The Burger Theory


It is not far from the truth to say that John Howard’s success as a leader is very much like the success of McDonald’s as a burger restaurant. It’s populist, it’s not flashy, it doesn’t make grandiose claims, it’s predictable, and what’s more, people continue to consume it even if they know all the bad things about it.

People who scream about the fat, the sugar and the ecological consequences of McDonald’s will probably never meet a consumer who looks at them shocked, and says: ‘You don’t say? This is amazing! I didn’t know any of that.’ More often than not the consumer of McDonald’s will say: ‘Yes, I know all this, but when all is said and done, a McDonald’s is still a good thing to have. Let’s not fuss over the negatives’. Put simply, in the eyes of the consumer, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Howard’s critics have slowly come to understand that, likewise, there isn’t much they can say about Howard that those who elect him don’t know about. Critics can be as harsh as they like: he is unethical, he is a lying rodent, etc No one is surprised by such ‘revelations’ and they have very little impact even among those who think that they are true. People say: ‘Yes, we know all this, but at the end of the day, we’re happy with Howard. He’s predictable, he’s easy to digest, he’s not flashy, he doesn’t make grandiose claims ‘

Thanks to Sharyn Raggett

Thanks to Sharyn Raggett

It is clear now that, when they elected Mark Latham as leader, the Australian Labor Party decided to combat the McDonald’s burger with the quintessential Aussie milk bar burger version.

The milk bar hamburger is anything but predictable. It has its highs that can be pleasurable well beyond anything that McDonald’s can offer. And it has its lows, which can be more disgusting than anything that McDonald’s can ever possibly offer.

But in a climate of uncertainty people want more certainty. Only those who feel secure are willing to risk an adventurous ride, are willing to cope with the lows in order to experience the sublime highs. People might be tempted to visit an untested milk bar for a burger, on a rainy day. But on the way, they’ll decide that maybe it’s safer to just grab a McDonald’s. Which is what happened at the last Federal elections the predictable, easy to digest, relaxed and comfortable McDonald’s burger won.

The ALP immediately decided that the good old, unpredictable, Aussie milk bar hamburgers were simply no good. Better something bland that goes through your digestive system uneventfully, than a badly digested milk bar burger.

‘If we’re to beat the Howard McDonald’s leadership,’ the Labour Party decided, ‘we need something like it, but something that can still make claims to being different. We need a Hungry Jack leadership!’

Nothing could define the Beazley leadership better.

Here you have a hamburger that is just like McDonald’s populist (but just that little bit less), not too flashy, no grandiose claims and just as predictable. But interestingly, those who consume it make mild claims that it is very different from McDonald’s and more of a real thing closer to the good old, milk bar hamburger really.

No wonder Latham the representative of the real milk bar hamburger got very upset. ‘You want a really fatty, impossible to digest milk bar burger? Well I am going to give you one you will never forget,’ he said as he shoved one of his ‘greasy diary specials’ down the Labor Party’s throat.

But this is the milk bar burger’s last stand.

Once the indigestion suffered from the ‘greasy diary special’ is behind us, it is clear that we will be left with an unperturbed and un-perturbing McDonald’s vs. Hungry Jack politics.

I think these two burger chains should begin a more open sponsorship of the candidates that are left to represent them. At the next elections, everyone who votes for Beazley or Howard should respectively get a free Hungry Jack or a McDonald’s burger. And they will fully deserve it .

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.