Election Time in the Land of Oz and Ten Things you are Guaranteed to Witness

Australia VotesBuckle up folks, the campaign has begun.  Five weeks of claim and counter-claim; five weeks of promises, promises, promises… or should I say… core promises; non-core promises; generalised promises; promises that say a lot but mean very little; promises to undo; promises to stitch up; motherhood statements; quick grabs of meaningless platitudes and so the list goes on. Call me a cynic, but as a student of language and behaviour, this next five weeks is sure to give me heaps of material to share with you. To start the ball rolling, here’s some of what you can be sure to see and hear…

1.    The Hot Dog Drama. In Australia we all love an underdog… the one who gets a vote of sympathy because of their underdog status. No one likes the cock-a-hoops, even if they are the obvious front runner. It’s in our nature to want to knock them off their perch. So expect to hear the words… “It’s a tough battle.” “We don’t take the Australian voters for granted.” “We don’t underestimate the enormity of the task ahead of us.”  Translation:  “Please treat us as the humble underdog because we want your support not your contempt.”

2.    Poll-y-tics.  Polls, polls, polls. Need I say more? We will be beaten around our collective heads with polls about this and polls about that… every day, every week, every subject big and small. There will be ‘push polling,’ blind polling, news polling, party polling, independent polling, leadership polling and ‘who’s in front today?’ polling until we are all feeling a little ‘poll-axed.’  And what will our aspiring leaders and their ilk be saying? You guessed it… “The only poll that counts is the one on election day.”  Translation: (If ahead) “We will try not to look smug, but inside we’re doing cartwheels.” (If behind) “Oh s—t, what announcement can we make today that will hijack the headlines.”

3.    Taking de Bait.  Aah the debate about the debate.  This is the opposite to the underdog claim. The real debate here will be over who has the ‘hairiest chest,’ meaning who’s the brave-heart and who’s the coward? Expect to hear the constant refrain of “He’s afraid to debate me,” and “I’ll debate him anytime and anywhere – just name the time and place,” or “He’s not playing fair – I will only debate on these terms.”  Translation: “If we have to have a debate, let’s make sure we sound good and look like we are across all subjects even if we don’t make much sense, and for heaven’s sake – we need to win the worm.” (For non-Australians – it’s the live feedback mechanism during the debate at the bottom of our TV screens tracking perceived credibility from a selected audience.)

4.    Press the Flesh.  Babies beware. You are about to be picked up, forehead kissed, cuddled, and generally manhandled in all sorts of ways by all sorts of strangers if you and Mum or Dad are anywhere near a roving polly within two feet of a camera crew. Pollies kissing babiesThere is nowhere to hide if you are in the front row and within their line of sight in any shopping centre, supermarket, mall or strip shop, where a polly just happens to be touring with cameras and minders in tow. Your best defence is a well aimed burst of pee on said baby-handler. Second choice – scream for all you’re worth.  This attempt to hijack you for thirty seconds shows the assembled throng that the polly is a man/woman of the people, especially for those of our future generations. Translation: “Hopefully this photo-op will show my human qualities. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Thankfully I only have to do it once every three-four years.

Hard Hats5.    Hard Heads and Flouro Fashion.  Yes there will be lots of visits to factory sites and building sites and any other sites that need the donning of the ubiquitous hard hat and a flouro vest. It shows the punters out there that we get behind our workforce, the backbone of our nation, and that this election is all about jobs, jobs, jobs. (When haven’t we heard that one?) This fashion statement is best accessorised by an open neck business-casual shirt with sleeves rolled up if male, and nothing too formal if female. Orange Flouro VestTranslation: “Another photo-op that shows me to be a man/woman of the people – this time, not the battling families and their young children, but the average worker doing it tough.

6.    Family Ties. Oh yes, time to trot out the happy snaps of the family if they have one to show off. Preferably one of said candidate and the spouse and two and a half smiling kids posing in a specially crafted studio shot. If he/she happens to be part of a blended family, or some other iteration of the modern day family unit, the image they have to show is that they are an average family man/woman who identifies with all of their constituents. Place the pics on their local printed letter box drop material where appropriate. And if one happens to be the leader of the party, assemble them behind oneself on stage at the BCL (Big Campaign Launch). Translation: “Hide any hint of family dysfunction and accentuate the positives.”

