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The Literature Review Part 3 – Campaign foundations: strategy, message, finance, research

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Campaign foundations: strategy, message, finance, research

Are basic political strategies in Australian politics and American politics similar in style and are campaigning techniques (from political strategy formulation to voter contact) and skills transferable between these two systems? The case against states there are big differences in our systems (differences in size, cultures and history, political structures, regulations and industries, wealth, academic influence and scholarly research) and some of our basic strategies are fundamentally incongruous (e.g. persuasion vs. voter turnout/suppression). The ‘Yes’ case states that the basics of electoral success are essentially the same: Understand your landscape, raise and spend more money than your opponent, test your message, campaign on local and personal issues, have credible, articulate and attractive candidates, repeat your message with clarity, simplicity and supporting evidence and endorsements, organise local support, alliances and activities which highlight your ‘strengths’ and ‘your issues’, utilise earned media effectively and complement it with paid advertising.

Central message control and dissemination is certainly not a new concept. Up until a few decades ago, the fashionable description was ‘propaganda’ but as O’Shaughnessy explains in Politics and propaganda: weapons of mass seduction, the term “faced conceptual extinction because it became an anachronism”. He asks rhetorically, “how could a cynical, media-literate cadre ever respond to (propaganda’s) histrionic excess as earlier, more naïve generations had done?” and then answers the question by explaining that effective propaganda is “seductive” and “not usually a lie” but in fact “persuasion”. O’Shaughnessy accurately describes the manner in which old political ideas and techniques often ‘become new again’ when he writes “ideas do not die, they merely hibernate” and “the whirligig of fashion applies to concepts as well as clothes.”

O’Shaughnessy’s historical dissection of the essential propaganda elements of “rhetoric, myth and symbolism” and the application of this model to modern political communication and persuasion techniques are expansive and applicable to many modern political contests (and worthy of a separate thesis).

Propaganda is clearly designed to affect voter behaviour. An ANU news article describes how marketing experts can provide sound theories to explain voting behaviour.

Writing in the Monash Business Review in 2008, Stephen Dann and Andrew Hughes outlined five lessons learnt from the election campaign, including: having a less confusing message, using better communication, reducing risk for voters, not taking votes for granted and successfully using celebrity candidates. Hughes said the Coalition’s campaign came unstuck before it had even begun, and that the party should have listened to what their research was telling them. “The Coalition marketing campaign was just terrible – they got it so wrong. It started badly, continued badly and finished badly,” he says. “The marketing research the Coalition had was ignored when it should have been listened to. Opinion polls are great market research, and if the Coalition had acted on what those polls told them they could have stayed in government. But the marketing people should have told Howard it was time to go.” Hughes says there were plenty of opportunities for the Coalition to alter the course of the campaign but time and again these were missed.

The marketing research which Hughes refers to Federal State of Play – Oztrack 33, presented by Mark Textor on 21 June 2007, was actually leaked during the 2007 election and was widely available online for a short period of time, until the Liberal Party pollsters Crosby Textor threatened legal action against the websites hosting and distributing the files. The research document begins with an explanation of ‘regression analysis’ a term and technique commonplace in market research and political microtargeting, which will be discussed later. The contents of the research are very revealing of the concerns that were being expressed within the inner circles of the Liberal campaign team in 2007. The document reveals the weaknesses of the Liberal brand but also suggests a strategy to counter Rudd and Labor by “comparing team strengths and highlighting Rudd’s inexperience and influences (unions, left factions and State Premiers).”

A post 2007 election article Me-tooism Claims Backfired On The Coalition quotes Andrew Hughes and reveals the strategic error in Liberal accusations of “me-tooism” and how they boosted Mr Rudd’s chances last year.

“The Liberals inadvertently enhanced the ALP when they continued to allow Rudd to be positioned as ‘John Howard Lite’. In marketing terms, the comparison of Rudd as ‘Howard Lite’ produced a dual positive effect for the Labor leader. First, the endorsement reduced the risk of switching from Howard to Rudd … Second, closing the gap between the two leaders reduced the options for the Liberal campaign to criticise Rudd without it impacting on their own leader’s reputation.” The Labor leader added his own gloss to policies, according to Mr Hughes. “Rudd may have been saying ‘me too’, but he was also saying, ‘I’ve taken their policy and made it a bit better’. Coming from Rudd, it looked a lot better than coming from Howard. Rudd as a brand was fresh, new and keen.”

The 2008 US presidential election analysis includes many political marketing stories, with frequent references to “brand” and “marketing” and “selling”. In an online article titled The Brand Called Obama, Ellen McGirt writes

“Obama and Clinton make an interesting contrast in brands,” says Professor John Quelch, Senior Associate Dean at Harvard Business School and co-author of Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy. “Obama communicates that he loves people, and Clinton communicates that she loves policy.” Consider Starbucks, Quelch says. “People love it for the experience, not for the specifications of the coffee.” Obama, through his inclusive Web site and, yes, his lofty rhetoric, reinforces the notion that everyone is included and that this movement is actually a conversation to which everyone is invited.

There is clearly a firm belief in the powers of marketing principals in US politics that has certainly had strong influence on Australian politics but has not been adopted as wholeheartedly by either our practitioners or those who study and write about their activities. Perhaps the academic disconnect between political science and marketing in most Australian universities has influenced the penetration of marketing viewpoints in Australian political science? Some of the marketing principles that Mills wrote about 20 years ago are still utilised by practitioners, such as the links between strategy, message design and research.

Although it didn’t help John Howard, the Crosby Textor research Federal State of Play – Oztrack 33 is a recent example of “tracking and targeting” of messages and advertising during election campaigns. This was first done during an Australian election in 1968. Mills describes how in Don Dunstan’s replacement of FH Walsh as Premier of South Australia in 1968, following a “party room coup”, gave a striking example of how incumbents can use “tracking and targeting” to advantage. Mills uses excerpts from Blewett and Jaensch’s Playford to Dunstan: the politics of transition and describes the “brilliantly successful campaign which saw the first Australian use by an incumbent of modern market research, and of a long-term American-inspired TV advertising effort built around the personality of the leader himself.”

Young writes that “central campaign control and decision-making was a product of modern campaign techniques.” Although 1972 saw the centralisation of strategy, message and planning in the famous “It’s Time” campaign for the ALP, in 1972 the Liberals were still leaving their advertising and publicity to the various state branches of the Party. “There was no cohesion or central planning. In contrast Labor used a full-time campaign director and national campaign structure.” The success of Labor’s approach “prompted the Liberals to use a central advertising agency and national campaign committee the following year.”

In the chapter Timely vibrations: Labor’s marketing campaign from the book Labor to power: Australia’s 1972 election, Vicky Braund writes that Paul Jones, the “communicator” or ad agent who designed “It’s Time”, was a “McLuhan disciple”. Marshall McLuhan is a famous American writer and media theorist who said “the medium is the message”. She describes how Labor was using people who understood the dramatic effect which TV advertising could have on voter perceptions, where “people make emotional, not rational decisions and that these decisions can be influenced to varying degrees by the judicious use of media”.

Stockwell’s 2005 conference paper Grazing The Field: Voter Uses Of The Media In Election Campaigns underlines the importance of centrally-coordinated campaigns which can repeat messages in various formats, more effectively reminding voters of a central theme or message. Knowing voters use various mediums allows political campaigners to utilise “a variety of information sources to deliver messages which are uncorrupted by the media”.

But sometimes, the best laid plans and intentions, and adaptation of proven methods, is undermined by circumstances beyond the candidate’s control. If the message is not resonating or the strategy is flawed, no amount of money or innovation will assist a campaign that has lost popular support.

Shane Easson, Executive officer to the NSW Premier in 1988 describes US literature on campaign techniques as one of the factors in Labor’s attempts to portray Unsworth as being in touch with common voters by travelling around to different electorates in a mini-bus during the 1988 campaign. Milton Cockburn, political editor in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, described it as “the Harry S Truman strategy of being the ‘Plain Man’s Politician’”. Easson said “I have to confess that the day I joined Unsworth in September 1986 I gave him a book called the ‘Loneliest Campaign’ on Truman’s 1948 US election. He carried it with him until election night and then threw it in a corner.”

Both teams were trying to utilise American presidential campaign strategies. Ian Kortlang, Easson’s counterpart in the Liberal campaign in 1988 stated “We made a conscious decision to run Greiner’s campaign on a Presidential basis, and when Barry got into the bus it emphasised that even more…. You chose the low ground and we consciously chose the higher ground. We always had Greiner standing back from the media behind a lectern.”

Mills describes the political strategy of “tracking and targeting” as “innovations of polling and TV advertising” (which he identifies as American-derived influences) working “hand in hand” in a “synergistic relationship”. He explains “Tracking” is the “use of public opinion polls and other research methods to monitor changing attitudes in the population” and “targeting” as the “use of TV advertisements to aim political messages at electorally strategic parts of the population”.

Modern day political targeting involves a variety of campaign techniques, not just TV advertising. Recent Australian campaigns have targeted people using a variety of techniques including direct mail, phoning, doorknocking, Internet banner ads and robocalls. In fact, not “targeting” any campaign technique seems to run counter to much of the latest information and advice available to professional political campaigners. Mills explain how demographic data can be used to assist targeting, how the “electoral pendulum” defines the key electorates “which must fall if the Opposition is to form the next Government” and how “Parties in Australia focus their efforts on appealing to the swinging or undecided voters within these electorates.”

“Market research plumbs the depth of voter’s fears, perceptions and enthusiasms; television, a more emotive medium than cold, hard print, perfectly projects a personality-oriented, value-laden style of campaigning. In the lead-up to the 1984 elections both major Australian Parties tracked and targeted their campaigns. The Liberal Party conducted a highly disciplined campaign of tracking and targeting. The Liberal research revealed chinks in the otherwise strong government image: fears amongst some sections of the community about possible new taxes by the Hawke Government…. Targeting their advertisements to the sections of the community which research had revealed were most concerned about the tax fears…. It was a focused, targeted appeal which was drawn out over several months before the election began, beginning with a mini-campaign.”

This adoption and utilisation of research and targeting haahs become more widespread and has also been exported from Australia as left-leaning governments wax and wane across the globe, sharing ideas with each other as they aspire to government from opposition. There exists scholarly research pointing to Australian influences in modern political strategy, policy formulation and messaging in the UK and the US in the 1980s.

In The New Progressive Dilemma: Australia and Tony Blair’s Legacy, David O’Reilly describes “in its formative stages Blairism cherry-picked ideas far and wide”, including from Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s. In a critical analysis of Blairism, O’Reilly also predicts “a disturbing warning” that the same fate awaits UK Labour that the ALP suffered following its defeat in 1996. O’Reilly’s account focuses on the Australian influences of Blair’s (and Bill Clinton’s) famous “Third Way”, but also points to important campaign influences, such as the choice of more marketable leaders by the party hierarchy and visits to Australia (to look at the Hawke-Keating experience) by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Prescott, Patricia Hewitt and Phillip Gould. O’Reilly notes that due to the timing of the election cycles, “The Blairites looked to Australia first, before Clinton was even a ‘New Democrat’. Australia represented a first-phase influence, the US a second.”

O’Reilly describes the strategic outlook of “a corps of party officials and leaders” in Australia in the 1980s “and in Britain and the US later in that decade”, who were determined to “jettison any policies as well as practices, deemed to be creating obstacles to electoral victory” and “this was all part of a conscious act of strategic repositioning.”

“to keep their opponents off-balance … Labor modernisers in Australia and Britain employed for the first time cadres of tough apparatchiks whose new expertise was tough-minded, opinion-poll-driven electioneering logistics and media manipulation.”

In 1989 the newly set up US Democratic Leadership Council commissioned a study by Seymour Martin Lipset of left-of-centre parties around the world. Lipset’s study ‘Political Renewal on the Left’ held up Australia as one of the most advanced nations fomenting new ideas, lauding the Hawke-Keating economic and social model. O’Reilly describes how the Lipset study instigated a series of regular exchanges between the DLC, federal and state ALP branches and Hawke-Keating government ministers and staff “keen to talk both about skills-set politics [campaigning] and specific policy reforms”.

O’Reilly also describes an interesting 1987 interview with Gary Gray and British MP Patricia Hewitt (who was Australian-born) in which both confirm the superiority of the ALP’s campaign practices and utilisation of central campaign management, strategy and technology to assist local MPs. Hewitt says “the ALP was streets ahead of us” and “using stuff that we hadn’t even woke up to”. O’Reilly also describes an encounter between Blair and Keating in which Blair admires the “internal discipline” of Keating’s “powerful ALP right-wing faction in NSW” and dinners and meetings between Blair, Brown, Keating Government Ministers and ALP officials during which they discussed “policy development” and “campaigning”.

These exchanges continued and in 1996 UK Labour directly adopted the Australian model of a campaign media unit, based on the NMLS unit operating in the Keating Government. UK Labour also sent a party official to work at, observe and learn from the ALP federal election campaign, a practice that has been repeated frequently since then.

Another similar study by Chris Pierson Australian Antecedents of the Third Way (again focusing on policy development but occasionally illustrating interest in the exchange of electoral marketing ideas and techniques) shows “there are many common themes in Australian Labor practice and New Labour rhetoric, and some evidence of specific policy transfer from one to the other, a plausible case can also be made for seeing many of the policy initiatives of the Hawke/Keating era as a reworking of an older Australian Labor tradition of regulatory state activism,” indicating evolving Australian political messages and techniques having an overseas influence in the UK, rather than straightforward adoption of American influences here.

Pierson also describes how visiting British Labour Party elites “were principally interested in the electoral strategy (and success) of the ALP – especially after its triumph in the seemingly ‘unwinnable’ election of 1993. In part, this success was attributed to vote-getting policies but at least as much it was seen to be down to skilful and highly disciplined party organisation. In particular, Gary Gray had been extraordinarily effective in concentrating resources upon key seats and delivering a better than anticipated national outcome by ‘over-performing’ in Labor’s target seats.” UK Labour MP Patricia Hewitt reported that lessons from the Australian experience “had a significant impact upon Philip Gould, Labour’s own emergent electioneering guru” and “when Blair visited Australia in 1995, he was repeatedly asked what lessons he drew from the success of Australian Labor. Always at the top of his list was the ALP’s capacity to win elections and retain office”.

