The Democratic State as a Marketing Tool: The Permanent Campaign in Australia
Taylor and Francis
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
Making his first speech to Liberal Party MPs after his victory in the October 2004 Australian federal election, Prime Minister John Howard said that he was ‘a great believer in perpetual campaigning’ and that the government campaign to win the next election had already begun. The concept of the permanent campaign is important to understanding modern political communication. While an increasing number of voters are claiming to be making up their mind who to vote for in the last week of the formal election campaign, they are influenced in their decision by political messages received well before the formal campaign period. The 2004 Australian federal election displayed many features of permanent campaigning; in particular the advantage permanent campaigning affords the government over the opposition. The Government Members' Secretariat is an example of such advantage. Modern campaign methods such as focus groups, qualitative polling, voter databases, and strategic use of Senate resources for House of Representatives races are used on a permanent basis to build a communications strategy. The resources of the state, including government advertising, postal and office entitlements of members of parliament, are used to research and communicate with the electorate. While many of these techniques have been under development while also being in use for some time, it is only recently that they have been successfully coordinated to the extent that we can now say that the permanent campaign has reached Australia. This article examines this process in the lead–up to the 2004 Australian federal election.