Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 'Government Gazette' Becomes The 'Opposition Oracle'

We keep hearing how the new Liberal/National Opposition government is lost. They don't have a clue. They are "Me Tooing" the Rudd government, with their acceptance of the reality of climate change, the need to ratify Kyoto and that WorkChoices is about as popular as a rusty razor to the nipple being just a few of their "We're With You Guys!" whiplash-inducing policy turnarounds.

But before the Libs go out and blow much needed money hiring policy experts and advisors to shape their party platforms, they should just turn to the main op-ed page of The Australian today, where the editor is, once again, telling the Libs exactly what they need to do to win back the public support.

When the Libs were in government, The Australian was known in the blogstream as the 'Government Gazette' for its near ceaseless support of the Howard government and its constant hyping of utterly abysmal poll results for Howard & Friends. 'Howard Stages A Comeback' and all that.

Seeing as The Australian already looks like it will stick to helping the Liberal Party in every way that it can, it's time for a rebranding of the newspaper that "keeps the nation (and the Libs) informed". Forget the 'Government Gazette'. It's now the 'Opposition Oracle'.

As long as Nelson and the Libs do what they're told by the editor of Opposition Oracle, and its conservative-heavy op-ed writers, they can expect plenty of good press this year.

But only if they do what they're told.

So listen up Mr Nelson, the Opposition Oracle is speaking. Get out your highlighter pen and mark up Your Brand New Policy Platform For 2008-2010 :

In charting a course back to government, the Coalition leadership needs to...learn the lessons of recent history. They will not win power by fighting the centralist Rudd Government from the rigid Right, any more than the Labour Party in Britain was going to beat the Thatcher/Major Conservatives fighting from the rigid Left.

Rather than trapping itself in a time warp, the Opposition's job is to exploit the weaknesses in the Rudd Government's IR policies. Later in the election cycle, when the impact of the Government's changes are clearer, the Coalition should refine andrebadge its alternative and sell it positively as the way of the future.

Just as the genesis of New Labour's victory in Britain was the pragmatic dumping of sacred "white elephants" such as socialism and nationalisation of the means of production, Australia's Coalition needs to review some of its positions. Welfare reform is now long-standing and was central to theHawke/Keating governments as well as to the Coalition. It is no coincidence that single mothers were heavily over-represented in eight of the 10 seats in which the Coalition suffered its heaviest losses. This suggests that too many felt antagonised at being forced off welfare and into the workforce.

To be competitive, the Coalition must learn how to soften its sales pitch, using more encouragement and less of the big stick. And while the culture wars are of no interest to many in marginal seats, the Coalition could make ground by focusing on issues such as what is taught at school.

So the advice is : keep sticking it to single mothers and the poor, but don't be so obvious about it. You've got to find yourself some new punching bags, preferably ones that don't have a lot of voting power.

Labor campaigned cleverly on interest rates and petrol and grocery prices, which are largely beyond the control of any government.

But if the Rudd Government fails to meet voters' expectations in a worsening economic climate, the Coalition could argue that they were indeed more competent at steering Australia through challenging times, such as the Asian economic crisis.

In 1996, John Howard won by promising not a conservative revolution but to govern "for all of us" and to make Australians feel "relaxed and comfortable". He wooed the battlers by lifting their aspirations, just as Kevin Rudd did 11 years later. Such a strategy should also mean uniting disparate groups in the national interest, rather than playing the politics of division.
Translation : The Liberals should stop basing their policies on the hysterical opinions of Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman (eg - Global Warming is an evil Green conspiracy), and realise that all the bitterness hacked up from their religiously committed commenters only represent the nuttier fringes of conservative Australia.
While playing the competing interests of one group off against another can appeal to particular constituencies in the short term, punters wise up over time and tend to reject such cynical politics.
Punters know that self-appointed extremist spokespeople-provocateurs for Australian conservatives, like Bolt (who regards Pinochet as a hero), are crazier than a burning cat dumped dumped into a bucket of ice water.
In its new role, the Coalition should understand why fighting on the fringes is no place for an alternative government.
Translation : The so-called 'Culture Wars' are a mind-numbingly tedious bust for most Australians, those that have actually heard of them, and nobody reads Quadrant, but the few that do are hardly representative of the Australian people as a whole, or even a broad slice of Australian conservatives.

Maybe the New Liberals could adopt an anti-globalisation platform, considering the globalised economy is one of the key reasons why our economy is getting hammered right now by the financial meltdown in the United States. Or fight with the unions against Labor as it stalls the winding back of WorkChoices. Or start demanding that Labor do more to embrace alternative energy. Now that would be interesting.