This travelling roadshow is a relic in age of instant communication
During every election, someone will claim that it's the most important vote in a generation. Perhaps they're right this time. The country's confidence in most things seems to be on the ebb. Even the fight for the votes is failing to stir a switched off electorate.
Charlie's 92-year-old dad loves "the fights", as they're called, and he wishes that the election could have some of the thrills and status of a world heavyweight title fight. The fundamentals seem to be there: a big prize and a couple of serious contenders. He remembers the days at the "House Of Stoush", Melbourne's Festival Hall, when the crowd straggled in through the preliminary curtain-raisers until it was packed to the rafters just minutes before the start of the main event.
And that's the difference between big-time boxing and our current election campaign. When there is a fight for the title in the boxing ring, the champ and the challenger would never be seen until all the prelims were over, simply because there was no one there - just a few friends and relatives and the odd boxing tragic. Charlie's dad reckons our political combatants are exhausting themselves, not to mention a very slowly building crowd, by fighting in every preliminary bout themselves, from Darwin to Hobart, from the Great Ocean Road to Rooty Hill.
And most of the time there is almost no one there, other than the grim-faced handlers who always seem to have to flank their charge. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was seen at 7am on a beach in his electorate, standing in the sand with a dozen or so people making up the crowd. Earlier on the Leader of the Opposition did the same thing, shivering in a gale overlooking Bass Strait.
If it was all done for the pictures, then they should think again. None of these shots convey what the country is really looking for. At the same time, the world has been caught up with the problems in Syria and both our PM and Opposition Leader want to look like they can handle themselves, and the country, in this distressing mess.
Contrast our leaders with the coverage of the British PM on the issue. He steps smartly from of his Range Rover outside No.10 Downing Street and waves briefly to the crowd, while clutching his red box of state briefings and secrets. Dignified power!
His pony-tailed bodyguard in a dark suit and no tie added an air of cool menace that didn't win over Louise, who grumped: "He needs your New York barber, Harold."
Nevertheless, here's an idea. Why shouldn't a PM spend the entire election campaign in Canberra looking and acting like the prime minister? John Howard showed everyone how to campaign. Every day of his 11-year term was election day for him. He looked and acted the prime minister ... and he's still doing it! Real class. He let a basic truth guide him. Elections are decided day by day as a government governs - not by a whistle-stop flurry laced with grandiose promises and kooky future gazing.
The idea of travelling the country to win/buy votes is 50 years out of date. It worked decades ago in America, when the train travelled across the nation with the President speaking from the caboose. And Bob Menzies did a mighty job in town halls all over the place. But this is the electronic age and I wonder if our next PM will be smart enough to fight it out from the nation's capital.
In business, we've never thought working 20 hours a day was very clever. You lose your edge after about eight. After about 12 you can't think, and after 20 what you do think is probably not worth talking about anyway.
Let's hope our next election campaign is more sensible and more commanding.
We need a reduction in avgas consumption, fewer hairnets in food factories and a ban on hard hats. The only hi-vis vest we need to see is a slightly wider range of tie colours worn by serious contenders who are determined to show some real skill in the nation's capital.
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