDIS, by putting a hiring freeze on public servants who need to run the program. He is also no doubt pre-empting a change to the NDIS funding in the budget, now that Abbott’s government has decided they have run out of money. It’s clear there are several layers of bullshit intertwined in this short statement. But focussing just on ‘pink batts’ for a moment. These are two short words, that when put together, cause havoc for Labor. Let me lapse into old habits and throw in some facts. The Home Insulation Scheme was no more dangerous to installers than the industry was before the government funded stimulus scheme was implemented. A scheme that successfully insulated (and ironically cut energy usage) in over a million homes. As eloquently outlined in this Independent Australia article:

“The CSIRO’s basic research – developed further by Possum Comitatus at Crikey – found the rate of fires, injuries and deaths was actually four times higher during the Howard years than during the period of the home insulation program”.

The lack of knowledge of this fact amongst the electorate is evidence of Labor’s failure to defend against the ‘pink batts’ frame. So moving right along, since we know facts don’t help, let’s look at what Labor should be saying, by throwing in another Liberal negative frame: ‘red tape’.

We all know Liberals say they’re cutting ‘red tape’ because they want to do a favour to their rich business mates. We know the regulations they are cutting are actually really important for consumers and workers to keep people safe, to save the environment, to protect communities from rampant greed and to safeguard employee rights. We all get that right? Yet, we now have a government who has celebrated ‘repeal day’, where over 8,000 regulations (rights) are on the chopping block. And the Australian public have mostly stood by and welcomed this attack on all of us. Go figure. It’s actually too hypocritical for words to, in once sentence, enact a Royal Commission into the ‘pink batt debacle’ at the very same time as you’re cutting hundreds of regulations that stop private businesses, like the ones that took up the government funding to install home insulation, from putting profit ahead of safety. That’s right. Private companies hired the workers who tragically died due to a lack of regulation and training in the insulation installation industry. Abbott is hypocritical beyond Bullshit Mountain. And no, I’m not asking Bill Shorten to say this. Don’t forget, Lakoff says not to think about an elephant. Don’t mention Abbott. Labor needs to make their own frame. Because defending against Abbott’s frame just gives his words more prominence, and in turn more value. But how about this for a frame that meets these parameters. How about Shorten say this whenever he’s in the vicinity of a camera or a Facebook meme:

We welcome an enquiry into safety within the home insulation scheme. We welcome any inquiry, no matter how politically motivated to try to make Labor look bad, to make sure workers have the rights to a safe work place and the regulations that enshrine these working rights in law. Unions protect workers’ rights in this way. Perhaps if more of the workers installing home insulation were part of a union, these tragic deaths might not have occurred. At a time when the government is cutting regulations that protect workers, and that make sure young men and women don’t die in workplace accidents, it’s important to remember that ‘red tape’ is not a naughty word. It’s often not until the tape is taken away, that we realise just how badly we need it.

Then say it again, and again and again. See how that goes Labor. See how often Abbott and his team mention pink batts and red tape after this new frame has been heard by the electorate a couple of hundred times.


  1. Yes, that is exactly what he should say. Re: the negative stuff in the media I’m reminded of my high school English teacher who initiated a class discussion on the subject of “Bad news makes a better story than good news.” In 1972.

  2. “Labor ends up getting bashed, unjustifiably, time and time again.”

    Riiight. The insane rush that Rudd put on getting the batts scheme rolled out, rolling over any objections or any warnings of safety issues aren’t labor’s fault. and they certainly shouldn’t be held to account to the outcomes that anyone could have seen coming.

    Michael Williamson, former national president of the labor party, and now a guest of her majesty for the next ~5 years for fraud, Craig Thomson who claimed from any place he could, including parliament, that he was as innocent as the driven snow and now found guilty of fraud against the union he led. These aren’t at all connected to the labor party, and they don’t deserve to get hammered for backing these guys to the hilt. (If Arthur Sinodinis is found to be guilty of what he may have done in connection to the water company, the liberals deserve as much blame for not vetting his character better).

    You forgot the meme about “stopping the boats”. Despite claims from all and sundry among the progressives, they’ve stopped. miraculously it gets put down to a monsoon season that didn’t deter boats at any other time when labor left sugar on the table.

    unions in their classic form, did have a great role in ensuring safety and decency in how workers are treated. they do have a role in protecting against bastard employers even now, but they’ve tainted their brand for the bully tactics that get used, that they are seemingly hell bent on seeing the bosses as the enemy. i think there is a better chance of Rudd being PM again than the unions reinventing themselves, though. it’s a pity.

