612ABC Brisbane’s Steve Austin interviewed Kevin Rudd’s LNP opponent in Griffith, Dr Bill Glasson this morning, and frankly, Dr Glasson is talking through his ophthalmoscope. It was an enlightening interview, not because it was the first interview with Dr Glasson since Kevin Rudd was restored to the position of Prime Minister, but because Dr Glasson is absurdly out of his depth.
For starters, Dr Glasson was out of Australia during the blustery hours leading up to Wednesday’s spill, returning this morning just before his chat with Steve Austin. Dr Glasson may have expected the leadership change, and even have planned for it, and I’m sure his LNP team has briefed him, but he wasn’t here. He hasn’t had time to smell the earth he’s so proud of treading in search of votes.
Like Dr Glasson, I live in Griffith and my workplace draws many of its staff from Griffith. Senior Management, tradespeople and white collar workers are here together on a daily basis. Surprisingly, yesterday morning's water cooler topic was not Queensland’s huge victory in the State of Origin, it was Kevin Rudd. The feeling in the staff canteen yesterday morning was that the spill had made things right. It was nothing like the sad scene described by Dr Glasson, who suggested that the spill had “neutralised the element of sorrow that had persisted in Griffith” since the Ms Gillard took the Prime Ministership.
This "sorrow" business is news to me. I haven’t been aware of any Griffith-specific “sorrow”. Instead, there has been anger, there has been confusion and there is been disengagement, side by side with pride in having a female Prime Minister, and in what she achieved.
Kevin Rudd is adored by many in his electorate, probably even moreso in the last year, during which time he settled into the backbench and become one of the hardest working local MPs I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, Dr Glasson seems to equate the public face of politics with an attempt to deceive the electorate in some way. He even spoke of his campaign, and that he will continue to promote “grievances”.
What grievances? I hear you ask. According to Dr Glasson, some of us in Griffith are aggrieved by Mr Rudd’s “tendency to use his division for little more than photo opportunities”. I guess that means he’s using his constituents as props?
If Dr Glasson knew about PR, he’d know that voters hate negativity, so here’s a free tip: leave the "grievances" behind. If Dr Glasson knew about media, he'd realise that it’s inevitable for a former Prime Minister who is still in parliament and incredibly popular with the public to attract media interest. Every one of Australia’s former Prime Ministers attracts media attention. Like Whitlam, Hawke and Keating, Mr Rudd is a senior member of the ALP, a former Prime Minister, but unlike them, he’s been a sitting MP and for the past three years, he's been Prime Minister Emeritus.The only way Mr Rudd could avoid the media would be to lock himself inside his house and close the curtains.
Dr Glasson needs to understand that the local member must be visible to the people in his electorate, that he will be a minor celebrity, and that he will need to maintain a high profile. He will be expected to show up at speech nights, cake stalls, junior sports days, sausage sizzles, churches (and mosques), military ceremonies, random openings and closings, community groups, retirement homes, and if that’s not enough, the local member is expected to take on local issues, as Mr Rudd has in Griffith with the proposed sell-off of school land by the Newman government. Getting your face out there is a big part of being the local member. These are not cynical photo opportunities, as Dr Glasson seems to believe. This is the bread and butter of a politician’s life. It’s something which Kevin Rudd does very well, which is one of the reasons the people around here like him so much.
Dr Glasson questioned Mr Rudd’s track record and said “He [Rudd] was not performing.” Dr Glasson was referring to Mr Rudd’s previous tenure as Prime Minister, not his performance as local MP.
Another free tip: All politics is local. Its a truism for a reason.
Dr Glasson also stated that the electorate was polarised. On Wednesday, it may have been polarised. By Thursday, I’d say the polarisation had all but disappeared in Griffith. I experienced none of it – every single person I work with was thrilled with the leadership change.
It’s fair to say that a lot of people in Griffith and around the country disliked and distrusted Julia Gillard. Many couldn’t even tell you why. Australians can be very cruel that way. There was the feeling was that they wanted to vote for Kevin Rudd, but couldn’t support Ms Gillard as Prime Minister. Now, that conflict has been removed, and the clearer choice in no way benefits Dr Glasson’s cause.
Like his leader Tony Abbott, Dr Glasson dug his pit even deeper when asked about policy. Carbon Tax, Carbon Tax, Carbon Tax. Cost of living pressures are related to the Carbon Tax, or course...at least according to Dr Glasson. Cost of electricity – not even a federal issue. Productivity cost of doing business, Carbon tax…but not a solution, a policy or even an idea in sight.
In fairness, I did check to see if Australia does have the second worst productivity rating in the world, beating only Botswana, as Dr Glasson claimed. That’s not really true either. Australia does rank 50th out of 51 in a study of productivity growth, which is not the same as productivity. Details are important.
Dr Glasson has already refused to take part in a local debate against Mr Rudd because in Dr Glasson’s opinion, Mr Rudd has too much debating experience and it would be an unfair contest. It appears that Dr Glasson is entirely unprepared for this political campaign, and even less ready for the life he’d be expected to lead if he was to defeat Mr Rudd.
Dr Glasson still believes that Kevin Rudd is beatable in Griffith. I think that’s unlikely, but in any case, I doubt that Dr Glasson is ready to be a federal politician.