Sam Dastyari: There Are Two Ways To Win An Election And Shorten Has Hopped On The Most Crucial One
“There are two ways you can win an election,” then-Premier Bob Carr reminded me.
“You can win them retail or you can win them wholesale.”
It was the night before the 2003 NSW state election. I was 20 years old, and, as was the custom of the time, hideously drunk.
“Wholesale,” Bob went on to tell me, “is what the media looks at. That’s the ‘message of the day’, the newspaper articles and what’s on radio,” he said.
“Retail is winning the electorates. The seats that matter.”
As usual, he was right. Bob went on to a thunderous victory the next day; winning at both a retail and wholesale level. I went on to nurse a hangover.
A lot has changed since then. Bob stopped being Premier and I stopped drinking. But that has always stuck with me -- the need to win a election wholesale and retail. I always thought Bob wrongly placed equal value on both. I have a different view.
It’s nice to win wholesale -- it’s essential to win retail.
If you don’t win the seats that matter -- who cares how you are performing in the media.
And that’s why, despite all the noise, Bill Shorten is hitting it out of the park right now. I’ve seen the internal polling, I’ve seen the individual seat campaigning. Bill is winning and he’s winning where it matters.
All of which has made covering this election incredibly boring for all of us who are political junkies. I’m a political news addict and I hardly give a shit about what’s happening every day. Which is why the occasional news of Bill’s campaign death is ridiculously premature and should be dismissed out of hand.
Pity the journalists covering this election campaign. So far, nothing has happened at a wholesale level. Well... nothing interesting anyway. The only thing even approaching amusing was the Prime Minister saying ‘Ni Hao' to a Korean woman ('Ni hao' is Chinese for 'hello'). There has been Watergate (a growing scandal about water mismanagement) and a few minor gaffes from Shorten. But that’s it.
Imagine trying to make a daily newspaper or a nightly bulletin with just that. There are 30 journalists travelling with Bill and 30 with the Prime Minister. That’s 60 people looking for their own ‘angle’ being screamed at by their bosses to get a unique story.
Labor has been rolling out its health announcements. Staking ground on cancer funding and research -- highlighting its strengths. The Coalition has been running an economic agenda based on the budget.
It’s all been... well... a yawn.
So where is the real action? It is in the ground. On the seats. In the communities out there in suburbia where elections are won and lost. And that’s where Bill Shorten’s campaign is at its strongest.
Labor has the best marginal seat campaigners in the county. They started ahead and nothing that has happened so far has remotely (or will remotely) dent that. Bill’s shadow ministry (unlike the Government ministry) hasn’t spent the last three years trying to stab each other in the front (unique for Labor) and they are targeting their messages to the electorates they need to win.
His staff, led by Ryan Liddell is the best team since the crew Bob Hawke brought into the Lodge with him in 1983. Their policies are micro-targeted, planned and being rolled out as part of a thematic agenda. They are hitting exactly where they want to hit.
The campaign is building and it is not peaking too early.
In short, he is doing exactly what he needs to be doing to win the election.
In 2016 I spent six weeks going around Australia on a bus for Bill Shorten. The entire time Bill was told he would lose badly. That he was finished. That it was all over. Back then the media narrative was the greatness of Malcolm Turnbull and the end of Bill Shorten. Three years later and Bill is on track to become Prime Minister and Malcolm Turnbull is a trivia question.
Bill’s career has been one of success and highlights. He took over a union that was almost finished (the AWU) and turned it into a powerhouse. He took a minor role of Disability Services Secretary and fathered the NDIS. He took over the leadership of the Labor Party when it was described as a poisoned chalice and united the show.
So don’t believe the rubbish you will read. Or the pundits that will talk down Labor. Don’t even believe the occasional sensationalised headlines. Bill is running the exact campaign he needs to be running and it is working.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.