Talking To The Liberals: A Plan To Just Possibly Change The Election*

03 April 2013
Five months out from the election, and I think a lot of us on the left have sunk into a mild despair. The tone I'm picking up on twitter and other media is there's no longer any hope the ALP can pull something out of the bag on this one and an Abbott government is a horrid inevitability, like diarrhoea or The Biggest Loser. We've still little idea what Abbott's plans for Australia actually are; both the Coalition and their supporters respond to questions or criticism by criticising the ALP or Greens, rather than disclosing any policies of their own. We're left to imagine what their eventual plan for the country will be, other than running it into the ground and blaming Labor for the whole thing. With a massive majority, and based on Abbott's former statements and attempts to appeal to his now-massive base, it's not hard to imagine an Abbott government enacting any or all of the following:

  • Ending Medicare funding for abortion
  • Selling off Australia Post
  • An end to no-fault divorce
  • Barring asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being granted permanent residency
  • Lowering/freezing the minimum wage
  • Reducing the tax free threshold by 70% (actually, that one is for sure, they've said so)
  • Scrapping Austudy
  • Scrapping Abstudy
  • Extending income management to all of the less-favoured welfare recipients (single parents and the unemployed)
  • Extending the NT intervention
  • Reducing university funding
  • Scrapping the HELP system in favour of full-fee paying university places
  • Scrapping up to 25,000 teachers
I don't know if this frightens you, but it certainly scares the hell out of me. Some of it may be a little implausible, but what is to stop an Abbott government with 85, 100, seats in parliament from making the most extreme of their vision for Australia a reality? Nothing, so we have to stop them. Maybe we can't win the election, but we can at least curb some of the worst excesses. We have to try, anyway. That's why I have a crazy idea of my own; that if each of us convince one person not to vote for the LNP at the upcoming federal election, maybe we can make a difference here. 

How do we do this? We have to pick our targets, that's for sure. There's no hope trying to convince the right-wingers who frequent #auspol on Twitter. I do enjoy baiting them myself on occasion when I'm bored - the rubbish they come out with is hilarious - but let's face it, they're never going to change. They are convinced that this election is between a decent Aussie bloke and a sluttish, communist, unmarried atheist who is part of a global conspiracy to delude economists and bribe scientists in an effort to destroy our way of life in order to implement her one-world government. These people don't respond to logic or facts. They will not be swayed. They're not the ones we should be focused on.

But if you leave out the tiny number of extremists who believe Andrew Bolt is the sole source of truth in a biased media, that leaves a huge number of ordinary decent people, hardworking and good, who are still planning to tick 1 next to their local Liberal or Nationals candidate. Why? Well, in the face of the overwhelming media onslaught, led by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd, who owns 70% of the daily newspapers (and their associated websites) in this country. These people are too smart and decent to believe Gillard is part of some global communist conspiracy, but they still believe much of the relentless media tirade that we are in grave danger from hordes of asylum seekers, that the carbon tax is costing them a fortune, and that - above all - Labor has left us with a massive, crippling debt that our children will be paying off for decades to come. Who wants to penalise their children? No wonder these people are convinced that the LNP has the answers for Australia. These are the people we need to be talking to.

We have to do it the right way. Softly, softly. If you're at a barbecue or party and someone repeats a line from Hadley or Jones about how many budget surpluses are needed to repay Labor debt, don't incredulously exclaim that you can't believe they believe that rubbish. Explain instead the concept of responsible debt - their mortgage for example - manageable debt for a future good. Explain that Australia's debt is like someone with a $100,000 income having a $10,000 loan to start a new business. Explain also, that debt is used to fund programs like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Their friend from work who struggles without respite and services for their six year old who has cerebral palsy? This will help. Oh, and you know how your internet is always dropping out, the phone gets crackly when it rains, and it's because of that Telstra pillar down the road with the wires hanging out? This will help with that, too. Explain that money stripped from education now cannot be recouped down the track. It's gone forever. Education is a continuous investment we that every child needs and deserves.

It wouldn't be easy. I mean, the softly softly approach isn't really me - I can be a little bit bombastic about the things I care about, as anyone who knows me is well aware. But we won't win people over by shouting at them. We have to convince them we're on their side, and a Labor govt would be good for them, and that the LNP would be a disaster.

It might not be much, but it's something. Good luck everyone, we're going to need it. 

* In writing this post I admit yes, I have read "How to Talk to Your Conservative Brother-in-Law" from Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country and acknowledge my debt to it.


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