In their book Political Marketing: A Comparative Perspective Lilleker and Lees-Marshment argue that of the three models for modern political parties, the “market-orientated party”, with it’s more advanced intelligence-gathering techniques, will be most successful as it’s “product” will be appropriately adjusted to maximise electoral support. The 1997 landslide electoral success of the UK Labour Party is used as evidence of the wisdom of the “MOP” approach, after which “a consensus in favour of the MOP approach has emerged within the two major parties.” This study is interesting from the point of view of “New Labour” and “New Democrat” influences on Australian politics (and vice versa) as well as the (now outdated) debate surrounding the “third Way” which seems to have reached it’s peak in Australia during Mark Latham’s brief leadership. The authors highlight clear weaknesses in the MOP model and although comparisons are made with American, New Zealand, Canadian and European democracies, I haven’t been able to find any Australian references, although the language and techniques (and limitations of political marketing) used are similar to those described by Australian writers.

One could argue that one of the important lessons from the ALP for the UK labour Party was the importance of matching policy with electoral appeal, through the use of effective “frames” to describe and define policy positions and issues in electorally appealing ways. “Framing” is an essential consideration in political messages and political advertising and communications materials. There are several very influential texts on the subject available to US (and Australian) practitioners. These include George Lakoff’s Don’t Think Of An Elephant (Know Your Values And Frame The Debate) and Thinking Points, as well as Framing The Debate by Jeffrey Feldman.

There are few Australian equivalents but these texts, particularly Lakoff, have had an impact in Australia, most notably within the leadership of the Australian Union movement. The ACTU’s YRAW campaign, with its potent message and imagery, is a great example of a ‘positive frame’ for an issue that has very commonly been portrayed in a negative light in recent times.

In an article about the ‘Industrial Relations Frame’ in the 2007 election, Diane Kelly outlined the common US perspective, quoting a book Framed! Labor And The Corporate Media” by Christopher Martin (2004), she lists five negative frames used against unions in the US and writes “These assumptions offer ways of investigating and analysing the framing of coverage of industrial relations in the 2007 Australian election…. These five assumptions underpinned much of the framing of debates in the 2007 election, and indeed much of the representation of industrial relations, particularly in the conservative media.”

One aspect of strategic issue and message management that hasn’t had much coverage in Australia is the process of “priming” whereby media coverage about favourable issues or policies benefits certain candidates as voters begin to think about those issues more and which candidates support or oppose their viewpoint. In Candidate Strategies to Prime Issues and Image Druckman concludes that priming strategies are “tailored” by “public opinion” and “strategic opportunities offered by the political conditions of their time.” Examples of issue priming in Australian politics is the use of economy and interest rate discussions by Liberals to focus voter’s minds on “economic management” or alternatively, using negative stories about unions to paint Labor in a bad light and remind voters about Labor’s close association with unions.

Although there is little written about it, figures and discussion about Australian campaign finance and fundraising eventually see the light of day, due to public disclosure laws, which on the surface, seem more restrictive but at the same time less effective than Australian regulations. In 1972 there was a strategic shift in the professionalisation of Australian federal campaigns with Labor’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign. In 1969, the ALP’s campaign budget had been $50,000. In 1972 it was more than $700,000.

The expansion of expenditure for campaigning drove more innovation in fundraising efforts and approaches to corporates who had not previously donated to the ALP. The 2007 federal election campaign saw massive online fundraising efforts by many groups and parties, in particular the ACTU and GetUp!, who utilised the ground-breaking models from the 2004 US presidential elections and more recent experience by unions and organisations like MoveOn in the US, to expand the use and effectiveness of online fundraising in Australian politics.

Gallop had revolutionised political polling in the US through the use of random sampling to predict the re-election of President Roosevelt in 1936. His published polls were syndicated across the US and sprouted several copycats who adopted his methods.

In The New Machine Men: Polls and Persuasion in Australian Politics Stephen Mills describes the first big American-derived innovation in the Australian political process when “immediately before the start of the Second World War, a young finance journalist with the Melbourne Herald (part of the Murdoch empire) was sent to Princeton, New Jersey, to learn from Dr George Gallup his new and apparently accurate theories of public opinion polling. On his return, Roy Morgan set up an Australian polling organisation modelled closely on Gallop’s methods for which 30 years provided the sole measure of Australian public opinion.”

By 1972 there were three big pollsters in Australia, all interpreting public opinion for major news organisations. Mills reports that “as many as five national pollsters competed to predict the results of Federal elections in 1980 and 1984”.

Although television arrived in Australia just in time for the 1958 federal election it was not creatively utilised until a few years later, after the US adaption of corporate market research techniques and advertising to politics had begun. Mills writes that in 1966 one of the first political surveys in Australia was “conducted by a group of Melbourne advertising agents for the Victorian ALP.” Then in 1968 the ALP’s campaign for Don Dunstan in South Australia broke new ground for political campaign innovation in Australia.

In Playford to Dunstan, Neal Blewett and Dean Jaensch write how in June 1967, only four weeks after becoming premier, Dunstan began a series of conferences, held mostly in Sydney, between his aides and the Labor advertising firm of Hansen-Rubensohn-McCann Erikson during which “the overall strategy of Labor’s electoral campaign was determined.” One of several important decisions made at these meetings was that “a survey of public attitudes should be undertaken as soon as possible to discover the strengths and weaknesses of the ALP in South Australia, the survey to provide a basis for Labor’s campaign emphasis.”

Gallops early competitors included Rod Cameron’s Australian National Opinion Polls (ANOP), which became Labor’s preferred pollster for many years. Mills describes how a series of research papers by ANOP for the ALP in 1979 helped reshape the Party’s outlook and fundamentally shifted it towards (eventual) electoral victory in 1982. The foundation of this breakthrough analysis was a defining portrait of “the swinging voter” that sounds strangely familiar to political readers of the 2007 federal election:

“Politics is dull, boring and largely irrelevant to their lifestyle. Politicians are held in low esteem. Politics is ‘out of touch’ with their interests and lifestyles… There is far greater involvement and interest in matters concerning their personal and their family’s financial well-being and their day-to-day interests (sport, family concerns, leisure, recreation) than in even simple questions of ideology and government.”

Mills explains “the swinging voter was typically a 30-40 year old parent (usually mother) of a young family, residing literally in the middle of all demographic categories, with a middle-class, middle-suburban, middle-education, middle-income, middle employment lifestyle and middle-of-the-road politics.”

Mills explains the electoral and policy significance of Cameron’s swinging voter portrait was that “the Whitlam days of ALP sponsorship of plans for vast social reform had indeed gone. This was not because of any sense that the programs had failed, or were irresponsible, or contravened some philosophy about the proper role of government. It was because they were disliked and ignored by the swinging voters.”

Various views about the ‘typical swinging voter’ have resurfaced in campaigning conventional wisdom over the past 30 years. Mills reports that at the same time the Liberal pollster George Camakaris was developing and presenting identical views to the Liberal Party about the attitudes and self-interest of swinging voters. There was a further twist, again with echoes (or predictions?) of Labor’s campaign for a return to government in 2007. In 1980, Rod Cameron was telling the Labor party that “it should not just move into the centre, but should do so knowing that its Liberal opponents were already firmly encamped there. The ALP should explicitly ‘me-too’ the Liberals!”

Similar political campaign techniques were being used in other democracies. In the UK, Margaret Thatchers victory in 1979 and second election in 1983, were both managed with the use of political marketing and careful tailoring of her manifesto. In a chapter titled “the Americanisation of British Politics” Margaret Scammel states in Designer politics: how elections are won that “Thatcherism was “more a style of leadership” than an “ideology”, finding a careful balance ‘between the political aims of the Prime Minister and her party and the tolerance of the electorate”.

One big difference between US and Australian politics is our leader’s habit to call elections after assessing the latest research poll. This happens in the UK as well as is documented in Dennis Kavanagh’s Election campaigning: the new marketing of politics where he describes how “it was only when large private surveys confirmed the handsome Tory lead in the public polls that Thatcher was prepared to call elections in 1983 and 1987.”

Australians have not only used political research techniques adapted from the US, but also sought to replicate specific demographic descriptions and target groups. In her book The Victory, Pamela Williams describes how Liberal Party director Andrew Robb had commissioned specific research in the lead-up to the 1996 federal election to ascertain whether “Australia had its own version of the Reagan Democrats, classic Labor voters sufficiently disillusioned to switch sides. He hoped the pollster’s findings would support his hunch. If Labor’s core supporters were wavering the Liberals could devise a strategy to woo them.”

Many of the political research techniques used in Australia have been learnt and refined in the US or through associations that have direct links with US companies and research organisations. The Liberal pollster, Mark Textor, is described in Parties, governments and pollsters: A new form of patronage? by Ian Ward: “Mark Textor is now the principal of Australasian Research Strategies Pty Ltd, which is part of the Wirthlin Worldwide group founded by the US Republican-linked pollster Richard Wirthlin. After graduating from the Australian National University and working for the Australian Bureau of Statistics doing household expenditure surveys, Textor returned to the Northern Territory to work for the Country Liberal Party. In 1991 he was recruited to the Federal Liberal secretariat where he worked under the tutelage of the then Federal Director, Andrew Robb.”

“Robb sent Textor to the United States after the 1993 federal election. There he worked with the Wirthlin Group on Republican gubernatorial and congressional campaigns in South Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, New Jersey, Texas and California during a ‘two month stint on the Republican campaign in the US during 1994’. With the experience that he had gained in the United States, Textor became a key figure in the Liberals’ 1996 federal election ‘war room’ (the same year in which he also worked on the British Conservative Party campaign). With his guidance, the Liberals succeeded during the 1996 campaign in overturning the ‘decisive edge in technique’ that Labor had held ‘throughout the 1980s and early 1990s’. In 1998 the Liberals again employed Textor, this time as a consultant, to interpret opinion data, guide electoral strategy, and to secure the re-election of the Federal Coalition government. As in the 1996 campaign, his role was to distil the results of ‘overnight telephone polling’ gathered in 30 key marginal seats and provide the party with ‘strategic recommendations’. “By the late 1990s Textor had indeed emerged as a key Liberal operative. NSW Liberal State Director Remo Nogarrotto said that Textor is ‘a great asset and a person who provides this Party with a significant competitive advantage over Labor’. Textor’s reputation as the ‘doyen of Liberal Party polling’ survived his central involvement in the Liberals’ unsuccessful 1999 NSW State campaign. His reputation as the pollster who ‘regularly polls for John Howard on what messages hit which targets’”.

When he became Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Andrew Robb “spent a month in the US meeting successful political consultants and listening to their recollections of past election campaigns.” On his return to Australia, “he recruited a 34-year old Republican named Bruce Blakeman with 78 campaigns of all descriptions under his belt and experience in applying the latest marginal seat tactics.”

In a chapter titled “The manipulators – leveraging doubt and fear” in his book The Hollow Men, Nicky Hager writes about how the New Zealand Nationals used Crosby/Textor in the 2005 election. The references are very critical of the negative campaign techniques which the pair became known for, as well as their association with American tobacco and their ruthless use of research to tap into fear and apprehension in voters both in Australia and in the UK. Hager writes about the work Textor did for the Wirthlin Group, tobacco giant Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. He also quotes extensively from leaked internal National Party emails that describe how Crosby/Textor have utilised research to “frame” messages that appeal to voter’s fears and prejudices.

Hager also refers to previous “framing” strategies which conservatives in both New Zealand and Australia have borrowed from the US, such the use of the banner “political correctness” in the 1990s to “cut welfare programs for minorities, reduce environmental protections and attack civil liberties.”

In an online article about his new film (based on his now infamous book) Nicky Hager describes how Crosby/Textor are “the market leaders” in “deceptive, secretive and manipulative” party tactics. Hager refers critically to their numerous recent efforts in elections in New Zealand (2005 and 2008), Australia (various state and federal elections since 1990s) and the UK (2005 and London Mayor in 2008). He describes the three key steps or tactics that Crosby/Textor have employed in recent campaigns as 1) candidate/message discipline/control 2) Overtly personal attacks (often referred to as ‘dog whistling’ in Australian media and 3) Issue management – campaigning on issues that your opponent has no control over.

First, Crosby and Textor realised there was a high risk of Johnson tripping up and making mistakes compared with his experienced opponent. Their answer was to tightly control and script all Johnson’s public appearances. Two experienced public relations specialists oversaw him continually, declining interviews that didn’t suit their strategies and strictly keeping Johnson “on message”. Crosby/Textor call this “message discipline”, meaning a politician sticking to prepared lines no matter what the question or occasion lines that are mostly written by others. As a result, journalists saw only “the constrained, on-message Johnson”, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. An insider concluded that by scripting all his lines, controlling all his appearances and avoiding challenging interviews, Crosby/Textor “stopped Boris being Boris … and it worked.” The second strand of the London mayoralty strategy was relentlessly attacking Livingstone’s reputation. He had introduced some innovative and popular policies, so they concentrated on personal attacks. News stories appeared (never directly from Johnson) claiming Livingstone had three “secret children” and that he’d hired a Muslim extremist in his office. The major newspapers did not run such stories but giveaway tabloids did. The third strand was “issue management”. They found Livingstone had support on environment, social services and other issues. So instead they ran a narrowly focussed campaign on the rising cost of living and public safety even where these were the result of forces beyond Livingstone’s control.

In the introduction to his thesis Marketing, Media, Money and America Paul Zagami describes the infamous case of CLP “polling” in the 1994 Northern Territory election. Callers asked voters in 3 marginal seats “whether they would vote for the ALP candidate contesting the election if they knew the candidate had been involved in a bankrupt business”. Both the CLP and their pollster Mark Textor denied all accusations of involvement and “without the cooperation of the WA phone company used to make the calls the ALP was unable to substantiate its claims.”

There is of course evidence that most Australian campaign strategies and techniques are largely derived from home grown sources and not always copied from US sources. The concept of a “mini-campaign” or “dress rehearsal” is a universal one. In 1987 the NSW State Liberals ran a “We’re Ready” campaign to showcase the Greiner team’s credentials prior to the election (which eventually happened in March 1988).

Greiner’s strategy reveals the emergence of the ‘permanent campaign’ or ‘continuous campaign’ on the Australian political scene, a concept which was well recorded in American politics. In Shock Troops: The emerging role of Senators in House of Representatives Campaigns Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen describe how two features of Australian federal parliaments make them well suited to the use of permanent campaign strategies by incumbent governments: unfixed electoral terms and half the senators do not face re-election and are therefore available to assist in political activities anywhere in their home state.

