Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may be a “once-in-a-century egomaniac”, as Mark Latham put it, but he is also a once-in-a-generation political salesman.
How else could Labor manage to have stayed above the level of support Julia Gillard had, while being led by a man who undermined her government for three years, and who certainly hasn’t improved Labor’s suite of policies?
At Labor’s too-late campaign launch in Brisbane on Sunday, Rudd’s salesmanship was magisterial. One could forget, for moments at least, that he was selling too many turds, and too few diamonds.
Amongst this odious grab-bag of rehashed policies were some gems intended to impress voters in the seats Rudd was brought back to save – primarily in Western Sydney and Queensland.
There was extra cash to buy young tradies more tools, an increase in the instant asset write-off to tempt Mum-and-Dad small business owners, and a threat to go over the heads of unpopular conservative state governments and rebuild the TAFE system directly with federal funds.
In the first two of that list, Rudd was only adding a bit of extra cash to existing policies. Nonetheless, it’s a direct bribe to the voters he needs on side in those key electorates, dominated by what Business Spectator’s election analytics partner, Torque Data, calls ‘mid-status family’ and ‘mid-status suburban’ (A Rudd-slide in the wrong direction, August 14).
Think The Castle, and you’ve got a snapshot of the families Rudd is trying to win over. But it’s not working. Voters are effectively repeating the phrase Michael Caton’s character Darryl made famous in that film: “Tell him he’s dreaming.”
In the Torque Data maps below, voting patterns are presented on a booth-by-booth basis and show a dramatic change in Queensland voting patterns since the 2010 election. The maps are produced using Torque’s Momentum data analytics platform, which combines geo-demographic data with new primary research – much in the same way as the company models customer behaviour for major retail clients.
The south-east Queensland maps below show Labor’s support – the red polling booths – diminishing markedly between 2010 and the present day. In the second set of maps, for Rudd’s own seat of Griffith, the decline in support is even more visually striking.
However, Torque’s analysis suggests Rudd will keep his seat. Torque chief executive Oliver Rees says: “A number of marginal polling booths will switch to the Liberals but not enough to challenge the 8.5 per cent margin held by the prime minister.”
The story is less happy elsewhere. Rees says the seat of Moreton will probably be saved, but the remaining six seats – Blair, Capricornia, Ranking, Lilley, Petrie and Oxley – are too close to call.
They will fall to the Coalition unless some of Rudd’s salesmanship cuts through before Saturday.
The goodies announced on Sunday may help, but overwhelmingly Rudd is starting to look like Darryl Kerrigan, standing beside an overhead projector in his garage, trying to convince his neighbours not to give up their homes to allow an expansion of the nearby airport.
And what was one neighbour’s memorable response in that film?
“Get ya hand off it, Darryl.”
And that pretty much seems to be the response from voters across the seats that great salesman Rudd hopes to retain come September 7.