You must buy the Australian Financial Review newspaper today. Think of the support for Fairfax as penance.
The Australian Financial Review newspaper today contains some comedy gold.
You could not write or imagine that this is seriously taking place right now in Australia.
(First up, one minor point, the title of The Rudd brand is catching on):
But does The Rudd TM travelling party and campaign headquarters seriously believe that the issue is that their message is not cutting through? Surely The Rudd can fix the blame game between head office and the workers in The Rudd travelling circus?
(The) Rudd camp unravels in the thick of itPUBLISHED: 7 HOURS 14 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 2 HOURS 51 MINUTES AGO
(Andrew Meares, the photographer, is a genius. This is The Rudd travelling circus at their finely sharpened best. Waiting for someone to come up with an idea, or for the bus driver to come back with the keys. Will someone just do something? And where's Kevin Coight?)
JAMES MASSOLA AND JOANNA HEATH
Tensions have emerged between Kevin Rudd’s small campaign team and the Labor Party’s election headquarters in Melbourne, as Labor’s media strategy causes particular concern.
Twelve days into the federal election, Labor insiders in the Melbourne head office believe Mr Rudd is failing to cut through in the daily media cycle, with his press conferences running over time, the Prime Minister repeatedly criticising News Corp in the first week and snap decisions being taken by a small team of confidantes.
But other ALP staff working on the election, who spoke to The Australian Financial Review on condition of anonymity, expressed concern over the operation of campaign headquarters.
One Labor source in CHQ said senior advisers were being ignored and wanted campaign veteran Eamonn Fitzpatrick, a senior adviser to Mr Rudd and before that Julia Gillard, to leave Mr Rudd’s travelling party and “take charge” to improve communications and better relay decisions taken by the travelling party to headquarters.
Communications between the Rudd travelling party and CHQ are said to have been particularly problematic at the start of the campaign, with suggestions staff, including campaign director George Wright, were out of the loop on decisions taken by the Rudd brains trust, including Bruce Hawker and Mr Fitzpatrick, on the road.
Mr Wright has travelled with Mr Rudd in recent days; cabinet minister Mark Butler joined the Rudd party to provide counsel and improve communications with Labor’s national executive; and former Financial Reviewjournalist Mark Davis is tasked with co-ordinating messages between the road and head office.
But a source in CHQ said: “Our newspaper strategy is non-existent. Everything is about process. Abbott has slipped up but that wasn’t from pressure – we had put him under.”
ANNOUNCEMENTS SINK WITHOUT TRACE
A former Gillard government adviser, who asked not to be named, said the rule of thumb for media strategy was that “if you have $10 million to announce you have a half decent drop”.
Both sides of politics employ “drops” to newspapers to drive their messages and “win” the morning news cycle of radio and breakfast TV.
But many of Labor’s biggest-spending announcements in a campaign short of money have sunk without a trace, including:
• $100 million funding for the Victorian Eye and Ear hospital, ignored by Fairfax Media’s The Age and relegated to page 10 in News Corp’s Herald Sun.
• $42 million for the National ICT research centre in Sydney, which was reported in the Financial Review five days later and nowhere else.
• $209 million to fund 137 new national trade training centres, which received 130 to 200 words of coverage in metropolitan dailies and critical coverage in The Australian.
• $100 million for a farming irrigation upgrade program in the Goulburn-Murray region, with after-the-announcement coverage in Stock and Land and The Weekly Times.
A Liberal strategist said the opposition had been left “scratching their heads” about Labor’s media strategy.
“Rudd seemed to be doing well before the campaign was announced. But Gillard dropped a lot of stories last time and this time it doesn’t seem to be happening. You need to be organised to do that and they don’t seem to be,” he said.
TAS NEWSPAPERS IGNORED PM’S VISIT
Mr Rudd’s visit to Tasmania last Saturday featured neither in The Mercury nor The Examiner, despite the Prime Minister promising $5 million to help redevelop the Hobart Showground and $375,000 to redevelop Launceston’s Prospect Park, and was relegated to a 241-word page seven story in the Sunday Tasmanian. Labor must hold on to the Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon to win government, and hopes to win back Denison.
Mr Rudd’s announcement on Thursday of a plan to develop northern Australia was also kept under wraps, with even the parochial NT News missing out, despite Labor being desperate to win the swinging NT seat of Solomon and hang on to the NT seat of Lingiari.
In contrast, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s media team has strategically dropped stories to newspapers, including his announcement of a 1.5 per cent company tax cut and his decision to preference the Greens last, while the Abbott team also dropped stories to Tasmania’s News Corp-owned Hobart Mercury and the Fairfax-owned Launceston Examiner to good effect, securing front page stories to coincide with each of the Opposition Leader’s visits to Tasmania.
Journalists travelling with Mr Rudd are accustomed to delayed press conferences and on Thursday, after announcing his Northern Territory policy late, Mr Rudd boarded the press plane to chat with the media in what was seen by some as an attempt to smooth the waters.
Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon was overheard complaining after an event at Robertson Barracks in Darwin to defence parliamentary secretary Mike Kelly about the event’s organisation, and not knowing what was happening next. Mr Kelly described it as a “moveable feast”.
Mr Snowdon then approached a Rudd staffer to ask what was up next, and when told it was a press conference, replied “No one’s told me anything. I’m not happy” before walking away.
Senior Labor advisers have spoken with the travelling media about a “pincer movement” of negative headlines in News Corp tabloids and negative Liberal campaign ads, and complained News Corp was “doing the work” for the Liberal Party.
Labor’s CHQ has sent at least 439 emails to the media, compared with a combined 190 from Liberal CHQ and Mr Abbott’s personal office, in the first 11 days of the campaign.