  3. Victoria, the thing that you keep forgetting in your endless desire to defend your beloved ALP is that all of the sins that they have committed are real and all you are doing is trying g to make excuses for their very obvious errors of judgement. Most of which are a consequence of the utterly bonkers haste that they seem to require for the roll out of every scheme they dream up. That is the thing that we can take form the royal commission into the Pink batts debacle. No matter how full of virtue it may have been to try to improve the thermal efficiency of the nations houses the Labor scheme was designed in a way that just had the building cowboys jumping for joy. While the scheme was running hot I had half a dozen phone calls every week touting for me to insulate my house “for free” See right there is the fundamental flaw in the model because if the scheme had required just a small co-payment from the home owner there would have been some moderation in people accepting the Batts.

    Labor may have had good intentions with the scheme, Heck I have even said that its a good idea in principle but the planning was crap (one weekend two public servant for how many billions in spending?) Yet you think that they should not be chastised for such crappy governance?

    you see its not about being unable to communicate their message its about not being able to competently govern or to administer any scheme that they create.

    As for your comments about the removal of “red tape” clearly shows that you have never been frustrated by the many outdated regulations that impinge upon our lives with no real benefit to man nor beast.

    • Troll for higher is Mr Hall calling. We all know reasons and we can read you like a bad book. That you are one of those hard core LNP’s who only come on here to insult the integrety of Victoria and those who support her writings. Your anti Labor slogans remind us all that just like Murdock and Abbott you write with no substance pilled with trash and twisted Abbott philosophy from Mein Kampf.

      • Old man from the sea.

        Troll for higher(sic) is Mr Hall calling.

        Sigh you must be a conspiratorial thinker because you can’t envisage that someone can comment on a political blog because, like, they believe in things.

        We all know reasons and we can read you like a bad book.

        Really? I would say that you have some real literacy issues and I doubt that you have read a book of any kind for a very long time.

        That you are one of those hard core LNP’s who only come on here to insult the integrety of Victoria and those who support her writings.

        While I currently do support the coalition I do not, in any form doubt Victoria’s integrity, however one can have integrity and still be wrong on matters of fact and politics as Victoria is on this occasion.

        Your anti Labor slogans remind us all that just like Murdock and Abbott you write with no substance pilled(sic) with trash and twisted Abbott philosophy from Mein Kampf.

        Was the last book you read The Communist Manifesto by any chance?
        The issue at hand is one of competent governance and its clear from the royal commission hearings that the last thing that anyone could say about the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government was that it could properly administer anything and in the end no matter what your political leanings may be you have to want sound governance, where Victoria is in error is taht she has a total blind spot when it comes to the way that the ALP ran the machinery of government. You just can’t, as she constantly does,ignore governance and administration just because you think the other side is philosophically “wrong”.
        Finally you invoke “Godwin’s law” with your uncalled for Nazi reference.

      • I read you like a book, from all your insults directed towards me reveals the type of Troll thinking you are with your lambasting LNP junk. As I have suggested to other writers who drop by leaving favourable comments in support Victoria’s writings. Is that you Mr Hall, are not worth the space in time commenting on, by your Liberal crap vis a vis. You are a broken record, stuck in the same groove for ever.

        End of story.

    • Inane, the only thing this so called government want to do is unwind everything that Labor created, that is not good government, it is sheer idiocy?? What have they done to make life better for ordinary Australians?

      • you do realise that all the winding back was in the platform they got elected on? That this was what ordinary australians want them to do?

      • sigh.
        not “every” ordinary Australian voted for the coalition. that tends to happen when you have real elections, not the sort you have in North Korea.
        this is a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

      • AndyM is one of your sockpuppets inane, don’t deny it, he even comments like you, same language phrase’s

      • Paul I don’t have any sock puppets because I always comment in my own name when ever I make any comment on the internet. I’m sure that if you ask Victoria nicely she will explain that Andi and I have completely different IP addresses.

      • hey Inane, changing an IP address is easy, even you can do that, you are such an idiot

    • Old Man from the Sea is correct. Iain Hall you are clearly reading from your Liberal manual of mantras and lies. Nothing original, just revert to the same old list of lies and distortions. You are a good little foot soldier for Abbott & Co, nothing more.

    • Inane, the same can be said about the LNP

      Inane, the thing that you keep forgetting in your endless desire to defend your beloved LNP is that all of the sins that they have committed are real and all you are doing is trying to make excuses for their very obvious errors of judgement. Most of which are a consequence of the utterly bonkers haste that they seem to require for the roll out of every scheme they dream up.

      • No! It will take decades for those inquisitors conclude their findings containing absolutely nothing.

  4. Victoria,

    Thanks for your excellent article. you are so right. I was just saying the bit about the Strategic framing of the Electorate yesterday.

