As our Prime Minister and Opposition Leader continue to struggle under the weight of negative approval ratings perhaps the time has come to draw guidance from the humble hagfish.
Tomorrow is official Hagfish Day, a day to celebrate the ‘beauty of ugly’ and make the point it’s not just cute and cuddly creatures that deserve our attention.
Haikus are written, songs are sung, school kids are encouraged to learn more about the slimy deep-sea scavengers.
It’s not that our political leaders are slimy scavengers. Hang on… it’s not that our political leaders bear any physical similarities that make Hagfish Day relevant; but their pursuit of popularity does end up reinforcing all the negatives that drive our disdain with politics.
Take the debate on asylum seekers. We have one party dedicated to towing boats back out to sea now using concern for human rights as a fig leaf for blocking a policy of offshore processing that they support.
On the other, we have a government steered by legal and political considerations into a more humane position in line with much of their support base, angrily blaming the Opposition for forcing them there.
Asylum-seekers have long been the piñata of Australian politics – whack them and you get showered with votes in outer metropolitan swinging electorates.
But in the pursuit of political approval, both sides have ended up with positions so at odds with their core values that no-one is giving either of them credit.
Q. Regardless of how you vote, what words would you use to describe the positions taken by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott on the issue of asylum seekers, including the recent attempt at legislating the deal with Malaysia?
|Julia Gillard||Tony Abbott||Difference|
|Just playing politics||46%||47%||-1|
On the only option that attracted significant interest – ‘just playing politics’ – Abbott and Gillard are neck and neck.
What’s interesting to note is that both sides are dragging each other deeper and deeper into a mire of disapproval – and perversely it’s the pursuit of support through tricky tactical manoeuvring that is driving this self-destructive behaviour.
To put this in context; we currently have a Prime Minister with just 34 per cent approval and 59 per cent disapproval. Against her an Opposition Leader with numbers that would look dire in any other situation – 40 per cent approval and 51 per cent disapproval. When asked to choose a preferred leader, neither tracks more than 40 per cent.
Which brings us back to the hagfish. Rather than tying themselves in knots trying to play to the voters, maybe the time has come to celebrate the ugly.
For Gillard, it is clear her only salvation lies in standing firm in the face of the pressure of a coordinated campaign from industry and the Opposition; to push on and earn respect for bedding down action on climate change that may not be popular but is the right thing to do.
For Abbott, it’s a different but similar challenge – convince the public he is more than a leader who will just play to the punters, opposing anything the Government serves up, to sacrifice some easy hits to fill out a more substantial story.
Politics may be Hollywood for ugly people; but the time is approaching when the beauty contest for Australia’s preferred leader should be called off for lack of interest.
To get the ball rolling we start with our own haiku tribute to ugly leadership:
Brave the murky depths
Embrace your ugly virtue
Just like a hagfish
- Peter Lewis | Director, EMC
& Jackie Woods | Senior Account Manager, EMC
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