Australian Electoral Commissioner Ian Campbell is facing his first federal poll while at the same time trying to revolutionise a competent but conservative outfit.
There have already been hints — like talk of ending the tradition of the national tallyroom. A decision is expected soon. It’s expensive to run. Technology has made it obsolete. And the TV stations aren’t fussed. Their election-night specials will be cheaper if they come from the studio. Some media — print and radio — are upset that they’ll lose access to the rent-a-quote pollies and pundits who hang out in the tallyroom, but that’s about it.
That’s a minor issue. The changes in communications are not. Campbell has bought in former journalist and RMIT communications academic Sally Davis to develop some hard-edged campaigns. Eighteen-to-23-year-olds are refusing to register to vote in record numbers. The demographic is disengaged, disillusioned or simply disinterested when it comes to politics. Davis’s job is to get them on the rolls and out on election day. The AEC has also hired Haystac Public Affairs to give more grunt to communications.
And here’s something that will grab the attention of Crikey readers on ‘the grassy knoll’.
AEC insiders say Campbell wants to make more electronic-voting centres available for people with disabilities. Electronic voting is not at all popular with AEC old-timers. Mention the phrase and you can hear public service knees knock together — and a few mumbles of “remember Florida”.