    The Pink bats commission is just a witch hunt. Anyone who knows anything about Occupational Health and safety knows that it is the responsibility of the Employer and employee and anyone else to make a workplace safe.

    One of the deaths was caused by an Electrical fault that was 10 years old. Another caused by the use of a staple gun which was the private property of the installer, even though they had been warned and the guns swapped for plastic, no conductive staples.

    I wrote a blog about this

    I used to teach OH&S at TAFE in Victoria so have some experience.

    The same mantra keeps being repeated again and again and the same Lies perpetrated again and again.

    Its a disgrace that the ABC are in cahoots with the rest of press telling the untruths.

    Yesterday I heard a Canberra Press gallery Journalist say that Jobs were being created quietly (in the background).This is rubbish he cited the last months jobs figures. Which said 47200 jobs had been created. Plus 80,000 full time jobs and minus 33,000 part time ones.

    I looked up the stats to see if that figure had ever been achieved before and the best was in Jan 2003 of 40,000 jobs being created.

    The February figure had an error of plus or minus 57,000.

    This highlights another thing the press are not doing and that is looking at the actual detail of some of these statistics. I wrote another blog on this.

    With the Liberal and national Parties telling all of these untruths and a lazy press what chance do a progressive party like Labor stand?

    Thanks again Victoria. Having a breakfast for Colin Brooks tomorrow our State member at our home. So there are still some of us who are really fighting hard for the truth to be told.

    • Hi Vince thanks for your support with this very important topic written by Victoria. If we compare the full number of deaths that occurred in the building trade in Australia during the same period, against those mentioned by Abbotts stupid Royal Commission, then they would find out, it only 1.2% of the total number of deaths that occurred during that period.

  5. Great writing Victoria – hopefully Bill and team are paying attention and get on with it!!

    (Loving the scrolling! Right on past the trolling…)

  6. Another great read Victoria. Loved the idea about the elephant minds and the difference between facts and myths, where those facts just bounce of people like Abbott due to their ignorance, who in reality would rather believe in myths instead.

    Yes Pink Batts, Yellow Batts, White Batts. I have installed them all. No problems whatever. Why is this so, because I was shown how to do this skin-itchy job in 1961, when I first started my apprenticeship in the Fibrous Plastering trade. Simple as it is, some people just cannot do it correctly for some reason or another. Hello1 I was in Bunnings Hardware today and notice a little sign to say they have a workshop on how to install insolation. Takes 10 minutes of your time. Yep just 10 minutes

    Yes those deaths and fires do lay at the feet of those people who had hired those workers in the first place. By failing to show them how to install and some simple training on what to watch out for power cables running around in the roof loft area. Those electrical cables usually run along the ceiling rafters and onto the ceiling sheets for ceiling lighting. Care must be applied especially when installing foil over the rafters and you staple the foil to those electrical wires should have been given by the employers to those workers.

    The other real concern is that tin foil or aluminium foil and it should have never ever been laid over those ceiling rafters in the first place, as the foil was always meant to go under the roofing battens and not over the ceiling rafters. If blame must be giving, then it is those building regulations in all States and Territories who forgot to take this into account regarding the foil and its dangers to live electrical wires when being stapled. The other is that the electrical industry (electricians) had the down light covers removed from the down lights leaving live exposed connecting wires exposed which were the main cause of those electrical fires by coving them with the insolation Batts. More mice have caused fires than those Pink Batts which is a real fact.

  7. It’s funny how Abbott doesn’t attribute any blame to the shonky employers whose inadequate work practices led to such tragic outcomes.

    Some of these small business owners – “the backbone of the economy” – were all too eager to leap onto the taxpayer-funded bandwagon and cut costs even further by importing substandard batts from China laced with formadelhyde and rip off unsuspecting pensioners – but most were not.

    If there was any fault on behalf of Rudd & Co it was trusting people to do the right thing and comply with Australian Standards.

    If a subcontracted road worker dies while building a national highway (as many do) why is there no enquiry into the government?
    If a pateint dies in a Public Hospital due to medical negligence, where is the Minister responsible?

    Nothing will be gained and nothing will be learned from this.

    This additional stunt is yet another way of Abbott using the blood of the innocent for his own political gain.

    His crocodile tears for the dead workers are as sincere as those he pretends to shed for drowned refugees.

  8. I Agree with Wobbles comments on the Pink Batts saga.
    One wonders is Abbotts going to drop the so called Red tape regulations that the Rudd government had to bring in regarding Pink Batt installations, he seems to be hell bent on undoing anything worthwhile that Labor government implemented.
    As regards to poor governance, I have one word for Iain & Andy, HOWARD. Recognised world wide as the most prolific waster of tax payers money, and the worst Prime Minster Australia has had, until Tony Abbott came on the scene.

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