The debate will start on Saturday night about whether any of the “e-lection” internet initiatives made much difference to the end result. However, if there are votes to be had online it’s a dead cert that the Liberals won’t have garnered too many of them. They don’t appear to “get” the internet.
This election season we are both managing a different kind of internet initiative. Howshouldivote.com.au assists voters in making their choice according to a candidate’s policy positions, while youdecide2007.org offers citizen-led, seat-by-seat coverage of the election. In both cases the Liberals appear uncooperative – or even obstructive – and lacking any identifiable strategy.
Howshouldivote guides users through a questionnaire that matches them to candidates and produces a customised how-to-vote card. In order for it to work, it requires the candidates or the parties to supply their policy positions. Despite repeated requests, only one Liberal and one National candidate have bothered. In the other 148 electorates the Coalition is not an option on the how-to-vote cards the system generates.
The site has been developed by GetUp! and is being mass promoted in partnership with Yahoo7. 50,000 voters have had personalised voting cards made for them in the four days since the site went live and many of those have signed up to have them sent to them via SMS on election day.
GetUp! probably aren’t the Liberal’s favourite organisation, but ignoring all the conservatives that are using the site is short-sighted. A savvy campaign would recognise that Kev’s “me-too” strategy creates an obvious opportunity to even turn some Labor voters. If key marginals go down to a few hundred votes, the strategy of choosing, effectively, to put the Liberals last will be difficult to explain to unemployed former MPs.
At youdecide2007 it’s been almost impossible to get Liberals on the phone, to keep their appointments with the site team, or to talk to citizen journalists. The early interviews have dried up – since early October the site has been stonewalled by local candidates and the party machine. As a result the site has Labor, minor party and independent candidates putting their case to a vibrant community of voters but no reply from the Government’s troops.
We can’t help feeling that the party organisation has instructed candidates not to cooperate with initiatives like these. Both are non-partisan, transparent and are designed in different ways to help people make informed democratic choices.
Minor parties are approaching these initiatives enthusiastically, the ALP is using them strategically but the Libs insist on running a ’90s-style, centralised campaign that’s focused on damage-limitation and muzzling the candidates.
After Saturday, while the rest of us debate how much the relationship between politics, citizenship and the media has changed, perhaps the Liberals will be wondering why they didn’t have that discussion earlier.