When we think about government, it’s not often that we think about personal relationships.

We tend to think of large, unassailable institutions or larger than life political caricatures. But once every three years, Australians have a chance to cast a vote and have a direct influence on the governing of the country.

What goes through the minds of most voters, the ‘punters’? What influencers their votes the most?

I think one of the big changes in recent times has been the incredible focus on the leaders of the parties. We have become more ‘presidential’ in our election campaigns, rather than focusing on the party as a whole and its policies. This has caused confusion for voters who assume they get to vote for who becomes the Prime Minister.

My daughter was disappointed when I told her she doesn’t get to vote for Abbott or Rudd directly. She believes that she has a direct relationship with the leaders and assumes she gets to choose.

In previous election campaigns there has been a strong focus on communication to the voters and an articulation of the value or benefit delivered by specific parties. For example, ‘if you vote for this party you will benefit in this way through this policy initiative.’

The shift in this election has been to highlight the concerns voters have regarding trust in the individual. This has made it challenging to shift the conversation to focus on policy.

Whether we trust someone or not creates the context or framework for a conversation. Building trust requires a set of behaviours to be consistently portrayed: respect, honesty, transparency and reliability. It’s about doing what we say we will do.

What this campaign has shown is if trust is broken, it makes the context of the conversation far more challenging and that it’s a long way back to redemption.

Jennifer Cromarty

Author Jennifer Cromarty

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