An environmental election

Elections these days seem to loom further and further out from polling day. We’ve been in (federal) election mode for months. So it is, we get the chance to observe the various amount of, and techniques, used to push the party line on voters. In PR, if you’re following issues, it’s called tracking.

At present, the common denominator is the environment. The Howard Government has suddenly decided after 11 years in power, that the environment is an issue. Never mind it had been told many years before about the effects of global warming on the Murray-Darling river system.

Howard has never one to shy away from using “fear” (I call it uncertainty) tactics to make people believe that at a time of uncertainty they shouldn’t risk an untested party in government. What bunkum. The country would still function without Howard and Co and the helm. That’s what we have a Public Service for.

In the past few weeks (since March ’07), Howard has suddenly discovered we might run out of food because there’s no water in our rivers – and of them. Australian of the Year Dr Tim Flannery, and others, have warned of this for years.

This is one issue that needs to be tracked; particularly how Howard handles it. Apart from Labor, his main concern might be his new Water Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who right put his foot in it this week when he said the government didn’t need Victoria’s participation in a national water scheme, yet was immediately contradicted by Howard, who said we did need the “Mexicans”. With Ministers like that, who needs an Opposition?

Other issues worthy of tracking include the nuclear power debate and workplace reforms. You can bet there’s some serious lobbying going on by uranium miners. The unions have yet to show their full hand on Work Choice legislation. And let’s not forget the Iraq War (we’ve already had the government preparing us for casualties).

However, I believe the biggest issue is the environment. This is tied to the greenhouse debate and incorporates logging, mining, vehicle pollution and waste production. At the end of the day, other issues can be discussed, but if we haven’t got any water, it won’t matter much about anything else.


The cult of celebrity

The cult of celebrity. It’s everywhere. I refer to the notion of “celebrities” being news for the sake of being celebrities. Witness the popularity of shows like Australian Idol, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, and so on. Little (or big) people suddenly becoming instant “celebrities.

I use the word celebrity ever so loosely. I’m not sure what we’re celebrating. Sure, they might be celebrating the fact they got themselves on the box, in the trash magazines and on radio. But what for? What have the done for us? Have they enriched anyone’s life? Well, maybe some have. Perhaps those fatties sweating off the pounds have insipred someone to do the same. That’s noble. But for the most part they are a bunch of no-talent nobidies.

Which bring me (in a roundabout way) to Elle Macpherson, the Aussie “super model” (love that term) who recently released another range of underwear. There she was on the tele, on the once-venerable Current Affair, no less, spruiking her wares to a suitably-impressed reporter, who probably wished he was tracking down Osama Bin Laden.

Elle’s another of those who seems to do nothing productive in particular but make millions. There’s also our Jennifer Hawkins, Naomi Campbell, etc. Elle has a great management and PR team, for sure. They make her credible (almost).

As an example of what they’ve got to work with, she said in response to one of those try-hard deep and meangiful questions (though how meaningful you can get with a supermodel is debatable): “I am what I am.” Hmmm. Aren’t we all?

I guess Elle lovely Aussie ambassador that she is, is never going to study philosophy; though I guess we can all do our share of navel gazing (at her).

The perception of PR

The excellent British TV series, Absolute Power, provided viewers on the ABC with a dark comedy that portrayed PR in a poor (some would say, well-deserved) light.

The fictional firm of Prentice-McCabe dealt with a diverse range of clients, including politicians, drug-taking pop stars, ambitious archbishops and even Osama Bin Laden’s cousin, who wanted to buy British Airways.

Each episode seemed to have one quote which summed up the writers’ views of PR. Some examples: “Authenticity is not a currency we actually deal in … PR means never having to say you’re wrong … Everything we do is predicated on deceit. We’re shit. We’re in the gutter … PR is intercourse with people you despise.” You get the picture.

The trouble is that this show, and others about the profession, such as Absolutely Fabulous and Sex in the City, portray PR as all those things it is not.

Sure, there are many practitioners who used to be like that. And there are still some who follow those mantras.

My point is that the industry does nothing to correct these impressions. Possible it believes no harm will come; that it’s just good entertainment. What the heck. They say any publicity is good publicity. Not in this instance.

These types of shows do irreparable harm to the profession’s image. It’s probably part of the reason few men are not studying PR at university. Males simply don’t see PR as a serious subject. This is backed by findings of my PhD study into why more women than men are entering PR.

But why do we so little about it?

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