In 1982, Sidney Blumenthal wrote The Permanent Campaign. In 2000, Ornstein and Mann co-opted that earlier title and edited The Permanent Campaign and Its Future. In that book they write “The line between campaigning and governing has all but disappeared, with campaigning increasingly dominant” and one of the causes is “the constraints of news as entertainment create the need for shorter sound bytes and confrontational angles, which turns governing into campaigning”. Their book also describes upsides to the “permanent campaign”, including increased scrutiny and accountability because political activities are reported more often and voters become more aware of what governments and oppositions do.

Greiner’s team new that the scrutiny of a public campaign event would help them get their act together. Ian Kortlang was the Greiner’s principal Private Secretary and a key strategist. When asked why he did a dress rehearsal he answered “… in fact we weren’t anywhere near ready.” After numerous straight election losses across mainland Australia the Liberal machine “had no successes to draw on, there was no standard operational procedure to say “this is the way we do it”.

Kortlang drew on his background as a diplomat and experience in the Army, where “nobody runs anything without having a dress rehearsal”, to organise a rehearsal of the Leader’s tour of marginal electorates as well as the campaign launch. The dress rehearsal allowed the Liberals to test the readiness of their organisation and candidates as well as to make mistakes and learn from them before the actual campaign. There were other benefits as well, which the then General Secretary of the NSW ALP Stephen Loosley acknowledged “It was intelligent politics for the Liberals to create a campaign event-if you create an event in politics, it will always have spin-off value and it will always give you a bit more momentum.” Loosley also states that “We did the same thing at Bankstown at the end of 1987 when we created the idea of a campaign convention. We brought all our people under one roof and gave them sessions on different aspects of advanced campaigning.”

By 1988 both parties in NSW were using research to test all advertising. The Liberal TV ads which appeared during their ‘We’re ready dress rehearsal’ prior to the 1988 election were tested by the ALP. Stephen Loosley describes how “… the commercial succeeded. We actually tested it in research groups and it did have one problem… (a weakness in the Liberal message) … which we used in our own material”. After watching Labor’s “Barrie Unsworth – he’s good value” TV ads, the Liberals’ focus group reports read “the advertising goes too far in attempting to portray Mr Unsworth favourably. Swinging voters see right through it. We doubt if the continued airplay of this advertising will impact greatly on perceptions of Mr Unsworth.”

No doubt the Liberal Party used similar research and focus group techniques to decide that in 2007 its government-funded Work Choices TV ads were becoming unpopular and that they were in fact backfiring because they were not as effective as the ACTU YRAW ads as well as the numerous testimonial stories in the media of victims of the government’s work laws and subsequently the ads were pulled off the air.

Research can help shape Australian Government decisions. Peter Thompson compered the ABC’s current affairs program AM in 1988 and described how ALP research into the Government’s standing brought about the demotion and eventual resignation of a senior minister, Laurie Brereton, adding to the Unsworth Government’s problems at the time. Stephen Loosley explained “During 1987 we tested a whole range of Ministers to see who we would use to support the Premier in the campaign. In one survey Laurie’s ratings were really quite damaging, not only to the Government but to him personally. I don’t think he saw it in that light at the time, but a approval/disapproval rating of minus 58 in two urban electorates is just devastating… Barrie decided to reshuffle the front bench and Laurie decided to resign.” Loosley recounts other factors in the decision to demote Brereton but states that “the research was just another justification”.

Mungo MacCallum describes an example of research-driven messaging in his book Poll Ddancing. The Story Of The 2007 Election. When Howard desperately “seizes on figures” which show a slightly higher number of people thought ‘wall to wall’ Labor governments would be a bad thing. 89 p 83

Zagami describes the “funnel phenomenon of party-voter communication as almost all information from the electorate passes through the narrow filter of the pollster before it reaches party elites. In turn this has removed the need and desire for the politician to get information from the public via face to face contact or though the party membership.” Again this unfortunately reveals the practical campaign inexperience of Zagami and others who approach political marketing from a purely academic perspective. Although it is not well documented outside of the parties in Australia, the foundation of good local intelligence for any politician is via direct voter contact, rather than through opinion polls and focus groups. The campaign manuals that will be dissected later in this thesis describe how to do this as a local representative as well as an aspiring candidate. In the conventional wisdom and personal experience of the author, the nature of “nuts and bolts” local campaigning techniques such as doorknocking, phone canvassing, public meetings, community events and local media events generates a lot of direct communication between MPs and their constituents and third parties within the electorate – none of which is usually filtered by polling or research experts. Even American professional political consulting proponents of microtargeting, direct mail, online campaigning and robocalls and other forms of modern campaign techniques, concede that the single most effective method for voter persuasion is through direct voter contact, as face-to-face communication is the single best method of human communication. The nature of polling and research methods such as focus groups is that they can provide retrospective snapshots of public opinion and insight but the expense of organising them and the time constraints involved in modern campaign requires a reliance on accumulated local intelligence as well as such subjective skills as “local knowledge” and “gut instincts” to develop and refine local strategies and messages. Formal research techniques can then be used, if time and money permit, to test and confirm strategies and messages and perhaps, if they are done well by experts, refine them in small ways.

Public discussions around polling and research tend to revolve around “horse race” commentary and predictions about wins and losses. Occasionally, journalists delve into the accuracy and inaccuracy of various polls and pollsters. Some journalists (e.g. Antony Green) are more educated about politics than others both here and in the US and these discussions wax and wane with election cycles and are occasionally resurgent around regular public polls such as the fortnightly Newspoll in the Australian. Similar examples exist in the US and the unique Australian nature of local discussions usually points to the lack of US influence rather than the reverse proposition.

One of the few elements of the US-inspired virtual political community (commonly referred to as the ‘netroots’, a term derived from ‘grassroots’) in Australian politics is the prominent online psephologists and associated commentators, most of whom are completely unknown outside of professional political circles. They include Mumble, Possum Comitatus, Pollbludger, Crikey and Antony Green from the ABC. All show a distinctly Australian flavour and focus, although each occasionally engages in commentary about US elections. One aspect of the Australian flavour of these discussions is the frequent assertions made into the accuracy and worth of the ‘betting markets’ in predicting results. Possum Comitatus (also known as Scott Steel) summarised the worth of the betting markets in “Good information makes good markets, and there is no better information than good, independent polling. It provides far more than fodder for horse race political commentary, it provides certainty and knowledge and evidence for observable reality.”

After the 2008 Northern Territory elections there was some discussion about the ‘surprise result’. Although one must assume that the ALP and CLP both conducted polling, there were no publicly available polls during the short period of the NT election campaign. Possum Comitatus explained that “With no major polls in the Territory election, information about the election itself was dominated by party propaganda on the one hand and political commentators staring deeply into their navels on the other …- usually finding little more than lint as a result, but lint dressed up as profundity none the less. It’s a pretty simple rule – you can’t really analyse what you don’t really know. What makes betting markets valuable is their capacity to aggregate all available sources of information to predict a result, but without polling information anchoring the market to some semblance of reality, without that knowledge of what people are actually thinking on the ground, the betting markets were left drifting in the breeze, ostensibly being guided by lint powered column inches telling us that Labor was a shoe in because, well, that’s what ought to happen. Sso should we really be surprised that without political polls running in the Territory campaign, the markets were so out of whack with the result?”

Peter Brent from Mumble.com.au suggested that unsubstantiated explanations were inevitable after an unexpected result: “The days after an election, particularly with an unexpected result, are very silly ones, as people who are paid to do so come up with explanations. The Australian’s wild colonial boy, Paul Toohey, at least admits he doesn’t really know what happened. (But proceeds to explain what happened: an arrogant government – the catchall explanation for every election loss/shock.) Let’s face it, we don’t know why Labor won in 2005 with 58 percent of the vote and nor do we know why last weekend’s affair was about 50-50. Maybe 50-50 is less deserving of explanation than 58-42. To just make reasons up, as many people must (because it’s their job), is worse than useless, because some of these things will become accepted as gospel truth. … On the other hand, it is of course desirable to try to get to the bottom of these things. Anyway, being a pattern-guy, I’m now looking forward to the next WA opinion poll. Perhaps another “arrogant”/out of touch etc government is about to get the heave-ho.

The Literature Review Part 2 – Historical, cultural and systemic comparisons between Australia

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Historical, cultural and systemic comparisons between Australia and the US and their political campaign techniques.

This study requires a critical appraisal of any relevant literature and identification of the gaps in the existing literature, particularly Australian research and public documents. Existing literature in Australia and the US can be compared with current practice in Australia and suggestions made for any obvious variations. An important foundation for this is a detailed look into historical evidence of influences from American political techniques in Australian politics. Once I have exhausted obvious sources of historical references I will begin looking at the current well-regarded American campaign manuals and compare them to known Australian practice. Without the historical perspective it could easily be assumed that current Australian practice is wholly derived from current American (or UK, or local ideas) when in fact there may have been a long historical influence or a long local evolution based on a variety of sources. As we will see, there are already strong theories in existence about the global influence of American campaign techniques and this study will help test these theories from an Australian perspective.

John Hart describes many types of “American exports” which “have found their way into the Australian system of government in recent years and been adapted to suit the antipodean variant of the Westminster model.”

There is undoubtedly far more written about American politics, campaigning and political communication than Australian politics. In the book Handbook of Political Communication Research, edited by Lynda Lee Kaid, Everett Rogers writes that Walter Lippman’s 1922 book Public Opinion was a “milestone in the study of political communications”. His study identified the importance of mass media in the formation of public opinions and in its democratic function. He pioneered scholarly content analysis of the media, a practice that is now widespread, using it to expose political bias in media coverage.

A thesis by Paul Zagami Marketing, Media, Money and America quotes O’Shaughnessy in stating that “the term political marketing was first applied to political campaigns in the United States in the 1960.” That may well have been the first widespread application in the US, but in From Soapbox to Sound Bite: Party Political Campaigning In Britain Since 1945 Martin Rosenbaum describes a political electioneering manual from 1922 which states “Winning elections is really a question of salesmanship, little different from marketing any branded article.”

Zagami correctly concludes that “the changes in political campaigning have arisen because parties are in constant competition with one another for the most modern and persuasive campaigning practices.” However Zagami also draws some conclusions which do not reflect the current practice of political campaigning in Australia and in some cases severely conflict with acknowledged best practice. This is one example of his sweeping statements and a counterargument:

“Channels of political communication have been narrowed”

Channels have multiplied over the past 30 years. Recent additions include cable TV, email, sms and the Internet (in various formats blogs, YouTube, social networking sites)

Zagami states that his theoretical framework is the multi-influence hypothesis outlined by AM Rose (book he refers to is The Power Structure Political Process in American Society, 1967 and also cites “Arthur Bentley, EE Schattsschneider and VO Key Jr amongst others”). He claims that the “multi-influence hypothesis is appropriate” because parties, leaders and candidates are “elites” who attempt to persuade groups (primarily swinging voters). The “network of communication” is research, TV, print, voter contact, phones, etc and the intended audience is usually passive. Zagami concedes the dearth of relevant Australian literature, apart from the highly respected text by Mills, and resorts to field interviews of mainly Liberal Party operatives to validate his arguments. One problem with Zagami’s interpretation of the multi-influence hypothesis is that (as he explains on page 4 of his thesis) the focus on “swinging voters” is based on the increasingly flawed assumption that traditionally partisan voters represent a stable group. Recent elections suggest that all voters have an increasing propensity to swing and voter volatility is becoming a significant factor in all elections. The hypothesis also doesn’t explain the dramatic changes in voting patterns that can occur during by-elections, particularly when one party does not contest – that is “strategic absenteeism”, as described by Nick Economou from Monash University in his research paper The Trouble-Maker’s Ballot Box?: A Note On The Evolving Role Of The Australian Federal By-election.

Zagami’s frequent reference to “parties” as a single entity that undertakes a uniform action could be seen as naïve. References to “parties’ actions”, “parties believe” and “parties have chosen to” are used often and should perhaps have been replaced with case studies or specific examples of behaviour in specific campaigns or elections. A similarly sweeping statement on page 54 is “Whereas once a citizen could go to a public rally to debate and heckle a politician or political candidate as they delivered their message, they must now wait until they are invited to participate in a quantitative or qualitative poll before their opinion will be heard and appreciated by party elites.” This is clearly wrong as many public events and debates still occur at the local level as well as the national level, the 2007 election being a very good example as most of the senior ministers, as well as the leaders and many local MPs, participated in debates. Also, not many voters would even be aware if their electorate was being polled, let alone have the patience and will to wait for an opportunity to participate!

A 1996 thesis by Kristine Klugman Democracy and the new Communication Technologies focused “on the political aspects of the changes in Communication Technologies (CTs)”. Klugman poses the question: “Are the new CTs being used to entrench communication power in the politician and political parties or are they helping to make Australia a more democratic country?” Much of her writing is concerned with how new technologies are helping or hindering participation in democracy and the future of political communication. One of her chapters “surveying the impact of direct mail” is very interesting from the viewpoint of this thesis and the influence of American campaign techniques on Australian practice. From the viewpoint of the practitioners and their “conventional wisdom” the verdict is clear: “Direct mail works! We all know that!” said ALP National Secretary Gary Gray 1993 during an interview and also ALP report. The Liberal response indicated careful research to measure the worth of the exercise: “We monitor (by telephone surveying) after a direct mail-out – (our standing is) usually up 2-3 points,” said Mark Textor in a 1994 interview. Klugman is sceptical that the practitioners are utilising a campaign technique (direct mail) that they have not accurately tested in the field so undertakes a research survey during the 1994 Fremantle by-election. She also conducted interviews with MPs and officials regarding their views about direct mail. Party officers were, unsurprisingly, supportive, as were most marginal MPs who had used it. Klugman’s survey showed there was no measurable affect on ‘floating voters’ (swinging voters). Her measure of the most frequent response to receiving direct mail, from either main party candidate, was ‘uninterested’. Most of the ‘party identifiers (people who would not change their vote) remembered more of the content of their own favourite candidate’s letters. One interesting aspect of the survey from a practitioners’ perspective is that of the ‘floating voters’, only a tiny percentage weren’t “fairly annoyed by both letters” and no one responded that they had changed their vote because of any of the direct mail letters. Obviously there would be other factors influencing their decision and the sample size was quite small (237 voters). Klugman concludes that there is a significant variation between the expectations held by party people and the reaction of voters to direct mail.

