Trolls, tweets, cheats and Bowman’s new hashtag: @burgewords reports

Michael Burge

Michael Burge

Journalist at No Fibs
Michael is an author and journalist who lives on Ngarabal country in the NSW Northern Tablelands. He was was born at Inverell into a farming family with New England roots deeper than most, and lived within weatherboard walls under an iron roof for long enough to know what he's talking about when it comes to the country.
Michael Burge
- 8 hours ago
Michael Burge
Michael's articles about writers, performers, artists, creative rebels and the writing process are available at his website.
ANDREW LAMING AND SUPPORTERS NOT CAMPAIGNING AT CLEVELAND FARMERS MARKETS

Andrew Laming and supporters not campaigning at Cleveland farmers’ markets

We’ve had a bit of a dark time in politics here in the southeast Queensland seat of Bowman, with a storm erupting on social media over campaign tactics.

It all began when one Redlander went to the Cleveland Farmers Markets last Sunday morning and tweeted about having to avoid a number of supporters of the sitting Liberal National Party member, Andrew Laming MP.

After chuckling in acknowledgment – I also hate having any political supporter shove leaflets in my face when I am shopping – I recalled a tweet from Bowman’s Greens candidate Penny Allman-Payne notifying supporters that The Greens would not be at the markets after the organisers had banned political campaigning.

But the storm had already started.

Being a journalist who follows the union code of ethics, I threw in a few tweets about keeping noses clean and checking facts and the need to establish the truth through photographs.

Within minutes, all the photos and facts any editor would run with were online. Not only were Andrew Laming supporters at the markets wearing political T-shirts and handing out campaign leaflets, but the man himself was there with them.

Reports that Labor’s Darryl Briskey was also there shopping were confirmed, but no photos have emerged to prove the counterclaim that the ALP was campaigning at the event.

CAMPAIGNING OR JUST SHOPPING?

The LNP supporters had not booked a market stall and did not have signs, but were they upholding the spirit of the market’s clear request for no campaigning?

Why would a candidate whose party gained a 10.4 per cent swing at the last election feel the need to disregard the market’s request?

If Andrew Laming ever agrees to my standing request for an interview, I promise I won’t ask him!

It was fascinating to see the story break before he’d even left the markets, forcing Laming to provide responses to a candidate he said he would not respond to further in this election campaign.

In the midst of the fuss I was tweeted by ‘Stephanie’, who accused me of bias in my election reporting for No Fibs.

She seemed genuine when checking her facts on the market’s no-campaigning request with Penny Allman-Payne, but when I tweeted back to find out if she’d been mollified by the facts, ‘Stephanie’ got so nasty I realised I’d sprung the trap of my very first troll.

A good trolling is a milestone for any journalist, so I was a good sport, but ‘Stephanie’ didn’t pause to reflect on this journalist’s ability to report impartially and have a political position at the same time.

Nevertheless, I followed the instructions that an increasing number of tweeting journos have suggested – retweet, reply, and block. Bye-bye ‘Steph’.

How Cleveland Markets responded to a shopper's query.

Cleveland Markets’ response makes it nice and clear.

Just when I thought democracy was on the way out in Bowman, the local mainstream media pulled out the stops and announced a candidates’ forum.

No Fibs’ editor Margo Kingston reckons meet-the-candidates events are rarer on the ground the further north you go in Australia. Down in Victoria they can’t get enough of them, but in the tropics, they’re as rare as supporters of daylight saving.

Perhaps Queensland voters are happy with their voting choices? Perhaps they don’t care about having the full spectrum of candidates in the one place at the one time?

Darryl Briskey, the ALP’s Bowman candidate, told me that in his experience such events do little to change people’s votes, but I suspect Redlanders have rarely been treated to what a well-managed candidates’ forum can offer voters.

Editor of the Bayside Bulletin and The Redland Times, Brian Hurst, told me that although the paper has held candidates’ forums before, he’s never been that happy with the result.

This time he’s hoping to attract more than the “usual tragics” by filming the event and posting the video on the paper’s website before the election, and having journalists tweeting live from the Cleveland District State High School language centre during the proceedings.

What particularly inspired me about the plan is that students will be involved in the filming. Putting democracy-in-action in the pathway of younger minds is a positive result for any election campaign, one that all ideologies benefit from.

Wisely, Brian is not making an enemy of the social media with this event and has generously allowed me to be there with my tweeting thumbs working overtime.

