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It's ugly and unoriginal but there is a way Morrison could win

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23.11.2018

It's fashionable to write off the Coalition government, and for good reason. It's also wrong.
The electorate is revolted by the Liberal Party civil war, frustrated at its failure on key policy like energy and climate, and thoroughly unexcited about the new Prime Minister. Scott Morrison is a blur of sound and action but few are listening.

The government has lost its majority. It hasn't been ahead in the polls for three years. The betting agencies have the odds against its re-election at over 3 to 1. So what can a political party do faced with such dire prospects? The first reflex in recent history is to change leader, but they've done that. It didn't work.

Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit:

There is another way. It's the mighty scare campaign. Modern campaigners, in the ongoing Orwellisation of the English language, prefer to call it a "strong truth" campaign. The scare campaign is unoriginal, it's ugly, but, when it's done well, effective. Even an unpopular leader at the head of a tired government can win with a good scare campaign.

When Paul Keating tore down Bob Hawke to lead Labor into the 1993 election, for example. Keating was deeply unpopular after presiding over the painful shock that he, as treasurer, had called "the recession we had to have". It was universally assumed that he would lose to the exciting new Liberal leader, John Hewson. Keating dubbed it a "victory for the true believers". In truth, it was chiefly a victory for the best scaremongers.

Labor whipped up a panic over Hewson's policy to introduce a GST to Australia. The central TV ad was a cash register ringing up the price of one item after another, adding 15 per cent to the price of everything. Ka-ching! "The Labor campaign in '93 is the template" for an effective scare, says a Liberal campaigner. "It was a whopper," recalls a Labor veteran. "We were behind in the polls for years until the month before election day." The scare campaign turned the tide.

The Liberals have run some pretty powerful scares of their own. John Howard's campaign against an apparently unstoppable opposition leader, Mark Latham, in 2004, for instance. The Liberal ads branded the untested Labor leader "L" plate Latham. It stuck. They craftily connected his

inexperience to a fear campaign over interest rates, thundering that an "L" plate Labor leader would drive your mortgage rate through the roof. There was no objective basis for the Liberal claim, but it didn't........

© The Sydney Morning Herald