“politicians who are not online should question their relevancy to the Australian public” – Karim Temsamani (Google Australia) quoted here
The 2001, 2004 and 2007 Australian federal elections were hailed in different ways as making Internet history. The 2001 election saw the widespread first use of personal websites by candidates and the first attacking mini-sites produced by the major parties. The 2004 election saw the first widespread usage of sites such as MySpace, video and blogs. In 2007 building on the lessons of 2004, there was much wider use of all social networking platforms and online channels and sites such as Kevin07 that were tailored to interact with the voting public.
In 2010, the current election seems to show no progress in online campaigning and in some cases has even moved backwards. Yes, there are many websites, blogs, facebook presences, twitter accounts and video channels, but they are invariably not social or interactive. The minor parties, in particular The Australian Greens (notably Andrew Bartlett and Scott Ludlam) have used social media, online advertising and online communication to good effect. But the major parties are seemingly only using online media as a vehicle to push content streams.
The facebook pages, created for the parties and leading candidates offer little real engagement with their ‘like’ supporters by the principal actors, but mainly just provide a drip feed of policy announcements and media releases. The comments areas appear to be moderately badly, if at all, and are beset by trolls from either side of politics who hijack any useful conversation.
In 2007, the then opposition Labor party created Kevin07 as a single access point to rally , communicate and disseminate information with voters, such was the sites success that it remains a known entity long after its demise. The opposition in this election is Tony Abbott, but there is no comparable Tony10. Tony Abbott’s own website remains focussed on his constituency and so seemingly badly have the Liberals judged SEO that the Liberal Party website does not even come up in the first page of results when Googling his name. The Labor party have though taken the opportunity to sponsor a link to an attack website. (see image below)
The Labor party has created many campaign videos and mini-sites as well as a Phoney_Tony twitter presence and Labor Connect (a social networking website). They have also created highly moderated blogs that generally have media releases as posts.
The (YouTube) video channels are being used by both parties to project election advertisements to the television media, so that they may be picked up and distributed for free as news content. The television, and in particular the television news cycle, for the major parties is apparently still king, and the 70+ % of online users are being somewhat ignored.
This is very much not an Internet election, at least on the part of the major parties. Maybe it is because the policies that the parties have that are directly relevant to the issues of Internet users are not central to their platforms. There are 2 major issues of relevance, the National Broadband Network and ISP filtering and storage of user information. Neither of these issues has been debated by the parties during the election in any substantial way.
Another issue that may be restricting Internet usage may be lack of money as mentioned in this SMH article. However lack of money would normally indicate a reduced TV budget and an increased online strategy, which we aren’t seeing.
But let us wait and see how the online election develops in the next couple of weeks.
(Note. no parties were endorsed in the production of this blog post)