By Jessie Cross*
With two state elections looming, you may want to know how social media is impacting your vote. Not only does it influence how you vote, it provides a platform for about one-third of us to spill our voting beans on.
With social media dominating today’s society, it’s no wonder politicians are working hard to create their online personas.
Research shows around 30 per cent of [American] voters have been persuaded to vote for main parties via internet posts – while almost one in five registered voters [in America] has revealed who they have voted for on a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter.
The degree to which some people can impact others’ decision making and choices has sky rocketed. So with the New South Wales and Queensland elections looming, swinging voters are bound to be influenced when it finally comes to voting for a party. The question is, to what extent?
According to Alison Ledgerwood, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis, it is extremely common for people to unintentionally be impacted upon when it comes to decision making. This can be seen through the 61million person experiment on Facebook, led by James Fowler from the University of California.
In 2010, Fowler began a randomised controlled test to see how much influence was carried through social media. Messages were delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the US congressional election. From the results it could be seen that the messages directly impacted upon millions of peoples voting choices during the elections. However, the messages not only influenced the recipients, they also impacted friends or users, and friends of friends.
The influence wielded through social networking is staggering. It suggests through social interaction, either via social media or face to face conversations, people are greatly influenced by those around them. So no matter the size, this voting season any gesture may persuade us to choose one way or another.
*Jessie Cross is undertaking her Higher School Certificate (HSC). She is currently (January 2015) on work experience with Wells Haslem.
A message from Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute
While Gough Whitlam will be remembered well beyond today, the days ahead will be particularly special times for remembering and for sharing stories. They will be times of reflection on the man Gough Whitlam. The Leader. The intellectual. The visionary.
As one former Whitlam minister put it to me this morning after news of Gough's death, 'the memories are crashing over me like the waves on Bondi Beach.'
Gough Whitlam will be remembered in many ways, but after this time of personal memories and recollections, Gough Whitlam will be remembered as the reforming leader who willed a modern Australia into being. His legacy is woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.
His achievements are not simply a matter for history - they are embedded in the living memory of our nation. Gough Whitlam catapulted Australia into the modern world. He claimed a place for us in the region and in international affairs. He educated a generation: funding schools on the basis of their need and opening our universities to all on the basis of their merit. He established universal health care and for the first time, committed the national government to developing the outer suburbs of our cities as well as regional Australia. He sought to right the wrongs of Aboriginal dispossession and he sought a place for all in this land we share. He transformed our country and the way we saw ourselves. Just as he set out to, he 'uplifted the horizons of the Australian people'.
For all the fine words that could be written, for us all here at the Whitlam Institute on this day there is really only the simple reality that Gough is now gone. We had no greater enthusiast and no finer friend than The Leader himself at this institute that bears his name.
Our thoughts are very much with the members of the Whitlam family.
This message was originally posted on the Whitlam Institute website and can be found here.
By Isabelle Walker
The internet is now celebrating 25 years of existence.
And I for one haven’t even reached that milestone.
Yes, I am younger than the internet.
That’s a scary thought, because although rationally it’s obvious that the internet would be a quarter of a century old, the technology is continually innovating that it always seems like a burgeoning, infantile technology ready to expand into the future.
From the beep of the original modems connecting through the phone line to having to compromise land-line calls in order to connect, many of us share funny little memories of the early stages of the internet.
From “You’ve Got Mail” to “The Social Network”, the internet has inspired and written a new era of human interaction. “Google it” has entered our lexicon arguably in a way no other phrase has in the last fifty years. The constant effect of the internet on the social and cultural landscape is inexplicable.
In the last few years, however, the gigantic impact the internet has on the social, political, and cultural landscape has been abundantly apparent. The 24 hour news cycle, facilitated by endless connection to social media platforms like twitter, facebook and Instagram, as well as the constant digitisation of news resources, has meant information has travelled faster and further than ever before. No good gaffe goes unpunished and whatever you (possibly accidentally) put out the universe through the web cannot be undone.
The political impact of the internet goes so much further.
The Arab Spring was united by internet savvy youths who learnt, through Facebook and Twitter, that oppression from their totalitarian leaders was not something that happened throughout the world, and through the power of this media they protested and tried to overcome the tyranny.
