Love him or loathe him, Bob Hawke has personality in spades. Sunday night’s screening of ‘Hawke’ on Channel Ten and the subsequent Hawke interview was a thought-provoking reminder of this fact. Why so? Well, how many politicians can you think of today that are all of these things: genuine, a visionary, over-qualified and love (and I mean really love) this nation wholeheartedly? (thinking time… … time’s up!) Anyone? No, I didn’t think so. And if you did come up with a name, I’m guessing their credentials are but a shadow of Hawke’s.
Of course, all politicians (and people) have their flaws but Hawke certainly made up for this with his sparkling “man of the people” qualities and charm. Yes, it was a different time, but has Australia and Australian politics changed so much that politicians cannot have a personality? If they do have one, their genuine one, it’s certainly not on display in “campaign mode” at the moment. And this is quite surprising because prior to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott’s rise to the leadership of their respective political parties, it was their straight-talking and self-deprecating humour that set both of them apart from the rest and was a positive quality admired by many.
Now all that features in political speech is a rehearsed and pre-programmed language which, unfortunately, is on constant loop. Julia Gillard’s interview with Karen Middleton on the day the election was called is a prime example of this. “I believe”, “the Australian people”, “moving forward”, “move Australia forward”, “sustainable population”, “budget into surplus”, and so on. Then there’s Abbott with “dead, buried and cremated”, “stop the boats” “stand up for Australia”, “real action” and an oldie but a goodie “great big new tax.” At least in past campaigns there used to be a little spontaneity in interviews, a capacity for vision (NOTE: you don’t need to spend money to have vision), and a quite a lot of substance in policy proposals. I am yet to see any of this as yet in the Gillard vs. Abbott stoush.
This election campaign has begun as a battle of slogans, baby-kissing, hand-shaking, fear-mongering and hyperbolic slugfests and there’s no evidence to suggest that anything will change. Why? I’m putting it down to the rise and rise of political correctness and hypersensitivity, and hence the permeation of political “surface-speak.” The Australian people (groan…sorry) deserve honesty (as much as is possible in politics anyway), policies laid bare for public scrutiny (not 12 point plans or endless generalisations) and a lot more genuineness from the people that govern and seek to govern this country. Have the times changed so much that the values we still boast to have are now extinct? Or is it just in the nation’s leaders that the values of directness, loyalty and passion are not promoted enough? I hope only the latter is the case, which in itself is a shame.
On a positive note, if you don’t like what you are hearing from your representatives… if slogans, repetitive answers and skeletal policies are an insult to your intelligence and your vote, then make your voice heard (as is already the case on Twitter). Make the media hold politicians to account, instead of asking inane questions and accepting dull, substanceless and scripted answers. We are moving backwards, and it is time to “move forward” to substance, directness, genuineness and PERSONALITY. Australian’s can see right through the crap and in most cases, reward those who are genuine, so Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott… Show us more of the real “you” (because you were impressive and engaging to begin with) and then maybe this campaign won’t be so boring, disenchanting and lifeless for us after all.
Transcript of Julia Gillard’s opening statement at her first election press conference, Parliament House, Canberra, Saturday 17 July
Transcript of Tony Abbott’s statement at his first election press conference, Brisbane, Saturday 17 July
‘Our Action Contract’ Liberal Party Australia’s 12 Point Plan, NOTE: this link will open a PDF file from the Liberal Party’s website
Julia Gillard and the ALP’s Agenda, NOTE: this link will go the the ALP’s policy page on their website
Watch the ‘Hawke’ telemovie on Channel 10’s website