Hume Campaign Diary - Jan. 25

Hi again.

It’s Friday, so it’s time for another rambling campaign diary.

This week there aren’t many press releases, letters to the editor or stories to refer to so I might cast the political net a bit more broadly and then drag it back to local matters.

Firstly, casting that metaphoric net overseas, and this week we saw the second inauguration of Barack Obama and it reminded me of two things – the power of social media and the strength of leadership and vision.

Of course this wasn’t the first inauguration for Barack - or Bazza as he’d be called here, especially on Australia Day. He had his first back in 2009 following his successful 2008 campaign. And that campaign was an interesting mix of the old and the new.

The new was social media (and it has to be said, an African American president).  Facebook and Twitter weren’t exactly brand spanking-new by the time the 2008 election rolled around, but they were new in terms of presidential campaign.

Facebook was launched in February 2004 and Twitter in March 2006. Even is a quick thinking presidential candidate had wanted to use Facebook for the 2004 election, it didn’t have the reach and public awareness that it would grow to have.

In elections around the world between the 2004 and 2008 US presidential elections, many politicians did dabble in social media powered election campaigns, including Kevin Rudd in his successful Kevin 07 campaign, but the Obama campaign took the level  of social media involvement to unprecedented levels.

Politicians made use of personal accounts, as did media outlets, lobbyists, interest groups, commentators… you name it. Where previously mainstream media, advertising campaigns and letter drops were the only ways prospective voters received information and publicity regarding elections, now social media was just as far-reaching as traditional media had ever been – moreso in fact because it offered interactivity to the voting public.

Technologically, it was a watershed election because you can never uninvent social media. You can never take it back out of the equation. Every future election will now take place in a world where social media is a powerful part of the framework and infrastructure – a part that not only candidates but also voters, media outlets and other interested parties can all control to varying extents.

In that respect it is chaotic… it’s instantaneous, free-wheeling and often unedited. And it also involves a power shift across to the masses and for all of those reasons is part of every election that no politician can afford to ignore or to treat lightly.

UNSOLICITED FREE-PLUG: Consider reading “The Rise of the Fifth Estate: Social media and blogging in Australian politics” by Greg Jericho… a great read and very enlightening.

But I said Bazza Obama’s original election involved the new AND the old.

The old was the projection of leadership and hope. In fact the Obama posters featuring the word HOPE were probably the most memorable image of the election.

Obama’s campaign gave to a new generation a potential JFK, or even a Bill Clinton - a man with a vision who promised change and, well, hope. They are enticing concepts and in Obama’s case were just what the doctor ordered for a country largely disillusioned following eight years of a heavily criticised George W Bush administration.

Did Obama deliver? That’s a very different question, and one to which even his most ardent supporters would admit the answer was “partially” at best – even if they level the blame at a hostile House of Reps.

But the power of the image, the idea of leadership… it’s the thing that elevates politics to something more. It lifts politics above argy bargy, political tricks and political wrangling, and inspires people to greater things.

It’s a quality that very few politicians manage to showcase, and even those that do may only exhibit it at specific times.

Surely even Republicans would agree JFK motivated and mobilised America, and despite his many flaws left the world with the moon landing and the Peace Corps as his legacies.

At times of crisis, like the Bali bombings or the Boxing day tsunami – John Howard was a presidential style leader, almost the father of the nation, as he took charge and acted the way every Australian would want.

Likewise Kevin Rudd, when he made he said the simple word “Sorry” and apologised to the stolen generations moved people not just around Australia but around the world.

Locally our mayor Geoff Kettle is a man who comes into his own at times of crisis, and that’s not at all a criticism of the day to day job he does as mayor. When the floods came last year, he exhibited the leadership qualities Goulburn needed at the time: concerned but not alarmist; open to and supportive of expert advice; informative to the public and he also worked himself ragged.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m only too happy to disagree with him on any number of local matters and I’m not elevating him to sainthood just yet. Go get a twitter account Geoff, you luddite! I’m saying that, while leadership is hard to describe, you know it when you see it.

Now there’ll be some people that will never see any good in some people because of their own political leanings. Certainly both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have their own personal and political failings, but some people will never see any good in either of them on purely political grounds and I’ll never be able to convince them otherwise.

But the point I’m making isn’t so much that either is praiseworthy or not, but that politicians… really, really good ones… have the capacity to unite us, to take us to something better and to (dare I say it) even change the world.

And if that sounds too idealistic or Pollyanna-ish, I don’t apologise. Inspirational leaders do exist and we have the right to hope for them. The problem for politicians, however, is that it is very hard to ascend to anything that lofty if they have engaged in the sometimes ugly day-to-day confrontational argy bargy of party political electioneering. It’s hard to shine a light to others if you’ve spent your time in the mud.

