Lazy Luddite Log

23.11.07

Media Hits & Misses

Getting your message into the media is always a challenge for minor party campaigners. One of the exceptions to this for all candidates is the provision in local papers of space for supporting statements. This is the one bit of media coverage a candidate can be sure of getting (assuming they get it in on time and under the word limit - 50 words in this case). Here is mine from the local Leader papers (the question was relating to what voters wanted):

Voters want secure jobs and decent funding for education, health and public transport. They want better management of our environment.

They also want more compassion exercised towards marginalised groups like refugees and Indigenous Australians.

Finally, voters want limits on government power, which the Australian Democrats are best placed to achieve.


The Australian Democrats have been getting better media this election than last time round but it has still been the kind of "blink and you miss it" kind of coverage. We have compensated somewhat for this by using member and supporter donations to pay for advertisements. We have an ad in The Age today for instance. However we had to be selective in that spending so we lack (for instance) an ad in the Herald-Sun (which has much better circulation and can therefore charge more for space). With that in mind I made a last-minute pitch for some free coverage in the form of a letter to the editor. It was far too politically partisan to get published however. I will finish off by 'publishing' it here...

The Democrats have as many senators as the Nationals or Greens, but that could change after Saturday. Their focus on policy nitty gritty is far from exciting, and a resulting lack of publicity could translate into too few votes.

If the Democrats go, then we lose a party that pushes whoever is in power to improve laws for all Australians, focusing on evidence and debate, rather than political doctrine. Senator Lyn Allison does much to defend our quality-of-life, an effort we may only notice if she is not re-elected.


Errata

I was mistaken. I assumed that my letter (submitted Thursday) would be published on Friday if it was published at all. However it was in fact published in the Herald-Sun on Election Day with only one wording change - replacing "Saturday" with "today". This impresses and surprises me. It was a very timely letter to get published on that historic day (a topic which I will discuss sometime soon)...

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17.11.07

One Week To Go

And I am a bit over it I have to admit.

Candidacy can be an enriching but also an exhausting experience and the Chisholm electorate is one of those marginals that takes more of an interest in politics and demands more of its candidates. Most aspects of that demand I have accepted cheerfully but to those handful of anonymous correspondents who presume to tell us what to do but never justify why - well - your involvement in the political process is entirely counter-productive and we have a much wider constituency to cater to than just yourselves! Rant over.

In the last week I will be getting much more into meeting voters face-to-face at Early Voting Centres. And then on Saturday we will be covering as many polling places as we can with volunteers. If you can help offering How-To-Vote (HTV) cards to voters on Saturday then do contact me as very bit helps.

I will also be looking in the local papers this week to see if any of my statements or profiles are published (fingers crossed) and have put information on a number of on-line sites.

Have you noticed how some product advertisements have taken on an election theme? I find most of them annoying but the Krispy Kreme ad is kinda fun. I rather like the spoof of the Australian Democrats as 'Lemoncrats' who "take on the more zesty issues"...

Onward to the festival of democracy!

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12.11.07

Campaign Launch

The phony campaign has gone on for months and the campaign proper for some weeks and yet it was only on Saturday - with two weeks to go till the election - that the Australian Democrats had our national campaign launch. This is partly timed to maximise media coverage and partly due to tradition. In many ways it was a traditional 'townhall' political event held in the fantastic old Ormond Hall off St Kilda Road and done with lots of balloons and ticker-tape. In other ways it was a contemporary media event in which we debuted a new television advertisement (seen in part on the ABC coverage that night).

It was one of the best launches I have ever been to and was filled with both new and familar faces. It was fantastic to have all our current senators nationwide present at the event and all contributing to the message of how much we are still needed in Australian political life. Parliamentary Leader Senator Lyn Allison gave an empassioned presentation on the issues we champion and on how much they have been neglected since we lost the balance-of-power. Deputy Parliamentary Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett told us how the role of a 'centre-party' is something very different from simply seeking to fit into the tiny cracks left between the two major parties and how it is more defined by a willingness to assess all perspectives and all proposals on the basis of merit and evidence. A helping hand was given to procedings by retiring Senators Natasha Stott Despoja and Andrew Murray as well as by Senate hopefuls Lyn Shumack and Ruth Russell.

