JOHN MENADUE. Negativity and a policy vacuum win the day.

On Saturday, the quiet Australians that Scott Morrison spoke of so fondly voted for self-interest and in fear of change. All the democracies are suffering from a disgruntled working class that wants to blame outsiders and has thrown in its lot with the extreme Right . That is why they chose Brexit and Trump and now Morrison without thinking through the dire consequences. 

We face difficult times.

It is hard to admit that an electorate can get it so wrong. I recall only two elections in which I think that happened. The first was the defeat of Ben Chifley in 1949. The second was last Saturday.

Nevertheless there was a result and we must accept it.

But there are lessons to be learnt.

  • Negativity is hard to beat and it was pursued relentlessly. Malcolm Turnbull was blamed for not being negative enough in 2016. Scott Morrison was determined that he would not make that same mistake.
  • The ‘kill Bill’ attack worked.
  • As a salesman with an inferior product Scott Morrison showed that he was skilled in keeping his message simple. And with endless and untruthful repetition. He didn’t divert onto side issues, let alone to an agenda.
  • Disunity doesn’t matter if you have most of the media onside.
  • Our politics and elections are becoming more presidential. Scott Morrison effectively hid most of his ministers.
  • The pursuit of ‘balance’ by many in our media ensured that truth and untruth got equal coverage.
  • Both Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg said that they believed that climate change was occurring but their actions were quite contrary to their words. It was lip service only.
  • A cashed-up scare campaign, assisted by $80 million from Clive Palmer, worked in demonising Bill Shorten.
  • The electorate didn’t care that many Liberal candidates disowned their own party and ran as ‘Modern Liberals’
  • Most importantly – Bill Shorten had a bold agenda which I applauded. But it was hard to sell. He had a good message, but he personally did not cut through.

The consequences

 Despite the ‘miracle win’ Scott Morrison has no mandate. His campaign was overwhelmingly negative and devoid of significant policies.

In future, parties will be very careful about a bold and positive reform agenda. It can be so easily exploited by vested interests and unscrupulous people.

We now have a nation badly divided and I think grossly deceived in this election.

What of the future?

I hope that the ALP will keep to a bold agenda – climate change, homelessness, inequality and refugees.  It cannot just sit tight as Penny Wong put it on Saturday night. But it must be more carefully presented. It must be simple and focused. Bob Hawke had an overwhelmingly simple message in 1983 – bringing Australians together.

Importantly the ALP must reform it’s own moribund structure and organisation or it will continue to bleed supporters to the Greens and independents. It’s primary vote is in serious and long term decline.

Despite the setbacks, reform is needed. We have work to do.

As Winston Churchill put it in 1947 after his defeat:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Or, as Shushiki, the Japanese Haiku poet put it:

Dead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming, but still …
Iris, blue each Spring.

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20 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. Negativity and a policy vacuum win the day.

  1. David Macilwain says:

    Your points are excellent John, even though I fear we may no longer see “the iris, blue in spring” as we now face accelerating destruction from climate change following the vote for Big Coal. What I find particularly striking is that neither the Labor party nor Greens leaders, and ex-leaders, seem to realise just how they have failed. Some part of the country may now be awake to the dangers of increasing emissions, but the horse has already bolted; we may scream and shout all we like. And this is nothing to say about what else may follow as our closeness to the US is reinforced as tensions rise in the war zones.

  2. Rosemary O'Grady says:

    If it is true that ‘we’ were (all) fooled by the polls (I beg to differ – the polls always looked squamous to me!) then all that needs to remedy that is full & frank disclosure of the kind A. Green offered AFTER the figures came in – perversely – on Saturday. The God-Technology is not Omniscient & Omnipotent. This could have been a game-changer – had we ‘known’ – IN ADVANCE.

    ‘Negativity’ is a weasel-word for ‘Fear’.
    Fear works best in the same way that Evil drives-out Good.
    My old teacher David Mowaljarlai used teach anyone who asked : Of course you use Fear. You have to make them Afraid (youth) – to make them safe. If they are not Fear-full they are Reckless, and that is dangerous – if not Deadly.
    What Labor has not discovered is how to Frighten the Electorate in a Good Way. For example: If you don’t vote to privatise banks you’ll find yourselves on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain with trade warriors and regime-changers and nuclear arms limitation rather than reduction talks. QED.
    Nil desperundum. (Hawkie could have translated that!).

  3. Brian Smith says:

    Certainly greed and fear featured prominently, but there were other factors which contributed. Bob Brown and Getup didn’t do Labor any favour by charging into Queensland with their campaign against Adani. While their intentions were admirable, the execution only galvanised Queenslanders against “those southern socialists” as Joh Bjelke used to call them. The stalling on Coalition promises has started already with Morrison talking about next year for tax cuts. Between now and then some other excuse will emerge!

  4. Marcello Milani says:

    A great analysis, sir!

    With respect to the future of Labor, I agree with you re “moribund structure and organisation”. I have been present at several recent Labor/union events in Brisbane and I suspect that many people who are otherwise inclined towards Labor’s ideas and policies struggle with the traditional messaging. I certainly do.

