Politics

Scott Morrison's big blue bus tour hit

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Don’t be fooled — the PM’s “Please-Like-Me” big blue bus Queensland tour was a success, writes Noely Neate.

Scott Morrison's tour is now over, but we have all had so much fun on social media laughing at the memes of the bus.

Some have been sensational and taking the piss out of the "blokey" ockerisms which have been flowing out Scooter’s mouth as he hit the Bruce Highway in Queensland.

Oh, wait, no he didn’t — he flew on a cushy jet.

It is all well and good for us to laugh, as for anyone who pays attention to policy, wants good government and cares about the future of this nation was very well aware, this was just a re-branding marketing exercise for an incumbent Government that is struggling, big time, with the spectre of an election looming — within six months most likely. This is very important and something I think many are not considering.

Not wanting to burst bubbles here, but from here on the ground, it seems the Please-Like-Me tour that we are all scoffing at was actually quite the success for Morrison.

Before anyone starts yelling "bullshit" at their devices, consider this: too many see Australia as divided up into city/suburbs and bush/out West. In between those areas are “the regions”, which are not so easily defined. They are very different and often overlooked. Hence why so many probably vote National. They get ignored by the major parties and there will always be a National who is there to tell the voters: Look, I know we are ignored, but at least we have a seat at the table, so it could be worse without me/us. It works.

Regions know they don’t matter. A prime minister rocking into a region is flattering. Even if he is an utter moron, it is still flattering to be finally noticed. This is something Pauline Hanson has done a lot of as well, hence her success in regional areas with One Nation.

The other aspect to consider is all the "blokey" slang might be a bit of a joke to many of us, many in the regions may find it funny too, but it is more relatable than the smooth talking, articulate tones of a Malcolm Turnbull, so readily forgiven and not considered condescending.

You also have to consider that, contrary to popular belief, most in the regions are not watching Sky, nor are they watching ABC 24; they are definitely not watching press conferences. What they are watching is the local 6pm news on free-to-air, which, does not show a hell of a lot of political news at all. For example, local news on the Sunshine Coast showed the PM having a pie at Beefy’s, and a few beers and a laugh at the races. That was it!

For the distracted punter at home, yelling at the kids to finish homework while they are preparing dinner with only half an eye on the news on the telly in the background, those images give the impression of a "relatable" bloke — can’t be too bad. So this is a PR win. Hell, they have all had a Beefy's pie at some stage and, of course, have been to Corbould Park. Geez, if they had gone there for the Melbourne Cup, they might have had the chance to have a beer with the PM — how good is that?!

The fact that this was not the case – since the PM was cordoned off from the riff-raff, his public appearances were all "invitation only" and, in fact, that knees-up on Melbourne Cup day at the races was a nice little LNP earner – was not reported. If it was, I can guarantee you the locals would not be thinking as kindly of the "snob" from down south.

Same with the bus. Yes, we were all dirty about wasting taxpayer dollars on a self-indulgent Please-Like-Me tour, but, honestly, even when it was reported that he was flying, not travelling in the bus, do you know what most in the regions were thinking? Good on him, hate the bloody Bruce — I’d fly too if I could.

See, the waste of money, which is infuriating for those of us who care, is just, Well, they are mongrels down in Canberra, what do you expect? Wasting taxpayer money is business as usual — not that it was actually mentioned in that nightly footage of good bloke ScoMo having a beer, anyhow.

From all accounts, the PM’s bus tour did just that. He has gotten a few more non-political people to think a bit more kindly about him and, most important of all, he has gotten the LNP diehards invigorated again. I cannot emphasise this enough, as it really matters.

In most conservative Queensland regional areas, the LNP rule. They are the retirees who run most of the charities; they are the people most vocal in regional Chambers of Commerce (CoC), which might not seem a big deal in a city, but they are in regional towns. Think big fish, little pond. People in the regions have been frustrated with the LNP — have even started to look sideways at the Nationals for not pulling their city cousins into line. Some have even drifted over to One Nation or, as we saw in Noosa at the last State Election, a more conservative Independent. This is what Scott Morrison was shoring up — their support.

The people I just described hold a lot of sway in regional areas. Most regional areas are predominantly small business, very small and they rely on the "bigger" businesses and Chambers of Commerce to advocate for them. If the big wigs at the CoC think a particular policy is "good for business", the tiny fish will be persuaded to vote that way too.

These regional influencers also hold all the political fundraisers — both the business people and the retirees who are so respected for running the various charities. There appeared to be less of these fundraisers when Turnbull was PM but you can guarantee from Morrison’s rev up, many of them already now have ‘"ideas" in the works. I saw a gaggle of "prominent women" at the end of Melbourne Cup Day, bragging to friends less fortunate who had not been invited to rub shoulders with the PM down at Corbould Park, relaxing in their Melbourne Cup finery in the bar of a flash Hastings Street restaurant, invigorated and gushing with ideas for fundraisers — loudly.

We may laugh at the PM’s antics now that the whole Please-Like-Me bus tour was theatre, but, mark my words, it has resulted in much success. There will be more money in the coffers to fight an election, there will be more LNP faithful on the ground to hand out how-to-vote cards, there will be more letters to the editor (which yes, still matter in regional one paper towns, most now majority owned by News Ltd) to sway the population.

This was not just about shoring up Queensland.

This was a profitable trial run, watch it repeated in other similar regional areas and take it seriously if you don’t want the interim PM becoming a legitimate one.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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