One of the most interesting post-election whinges we’ve seen from the Liberals is Perth MP, Andrew Hastie’s confession that he found it hard to stay on message with Turnbull’s ‘jobs and growth’ campaign, so ended up, in his words, basically running his own show. He explains that he realised he couldn’t keep up the party-line when he found himself struggling to explain to a constituent how the Liberal’s plans would benefit the man’s children. I heard Liberal Rowan Ramsey, whose electorate of Grey in Adelaide’s far-northern manufacturing and farming belt, say something similar on ABC radio this morning, explaining that the ‘innovative’ and ‘agile’ lines parroted by Turnbull had little connection with the voters he was trying to persuade to support him rather than Xenophon’s NXT candidate – who may still win his seat.
What struck me is that these Liberal candidates are using this criticism as a suggestion that Turnbull’s campaign wasn’t effective for their electorates, when actually, what they are saying is that the Liberal policy platform, indeed, the Liberal’s entire ideological worldview, is really hard to sell to voters. There’s a reason for that. And can I suggest to Hastie and Ramsey and any other Liberal candidate who felt the $50 billion tax-cut to big business was a difficult ‘sell’, and cutting education and healthcare funding was a difficult ‘sell’, perhaps should think about changing political parties before they go ‘off message’, which is basically akin to false advertising.
This hard-sell is the reason Turnbull’s campaign was a lot of flaff, colour and cheese, but very light on actual policy detail, or strong arguments in favour of a policy platform. Deep down, the Liberals know that there is no argument that can convince people that trickle-down economics is an effective wealth generator for ordinary Australians, that is, the 99% of Australians who aren’t super wealthy. There’s no simple catch-phrase or slogan that can hide the fact that a corporate tax cut makes the rich richer, and sends a lot of profit off-shore, with barely any discernible impact on GDP growth. The vast majority of Australian journalists would no doubt blame Turnbull’s ‘messaging’, or ‘campaigning’ on this disconnect between what voters want, and what Turnbull is offering. But the truth is, no matter how well advertised a can of soft drink is, no matter how much money is spent on savvy strategists, opinion polling and glitzy campaign launches, or how many journalists campaign for this world-view, if people taste the drink and it tastes like cat-piss, they’re not going to buy it. Or, more importantly, they’re not going to buy it a second time.
A man like Turnbull, who lives in a harbourside mansion worth god-knows-how-many-tens-of-millions, who made his money in unproductive merchant banking, who uses Panama tax-havens to ensure his own astronomical wealth continues to grow at a pace grossly outstripping low, average and middle income wealth growth, will, I suggest, find it difficult to come up with a really convincing reason why an ordinary Australian should support a trickle-down economic agenda, which has, for the last 20 years at least, failed to have a positive impact on their livelihood. Turnbull is out-of-touch with electoral tastes because he is out-of-touch with the real needs and wants of the electorate.
Let’s get something straight. This is not class war. This is class awakening. Ordinary Australians, even Liberal candidates, are realising that leaders like Turnbull and his Liberal colleagues, don’t have the best interests of ordinary Australians at heart when they stake their political careers on policies that hurt ordinary Australians. It was bound to happen eventually.
So what can Hastie and Ramsay and any other Liberal candidate do who finds it difficult to sell the Liberal’s cuts to education, to healthcare, a slow NBN, cuts to arts funding, a $50 billion gift to mostly-offshore-multinationals, a pathetic-wasteful-not-effective Direct Action climate policy, lower-wages-through-threats-to-penalty-rates, a freezing of the childcare rebate and any other number of policies which have the net-result of increasing wealth inequality at the expense of the wealth of the 1%? The answer is not in messaging, or in finding a more authentic ‘real tradie’, or changing leaders to see if someone else can sell the snake-oil to the ordinary folk more effectively. The answer is having a good long hard look at a world-view which doesn’t serve the interests of the Australian electorate, who have the democratic hiring and firing power to choose who runs the country. If the electorate doesn’t like what you’ve got to offer, maybe it’s time to change that offering. If Liberal candidates want to campaign on a platform that’s easier to ‘sell’ to voters, such as offering better education, better healthcare, infrastructure and an array of social and economic policies which reduce wealth inequality and low-and-behold, create the growth and jobs which the Liberal’s trickle-down policies do not, maybe they should campaign for the Labor Party.