Images, videos and reports constantly flow from conflicts zones such as Syria, Venezuela, and the Ukraine, reaching millions upon millions of people, placing immense social pressure on international community to act.
The internet has transformed in ways beyond conventional measurement. It has changed the way people live, interact, gather and share information, love, experience, and create. It has been a vehicle for good and evil in the world.
It is in no way perfect and in no way able to be regulated.
But as we navigate the challenges that the constant evolution of the internet crafts, we become better problem solvers, more creative thinkers, and more aware of the world around us.
Happy birthday internet.
By Benjamin Haslem
The recent decision by the Biennale of Sydney to reject private sponsorship from Transfield is another example of doing something because it makes you feel good and not because it will deliver any tangible benefits.
I've lost count of the number of times I've cautioned a client against taking a particular course of action with the words: "It may make you feel good but...".
When planning any communication activity it is important to understand who your stakeholders are, their interests in an issue, their expectations, their level of influence and how they are likely to react to particular actions.
By Kerry Sibraa
In last week’s The Australian (Thursday 13 February, 2014) Greg Sheridan produced another thought-provoking contribution to the Australian political debate. Drawing upon a recent article produced for The American Interest by American Political Scientist and former neo-con, Francis Fukuyama,
Sheridan argues that powerful interest groups have too big a sway upon decision-making and will not allow Tony Abbott to take full advantage of his mandate and implement his election promises. In other words, the power of interest groups mean the Australian political system, just like the American system, now operates as a “vetocracy”. One of these powerful interest groups is of course the union movement.
He quotes extensively from Fukuyama who describes the vetocracy in the US as “the process whereby the American system of checks and balances makes collective decision-making based on electoral majorities extremely difficult.’’
Despite the rich contextual debate framed by the Fukuyama article, and Sheridan’s sharp articulation of some of the challenges faced by our system, his argument and solution largely seems to hang on this one quote. Sheridan argues the whole problem boils down to a single issue – that despite his sizeable victory in last year’s election, Abbott does not control the Senate, and therefore is denied his mandate to abolish the Carbon Tax and make changes to the Industrial Relations system.
His solution is “a small, sensible, technical change” to the Constitution whereby Senate terms would be aligned with the House of Representatives thereby largely correcting this situation and allowing Tony Abbott or any other future Prime Minister to implement his or her mandate.
Whilst I normally have a lot of respect for Sheridan’s views, particularly on matters of foreign policy, in this instance he has lost me.
By Isabelle Walker
It has been reported that the Federal Coalition has instructed its political staffers they will be prohibited from posting their political opinions on their personal social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
While this has been met with accusations that North Korea is more transparent than the current government and that the policy resembles what you would expect from a real life Orwellian dystopia (courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald readers' comments), it would be prudent to examine this policy within the complicated context from which it comes.
These days, everything is about image. No benign remark goes unnoticed and the 24 hour internet news cycle, padded mostly by relevant though disposable news snippets, is ever fed by high profile gaffes, ill-thought out assertions and conjecture.
It is within this minefield of online scrutiny that political affiliates are watched carefully, ready to be caught as soon as they stray one iota from the politically correct line that they are instructed (and expected) to toe.
This, possibly unfortunate but undeniably necessary, is the reality of modern politics. With the heralding of the online era, citizens have the chance to become personally involved in reportage of news and current affairs. There were live blogs and tweets during former PM Rudd’s removal and reinstatement, and the best place to gather up-to-date electoral information on the night of the September 2013 Federal Election was Twitter, not the ABC.
However, amongst the constant barrage of #hashtags and 140-character apropos of nothing, an overzealous scrutiny of the political sphere has rendered autonomous humans unable to independently express themselves, even with disclaimers that their views are their own and not those of their employer.
It is within this context that it is completely understandable for any organisation to instruct its employees to exercise caution and discernment for what they post to potentially billions of people, opinions that are never able to be retracted or forgotten, which leave an indelible mark in cyberspace.
Not only is making personal statements about your workplace or the industry you exist in arguably unprofessional but potentially extremely damaging to you and your organisation.
