Sunday, 18 July 2010


“Change we can believe in” thundered the Obama campaign. “Hope” he offered, and even “Yes We Can”.

Here in Australia, during the 2007 campaign, our leaders were too shy to use inspiring words like “change” or “hope”. We rallied to the slogan “Kevin 07”.

But that did not mean that we did not yearn for hope, or that we did not believe in change.

Yesterday we saw the announcement of a federal election on 21st August. Labor leader Julia Gillard mouthed her mantra "moving forward" over 2o times in her speech. What does she mean by "moving forward"?

Julia Gillard did announce her "values":
  • hard work,
  • the importance of respect and valuing other people,
  • and "most importantly, the transformative power of a high quality education".
These are not values that should be dismissed - who could disagree with them? But they are an oddly narrow set of values and do not appear to have any connection to "moving forward".

Tony Abbott countered with his repeated slogan "real action". Presumably, as opposed to fake action or real inaction.

Slogans are an inevitable part of electioneering - they are a way to communicate a message succinctly, and hopefully, persuasively.

But when the slogan becomes the substance, we are in trouble. The slogan "moving forward" suggests progressive values, but there was no hint of such values in Julia Gillard's speech. It was a slogan without content. Empty sloganeering debases our political debate and disenfranchises the community.

Bob Brown gave his own content to the phrase:
Moving forward will mean a carbon tax on polluters, bringing home safely Australia's troops from Afghanistan, a universal dental care scheme, humane treatment of asylum seekers in Australia, protecting our forests and wildlife
Today we want our leaders to confront the great issues of our generation:
  • our relationship to the environment - sustainability;
  • our relationship with other nations - peace;
  • our relationship with each other: including giving the community power over the decisions that affect their lives - real democracy - and encouraging generosity and tolerance towards all sections of our society so that the creativity of our community can flourish and find its full expression - human rights.
With those values affirmed, we might have accepted the slogan "moving forward" - because our leaders really would be providing hope, and really would be working towards change we could believe in.

As it is, I can't wait for the spoofs.

1 comment:

  1. I think Chas Liccardello from 'The Chaser' has already written about Julia writing a 'moving forward' in a novel about Hawkie...!