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THOUGH THE ARTS AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES MAY HAVE BEEN ABSENT FROM POLICY DEBATES, CREATIVITY ITSELF HAS NEVERTHELESS BEEN A VIGOROUS PRESENCE DURING THE 2010 FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION CAMPAIGN. WITNESS, FOR INSTANCE, THE SUCCESS OF THE ABC’S GRUEN NATION PROGRAM, WHICH NOT ONLY ANALYSED ACTUAL POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS BUT ALSO PRODUCED ALTERNATIVE ONES AS WELL.

In the first week of Gruen Nation, ad agencies were asked to humanise Tony Abbott and tell Julia Gillard’s back story. In the second week, another two agencies were brought in to mobilise fear about Labor and the Coalition. In the third episode, one agency created an ad to inspire mainstream voters to vote for the Greens while another encouraged Greens voters to endorse a mainstream party. The former was so impressive that the party approached the ABC about using the ad. While they weren’t allowed to do so, they benefited nonetheless as the video went viral.



Also on the ABC, the Chaser has returned with a program called Yes We Canberra, featuring a staring competition with Julie Bishop, a game of Guess Who? with Tanya Plibersek and a "Pollie Graph" test for Maxine McKew.

fake politicians


Beyond the box, there are the secret pleasures of the Fake Senator Steve Fielding's twitter account. In fact, there’s a whole fake twitter parliament and press gallery (see Bella Counihan’s article), including a fake Gillard, three fake Abbotts (one of which was set up by the ALP) and a fake Andrew Bolt, but Fake Fielding remains my favourite. He tweets about the finer points of policy (“Family Fist [sic] wants more for our kids education. Less iMacs, more Bibles”) and politicking (“Susan was right, the bottle suit does scare children”), as well as the joy of Milo (“Absolutely tonguing for a hot Milo right now but Susan’s out and I’m not allowed to use the microwave unsupervised”) and the perils of preparing it (“Disaster. Milo everywhere. So much tears”). He has more followers than the real Fielding (3165 as opposed to 2141) and considerably more tactical nous, constantly consulting with Senator Nick Xenophon (variously spelled Xzenophonne, Xemaphore, Xzuezephone).

While impersonating someone on twitter certainly takes effort, it requires even more energy to do physical and vocal impressions. Sadly Anthony Ackroyd’s Kevin Rudd may have to be retired, but there are a variety of Gillard impersonators ready to step into the breach, including Amanda Bishop (seen here and here, as well as an interview here), Gabby Millgate as Julia Spillard, and Lynne Cazaly as Gulia Jillard. Get Up! has also used a Gillard impersonator in its parody of a coffee ad (“Hello, would you like to grab a coffee and talk about climate change?...Tony’s about direct action, I’m about acting directly.”)



get up! gets up


Get Up! itself has had a stellar campaign, winning a famous victory in the High Court and in doing so enabling an additional 100,000 Australians to cast their vote. Beyond campaigning on climate change and voting rights, Get Up! has also campaigned about internet censorship, mental health, women’s issues and asylum seekers. You can see all their campaigns here: http://www.youtube.com/user/getupaustralia

activist art


The mention of asylum seekers brings to mind the work of the group boat-people.org. In response to the escalating rhetoric on refugees, including the Liberal party’s infamous Dad’s Army arrows, Julia Gillard’s regional processing centre and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s new No to People Smuggling YouTube channel, boat-people.org have staged two Muffled Protests, one in Melbourne and another in Sydney. The protest features people slowly wrapping the Australian flag around their heads. The resultant image is dense with allusions, recalling Magritte and Abu Ghraib all in the same simple gesture.

Muffled Protest Muffled Protest
photo boat-people.org

One member of the group, Deborah Kelly, has also produced another image aimed at Family First (perhaps Fake Fielding could post a twitpic).

Families Last Families Last
photo Deborah Kelly (copyleft)

Elsewhere, Stephen Rowley, as cinephobia, has redesigned Obama’s Hope poster as Abbott’s Nope.

The Audacity of Nope, Created in honour of Tony Abbott's ascension to the Liberal leadership, and his blocking of the ETS The Audacity of Nope, Created in honour of Tony Abbott's ascension to the Liberal leadership, and his blocking of the ETS
photo Stephen Rowley, cinephobia, reproduced under Creative Commons license Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0

The image is now the profile picture for the Facebook group Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Liberal. While you're on Facebook you might like to join Tony Abbott's Ladies Auxiliary. But if you're a bit shy, then you can still enjoy their work here.

campaign jamming, campaign loading


While culture jamming is usually associated with subversive politics, political parties are increasingly trying to co-opt the tactic for their own purposes. See for instance the Labor party’s Tony Abbott Is Right website, where users can download a template and make their own Tony Abbott poster. One of the most popular posters features a pixellated Abbott with the slogan “Tony Abbott, Loading …”

There is a sense in which the campaign itself is still loading—the Liberal launch was only last week while the Labor launch is today (Monday, August 16). Both parties have taken vows of austerity, which has prevented them from announcing any major new policies. If it makes you nostalgic for more exciting times, you might like to revisit the It’s Time campaign or, at the other end of the Whitlam era, Norman Gunston’s take on The Dismissal in 1975. One YouTube commentor calls the moment “surreal,” adding that it’s “like Borat trying to interview Bush in 2000.”

Speaking of surreal, what to make of Mark Latham? This article was written before his 60 Minutes report went to air, but it may be that Latham’s performance as a journalist turns out to be the greatest parody of them all.

RealTime issue #98 Aug-Sept 2010 pg. web

© Caroline Wake; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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