“The next campaign is likely to be remembered as Britain’s first internet election,” conservativehome.com editor Tim Montgomerie wrote in The Spectator last month:
If I were the campaign strategist for a major political party, I’d certainly be investing heavily in the internet… I would be sending interns on to the campaign trail with rival candidates. Armed with £150 mini-cameras they would be watching everything — seeking to record the kind of gaffe that cost George Allen his US Senate seat and presidential ambitions after his allegedly racist remark was “YouTubed”.
The same applies in Australia – and it seems that the various partisan parties already know this.
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Yesterday’s Age reported on a run in last week in Cairns between Kevin Rudd’s minders and a bloke with a camera who seemed keen to capture every word the Labor leader had to say – but who claimed he was a tourist.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson has told organisers of public forums for the Your Rights at Work campaign they should ban recordings of the event except for those by accredited media outlets after embarrassing comments he made at a meeting in the Prime Minister’s own electorate of Bennelong turned up in papers on Monday.
The PM was invited to function, but chose not to attend and instead send a message – but accusations are also flying that he sent some spies.
Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane has denied that the party had any involvement with the Rudd incident. The Labor leader’s principal press secretary, Walt Secord, told The Age, “We don’t hire people to video Mr Howard.”
Yet video and audio tapes of union leaders are hot property at the moment. No doubt similar stuff with bastard bosses will turn up between now and polling day. And the candidate material will come rolling in.
Virtually everyone with a mobile phone can get video. An iPod can be an audio recorder. Party heavies will have plausible deniability if overenthusiastic members make their own recordings and post them online.
Political partisans are already well aware of the trouble such recordings could cause. Crikey reported last week on the supposed mobile phone footage of a Queensland union official slamming a worker and his “little black c-nt mates”.
Since then, we have heard that the individual who made the recording hasn’t just been warned off making the footage public. He’s also rumoured been offered a grand by a union delegate if he hands over the phone and its contents – for safe keeping, of course.
PS: Crikey, for its part, is determined to encourage whatever media diversity it can. Please send any recordings, audio or video, of your favorite federal pollies in action on the stump to [email protected].