Be your own focus group

As Ken L reports over at Surfdom, Howard is flicking the switch to philosopher king, giving a speech in Brisbane today which as Guy at Polemica writes, is supposed to “position him as a political visionary”.

Mr Howard will today go on the offensive with the first in a series of speeches setting out a wide-ranging coalition agenda for the future with an address to the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane today.

His speech, entitled Australia Rising, will attack Mr Rudd’s workplace policy.

Mr Howard also hinted at a strategy focusing on a future dominated by the economic powerhouses of Asia.

“Today’s speech will focus, amongst other things, on the kind of world that we will all face, by say the year 2020,” Mr Howard said in his weekly radio address.

Obviously Howard is trying to counter the view that he’s old and out of ideas, and that he has no imagination and no policy creativity in the areas that will count in the future – climate change and productivity. Labor under Rudd has been very successful at demonstrating that the Opposition understands the imperatives facing the nation, that the government has dropped the ball on them, and that the ALP has pragmatic and appealling policies to meet our most pressing challenges.

At Ambit Gambit, Graeme Young argues that Rudd is being trusted on policy, and that consequently the Government will continue to attack his integrity. I think that will prove to be a mistake, and that the negative focus of Howard’s argument about WorkChoices is also a mistake.

(And as Tim Dunlop argues, a big business ad campaign in its favour is only going to reinforce perceptions that the IR regime is slanted towards employers, which is its biggest negative. Rudd is on a winner in portraying his IR reforms as balanced for that reason. The government’s rhetoric, seconded at high volume by the media, that business rejects Labor’s IR plan adds to the perception that WorkChoices is a law which plays to a sectional and powerful interest, not that it’s in the national interest.)

The Asia focus of today’s speech is obviously also an attempt to counter Rudd’s argument that WorkChoices has the effect of sending jobs as well as coal to China, but again it runs the risk – through its basic negativity – of reinforcing Labor’s themes.

Howard’s basic problem is that he has no coherent positive fifth term agenda, and is (as usual) resorting to the tactics of negativity, fear and smear. I strongly suspect no one is listening anymore, which is why this speech is potentially important. He has to articulate a compelling reason why he, and his government have an effective vision for the medium to long term circumstances this country faces, and this has never been his strong suit.

Here’s a question, though. Whyever call the speech “Australia rising”? What’s that supposed to signal?

Ps: The speech, apparently, will also be groovy:

Prime Minister John Howard will arrive in the federal battleground of south-east Queensland today to begin explaining to Australians why they should give the coalition its fifth electoral victory later this year.

But Mr Howard says he has not been spooked into his second visit to Queensland within a week by poor opinion polls ahead of this year’s federal election.

“You shouldn’t microanalyse my program; I go all around the country on a regular basis. I love going to Queensland and I love going everywhere else in the country,” he said on ABC Radio.

“It’s a perfectly normal, in the groove, thing to do.”

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Posted in Federal Elections, Howardia, Markets, politics
43 comments on “Be your own focus group
  1. Katz says:

    … of course, Mr Howard is a very clever politician…

  2. Lefty E says:

    This is Howard, romanticising the utterly negligible impact of his daft “Headland” speeches in 96.

    Expect Australia yawning.

  3. Amanda says:

    John Howard has “a weekly radio address.”?

  4. AM says:

    Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€?? What’s that supposed to signal?

    It’s leveraging off the latest defence recruiting ads on the telly:

    “Throughout history we’ve risen to the challenges that have confronted us under a rising sun … ” unquote
    They must think this is a good look for ANZAC month.

  5. via collins says:

    George Bush has a weekly radio address.

    John Howard doesn’t.

    Perhaps another case of mistaken identity?

  6. anthony says:

    The South Will Rise Again

    I’ll be interested to see how he works the karate in.

  7. Don Wigan says:

    “Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€?? What’s that supposed to signal?”

    Mr Howard’s memory is getting hazier in his ageing years. Perhaps he vaguely recalls the old Keating taunt, “Can a souflle ever rise twice?” (which was actually aimed at Peacock) and is set on disproving it, via Headlands part II.

  8. mal says:

    John Howard has “a weekly radio address.â€??

    Yes, apparently. I remember reading about it somewhere. A quick google shows that the messages are archived here. Not sure where these things actually get broadcast, though.

  9. David Rubie says:

    In 2020 he’ll be 81 (born 1939 according to Wikipedia). At 81, will he give a toss what happens?

  10. nasking says:

    Here’s a question, though. Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€??

    He’s just hoping that by filling the Nation w/ hot air we’ll rise far enuff above his BS we won’t see what’s coming. Why dya think there are so many blowhards on his Front Bench?

    Howard better watch out, we ‘Banana Benders’ bite…:)

  11. Frank Calabrese says:

    John Howard has “a weekly radio address.â€??

    Unfortunately, the wrong link was posted, the correct link is here:

    I believe these “addresses” are broadcast on Regional Commercial radio.

