Joe Blogs, But I Wouldn't Vote for Him


In recent elections here and abroad, it’s been pretty easy to see who has a better handle on the internet and the way that it can be used to reach voters.

But merely respecting the importance of the internet in modern politics isn’t enough.

The Obama campaign turned its deeper understanding of the net into votes. The Rudd campaign didn’t — even if the mainstream media made a lot of noise over it at the time, claiming that Rudd’s ingenious use of the internet had "won" him a whole generation of young voters.

It hadn’t. The commentators just showed that they didn’t understand the technology either, just as they misunderstand young people (who it turns out didn’t just vote for whoever had the coolest MySpace page).

Internet campaigning can be extremely useful and a great way to maintain relevance (see Obama’s whiz-bang transition site), and Kevin should remember this or at the next election he could find his opponent has, like, a heaps bigger friends list and a stronger following online.

Take a look at this recent blog post from the man who wants his job:

"Lucy and I found the first half of the walk especially interesting as it went through the redeveloped areas around Pyrmont, Walsh Bay, Ultimo — so much has happened there so recently it was good to see it and of course Lucy had been heavily involved in much of the planning decisions during her time on the City Council."

Lucy seems in good form, and Malcolm had a wonderful time — it’s almost like knowing them in real life!

Malcolm even has an adorable dog blog, written from the perspective of his dogs, "We love walking around Potts Point with our humans — everyone always stops to say hello and give us a cuddle. In fact, people usually prefer to talk to us instead of our humans," writes Bandit. "It’s also great fun meeting up with Mellie and Jojo. The four of us have a great time, though usually the older girls are less interested in running around barking mad like Spook and I love to do. They think they’re so mature."

How could anyone not feel like they really know Malcolm Turnbull?

One commenter, "Cozzi", isn’t so keen, "This is insane," he says of Bandit’s blog entry. But "Rexona", who describes herself as "a bitch from Darlinghurst [who loves]walking around safe Liberal seats on the North Shore," seems pretty keen to hook up with Bandit for romance with a view to a possible long walk along a dog-friendly beach.

Mutts aside, it will be interesting to see whether either party learns from this year’s presidential race and uses the internet to actually do something rather than blathering on about going to Coluzzi’s for coffee.

The rest of Turnbull’s team is a bit hit and miss in the online department. In fact, Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Nick Minchin, doesn’t have a blog — or any online presence beyond the usual party press release feed.

Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Climate Change Environment and Water, has a blog, though he doesn’t appear to spend much time there.

They could do worse than seek some online tips from the Tories. Tory leader, David "Web" Cameron, may not be into blogging, but his site does make all the right consultative noises, and the Tories’ site, which brands itself as being all about clean air, trees and blue skies, seems very in touch with what people want. Whether or not the Tories would give it to them is another question.

Kevin Rudd’s new site, KevinPM, isn’t a blog so much as "death by YouTube", although Peter Garrett and Treasurer-in-waiting Lindsay Tanner appear to understand the effectiveness of a good online presence. Having said that, there still seems to be a lack of sharing information beyond press releases and "active in the community" pics.

Fittingly, the youngest member in Parliament, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has an engaged site and the Greens blog is a good resource for news and views.

In the face of such a slow response by pollies to exploit the net, one MP has even gone so far as to commission research into the poor state of politicians’ blogs. NSW Upper House MP Penny Sharpe, a member of the bruised and busted NSW ALP, has blogged extensively, but she’s in a small minority, as her findings show:

"Only 39 of the 136 members of the New South Wales Parliament have personal websites. Only 12 of the 39 websites had recently updated information; 18 others had media releases as their only current information; three were a few months old and were out of date, and five were a few years out of date."

It may be comforting for Australian pollies struggling with the new media battleground to hear that even super high-profile candidates in the US are lagging behind on this one. Former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani’s website "JoinRudy2008" is so out of date that it’s still accepting contributions to his presidential tilt. On the other hand you could argue that he’s showing enormous faith in the power of internet campaigning.

There is one new Australian political party we can expect to have a strong presence online, with a platform including a national sex education curriculum, reducing censorship, scrapping the Federal Government’s proposed internet filter and supporting gay marriage. The Australian Sex Party launches this week, and if it manages to get someone into Parliament, there’s a good chance they might also produce one of the first pollie blogs worth reading.

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.