Campaigning Has Changed Its Tune

Article about the changing nature of political campaigning, including Mark Seymour.

Author: John Mangan.

Date: 10 June 2007.

Original URL:


Article Text

In the US, music and politics increasingly go hand in hand. But the art of the political song in Australia is on the ropes.

Eighteen months away from the US presidential election, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is inviting visitors to her website to help select a campaign anthem.

But with our federal election looming, the only musical shot across the bows has been a rendition, at the ALP conference as leader Kevin Rudd took the podium, of a previously unreleased song about weather patterns by Delta Goodrem’s songwriter, Vince Pizzinga.

The problem, says Mike Brady, whose CV, apart from the footy anthem Up There Cazaly, includes Malcolm Fraser’s 1975 election ditty Turn On The Lights, is that Australian audiences have become too smart.

“The day of the political jingle has long passed,” he says. “We’ve got an electorate that is far more savvy and they can smell cheese.”

Mark Seymour, the former lead singer with Hunters & Collectors, who describes the Americans as “more cheese-friendly”, is pleased Hunters’ songs such as Do You See What I See? were used by the ALP for policy launches. But he would draw the line at writing songs for campaigns.

“I take politics very seriously, but I’d never write a song for a political party. It would be like writing a song for a football club – it’s just conceptually too difficult.”

The mother of all Australian campaign songs is It’s Time, sung by a big-haired 1972 all-star choir that included Bert and Patti Newton, Jack Thompson and Ted Hamilton.

“I’ve noticed It’s Time creeping back into the political discourse,” says Monash University head of politics Nic Economou. “It’s a double-edged sword because Gough Whitlam is a hero to some but not to many others. [Mark] Latham tried to link himself to Whitlam with disastrous results.”

University of Melbourne’s Sally Young, who is building a website archive of political ads, says modern political advertising trends make the old-style jingles obsolete.

“Ads are shorter now and made faster,” Dr Young says. “In the 1970s they made advertising before the campaign and [ran] one ad for four or six weeks.

“Now, they make ads every day during a campaign and change them frequently. Music doesn’t suit the more hard-hitting style.”

The Howard Way

I know I’ve done a few miles, but look what I’ve become,
The nation’s father figure, loved by everyone,
The rich are getting richer, the workers know their place,
Not since the days of Menzies has there been such a case …

Chorus: Tooooooo keep the status quo, let us Liberals rule the mob,
Speak the truth the Howard way and let us get on with the job.


Nobody’s Perfect

Look, nobody is perfect, except of course for me
And I’m sick of all the negatives about my wife and me
But I just love this teflon suit and Hawkie doesn’t want it back
Nothing seems to stick to it unless they find a crack

Chorus: So stick it to the Liberals
Let’s get back to where we were
We all survived those interest rates
So what are you whingeing for?

The national debt can rise a bit
Now Costello’s got it down
And Julia’s played her union card
Labor’s back in town