Mark Textor is co-founder of strategic communications firm Crosby Textor and an advisor to the Liberal Party in the current federal election campaign. The night before the start of the 2007 election, Textor worked with then-prime minister John Howard on his opening campaign speech, in which he said the election would be fought on trust, particularly on the economy. Kevin Rudd made a similar argument in opening the 2013 campaign. Here Textor outlines the thinking behind the 2007 speech and how he sees the differences between Howard and Rudd in using the phrase.
When John Howard was first dubbed “Honest John” during the Fraser Government years it was meant in a derisory manner, reflecting on his former job as a suburban lawyer and the budget difficulties of the Government in which he was Treasurer.
But by the time John Howard opened the 2004 election campaign with the sentence “who do you trust…”, the term “Honest John” it had taken on its literal meaning.
On balance, people did trust John Howard – he had earned their trust as Prime Minister by delivering a strong economy and jobs growth, by delivering strong surpluses and paying down Labor’s $90b. debt, and by protecting our borders.
So when in 2004, John Howard said “who can you trust”, the answer in voters minds was John Howard – not Mark Latham and Labor.
And that’s why, when in 2013, Kevin Rudd says “who do you trust”, the answer in voters minds is not Kevin Rudd.
How could it possibly be? Because Trust is not Talk.
This is the man who in the 2007 election campaign railed that “this reckless spending must stop”, talks himself up as a fiscal conservative, and then, after the election, went on the biggest spending spree since Whitlam, racking up $130 billion in accumulated deficits in his three budgets.
This is the man who in the 2007 election campaign talked of a “turn around” of the boats, and then after election systematically dismantled the Pacific Solution, creating a surge of nearly 50,000 people onto Australia’s shores.
And this the man who in 2007 talked of climate change as “the greatest moral challenge of our time”, then abandoned his carbon trading scheme, then voted for the carbon tax, and now disingenuously claims he is “axing the tax.”
The voters aren’t mugs. Rudd’s “trust” pitch is all talk. People trust based on past actions not past words; in this case many see little but talk, inconsistencies and policy failures.
Mark Textor is co-founder of Crosby Textor.
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