By John Englart
24 July 2013
Social media is impacting on how local election campaigns are being run, and even the Australian Electoral Commission has moved registering-to-vote and updating voter details online, specifically developing a Facebook app to motivate enrollment of new voters.
Traditionally, local election campaigns rely on letterboxing, door knocking, and local newspaper advertisements and news profile articles to get the message out. This is still largely the case.
Occasionally community-hosted meet-the-candidates forums are held. I hope to report on one such forum currently being organised by Climate Action Moreland in Wills in coming weeks.
But the advent of social media has added an important 24/7 immediacy and interactive dimension between candidates and citizens enrolled to vote. It allows candidates from small parties with small budgets to reach more people effectively, leveling the playing field a little bit between parties.
With the rise of social media in an increasing mobile internet-connected world, standing for public office means using technology to communicate your presence and policies directly to your electors. This requires a website, a blog or at least a facebook campaign page where events can be posted, photos shared, stories linked, opinions opined on local and national issues, and questions from electors answered.
I did a check of the use of social media by prospective candidates for the safe Labor seat of Wills. (See Wills seat Profile) Most candidates utilise a specific campaign facebook and twitter account for their election campaigns. This allows them to chronicle their campaign and respond to questions raised by electors, and issue local specific information associated with party policies and how they impact local citizens.
None of the candidates in Wills currently use Youtube videos as part of their campaigns.
Setting up a specific campaign Facebook page allows candidates to separate their public political campaign from their personal Facebook lives. I think this is a really good thing. I don’t really want to read all the personal details and minutiae of daily life of these people. I have heaps of better things to do with my time. Just give me the lowdown on the campaign and I’ll be quite happy.
One can campaign cheaply and effectively with just a Facebook page like Adrian Trajstman has done as the Australian Sex Party candidate for Wills. Adrian Trajstman is a local underground indie electro pop musician who has just thrown his hat into the ring for the seat of Wills. He set up a Facebook campaign page on July 19th. In an interview at themusic.com.au he declared his candidacy and listed 3 policies of particular importance to him from the Australian Sex Party: ending the tax exempt status for religious institutions, drug law reform and marriage equality.
If you add a twitter account you can dissemination on the spot news and comments widely to followers and twitter groups, including the local newspapers like the Moreland Leader (@MorelandLeader) and other journalists.
Dean O’Callaghan is standing for the Save the Planet Party on the single issue platform that we are facing a climate emergency and need to transition to a low carbon society as quickly as possible. This party has only recently submitted itself for registration by the Australian Electoral Commission. Registration is pending and may or may not be cleared by the time of the Federal election. Dean works as an organic brewer and events manager. I was able to contact him via his Facebook page. When I queried him whether he was going to establish a campaign facebook page for the seat of Wills, he referred me to the main Save the Planet Facebook page and twitter account (@SavePlanetParty). The twitter account has only recently been established with just 2 tweets and 25 followers. As a climate campaigner myself I hope they can get their social media act together soon and start tweeting their message to save the world.
The Socialist Alliance have chosen to campaign in Wills with Margarita Windisch. She is a seasoned political campaigner who has stood as a socialist candidate in other elections including for the Senate in 2007. She is active in issues ranging from union solidarity, women’s rights, refugee rights to climate change. Wills has a history of left radicalism, electing Independent Phil Cleary in 1993. More recently Sue Bolton for the Socialist Alliance was elected to Moreland Council in 2012. Elections provide an opportunity for Socialist Alliance to argue for socialist policies. Margarita Windisch has a specific campaign facebook page and twitter account (@MargieWindisch) used for campaigning.
The Greens have put much effort into their social media presence. Brunswick East resident Tim Read has a campaign facebook and twitter account (@TimRead_Wills) which reflects current concern with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s plan to ship asylum seekers coming by boat to Papua New Guinea for assessment and settlement, and changes to the carbon price. Tim Read attended a rally on Sunday in Parkville in the neighboring electorate of Melbourne with Greens MP Adam Bandt against the building of the East West tollroad by the Victorian Government. This tollroad will destroy inner urban parkland and green recreation areas in Princes Park and will likely increase traffic on Brunswick and Glenlyon Roads in the Wills electorate.
