Michael Balson, Upper Wilsons Creek
Swiftboating is an American pejorative term describing an unfair or untrue political attack, derived from the ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’, the widely publicised then discredited smear campaign used against 2004 US presidential candidate John Kerry. US Neo-Con strategist Karl Rove used the strategy very effectively in demolishing John Kerry. The coalition has been using the same strategy to demolish Julia Gillard.
Swiftboats were high-speed patrol boats that ran the Mekong River during the Vietnam war. Kerry was a swiftboat commander and decorated war hero. His opponent, George W Bush, went AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. Kerry’s war service was seen as a liability for Bush, so swiftboat crew who never served with Kerry were recruited in an ad campaign discrediting Kerry’s war record. The campaign muddied the waters, contributing to Kerry’s defeat, and the draft-dodger became commander in chief. Rove’s strategy is to ‘attack his opponent at their strength’, not their weakness. His success has been embraced by Australia’s LNP coalition.
Look at the facts. We have a government that weathered the GFC better than any other OECD nation, spent money strategically to stimulate the economy, took heroic measures to curb our carbon emissions (the worst per capita in the world), and have posted record low unemployment figures. The Gillard government should be riding a wave – instead, they are facing a disastrous defeat. The coalition’s constant, carping criticism has ground down the electorate.
The carbon pollution tax was reduced to ‘the great big tax on everything’. Essential nationwide school spending to stimulate the economy after the GFC was discredited because of a small amount of waste, and home insulation was reduced to the ‘pink-batts’ scandal because of a few shoddy operators. Legitimate asylum seekers became ‘queue jumpers’. The government collapsed under the relentless attack and public backlash, and ended up adopting a less humane refugee policy.
No sooner had the smoke cleared from the dreaded asylum-seeker debate, than the coalition took aim at the centrepiece of Labor’s platform, education reform. That’s swiftboating, turning a strength into a perceived weakness. Honestly, we won’t hear the end of it. Now the opposition are trying to blame the carbon tax for the past decade of electricity price rises and delaying expansion of the Olympic Dam Mine (actually delayed by falling commodity prices). Political debate has never been more toxic and there is real hatred between politicians. The Slater & Gordon beat-up is just more swiftboating. Shit sticks, no matter how defamatory the claim; ask John Kerry.
Labor’s greatest shortfall is failing to sell their policies better. But the coalition are real low-life, and the prospect of them taking government scares the hell out of me.