Below are Josh Frydenberg’s Ten Lessons to Get Liberals Back on Track,
following the defeat of the Napthine government last Saturday. But
maybe the Secretary to the Prime Minister is giving his boss a bit of
advice as well. Couldn’t help myself …
One: Develop a clear narrative consistent with Liberal philosophy. Well, First Dog on the Moon’s got that one sorted.
‘Kill the Poor’ is probably my favourite of his suggestions. The
Liberals already have a perfectly clear and consistent narrative: take
from the poor and give to the rich, otherwise known as supply side
economics. The problem is that if this narrative were actually spelt
out, it would be deeply unpopular electorally. If you want an
alternative economic narrative, read this article
about how we need to build a combination of business capital,
infrastructure, human capital, intellectual capital, natural capital and
Two: Communication is key. Possibly, but it depends on what you’ve got to communicate. As pollsters Lewis and Woods report,
the budget, for example, ‘has been perceived as being unfair from day
one, the perception being that the delivery on the promise to cut the
debt was actually a fig leaf for wider ideological indulgences.’ Hard to
polish a turd.
Three: Challenge the right of partisan unionists to openly campaign in uniform against the sitting government.
Public servants identifying themselves as such at polling booths – not
cricket, eh Josh? So are we going to challenge the right of partisan big
miners to take out paid advertisements against a government policy? To
say nothing of the partisan media. The Liberals have only themselves to
blame. They have politicised the public service by forcing cuts to
services which those who are supposed to deliver them know are
essential. If they aren’t going to shut up about it, well, chickens do
fly home to roost. The sky is dark with them.
Four: Never let the public forget the failures of your political predecessors.
How’s the ‘blame Labor’ mantra working for you fifteen months after the
election? By all means choose to go on as you started – negative and
vindictive. But I think you’ll find voters can be inspired by policies
that promise a better future.
Five: Disunity is death. You’re
probably right. But it’s hard to stay united when backbenchers see the
destructive policies of their leaders eating away at their electoral
support. Watch this space.
Six: Avoid the fringe and play to the middle.
And just how is the Liberal government doing on that one? Trying to
destroy Medicare, opposing effective action on climate change, cutting
the ABC, trying to make higher education prohibitively expensive for
ordinary students – all of this is motivated by basic right wing
ideology, much of it set out well before the election by the right-wing
think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. The Abbott government is
doing its best to tick off all seventy-five items on their wish list.
Parties should avoid opening up damaging debates on issues already
settled, you say. Really? Trying to water down section 18c of the Racial
Discrimination Act fits in with this advice how?
Seven: Incumbency is providing a diminishing return.
Possibly, but hardly a rule of political life, and only if incumbency
includes breaking promises and bringing in legislation that helps your
mates and hurts everyone else. The Liberals totally negative election
agenda got them elected – but isn’t proving an asset in government.
Eight: Don’t leave election announcements too late because more people vote early.
OK. But expect a high degree of cynicism about election policies
whether they are announced early or late in the campaign. ‘No cuts to
education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the
GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.’ Recall those promises Josh? More
like lies, really, made to be broken. Who’s going to believe anything
you say next time? A record of meaningful achievement is worth more than
a few carrots at election time.
Nine: Regroup, renew. I’m betting
there will be a Federal Liberal government redistribution fairly soon.
Again, watch this space. But you don’t get much renewal when you stick
to the same inequitable and punitive policies that have got you into
trouble in the first place.
Ten: There is always a silver lining.
Hmm. It’s true as you say that the Greens are splitting the progressive
vote, but there are a very limited number of areas where Labor will
vote with the Liberals against them. Hardly a recipe for future Liberal
success. And if I were you Josh, I’d be paying a bit more attention to
the Nationals. Lots of country people – National voters up till now –
are realising that climate change is their very real enemy and that
renewable energy is their friend. No wonder the big end of town is
getting upset by GetUp’s new ad showing rural support for wind energy.
While we’re on an advice-giving kick, can I suggest Eleven, Josh? Don’t rely on your mates in the Murdoch press to guarantee you a smooth ride.
It’s dangerous on two fronts. First, they hate failure and turn against
you if there’s a sniff of it. Second, they are becoming increasingly
irrelevant as newspaper sales fall and people look elsewhere for news
and opinion. As you say, ‘advertising via Facebook and Google is often
more likely to connect with the swinging voter’. But you need to have
something to say that they want to hear – and maybe these people who use
these platforms think that a fiber to the node NBN wasn’t such a bad
idea after all.
I don’t blame you for trying to take lessons from the history. As
your quote from Aldous Huxley, ‘That men do not learn very much from the
lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of
history,’ is probably spot on. But I think I’ll go with a different one:
Talleyrand, of the Bourbons – read the Abbott government – ‘They
learned nothing and forgot nothing’.
- Interesting that Frydenberg should quote Aldus Huxley. He’s the one
that said in 1934 that ‘Universal education has created an immense class
of what I may call the New Stupid.’ Universal education is clearly what
current Liberal policy on university fees is seeking to avoid. Must be
worried about the new stupid.