Phillip Corey in the SMH this morning reckons "If this government had a duck, it would drown."
He was commenting on yet more bad poll numbers for the Government and how even a good budget has been harshly treated (and hoe the Tele can on one day accuse the budget of not being tough enough and on the next day criticise the modest restraint of "middle-class welfare".)
But he really nails the Government's malaise when he writes;
The government's inability to sell its policies and defend itself, combined with muddling its messages, especially over asylum seekers, is compounding its woes. So is its infatuation with Abbott and his inconsistencies. Yes, Labor needs to put the acid on him more than a government usually would for an opposition leader because it is just a heartbeat from a byelection and a change of government - but there is a limit.
It is rare, if not non-existent, now for the Prime Minister or a minister to give an interview or a press conference and, without prompting, to start talking about Abbott. They appear intimidated. It is little wonder that Abbott feels he has only to reinforce the negatives.
Here is a suggestion for the ALP, much of which is straight out of the spin book they should understand.
Stop referring to coalition spokespersons by name. at most use their titles. Mr Abbott is never Mr Abbott, he is the leader of the opposition, Joe Hockey is just the shadow treasurer. Using their titles will show up the absence of substance.
Also as far as possible try to refer to them as "the alternative government" or simply "coalition" rather than opposition or liberals. Don't feed their brand.
And above all just don't mention them if you can avoid it. When asked about the carbon tax explain it without trying to talk about other points of view. Talking about the coalition means ascribing to them a policy credibility that they don't have on their own.
And on the way through find a really good media coach for Wayne Swan. he is having too many "John Kerin" moments. Ministers should accept that the public accepts they don't know everything. So when asked "when was the last time the ALP brought in a budget surplus" either say "I'm not focussed on the past, but on the present and the future. The Government took the budget into deficit to provide stimulus to the economy. As a consequence we have only 4.5% unemployment, not nearly 10% like the US and many other developed countries. The task now is to return to surplus and this budget outlines how we will achieve that."
There is almost no question a journalist can come up with that you can't have a response to. But the responses need to be a bit better than just parrotting the official "phrase of the day".
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est