22/10/2008 - 22:00

Labor ruing failure to engage

22/10/2008 - 22:00

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IT'S probably because State Scene, long ago, spent several months in the advertising industry that the ploys and proclivities of those in that sector continue to intrigue.

IT'S probably because State Scene, long ago, spent several months in the advertising industry that the ploys and proclivities of those in that sector continue to intrigue.

The advertisement that most caught my attention surfaced during the recent state election campaign; that memorable, and unanswered, Liberal 17-worder - "Can you think of three good things Alan Carpenter's government has done in eight years of boom?"

To reinforce the point, those 17 words were followed by several drawn-out seconds of silence.

Like so many, I chuckled and quickly concluded this was certainly skilfully devised, suggestive propaganda.

The reason, initially at least, was because I couldn't instantly recall "three good things Alan Carpenter's government" had done.

I had, of course, almost discounted the often talked about Mandurah railway because it's been coming, if not from the Brian Burke years, then nearly just after.

But what of a second good thing? State Scene couldn't think of anything.

And a third? Couldn't think of that one either.

However, as the days passed and the 17-word advertisement appeared repeatedly on our screens, I wondered why Labor had not crafted a response.

At that point my brief advertising days kick-started me into sub-consciously devising my own response, one I'd have conjured up if sitting on Labor's campaign committee. Although it didn't come in a flash, an idea for a counter-advertisement eventually crystallised.

What Mr Carpenter and his tongue-tied campaign committee chairman should have done immediately after first hearing the Liberal advertisement was to contact all Labor ministers and have them promptly email 30 of their respective department's major achievements.

A selection of these would then have been recited, by Mr Carpenter, for an advertisement after he'd said the following: "Thanks for asking, Mr Barnett, thanks very much for asking - here are just 30 'good things' my government has done since I became premier and while Geoff Gallop was premier before me."

Thereafter he'd list a dozen or so of the stand-out items and conclude by saying, "And we've got several hundred more just like those for the next four years of the forthcoming second Carpenter government."

State Scene is confident the Liberals would have had their, until then, dramatically effective advertisement promptly taken-off the air.

Instead, there was nothing.

So the Liberals did what we'd all do - kept broadcasting their biting, unchallenged 17-worder.

To put icing on all of this, callers began contacting Liberal Party headquarters and Liberal candidates out in the field to tell them the 17-worder was brilliant advertising, since no-one they knew could recall anything Labor had done over the previous seven-plus booming years, beyond that Mandurah railway.

Since then we've seen the Barnett-Brendon Grylls partnership slip into power by something about the size of a whisker.

Remember that Labor won 28 seats to the Liberals' 24.

Add to those 24 two independent Liberals, Liz Constable and Janet Woollard, and we have 26 seats - still two below Labor.

And when you add the four National you have 30 conservatives, so government slipped away from Labor by just one seat.

True, there's also former Labor minister, John Bowler, who certainly had no reason to assist his former party beyond getting the best deal for those in his Kalgoorlie seat.

So consider this.

Labor ex-minister Tony McRae lost Riverton by 64 votes to Liberal Mike Nahan after preference distribution. In other words if 33 voters - half 64 plus one - had backed Mr McRae, Labor would have won 29 seats, just one seat short of governing in its own right.

That would have left the count at 29 seats each for Labor and the conservatives - 23 Liberals, two independent Liberals and four Nationals - leaving Mr Bowler, not the Nationals, with the balance of power.

Mr Bowler would surely then have come under enormous pressure to return to his ideological fold, with plenty of carrots offered for Kalgoorlie's voters.

So even with Labor's terrible showing - just 35.84 per cent of the state-wide vote, to the Liberals deplorable 38.39 per cent - in the wash-up it was those crucial 33 Riverton voters who swung things against Labor.

It would take considerable smooth talking by Liberal sympathisers to convince State Scene that the crucial 33 Riverton primary, or even preference votes weren't lost to Labor because of inaction by its tongue-tied campaign committee.

Because every Riverton vote counted - a real neck-and-neck clash - clearly, answering the Liberals' 17-word advertisement was vital.

But since no answer ever came it's fair to say Labor's campaign committee handed power to the conservatives on a platter.

One Laborite who's well aware of this is former minister, Alannah MacTiernan.

During a recent lunch time address she said: "It is conventional campaign wisdom that if governments try to run positive advertisements talking about their records, eyes glaze over in living rooms across the state.

"Mind you, I don't agree with that view.

"Nevertheless, the Liberals' 'Name three good things...' ad was a risky move for them, because it gave us a unique platform that we could have used as an opportunity to promote our achievements.

"Turning their ad on its head could have given us the requisite cut through to get our message across.

"They must not have believed their luck when our campaign did not take up that opportunity.

"Today, I am going to answer the Liberals' question and just for the record names of the good things.''

After those introductory words she said the Gallop-Carpenter governments had: secured Perth's water supply with Australia's first mass desalination plant; doubled the size of the Perth's public transport system with the new MetroRail project; and completed six new regional hospitals.

She then focused upon outlays in education, energy, health, ports and other areas.

All this leaves one wondering why the never tongue-tied Ms MacTiernan wasn't co-opted onto Labor's campaign committee?

Clearly considerable spending went into public projects.

Why couldn't Labor's campaign committee do what Ms MacTiernan did after the election was lost by those 33 votes?

It's also worth noting that Liberal wins were narrow in seats other than Riverton, which, incidentally, they took because of Christian Democratic Party and Family First preferences.

CDP president Ray Moran has written to members claiming the Liberals owe them a debt for four other seats they wouldn't have won without CDP preferences.

"CDP secured the seats of Riverton, Morley, Southern Rivers, Jandakot and Wanneroo to the Liberal Party," Mr Moran said.

"The Liberals could not have won these seats without CDP preferences and would have been unable to form government without winning them.

"Better still, at least four of the five new Liberal members in these seats are Christians and/or pro-life!"

It will be interesting to see if Mr Barnett, a western suburbs politician who many see as a trendy left-liberal, takes note of these claims by the CDP.

And if not, what price would he be prepared to pay at election 2012-13?

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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