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Read our lips, ‘no more taxes’

Dr Claire Robinson, author of ‘Promises,Promises’ and Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts Professor of Communication Design Massey University, Wellington Campus. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Lisa Urbani

Dr Claire Robinson – Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts and Professor of Communication Design Massey University, Wellington Campus – has a great interest in political adverts.

With Wairarapa candidates all “pressing the flesh” and wanting to make an impression on voters, her advice to locals wanting to choose a candidate was to attend as many of their meetings as possible, and know who they are and what their policies are, to be aware of all sides of the argument.

As for the candidates themselves she suggested they should love their region, have solutions to the problems, and remember they are in government to advocate for their electorate.

“Presence, presence and relationships” are important in her opinion.

Growing up with a father who was a political scientist and a mother who was a founding member of the New Zealand Women’s Electoral Lobby, it is no surprise that she has been collecting political adverts since 1999 and finds them to be “fascinating examples of New Zealand’s political history.”

Last year, she brought out a book on the history of political advertising titled, ‘Promises, Promises: 80 Years of Wooing New Zealand Voters’.

“They tell us a lot about New Zealand political culture, what we value, the trends contained in advertising messages explain what we prioritise as a country.”

As an example, “the ‘let’s keep moving’ slogan is associated with the notion of progress and it is re-used constantly, but no one inquires exactly what progress has been made”, she said.

The usual themes are around income inequality and jobs, such as the ‘strong team, more jobs, better equality’.

Mostly, she found election promises rather unimaginative and did not give the voting public the ability to make a choice by spelling out their policies, so we can discern what their points of difference are.

Relying on aspirational slogans and empty promises or focusing on the character of the leaders is often the standard practice.

With regard to the election, in her opinion “only one party has really noticed that the world has changed after covid-19 and that we need to look at how to re-set our priorities, but they are not getting a lot of oxygen”.

“Mainly, the major parties are bickering over incompetent Members of Parliament and reverting to the usual issues of jobs, infrastructures, tax, education and health.”

There is a tendency she says, to get carried away with the salacious drama of politics, rather than asking the big questions about a “global re-set”.

“It’s disappointing since this is a major moment in world history.”

With Labour, National and New Zealand First all promising to fix jobs and infrastructure, she queried whether voters would be bothered to go to the polls this year.

They may think it doesn’t matter who becomes the next government because it won’t make much of a difference, but she reminds voters that there are two very important referendums they need
to develop a view and vote on.

On these issues, every person’s vote matters.

A period of our political history that fascinates her the most is the 1938 Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage.

This was a time when the Labour ‘brand’ was established, just as Jacinda Ardern is “personalised” and “normalised” for public consumption in magazine features, showing her to be human and just like us, with relationship and childcare issues – “facing the same trials and tribulations as we do, because we want to know that they understand our lives when they make the big decisions”.

As Claire said, “it’s easier to sell a leader than 60 members of a Party List”.

Mostly she thinks that there needs to be “much more debate around representation of all groups and diversity of voices”.

“New ideas can be scary, but we need to explore them.”

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