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Get ready for a year's worth of framing - and reframing - the Queensland political narrative

Opinion

Framing and reframing the Queensland political narrative will be the battle most worth watching during 2024, writes Greg Hallam

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The political class will be in overdrive in 2024 with a Queensland State election in October and a possible Federal election before Christmas, if not in early 2025.

Wiki describes political narrative “as a way of describing story-telling that can shape fact and impact on the understanding of reality.”

I would add , that it’s where fiction often becomes fact. Think of Donald Trump’s master manipulation of the truth.

To my mind political narrative is inherently causal, eg “things are so bad , because …..” It attempts to evoke emotions through creating myths and adding colour and light to arguments. In the end , as voters and citizens we are all reductive, time poor and looking for an easy lock on what to think. That’s when the political spinners go to work.

The spinmeisters’ stock in trade is to come up with a narrative, even better a slogan that encapsulates what voters are thinking or feeling , or what they want them to think or feel.

Remember how brilliantly effective Tony Abbott was with his mantra of stopping the boats, based on a fear of migrants and terrorism. The truth was, far more migrants were arriving illegally by plane then disappearing into Australian society for a decade or more. But the mantra worked.

Huge amounts of qualitative polling will be undertaken to develop seemingly simple messages that pull together all the various nostrums and emotions in peoples’ heads.

The political back room boffins and ad campaign gurus trawl through that information looking for a set of statements that reflect what the punters think and feel to be true and hang together, are pithy and will stand up to 8-12 weeks pre and during an election campaign.

Expect lots of “we have turned the corner, better times ahead” messaging from the incumbent state and federal Labor Governments.

Alternatively, “you have never had it so tough “ narratives from both oppositions. Equally a play on emotions , especially fear of whatever resonates in the focus group sessions .

The challenge in 2024 for the narrative writers is a changing economic dynamic in Australia, more particularly getting the trajectory right. Is it a forward-looking pitch based on what is to come, or dragging voters back to the vomit of the past 18 months – seemingly one crisis after another.

Timing will be everything.

The cost of living is moderating, as seen in the most recent CPI data, especially the trimmed mean estimate that is now sitting at 4.1%.

Real wages are increasing and broad tax cuts are scheduled to kick in from 1 July. Then of course, there is the prized record house and unit price mantra that sits very well with the 67% of us that own real estate.

Add very high to record sharemarkets and big fat superannuation returns, for those of us with decent super balances It’s a potent brew, at least for two thirds of the population.

On the negative side of the ledger, law and order and health are top of the pops, with a nightly stream of TV personalised yarns to reinforce the belief  “it’s out of control. Queenslanders are genuinely fearful – there is a reason that Wallaby great Tutai Kefu’s home invasion is featured again and again. The thinking goes if it can happen to him, what chance the rest of us.

Cost of living, especially in key areas such as energy prices, rent, child care, schooling and property insurance will also assuredly feature in the narrative .

But what about the sleepers such as climate change, natural disasters and aged care? Over a recent coffee at our local Starbucks, in preparation for writing this piece, I asked my better half what she and her friends talked about when they caught up during the week, sans males .

It did surprise me somewhat. Aged care and elderly parents who are living longer, child care and the impact of working from home post Covid thereon, traffic jams and overpopulation, the break-down of community espirit de corp, the length of school holidays, real enduring answers to youth crime, and, surprise surprise, the changed nature of grocery and retail shopping.

That’s half the voters right there folks . Granted they are middle class older females.

Ultimately you will all be told , simplistically, that we are all headed in the right or wrong direction. It becomes a binary proposition .

I think we should all stick with our own “world view “ and, better still, design a BS Bingo sheet to apply to the narratives spun by both sides of politics during state and federal elections,.

Take joy in yelling out BS. In the attempts to twist our minds and votes, that’s as good as it’s probably going to get.

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