From Big Brother to Survivor – Ignoring Abbott and Focusing on his Team

We have the dust settled from the somewhat absurd challenge from the Kevin the Tea Man, which highlighted somewhat how centred on leaders our politics and coverage of politics has become. The idea that people vote for a leader, not a party has become the key idea in the way politics is represented. The ALP played to this somewhat with the Kevin 07 shirts and the Howard-lite positioning of the Milky Bar Kid.

This leader-centric approach has also gripped the ALP in their strategy against Tony Abbott. It’s all focused on Abbott, because opinion polls are telling them Abbott isn’t popular, especially amongst women. Lachlan Harris, former adviser to Rudd, repeated this line on Q and A on Monday night – “Abbott is the Government’s best asset”.  It is not, however, the best strategy. It continues, somewhat, the idea that politics is a Celebrity Big Brother contest, where individuals compete for the ring in votes.

It’s a mistake because Abbott is like the contestant on Big Brother that surprises everyone with his resilience and ability to stay around. He has proven to be cockroach like in his ability to survive attack after attack launched by the government. His approach of relentlessly simplifying everything to soundbites and opposing government spending on anything public is working. Rudd tried to oppose him with intellect and well constructed argument – Abbott was able to sound more like an “average bloke” by using simple language to demonstrate how Rudd was out of touch with the “ordinary Australian”. It was an approach that worked for John Howard against Paul Keating – playing to an anti-intellectual tune works nicely in an media landscape where intellectual rigour is derided as “elitism” and megaphone ranting is highly prized.

Against Gillard, Abbott’s “Aussie bloke” approach has worked easily against an opponent whose voices has been drained of warmth by advisers who seemed to have turned her into an automaton.  It is this success that still makes me unsure that Turnbull would succeed in taking over from Abbott. Turnbull plays well to the inner city people who frequent Twitter and various media outlets – because he’s a very smart, compassionate politician. However, the Liberals don’t need votes in those areas. To many Australians, Turnbull is a super rich corporate banker, therefore not one of “them”.

The approach the ALP should be taking is looking at the mid-season Survivor model – demonstrating that teamwork wins the challenges.  This is why I wonder why they persist with the focus on Abbott when he has proven to be able to bounce back from every attack with the same, boring, droning response. They should be focusing on his “team” – the ones who only just voted for Abbott over Turnbull. The ones who make such monumental stuff-ups whenever they are asked questions.

– The multi billion dollar black hole Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have offered up, as well as their own failed sums when attacking the Government.

– There’s Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion that the NBN really isn’t necessary – wireless will suffice. Or maybe not – silence about the issue seems to be the theme now.

– Perhaps Christopher Pyne’s 1950s education suggestion that students should be learning Classics instead of skills “that could become obsolete”. Great quotes “You have to teach kids about things, not just how to do things” shows just how clueless Pyne is about modern schooling, where both things do indeed occur.  His call for greater private investment in schools could also do with some attention, suggesting as it does that advertising should be in schools, as should companies recruiting students about to finish Year 12.

– They should be highlighting a Climate Change and Environment Spokesman in Greg Hunt who once spoke glowingly of carbon pricing

– Barnaby Joyce, who provides gold most days

– Cory Bernardi’s views

– The rantings of Sophie Mirabella, shown here in a confrontation with Bill Heffernan about milk prices – an issue that shows a stark contrast between the neoliberal and agrarian socialist instincts of the Coalition.

The list goes on with Liberals who crumble under anything approaching a cross examination by a journalist or politician. There are a number of people in the community who are unaware of just how many holes Abbott has in his team, the mistakes they make, the concepts they don’t understand. They are unaware because the main Government emphasis is on Abbott – and the media report what the Government is saying about him.

It is even more puzzling when the emphasis of Gillard’s time as leader hasn’t really been about her, it’s on her government, her team. The narrative that Rudd wasn’t a team builder, but she is.  That is even more reason to question the Coalition team’s ability to deliver competent government.   They should be working at constructing the narrative that you may respect / possibly like Abbott, but his team can’t run an effective government, they would fail at any Survivor challenge that would be thrown at them.  I suspect, though, that the ALP will continue to struggle to make an impact on Abbott, wasting resources and time on the episode of Celebrity Big Brother that Gillard had hoped she’d avoided.

You could say that the Survivor metaphor doesn’t work because ultimately, it is about the individual winning over everyone. Yes, that is true. However, for me it works because you can’t make it through the whole series without a good team.  Nor can you win in Australian politics by playing nice.


13 thoughts on “From Big Brother to Survivor – Ignoring Abbott and Focusing on his Team

  1. Iain Hall says:

    To use a survivor metaphor Team Abbott are just the better team when it comes to the challenges, especially when the Labor team have been so focused on backstabbing each other.
    The fact that Labor have stuffed up in so many of their programs as well means that Labor will be voted off the Island sooner rather than later.

    While I understand the frustrations of a Lefty true believer like yourself at the government’s performance your attempts to denigrate the Libs falls very flat by comparison to Labor’s ineptitude in the way that they mange and deliver every scheme that they devise, from Pink batts, to school halls, Asylum seeker policy and the latest today is the way that they have cut off their solar hot water subsidy without any notice. This current could not organise a fu*k in a brothel.
    Although I must say that Gillard’s “tame” speaker is proving to be something other than Gillard expected… which is a real hoot!

