While Scott Morrison was saying it was fortunate no-one had died on Kangaroo Island and forcing people to shake his hand another PM quietly, and without seeking publicity, showed him how he should be behaving.
NZ PM Jacinda Ardern and family decided to have a holiday in Australia in the south east Queensland area. She has apparently been here for a while and perhaps no-one would have known but for the proprietors of a cheese shop and a winery who recognised her when she visited their businesses.
Both immediately wanted photographs which they promptly posted on social media. The local Gold Coast ABC picked it up and ran with the story demonstrating yet again why the ABC – and its regional operations – are so important to Australia.
Now there are a couple of lessons here for Morrison – first, understatement and modesty is a powerful way to communicate authenticity and genuine concern. That might be hard for someone who every week (perhaps more often) appeals to his god and indulges in some happy clappy and prosperity Christianity.
The second lesson is that the understatement and modesty needs to come naturally and not be mediated through spin doctors and staff capable of running negative tactical campaigns but incapable of thinking strategically or having any real sense of what ‘quiet Australians’ actually do believe and expect – as the latest Newspoll demonstrates.
The third lesson is that in marketing nothing beats a great product and a deep affinity with the market. Jacinda Ardern has got both because she is the genuine thing – not a marketing construct.
Ardern almost certainly didn’t set out to embarrass the Australian Prime Minister anymore than the NSW and Victorian Premiers embarrassed Morrison – not by the sort of deliberate cynical negative calculations practised by Morrison and his government – but by just earning respect by doing their jobs and not trying to promote what they did.
This was the approach Anna Bligh took in the Brisbane floods and could well be translated into effective strategies in her new banking industry gig if the industry and the government combined to clean the mess up – after jailing a few of the more obvious suspects.
The ABC, unfortunately, framed the story in terms of the positive impact it might have on tourism in Australia and quoted some tourism experts on what it might mean.
It is an indication of how neo-liberalism has infected our society that a simple, modest family holiday needs to be construed through the prism of what it means financially.
But, more importantly, we don’t need experts to tell us that some people, even politicians, do the decent, humane thing because that’s what they naturally want to do.