It wasn’t easy getting into the nerve centre of the LNP – the secret place where talking points, election strategies and day to day tactics are brainstormed by the Coalition’s eggheads in the dead of night – but eventually, more by good luck than good management, I found myself in the inner sanctum.
The secrets of the LNP were stored there, not in neatly labeled fling cabinets, or cleverly organized computer files, such as would befit a modern, forward-looking political party. Instead, they were stored in a wooden cupboard, like those that once graced the kitchens of our grandmothers. Its surface bore that worn, 'distressed' look that now appeals to upmarket millennials. It was surrounded by an untidy mess: kitchen paraphernalia, a few bottles of wine in a basket and a tatty rack, and a couple of barrels, presumably left over from a late night drinking session.
Surprised as I was, I reasoned that such an ancient cupboard at least did capture the image of a well-established organisation with a rich history extending back many decades. But it did seem strange that such an old-fashioned object could be the repository for the Coalition’s visions, secrets, plans, and tactics. But who was I to judge?
Intrigued, I began exploring, pulling out drawers and opening doors via knobs worn smooth by continual use. I was surprised there were no visible labels, but soon discovered that they were inside, scribbled on bits of paper browning around the edges with the telling signs of age.
In a top drawer, written with blue Texta on half a page of yellowing newspaper, I found a telling label: ‘Good Slogans’. Underneath I found a rich lode. Scribbled with crayon on a large piece of Butchers Paper, I found:
- Jobs and Growth
- Coalition runs strong economy
- Strong economy needed to provide services
- Labor can’t manage money – would weaken the economy
- If you can’t manage money, you can’t run an economy
- Labor: higher taxes, more debt, weaker economy
- Only the Coalition can be trusted to deliver lower taxes, more jobs and a stronger economy which underpins record spending on essential services
- Under the Coalition, Australia will be stronger
- Under Bill Shorten's Labor government, Australia will be weaker
- Labor’s debt and deficit
- Coalition is paying off Labor’s debt
- Coalition is ‘in the black’
- Labor will hit you with $287 billion of new taxes
- Labor will tax everything and everybody
- Labor’s Retiree Tax
- Labor’s Housing Tax
- Labor’s Higher Income Tax
- Labor’s Investment Tax
- Labor’s Family Business Tax
- Labor’s Superannuation Taxes
- Labor’s Electricity Tax
- Labor’s Car Tax
- Labor’s (and Greens’) Death Tax
In another corner of this drawer I found a battered Bushells Tea Tin. On the lid, scrawled in red Texta, I read: ‘Great Anti-Shorten Slogans’.
Inside were scraps of paper, a motley collection of what the Coalition regards as telling zingers, recognizable to us all through repeated use:
- Bill Shorten lies all the time
- You can’t believe anything he says
- Bill Shorten can’t lie straight in bed
- Bill Shorten doesn’t know what he’s talking about
- Shorten gets his facts wrong, again and again
- Shorten is coming after your money
- Shorten will have his hands in your pocket
- When Shorten spends, you pay
- Bill Shorten will send you the bill
- Shorten’s taxes will hit you all
- Shorten won’t tell you how much he’s spending
- Shorten is dishonest with the Australian people
I marvelled at how much effort had been put into these anti-Labor and anti-Shorten slogans. They looked like a schoolchild’s first project, with words scratched out and over-written. Many hours of thought must have gone into refining them. No doubt the authors were proud of their efforts.
I looked for, and eventually found a tin labeled: ‘Pro-Coalition Slogans’, but was surprised how small it was. I looked inside and was even more surprised at how few slogans promoted the virtues of a Coalition government. Apart from the boast of its economic superiority and its sterling record of managing the economy and creating jobs, there was little else. I though that surely there must be more to crow about after all the years the Coalition has been in power?
What about an energy policy? In one compartment, I was excited to find a piece of paper with ‘Energy’ scribbled on it. Alongside it there were several scraps of paper. Filled with expectation I looked though them. All had been screwed up, all had different dates, all had the same word scrawled on them: NEG. I looked around for one with a recent date, but all the dates were old.