As moderator, Brian will put questions to the candidates from local voters. He says great questions have been flowing in daily. “The aim will not be to corner them,” Brian explains of his plan to present some questions to the candidates in advance, particularly those requiring research to provide detailed responses.

All candidates have confirmed their attendance. Join the conversation from 7.15pm on Wednesday, August 28, using the hashtags #Bowmanpol and #RedlandCity.

Questions can be sent to the Bayside Bulletin via [email protected] fairfaxmedia.com.au

What a difference a week makes! Democracy is being nudged along by the mainstream and social media in communion.

Participate, Redlanders, I exhort you! Unlike daylight saving, democracy will never fade your curtains.

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Comments

  1. joy cooper says

    You do know that normal rules & regulations don’t apply to the born-to-rulers, don’t you? Imagine the hue & cry if it had have been the Greens or Labor annoying the weekend market patrons. Seems they didn’t even dip into their campaign funds for this annoyance.


  2. Good point Joy, the monetary costs would have been miniscule, but the behaviour suggests they’re in trouble, despite a 10.4 percent swing to them in 2010. It doesn’t make sense.

    Make an appearance … sure. Buy some veg, shake a few hands … no problem. But annoy everyone and then play the victim … weird.

    • joy cooper says

      Thanks Michael. Forgot to thank you for the article as well. Do feel that the organisers of this would have known the rules about no politicking at the markets but chose to ignore them.

      Yes it was strange behaviour & could well have alienated some potential voters. I know I would have been irked. :)


      • Thanks Joy, this one almost wrote itself!

      • Jenni van Rooyen says

        Andrew is well known for breaking the rules and has often blatantly done it; why did the market organisers tell him to go away?


      • Jenni plenty of others have said this behaviour of Laming’s was expected, in fact many predicted it. The market organisers are put in an awkward position, because politicians often label intervention of their campaigning as an infringement of their freedom of speech, rightly or wrongly. My hope is that the whole thing raises the profile of Cleveland Farmers Markets, which I am sure will be around and thriving through many election campaigns to come!

  3. Robert Lappin says

    The sort of behaviour described in this article has become an art-form practised by some posters on Australia’s most popular share trading chat site, ‘Hot Copper’.

    Despite the highly praiseworthy and tireless efforts of Hot Copper’s moderators to police and enforce the site’s rules on the politics forum, the relentless stream of emotion-charged and often evidence-free posts is at best disturbing. For example, the moment any poster queries Tony Abbott’s performance a swarm of posters will denigrate the poster and assert their post is either factually wrong or just concocted lies.

    I’ve watched such intolerant, ignorant and repulsive behaviour on that forum become sharper and more outrageous as this election nears. It’s important that no-one allow themselves to become discouraged by such abuses and even more so for journalists to inform Australians about their new political reality. Otherwise our fragile democracy is bound to disintegrate.


    • Interesting Robert. I recall reading a piece on the US election last year which observed the anti-Obama social media frenzy was whipped into such vitriol that the nation, even apparently Obama himself, thought the election was lost in favour of Romney. History tells us the opposite occurred after the only important poll … the election! I think there’s a touch of that going on here in Bowman, but with his 2010 swing, Laming could afford to employ a little more class, according to many.


  4. Michael, I went to the House of Power debates at the Powerhouse on thursday. It was plain to see that the Liberals had stacked those debates as well. Supposedly they were allocated to people using social media to follow up the Brisbaner Times however it was interesting the number of elderley people who would have had no idea about the use of social media who were at the debates. Further it was interesting to note that when the Labor candidate spoke there was a great deal of interjections from the group, however when the Liberal candidate spoke a few interjectors were shouted down. It appears that the Liberal Party are trying to fix this campaign. It tends to reinforce a recent article that said that Morgan Poll is much closer to the mark as the Newspoll essential et al don’t take into account that in various electorates 25 – 33% of homes don’t have landlines which is the only calling they do.


    • Kevin, I’ve heard the landline poll skew recently too. It’s a very hard election to pick when one ignores the polling. The frustration, the impatience and the anger of the right are palpable, at a level I have never experienced before. At least we have an end date for this period of time!

  5. Keith and Margaret says

    I consulted this great website by Australian Marriage Equality http://vote4love.com.au/
    It made it much easier for me to decide who not to vote for.
    We have a lesbian daughter, and I have a gay workmate. There is no way anyone in our extended family, or friends, network, is voting for anyone who does not support the right for everyone to marry the person they love.