Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said something dumb. Paid parental leave was about giving “women of that calibre” flexible life choices, he said. Fairly innocuous, but dumb. Labor, cleverly, summonsed the forces of social media to fuel widespread (and overblown) outrage.

Or at least that’s the take from The Australian‘s national affairs editor David Crowe today, who tries to tell us Labor was “mobilising its supporters against” Abbott.

“When news.com.au reported the remarks, Finance Minister Penny Wong used them against her opponent … That message was retweeted by MPs including Steve Gibbons, Michelle Rowland, Claire Moore, Deborah O’Neill, Richard Marles, Julie Collins, Andrew Leigh, Mark Butler and Catherine King.

“More than 100 other Twitter users, including union officials such as Michael O’Connor, sent the message on. NSW Labor and Victorian Labor Women also retweeted it.”

David, nobody was retweeting the MPs. We count some 1600 tweets using the hashtag #womenofcalibre as of this morning — whipped into a frenzy all on their own.

Social media, certainly, is a new and increasingly powerful political battleground, especially in an election year. Smart political operatives can harness it, to some degree, for their own advantage — something both major parties in Australia have failed to do.

Yesterday’s outrage as a clever Labor plot? If only they were that clever.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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