February 03, 2004

Beattie romps and stomps it in with an aggravated assault

For 35 minutes last night I sweated and pounded away on the treadmill in my local gym. They have two televisions tuned to commercial TV, and you can only hear the sound if you wear a Walkman with FM reception. I don’t, so for all televisual intents and purposes I was deaf. Even with this hearing impairment and the demands of physical exertion I couldn’t miss the Labor message.

Channel 7 must have run the positive Beattie ads with the admonition to “Keep Queensland Moving” 5 times. Channel 10 was a little more risqué. I saw the positive ads a couple of times, but I also saw a negative ad twice attacking the Coalition on Health. Both of them had enough bold print splashed across the screen that I didn’t need sound to know what they were saying.

This second ad was interesting for a number of reasons. It shows how Labor’s campaign is segmenting the market. Nine MSN’s TV Guide promises viewers of The HotHouse “Construction, confrontation and elimination…”. The political instincts of reality show fans are presumably those of the colliseum. Don’t like them? SMS an inverted thumb! My Wife and Kids obviously has a more caring and sharing demographic. Keep Queensland Moving goes out of its way to be inoffensive (Have you noticed that in the scene where Beattie uses a laptop it is an Apple? Even the geeks are cared and catered for.)

Another thing I noted is that it picks up on some of the themes that have recently come through in our focus group research. When Beattie opened the campaign he said, amongst other things, that this election was a way of sending John Howard a message on Health. When we tried this on our participants they didn’t agree. They thought Health was the most important issue in voting, but it really didn’t appear to be changing votes.

Another theme which has started to come through is that there is anger at John Howard and the federal government. This came out particularly in last week’s rural and regional focus group and probably has something to do with the intersection of National Competition Policy and rural issues in dairying and sugar. These people also thought that both Labor and Coalition were too much “Brisbane” parties.

Labor’s health ad rolls a number of these themes together. It asks for a vote on the basis that the National Party has caved in to Canberra on health and that Queensland needs someone who will stick up for Queensland. Labor has moved the question subtly away from sending Canberra a message to sending the state coalition a message using Health as the vehicle. It taps into anger at Howard as well as the Banana-Bender's hostile and parochial attitude to “Mexicans”. I think it will work, possibly better in rural areas than down here in Brisbane.

During the same 35 minute period I didn’t see one Coalition ad. That raises another question. Why is Beattie trying so hard? Yesterday’s Courier Mail carried some polling .It showed the two-party preferred Labor vote increasing to 57 percent in Indooroopilly, 67 percent in Noosa and 55 percent in Keppel. If these results were repeated all over the state it would mean that the Coalition would be further away from government than they are now and could even lose seats. There is certainly no risk of Beattie losing government. Yet he is still pounding his opposition with well-targetted advertisements, and they have already taken so much financial injury that they cannot even afford to respond.

It is the political equivalent of aggravated assault and it does carry a risk. By kicking so hard he may conjure up a sympathy (rather than protest) vote for the Opposition. Of course it wouldn’t be enough for them to win office, but it might help them to claw back in a few seats, particularly if they could switch their message from “Restoring the Balance” to “Avoiding the Massacre”. I don’t think the electorate is that contemptuous of the Opposition that they would be impervious to an appeal to “save us from ourselves”. It is worth the Opposition trying that line. Now they are playing “catch-up” politics. The lines they are using aren’t working, so it’s time they took a risk.

Posted by Graham at February 3, 2004 01:32 PM

I would not be so sure about Mt Ommaney, the Liberal Candidate (Keith Hamilton) is doing one hell of a job and has endorsements by heaps of well known people in the electorate. I do not think he will win but I think there will be a big swing to the Libs in that seat, keep an eye on it.

Posted by: Moose at February 5, 2004 04:51 PM

As if Labor does not have enough adverts, I now have an envelope and letter from parliamentary stationery,posted at taxpayers' expense, signed by a Queensland Labor senator, advocating favourable opinion of Labor's Lockyer state candidate. It is sent as information on Telstra.

This opens Pandora's box. The trouble is, the people always complain if Liberals use taxpayers in this way.

Posted by: Ronda Herrmann at February 5, 2004 02:12 PM

im really sorry if this isnt the thing to write on one of these websites but we're learning about government this year and i was wondering if you could send me the words for the keep queensland moving add. then i will be able to tell my teacher.

thankyou, and sorry if this question isnt relevant in this election.

Posted by: elizabehth o'shea at February 4, 2004 10:26 PM

I think the explanation for the Libs lack of interest is that Greenslopes requires a 14% swing to be won according to our pendulum: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/onlinefocus/Qld_election_2004/Pendulum.htm. Still, that only puts it 4 seats the other side of a win.

This is interesting because in 1995 it was just on the Coalition side of forming government. A number of other seats have also moved out of reach - Mt Ommaney, Albert and Barron River.

You are right, if the Coalition was seriously running to win, then they would have put an effort into Greenslopes. The fact that they would need a 14% swing for a reasonable majority shows just how impossible the task was in the first place.

Posted by: Graham Young at February 3, 2004 06:37 PM

Strangely, the Liberals scrutineered the Declared Institutions in Greenslopes. I think that's a pretty odd allocation of resources for about 200 votes.


Posted by: g.shine at February 3, 2004 03:33 PM

A possibly more serious long term risk for Labor is that if it actually does grind the coalition further into the dust, it may spark off a genuine remaking of the Liberal Party Qld branch!

An explanation of Labor's tactics might be that, having failed to really get anywhere on the attempt to get people to see them as vulnerable to a protest vote, they see the need to keep hammering away at the opposition to try to prevent a protest vote developing late in the week when they can't counter it.

I just got my second highly professional brochure from Labor in my letterbox. It focuses on what Labor will do for my electorate. There still hasn't been a followup from the initial vague and poorly photocopied brochure from the Liberal candidate - I can only conclude they don't think they're a chance, which is strange because it seems to me that Greenslopes is the sort of electorate where a protest vote (if it eeventuated) could be quite potent.

Posted by: Alex McConnell at February 3, 2004 02:05 PM
Graham Young
John Black
Mark Bahnisch
Michael Lee