So the Liberal Party has hired a bus as a new toy for PM Scott Morrison. As a special gesture, they have also arranged for the bus to be covered in advertising so no one can mistake who is on the bus
. The initial run for the bus is from the Gold Coast to Townsville located on the North Queensland coast, something like 1400 km in four days. Despite the initial publicity, the bus run was subsequently truncated to Rockhampton and Morrison flew to Townsville.
It makes sense. Morrison claims he a ‘fair dinkum’ Prime Minister who is on the road to listen to the Queensland community. Since Morrison’s elevation to the Prime Ministership, he hasn’t reversed the opinion poll trend which suggests that the ALP would win an election somewhere between a whisker and comfortably. Neither has he successfully articulated (despite a lot of invitations) the reasons why he or Peter Dutton would be a better option for the Liberal Party coming into an election that Malcolm Turnbull was.
So, he of the oversized props, including a lump of coal in the House of Representatives and the ‘daggy dad’ persona, is the latest in a long line of politicians that have hired transport vehicles to ‘go out and meet the people’. The USA’s long distance train operator, Amtrak, suggests that the first use of a train in a political campaign was in 1836
and also mentions Truman’s 1948 ‘whistle stop’ tour of 28,000 miles and over 300 speeches. Reagan also campaigned by train, dubbing it the ‘Heartland Special’. The premise of using the train was the train could stop at every ‘whistle stop’ or small community and the candidate could give their standard speech from the train, then alight and meet the locals. The theory goes that the locals — having met the candidate for a high office would be more likely to vote for the person they met.
Trump and both Clintons used planes as have a number of Australian politicians — Australia doesn’t have 28,000 miles of rail lines in the one gauge for a start — and others around the world have used buses, from advertising on the side of commuter buses to the ‘Bill Bus’ used by Opposition Leader Shorten at the last Federal Election. Even the fictional Vice President in the satirical TV comedy series ‘Veep
’, had a campaign bus. You might remember Turnbull pinched the slogan at the last Federal Election
The point of being on a road or rail trip is to stop at the small local communities and meet and greet the locals. Morrison’s trip last week covered a number of Federal Seats held on small margins by the LNP in Queensland, so meeting and greeting in small communities is a great idea — right?
Well it might be, but Morrison wasn’t travelling on the bus. As the Brisbane Times reported
The ghost bus will be left with only its driver on board for several key legs, including the 400 kilometre-plus stretch from the Sunshine Coast to Gladstone.
That’s right, Morrison and his entourage will be flying to and from campaign appearances on RAAF VIP planes that you and I are paying for. Apart from the obviously missed opportunity to personally charm some people in small towns that just happen to be in marginal LNP seats, the Australian taxpayer is paying for Morrison and crew to travel to and from political rallies at our expense.
So, the Liberal Party’s hired bus is another prop. If you’re a resident of any of the communities between the Sunshine Coast and Gladstone you are being ignored. It’s not like the 400 or so kilometres between the Sunshine Coast and Gladstone is out in the middle of the Nullabor and there are no communications facilities to allow Morrison and others to do something productive or more likely surf the internet when they are fed up with asking if they are there yet. The Federal Government funded a good deal of the communications infrastructure along the Bruce Highway some years ago to ensure communication was possible by either mobile phone or laptop connected to the 3 or 4G networks.
Who knows, if Morrison sat on the Scomobile ©, he might actually observe that the Bruce Highway (part of National Route 1), predominately funded by the Federal Government, is nowhere near the standard of the Hume and Federal Highways that would be used by Morrison if he chose to drive from his electorate to Canberra. But then again, he may not. As anyone who has caught public transport with advertising covering the windows will tell you — it’s almost impossible to see out of the window if it’s dirty or wet. Queensland is pretty dusty, there are usually some roadworks on the Bruce Highway to add a bit more dirt and it rained last week.
What do you think?