7.    Noddies in Toyland.  Aah the Noddies are back on the scene. You know the ones. There’s normally between one to three of them standing behind the leader as he/she makes the big policy announcement, often outdoors. They will look appropriately serious, show deference to the leader making the announcement and they will nod in all the right places. They will definitely be barred from smiling (this is serious work), waving or mouthing ‘Hello Mum’ directly to the cameras. Their weight of numbers is designed to demonstrate gravitas and support. Translation: “It’s my turn to play Noddy. I hope the wind doesn’t mess up my hair. Where is a hard hat when you need one?”

Bread and Milk8.    The Price of Fish. Or milk or bread or a glass of beer. (Only one glass mind you – after all, beer is alcohol.) The price of a packet of fags used to be part of that list too, but smoking has become politically incorrect nowadays so they don’t want to be seen to be too aware of that basic daily cost… besides, they will continue to tax it to the hilt if they get elected/re-elected. These questions will invariably be asked, and the answers will invariably be prepared by the minders for the candidates and their leaders to roll off their tongues in the appropriate forums. This is  another of those times where the media tries to catch out the candidate and the candidate attempts to prove that they live in the real world and are not quarantined ‘far from the madding crowd’ up there is Canberra when they dream up their latest attack on our daily essentials. Translation: “I never buy milk or bread or anything else at the local supermarket for that matter. I eat at the parliament caf when we’re in session, and the rest of the time it’s fast food on the run. And my preference is a glass of chardy not beer.”

9.    The Cheerleader’s BCL. Where would we be without the Big Campaign Launch? You know the one. The hall is filled to overflowing. The assembled faithful are packed to the rafters (no hecklers allowed). The catchy slogan is resplendent up on stage next to the party logo. A venerated warm-up guy or gal whips the crowd into a frenzy, and in walks the leader, arms raised to a standing ovation of prolonged and resounding applause. And then there’s the speech to the party faithful, meant for the nation at large. No Martin Luther King “I have a Dream” soul-stirrers here. Just more of the same that we saw last election-time. “We’re the saviours. The other lot can’t be trusted. The future may be a bit rocky, but with us you can be sure the bumps will be softer and fewer.”  Translation: “Say not much in a very meaningful way, and be sure to stick to the message crafted by my speech writers.”

10.    Let me be Perfectly Honest. This is a grab bag for all of the answers they will give that bear no relation to the question being asked. These answers will take many forms, but you can be sure you are about to be hit with an evasive answer, when they begin with… “Let me be perfectly clear/honest,” (or) “What I can say is…”  (or) “Let me answer it this way…” (or) “What I would like to say is…” (or) “When I say that, let me say this…” (or) “That’s a very good question…” (or) “The other side didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t/won’t…” (or) ignore the question completely and then ramble on about the message they want to give so that the questioner forgets what it was they were asking in the first place. If it is a formal TV interview they will often end with “Good to be with you (Name).” Translation: “Don’t answer the question, unless it’s the one I want to answer. Stay on message at all times. Avoid yes or no answers or any definitive statement which might be used against me later. If I can slip in our campaign slogan and dump on the other lot as part of my answer I will.”

Phew, there is so much more for us to track with this crazy game of electioneering, but these ten thought starters should help to tune up your b-s antennae. There is one thing you can be sure of though. Whenever we witness any of these examples above, it’s time to observe the fluff and ignore the stuff. Call me a cynic if you wish. Happy hunting!

I would love to read your thoughts and comments here as we enter a prolonged period of meaningless language games. Drop me an email to brian@precisionprofiling.com.au if you would like to discuss further how to share your message in a far more meaningful way.

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


  1. Ha! Great insights Brian. Love it.
    Yeah, I could see you sitting there & just taking notes on how this drama (circus) unfolds.
    It’s so interesting to read & look between the lines on their language.

  2. WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for spy camera

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