    1. prestontowers says:

      I think calling me a “lefty true believer” is a bit harsh, if not wildly inaccurate. You have outed yourself as a Liberal party pusher by the lies about pink batts, school halls, etc. They weren’t the problem the Liberals have constantly said they were. I would suggest you look at the facts surrounding those issues, but I suspect you wouldn’t read them. But, keep on shilling for them on Auspol or wherever they still talk about that.

      1. Iain Hall says:

        I have been voting since I was legally able to in the early seventies and in that time I have voted for Labor on most occasions, in fact it was the rise of Rudd with his CRPS madness that finally tipped me over the edge to vote for the coalition. So its not the case that I am mindlessly reiterating their talking points.
        As someone else has said there is no doubt that Gillard and Co have done poorly and no matter how much you endorse the Labor party spin there is just no getting away from the fact that even when they have a good idea the execution and follow through has been utterly woeful, Take the aforementioned Pink batts is the perfect example of a good idea that was badly executed with insufficient oversight and a subsidy that meant that it was perfect fro the Tele-pests to get every man and his dog to sign up
        even if they had no house and the government did not care who did the work.

      2. prestontowers says:

        CPRS “madness” indicates, as well as a misunderstanding of the insulation scheme indicates a propensity to be of the school of Labor that believes governments should not attempt to deliver long term benefits for the environment. Pity is that there are apparently many in the ALP – especially in NSW, who follow that “climate change is crap” line, including, famously, the long unlamented Michael Costa. Long reading of this blog will show that I don’t endorse Labor Party spin – what I do endorse is accurate reporting and comment about politics.

      3. Iain Hall says:

        You don’t have to believe that AGW* is crap to oppose the nutty responses to the perceived problem. Both the CPRS and Gillard’s carbon tax are not going to make a scrap of difference to the climate or the environment and that alone is good enough reason to oppose them They are bot in essence just a sordid attempt by the governemnt to extract ever more money from the people under false pretences.

        With regard to Labor party spin endorsement at your blog I have not read every post here but this post in particular seems to come straight out of the Labor party hymn book.
        * I always make the distinction between “climate change” which is constant and “natural” and the overblown claims about human influence on the
        climate .

      4. prestontowers says:

        I do note the equivocations on climate change. The only explanation necessary for this exchange.

  2. Oracle says:

    Not a mention of the ineptitude of Gillard’s own team in this piece. Need we go beyond Wayne Swan? You say they should focus on Turnbull’s NBN policy, which I find strange, as Turnbull has constantly shown up Conroy’s terrible performance in this area.

    In reality, both teams would be relatively evenly matched, though there are some bright sparks on the Liberal backbench waiting for their turn.

    Sorry Preston, the tribe has spoken. It’s time to go, Julia.

    1. prestontowers says:

      We don’t see the Liberals doing anything like in-depth analysis of people beyond their carping about Gillard, Rudd and these “faceless men”, which actually do have faces. As much of a face as Nick Minchin, at least. Their attacks on Swan have been inaccurate (as I mentioned) and Turnbull’s “it’s too expensive” line has been disproven on the Delimiter site, amongst other places. As for the Liberal “bright sparks”, they are being dimmed by the presence of Mirabella, Hawke and Bernardi. Haven’t seen much else yet.

  3. Stevan says:

    Roll on 2013 and Ms Gillard’s re-election and continued stewardship of this nation. Expect her to be in the chair after the 2016 election, too. We need to have an effective opposition emerge from somewhere sooner or later, or the iron lady may have to contest and win further elections into her dotage. The current opposition is already there!

    1. prestontowers says:

      If by some miracle Gillard wins in 2013, I don’t expect her to stay in the chair for that long after. I suspect she wouldn’t want to in any case. I can’t remember a tougher period for a PM since her time of assuming the leadership.

  4. puffyTMD says:

    This is a very good analysis. Gillard has the best team and the skills and ability to take them to victory at the next election, as long as they stop trying to beat Abbott and leave him to beat himself.

  5. Pip says:

    Abbott will prove too much for his own party in the end.
    As if the dodgy Budget assumptions costings debacle wasn’t enough of a warning about their credentials, their leader doesn’t appear to consult with his Shadow Treasurer or Shadow for Finance

    Hockey leaves supermarket regulation off shopping list

    Yesterday, however, Mr Robb created uncertainty about Mr Abbott’s $3.3 billion paid parental scheme which Mr Abbott again said, last week, was set in stone.

    ”We’ve not finalised any of our major policies,” Mr Robb said. ”We had some we took to the last election and that’s one of them. Now, the potential for us to spend or not spend will depend on what the government does.”

    Mr Abbott was also under fire yesterday for promising a Coalition government would increase the indexation rate of military pensions. Labor considered the idea but found it to be too expensive. It would cost the budget $1.7 billion over four years and increase the Commonwealth’s unfunded superannuation liability by $6.2 billion.

    There is concern too, inside the Liberal Party, about the promise, given it is trying to identify savings to fund all the promises Mr Abbott has made.

    But Mr Abbott said the policy would be fully costed.

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