‘Fairness’ versus ‘strength’ – the battle to frame the federal election


Mark Triffitt, University of Melbourne

Politicians have long faced the challenge of how to effectively communicate with citizens who largely see them as dissemblers and promise-breakers.

On the face of it, the task for the major parties to construct messages that resonate with voters appears even more daunting in the 2019 federal campaign.
After all, the campaign is occurring against the backdrop of historic low levels of voter trust and engagement.

At the same time, the policy battle lines between the major parties heading into the election are among the starkest in recent memory. As such Labor and the Coalition appear to have seeded a rich harvest of cut-through messages organised around very different themes.




Read more:
As election 2019 kicks off, the only certainty is a cranky and mistrustful electorate


‘Fairness’ versus ‘strength’

Federal Labor’s campaign communications are organised around a single word: “fair”. At a party, leader or candidate level, “fair” or “fair-go” is threaded through nearly every piece of communication to voters.

Bill Shorten’s budget reply – the unofficial start of Labor’s election campaign – was replete with the word, or variations such as “fair go action plan” and “intergenerational fairness”.

In truth, fairness has always been part of the ALP’s messaging DNA. But its core campaign message in 2019 is aggressively leveraging what the party sees as an emerging zeitgiest in the Australian electorate against undue economic power and privilege.

The Coalition, on the other hand, has its own singular message: “strength” and its semantic sibling “security”. Both words have been campaign talismans for the Coalition since the Howard years, when 9/11 and the Tampa debate sensitised voters to national and border security.

This is why “strong economy”, ‘securing our future’ and “secure borders” will be repeated ad nauseum by the Coalition in the hope that old wine in new bottles will again prove to be its election elixir.

These juxtaposed themes appear to promise a level of campaign frission that might potentially reengage a jaded electorate. The reality, however, is likely to be the opposite.

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Fighting the framing wars

Campaign communications based on pithy slogans have always been integral to electioneering. Slogans seek to compress complex realities into bite-sized messages that are simple and memorable. But in the 21st century, slogans and other highly truncated communications have become even more critical to political campaigning.

In this so-called age of distraction and information overload, every communicator faces major challenges not just to gain the public’s attention, but hang onto it. This attention/traction dilemma is compounded for politicians given the rapid rate at which citizens are tuning out of mainstream politics.




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Federal election 2019: state of the states


These structural factors have meant the semantic contest between parties – otherwise known as framing wars – have become increasingly influential in how political campaigns are structured and run.

“Framing” in political communications parlance means marking semantic boundaries around the debate that a party’s campaign or policy speaks to. Values – such as fairness, strength, opportunity, equality and continuity – are the most effective words to frame political messages.

This is because distracted and distrustful voters are more likely to listen to political messages that speak to the universal and positive principles that values espouse. Hence, values framing potentially addresses the “attention” problem.

Their simplicity also readily lend themselves to the repetition required by politicians to hang onto public attention, thus helping to overcome the “traction” problem.

Seeking a connection with voters

While values framing – formalised as political communications practice in the United States over a decade ago – has become an integral tool for Australia’s political parties to connect with voters, there are major drawbacks.

First, the number of values – as expositions of basic moral principles – are relatively limited. This is why the same values, with minor variations, keep being churned out by parties in successive elections. They are also used by competing parties in the same campaign to neutralise the impact of rival frames. Already we see the Coalition attempting to reframe Labor’s fairness mantra as well as Labour’s assurances they too are “strong” economic managers.

As a result, rather than helping to differentiate parties, values framing can reinforce voter perceptions that there is little difference between them.




Read more:
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Embracing the vacuous

The universality of values helps major parties – facing an eroding support base – to appeal to many voters simultaneously.

But their catchall character can also make them and their leaders appear shallow and unimaginative. Think of Malcolm Turnbull’s “Continuity and Change” slogan in 2016. Not only was it widely criticised as a meaningless cliche. It was also seen as a knock-off from a popular political comedy series.

Finally, relying on a singular value to frame campaigns hard wires parties to lean on other generalisations that reinforce public perceptions politicians are out of touch.

Take both parties’ perennial appeal to “ordinary Australians” (is there such a thing in the worlds’s second most multi-cultural society?) or “working families” (at a time when more voters than ever are single).

In short, while voters will hear “fair” and “strength” robotically communicated throughout this campaign, what is viewed by the major parties as a “cut-through” cure to voter disengagement risks only adding to it.The Conversation

Mark Triffitt, Lecturer, Public Policy and Political Communications, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Liberal Party reform becomes the next proxy battle in Abbott versus Turnbull



File 20170703 4180 rjvkev
The end game of Tony Abbott’s policy pitches is unknown, but in the interim they seem to be destabilising the party.
Brendan Esposito/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

For his own good, Malcolm Turnbull can’t get out of the country quickly enough. He’s off on Wednesday to the G20 in Germany and, if he has any sense, while he’s abroad he’ll try to avoid being drawn on local Liberal shenanigans.

As it is, one year from his narrow election win, he’s been talking his way into trouble.

There was the interview with the Sunday News Corp papers in which he said “when I cease to be prime minister, I will cease to be a member of parliament”. While he might have had his mind on how Tony Abbott should behave, inevitably this came to be interpreted as Turnbull threatening a by-election if he were rolled.

Then on Monday he told reporters: “Look, I intend to be prime minister for a very long time. I know you may think that at 62 I am too old – I can assure you I’m going to be prime minister for a very long time. I will be running at the 2019 election and will win.”

