In 2019, Morrison whipped the ‘how good is Australia’ line and the Australians looked at everything they had done and saw it was good. No need to do something awesome again when it’s already awesome enough. In 2022, Morrison will celebrate the “quiet confidence” of Australians, which “allows us to believe that whatever happens, whatever happens, we can pass.” Crucially (and returning to this bucolic status quo), we know we can “face it and preserve our unique and enviable way of life.” Continuity and, for heaven’s sake, no change.
Halfway through the speech, if memory serves, Morrison referred to the “little squads” of conservatism grandfather Edmund Burke, which unfortunately are not kindergartens in camouflage uniforms, but “the myriad of networks. family faith groups, schools, workplaces, large and small sports clubs, book clubs, etc. In an ideologically lit room, the philosophical section of a speech is usually the pro forma digression to prove that the speaker is a deep thinker. So if my subsequent conversations had anything to do with it, I was only listening to what came next.
But there was the strategy for the upcoming campaign. The Prime Minister promises that we will not build back better or stronger. It would be a “profound error in judgment”. Morrison assured the distracted crowd that “the reach of government in this pandemic is not a new normal.” Australians, Morrison believes, want a government that “knows its role” but also “knows its place”.
The vision is to get back to the way things used to be. And I think it might work well.
The beauty of it from a strategic point of view is that the opposition is no longer the main enemy. The enemy is change and anyone who wants to impose more on weary Australians. It turns out that the opposition represents change because a vote in favor of it would be a vote to change government.
If you were listening then – and no one would blame you if you weren’t – you would have noticed that Morrison’s very first speech in 2021 also ended with the tagline ‘Stronger, Safer, and Together’. Reform, speeches, even slogans, Morrison has not changed. So this is Anthony Albanese’s challenge: how to change a nation’s mind when it is tired of changing.
Parnell Palme McGuinness is Managing Director of Strategy and Policy at strategic communications company Agenda C. She has previously worked for the Australian Liberal Party and the German Greens.
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