One aspect of contemporary politics in which the Coalition has outstripped Labor has been in its use of slogans. Coalition slogans have been simple, often just three words, understandable, plausible, memorable and successful in promoting the Coalition’s agenda. Because its agenda has been largely negative and obstructive, creating slogans has been relatively easy – it is manifestly easier to develop negative slogans than positive.
Even using the relative difficulty in creating positive slogans as an excuse for Labor doing so little sloganeering, its negative slogans also have been slow in coming and have lacked the potency of the Coalition’s.
In my view, Labor needs to work now on a set of slogans, both positive and negative, to advance its cause, and promulgate them widely, or as widely as the MSM will allow.
Yet even as I write, I have an uneasy feeling. Memories leap into my mind of bar room fights in old Western movies where the bad guys fought ‘dirty’ using any missile at hand: bottles, chairs, tables, and sometimes firearms, while the good guys always fought ‘clean’, using only their bare knuckles. Yet the good guys always won. As the Coalition rolled out its misleading and deceptive slogans, which were sometimes downright lies, my feeling was that Labor ought to reciprocate with hard-hitting counter slogans, but as I perceive Labor as ‘the good guys’ as far as slogans are concerned, I was uneasy about going along with this line, hoping that eventually truth and decency and logic and good intent would enable Labor to overcome the Coalition’s negative assault. Now I’m not so sure. As Tony Abbott tours the country spruiking his disingenuous anti-carbon tax slogans everywhere he goes, and to good effect for the Coalition, I wonder if it is time for a similar onslaught of sloganeering by Labor. Labor is not in a fictional bar room fight – this fight is real, dirty and deadly, and the good guys are losing.
Hillbilly Skeleton’s last piece urges Labor to engage in the process of framing and re-framing its crucial policy messages. Although they may not be a classic example of framing and are relatively unsophisticated, I believe simple political slogans have their place, something the Coalition has shown so convincingly. In his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy, Lindsay Tanner quotes a Seven Network producer as saying: “Television news has to be simple. If you want to be sophisticated, go write a novel.” He also quotes Labor pollster Rod Cameron: “The people who determine elections in this country are the least interested and least informed about politics…They are basically ignorant and indifferent about politics. They vote on instinct for superficial, ill-informed and generally selfish reasons.” Cameron believes that because voting is compulsory in Australia, emotions play a big part. He goes on to say: “Disengaged voters who are forced to vote are most likely to be susceptible to simplistic scare campaigns and misrepresentations.” The veracity of this is confirmed by the success of the Coalition’s slogans and Tony Abbott’s ongoing scare campaigning. By corollary, slogans ought to be able to help Labor in the same way.
In the opening chapter of Tanner’s book, he disparages the slogans that were used in the 2010 election: ‘Going Forward’ and ‘Standing up for Australia’, as banal. Many would agree. These slogans were generic ones, not directed to a particular policy or plan. The slogans that I believe Labor should consider are those that are specific about the plans and policies it endorses; ones that in a simple and understandable way transmit a positive message, and if needs be negative.
Readers are invited to express their views about the prospect of Labor mounting an intensive campaign of sloganeering. While some of you may feel uneasy at the idea that Labor should follow the Coalition lead, others may feel it’s about time.
If Labor were to do so, it would need to use the same strategies as the Coalition, which seem to be based on several principles:
Coalition principles for slogan creation
Don’t be squeamish about not sticking rigidly to the truth.
Accuracy and completeness are less important than effectiveness.
Plausibility is essential, but that does not require accuracy or truthfulness.
Slogans must be simple and easily understood.
Brevity is essential: preferably three or four words, and not more than ten.
Keywords in the slogan must be upfront.
Slogans should have some commonality, with a theme common to several.
Slogans must roll off the tongue, or the page, and thereby stand out.
Slogans must be eye-catching and music to the ear.
Slogans must be highly memorable.
Slogans should be repeated as often as possible.
Slogans should be repeated in as many media as possible – TV grabs on evening news are among the best ways of achieving exposure.
Question Time in the House is a good place to create TV clips.
I believe what inhibits Labor is the desire to be accurate and complete in its statements and slogans. But with the short attention span of so much of the electorate, long-winded utterances will not be heard fully. So brevity is essential.
To counter the negativity of the Coalition, Labor would be well advised to itself consider negative slogans – the Coalition has shown that they work, and they are easier to create. Labour should remember that they do not have to be accurate or truthful so long as they are plausible and memorable. If anyone is feeling upset at this prospect, they ought not to get into contemporary public relations.