The social media policy enacted by the Coalition is modelled directly on the one administered by the Rudd government in 2007. It banned political commentary on personal social media sites. In addition to Rudd’s policy is the clause which prohibits publication of online commentary, material, books or articles relating to any ministerial portfolios or the Abbott Government.
Though it would be ideal for any person to express their political opinion without that opinion being a reflection of their employer, it is not realistic.
Your social media presence, like your professional behaviour, language, dress and demeanour, reflects your employer. The policy merely attempts to prevent the opportunity for anyone to distract from more important issues such as formulating successful policy and running the country.
The idea that the government is on a mission to curb transparency within its ranks, a charge likely to be brought by the social media collective, is a stretch. Just as any corporation or company would be entitled to do, so too will the government ask that their staff reflect the values, prudence and professionalism that one would expect from the group of people in charge of running the country.
Besides, if they are doing their job correctly, their political stance should shine through in their work, not their micro-blog.
Recent remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) led The Australian newspaper's Strewth columnist James Jeffrey to dig back through the archives, where he came across a 1999 article covering Mr Abbott's efforts to retain the country's status as a constitutional monarchy.
As James notes, even then there was tension between Aunty and the young junior minister but it was more about Mr Abbott's use of the ABC's much-loved B1 and B2 than any suggestion the media outlet wasn't playing for the home side.
Oh, and the article in question was written by yours truly. I remember the event well but don't recall the ABC reporter doing his best to defend the national broadcaster's intellectual property.
Here's Strewth's take:
YOU have to admire the Coalition's sense of humour. Malcolm Turnbull is the most senior member of the government to have defended the ABC against Tony Abbott's displeasure, a defence that prompted Kevin Andrews to do what is traditionally done in times of tension and/or Cory Bernardi, which is to describe the Liberal Party as a "broad church". Then a short time after that, the very same Turnbull was wheeled out to fire the first proper shot: an efficiency study into Aunty. Somewhere, Stephen Conroy is watching in awe. In the meantime, while we wait for the ABC to be transformed into something acceptably patriotic - preferably called the Oi-Oi-Oi-BC - we look to a possible root of the problem. Let's travel back to 1999 and the republic referendum. Behold this photo of a zesty young Abbott campaigning in Melbourne for the "no" vote, accompanied by two faux Bananas in Pyjamas adorned with the message, "Vote no to the banana republic". Aunty was not happy and sent a reporter to explain copyright issues to Abbott. As this august organ reported at the time, "Mr Abbott told the reporter: 'Thanks mate, you've made your point.' But he refused to stop use of the costumes. ... 'It's a big free country, and if anyone wants to dress up in a suit, that's their business.' " The ABC continued to antagonise Abbott and crack the poops over this misuse of its famous fruit. Strewth can't help but suspect the fates of both Aunty and SPC were sealed in that moment. Though we could be overextrapolating again.
By Benjamin Haslem
For any student of both politics and public relations, the brouhaha enveloping New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is captivating.
For those readers here in Australia who may have missed the story, Gov Christie has been caught up in a crisis centering on the closure of several lanes on the double-decker George Washington Bridge, which connects the famous New Jersey Turnpike with uptown Manhattan in New York City.
The September 9 closure caused gridlock on the first day of the school year. Doesn't sound like much, until you discover the clandestine politics behind the closure and the way the entire issue has been handled by the Governor and his office.
You may recall Gov Christie sprung to international prominence in the aftermath of the Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of his state. His performance made him a favourite for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination.
It has now emerged the closure of the bridge lanes was orchestrated by the Governor's deputy chief of staff, as political payback against Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who declined to endorse Gov Christie in his re-election bid. The incumbent won the November poll in a landslide, bucking tradition in what is historically a safe Democratic Party State
Later that month, the State Assembly's Transportation Committee, chaired by Democrat John Wisniewski, heard evidence from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni who said the lane closures were part of a traffic study ordered by the Authority's Interstate Capital Projects Director David Wildstein, a high-school friend of the Governor's.
Gov Christie was first asked about the lane closures on 2 December, denying any involvement. He made this sarcastic remark: "I worked the [traffic] cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones".