Mills describes the evolution of the electronic political advertisement in Australia as beginning in 1925. The early ads in the 20s and 40s reveal that the cult of personality around the leader and his image is not new nor is it fundamentally a product of the new political marketing which evolved in 1960s America.

As political marketing theory became widely discussed a vast amount of work was written testing and challenging various schools of thought. Without outlining its strengths and many weaknesses, I will mention one important study that has been strongly influential in the early debate around political marketing and voter persuasion: Anthony Down’s seminal work An economic theory of democracy which was first published in 1957 and outlined his theory of the ‘rational voter’ and a model for ‘electoral competition’ in two-party systems which identified the ‘ideological centre ground’.

When describing the influence of American history on politics and political marketing across the globe in “The phenomenon of political marketing”, O’Shaughnessy states “Since political marketing is largely an American invention we must look to American history for explanations of the growth of the genre”. He writes that “Americans recognise that there is a marketing dimension to any activity or institution that needs money to sustain it… therefore it is natural for politics to be marketed in a society where everything else is.” He also wrote “the weakening of the (Republican and Democrat) Party encourages and sustains political marketing”, as “the efficacy of marketing is severely limited where there are entrenched pre-existing loyalties.”

The American Enterprise Institute’s series Australia at the Polls, which started in 1975, ended in the 1980s. McAllister’s and Warhurst’s book Australia Votes: The 1987 Federal Flection utilised the 1987 Australia Election Survey, “the first academic survey of political opinion in Australia to be conducted at an election”. The importance of these studies was spelt out clearly in the book’s preface: “elections are the focus for much of the political activity in democratic societies. As such, elections have traditionally attracted great interest, both from academics and the general public.” They described one of the “central features of the 1987 election” as “the increasing role of technocratic campaigning involving centralised public opinion polling, elaborate and expensive television campaigning and presidential, personalised campaigns focusing on the party leaders.”

Australian parties have historically looked overseas for information and ideas about effective political campaigning. Mills begins his 1986 book with a summary of the “arms race” which Australia’s two main political parties had been conducting “over the last decade and a half”, since the period Whitlam became Federal Labor Leader, “to find new kinds of market research, new styles of television advertising, new computer applications, in the hope of getting some elusive quantum leap over their opponents.” He describes “a long but silent tradition of Australian politics: the competition for new American-style political technologies.”

“Frequently their search for weapons has led them to the United states, the authentic source and strongest arsenal of the new technology of politics. The first accurate public opinion polls were conducted in the US; the first political TV ads were shot for American candidates; the first in-house campaign pollster was American; the first and biggest direct-mail specialists were American; the first computerised campaign simulations were by pollsters of American politics; the first documented use of a microcomputer in an election campaign was for a local referendum in the town of Bozeman, Montana. For Australians, the lure of these American achievements has proved irresistible.”

Mills suggests that “Despite other fears about the ‘Americanisation’ of Australian politics there is one element of the Australian political style that could and should be immediately adopted: the intense and ceaseless commentary that has accompanied the upheaval in new political techniques in the United States. American journalists, academics and practitioners have been debating the validity of the methods for as long as they have been used.” This debate has been largely absent from Australian public and academic discourse, with the majority of references related to American studies. One of the hurdles in the Australian scene has been the party political nature of our professional political class and their reluctance to divulge trade secrets to wider audiences, even though these practices are commonly discussed in US politics. Academics have accused both sides of politics in Australia of restricting access to knowledge and understanding about the campaign strategies and techniques used in our political contests. The contrast with the long history of American literature on campaigning is stark and Mills cites several prominent examples from the 1950s to the 1980s:

1. Stanley Kelley’s Professional Public Relations and Political Power (1956) was the first detailed study of the new machine men;
2. Since Theodore White began his The Making of the President series of books in 1960 journalists covering elections have been alert to their importance in the behind the scenes campaign;
3. By 1968 Joe McGuiness’s The Selling of the President showed the nasty insides of Nixon’s campaign effort and set the tone for a more aggressive and cynical media coverage of campaigning;
4. In 1972, Joe Napolitan told all in his insider’s account, The Election Game and How To Win It;
5. Gallop’s descendents , who can now be found on the staff of every Presidential campaign, find their research work scrutinised by a Press Corps that has a fairly good understanding of their methods and influence;
6. A by-monthly industry journal Campaigns and Elections began as a quarterly in the 80s and continues to allow practitioners to swap notes on new technology and in methods;
7. For the media, David Halberstam’s The Powers That Be (1979) painted a realistic picture of the influence of the media organisations themselves;
8. Academic judgements have been provided through Professor Larry Sabato’s The Rise of Political Consultants (1981), Ed Diamond and Stephen Bates’s The Spot (1984), Kathleen Jamieson’s Packaging The Presidency (1984), and the journal Public Opinion.

Mills writes that (at the time he wrote his book in 1986) “there has been no equivalent in Australia of any of these efforts.” In fact, more important and influential campaigning texts have been written in America since 1986. Included amongst them is Bruce Newman’s Handbook of Political Marketing in 1999, which famously described the application of marketing principals in political campaigns.

Andrew Hughes and Stephen Dann are firm believers in Newman’s philosophy. In a recent article Liberals Need A New Man At The Top, Hughes argues that “voters now are acting more like consumers than traditional voters who have voted along class lines” and party’s and leaders have to behave in a way “the market wants, not what the party wants.”

Looking at political studies from a marketing perspective, although not well-known in Australia, has been well-established in the US and Europe. It would be an interesting thesis topic to investigate why ‘Political Science’ has a greater public reputation in Australia than ‘Political Marketing’.

As well as the Handbook of Political Marketing Bruce Newman has also written two other well-known texts, The Mass Marketing of Politics: Democracy in an Age of Manufactured Images (1999), and the Marketing of the President: political marketing as campaign strategy (1994).

Shea and Burton’s Campaign Craft has also been a very influential campaign text, reprinted and updated several times since 1996. Shea wrote that he intended his book “to bridge the gap between what scholars understood about modern elections and what campaign operatives knew about the process”, and he did.

In contrast to the lack of Australian books on political campaigning, Peter Loveday wrote in Surveys of Australian Political Science that there were over 20 political biographies written “in each decade from 1890-1970, the peak being 36 for the 1940s.”

The focus on biographies and the lack of political texts frustrates many Australian political writers. Mungo MacCallum laments that the lack of good political writing is largely the result of laziness and puts the blame squarely at our political leadership. In 2005 he described the paradox of “the worst-read and least articulate generation of politicians in our history, should be the one most concerned with legislating for literacy”. In 2005 his sights were firmly set on Howard and no doubt he would describe the current Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, all avid readers, in better terms.

The Australian equivalent to the American election campaign publications listed above has been few and far between. Probably the most well-known example is Pamela William’s book The Victory, which famously included insider’s descriptions of the 1996 Australian federal election, from both sides of the political divide.

In a critique published in Policy in 1997, Jason Falinski wrote “This is the first book in Australian politics that attempts to give readers an inside look at a Liberal Party federal campaign.”

Former ALP National Secretary Gary Gray has been a significant influence in adopting and evolving campaigning technology for the Australian political landscape. We will look at examples later illustrating how his influence in campaigning methods extended to the UK in the early years of the Blair government. In his chapter of the 1997 book The Australian Political System, titled The Political Climate and Election Campaigning Gray explains the essential relationship between technological change and political campaigning: “Technology affects the way people communicate; politics is about communication.” He cites Mills, mentioning how a further 10 years of changes in technology has introduced more media, more targeted campaigning and more scrutiny.

In 2000 Fritz Plasser conducted an extensive study titled American Campaign Techniques Worldwide which dealt specifically with the “market-driven proliferation of American campaign techniques from a global perspective.”

Plasser “conducted interviews with 502 political consultants and leading party managers in the US, Australia, New Zealand, India, south Africa, Latin America, Western Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe”. He asked them “about their professional experience and their concepts of campaigning, with the main focus on their professional evaluation of various campaign techniques and communication strategies.” Before looking at his survey results it is worthwhile exploring Plasser’s summary of several important definitions, theories and explanations for the proliferation of American-derived campaign techniques. Importantly he begins by differentiating between “singular observations” of “the advanced degree of professionalization in election campaign planning, enlisting the services of external communications and advertising experts” which “at best reflect the continuing modernization and professionalization of political communicators” but does “not furnish any proof of a directional convergence and diffusion process” (which would be reflected in one-way unilateral adoption of specific techniques). Plasser explains the alternative “modernisation theory” being that ongoing structural changes and technological developments common to many societies are resulting in techniques being borrowed from the more advanced, professionalized practitioners. Plasser identifies several “channels and modes” of “proliferation” and “diffusion”: “(1) American political consultants working overseas, (2) campaign training seminars and trade journals, (3) donor-driven democracy-assistance programs and foreign visitor’s programs, (4) professional organisations, and (5) academic programs. He lists examples of each of these modes. From an academic perspective, his final example is the most interesting: “programs like the high-quality curriculum of the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University, which increasingly attracts mid-career students, also contribute to the diffusion of US campaign professionalism. For people interested in US campaigns, specialised literature and how-to campaign manuals give informative insights into the American style and logic of campaigning.”

Plasser quotes the well-regarded author (GSPM Associate Dean) Dennis Johnson, of the book No Place for Amateurs: How Political Consultants Are Reshaping American Democracy “There now is academic and practical training in nearly all aspects of campaign specialties. There are a number of short training institutes, such as those given by both political parties at the national, state and local levels, courses in practical politics at several universities and a fully-fledged master’s degree program in political management”.

On the specific subject of this thesis Plasser recounts interviewing 40 “political consultants and leading party and campaign managers” in “Oceania (Australia and New Zealand)” who “spent, on average, half an hour answering the questionnaire’s twenty seven questions about their opinions and professional attitudes”. Plasser also quotes a study of thirty five US overseas consultants by Shaun Bowler and David Farrell, which confirms Plasser’s assertion that 57 per cent of his sub-sample of “top American political consultants” have worked overseas. Of the 58 consultants who have worked overseas, 7 percent (4 individuals) claim to have worked as political consultants in Oceania (compared to much larger figures of 64 per cent who have worked in Latin America or 59 per cent in Western Europe). These figures suggest the influence of American political consultants in Australia is much les than in Latin America or Europe.

In an article titled Political Consultancy Overseas: the Internationalization of Campaign Consultancy David Farrell describes how international consultants have contributed to “clear similarities in campaign styles across the world” and although “inevitably there is some adaptation to local institutional and cultural contexts”, “in essence the campaigns are very similar”.

Of the 40 Aussies and kiwis in his study, Plasser found that 21 per cent (8 individuals) had “cooperated with a US consultant in the last few years” (compared to 30 per cent in Western Europe and 58 per cent in South America). Plasser writes “Australia is a difficult market for US consultants because they have to compete directly with Australian experts and consulting firms with highly professional campaign know-how. Consultants from the US were first employed in 1969. Since then, the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party have made use of the know-how of top US consultants, and dozens of Australian Party professionals have travelled to the US before parliamentary elections to familiarize themselves with the latest techniques and innovations of US campaigning. However for advertising campaigns, West European full-service agencies, such as Saatchi and Saatchi, are also employed.”

Soon after Plasser’s study, a Rachel Gibson study in 2001 tried to explain “the variance in the extent of campaign professionalization among parties”. The study, although focussed on US and European examples, was written while Gibson was at the ANU. She identifies that conservatives in the US and the UK were the first to professionalise their campaign techniques, and we know the same to be true in Australia based on the Mills research into the Menzies campaign in 1949. Two factors she describes ring true in the Australian context: that “adoption of the new marketing technology happens usually after a heavy election defeat” and “ideologically, the principals of marketing and use of outside consultancy firms underpinning professionalised campaigning are more consistent with the principals of a right-wing party.”

Mills reinforces Plasser’s views when he uses an economic metaphor to juxtapose a ‘free market’ and ‘mixed market’ of “political entrepreneurism subject to government intervention.” In an American system, where voting is optional, candidates are pitted against each other rather than their opponents parties, where the supremacy of freedom of speech undermines regulation on expenditure and defamation – all these contrast with the Australian system. Mills concedes that examples of government regulation and intervention in Australia still “stop well short of the level in European democracies which, for examples, prohibit political parties from buying TV time.”

Evidence of the “the advanced degree of professionalization in election campaign planning, enlisting the services of external communications and advertising experts” which Plasser theorizes is almost inevitable exists in Mills’ account of the Liberal Party’s self-analysis after Fraser lost to Hawke in 1983. “Colin Curnow and other Masius executives offered their advice to the Liberal’s … that it was not good marketing practice to endeavour to reach the vast audience of every person over 18 years in a campaign spanning (only) three weeks…and thus the Party shifted to the long-term campaign, and in doing so it explicitly accepted the model of commercial marketing to achieve its political goals.” Mills includes some detailed statements from Stephen Litchfield, NSW Liberal Director during the Greiner years, in which Litchfield likens marketing strategies for cornflakes, coke and beer to “the way you ought to market political parties” before lamenting “the difficulty in politics of course is politicians don’t like to be likened to beer. They all have their own gut feeling as to what ought to happen. They all know better.”

Mills describes how Litchfield used his recent trips to the US to study the latest direct mail marketing techniques to great effect. “In September 1983 a letter over Greiner’s signature was mailed to thousands of potential Liberal voters… Enclosed was a ‘critical issues survey’, a questionnaire seeking responses to questions about union power, corruption and other issues which the Liberals thought could run their way. The survey had several aims – spreading the message, raising funds, getting names and addresses for future mailings. But it was most strikingly used as a basis for an ad campaign” which went to air a whole year before the next election was due.
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Mills writes how many of the news organisations now commissioning their own polls have “created some problems of imbalance in their own political coverage” because “in-house polls are naturally reported extensively by the newspaper or TV station that paid for them… But sometimes no-one is left in the media to summarise without vested interest the overall state of knowledge about public opinion and to assess whether polls in general are performing well.”

This phenomenon, which Mills referred to in 1986, was repeated again in 2007 during the federal election when what is best described as a “flame-war” erupted between the Australian newspaper and several bloggers well-known within Australian psephology circles. A barrage of emails, editorials and letters, both online and in print, (commonly referred to as ‘the Newspoll wars’) displayed how bloggers and online scrutiny were able to undermine the “spin” with which some newspaper journalists were misinterpreting their polls.

Decades after their peers in the US, Australian journalists are increasingly viewing political research with suspicion and less likely to accept “secret party research” at face value. A recent article by newspaper journalist Peter Hartcher describes his surprise and offence at being provided what he describes as “biased internal Labor Party research” about Peter Costello from the 2007 federal election campaign.

