19 November 2008

Rudd's war on everything: the anatomy of political spin

Kevin Rudd's war on everything is one of the less sophisticated examples of his talent for political spin, and it became the source of amusement during question time when Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance, Competition Policy & Deregulation, asked him about the numerous wars that he has declared since becoming Prime Minister a year ago:

Mr HOCKEY (3.09 pm)—My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his 2007 declared war on drugs, his January 2008 declared war on inflation and yesterday’s declared war on unemployment. I also refer the Prime Minister to the 2007 ‘Rudd’s war on whalers’, the February 2008 ‘A war cabinet to fight disadvantage’, his February 2008 war on downloads, his March 2008 war on pokies, his May war against doping in sport and his October war on bankers’ salary deals. Prime Minister, how goes the war on everything?

Mr Rudd has mastered the usage of keywords to powerful effect. While some voters found Rudd's repetition of phrases such as "education revolution" and "working families" during his 2007 election campaign rather monotonous, others found them inspiring. It might be difficult to accept that merely selecting the right words and using them as frequently as possible with barely any policy detail can win an election, but we must remember that campaigns are designed to appeal to the voters who will determine the outcome of an election, not everybody. A voter might base their decision on little more than 30 seconds of an interview they saw on the 7.30 Report, which they never watch except when changing channels.

A new mantra that Labor has added to their arsenal of spin is "decisive action", which started to become common when the global economic outlook began to deteriorate. It appeared 16 times in the Hansard of the House of Representatives for November 12: 14 instances from Labor MPs, once in a quote from the The Australian, and once by Liberal MP Tony Abbot:

Mr ABBOTT (Warringah) (10.36 am)—It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Werriwa, who is a strong representative of his constituents and is doing his best to defend the government. I have to say that ‘decisive action’ has joined ‘working families’ as the government’s cliche du jour. The fact is: this is belated action, at least insofar as pensioners are concerned, because the opposition has been calling for strong action to help pensioners since very early on in the year when it became clear that prices were skyrocketing, particularly the prices faced by pensioners and others on low incomes.

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