The Greens social media activity is professional and reflects the Greens savvy in connecting with a primary demographic of young socially aware electors who are already connecting and using social media.
Being a safe Labor seat, minimum energy is expended by the Liberal Party in campaigning in the electorate. Running a local candidate is important for ensuring the party Senate vote is maintained. As often happens in safe seats, first time candidates are often selected to run. Shilpa Hegde works as an IT consultant and has a candidate page on the Victorian Liberal Party website, a private facebook account, but no twitter campaign account that I could find.
The sitting member for the Labor Party, Kelvin Thomson, has his own website and also effectively uses an official Facebook and Twitter account (@KelvinThomsonMP) to promote meeting local citizens and electors, and for campaigning for the policies and achievements of the Labor Party. Kelvin Thomson runs a very professional and integrated social media presence integrating his website, facebook and twitter accounts.
As Parliamentary Secretary for Schools Kelvin Thomson has recent tweets on #Gonski education funding for Catholic schools and wage grant applications for early childcare providers. He recently hosted a Wills Car Industry Forum for local auto businesses and employees, significant given the announced closure of the Ford Factory at Broadmeadows in two years time. He is an advocate for climate action within the Labor Party and addressed the Australian Youth Climate Coalition #Powershift2013 in Melbourne earlier this month. He has over 2000 followers on twitter.
Summary of Candidate Social Media Use
|Kelvin Thomson||ALP||Kelvin Thomson MP||@KelvinThomsonMP
|Shilpa Hegde||Liberal Party||No public Facebook||No twitter account found|
|Tim Read||Greens||Tim Read Green for Wills||@TimRead_Wills
|Margarita Windisch||Socialist Alliance||Margarita Windisch Socialist Alliance candidate for Wills||@MargieWindisch
|Adrian Trajstman||Australian Sex Party||Adrian Trajstman for Wills|
|Dean O’Callaghan||Save the Planet Party (registration applied for)||Save the Planet||@SavePlanetParty
These details and statistics were gathered on 23/7/2013 for twitter accounts used for election campaigning.
Online enrolment – Australian Electoral Commission joins a social media savvy world
The Australian Electoral Commission is moving with the times with a new app for online enrolment via a desktop, tablet or smartphone device. In particular a Facebook App called Youth Votes Matter has been developed and rolled out for enrolling or updating your details on the electoral roll.
“There are approximately half a million 18-24 year old voters missing from the electoral roll, out of a total 1.4 million Australians that are not yet enrolled to vote for the 2013 federal election,” said Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn in a statement on 24 June 2013.
“With the federal election fast approaching, new initiatives such as the Facebook app will make it easier for Australians to get on the roll when they’re eligible or when they move address.” Mr Killesteyn said.
The Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn also announced the AEC would not be operating a National Tally Room at the 2013 federal election. Election results for some time have been provided electronically to the AEC website, where the media and journalists (and us citizens) can access them directly on demand. The National Tally Room provided a backdrop for election telecasts, but was costing $1.2 million to stage. A part of election night history vanishes this election, maybe never to be seen again.
“I acknowledge there is a good deal of history attached to the NTR as a Canberra institution. However, I have decided that a $1.2m outlay purely based on an historical legacy is not a sufficiently strong reason to continue operating the NTR. I also note that for the past few state elections, local tally rooms have progressively disappeared with costs and the advent of online results being key factors.” said Mr Killesteyn in a statement.
Corrections and Declarations
Roland Abrahams was listed on the Tallyroom profile as standing for the Palmer United Australia Party, but a check of the Palmer United website does not at the moment list any official candidate for Wills.
Declaration: Since I wrote my first article I have met with one of the candidates, Dean O’Callaghan and briefly talked with him about doing an interview. As his business is brewing low carbon emission beer, I was given a 330ml bottle of his solar boosted Buckley’s Pils Beer. I have not favoured him in any way above my dealings or write-ups of other candidates. I am declaring this as a gift to be fully open and transparent under the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance – Journalists’ Code of Ethics – (See Journalist Code of Ethics). I just hope the beer lasts long enough in my fridge and tastes nice on election night.