You can’t help but notice the vast gulf
between election campaigning in Australia
and New Zealand.
Media management has reduced Australian
campaigns to a secretive and minimalist world, where the media are never told
in advance what will be occurring each day, and what does occur is almost
certain to be the only event of the day. Even the one and only debate between
the leaders has become a bauble that the Prime Minister of the day dangles
seductively before tossing it to his favoured network.
Not so in New Zealand. The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader debate each other several
times during the campaign, on both radio and television, splitting appearances
over all networks. In this year’s campaign, the two main television networks
TVNZ and TV3 hosted two debates, one a head to head contest, and each having a
second that includes the leaders of the six minor parties with a chance of
representation in Parliament.
The media are also told roughly two weeks
in advance the cities each leader will be in, and on a day-to-day basis are
told where and when the leaders will be appearing. There is no magical mystery
tour bus delivering journalists to an unknown destination. The Leaders
themselves do numerous events per day, some of which are evening rallies after
all the TV cameras and press photographers have given up for the day.
Nothing encapsulated this more than my
accidental meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday night.
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