Dirty talk a turn off

Peter Farago
In last week’s Independent former Liberal candidate for Bellarine Don Gibson said his party’s decision to run a clean campaign cost it November’s state election.
If that’s the case then it confirms the sad way politicians are viewed in Australia.
The Liberal party ran a policy-based campaign at the election and failed.
What opposition leader Ted Baillieu and his charges in Geelong failed to do was create a sense of need for change in the community.
But Mr Gibson, who’s campaign for the Bellarine electorate included a key pledge to give residents a vote on whether to create a separate Bellarine Peninsula shire, believed that Mr Baillieu should have focused more on the Government’s failures.
“One of the considerations was that we didn’t focus on digging up dirt on the Government’s performance and pointing out its failures,” Mr Gibson told the Independent.
There’s plenty of dirt to be found on this Government – much of which the Liberals had highlighted in the lead-up to November’s ballot.
There was Labor’s backflip on road tolls in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, a lack of police resources in Geelong and the Government’s compromised final route for stage three of the city’s bypass, er, sorry, ring road.
And they were highlights of the campaigns – it’s just that voters didn’t care enough to change the government.
But Mr Gibson’s assessment says plenty about how well Labor ran its small-target campaign.
The message was to vote for Mr Bracks when it matters.
But Mr Bracks wasn’t getting out of his comfort zone to debate anything at the election.
It was a no-nonsense, no-acrimony, no-distractions campaign.
Mr Bracks did not want to give people a reason to change their vote on election day.
And in that sense Mr Gibson’s assessment of the Liberals’ campaign was right on the money.
In federal politics, Prime Minister John Howard has been lurching from one mess to another recently as his opponent, Kevin Rudd, basks in an extended honeymoon period against an old, perhaps arrogant, government that’s starting to get on the nose.
But the minute his opponent got close to controversy, Mr Howard was on the attack. And his opponent’s character was the objective.
That’s Mr Howard’s political savvy to the fore.
He changed the focus in a flurry of superlatives and put his opponent on the back foot.
In contrast, November’s state election was a boring affair.
Labor adopted Liberal policies that the Government saw as a point of difference but remained entrenched in the bunker where the opposition was no threat.
And Geelong was one of those areas.

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