Live TV crosses, true believers but no poll dance
UNDER THE FLAG
It was not supposed to be a campaign launch. But it looked a lot like a campaign launch.
Blow-dried television personalities did live studio crosses in front of a Labor-red backdrop.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard leaves the University of Western Sydney on Sunday. Photo: Andrew Meares
The party faithful queued to get into the university auditorium, shuffling past the table where neck ties, ALP hoodies and, bizarrely, puddings-in-tubs were being sold to fund the actual campaign, the one supposed to begin in August.
It felt like a campaign launch. The tungsten stage lights burned hot and the MPs and ministers, everyone from Bob Carr to Jason Clare, and Michelle Rowland and David Bradbury in between, bounded about like excited puppies, kissing, back-slapping, smiling.
The Treasurer was treated as a celebrity, causing a minor bottle-neck in the aisle as the true believers swarmed to get a ''selfie'' with Swanny. As formal proceedings began, Swan rose, and with a kingly wave, accepted whoops and applause from the faithful. Confirmation this was friendly turf.
And boy, did it sound like a campaign launch. Upbeat pop music radiated from the speakers, a playlist that ranged from Stereophonics to Madonna.
NSW ALP general-secretary Sam Dastyari, the baby-faced faceless man with the just-broken voice of a pop idol, pepped the crowd for the PM. ''Everybody out there who wants to write that Labor's dead in the western suburbs, they should come and see this,'' he told them to rowdy cheers.
Then there was Clare, member for Blaxland and poster-boy of the west, who shouted to the favourite sons and daughters of the region - Michael Clarke, the Waugh brothers, Betty Cuthbert, Toni Collette.
Here, he said, was a Labor PM made of the same stuff as the people of western Sydney - toughness.
And then, there she was: soberly dressed in a navy suit, striding to the stage where she told the people that she was from the west, too, a lot further west and further south than here, and certainly nowhere near the ''north shore or the east''.
''I understand a region's yearning for recognition and respect,'' the Prime Minister said.
''Being from the west should never be viewed as second-rate.''
Michael and Diana Beacroft, 51 years married, sat in the eighth row. Mr Beacroft has been an ALP member for more than 50 years and his wife ''only 30 or 40''.
''I think she's brilliant,'' Mrs Beacroft said of the Prime Minister. ''I wrote her a letter that said, 'Margaret Thatcher is called the Iron Lady. There's no metal strong enough for you.'''
After prolonged applause, the PM left the stage for her Comcar and headed west to Rooty Hill for the week. If not to campaign, then to have her mettle tested.