And so it was announced. May 18. Finally. Whoever had that on their bingo card, well done. It’s remarkable how journalists attempt to inject drama, colour and light into election date announcements, especially when it’s the difference of a week here or there. Those welded to political twitter learnt more about election half Senate windows than ever before.
And on the outside? An election? Meh.
This election is so predictable that it would be possible for every journalist waiting to cover it to make a bingo card right now, ready for the next thing to arrive.
For one, the key issues in this election are the same as they have been for some time.
The Coalition represent:
- Coal mines
- Coal fired power
- Wealthy retirees and their franking credits
- Wealthy investors and their negatively geared properties
- Providing a speculative surplus (due to the luck of a growing economy and an increase in tobacco excise)
- Creating hyperbolic scares about the Labor Party, relating to trade unions, asylum seekers, electric cars, renewable energy, environment policy in general
- Appealing to “mum and dad” property investors and “cash poor” retirees
- Tax cuts for those who have come to vote Liberal in the last twenty years – self employed “tradies” (we have already seen so many utes and trucker caps that the crew at Insiders could montage them and have footage to spare)
The Labor Party represent:
- Coal mines (but not as much as the Coalition)
- Renewable energy (they are more bold about this than they were in the past)
- Recycling – especially Turnbull’s Energy policy
- Advocating for wages growth (but not too much)
- Reversing the Sunday penalty rates decision
- Changing The Rules (a good campaign line from the union movement that sounds decisive and dedicated to needed changes to the industrial landscape to provide more balance towards workers, but not so revolutionary as to scare “middle” Australia and small business)
- An Electric Cars aspirational target for 11 years time
- Sound taxation policy that stops the claiming for negative gearing, a tax rort that exists almost nowhere else (but grandfathered for existing investors, of course)
- Sound franking credits policy that reverses one of the most flagrant rorts perpetrated in the Howard years
- Better funding for public sector services – schools, hospitals
- Tax cuts for swinging voters
The Greens represent:
- Everything that isn’t Labor or Coalition philosophy, because they aren’t in this old game for the votes of “Middle” Australia :
- Advocating for more Newstart
- Advocating for more climate change action
- Advocating for asylum seekers to be treated as human beings, not political pawns
- Advocating for a reduction of the middle class welfare of funding independent schools
- Better policies for the disenfranchised and those on the margins of society
- A New Green Way
Of course they all represent more than this. But this campaign will be centred on these ideas. And the whole campaign will be dire and simplistic. Just looking at the campaign concepts and websites gives a glimpse into what we will hear and see for the next month.
The Labor Party is building its campaign around Bill Shorten as a safe pair of hands, with a business sensibility – just as it did with Kevin Rudd in 2007. Even the campaign videos look the same. Careful, not radical.
The Labor website builds its imagery around Bill and some simple concepts – the idea of Labor being a team (in the way it was not in 2010 – 2013); supporting schools; supporting hospitals, supporting workers. Safe. Bland. It is also emerging that like in 2007, the Labor campaign – especially Shorten’s contributions – will be focused on positivity and on their plans as an alternative government, not indulging in criticising the government – another safe and effective approach. Shorten doesn’t need to refer to the disunity within the Coalition – it’s been open for everyone to see for 6 years.
From the early days of the campaign, though, it’s clear that there does need to be some criticising of the government, and will come from the likes of Anthony Albanese again, along with Tanya Plibersek and now Kristina Keneally – the latter’s skills on show in her using of the electric car rhetoric of more economically literate members of the government back on themselves.
The Liberal Party, by contrast, is pitching itself directly at a high vis “building our economy” cliché. Morrison looks more authentic in this clobber than his predecessor, so they are putting him as many of these as possible.
In addition, it will be attack after attack. We have seen this early on with Peter Dutton, the attack dog’s attack dog, mauling his opponent in Dickson, Ali France, by accusing her of “using her disability as an excuse” for not having moved to Dickson as yet. This from the same man who wanted to be preselected for a Gold Coast seat because he was under threat of losing Dickson. As political ugliness goes, Dutton is the platinum standard.
The campaign is also featuring a development of a trend that appeared from time to time in 2016 – the staged and packaged campaign appearance that doesn’t allow the cameras of travelling journalists to capture a variation from the Approved Image. Even commercial news journalists are expressing displeasure at this attempt at State Broadcasting.
This is what the election will be. We know what both parties represent. Bland promises, bland campaign events and the usual run of bingo calls, school visits, hospital visits, visits to Penrith, visits to Queensland, appearances in hi-vis, blah blah blah.
For the public, this is an election of meh, where, if we all listened carefully, we might hear the faint mutterings of bingo from the accompanying gallery.