With more hope than expectation, I looked in the next compartment eager to find something on climate policy. I was astonished. In a large rusting biscuit tin I found a collection of what looked like climate change notes. They were in Tony Abbott’s handwriting: “Climate science is crap.”, “Climate change is a relatively new political issue, but it's been happening since the earth's beginning.", “I am hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change. I just think that the science is highly contentious, to say the least.”, “The climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now.", “Are we proposing to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of households right around Australia. And for what? To make not a scrap of difference to the environment any time in the next 1000 years.", “Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays."
The notes were well fingered. No doubt they had been a rich source of inspiration and quotable quotes for his climate denier mates.
Since it has become such a hot political issue, made all the more so since the election was called, with urgent action on climate change now supported by a majority of electors and most stridently by young people, who see their planetary home disintegrating before their eyes, I looked through the other scraps of paper for the Coalition’s thoughts on climate change. There were a few scrawled in what looked like Morrison’s hand: “We’re taking positive action on climate change through Direct Action”, “We’ll meet our emissions targets in a canter”, “We’ll meet our Kyoto 20 and 30 targets”. “Emissions are falling”.
I looked then for the newspaper clipping of his recent concession that emissions in fact are not falling
, searching for his actual words: that emissions ‘had lifted’
. I couldn’t find it.
Climate change action seemed a low priority. There were though bits of paper with “Coal will be a part of our energy mix for many years”. “Coal will remain a major export commodity”. There was even a photo of our PM fondling a piece of coal in parliament telling us not to be afraid of it!
I got the impression that there was nothing more to find about climate change action.
Tiring, I looked around for a compartment that might give me a picture of what the Coalition thought about this nation’s future, apart from its mantras about a strong economy, and more jobs and growth. How did they see our nation developing? What future did they envisage for our people. What could they promise our young folk? Surely any plans the Coalition had must be based on its vision of our future.
I was becoming desperate. I looked and looked for a compartment labelled ‘Vision’. There must be one somewhere. Eventually, I found a small door, stuck closed and festooned with cobwebs. I managed to prise it open with a screwdriver that I found in the cutlery drawer. Inside, I was delighted to find a faded, dog-eared label: ‘Vision’.
I fossicked around expectantly looking for the Coalition’s Vision for our Nation. I explored every nook and cranny. Surely there must be something that would reveal its shining dream!
The compartment was empty.
If the Coalition hadn’t got a vision, surely they must have some
new policies for the next three years. Having listened to the Coalition launch, where Morrison boasted that he had 'a plan' for everything, I expected to find a bundle of plans stashed away somewhere. So I looked for a receptacle labelled ‘Policies and Plans’. Eventually I found a small tin. In it there were a few dog-eared bits of paper. On them were written “economy strong”, “jobs growing”, “revenue solid”, “sponsors happy”, “everything’s fine”, and a fresh piece with “surplus coming” on it.” Then on a large piece initialled ‘SM” was written in capitals: "IF YOU HAVE A GO, YOU'LL GET A GO", "BUILDING OUR ECONOMY, SECURING OUR FUTURE", "WE BROUGHT THE BUDGET BACK TO SURPLUS NEXT YEAR", "THERE'S MORE TO DO. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO TURN BACK", "YOU CAN'T TRUST BILL SHORTEN", "LABOR CAN'T MANAGE MONEY", "THIS ELECTION IS NOT A HOOPLA EVENT", "I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GAY PEOPLE GO TO HELL", "I'M NOT RUNNING FOR THE POPE, I'M RUNNING FOR PRIME MINISTER", "I WILL CONTROL COALITION POLICY DIRECTION", and last of all, his coup de grâce:
"IT IS MY VISON FOR THIS COUNTRY AS YOUR PRIME MINISTER TO KEEP THE PROMISE OF AUSTRALIA TO ALL AUSTRALIANS".
Was that all the Coalition has planned for the years ahead?
Frustrated, I looked again for clues, any clues, that might spell out the Coalition's story, its vision and its intentions for the next three years. I ransacked the entire cupboard looking for more than the few scraps of paper that I had already found.
The cupboard was bare!