Mills describes how in 1982 the Liberals State Director in NSW, Stephen Litchfield, used new direct mail techniques he had learned from the US direct mail guru (and ultra-right-wing publisher) Richard Viguerie and an official of the Republican Party, to conduct a successful fundraising drive (which won an award from the Australian Direct Marketing Association) and wipe out a $2 million debt. Copies of the written 1982 agreements between the Liberal Party (signed by Litchfield) and the American direct mail and fundraising expert are included in the index of the Zagami thesis.

But Mills explains “Fifteen years before Litchfield brought home direct mail from the US, it was the Labor Party that was looking to America for inspiration in planning the first truly modern political campaign in Australia.” Adelaide was where this ground-breaking approach was being taken. “Don Dunstan’s re-election campaign for Premier became the first Australian campaign to use the American formula: sophisticated opinion research and extensive television advertising, both borrowed originally from the world of American corporate marketing.” Mills describes how in ‘Playford to Dunstan,: The Politics of Transition’, it is revealed that the “ALP’s advertising agency acquired – through its American parent – copies of a series of advertisements used in the previous year by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and reworked them for Dunstan’s ads.”

In the book Playford to Dunstan the 1966 Rockefeller ads were “regarded by media men in the United States as a model of television electioneering” and “had been produced by an American agency noted for its policy of communicating with the consumer through a kind of dialogue, rather than bludgeoning him.”

Mills writes “In 1972 Labor repeated the formula at the federal level, sweeping to power for the first time in 23 years. The slogan ‘It’s Time’ had been thought up by Paul Jones, a Sydney ad executive nicknamed “Very Big Stateside” for his immersion in the jargon of Madison Avenue.”

“The success of the ‘It’s Time’ campaign institutionalised market research and mass TV advertising in Australian political practices. It rewrote the book, setting new high water marks for centralised and costly electioneering. In the same year, David Coombe, who had been Dunstan’s public relations officer in the 1968 campaign, visited the US to observe the Nixon-Humphrey presidential campaign and met up with two of America’s foremost political consultants, Robert Squire and Joe Napolitan. For Combe, who became federal Secretary of the ALP in 1973, plugging into the Squire-Napolitan network of consultants and political technicians meant regular contact with the nerve centre of the new political style.”

Zagami uses a quote from Newman’s Marketing of the President to claim that the It’s Time campaign “had the three key ingredients of a marketing campaign: market segmentation, product positioning, strategy formulation and implementation, [Isn’t that 4 ingredients?] but does not go into detail about which aspects of the campaign represented those ingredients. Zagami writes without having worked in an electorate office or on a marginal campaign. Trying to illustrate the narrowing of communication channels, he states that “Instead of parties and the public communicating with each other through a wide range of channels, almost all information that flows between the parties and the public now passes through narrow means of market research and television”. When this thesis was written in 1997 several media channels (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, cinema, video) helped communication information to voters, as well as public meetings, word of mouth, election campaign materials, etc And if communication from voters to MPs had to be vetted by researchers the machinery of government (and opposition) would quickly come to a grinding halt.

In a familiar story, the loss to Labor in 1972 was a “wake-up call” to the Liberal machine. Mills describes how in 1973 the Liberal Party began “reviewing and enlarging its research and public relations functions.” Although they missed their mark in 1974 (in circumstances in which Mills describes in-fighting between the advertising agency and Liberal leader Snedden) Liberal research, message and tactics finally came good in 1975. Mills describes Liberal advertisers Masius’s ads for the 1975 campaign (‘Turn on the lights’ and ‘Three dark years’) as “among the finest, most inventive and powerful ever produced in Australia.”

Any election review will inevitably call for fresh ideas and outside expertise. But American expertise has not always been welcomed with open arms in Australian politics. Interestingly, Mills notes that although it was deemed perfectly acceptable to send Australians to the US to study with and learn from American consultants, it was deemed inappropriate to employ them during Australian elections. He writes that in 1975 “Coombe and other Labor strategists considered bringing Napolitan to Australia to help boost the fading political fortunes of the Whitlam Government. The plan fell through for fear it would leak and cause more damage than benefit.”

Various Australian academics have made attempts to uncloak the internal machinations of the political party campaign professionals in recent years. One of the more widely read books on this topic is The Persuaders: inside the hidden machine of political advertising by Sally Young, a Melbourne Academic who has become a leading research authority on the way politicians and parties use modern media to political advantage.

What we don’t see in Australia is a flurry of post-election books and analysis from recognised experts. A regular Australian Electoral Study at ANU has filled a gap in political research that was once most comprehensively filled by the American Enterprise Institute, a right-of-centre Washington Think Tank that once produced a regular post-election volume of articles by Australian Academics. The AEI study has covered every Australian election between 1975 and 1983.

From Mill’s book it’s clear that evidence exists new campaign techniques were being eagerly applied at the national and state levels, but not much advanced (or unadvanced) local campaigning took place in the much larger number of ‘safe’ seats prior to the 1980s. In the Australian Journal of Management publication ‘The Campaign Managers – The 1988 NSW Election Campaign – by the people who ran it’ Barrie Unsworth states “we could no longer be so arrogant in expecting that an ALP How To Vote card in a safe seat would deliver us 50% plus one of the vote…. We had to campaign much more effectively…”

Zagami points to several examples of where parties in Australia have attempted to score political points against their opponents by labelling their opponents activities as ‘American’ or ‘Americanised’. Labor has done it recently in its message that the Howard government was ‘Americanising’ our health system, or our education system, or our workplace laws. Zagami writes of an episode where Keating accused Hewson of “bringing in the worst of American politics”. Zagami’s thesis is very well written and includes great insights into political campaigning and the mindset of some of his subjects. Zagami writes that “Despite the compelling evidence, Australian political parties are quick to deny any substantive links with parties and political consultants from overseas, particularly from the US. Lynton Crosby claims that the percentage of techniques and methods used in Australia that originated in the US ‘would be closer to zero than anything else’. Susan Cavanah, the director of the CLP, says that the CLP have never used campaigning techniques pioneered overseas, even though the CLP have used qualitative and quantitative polling, television advertising, direct mail, negative advertising and allegedly push polling.”

Although he is certain of the American influence, Mills also quotes examples of non-US influences on Australian political campaign techniques. He writes that “Canada has been an important source of ideas about direct mail techniques” and “the ALP borrowed from New Zealand a system of computerised data management to aid doorknocking”. Mills also describes a “thriving international network of individual consultants” The international Association of political consultants “includes a small band of Australian consultants. One of the Australians, lobbyist and veteran Liberal party consultant Jonathon Gaul, served on the IPAC board of Directors.” There is a two-way street of political campaigning ideas and techniques being shared around the globe. This is nothing new. Mills also describes the example of how “The advertising agency for the British Conservative Party, Saatchi and Saatchi, looked at the Liberal’s ads produced for Malcolm Fraser in drawing up their campaign for Margaret Thatcher.”

Elaine Thompson lists a large number of Australian political campaigners who have gone to the US to study campaigning techniques in her chapter Political Culture in the book Americanization and Australia. She writes “Of the key party machine men of 1996/97, David Epstein, Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Opposition; Mark Textor, chief pollster to the LPA and the CLP; Mark Arbib, NSW ALP Organiser; Qld ALP organisers Wayne Swan and Mike Kaiser, have all spent time in the United States observing campaigns in detail. In 1996 Arbib attended a political consultant’s conference and in 1997 the Australian Democrats employed the American political consultant Rick Ritter, who had worked on Clinton’s campaign and later worked in the United Kingdom on Tony Blair’s successful election.”

Recent discussions with Andrew Leigh from the Australian National University suggest that better evidence-based analysis of campaign techniques exists in American academic journals. This is to be expected given the larger volume of work would come from a larger number of US-based academics and institutions. One would also assume that the nature of the political industry in the US, with its relatively enormous number of professional consultants competing against each other for reputation and business, feeds a competitive and regular publishing and advertising imperative. Professional campaigners in Australia on the other hand are still largely employed by Parties and have a greater incentive to keep their innovations, techniques and competitive advantages within their professional circles. Examples of recent US and UK studies and articles on campaign techniques (such as those with randomised field experiments) include: The Effects of Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment. Constituency campaigning in parliamentary systems with preferential voting: Is there a paradox? ; Partisan mail and voter turnout: results from randomized field experiments ; and Voting May Be Habit-Forming: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment .

Similar Australian studies are much rarer but can be found. Interestingly, the authors are usually not necessarily home grown, for example Rachel Gibson is a prominent political scientist based in the UK and Ian McAllister started his political science career there. Their study Does Cyber-Campaigning Win Votes? Online Communication in the 2004 Australian Election looked at the electoral potential of cyber-campaigning.

Ian McAllister was also a co-author of The Electoral Connection in Australia: Candidate Roles, Campaign Activity, and the Popular Vote, a study which measured the electoral effect of various campaign activities on electoral outcomes, based on 1990 Australian election data. The study relies on self-reported election campaign activity such as speaking at public meetings, talking to media, planning and organising the campaign, door knocking and letter boxing, and raising money for the campaign.

It is important to also cite counter-arguments to political marketing theories. Phil Harris argues that one is “political parties and candidates are complex intangible products which the voters cannot unbundle and thus have to decide on the totality of the package”. In his paper Political marketing and political communication: the relationship revisited, he highlights some of the unresolved theoretical conflict between political scientists and marketing experts such as the different requirements needed to describe strategy and technique.

Blumler and Gurevitch note the similarities in the use of the terms “globalisation” and “Americanisation” when discussing politics, economy, culture and the media throughout the world. Their study of the US presidential election in 1996 and UK general elections in 1997 confirmed findings they had made in the previous decade that both systems were changing rapidly and “areas of national divergence” were emerging “alongside ongoing processes of convergence.” The significant differences they noted included aspects of campaign finance, media commercialisation, volume of coverage, new-found populism styles of mainstream journalism. This study then revisited the framework for the original comparative analysis, something which would be beneficial (time permitting) in an US-Australian comparison.

An important consideration in political perceptions is the significance of American media in Australian culture. In the introduction to his study of political campaigns Political campaign Strategy, doing democracy in the 21st century Stephen Stockwell utilises three movie references, all American, to describe the nature of modern political communications: The Simpsons, The West Wing and Wag the Dog. Stockwell goes on to explain how, as “democracies became mass societies, the old networks of personal contact no longer held sway and prospective representatives had to find new ways to gather the votes they needed to win election. The advent of new media such as offset printing, radio and television prompted the creation of new persuasion techniques such as advertising and public relations to take commercial messages to the masses and politicians were quick to recognise the usefulness of these media for their own persuasive purposes.” Other American movies which Stockwell refers to in his list of “fictional campaigns” would also be familiar to Australian psephologists: The Distinguished Gentleman, Speechless, The War Room (documentary), Primary Colours and Spin City.

The subject of the popular West Wing series often comes up in political and academic circles. A recent episode of the language program Lingua Franca on ABC’s Radio National discussed the influence and relevance of this example of American political theatre from an Australian perspective. “Here in Australia, our 2007 federal election campaign looks more quasi-presidential than ever: the major parties and the media are encouraging us to see it very much as Howard versus Rudd. But after The West Wing we know that John Howard is no Alan Alda and Kevin Rudd is no Jimmy Smits. We know from past experience that we won’t have an open, free-ranging debate between the leaders. We’re unlikely to have more than one debate; it will be very controlled, and there’ll be no debate between the deputies [author’s note: this transcript was written well before the formal campaign and as it turned out there were actually a surprisingly large number of televised debates between Ministers and their Shadows in the final weeks of the 2007 campaign] …. One thing we can take from political theatre as good as The West Wing is a spark of interest in public affairs, and respect for the seriousness of the political decisions we make.”

There is an indisputable obsession with American politics amongst Australian journalists, particularly political journalists. On Sunday 29 June 2008 Australians awoke to a morning after the rocky by-elections in the federal seat of Gippsland and the state seat of Kororoit, both in Victoria. On this politically significant morning begging for analysis and discourse, where was the host of Australia’s premier political talk-show “Insiders” broadcasting from? Washington! Barry Cassidy was reporting from Washington because “the primaries were finally over and the real race for the white house had begun”! Do many Australians even know what a primary is? Leigh Sales from the ABC’s other flagship political program Lateline was already in Washington for the whole previous week.

The Australian media often works in the U.S., for U.S. corporations/owners, and watches lots of American television and Internet news. They sometimes see Australian politics through American political understanding (e.g. Milne and others misquoting polling research, using American terms like “inside the beltway” etc.). This view is contagious. However, the size and nature of American political industry and scholarly research means it has a critical mass which doesn’t exist anywhere else. Because of its size it’s a natural home to expertise and innovation in this field and will natural have a strong influence around the world.

Despite the media and reporting obsessions, perhaps the influence in Australia is constrained by our unique parliamentary and electoral system? Studlar and McAllister note that “Australia contains elements of both the British and American political systems, combining a strong party system and parliamentary institutions with a federal constitution. Despite nationally focussed federal elections, internal party selection procedures and campaign support for candidates differs considerably from party to party and even from state to state.”

Studlar and McAllister also state that “although the Australian conception of political representation derives more from the British practice than from the American practice, party domination is probably more acute than in virtually any other liberal democracy.” And they observed that “the major focus of (candidates’ and politicians’) political activity, as well as their election prospects, is party- rather than constituent-based.”

In an article about the new independent Senators who reclaimed the ‘balance of power’ in 2008, The Clerk of Senate Harry Evans stated “It’s obvious that party discipline in Australia is far, far tighter than it is in any other place. It’s just part of the Australian political culture.”

Bean’s study The Personal Vote in Australian Federal Elections, which showed the ‘personal vote’ had a lower value in Australian federal elections compared to the US and UK, is cited as further evidence “to support the view that party factors rather than local factors are preeminent within the Australian political system.”

The reasons for the centrality of parties within the Australian system are many, but they include the system of compulsory voting, which guarantees that parties remain on the centre stage of Australian politics, and Australian political culture which values the utilitarian goals of regulation and efficiency over freedom and liberty, which dominate American and British political culture.

Leon Epstein’s A Comparative Study of Australian Parties in 1977 began by explaining the ease with which British comparisons can be made of Australian politics, given its Westminster traditions as well as the “absence in the United States of British-style responsible parties.” He sees the “potent structural federalism” that exists in Australia as well as the early appearance of an organised Labor party is unique qualities which have strongly influenced the evolution of the local political culture.

