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Malcolm or Bill: who would you invite to your barbecue?

Nick Rowley writes in The Conversation (7.6.16) about the performances of the major political parties’ leaders, and how they might position themselves to voters in the remaining weeks of the federal election campaign.

‘If the proliferation of open and free elections is the key factor contributing to the strength of a democracy, then Australia is well served. Three-year terms for federal MPs, state elections every four years or so, and council elections sometimes sneaking in rarely leaves a parents and citizens association far from having a fundraising cake stall to help their school and service the needs of those lining up to do their democratic duty.

‘The very abundance of Australian elections can build indifference. And given compulsory voting means citizens are compelled to take part, listening to “the pollies” and going to vote are part of our national routine.

‘Campaigns can be viewed and assessed by looking at their content (what policies each of the parties is committed to) or the process (how each party is looking to present those policies to garner political support). Although previously involved in campaigns both here and in the UK, I have never been too interested in the technical necessities of how to run them and elicit public support.

‘The campaign isn’t really the time when a policy “wonk” is required. That work should have been done. But the skills of undertaking a coherent campaign are vital in a democracy. A party can have the most brilliantly informed and farsighted policies, but if the protagonists cannot communicate them effectively to the electorate, they will be overlooked.

‘With our increasingly consumerist model of politics, the danger is that what politicians believe the electorate wants to hear comes to guide policy.’

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