With only eight days to go, John Howard still can’t even up those pesky polls. He needs, as Kevin Rudd would put it in around 600 consecutive sound bites, “fresh ideas” to retain office, or his long innings will very shortly come to an end. Here are ten easy options the PM might consider using to win back voters.
(Note; if the Coalition actually uses any of these ideas to pull off an unlikely win next Saturday, the price for licensing my intellectual property will be an ambassadorship to somewhere with lots of sunny tropical islands. That’s how it works, isn’t it?)
1) Sack Tony Abbott
After a gaffe-filled campaign, Abbott has now embarrassed the Government by conceding that workers had lost some protection, and that where there were problems the best solution was for the employee to simply find a new job. Well, Tony’s been performing very badly, and it’s time he was moving on. With one swoop of his pen, John Howard can make voters grateful that it’s now so easy to sack people.
2) Promise not to retire
The uncertainty of the Prime Minister’s departure is a major plus for Labor. He’s sought to clarify this by saying he could leave in 18 months. But he’d be more in line with what voters were thinking if he promised not to hand power to Peter Costello for at least 18 years.
3) Cash handouts
The PM has handed out more than $50 billion so far this election, but his message of largesse still isn’t really cutting through. He should take a leaf out of the FM radio playbook, and simply send out street teams to distribute cold, hard cash. Icy cold cans of Coke wouldn’t go astray either.
4) Stop hugging everyone
It’s good to see that the PM has belatedly discovered his emotional side, but the hugging is getting more than a little freaky. His YouTube video with cerebral palsy sufferer Daniel Clark had more hugs in it than an episode of Oprah. John Howard’s like the great-uncle we only see at Christmas – sure, we’re happy to receive handouts from him, but we definitely don’t want him to touch us.
5) Ratify Kyoto
Malcolm Turnbull was right – the Coalition’s refusal to do this is only hurting itself, and exemplifies the worst of John Howard’s stubbornness. At this point, the only thing Kyoto actually means for the Government is providing a convenient symbol of its inaction on climate change, because although we’ve all heard endlessly what Kyoto means, no one actually understands what it involves. Australia’s going to meet its targets anyway, and the only person who would be put out by it is George Bush, who can hardly help Howard any more. We don’t care about signing up China and other polluters, we care about token statements that make us feel less guilty about the environment without having to really do anything. Ratifying Kyoto is the national equivalent of buying a Prius.
6) Take on the Reserve Bank
Every time it raises interest rates, the central bank has been warning the Government not to spend so much. The Government insists that its spending isn’t driving inflation. So why not put it to the test by promising to compensate every single mortgage holder for any extra repayments they have to make because of interest rates? Better still, why not give them double so that a rate rise means we all pay less, not more? Then we’ll really see if profligate government spending is linked to interest rates.
7) Give regional grants to every seat
The latest big story is that the auditors have found considerable bias towards Coalition seats in the distribution of funds under the Regional Partnerships Programme. It’s being reported as something of a scandal, but it isn’t hard for John Howard to fix it up by simply matching the funding everywhere it wasn’t applied. All he needs to do is acknowledge that in fact every seat in Australia is part of some region or another, and therefore deserving of more cash. Urban regions are actually just as “regional” as the bush, if you think about it. Australians are outraged when irresponsible cash handouts are applied unfairly in favour of others, but delighted when they come to us.
8) No more walks
Several moments in the campaign have given the impression that John Howard is presiding over a circus, most of them involving Tony Abbott. But when he goes on his fabled morning walks, John Howard actually is presiding over a menagerie of bizarrely-dressed activists, cantankerous old people and The Chaser. Maybe it’s time he bought a treadmill.
9) Silence Alexander Downer, in both languages
The Foreign Minister is embarrassing enough when he speaks English, let alone trying his hand at French. His clumsy attempt to do so when compared to Kevin Rudd’s remarkably accomplished – yet nevertheless quite glib – Mandarin illustrates why the Government is so far behind in this campaign. As with Amanda Vanstone, it might be time to send Downer off to become ambassador, somewhere he can speak the language. So not Paris. Or anywhere else, come to think of it.
10) Give the people what they want – Rudd
Rudd’s tried to give the people a slightly newer version of Howard, and that’s worked a treat. So why doesn’t Howard deliver them a more experienced version of Rudd? The Opposition Leader’s hair looks plastic already, so Howard could quite convincingly adopt a toupee. And it’s not like the PM would have to dramatically rewrite his policies.
Photo: Andrew Meares