This piece is an opportunity to try your hand at slogan creation. Some examples will be offered for you to appraise and your contribution is invited. If the collection amounts to anything worthwhile it could be sent to the Government. Just three issues will be used as examples: climate change, the minerals tax and the NBN.
Of course there are many other aspects of the Coalition’s performance and policies that could be the subject of Labor slogans, and Tony Abbott and several of his ministers would be good objects for slogan creation. Feral Skeleton has suggested that Labor needs only one of the man who would be PM – the minute of head-nodding in response to Mark Riley’s question to him about his ‘shit-happens’ remark. No sound would be needed.
Here are some suggestions, some of which some of you may wish to discard. But before you do, remember the first Coalition rule: Don’t be squeamish about not sticking rigidly to the truth.
Slogans could be used in any combination but would not all be used together – they would be used singly or in small clusters, and varied to suit the circumstances.
Negative slogans about the Coalition climate change plan
The Coalition is infected with climate deniers
Many of the Coalition are climate skeptics
Climate skeptics just pretend to address climate change
Coalition’s ‘direct action’ plan is a pretend plan
Coalition’s ‘direct action’ plan is a sham
Coalition’s plan WON’T WORK
Coalition’s plan will have NEGLIGIBLE effect
Economists don’t support the Coalition’s plan
Businessmen don’t support the Coalition’s plan
Coalition’s plan lets pollution CONTINUE
Coalition’s plan will NOT overcome carbon emissions
Coalition’s plan PAYS the POLLUTERS
Coalition's plan PAYS POLLUTERS with YOUR MONEY
Coalition’s BIG NEW TAX ON YOU TO PAY POLLUTERS
Coalition’s plan costs YOU more
Coalition’s plan will cost you $800 A YEAR
Coalition will NOT COMPENSATE you
Coalition’s plan will NOT save the planet for your grandchildren
Positive slogans about Labor’s climate change plan
Combat climate change effectively – Labor’s way
Labor taxes the POLLUTERS, not YOU
Labor will NOT tax you
Labor covers ALL your extra costs
Labor PAYS YOU compensation
Labor’s plan WILL WORK
Labor’s plan WILL REDUCE pollution
Labor’s plan will encourage ALTERNATIVES
Labor’s plan will STRENGTHEN the economy
Labor’s plan will CREATE jobs
Labor’s plan will TRANSFORM our economy
Labor’s plan will put Australia at the FOREFRONT
Labor’s plan will ensure Australia is NOT left behind
Labor WILL save the planet for your grandchildren
Negative slogans about the minerals tax
All Aussies OWN Australia’s minerals
YOU own Australia’s minerals
The miners are NOT paying enough for them
Australians deserve a FAIRER SHARE for our minerals
The Government’s minerals tax corrects this unfairness
Once the minerals are dug up and sold, there are NO MORE
So we need to get value for them NOW
Coalition is BLOCKING the minerals tax
Coalition will kill all YOUR BENEFITS
Positive slogans about the minerals tax
The minerals tax is a fairer system for ALL.
All businesses have to pay taxes on their profits
The miners should pay a FAIRER share
The income from the minerals tax will be used to fund:
- BETTER superannuation for all workers
- EASIER tax returns for ordinary Australians
- For most, no need to send in a tax return
- LOWER company tax for small businesses
- Additional capital deductions for small business
- Infrastructure for business - road, rail and ports to transport products
The minerals tax will make Australia’s economy STRONGER
If Coalition blocks the minerals tax these benefits will be LOST
The National Broadband Network
Labor’s NBN will be the fastest ever created
Labor’s NBN will connect you to the world
The NBN will be the best in the world
The NBN is the envy of other countries
The NBN will place Australia ahead of the rest
The NBN will open up vast opportunities and jobs
The NBN will massively advance health, education, business, agriculture
The NBN will reduce the isolation of rural people
The NBN will energize regional areas
The benefits of the NBN will hugely outweigh the cost
The NBN is the biggest infrastructure ever built in Australia
Coalition is intent on ‘demolishing’ the NBN
Coalition would deprive you of all the benefits of the NBN
These are but a few examples of the slogans that might be created on these three sample subjects. There are countless other aspects of the Government’s program that would lend themselves to slogans.
You may wish to let your imagination run wild by creating slogans to characterize Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey or Andrew Robb, or Christopher Pyne, or Greg Hunt, or any other. Whether personal slogans are the way to go is arguable.
If you feel inclined, please add to the slogans listed here, and feel free to criticize any, amend any, or recommend any for discarding.
Should Labor hitch itself to the slogan waggon? What do you think? Is this the way Labor should go?