14 August 2010
To be a good politician, you must be a good actor. And today on a government owned research farm near Ballina, in northern New South Wales, Julia Gillard deftly worked the election campaign stage.
Overtly, this was to announce a carbon farming scheme. But with no new money for an idea pinched from Malcolm Turnbull, this was really about presenting an image of Farmyard Julia for the Sunday papers.
For a woman of the suburbs, trying to narrow in on a demographic dominated by the Nationals, this was the first and probably only visit to rural Australia. The production had to be just right.
The costume: RM Williams boots (clearly virginal), casual jeans and a light blue woolen jacket. Perfect. (a good move to avoid the John Howard style Acubra)
The set: Idyllic farm, complete with picket fence, baying cattle, tractor and farmhouse in the background. Spot on.
The extras: Workers at the research station who had been told to “dress down” for the occasion. Check.
The script: A policy that would allow the PM to talk about how important farmers are, a walk with some cattle and a cup of tea with some farmers. Locked and loaded.
But typical of opening night, it didn't go quite to plan. Overnight came the tragic news of another Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan. How would this delicate and sensitive situation be handled?
The Prime Minister would do two separate news conferences.
The first, was only on Afghanistan, where she adopted a suitably somber expression, tone and phraseology.
Then, after a quick walk through the fields, the second, which was full of energy, humour and a touch of velvet-gloved aggression towards the Opposition Leader.
The fascinating part was Julia Gillard's ability to switch between the two personalities, within the space of less than 30 minutes. She had to convey the genuine worry and sadness she felt about another dead soldier. She also had to keep up the vim and vigor of a wannabe PM, a week from polling day.
This sort of act is nothing unusual in politics. And it's not to say the PM is any more or less artificial than Tony Abbott, or anyone else in her position. It's just to highlight the importance of being able to ‘turn it on' at the right time and in the right way.
At the best of times, the game is all about trust, which is driven largely by appearance and performance. In an election campaign largely devoid of visionary ideas, where both candidates are chasing bragging rights for being the most miserly, theatrics and improvisation are all the more crucial.
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tony mullen, wellington (2 September 2010 6:45PM) wrote:
you said it,! the game is all about trust. tony abbotts costings show he can't be trusted. if he wins it will be a sad day for australia.
Deni Cameron, Darwin, NT (20 August 2010 10:36PM) wrote:
Hi David... I love your take on the politics, the players, the scenes (and the RAAF Hercules!) in this election. I have to say, it was a thrill for me to be a part of the argy bargy of the 2010 Campaign, and an absolute pleasure looking after the "A" Team Press Pack on their magical mystery flights! During the four weeks I was involved I relied heavily on Sky News for comprehensive Election coverage and indicators of which marginal seat we might be headed to next! I want to congratulate you, Ashleigh, Kieran, David and all the Sky News Team for your outstanding work! Cheers... Deni Cameron Flight Attendant (and Sky News Addict!) Abbott Press Pack Airnorth Embraer ERJ170