Because I am a philanthropist, in words if not finances, can I offer a couple of free suggestions to Julia Gillard and the Labor Party. I mean you are doing about as well as Gordon Brown just before the Cameron landslide, or John Howard before the Kevin Rudd one. Sorry, that was a bit mean-spirited – how about Malcolm Fraser before the Hawke deluge?
Anyway, suggestion one. Julia, call Bob Brown, apologise. Arrange to meet for dinner. He is a charming dinner companion you will get on well. Say that you recognise, now, that Greens are normal human beings who have jobs, families, and values very similar (I’m guessing, and we’ll come to that) to your own. That having, belatedly, read some Australian Labor Party history, you recognise, now, that in many ways the Greens represent the Labor Party of Chifley and Curtin, of Whitlam and Cairns. That the Labor party has lost what was once its progressive wing in the way that it once lost its regressive wing (the DLP) and is suffering for it. That you understand that while there are disagreements between Labor and the Greens in relation to the importance of environmental issues and one or two others, these are not insurmountable. That you would like therefore to see a formal coalition (joint party room, shared ministries), in government, between the two parties, in the way that the Liberals and Nationals, facing similar policy agreements and disagreements, have successfully managed for over half a century. That you realise that there will be objections within both parties, at elected and grass-roots levels, but that with goodwill this should be something that two social democratic parties should be able to overcome. The alternative being another long-lasting Liberal/National coalition government led by the most regressive members of that coalition and creating an Australia anathema to both Labor and Green parties. All elections are critical, but the next one is arguably the most critical ever seen for the future of this country and planet, and we no longer have the luxury of the two left-wing parties of Australian politics slagging each other off more than they do the real political enemy.
Right, that’s the structural thing out of the way, and it is a biggie.
Now, you yourself Julia. I know everyone has had a go at your style of public speaking (just between you and me I have been known to yell in despair at the TV – “no, don’t say it like that Julia, don’t say that” – the most recent example was when you responded to Malcolm Turnbull’s thoughtful interview on climate change as follows “Malcolm Turnbull told us the truth. He told us the truth that basically this plan won’t work. He told us the truth that it would blow the budget.” – that kind of repetition, and negativity, is what drives people like me to despair) but that isn’t much use without something positive to suggest. And telling you to change the style (I’m guessing) you have had since high school doesn’t get either of us very far. So here is a positive suggestion, and a bit more Labor history (in a very broad sense). According to Wiki “President Franklin Roosevelt first used “fireside chats” in 1929 during his first term as Governor of New York. He faced a conservative Republican legislature so during each legislative session he would occasionally address the citizens of New York directly. He appealed to them for help getting his agenda passed. Letters would pour in following each of these “chats,” which helped pressure legislators to pass measures Roosevelt had proposed. He began making the informal addresses as President on March 12, 1933, during the Great Depression“. These “informal” chats came to be called “fireside chats”, not sure why, partly I think because his audience were sitting around the fireside listening to the radio, partly because the illusion they presented was that Roosevelt himself was sitting by the fire in the White House, in a comfortable chair, talking personally, as to a hundred million friends, about the important issues he and they were concerned with (the Depression in general, and then the War).
Again turning to Wiki for an explanation of the success of these chats (Roosevelt would receive millions of letters in response to each one):
Sometimes beginning his talks with “Good evening, friends”, Roosevelt urged listeners to have faith in the banks and to support his New Deal measures. The “fireside chats” were considered enormously successful and attracted more listeners than the most popular radio shows during the “Golden Age of Radio.” Roosevelt continued his broadcasts into the 1940s, as Americans turned their attention to World War II. Roosevelt’s first fireside chat was March 12, 1933, which marked the beginning of a series of 30 radio broadcasts to the American people reassuring them the nation was going to recover and shared his hopes and plans for the country. The chats ranged from fifteen to forty-five minutes and eighty percent of the words used were in the one thousand most commonly used words in the English dictionary.
Where Roosevelt’s Simplicity and Clarity Come from?
When Roosevelt was doing his chats he wanted them to be simplistic and clear. He wanted to be clear enough for his audience to understand what he was saying because it was important to him. He came up with three techniques to make his chats clear and simple. First, he wanted easy to read and open language use. Second, he wanted to include many concrete examples and explanations into his text. Third, he wanted simple organization in his text.
How did he make his chats persuasive?
There were four tips that Roosevelt used to persuade his audience when he gave his chats. The first was he used the word “We” when he made claims. He wanted the audience to feel like they were a part of the chats. Second, he embedded his claims into objective statements. Third, he used a lot of adverbs and adjectives. Finally, he made his language go from soft to hard. Slowly draw his listeners in and hit them hard later on.
Memorise those tips Julia, make them a part of your being. I want you to start “fireside chats” to the nation. Literally, sit by a fire in the Lodge in a comfortable chair, having had a nice dinner, couple glasses red wine, and now a beautifully made fresh pot of coffee ready to pour your first cup. Just a single camera there, and you start talking through it (not to it as you usually do), forgetting it is there at all, to the people of Australia, to all your friends, as if they were sitting in the other comfortable chair with a cup of coffee. You speak softly and quietly and warmly, as you are just talking to your friend. And what do you talk about? Well, this is just as important as the ambience. You will talk about the “Why” of what you are doing. Not the “what” and the “how” and the “when” and the “how much” and how you are being blocked by the Opposition. There is no opposition in the room, just you and your friend.
Explain the “Why” of a Carbon Tax in relation to global warming, the why of plain packaging of cigarettes, the why of improving conditions for workers, the why of health reform, the why of mining resources taxes, the why of improving education, the why of saving the Murray and old growth forest, why infrastructure like the National Broadband Network is important, and so on. Let your own ideas, and those of your Green partners, flow out to explain clearly and simply to the people why these policies are important. In doing so you will, as Roosevelt intended, bypass the vicious spin of the Murdoch Press and the shock jocks and you will communicate directly to your friends the Australian people. And if they understand the why they will understand the reasons in a way that the dull recitations of what and how doesn’t do (this was the mistake Kevin made too). So you will bring them with you instead of letting them be alienated. And it will serve another purpose too – you will also start to consider more fully the why of existing policies, and some of those might be changed as a result (think refugees, think gay marriage, think free trade). And when they are changed to something more reflecting your social democrat ideals you will then in turn be able to let the public see the reason for the new policy, the “Why” behind your change of mind.
Oh you won’t win them all, in some cases the public will disagree with your “Why”.
But at the moment you aren’t winning any of them.
Feel free, adopt both ideas, quickly. No gratitude needed, say they were your ideas. I’ll keep shtum, just the warm glow of a job well done is enough for this philanthropist.
Or are they just the products of a fevered brow (nah, not so fevered today), or somewhat ragged trousers?