Events prior to Australian federation include elections mark the earliest recorded exchange of political technology between America and Australia and are described by Stephen Mills: “More than a century ago, one of the very first exchanges of political know-how went the other way, from Australia to America. In the post-Civil War years, American voters going to the polls used to be handed ballot papers printed by the Parties naming all their endorsed candidates for the positions being filled; the electors would simply take the appropriate ballot and stuff it in the box. This made voting in secrecy almost impossible since Party men could watch whose ballot ended up in the box. In search of an improvement, the Americans looked to the radical gold-fields democracy in the Southern Hemisphere where several of the Australian colonies, led by Victoria in 1865, had pioneered the secret ballot. The innovation of casting votes on ballots provided by the authorities, not the Parties, is still called the ‘Australian’ ballot in American political science text books.” Mills is mostly correct. Like many things in America, they are reluctant to acknowledge foreign derivations and also refer to the secret ballot as the Massachusetts ballot since Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to use the secret ballot. But perhaps neither Australia nor Massachusetts deserve so much credit because Article 31 of the French Constitution of 1795 states that All elections are to be held by secret ballot. “Article 31. – Toutes les élections se font au scrutin secret.”

Brian Costar writes in his chapter about the unique Australian electoral system in Government Politics Power & Policy In Australia that “when the new Commonwealth of Australia legislated its electoral procedures in 1902 they mirrored the British and American procedures in two major respects. First, voting and enrolment were voluntary. Second, the electoral system was based on a simple plurality system where the candidate in each electorate who won the most votes (even if not a majority of all votes cast) was declared the winner of that seat.” But improvements were sought to make the system fairer and the “1911 requirement that compelled eligible voters to enrol to vote, extended in 1924 to a compulsory vote. In 1918 the plurality system was replaced by the preferential method. It is the combination of these two practices in elections for the House of Representatives which continues to make Australia’s electoral system unique.”

Ian McAllister writes in a chapter titled Australian political culture, from New developments in Australian politics that egalitarianism has long been established in Australian political institutions and differentiates it from many western democracies, including the US. He cites examples of Americans lagging behind in female franchise, secret ballots, paid elected representatives, and utilitarianism.

Many historical examples exist which demonstrate the closeness with which Australians identified with the US and its culture, including its political culture and traditions. In the early 1900s, Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, in a letter to US President Theodore Roosevelt, wrote “No other federation in the world possesses so many features of likeness to that of the United States as does the Commonwealth of Australia, and I doubt whether any two peoples can be found who are nearer in touch with each other, and are likely to benefit more by anything that tends to knit their relations more closely.”

John Hart describes how the exchange of ideas between the US and Australia is recorded in the 1890s during the drafting of Australia’s Commonwealth Constitution Bill, described by “one of the leading players of the federation movement, George Gibbs”, remarked that the draft ‘leans too much towards American terms and constructions (whole pages are merely a paraphrase of the American Constitution).’

Hart also describes how “the propensity to borrow … practices from the US in any significant degree has been confined mainly to the post-1972 period – a period in which students of Australian government also began to challenge conventional wisdom about the relevance of the Westminster model to the Australian system.”

Elaine Thompson wrote a piece describing the Australian system as the “Washminster Mutation” in 1980.

Hart makes the important distinction between systems of government and political behaviour “particularly in the context of the media and elections” and reminds the reader that “Australia has not imported American-style presidential government, nor even a watered-down version of it… the structural differences between the two systems remain vast…. Assertions about the presidentialisation of the Australian Prime Ministership all too often embody notions of presidential power that are far removed from reality.” Hart describes how the changing role of the Prime Minister in Australian government “is attributable to two major factors: the growth of government itself and the development of the mass media… particularly the intrusion of television into Australian politics.” Hart cites Colin Seymour-Ure who wrote in British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 that the amount of time that prime ministers must devote to media work has increased.

Consequently, “Australian prime ministers now do a lot of things that American presidents do because the consequences of television’s intrusion into politics is almost universal.” Hart uses the example of the American practice of televised presidential-style debates between leaders, which have become part of Australian campaigns since 1983. He describes how the portrayal of prime ministers in Australian media as the “personification of government” inevitably “generates the impression that government is led by one person, then we ought not to be surprised if commentators start to talk about presidential government in Australia.”

In Political Culture, Americanization and Australia Elaine Thompson writes that although the “Australian federal constitutional system was drawn in part from the American model, “Australian federalism is far from a clone of the American” and our federal system “was transmuted into a uniquely Australian version of federalism.” 28 pages 47-61

Much of the confusion in the media and public about “Americanisation” and “presidentialism” probably stems from overt mimicking of some common US practices, such as Presidential debates. Australia’s leader’s debates, often referred to as ‘the Great debate’ in the TV promotions, are modelled on the famous Kennedy-Nixon Presidential debates of 1960.

But some things have clearly not been mimicked, such as the widespread use of consultants in the US. Campaign management in Australia is still the bailiwick of the political parties. Although the technology they use is predominantly American in origin. Most new American communication and campaign technologies end up being adopted some years later but most western democracies, not just Australia. Even the terminology can be contagious with terms like ‘sound-bite’, ‘photo opportunity’ and ‘news management’ all American in origin.

Part of the purpose of this thesis is to develop explanations for why some aspects of American campaign techniques and practice has been adopted, but not others. There will be examples shown later of how the technology has been adopted but it’s use has been adapted or constrained by Australian context. Mills notes that “with the advent of the economic and political dominance of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, export of American political campaign technology became widespread.” This was exacerbated by the “weakness of American political parties”, “apparently infinite availability of campaign funds” and “a vast and innovative commercial industry of advertisers and researchers”. Although the penetration of American political consultants (and their traditional as well as innovative techniques) has been recorded in Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, Australia has remained (relative to cited example nations like the Philippines, Venezuela, Panama) untouched by American consultants. But Mills also quotes Robert Squire that “it is only a matter of time before an American (consultant) is hired in Australia”. Squire states that he “is regularly visited by Australians seeking advice about his work” and is “content to have them sniffing around the field for the time-being” but also predicts “the second consultant will be hired [by an Australian client] the week after the first one” and “when the dam breaks we want to have a relationship”.

Sally Young wrote, quoting a US source in 2005, that there are an estimated “3,000 firms, employing about 7,000 professionals in the US who work on political campaigns and political PR” and that one tenth of the multi-billion dollar yearly expenditure on political campaigning in the US was “revenue to consultants” and for the past 20 years “every major candidate in the US has used political consultants”.

This is in stark contrast to Australia where, as Mills and Young state, most full-time campaign professionals are employees (or regular contractors) with the two main parties. Young also points out that “unlike the US, the advertising agencies used in Australian political campaigns are not specialists.” But this might be a symptom of the relevant size of our campaigns. For example, if we compare campaigns in Australia and the US based on similar expenditure we would expect to find less specialisation and more “generalists” employed as campaigners, along the same lines as full-time campaign professionals employed in the larger party secretariats in Australia.

A recent study in the US by Farrell, Kolodny and Medvic, Parties and Campaign Professionals in a Digital Age: Political Consultants in the United States and Their Counterparts Overseas concludes that “election campaigns have outgrown the institutional limitations of political parties, requiring a role for campaign professionals to fill this increasing gap” and “there seems little doubt that political consultancy is still in its ascendency”. If that is the case in the US, where the DNC and RNC employee upwards of 300 people at their campaign headquarters during election years, then the need to employ specialist contractors and consultants in Australian election campaigns would be even greater, although the financial limitations would be greater as well.

Australian political consultants have also made a name for themselves overseas. Examples will be detailed later of recent appointments of former Liberal Party National director Lynton Crosby by the Conservatives in the UK and the Nationals in New Zealand as have been reported widely (and negatively – it’s clear that Australians aren’t the only ones prepared to criticise foreign influences in our home-grown democracy) in the media in both the UK and New Zealand.

In 1988 Stephen Mills noted in the Australian Journal of Management publication ‘The Campaign Managers – The 1988 NSW Election Campaign – by the people who ran it’ that although “the body of published material about Australian election campaigns is growing rapidly…there is still a shortage of quality literature which can boast the active collaboration of campaign decision maker…” The quantity of literature has increased since the 80s (although partisan debate amongst authors and political scientists still lingers about the quality) with more recent famous titles such as ‘The Victory’ by Pamela Williams and ‘Inside Kevin 07’ by Christine Jackman. Mills then admitted that the idea for their post-election conference and publication was “borrowed from the American model – which gives it something in common with many other innovations on the Australian electoral scene. The Institute of Politics of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has hosted conferences of Presidential campaign managers since 1972, and it was these which provided the model of the Sydney conference.”

There are other examples of Australian political science research directly following paths previously laid down by American academics. In 1994 Studlar and McAllister replicated an American study of how MPs’ re-election considerations dominate their behaviour, showing that in Australia incumbent MPs “rely on national partisan forces for re-election, while challengers rely much more on their own efforts.”

In her paper Scare Campaigns: Negative Political Advertising in Australia Sally Young describes several fundamental differences between the Australian and American systems which affect campaign techniques, including:

1. In Australia, there is certainly some fear of, and even contempt for, American campaign practices as well as American social and political values.
2. Unlike U.S. presidents, Australian prime ministers are not directly elected. In order to form government in Australia, the winner must obtain a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister must ensure that their party as a whole polls well, so historically, Australian political advertisements have tended to be more party-focused.
3. Compulsory voting ensures high voter turn-out, therefore, unlike their American counterparts, Australian politicians do not need to spend a great deal of time and money during election campaigns on encouraging voters to turn up to vote, in their advertising; they can concentrate on persuading voters how to vote.
4. In Australia, political ads are still generally confined to the four weeks immediately preceding polling day. By contrast, much of the American literature on political advertising is concerned with presidential election campaigns which run over a much longer period of at least nine months from the primaries to polling day.
5. In the US, television advertisements (or ‘spots’) are ‘widely used, not only in presidential, state and local elections but even in local school board elections. In Australia, even in federal elections, individual candidates can rarely afford their own television advertisements.
6. In the US, party élites have lost much control of the campaigning process to consultants from outside the party but in Australia, the political parties are still very strong. They exercise a tight reign over who becomes an MP and how they vote. Here, the parties have significant control over the conduct of the election campaign, they hire the consultants and advertising agencies, and they disperse the all-important campaign funding.
7. Funding for Australian federal elections is on a much smaller scale than in the US and also incorporates a very significant level of public funding.
8. There are also significant cultural differences in the style and content of American and Australian political advertising.
9. In Australia, the parliamentary system establishes a very adversarial relationship between the two major parties and indeed, the two party leaders. By the time an election is held, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may have faced each other across Parliament for years questioning, heckling and sometimes, insulting, each other.

Whereas big differences between the UK and Australian systems exist in terms of the combination of compulsory voting, federal systems (which encourage state-based messaging) and allowance of paid TV advertising. In Australia this leads to much greater campaign expenditure on TV advertising. Sally Young states that “In practice, Australia’s lack of (TV advertising) regulation and the reliance on TV advertising is closest to the United States and Taiwan.”

Wattenberg compared the level of ‘party identification’ in the Anglo-American democracies and found that while the “proportion of party identifiers has remained fairly stable in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada” (at greater than 80%), there has been a sharp decline in the United States, from 77% in 1964 to only 63% in 1980. All four democracies remain relatively stable and for an external observer there systems may seem very similar though there are fundamental systemic differences in electoral laws, political parties and campaign practice.

Looking at some examples of the impact of American TV and online culture on Australian politics (and other English-speaking nations), it’s easy to see why the Australian media is so obsessed with American politics; it’s very entertaining if it’s done well.

In an ABC Radio National program, Background Briefing on 19 March 2006 titled “Post-modern politics” Wendy Carlisle reported she was “on a search for truth in a world full of crazy language laundering, upside downism and political spin.” Carlisle noted the emerging influence of US comedy shows such as John Stewart’s The Daily Show and it’s more politically biting offshoot The Colbert Report as modern influencers of political thought and information.

This view is corroborated in the US media. A recent New York Times article describes the emergence of The Daily Show “as a genuine cultural and political force” and “a study this year from the Pew Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that The Daily Show is clearly impacting American dialogue” and “While the show scrambled in its early years to book high-profile politicians, it has since become what Newsweek calls “the coolest pit stop on television,” with presidential candidates, former presidents, world leaders and administration officials signing on as guests.”

In a paper discussing the growing influence of “infotainment” on politics, Stockwell noted that “Traditional TV news and current affairs programs (both in the US and in Australia) are shrinking in terms of audience reach and thus significance to public discourse.” He lists several Australian examples “where younger audiences are drawn to new forms of current affairs programming such as comical news and current affairs including Frontline, Good News Week and The Panel that offer a humorous and sarcastic approach to reviewing contemporary news and current affairs reports in other media.” Of course, political TV comedy in the UK is also renowned for its accuracy and influence in Australia. “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister” are not only closer in style and language to Australian humour but they are also more politically relevant in a Westminster system like Australia’s. And if you read the account of Alan Milburn’s influence in the Kevin07 campaign, as recorded in Christine Jackman’s book Inside Kevin07. The people. The plan. The prize then there is substantial evidence to suggest strong UK influences in Australian political strategy and message.

The premis of most the comedies set on a political stage, as well as the comedies which thrive off the critique of modern politics and rhetoric, is the concept of ‘spin’ and ‘information management’. A lot of detailed research exists about political rhetoric and the language government’s use to try and control information flow and manage media and public interest, expectations and criticism. ‘Public Relations’ is not just the tool of government, but government is typically under much higher levels of public and media scrutiny.

Carlisle interviews Peter Oborne, the political editor of The Spectator magazine. “He’s just made a BBC documentary called The Rise of the Political Liar. His fascinating thesis is that politicians have become walking, talking postmodernists. Politicians, he says, have embraced its central idea that there is no such thing as truth.”

Wendy Carlisle: After a career as a senior bureaucrat which took him to the very top as head of three Federal government departments, including Prime Minister and Cabinet, and then into the corporate world as CEO of Qantas, John Menadue also believes that truth in public life is at an all-time low.

John Menadue: I think it is a much more serious problem than it has ever been. What is different now I think is the scale of the public relations activities, the sophistication and skill with which they operate, and the technology that can be employed instantaneously to get messages around the world.