  12. Theodric says:

    Here’s a question, though. Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€??

    Because he has plans to jack the whole continent up on stilts in an effort to combat rising seal levels. Who says he’s out of ideas?

  13. Theodric says:

    Whoops, that should have read ‘rising SEA levels’

  14. amused says:

    ‘Australia Rising’ has the tone and rythm of the BJP’s slogan prior to losing to the Congress Party around three years ago I think. Remember? it was ‘India Shining’. hmmm.

  15. steve says:

    All rise, inflation ,interest rates,sea levels,mushroom clouds etc.Here is a transcript from our exalted Dear Leader.

  16. Alan says:

    I hope he gives the intellectual property recognition to one Paul Keating or Keating should sue he tripes out of him. Howard will blather away repeating what was already a good idea in 1995, but then attracted his fierce opposition. A little like his off-again, on-again support for the GST or his discovery 3 years ago that unrestricted Senate powers are not, contrary to everything he said between 1974 and 2003, a good thing. A government’s in hot water when it starts congalining its leader’s random prattling waffle as the statement of the year.

  17. Graeme says:

    He’s certainly getting a rise out of us.

  18. Phil says:

    An out of touch old man.

    But to say that climate change is the overwhelming moral challenge for this generation of Australians is misguided at best and misleading at worst.

    “It de-legitimises other challenges over which we do have significant and immediate control.”

    Ok, let’s pray.

    While stressing international cooperation, Mr Howard said Australia should not set a target based on the needs of other countries.

    “I will not sub-contract our climate change policy to the European Union.”

    We decide………ah heck, you know the rest.

    He downplayed the role of renewable energies, saying they could not take the place of fossil fuels and nuclear power in energy generation.

    “It will be a contribution at the margin,” of the renewable sector, he said.

    Marginalisation of everything, the motto of Howard’s Australia.

  19. Seamus says:

    Holy crap! You mean we’re subject to rising seal levels? When do we break out the emergency stash of inflatable balls?

  20. Ken Lovell says:

    I wonder why he sees global warming as primarily a ‘moral challenge’. I would have thought it was a severely practical one myself. Then again I’ve never understood why so many people want to force it into a conventional left/right frame. Maybe we’d all be better off if the damn Greenies had condemned global warming as a capitalist conspiracy.

    What did he say was the overwhelming moral challenge of our generation? No don’t tell me, let me guess … Teh Economy, right? Nothing’s more moral than being a consumer.

  21. Enemy Combatant says:

    Thr Rodent waxes hip: “It’s a perfectly normal, in the groove, thing to do.â€?

    groove (grūv) n.

    1)A long narrow furrow or channel.

    2)The spiral track cut into a phonograph record for the stylus to follow.

    3)Slang. A settled routine: got into the groove of a nine-to-five job.

    4)Slang. A situation or an activity that one enjoys or to which one is especially well suited: found his groove playing bass in a trio.

    5)Slang. A very pleasurable experience.

    If his little mate, The Imbecile, says he’s read three Shakespeares and a Camus, is it possible that The Rodent gets down with Charlie Mingus after hours?

    Always made The Rat for a Mitch Miller man, myself.

  22. Katz says:

    … of course, Mr Howard is a very clever, groovy politician …

  23. Kim says:

    I forget where I saw this but someone reported he’ll be wearing leather jackets and going without a tie more often to look younger. And groovier!

  24. j_p_z says:

    Seamus: “Holy crap! You mean we’re subject to rising seal levels?”

    Yeah, and if the Great Seal ever gets in on the rising seal levels action, then we’ll all *really* be in some deep doo-doo…

  25. The Seventh Seal says:

    I’m aaaall in on this too, mates.

  26. Peter Kemp says:

    Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€?? What’s that supposed to signal?

    Australia “rising” is part of the new Freud-speak policy worked out with No-tip$Sweety. It refers to tumescence, hard ons, stiffies, trouser snakes, Alabama slammers: rooting for Australia and the like. You know, Create another taxpayer for Cozzie.

    This is a major change from the “condom” economic policy, ie withholding production and giving a false sense of security to a bunch of stuffed pricks.

    (Another interpretation, terribly negative, is rising damp, or as Jack would possibly put it: “the rise of the wets”)

  27. joe2 says:

    “I forget where I saw this but someone reported he’ll be wearing leather jackets and going without a tie more often to look younger. And groovier!”

    Yeh, Kim on advice from Brendo N…. The Harley and the ear ring are just a mo’ away.

  28. j_p_z says:

    “Whyever call the speech “Australia risingâ€?? What’s that supposed to signal?”

    Naturally I’m much too far away to know with any assurance what it’s ‘supposed to signal,’ but my casual assumption was that the rhetoric of a given nation ‘rising,’ in yr particular neighborhood, would be read in strategic relation to the endless rhetoric one hears about the ‘rising’ of China; or perhaps of the ‘rising’ of Asia at large; and all that one assumes that entails, or may entail.

