Aspirational nationalism makes a comeback

From today’s Crikey email:

We haven’t heard anything about aspirational nationalism in this campaign. If you cast your mind back to August, it was John Howard’s new big philosophical idea. Boldly going where no nonsensical phrase had gone before – back to the future, and all that.

Perhaps that’s because it was immediately satirised on Facebook as “Ass-Nats”. But there was a point to the five tenets of aspirational nationalism the Dear Leader articulated. It was a justification for pork-barrelling and the War on the States, which was then at its most intense.

The bizarre rhetoric has faded from view, but the political strategy is still firmly in place. “All politics is local”, decrees Coalition headquarters, and all over the country Coalition MPs and candidates are discovering that issues like “hoons” are the most vital concerns of their constituents. Even in Brisbane, where Labor MP Arch Bevis has very little to worry about, Liberal candidate Ted O’Brien (when not being gagged from radio shows by his party headquarters) is insisting in the one leaflet he’s produced that us inner city denizens are deeply concerned about drag-racing.

Most of this “localism”, as I’m suggesting, follows a template handed down from campaign central on Collins Street. But candidates can tweak it a bit to give it the true local touch. Embattled Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave, for instance, is promising to beef up police numbers at the Salisbury and Moorooka cop shops, apparently oblivious to the fact that the federal government has no control whatsoever over the allocation of police resources.

Presumably, and this is the beauty of Ass-Nat-ism, Hardgrave won’t have to follow through on his promises anyway, and in the unlikely event both he and the Coalition are returned, can always blame the state government, which after all actually decides how many cops are on the beat.

You’ve got to hand it to the Libs’ strategists. This strategy might just have some impact (however slight) in shoring up threatened incumbents.

But the equally embattled and rather eccentric Ryan MP, Michael Johnson, might have taken Ass-Nat-ism a tweak too far. Johnson is being lampooned in Brisbane for promising to lobby the state government for more beds at Wesley Hospital in Auchenflower. He’s apparently unaware that it’s a private hospital.

But the icing on the cake is $15 million for a park in the middle of nowhere. Or, to be more precise, right next to the unpopular Goodna bypass, which along with the revenge of the Rudd wets, is causing him so much grief in his supposedly safe seat.

The Brisbane City Council, who would have to pay for the upkeep, knows nothing about the park Mark Vaile promised in Brisbane on Sunday. Unfortunately for Johnson, there’s an email trail which shows just how political this park is.

“I am bleeding on this issue and expect support now. This is a slow burn.”, wrote Johnson to the PM’s office.

There are also allegations that the land on which the park will be built is to be resumed from some local Liberal donors, who’d make a pretty profit on compensation from the feds. But Johnson, rather strangely for a candidate whom you’d think needs all the publicity he can get, is refusing to talk to any journos but the local press, so the story remains mired in confusion and claim and counter-claim.

All politics may well be local, but that can cut both ways when the local member in question gets a bit too blatant in playing the politics of porkbarrelling.

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Posted in elections
7 comments on “Aspirational nationalism makes a comeback
  1. rf says:

    Here in the wide Kalgoorlie electorate we have just received a ‘newsletter’ form our dear imcumbent, a Mr Barry Haase. One of the issues he is campaigning on is the introduction of daylight saving here in the west. Naturally he is opposed and seeks to have the 3 year trial terminated. Naturally he does not detail just how exactly he proposes to do this.
    Apparently the trial is evidence of bad labour decisions, the detail that it is a state issue seems to have eluded him for the moment.
    If I can be bothered I might email him to ask what exactly he is going to do about this outrage. I’ll let you know his response 🙂

  2. mbahnisch says:

    Yeah, people should hold them to account. They’re not all as weird as Johnson and therefore likely to go way over the top and make the strategy too transparent by half.

  3. Anna Winter says:

    bad labour decisions

    Right, the bad Labor decision to let a cross party private members bill (one of whose sponsors is the current Liberal state member for Kalgoorlie and former leader of the opposition) come to a vote. For fuck’s…

    He can vote against it along with me in a year’s time.

  4. rf says:

    “He can vote against it along with me in a year’s time.”
    When I go for a run in the morning I can get up at 6am to enjoy 5am – works for me!

  5. Anna Winter says:

    I still think you should ask him whether he blames his state colleague!

  6. rf says:

    ok, I could be bothered:

    Dear Mr Haase,

    Thank you for your newsletter ‘The Barry Haase Bulletin”, which I received yesterday. I noticed that one of your stories mentioned on the front page was entitled “Daylight saving must be scrapped”. Eager to know more I turned to the article on the back page and read on. I note that you describe the decision to introduce the 3 year daylight saving trial as ‘a State Labor Government decision, and a bad one at that’; I found this an intriguing comment given that the trial was a private members bill sponsored by (amongst others) the Liberal Party member for Kalgoorlie, Matt Birney. Presumably when liberal party MPs support trials such as this it indicates their ability to make good decisions rather than bad ones?

    However I am digressing somewhat and must explain the reason for my writing to you: your newsletter leaves us in no doubt that you wish to see daylight saving scrapped, alas I am none the wiser as to how you aim to achieve this. The article describes some of the complains that people hold with respect to daylight saving but no indication of what you will do. Could you please detail the measures that you intend to take, should you be reelected, to ensure that the daylight saving trial is scrapped? As a voter I must be confident that my elected representatives can demonstrate that their promises are more than mere words, otherwise I imagine you will be doing no more than exercising your democratic right at the end of the trial and voting against it’s continuation, which, may I say, is no plan at all.

    I look forward to your earliest reply,

    Yours sincerely,

    Don’t hold your breath.

  7. Mick Strummer says:

    Let us not forget that Howard has form when it comes to making up idiot concepts and idiot expressions to describe them. Who remembers “incentivation” from his first time round as Liberal leader? I do for one, and it goes to show what a complete and absolute boofhead Howard can be if he puts his mind to it.
    Cheers

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