Wendy Carlisle: A couple of years back, John Menadue became so enraged at the situation he decided to set up his own magazine, New Matilda, from which he campaigns on these and other issues.

John Menadue: What spin does is distorts the truth, and we need in a democratic society, to have a means whereby untruth, error can be corrected. As a result of spin and the inability of under-resourced journalists to combat it, the spinmeisters are able in effect to chloroform the consciences of our community, and that’s what they did over children overboard. They’re suggesting that in fact they were terrorists, they were such awful people they’d even throw their children overboard, and we’ve had more recently of course the Iraq War, and there’s no more serious issue on which a government can be involved than going to war. And the Howard government deceived us about the reason for going to war. It said it was about weapons of mass destruction, then it changed its mind several times. But the real reason why it went to war was to oblige the Americans, and they claim that it was due to weapons of mass destruction and regime change. But that was all an untruth.

The reason why they went to war, was because they regard Saudi Arabia as an unreliable ally in the Middle East and they needed to find another strategic base in the Middle East in substitute or in replacement of Saudi Arabia; if it had oil, even better.

Wendy Carlisle: When John Menadue was head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Whitlam government was setting in motion the wheels to control information coming out of government.

Menadue’s peer at the time was Labor party icon Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam’s speechwriter and press secretary, the man who wrote the ‘It’s time’ speech.

Looking back over that time, Freudenberg says Whitlam’s decision to give every Minister a press secretary laid the foundations for the government media machine we have today.

Background Briefing caught up with him in the lobby of the Holiday Inn at Potts Point in Sydney, on a recent trip.

Graham Freudenberg: We had commitments to the idea of open government, and part of this idea of open government was to release more information. So rather naively, I think, we thought that the way to do that was to equip every Minister with his own press secretary.

Wendy Carlisle: Why was that naïve?

Graham Freudenberg: I think it was naïve to think that press secretaries would facilitate the flow of information, rather than as they did in practice, try to manipulate the flow of information in the interests of the Minister.

So to some extent the present manipulation of information and control of propaganda, you could say originated in 1973 with the Whitlam government.

Wendy Carlisle: And later, it was the Hawke government which refined the propaganda machine even further with the creation of the National Media Liaison Unit, or ANIMALS, as it was fondly known.

Graham Freudenberg: Well I acknowledge that the Hawke government did establish the National Media Liaison Unit.

Wendy Carlisle: This is the one otherwise known as ANIMALS?

Graham Freudenberg: Otherwise known as ANIMALS. And that was an effort at media control in the political interests of the government, and government members.

Wendy Carlisle: Was there any discussion within Labor when ANIMALS was established to the appropriateness of hiring public servants, deploying them in ANIMALS and using them for political purposes? Was that seen as a sort of a corruption of the process of the public service? A politicisation of the public service?

Graham Freudenberg: I don’t know what discussions were held at the time, and I can’t recall what our perceptions at the time. I imagine though, we were not unduly exercised over it. You know, I can’t be hypocritical over this, it’s one of those things that undoubtedly would fall into Gareth Evans’ category of ‘it seemed a good idea at the time’.

Wendy Carlisle: In 1996 when John Howard became Prime Minister, he abolished ANIMALS. Since their election, the Coalition has spent 70% more on government advertising than Labor.

Graham Freudenberg’s observation is that while Labor started the propaganda juggernaut, the communications revolution has changed it into something quite different.

Graham Freudenberg: I suppose Julius Caesar was the first spin doctor. But what is different today is certainly not the loss of any purity of motives, but the sheer pervasion of the operation and of course that itself is partly a reflection of the massive increase in the means of communication. I mean if we call things by what they really are, and if we acknowledge that this huge effort mounted in Canberra with all these public relations offices, media consultants, if we acknowledge that the operation is a propaganda operation, then we face what it is. It is propaganda.

Now propaganda is nothing new. But the means of purveying it are new and revolutionary.

Carlisle continues “Spin of course, has been around since someone persuaded the apes out of the trees. Since the Enlightenment, there has been in the Western world, a sense that truth is possible. There’s been an agreement that reason will solve problems, and that information and evidence, with a dash of wisdom, are the foundation stones of good decisions. Postmodernism began to undermine all that with its assault on reality, saying that it’s all relative, and this idea has seeped into education, religion and politics.”

The counterargument is that although new technologies have provided better weapons to the spin doctors, they have also provided unprecedented public access, rapid access, to otherwise unobtainable information.

Carlisle also interviewed the Chairman and CEO of one of the biggest PR companies in the world, Hill & Knowlton. “Paul Taaffe is a Brisbane boy who’s risen to the very top, and Background Briefing caught up with him at a recent function for the Institute of Public Relations at State parliament.” “Paul Taaffe described a world increasingly fractured along religious and political lines. It was a world, he said, where no-one trusts anyone. In this environment, internet social networking sites and blogs were making the old communication ways, TV, radio and print, increasing irrelevant. It is, quite frankly, said Paul Taaffe, a world full of opportunities for PR professionals.” But Paul Taaffe is also quoted as saying “We are in the business of truth. Public relations is basically helping governments or companies or even NGOs say what they need to say and say it in the right way at the right time to the right people. And that is not about lies, that’s about telling the truth. … The reality is, we live in the Google age. There are no secrets. … There may be secrets for a day, but over time there are no secrets. … Public trust has gone down the gurgler. We don’t trust politicians. We don’t trust the media. So just who should we trust to tell us the truth? He says the PR industry is here to help us.”

Paul Taaffe: What I’m saying is, no authority figure is trusted. Now what communication professionals do is help you navigate that lack of trust, through that lack of trust. So nobody’s trusted, nobody trusts governments, nobody trusts large corporations and increasingly the media’s not trusted. So who do I trust? Well I trust nobody, I trust other people, I go on internet, I seek like-sided voices.

And in a response to Carslile’s pointed question about “spin” he responds:

Paul Taaffe: By the way, just a small point: the first person that coined spin was not the media on public relations agencies, it was public relations agencies on the media, because the media, particularly in political environments, and these were political PR people, accused the media of spinning facts or statements coming out of administration. So the first time I ever heard spinning was about 20 years ago in the UK elections when the media was being accused of spinning to a conservative agenda.

Carlisle’s program shows how the UK has been as influential, if not more so, than the US when it comes to our understanding of political spin and propaganda. Later in the same Background briefing, in another interview with the US pollster Frank Luntz a reporter refers to his love for the author George Orwell and “what Orwell writes… He says, ‘political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

In his writing about the Greek origins of modern western democracy (and the enduring influence of Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric), Stockwell saw elections and campaigns as “the glue of democracy” but also described how “contemporary politics offers more opportunities for participation than just elections” with the “spread of campaign techniques from elections” to various other activities such as “lobbying, public education, activism and issues management”.

When describing the importance of “image communication” in modern political campaigning, Stockwell refers to Melder’s conclusion that there is nothing really new in these techniques, in fact “the campaigns of old (i.e. from the 1800s) were packaged and managed more completely and simplistically – and in some cases more misleadingly – than any modern-day political consultants could ever engineer.”

There is certainly an argument to be made that modern internet technologies have empowered the casual observer with the tools to divulge and expose all manner of embarrassing truths about political activities, language and messages.

American books like Don’t think of an elephant by Lakoff and Feldman’s Framing the debate point to a higher level of academic analysis as well as public interest in political language in the US that is appearing in Australia on a much smaller scale. As well as Stockwell’s book on strategy, with it’s long discourse on classical rhetoric, there have been books by former speechwriters such as Stephen Mills, Don Watson and Graham Freudenburg that reveal a rich appreciation of Australian political language and it’s evolution.

A recent APSA conference paper by Stephanie Younane ‘Men and Women of Australia’: Political Rhetoric in Australian Political Science and Communication points to new sources of quantitative and qualitative analysis of language in Australian political speeches, advertisements, media coverage, campaign material and public statements. No doubt episodes of TV shows like GrassRoots and The Hollowmen as well as documentaries such as the 1984 classic Democracy and the more recent Rats in the Ranks, as well as the David Williamson classic Don’s Party, will provide rich pickings for future academic study of Australian political language. All feature election campaigning activities from strategy and media management to various examples of voter contact techniques. It would be interesting from the perspective of this research to measure how many American-style techniques or descriptions were used in these Australian popular entertainment productions.

Plasser quotes Elaine Thompson’s entry in the book Americanisation and Australia on the subject of “political culture” to highlight perceptions in Australia of the negative consequences of the proliferation of US campaign practice:

“Television, advertising, polling and image making have all been transmitted from America to Australia and have helped change the nature of election campaigns, money-raising in politics and leadership style. These changes have helped trivialise issues and turned campaigning and fund raising into capital rather than labour intensive activities. The result is to place further distance between the political parties and the voters, making the parties seem less relevant as vehicles for mass political representation.”

Taken out of context, this isolated view of Thomson’s seems unreasonably alarmist, given the context of comparatively stronger influences of US techniques in other western-style democracies than in Australia. She also fails to distinguish (as Plasser explains in his 2000 paper) between “Americanisation” and “modernisation and professionalization” where “what is happening between the US and Western Europe or Latin America (or Australia) is a process of non-directional convergence, which results in an increased similarity between the political communication process in media-centred democracies” Plasser cites Gunther and Mughan 2000, Negrine and Papathanassopoulos 1996, Norris 2000, Swanson and Mancini 1996.

Mancini and Swanson write that “around the world, many of the recent changes in election campaigning share common themes despite great differences in the political cultures, histories and institutions of the countries in which they have occurred.” They pose the concerning question about whether the negative effects of these techniques in the US may be transplanted to their newer hosts or “can such innovations be adapted to compliment and support the host country’s indigenous political culture and institutions?”

Thompson answers that question specifically when she states that the American campaign techniques “are incorporated into Australian politics” in an environment that “mediates them in dramatic ways”.

In their article The “Americanization” of Political Communication: A Critique Negrine and Papathanassopoulos argue that ‘Americanisation’ is largely a symptom of the “convergence of practices” and “modernisation of societies”. They describe an evolution in UK political communication that has mirrored the adoption of new technologies and political marketing techniques in other countries, led by the US, but not necessarily tied to US practice. They suggest that ‘Americanisation’ is perhaps a simplistic term that describes a larger process of social change, where “snippets of information suggest a complex process of interaction between cultures and practices rather than a unidimensional process.”

Negrine and Papathanassopoulos use an interesting citation from Richard Rose’s Lessons from America. It is that the “idea of Americanisation is not a new one – it was first used in the 1830s as a term of abuse”.

Similar examples of this pattern of criticism can be found in Dennis Kavanagh’s article New Campaign Communications, Consequences for British Political Parties from the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics where he writes of British Labour’s “scorn” of the Conservatives “first use” of an advertising agency “to write and place advertisements for general elections between 1950 and 1964.” Labour described it as “the worst form of Americanisation” and “the antithesis of policy-based campaigning”.

In his 1967 study Influencing Voters: A Study Of Campaign Rationality, Richard Rose described how “the 1959 Labour Party campaign was based upon the explicit rejection of modern media techniques and expertise.” However by 1964 Labour had seen the light and followed the conservative approach to assist it in aspiring to electoral success.

This criticism continues today as the term is commonly used in reference to the negative aspects of political communication which promotes “style over substance”. One of the critics of this style is Jerry Palmer in an article titled Smoke and Mirrors: Is That The Way It Is? Themes In Political Marketing where he repeats a commonly asked question “about the changing nature of politics in the UK and US: to what extent is political decision-making driven by presentation?” Palmer concludes that “although professional literature about political marketing indeed lays great emphasis on communication as an essential tool of policy development and implementation, it stresses that credibility derives from policy delivery, thus arguing for the primacy of substance over ‘spin’, the presence of substance behind the smoke and mirrors.”

In The Media and Political Process Eric Louw from the University of Queensland outlines the influences of US spin doctors on practice in the UK and subsequent importation of the practice into Australia.

One could use the recent examples of the 2007 Australian federal election and 2008 elections in the Northern Territory, and Western Australia and the Australian Capityal Territory to argue that, eventually, voters tire of spin and send underperforming incumbents a strong message.

Scepticism over ‘political spin’ is one recent reason why voters (in both Australia and the US) are losing trust in politics. In The Prince’s New Clothes: Why Do Australians Dislike Their Politicians? Andrew Leigh explains that this dropping level of trust is happening across the developed world and is not unique to Australia or the US. Leigh lists seven major reasons for this including the media, declining interpersonal trust, and declining levels of trust for all institutions.

There is more comparative literature available on US and UK politics than US and Australian politics. In a paper comparing the adoption of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) by Australian and UK legislators, Rachel Gibson et al examine factors that might help explain the differences in adoption of the new technology. They suggest the following factors affect the adoption of this technology in Australia, relative to the UK: stronger party loyalty reduces individual innovation, federalism encourages localised innovation (countering the earlier hypothesis), the ‘tyranny of distance’ would encourage ICT development, cultural diversity would encourage targeted information streams, and higher internet penetration would be a factor in greater use. From an Australian perspective, the first factor rings true. Their research shows no significant difference in the uptake between the two nations, nor does it support their suggested systemic factors. Of more importance is their identification of youth and familiarity with technology as factors in both nations.

One element of Australian politics which differentiates it greatly from US politics is the existence of strong factional allegiances within the major parties, especially at the national level and in the larger states. Although they are disparaged greatly in the media and amongst non-aligned MPs and candidates (as well as former members of a faction!) conventional wisdom has it that factions can play an important managerial and organisational (including campaign advice, mentoring, training and support) role and facilitate internal democratic processes that foster debate as well as help maintain party unity (in theory). Although they existed in various forms in the states for decades, Ian McAllister writes that the first formal federal faction to emerge in the ALP was the National Centre Left (commonly referred to as ‘the centre’) in 1984. Recent internal disputes within the Liberal Party, particularly in NSW, have revealed bitter factional disputes, even though they seem to be less organised than factions in the Labor Party, which many argue are now becoming much less influential. McAllister argues that the factions have played “a significant role, within an organisational hypothesis (by influencing party activists and members) as well as in an electoral hypothesis, by broadening the party’s electoral appeal.” Although there are loose factions in the US Congress (the blue Dog Democrats for example) they are fluid and primarily concerned with policy issues (such as fiscal conservatism) rather than formal leadership and party organisational functions. McAllister writes that a lack of legitimacy for factions can lead to instability, pointing to the fluid “Labor state factions that existed in the 1950s and precipitated the disastrous ALP spilt in 1955.” This contrasted with the greater factional legitimacy in the 1980s, which directly led to government stability and union harmony.

