Sam Dastyari: Why Photographs, Not Polls, Will Decide The Next Election
The legendary late advertising guru Neil Lawrence used to make me watch the TV news with the sound turned off.
Frankly, it felt very odd.
Neil was the creative director behind the famed Kevin07 campaign. During those halcyon days as Kevin Rudd rose to power -- at 5pm when everyone paused working to watch Kevin on the news -- Neil would bellow: “forget the words... it’s the images that matter!”
He was right. The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ exists for a reason. Images matter, and the standing of our leaders has far more to do with the impression they leave with their images, than it does with their words.
Scott Morrison has been taking a hiding since he chose to fly out to Hawaii rather than stay to confront the fires. The latest Newspoll shows a dive in his support and popularity, and naturally, this has everyone in a tizzy.
There is a chink in the armour of the emperor and, since his ascendancy following the last federal election, it’s hard to think of many missteps.
But polls don’t matter. Certainly not this far out from an election. There is nothing more useless than a preferred leader poll two years before anyone is going to vote.
It’s the images that are the problem for Morrison. The contrasting images to be precise.
It's the images of ravaged coastal towns battling fire. It's the images of streets showered in red light reminiscent of a scene from a Hollywood doomsday film.
It's the images of exhausted, depleted volunteer firefighters, risking their safety under the spirit of Australian community. These images will be sewn into the Australian consciousness for decades.
And the Prime Minister? The lasting impression will be of him on holiday in Hawaii as much of Australia was aflame.
Is that fair? Perhaps not. But politics rarely is.
What will be left will be images of residents refusing to shake his hand, of firefighters hurling profanities and of banners saying ‘Sack ScoMo’. These are the lasting images of the Prime Minister this fire season.
The current fall from grace for Scott Morrison is hardly unprecedented. Political leaders naturally have their ups and downs and a set of bad numbers is always manageable.
What should be worrying team Morrison isn’t Newspoll per se, but the rise of Anthony Albanese.
Since Parliament rose last year, Anthony Albanese has been everywhere -- from fire-ravaged communities across the east coast to repeated visits to Tasmania and South Australia.
Images show him behind a BBQ, with firefighters lined up to eat, smiling with volunteers making hampers for those left in need by the fires, and looking purposeful and decisive in news conferences.
Maybe most importantly, the images of Anthony Albanese show how those who have lost everything respond to him -- with an outstretched hand.
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I watched the news last night at 5pm and I turned the sound off thinking of Neil Lawrence. I watched the images and ignored the noise. It’s worth giving it a try sometime.
While the natural focus of the news will be on the Prime Minister, take the time to watch Anthony Albanese. When the next polls are finally held a lifetime from now, it’s these images that will be remembered.
And that's what will matter.