  29. wpd says:

    Howard as ‘philosopher king’. Please, he is still in the cave looking at the shadows.

    Howard has never been a person of vision or imagination for that matter. One wonders what the Crosby/Textor research is telling him.

  30. Kim says:

    Probably that he’s perceived as tricky, mean, out of touch, too old, no vision etc.

  31. Lang Mack says:

    If Howard keeps up the sage crap mixed in with being groovy as the way to hold on to the power he craves, then I can see this in the months to come as being looked upon by his “battlers” as nothing more than an attempt to ingratiate himself with the so called. If he hadn’t been such a liar and manipulator , scheming and schismatical operator, I may have cast a fleeting hint of sorrow his way, then I take into account the sycophantic attitude he has manipulated into the elected members of what he describes as HIS Government, it’s not you old fool, it’s OUR Government, and any hint of sympathy just leaves me cold. The more I watch ,see and hear of the old goat lately , it’s just becoming bloody annoying. And I ain’t young my self, but this just irks me.. Lets hope that the future for our younger generation never produces another Howard to make us such a smirk to the rest of the world, our present standing in Asia and Europe is not something we want to happen again , from what I am told by people I know, away from Australia, who actually know who Howard is , is that he is taken as nothing more than another minor stage strutter. It’s rather sad.

  32. joe2 says:

    “One wonders what the Crosby/Textor research is telling him.”

    “Get out of the Hush Puppies and be a man of many colours.”

    Fee : 3 million dollars US and our new address in China is…….

  33. wpd says:

    Probably that he’s perceived as tricky, mean, out of touch, too old, no vision etc.

    Kim that’s so true. But Crosby/Textor’s research goes beyond that. It tests approaches that might overcome the problem.

  34. Kim says:

    Well, based on what I’ve just seen on the telly, wpd, I doubt they’ve come up with anything earthshattering. All that was shown was attacks on Rudd. I tend to agree with Mark’s analysis in the post. Howard has two big problems in talking about the future – he reminds everyone that he hasn’t got much of a stake in it except a self-interested desire for a few more years’ power, and he has no idea except to keep mentioning buzzwords like “jobs” and going negative.

  35. pablo says:

    I know a small eco environmental group in Newcastle will be checking the trade mark register for a pinch from the rodent in his ‘Australia Rising’ pitch.
    ‘Rising Tide’ were behind the appeal to the NSW Land & Environment Court insisting that Centennial Coal Co must detail the global warming impact of a new open cut coal mine in the Upper Hunter. They won and the Liberal back room boys must be getting a bit mesmorised by the ring of the word. You have to admit it is streets ahead of ‘incentivation’ that buzz blunder of a losing 1990 campaign.

  36. mick says:

    So why hasn’t Australia risen under Howard? He’s had ten years.


    The moral challenge of our time is not vastly different from the challenge earlier generations faced. It’s to build a prosperous, secure and fair Australia – a confident nation at ease with the world and with itself.

    As soon as we get the US, the Chinese, the Russkies etc to recognise that this is the greatest challenge facing the Global community, the better. I can hardly wait for the foreign aid to start rolling in.

  38. Full text of the speech here.

  39. Katz says:

    … Gorge … Rising….

  40. steve says:

    I really like the doublespeak of Howard in the same speech that tells us Workchoices is about Higher Wages and later tells us:

    We all know Queensland is doing well from high commodity prices in the mining sector. In the past, under centralised wage fixing, a terms-of-trade boost like this would have triggered a wages break-out across the economy.

    Which did he actually mean? Is WC about higher wages or isn’t it?

  41. steve says:

    The stupidest line in the speech has to be this one:

    History shows that economic growth and technological change have given mankind not just greater material wealth, but also cleaner air and cleaner water


    The Industrial Revolution really cleaner up the air and water apparently and still we are told daily that he is no longer a climate change spectic. It appears he has now turned septic.

  42. Published by Mark on 23 April 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Howard’s basic problem is that he has no coherent positive fifth term agenda, and is (as usual) resorting to the tactics of negativity, fear and smear.

    This is not a bad problem to have. Howard did present a “coherent” first, third or fourth term agenda at any elections he has contested as Leader of the Coalition. Instead he was found “resorting on the tactics of fear, negativity and smear”.

    The public reckoned his political and ideological opponents at each election generally deserved to be bollocked. So going negative did him no harm.

    The only time Howard did present a coherent agenda (the GST tax reform package) was for his second term. That was the election that he technically lost.

    Draw the obvious conclusion about the Australian publics preference for bold and comprehensive policy agendas. (Hint: they are small “c” conservatives.)

  43. Correction: Comment should read:

    Howard did not present a “coherentâ€? first, third or fourth term agenda at any elections he has contested as Leader of the Coalition.

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