The whole event definitely energised those members and supporters present and was indicative of a recent resurgence in interest in the Australian Democrats at a grassroots level and even (amazingly) from the mass media. Ironically such events also take time away from the more mundane aspects of campaigning (for a few hours anyway) but are worth it for both the morale-boosting and renewing of bonds with old colleagues.

The Campaign Continues...

The more I get stuck into campaigning the less time I have to report on it on-line. Prioritising between the different aspects of campaigning always involves judgement calls and I am spending more energy on those things that focus specifically on my own electorate of Chisholm. I have written in other posts on the topic of forums and interviews. I have also been letterboxing, writing statements to the local media, and contacting members and supporters to help me in these and other tasks. Soon we will be offering pamphlets to passers-by at local stations and shops. We will also be offering How-To-Vote (HTV) cards at early voting centres and (naturally) at polling places on Saturday 24 November.

Preference Recommendations

I am happy with the preference recommendations we will be making in Chisholm and indeed in the Victorian Senate contest. We preference like-minded parties such as the Australian Greens.

We next go to the major parties. In the case of House or Reps HTVs we inform the voter that they must decide which major party candidate they prefer. In the case of the Senate our above-the-line votes go in even portions to both majors. We do this because we feel that there is barely any difference between the Government and Opposition on so many issues important to us. We also do it to remind them and those who vote for them that we are independent of both and that they cannot take us for granted.

We then put non-like-minded parties behind the major parties. These include both religious parties like Family First and other nonsensical parties like the Citizens Electoral Council. And finally we put One Nation candidates last.

Anything could happen in this election so it is worth taking a close look at how the different contenders are preferencing one another. You can see all Senate preference flows lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission here.

Now back to the campaign...

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2.11.07

Radio Daze

I got interviewed by ABC talk-back host John Faine as a candidate for Chisholm this week. The program was transmitted from Box Hill Shopping Centre in front of a public audience. All candidates for the marginal electorate of Chisholm had been invited and most of us were present. Faine only gave us a very short time to present and it was a wholly new experience for me. In it I was reminded just how much those who ask the questions pose the framework in which answers can be given.

The program I had been invited to was a forum on health and education. As a result I had done some homework on those issues. However I never got the chance to comment on our health or education platforms. The question that was posed for me (pretty much) was why the Australian Democrats even bother standing given our recent polling performance. I think I responded as well as I could within the circumstances.

I had been warned that it may happens as that is exactly what our candidate was asked during the 2004 Federal Election. Back then we had suffered much internal tension resulting in having three Parliamentary Leaders in as many years. Now however we have put all that behind us and have had the same Leader and Deputy Leader for over three years. We have moved on but the media are still somewhat stuck in a timewarp.

I am happy that I got in my comment that the media reporting on the imminent demise of the party is a "self-fulfilling prophecy". I stressed that all we can do is campaign on our record and that the rest is in the hands of the electorate. More on what I think of this topic is written here.

The Family First candidate was given an even more difficult time than me! John Faine was only interested in two things - the ethnicity of the candidate and his religious affiliations.

The candidate is visibly Asian and Faine asked whether he intended to make use of his background in garnering a particular ethnic vote. The candidate could only respond that he was born here and that he was interested in the votes of anyone who supported his party. I cannot particularly see how this question was relevant to anything at all. But then talk-back radio is all to do with simplification and emotionalism - even on the ABC.

The religious connections of Family First are of more relevance because voters are interested in the nature of this new party and frankly many of its pronouncements only make sense once one factors in the religious identity of its support-base. For instance how does the banning of nude bathing make any difference to the average Australian family? It only matters if one is a wowser who objects to these things happening even if one never has to see it. The Family First candidate was somewhat evasive on the religious question and Faine was dogged in pursuing it. Personally I would have preferred it if he had let that line of questioning go and focus rather on the platform of Family First as there is plenty of fault to be found there. But once more talk-back radio has more to do with personality than policy.

The short interview was a tense yet worthwhile experience. It is important I feel to let the electorate know we are campaigning and every bit helps. I was even approached by a lovely elderly person afterwards who liked my presentation and enjoyed discussing those health and education issues with me. I even gave him one of my pamphlets!

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