Tough mix isn’t it… to stand up for yourself, to explain what you perceive as the flaws in your opponents plans, and yet still maintain that aura of a dignified leader.

Well that’s the job.

So that was a way of drawing a few things out of Obama’s inauguration in the absence of much local content to refer to.

But there were a few things of more local interest.

Firstly… Angus Taylor will be representing Alby Schultz at the Australia Day ceremony this year.

I’ve touched on this before (Alby giving Angus a leg up by allowing him to sub in for him at official events) WAYYYYYYYY back in Week 01 and got a fair bit of feedback that suggested I wasn’t on my Pat Malone on this topic, so I’ll take another run at it and see if I can illustrate my point more clearly this time.

I’ve filmed the last two Australia Day ceremonies in Victoria Park and on both occasions Alby wasn't able to attend due to ceremonies elsewhere in the electorate and so on, and that's totally fair enough. To my knowledge (and I can check the videos) no-one was named as his substitute on those occasions. So I’m thinking either there’s no need for a substitute (in which case why have one now) or else if there is a need for a substitute, what happened in 2011 and 2012?

Even if there is a substitute, I don’t think it should be a hand-pass to someone for such prosaic reasons as trying to give someone a leg-up in a political race by allowing the as-yet-unearned appearance of officialness (not actually a word, I know).

If Angus is on the stage, then why not Adrian, James and Bruce (the other members of the Beatles)? In fact why stop there. I’m also not the Member for Hume, so I’m equally qualified for a spot on stage. My son Bobby is only four so he’s little and can’t see over crowds so maybe there’s room for him as well. Of course as a parent you can’t show favourites so Nikki and Jamie, although bigger than Jamie, might also like to be on stage. Then there’s friends and family, neighbours and workmates… who do we leave out?

My problem with this isn’t just that I don’t think official invitations should be transferable, but also that I’d like to think no candidate would want any unfair advantages.

When I spoke of this ten weeks ago I mentioned it’s like Usain Bolt being given the gold medal BEFORE he races just because he is the widely regarded favourite. Here’s another Usain Bolt analogy. It’s like saying to Usain “how would you like a ten metre head start” when he is already a pretty fair chance of doing well. Would Usain accept the advantage or would he like to win on a level playing field?

From what I’ve seen so far, Angus is a hard-working bloke who is putting in the hardest yards of all the candidates so far.  I doubt he expects anything to be handed to him but I think… me personally… just my opinion… filling-in for Alby looks like a hand-out or a leg-up.

And before I get branded for attacking one party, (a) it’s very hard to have a go at Labor when they haven’t given us a candidate yet and (b) I also reckon Julia Gillard ignoring procedure to hand-pick Nova Peris (I'm having a go at how she did it, not who she chose) and the federal government’s requirement for politicising the BER with school acknowledgements this year are also on the nose.

Secondly, and also locally, Bruce Nicholson got a wake-up call about the size and scope of the job ahead of him thanks to some comments by Katter Australia Party candidates around the country and the responses (and lack of responses) by Party leader Bob Katter.

When asked on Twitter what he thought of the "anti-gay comments from KAP Candidates Tess Corbett and Bernard Gaynor?", Bruce replied: "Mate I'm going to let management decide what action they want to take before making comment. Get back to me then. Cheers.”

Well handled. Very politic. Deftly managed, Bruce. But you know what? You sounded a lot like a politician, and the KAP point of difference is to be different to the big two.

Your answer wasn’t such a bad one Bruce, in fact it might be an example of restraint on social media, but it will be interesting at some future date if you try to pin down any other candidates on where they stand on something said or done by that candidate’s colleagues. They may choose to see what their party says before they comment.

Boom! Welcome to the Big Leagues Bruce.

Okay, that’s enough typing for today. And I only went off on twenty different tangents today because I’m not getting many press releases, letters to the editor, itinerary details or other content from candidates – so blame them.

Either they’ve started pacing themselves or they’ve cottoned onto just how poorly read and uninfluential this blog is. Dammit.

In any event, candidates, it’s in your hands. If you wish to save the good people of Hume (Humans as I call us) from having to read this guff, then SEND ME STUFF.

So, king of the week… I got one press release from James Harker-Mortlock (who also sent the same info as a letter to the editor and a post on Facebook and I was sorely tempted to use those as marks against him) so  he takes the crown narrowly this week.

As always, we've summarised what happened online regarding the Hume election in the Hume Chronicles and I've linked the one press release received below.

Happy Australia Day and, all things well, see you next week.




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