The Literature Review Part 1 – Preface

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This is fairly self-explanatory. A few years ago (2008 to be precise) I started a thesis and didn’t finish it. One day I will get back into it. In the meantime. Here are some excerpts for fellow unqualified (academically-speaking) psephologists to read and possibly enjoy. Feedback is welcome.

Please remember, this was written a few years ago. I will endeavour in coming months/years to update parts and add newer articles and references to literature which has been published since 2008, including events and seminars I have attended more recently.

Preface

Using recent Australian campaigns (such as the 2007 Australian Federal election and 2007 NSW State election) the research will compare Australian and American political campaigning techniques and assess the application and relevance of common American campaign techniques and published American campaign manuals in modern Australian politics.

A quick review of recent Australian research on political campaign techniques, as well as popular literature, reveals no published political campaigning texts or ‘manuals’. There are numerous papers and books on different aspects of campaigning, such as books on media advice and numerous political biographies, as well as accounts of recent election campaigns, but no authoritative texts or manuals that look at Australian political campaigning as a whole, detailing all the aspects of campaigning from the foundations (like strategy, message and finance) to the work that goes on in the trenches as candidates and their teams fight for each individual vote. The two closest texts that can be used as examples of public “campaign handbooks” in Australia are Mills’ ‘The new machine men: polls and persuasion in Australian politics’ and Stockwell’s ‘Political Campaign Strategy – Doing Democracy in the 21st Century’.

This apparent disparity in publicly available instructional literature, in comparison to the United States could be due to a number of reasons including differences in historical, political and cultural norms, voting systems, the relative sizes of the political institutions and professional class, as well as financial regulations and wealth.

The purpose of this thesis is to produce scholarly research on campaigning techniques in modern Australian politics. This will take the form of at least one refereed journal article to be published, hopefully early next year. The first steps in the literature review will be to outline why this topic is important and the research questions that will be addressed in the thesis.

Why this topic is important

From an academic perspective there is very little research which defines effective political campaign techniques in an Australian context. Australian political scientists have not received the acknowledgement and prominence in professional political circles that their counterparts in the US and UK have and this research will help build a new dialogue between the two groups. It is hoped this research will reveal reliable approaches to interpreting American political campaigning manuals and techniques in an Australian context based on case studies of Australian elections. There is a widely repeated assumption that American political campaign techniques are being adopted by Australian parties, MPs and candidates. If this assumption is true it is important for academics as well as practitioners in this field to understand the limitations (if there are any) as well as the process of adaptation (if there is one). If this assumption is wrong it is important to know why it has been repeated so often and in what context.

At a recent public lecture 2008 Fulbright ANU Distinguished Chair Professor James Lengle described the current conflict of ideas in the 2008 US presidential election between “conventional wisdom” (how campaign practitioners like to describe and justify their theories and practices) and “political science research” (traditional peer-reviewed academic political science). He explained how each purported to have a good explanation of what was likely to happen in the campaign and each professed to understand the relevant factors and yet the result was still (in September 2008) too close to call with any certainty by either group. He surmised by saying that “both could be wrong” and in a previous lecture at the USIS in Canberra explained pollsters “could be looking at the wrong indicators, or misinterpreting the right indicators”! [1]

Some of the primary questions which this research will explore include:

  • Is there strong historical evidence of American influence in Australian political campaign techniques or Australian political systems and practice?
  • Does literature exist which explains the success, usefulness or relevance of specific American campaign techniques in Australia?
  • Have many Australian political professionals trained in the US and have many American political consultants have worked in Australia? Are basic political strategies in Australian politics and American politics similar in style and are campaigning techniques and skills transferable between these two systems? Are Australian political messages and techniques strongly influenced by the most negative aspects of American politics and is this influence likely to diminish or increase?
  • Why is the latest Australian campaign technology and innovation seemingly always sourced from the U.S.? Is this popular view based on media bias or fact?

Some of the secondary questions which this research will explore include:

  • Are most of our basic political campaign techniques universal?
  • Are the methods of “persuasion” used to address the growing number of “independent voters” in the US and “swinging” voters in recent Australian and NSW elections similar?
  • Is the confluence of access to cable TV and the Internet accelerating and intensifying the influence of American political messages and techniques in Australian politics?
  • Apart from political parties what other large organisations have brought ideas and techniques to Australia from the US, e.g. Media, International corporations, NGOs, Unions, etc.
  • In comparison to America, are other country’s political environments and methods more or less relevant to Australia e.g. UK and NZ? There are potentially many more published comparative studies that include these examples.
  • Some people believe that NZ and UK political techniques are much more relevant to Australian politics and the best lessons from the US are restricted to ‘marketing’ or ‘technology’ lessons.

Definition and methodology

This research will define “American political campaign techniques” as political activities such as marketing and persuasion which are largely identified with but not necessarily exclusive to American politics. There is an argument that can be made which says that these techniques are universal but are labelled as “American” because:

1. Campaign instruction and analysis is documented better in the US

2. There are more campaign professionals and organisations in the US due to the larger mass of the political consultancy industry, media, academia and related professions

3. The larger publishing market available to political commentators in the US ensures that the most popular political studies and books are researched, printed and distributed there.

As stated earlier, the lack of similar material in Australia means that Australian campaigners searching for good campaign manuals will inevitably turn to the US and this research will help ascertain if this is wise or if some American campaign techniques are incompatible with Australian political systems, culture and practice. The author’s research methodology began with a focus on the literature review by reading any remotely relevant text and research paper. Bibliographies and online databases were searched primarily for descriptions of American campaign techniques, Australian campaign techniques and descriptions of influences in Australian political campaigning. A search was made for any comparative studies and explanations of American campaign techniques in other nations. Most of the initial leads were derived from five sources: Discussions with my supervisor Wayne Errington and supervisory panel members John Hart and Andrew Hughes, Stephen Mills’s book The new machine men: polls and persuasion in Australian politics, Sally Young’s book The Persuaders: Inside the hidden machine of political advertising (in which Mills is extensively quoted), APSA and its publications and finally, previous research at ANU, namely two thesis: Paul Zagami’s Marketing, media, money and America, (1997) and Kristine Klugman’s Democracy and the new communication technologies (1996).

The author quotes Stephen Mills extensively, as do many researchers in Australian campaign techniques. Mills, who currently teaches politics at Sydney University also participated in casual discussions that revealed an extensive and growing interest in this field and will undoubtedly be a valuable contributor in future research by many political scientists in Australia. Although The new machine men: polls and persuasion in Australian politics was written over 20 years go it is still the primary reference for political campaign research relating to campaigning methods in Australian politics and is the best single source for anecdotes and explanations of the evolution of campaigning techniques in Australia in the late 20th century. [2]

For the literature review I will attempt to collate and reading all the related literature that mentions Australian campaign techniques, or mentions American techniques or influences in an Australian context. That knowledge will act as a basis for critical appraisal of the best American literature on campaigning and assess how it compares to current Australian practice. I will begin the task of the literature review using a “break and enter” and “casing the joint” techniques, to try and assess what existing academic material is relevant to this topic, after which I can utilise my professional and field experience to critically assess specific texts and use case study examples to further the argument about this subject. The thesis will evolve from interviews with experienced campaigners in Australia as well as analysis of campaign documents and books from Australia and the US.

Due to the rapidly changing political landscape in Australia and the US in 2007/08, some elements of the research will change as more information about current and future campaigns becomes available. As recently as December 2008 new theses from Australian researchers are being published about the 2007 Australian federal election with particular focus on new campaign technologies and campaign techniques. Recently discovered examples include Michael Dalvean’s Targeted Election Campaigning: An Australian Case Study (2006) and Christopher Smith’s Opportunities for Engagement Between the Political Elite and the Citizenry Online: Political Party Websites in the Australian 2007 Federal Election (2008).

To simplify the tracking of historical examples which have been found during the research, as well as starting the process of outlining important sections in the thesis, the citations are grouped using the following sub-headings:

Historical, cultural and systemic comparisons between Australia and the US and their political campaign techniques.

Campaign foundations: strategy, message, finance, research

Comparing the ‘Air War’: advertising, earned media, TV, the Internet and new technologies

The ‘Ground War’: nuts and bolts campaigning techniques

Three American Campaign texts and their local relevance

Discussion, implications, conclusions, continuing research

 

 

Personal note

I must state up front to anyone who may read this in the future that I am a full-time employee of the Australian Labor Party and have been a paid up Member of the ALP since 1992 and intend to be for the foreseeable future, along with all my children; So this research has a professional interest for me, as well as a personal one. That said, I have tried to refrain from being too critical of the Liberal Party, as well as being too biased towards Labor people and practices. The contents of these pages are my thoughts alone (apart from places where quotation marks and citations have been used to render the information as close as possible to the original text from which it is sourced). The views expressed and the contents collected do not represent in any shape or manner the views or policies of the Australian Labor Party or the ALP National Secretariat <where I was employed when I started this little project>.

[1] Lengle, A panel discussion on the US presidential election, 2008, Copland Lecture Theatre, ANU,

[2] Mills, The new machine men: polls and persuasion in Australian politics / Stephen Mills, 1986, Penguin, Ringwood, Vic,

Campaigning in a Land Down Under

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men at work

I love Australia, and I have enjoyed New Zealand on two separate election-related visits.

I also (being a child of the 80s) love Men At Work (and 90% of Australian 80s rock, a truly golden age of Aussie music).

Understanding local culture is an essential foundation for anyone who wants to understand politics. Here are the words to the unofficial Australian anthem, because everyone should know it (courtesy of http://www.songlyrics.com/men-at-work/land-downunder-lyrics/)

Travelling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast

And she said, “Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover”

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscle
I said, “Do you speak a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

And he said, “I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover”
(Yeah)

Dying in a den in Bombay
With a slack jaw, and nothin’ much to say
I said to the man, “Are you trying to tempt me
Because I come from the land of plenty?”

And he said, “Oh, you come from a land down under?
(Oh, yeah, yeah)
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Ooh)
You better run, you better take cover”

We are livin’ in a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
(Yeah)
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Thunder)
You better run, you better take cover

Livin’ in a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Ooh yeah)
Then I run and then I take cover
(Yeah)

We are livin’ in a land down under
(Under)
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Ooh da da laa yeah)
Then I run, then I take cover

We are livin’ in a land down under
(Under)
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Ooh da da laa yeah)
Then I run, then I take cover

We are livin’ in a land down under
(Under)
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
(Ooh da da laa yeah)
Then I run, then I take cover

men-at-work-down-under-epic-3

And here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfR9iY5y94s

OK, here are the words to the official Australian anthem (including the much-ignored but absolutely vital second verse)

Verse 1

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history’s page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

Verse 2

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross

We’ll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours

Renowned of all the lands;

For those who’ve come across the seas

We’ve boundless plains to share;  <<I’m surprised this line hasn’t been deleted by our current Prime Minister http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/nat_anthem.html>>

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

 

The words to Waltzing Matilda (another unofficial Australian national anthem) probably needs a few hours of explanation for unsuspecting tourists, but here it is anyway …

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me”,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred.
Down came the troopers, one, two, and three.
“Whose[N 1] is that [N 2] jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me”,
“Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong.
“You’ll never take me alive!” said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me”,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Short explanation for non-Australians: this song is about a homeless guy who steals jumbuck (sheep), presumably for tucker (i.e. food), and then drowns himself in a billabong (creek). More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltzing_matilda

I should find the words to the New Zealand national anthem as well… For the time being I’m happy to sing this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0pWejAnLUQ

Why Blog about election campaigning?

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voters-at-polling-booth-data

Why am I (and a few others) blogging about campaigning in Australia and New Zealand?

Lots of reasons! A few years ago (back in 2008) a started a thesis and explained: ‘A quick review of recent Australian research on political campaign techniques, as well as popular literature, reveals no published political campaigning texts or ‘manuals’. There are numerous papers and books on different aspects of campaigning, such as books on media advice and numerous political biographies, as well as accounts of recent election campaigns, but no authoritative texts or manuals that look at Australian political campaigning as a whole, detailing all the aspects of campaigning from the foundations (like strategy, message and finance) to the work that goes on in the trenches as candidates and their teams fight for each individual vote. The two closest texts that can be used as examples of public “campaign handbooks” in Australia are Mills’ ‘The new machine men: polls and persuasion in Australian politics’ and Stockwell’s ‘Political Campaign Strategy – Doing Democracy in the 21st Century’. This apparent disparity in publicly available instructional literature, in comparison to the United States could be due to a number of reasons including differences in historical, political and cultural norms, voting systems, the relative sizes of the political institutions and professional class, as well as financial regulations and wealth.’
The purpose of that thesis (which I haven’t completed as of 2014!:) was to produce scholarly research on campaigning techniques in modern Australian politics. Since I started it (back in 2008) a lot has been written about campaigning techniques in modern Australian politics by MANY other people, including favourites such as Stephen Mills, Peter Brent, Nick Economou, Brian Costar, Sally Young, Mike Smith, John Hart, Ian McAlister, John Warhurst, Wayne Errington, Peter van Onselen  and Jennifer Rayner, just to name a few!

One of the reasons for this blog is the same as that original attempt at a thesis. To create a repository of collected thoughts, experiences and references for my own information and to share with like-minded individuals. Someone also pointed out to me recently (and I suspect it to be true) that more people will eventually read the blog than ever read the thesis anyway! Also this blog will prove one of the universal truths about campaigning, recently paraphrased by our PM: “No single person is the suppository of all wisdom”.

This blog also will (over several years probably 🙂

1. Share lots of stories, jokes and interesting info about campaigning in Australia and New Zealand

2. Question some myths about US-style campaigning in Australia. Australian campaigning news still dominated by US-based media (I’m just as guilty as the next political geek of over-sharing news about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton)

3. Smash some misinformation shared in the MSM about campaigning in Australia (mostly by sharing wisdom and sage analysis from some of the writers listed above and others).

4. try and bridge the chasm that often separates political scientists and political practitioners, mainly by sharing some of the political wisdom and analysis that is regularly done within academia but doesn’t get much coverage outside of academia.

5. Help me keep numerous links , clippings and references to lots of existing, interesting blogs and media articles that deserve to be congregated in one place for easy future reference. Again, this may take years so please be patient if you read this within the next six months and wonder wtf?! 🙂

6. Share my recently discovered joys and benefits of blogging!