Four days later Wildstein resigned, saying the whole affair was a distraction and he was "moving on".
On 9 December, Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye told the Transportation Committee that he was unaware of any traffic safety study being conducted on the bridge.
The Inspector General of the Port Authority then launched an investigation.
On 13 December the Governor announced Baroni had resigned and that his staffer, Deborah Gramiccioni, would fill the vacancy. He again claimed he had nothing to do with the lane closures.
Six days later, Wisniewski announced he had received documents subpoenaed from five Port Authority officials. Gov Christie again dismisses questions about the closure.
On Wednesday this week the New Jersey newspaper, The Bergen Record, obtained a 13 August email from Gov Christie's deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly's personal email account to Wildstein.
Kelly: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee".
Wildstein: "Got it".
The Governor held a 107-minute news conference on Thursday at which he accepted full responsibility for Kelly's actions. He also fired her.
"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here, regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover," he said.
"This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it's not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four."
It's too early to say how this will affect Gov Christie's presidential aspirations. His ability to connect with traditional blue-collar Democrat voters was seen as a perfect foil for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
He has done the right thing in the past 48 hours. He has accepted responsibility and apologised. He has made a commitment to ensure nothing like 'bridgegate' happens again on his watch. He has punished the staffer responsible.
He even visited Fort Lee and apologised to people affected directly and to the mayor.
But this has a way to run. His political opponents will leave no stone unturned in an attempt to connect Gov Christie to the original decision by Kelly to punish Mayor Sokolich. A federal inquiry has been launched.
The fact Kelly felt authorised to behave in such a way calls into question Gov Christie's management and leadership skills. It also raised questions about the culture in his office and his influence on it.
But let's leave the last word to New Jersey native, Jon Stewart.
By Julie Sibraa
It never ceases to amaze me how old problems, ideas and stories get dusted off, polished up and sold as new around this time of the year. Today we've discovered that superannuation funds, as the custodian of Australian workers’ retirement funds, would be the ideal owners of former public assets like ports, electricity and water utilities.
The reasoning is that if governments can divest themselves of assets they do not need to own or operate they can use the sale proceeds to fund new investment to plug the gaping infrastructure shortfall and meet the needs of our growing population. And if those same assets are owned by Australian superannuation funds then effectively they would be still be owned by the Australian public.
For superannuation funds, ports and other utilities including airports, which exhibit monopoly-like characteristics, represent good investments on the basis they provide earnings stability and long term maturity, that is, a reliable steady revenue stream likely to increase over time.
So it’s a great idea! It’s a wonder no one has thought of it before.
Well they have. And some people have been advocating it for a long time.
I seem to recall back in 2010 when I worked for the peak infrastructure group, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) it was also discovered that there was this massive, lazy pool of superannuation savings lying around that could be used to buy well established infrastructure assets and fund new infrastructure. There was the Cooper superannuation enquiry which amongst many other issues looked at this and reported favourably. IPA, amongst many others at the time, produced a thoughtful research policy paper on the issue, exploring not just the upside of such investment but the barriers as well, with some suggestions for government intended to assist overcome these obstacles.
But aside from the NSW Government’s successful 99-year lease of Ports Botany and Kembla to superannuation company Industry Funds Management last year, it still doesn’t seem to happen.
According to a Deloitte report released last September (Dynamics of the Australian Superannuation System: The next 20 years: 2011-2033) there are approximately $1.6 trillion in total assets currently in the Australian superannuation system, with the pool projected to grow to $4 trillion in the next decade and to $7.6 trillion by 2033.
So why doesn’t it happen?
It all comes down to the ability and courage of our political leaders to properly explain to Australians why this is a good and necessary thing to do. With the costs of health, education and social security – surely the very bedrocks of government responsibility – rising steeply and inexorably year by year, eating up more and more of every government’s revenue stream, there is a need for governments to divest themselves of things they don’t need to own or operate.
When political leaders find it within themselves to honestly and factually explain the need for measures like the sale of public assets, they may find Australian people willing to listen and provide permission.
And that is definitely not a new idea.
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?