Campaign behemoths take shape as Coalition and Labor gear up for election

Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst, pictured when he was media adviser to Tony Abbott.

Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst, pictured when he was media adviser to Tony Abbott.Credit:Andrew Meares

The Liberals’ federal director, Andrew Hirst, will lead the Coalition’s campaign team of about 90 to 100, along with his Nationals counterpart Ben Hindmarsh. They will be assisted by deputy directors Simon Berger and Isaac Levido.

Mr Berger has worked on every federal election since 1996, while Mr Levido worked on the 2015 and 2017 campaigns for the British Conservatives, and has helped run pollster Crosby Textor’s operations in Washington.

The Coalition campaign will combine “a fair bit of grey hair” with a dollop of generational change. On the Labor side, it is national secretary Noah Carroll’s first federal campaign as director, backed up by veteran operations manager Sandy Rippingale and campaign chief-of-staff Yvette Nash from Mr Shorten’s office.

Labor has recruited Patrick Batchelor as its national field director, in charge of the ground game of doorknocking and phone calling. Mr Batchelor was field director for the Equality Campaign to legalise same-sex marriage and has done the same work for NSW Labor.

The Liberals will again use Crosby Textor for polling and research, but it will be their first campaign since 1993 without the firm’s legendary co-founder Mark Textor. The party has hired a new advertising agency, the Adelaide-based outfit KWP led by David O’Loughlin and John Baker, whose clients include beer brewers Coopers and several South Australian government agencies.

Labor is again using the MOSS Group under Darren Moss, whose so-called “Mediscare” ad rattled Malcolm Turnbull in 2016. Mr Moss was also behind Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ election victories in 2014 and 2018. He will work in conjunction with John Utting from UMR for research and Labor’s internal ad team led by assistant national secretary Sebastian Zwalf.

Ad content is already in the bag on both sides. The squads will be tasked with straddling the usual dichotomy of selling the party message as well as targeted and vicious attacks on the other side. The Super Saturday byelections were a good road test of attack angles for both parties, though Labor has had to discard all its material on Mr Turnbull.

Instead, expect ads from Labor focusing on Mr Morrison’s actions as treasurer and the general sense of chaos and disunity in the government, while the Coalition will pursue Mr Shorten as an untrustworthy union puppet.

Coalition campaign sources said they had made a major, six-month investment in digital infrastructure after it was widely conceded Labor was ahead on digital and social media.

Patrick Leyland will lead the ALP’s digital efforts.

While the campaigns chug along at their respecting HQs, Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten will tour the country flanked by key staff.

For the PM, that is expected to include head of media Andrew Carswell and principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, while Mr Shorten’s travelling party will include chief-of-staff Ryan Liddell, policy head Sam Trobe and retiring MP Wayne Swan, the ALP national president and one of Mr Shorten’s most trusted confidants.

And while Labor says it is ready to go early if Mr Morrison opts for a March 2 election, the government maintains it will deliver a budget on April 2 before going to the polls in May.

Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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