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What a diff’rence a day (or a few weeks) makes

Jo Scard

Now, I’m going to get all cliché and allegorical on you – and I’m not embarrassed about it because the current political dynamics brings it out in me. Sorry.

I was watching a documentary about the demise of the wonderful British jazz singer Amy Winehouse over the weekend. In it she sang the jazz classic What A Diff’rence A Day Makes. For anyone that might be interested the piece was originally a Spanish song written almost 100 years ago, first published in English in 1934.

So when I woke up yesterday to the news that Labor was leading in the latest Newspoll, Kevin Andrews saying he might challenge Malcolm Turnbull during the next parliamentary sitting (in a fortnights time, that’s a week and a half away people) and Christopher Pyne acknowledging that things were a little messy within the government (he used the word “disunity”) I thought about Amy Winehouse and that song. My apologies here and now to Winehouse fans for the association.

A week or so ago I tried to make sense of what was happening in the nations capital. What was the latest with the people running the show, I predicted a July 2 election. My money is still on that date but it’s getting interesting. For political obsessives like me that’s fun (weird I know – I don’t mean like shopping fun, more like sports sort of fun).

Yesterday on Radio National veteran political observer and Network Ten reporter Paul Bongiorno predicted – just wait-for-it – the distinct possibility of a HUNG parliament. Oh my goodness. Lordy lordy. Cliches are coming out fast now. I am aghast. Amazed.

But talk of a close election, hung parliaments, opposition poll leads, a double dissolution, an early budget, an eight week campaign….that’s the stuff that gets the blood moving for the federal parliamentary press gallery. They spring out of bed in the morning like they’ve ingested coffee during slumber. It may all come to naught but it is interesting. For goodness sake we changed prime ministers just on six months ago. Six. SIX.

It sort of gets me back to a pet theory of mine, one that I’m planning to explore when I commence a doctorate next year. What I reckon is this: with the enormous amount of access we all have to information and our ability to connect with powerful people via social media we now treat our politicians like Instagram or Facebook fodder. We ‘like’ and ‘unlike’ them, ‘regram’ or ‘repost’ them and don’t hesitate to tell them if we’re angry.

In that way they’ve become another social platform that we casually observe. We can chuck them out, unfollow them, when we no longer like their feed we walk away. If you think about it, this phenomena of the revolving prime ministerial door really commenced not too long ago – about the same time as we all got iPhones. The first iPhone went on sale the year Kevin Rudd was elected.

I also heard this week that if you look at the way people are voting the trend over the last decade has gradually and steadily been a move away from support for the two major parties to growing support for smaller parties and independents.

I think that it’s all connected. We all have access to information whenever we choose. We use it. We form opinions which are sometimes naïve and uninformed. We get disgruntled. We move on. We change allegiances. What comes around goes around – and really quickly.

It’s certainly impacting our capacity for on good government. I’m not that old and I remember a time that governments got elected for three terms and they got to do stuff. People didn’t bag the prime minister quite so often. They sort of respected the office even. How old fashioned.

Not now. We now ‘troll’ our PM’s, tweet profanities and shout at them via Facebook.

Where does all that leave us with the real work of government? The Fixing problems and helping people part? I think it’s slowed down. Ideas get run up flag poles and hurriedly taken down. Good ideas have to be potential media ‘announceables’ otherwise they don’t get a lot of support.

The real stuff like school funding and innovative ways of dealing with domestic violence or new thinking in health, well, that stuff fights hard to get much interest.

I don’t have the answer to how we can slow it down either but when I give it some more thought I’ll let you know. Until then, watch this space.

Another prediction, but this time not mine. My husband Andrew Meares a journalist in the federal press gallery (in fact he is President of the gallery). Some might say he’s a bit of an alarmist like many other journalists (it’s in their waters) but he reckons Malcolm Turnbull might call an election before the Budget and go to a Double-D in the face of the mounting pressure. Let’s see where we are next week shall we.

What a diff’rence a day – or a week – might make.

Feature image by Martin Ollman


Jo Scard

With over 20 years' experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s leading advisers to corporates, Not-For-Profits, organisations and government. Managing Director of communications agency, Fifty Acres which is HQ'd in Canberra, Jo is a respected former political journalist in the UK and Australia working with ITV, Associated Press, Seven Network, SBS, ABC and Fairfax. A former senior adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments and a trained lawyer she is on the Boards of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Hockey ACT and a Member of the NSW Council of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. Jo is an Ambassador for the global entrepreneur magazine Renegade Collective and a member of the Registered Consultancies Group of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. She has spent over a decade advising corporates and Not-For-Profits at CEO and board level across strategic communications, government relations and public relations and co-authored the best-selling book The Working Mother’s Survival Guide with Seven’s Melissa Doyle. More about the Author

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