March 25, 2004 | Graham

Dawn raids and doddering academics

There is a tradition in my area of the ALP launching a last minute sneak attack using a manufactured issue designed to fill electors with fear and loathing of the Liberal candidate. Labor is a party that cherishes its traditions, so I was not surprised to get a beautifully executed example of the genre in my letterbox this morning.
“Stones Corner is worth saving” it proclaims. Well, that gets my vote, but is it under threat? I turn the leaflet over noticing how they have used only two colours – red and blue – but produced the impact of a three or four colour pamphlet with clever use of reverse block and photos in a sort of blue sepia. I find that the dire threat is one of Campbell Newman’s tunnels which has an entrance on Old Cleveland Road at Stones Corner.
It must be a huge maw of an opening because, apart from swallowing all of those cars and spitting them out well on the other side of the Brisbane River at Mt Coot-tha, it is apparently going to destroy heritage listed buildings; devastate the local creek by halving its catchment; widen the road; destroy 1,000 local jobs and drown my suburb in a flood of cars which it will suck in from all over the Southside of Brisbane.
You may have noticed that there are five dot points here. That’s an old Labor tradition too, even if you have to stretch 3 points into five by the Pythonesque stratagem of points 4 and 5 being “see point 3”. In this case there are only two genuine points, two completely spurious ones (how exactly are those jobs going to be lost and is it really going to drain the creek?) and one doubling-up (demolishing heritage buildings is a consequence of widening the road).
Not that I expect most of my neighbours to coolly apply the tools of literary criticism to this vaguely factual brochure. No, I expect most of them to take it at face value, particularly as the Liberal candidate will be hard-pressed to get an effective answer into their hands before Saturday.
Former Defence Minister and MHR for Ryan John Moore always analysed policies as one of two types – there were policies for Government, or policies for Opposition. Campbell Newman’s tunnels are definitely policies for government (just as John Hewson’s Fightback! was). They are the sort of policy that gives your opponent lots of potential for misrepresentation and over-statement with which to induce fear of you in voters. You need to be in government to have the resources of communication to overcome the natural doubts that constituents will have. Even then they can bring you down.
Not that the local ALP in this area have needed a real issue to beat up. Linda Holliday, now Assistant State Secretary, first won this area in 1991 when it was part of Camp Hill. There was a general swing away from Atkinson, but if it hadn’t been for Holliday’s hardball tactics Jim Soorley would have been one ward short of a majority. In the last week she ran hard on two issues – an allegation that the Liberal administration would close the Carina Library; and another allegation that Liberal Party notable, Peter Fardoulys, was being given council land for free that he was going to subdivide to make his fortune.
Never mind that there were no plans to close the library (which was subsequently closed by Labor). Nor that all Fardoulys was doing was negotiating a footpath crossing for the front driveway of his house. Both these issues resonated in their local areas. Richard Jeffries, the sitting Councillor lost the election by around 100 votes. You’d have to say that either of these beat-ups could have lost it for him.
Not that encumbents are the only ones drawing long bows this election. The Courier Mail yesterday published an analysis piece by University Lecturer Doug Tucker. Early Liberal ads compared Campbell Newman to legendary Labor Lord Mayor Clem Jones. Tucker compares Newman to “[f]amous construction chieftain Robert Moses [who] adopted a similar approach [to Newman] to New York’s ever-increasing traffic congestion from the early 1920s.”
That looks like a step up, but why the comparison? Well apparently, 55 years later in 1975, New York was bankrupt, and full of traffic jams, so it just goes to show, Brisbane can’t afford Campbell Newman. Silly me. I thought New York went bankrupt through mismanagement of its civic budget (which in the US has to provide for schools, hospitals and police, on top of what we expect here). And maybe the gridlock has something to do with trying to jam a population as big as that of Australia into an area about the same size as Sydney. Tucker might just be one of Peter Costello’s “work till you drop” brigade – his time scale is prehistoric and his judgement petrified.

Posted by Graham at 10:55 pm | Comments Off on Dawn raids and doddering academics |
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