    Given the reality of the party’s actions beginning with Hawke and Keating, the constant ritual barrage of “Brothers”, “Sisters” and “Comrades” combined with the classic “Shame! Shame!” can seem somewhat rote and disingenuous. It is unlikely to attract people who haven’t grown up within the fold.

    Change? It’s time!

  5. Colin Cook says:

    The election was a triumph of marketing over rational debate. The first rule of marketing is KISS – keep it simple stupid! Morrison had only one message – don’t vote for Bill. Bill had numerous reasons and arguments as to why one should vote or him.
    As with all brilliant marketing campaigns, a lot of people end up with a product they neither wanted nor needed.

    Indeed, Poor Fella My Country – but thank goodness for P&I – a source of hope, reason and sanity; so many thanks John.

  6. Jill Johnson says:

    Labour had some excellent policies but just didn’t get their message across to the people where it counted.

  7. Andrew Glikson says:

    Information and misinformation are power.
    The real winner is, once again, the right wing media, owning some 70 percent of the public domain.

  8. Ann-Maree O’Connor says:

    This is beautifully said, and the haiku is so elegant. I am devastated by Labor’s loss; more so by the fact that the public has put its trust in a person whose character must be seriously questioned (‘he’s my leader and I’m ambitious for him’). The worst thing that Labor can do now is to descend into blood-letting and internally-directed nastiness. Witness the tweet and reply quoted in Tom Richardson’s piece in InDaily:
    If only they could take their cue from Mr Menadue.

  9. Mark elliott says:

    Hard to believe,but the typical Aussie once more showed that any undue thought or effort,was just not on. Hands in pockets,hat on the back of the head,and two bob each way.That’s the ticket.Oh ,POOR FELLA MY COUNTRY

  10. Kien Choong says:

    Democracy works best through public discussion and good reasoning, but admittedly people must be reasonable. Not just the electorate, but also political parties.

    Democracy works poorly when politicians appeal to fear vs hope, unreason vs reason, exclusion vs inclusion, …

    But I firmly believe good reasoning and public discussion will, given time, make the world better!

  11. Don Macrae says:

    All of points well made here. But I have a serious question about the ‘bold agenda. This is the age of marketing. Car makers don’t try to sell their cars based on a list of features: they distill an overarching message. ‘The ultimate driving machine’ is almost as fatuous a tag as most of Morrison’s statements, such as that he believes in Australia for Australians, but it works. And some of Labor’s features, particularly relating to franking credits and negative gearing, were difficult to understand. So..Labor’s ‘agenda’ was big and conscientious, but it remained a laundry list.

    And I fear that the LNP have an implicit mandate: they can do what they like. That’s what they’ve been doing, it’s been terrible, but we’ve told them to keep doing it.

  12. Nigel Drake says:

    John, I have to disagree with you that Scott Morrison has no Mandate – he has the public’s authority to continue to rule, ad hoc, with lies and fundamental self interest.
    He has clearly put instructions to continue the processes of returning the country to a Master and Servant ideal, where the rich get richer and the poor, poorer.
    That’s what a majority of the citizens of the country voted for.

  13. Ken Dyer says:

    No Labor Minister or leader ever has an easy job. The urgency that rests behind the Labor movement, pushing it on to do things, to create new conditions, to reorganise the economy of the country, always means that the people who work within the Labor movement, people who lead, can never have an easy job. The job of the evangelist is never easy.
 (Ben Chifley 1949)

  14. Ted Egan says:

    Or, as the old French song goes: On se pense s’en merde ici!!!!!!

  15. Richard Ure says:


    For all the huffing and puffing going on elsewhere, you have nailed the issues and I doubt you have left any out. But we now know you can blow $50 billion on a project that potentially touches everyone, that was predicted to fail and continues to do so and that will take many years to put right and the electorate can still reward you by letting you keep the keys to the Lodge. You are so hard to disagree with.

  16. Philip Bond says:

    In some electorates it wasn’t a vote for a political party but, an IQ test instead.

  17. Ian Webster says:

    A comprehensive and fair assessment.

    Should be widely distributed to those who care for the future of our young people.

    Thanks, John

  18. David Barr says:

    Poor fella my country

  19. Evan Hadkins says:

    I think you are being much too kind to Labor John.

    They did not even advocate raising the dole!

    Their concern for the climate did not extend to shutting down Adani. Nor did they propose anything for those concerned for their jobs.

    The franking credit change would have made little difference to the wealthy (they’d have just moved their money), and was poorly explained to retirees. Where were the media releases saying, “The franking credits change won’t touch you if you have an income under [however may $100K]”?

    I’m not surprised Labor was mislead by the polls, we all were.

    But their offering was lacklustre, to put it as kindly as possible.

    • Richard Ure says:

      The wealthy are so small in number they don’t need to be considered. And except in Warringah, most will be voting LNP from the grave. As to being “poorly explained” first you need the audience’s attention, then you need to repeat the same message n times where n is a big number and the message is short. Scott knew that even if Mathias Cormann doesn’t. It is likely those with the smallest loss (e.g., a few Telstra shares) will fear its impact the most, regardless of reality.

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