This wasn’t as provocative as when Bob Hawke, riled by Paul Keating’s “Placido Domingo” speech, told journalists he would be prime minister for the following five years (only to be deposed a year later). But it was bad on two grounds.

“A very long time” manages to sound simultaneously presumptuous and defensive. And why would a leader who feels totally secure choose to assert, rather than have it taken for granted, that he would be running at the next election?

Abbott’s ultimate objective is to see Turnbull leave the leadership. It’s unclear what will be the outcome of that story. But if he has an intermediate goal – of distraction and destabilisation – he is achieving that. Turnbull is talking about himself – unhelpfully – while his ministers are having to defend him and comment on Abbott, and the message to voters is of a party divided.

The rather plaintive if obvious statement from Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos – “I can’t control Tony Abbott” – goes for them all. Abbott has disproportionate negative power, in the sense that his public contributions, whether speeches or radio interviews, routinely gain maximum attention and become reference points for the media.

Abbott is operating on two fronts. One is a populist pitch to the voters on the right. The other is an appeal to disgruntled members of the Liberal Party, both broadly but especially in his home state of New South Wales.

He is picking up on issues of concern to ordinary people and throwing out prescriptions – for example proposing a freeze on subsidies for wind farms to help ease pressure on power prices, and urging a cut in immigration to assist with housing pressures.

For the conservatives among the party faithful, he has become the voice of tradition. For the NSW rank and file, he is the vanguard in the fight for internal democracy.

While his policy pitches, to voters generally and those within the party, are simplistic, unconvincing and often at odds with what he did while prime minister, his stand on party reform in his home state highlights serious flaws in the NSW party organisation.

Party reform – more often something that has bugged federal Labor leaders than Liberal ones – is also emerging as a serious front on which Turnbull will have to manage the “Abbott factor”.

In 2014, in a report commissioned by Abbott, John Howard outlined the NSW Liberal division’s problems, including its entrenched factionalism, and recommended changes, one of which was a system of preselection plebiscites for lower house seats, in which branch members of two years’ standing would be able to vote.

Howard has acknowledged that reform in the NSW division will only come if the party’s federal and state leaders get behind it.

Last year, as Abbott promoted the issue, Turnbull and then-premier Mike Baird backed a broad motion on reform but kicked the issue down the road to a party convention, which will be held on July 22-23.

Abbott is pushing a radical plan, with rank-and file-votes for preselections for all seats and for all organisational positions including for the party president. He told Alan Jones on Monday: “The best way to liberate our party from factional control, the best way to liberate our party from the lobbyists is to give every single member a vote because it’s much harder to control 500 members than it is to control 50.”

Once again, Turnbull and the state leader, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, will have to take a stand.

To say it’s difficult for Turnbull is an understatement. His moderate faction (together with a “soft right” subsection of the right) controls the NSW division, including its preselections, tightly and with an iron fist.

The power of lobbyists over what happens and who is selected is notorious. Abbott’s attempt when prime minister to break their clout did not succeed.

Genuine reform would weaken the present factional control, although to what degree and over what time frame is not clear. The whole power structure could be transformed.

This is the last thing the moderates want. Moderates express doubts about going too far because of the dangers of branch stacking, which is what they say has happened in Victoria. Their opponents call this “branch building”.

There are counter proposals that include a longer qualifying time to vote in preselection plebiscites, and a test that would reward people for their activities in the party.

The outcome of the convention is not binding on the party hierarchy but would be hard to defy.

Turnbull is caught between his nemesis, who has wrapped himself tightly and conspicuously in the flag of party reform, and his faction, which doesn’t want to give away more than absolutely necessary.

The expectation is that Turnbull will back changes but they will be hedged and qualified. One would think the party would support the Turnbull position, given the stakes.

The ConversationThe wider point is that Turnbull, with all his other problems, does not need a battle over Liberal “internals” as another distraction.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/smqzz-6c8fdc?from=yiiadmin&skin=1&btn-skin=107&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0&rtl=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Indian Special Forces Cross Border Into Myanmar to Battle Militant Groups


TIME

Soldiers from the Indian army conducted an operation against militant groups along the border with Myanmar in the country’s northeast on Tuesday, with special forces allegedly also entering Myanmar to perform “surgical strikes”.

A statement by the army said its offensive had resulted in “significant casualties” among the militants who killed 20 Indian soldiers in the region less than a week ago, Reuters reported.

Carrying out cross-border operations is not common practice for India, and the army only mentioned two areas in its own states Nagaland and Manipur. However, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and a former army colonel, confirmed that Indian forces had crossed over into Myanmar, the Indian Express reported.

Maj. Gen. Ranbir Singh, the Additional Director General for Military Operations, told the Express that the Indians had been in communication with Myanmar authorities regarding the counteraction against the rebel groups.

“There is…

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South Sudan: Major Insurgency Battle


The link below is to an article that reports on a major battle in South Sudan against insurgents allegedly supported by Sudan.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/28/south-sudan-battle-kills-insurgents

Mali: Latest Conflict News


The link below is to an article reporting on the latest conflict news out of Mali, with reports that Chadian troops have had success in their battle with Malian Islamists.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/03/al-qaida-deaths-niger-hostages

Mali: Latest Conflict News


The link below is to an article reporting on the latest news from Mali where 13 soldiers from Chad have died in a battle that has killed many Islamists.

For more visit:
http://www.smh.com.au/world/13-chad-soldiers-die-in-mountain-fight-with-islamists-20130224-2ezn3.html

Syria: The Battle for Aleppo