Australia’s Election is over and our outgoing PM gives a Victory Speech!

Kevin Rudd on Election nightSo at last the election is over and we can get on with our lives. We have a new conservative government  and a new Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott. Once again I would like to draw your attention to the language used by our outgoing Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, as he delivered his 30 minute concession speech. From what the pundits are saying, it seems I may not be the only one who wondered whether he had achieved a marvellous victory, rather than a resounding defeat. It seems to me that Mr Rudd was attempting to “reframe” the loss as a victory of sorts, but in my opinion it falls short for a number of reasons.

To begin with I would like to explain what is meant by a ‘reframe’ in the context of communication. It is often used by counsellors, trainers or personal coaches to assist their clients to see their current situation in a different light, so that what they might perceive to be a limiting belief becomes a more positive or empowering belief if viewed in a different context or if  ‘framed differently.’ An apt description might be… “To look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc.) in a new or different way. To change the perspective for the person or people listening.”

So how, in my opinion, did our outgoing Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd get it wrong in his concession speech?

1.    He was speaking in his official capacity as the outgoing Prime Minister to the Australian population at large, not as the Parliamentary Labour Party Leader. But all we heard was the wonderful success that he and his party had achieved in saving some of their Members of Parliament from defeat. Not once during his speech did we hear about the honour it had been for him to serve as his country’s ‘first amongst equals.’ (He even commented that “in a couple more days we might have got there.” Hardly likely given the significant number of seats lost by his outgoing government.)

2.    Once again his language gave away his self-focus. I counted twice the number of personal pronouns used by Mr Rudd (“I, me, and my”) than those used by the incoming Prime Minister, Mr Abbott in his victory speech. Tony Abbott on Election NightMr Abbott’s speech was focused on the people of Australia and what they deserved from their government in response to the trust they had placed in it through the decisive election result. His was a speech of grace, dignity and humility with a strong reminder of the awesome responsibility that his party had been handed to live up to its promises of good government. By contrast, Mr Rudd’s speech was filled with pride for the campaign accomplishments he had achieved in defeat. (I counted his direct use of the words “I’m proud” on at least five occasions plus numerous other times when his pride was implied due to him proving the pundits wrong, in his opinion. It is interesting to note that when Kevin Rudd was replaced as PM by his own parliamentary party the first time around some three years ago, his resignation speech on the steps of parliament house back then was also filled with all of the achievements he was personally proud of, as if he was keen to remind people of the legacy of his leadership, lest they forget.)

3.    Mr Rudd’s undisguised excitement in being personally re-elected to his own seat, sounded more like the enthusiastic declarations of a first time candidate, than the sober assessment of an outgoing Prime Minister, who had just seen a major clean-out of many valued members of his own parliamentary party. To compound  the self indulgent nature of his ‘personal victory’ Mr Rudd went on to say of his Liberal opponent in his own electorate… “Bill Glasson, eat your heart out.” Hardly what one would call being gracious in victory, and certainly not Prime Ministerial.

4.    Mr Rudd’s list of personal “thank you’s” almost became an extended version of a self indulgent Oscar winning speech (26 and counting). I was beginning to wonder if his local butcher, baker  and candlestick maker were also going to get a mention in the course of his delivery, such was the length of the list of names he had lined up for us to hear about. There is a point beyond which personal acknowledgement of others when in the spotlight  becomes the self indulgent meanderings of someone wishing to milk the moment for all it is worth.

If you think that in writing this post my political bias might be showing, I would like to point out that the Prime Minister who Kevin Rudd replaced from within his own party just a few weeks prior to the election campaign, Ms Julia Gillard, has kept a respectful silence in my opinion, and has shown much dignity in the two comments she has made to her defeated parliamentary colleagues and their successful opponent Mr Abbott and his team (via Twitter) since the election result was handed down. My comments here are based purely on my observations of Mr Rudd’s and Mr Abbott’s respective election night speeches and the indications that show the make-up of each individual from the style and content of their respective communications.

If you would like to form your own judgments on the respective speeches and what they tell us, I recommend that you Google “Mr Kevin Rudd’s concession speech” and “Mr Tony Abbott’s victory speech” for your own perception of the merits and personal focus of each.

And now back to the point of my blog today – the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of a well-formed “reframe.”

I think the above points give a fairly accurate picture of what not to do if you are attempting to ‘reframe’ your audience’s perception of a significant event. Get it wrong, and they not only won’t accept the premise that you are asserting but worse still you may create the opposite effect to what you intend. You certainly won’t be able to effectively re-write history in the eyes of others through the poor use of reframing in your concession speech once the election result has been handed down.

So what are some of the keys to effective ‘reframing?’

1.    Always remember the context in which you find yourself, when you attempt to reframe the significant event, situation or strongly held belief. If you are speaking in the context of a resounding election defeat, it is important to use that context as the foundation for your reframe. To deny it or to refer to it in no more than passing terms, runs the risk of creating a disconnect between what is so, and what you wish others to perceive it to be. Do that and the credibility of your argument is lost on those for whom it is meant.

2.    Always remain acutely aware of the audience for whom your reframed message is meant. It is important to pace the experience of the audience from their point of view in order to gain rapport and therefore their willingness to accept the new ‘frame’ or point of view that you are leading them to consider and accept. For example, if you are speaking to the Australian public at large, then only appealing to the perceptions of a small proportion of that constituency puts you at risk of seriously alienating the rest.

I would love to read your thoughts and comments here now that our election race has been run and the dust is settling.

Drop me an email to if you would like to discuss further how to understand the people who work for you and how to leverage that knowledge for the benefit of them and your organisation.

Until then… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less. Have a great week – Brian

Precision ProfilingWhat Makes You Tick? Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your team.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here

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