When a politician fronts up on television around 7am as Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard did on the Seven Network this morning it is not really to influence the hundred thousand or so desperates who like looking at pictures while they eat their toast. It’s really about agenda setting — an attempt to say something that will be taken up as a theme of the day by the media that ordinary, sensible Australians eventually do get around to watching, reading or listening to.
As that’s the case, today has not started well for the Liberal Party. There was nothing told to Kochie and his sidekick that will change the emphasis from a continued consideration of just what the Opposition would do about industrial relations policy if it becomes the government. The aspect most likely to be seized on as the campaign day continues was the Koch comment that left Abbott looking decidedly uncomfortable. After listening to yet another declaration that the old Work Choices laws of the Howard government were dead, buried and cremated, the questioner asked what then was to be made of the comment by deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop on Q&A (no transcript as I write this but find it at 18 minutes into the program here) that there might have to be changes made after referring things to the “independent umpire”.
We are sure to see Labor pointing out all the things about the present system that can be changed without changing the letter of the law. Tony Abbott will be forced into another round of semantics about what can and can not be altered and how long his promise stands for.
What the industrial relations episode shows is the need for political parties to have a set form of words that all its spokespeople stick to when answering difficult questions. It really is quite amateurish of the Liberals and Nationals not to have them ready for the beginning of the campaign.