Between March 2010 and March 2011 there will be a federal election and four state elections in Australia, and various Greens state parties are beginning to gear up to preselect candidates for the Senate, Legislative Councils and the occasional winnable lower house seat*.
Among these, five winnable Senate seats, an MLC spot in South Australia, a number of possible MLC spots in Victoria, most of the NSW Legislative Council contingent and a few key seats in inner Sydney and Melbourne will be open preselection contests, with no incumbent running.
Hopefully this will mean that, in 2009, there will be spirited contests that will set much of the Greens direction for the next few years. Most of these races will be conducted as direct ballots of all Greens members in the electorate, giving candidates a first chance to show their campaign skills and begin the general election campaign early.
I have a few pieces of advice to offer to all candidates that should hopefully strengthen all of our candidates and help develop links with the lefty online community, which will be helpful come election time. Scott Ludlam’s excellent work on the internet filter has helped pull much of the online progressive movement away from Kevin07 towards the Greens. By genuinely engaging with twitterers and bloggers, we can then call on them when it comes to the crunch.
Join Twitter now. Follow some interesting political bloggers and opinion-setters, then settle in for the long haul. Its okay to occasionally just post media releases or link to Greens news stories, but its so much more. Just include interesting stories, your opinions on the news of the day (even of it has nothing to do with the election you are running for), and engaging in debates on Twitter.
Its amazing how often you hear progressive twitterers heap praise on Malcolm Turnbull, while Kevin Rudd has had scorn heaped on him. Turnbull uses a conversational style, talks about his day and engages with people around him. He takes photos and sends them straight to his followers. You feel like hes talking to you personally, while Rudd’s twitter feed looks like his daily official diary.
Dont wait for the campaign to start. Join now, develop a following and those people will listen to you with a more sympathetic ear come election time.
Having a blog doesnt just mean posting your media responses on your website in reverse order. It doesnt even mean using blog software like WordPress.
There’s a couple of key aspects of a blog that genuinely engages with the blogosphere:
- Don’t just regurgitate your media releases and speeches. Engage in debates going on on other blogs with posts written specifically for the medium.
- Don’t just talk about your agenda, whether it is the policies you’re campaigning on, or your specific electorate, or the preselection/election specifically. Spend maybe 10% of your time talking about that. Show you have an interest in broader political issues and engage in whatever is going on at the time.
- Link, link and link again. You can write brilliant articles and no-one will read them if you pretend that it is just any old pamphlet. Look for news articles and other bloggers talking about the same topic as you. Link to them, quote them, respond to them (either positively or negatively). In response, you’ll get linked to and draw an audience.
As far as some good examples, check out Andrew Bartlett, who was probably the only MP to become a full member of the blogosphere during his term in office, and the NZ Greens’ FrogBlog. Indeed, there’s no reason why state Green parties can’t set up their own blogs on the FrogBlog model. Pick a couple of active members and give them the freedom to do their own political blog.
The Australian Greens’ GreensBlog moved in that direction for the 2007 election, but has since been swallowed up by the GreensMPs website and no longer resembles an active blog. There’s no reason why state Green parties can’t move ahead on their own, starting active blogs on their own.
While Youtube is in a different league to Twitter and blogging, posting your own Youtube videos on your blog tends to liven up your blog. Posting a Youtube video laying out your case for preselection, as long as it doesn’t slag off your opponents and is in a positive light, can demonstrate you understand new media.
On top of that, I reckon it would be useful to see meet-the-candidate forums recorded and posted on YouTube. At the moment many preselections maintain the illusion that it is a private process, with access to these forums limited to members. When you consider the large number of members having a vote in upper house preselections, anything controversial will leak out anyway, so candidates should expect anything critical or negative they might say to leak publicly and thus potentially damage the party.
Posting candidate debates on YouTube would grab a lot more attention, and I believe demonstrating the grassroots democratic method of preselecting our representatives can hopefully encourage more progressive people to join the party and pay attention, long before the election campaign proper.
*The Greens will be preselecting for open seats in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT for the Senate in 2010. I’m not sure how South Australia preselects its Senate candidates, and the ACT is currently working on its processes, but the three big states all use direct ballots of the membership. There will also be one seat up for grabs in the South Australian Legislative Council, as well as Lee Rhiannon’s seat in the NSW Legislative Council and as many as three empty seats in the NSW upper house at the 2011 election. The Greens could also win seats in any of the five Victorian Legislative Council regions without an incumbent Greens MLC.