Monday, November 30, 2009


By @DarrylMason

Deputy PM, Julia Gillard, on Insiders :
"(A leader) can't govern the nation by tweet."
And yet, one day we will probably be voting by Twitter, using laptop thumbprint or iris scanners. Gillard :
People don't expect their politicians to just text out a message.

Imagine, you know, "What do you think the defence budget should be?" And apparently a whole lot of tweets come back and you accept that. That's not leadership."
It's not leadership. But it's an interesting way to get some instant unfiltered feedback, which is exactly what (pending) Liberal Party leader Joe Hockey did last week on Twitter :
Hey team re The ETS. Give me your views please on the policy and political debate. I really want your feedback.
Julia Gillard, of course, is not on Twitter. Yet.

If you're not on it, you don't get it. And even when you are on it, you still won't get it for a while. And then, one day, whap! you realise what Twitter is all about, what it can do, and, perhaps more importantly, what it can do for you.

David Speers, political editor of Sky News, has a great piece on political reporting through 140 character messages :

Now it's all about Twitter.

And here everyone can play along. If you "follow" the right people, anyone can have a front-row seat. The role of Twitter in providing information during the Mumbai terrorist attack and the Iranian election has been well documented.

But last week we saw Twitter seriously step up to the plate in Australian political reporting for the first time.

New developments, big and small, along with pithy comments were constantly "tweeted" by plugged in journalists around the clock. While still relying on party sources for major developments, I picked up a lot of good information from journalists I trust on Twitter.


Like anything to do with press-gallery journalism, there's a healthy dose of competition when it comes to Twitter.

Every journo wants to be the first to tweet something new and there's nothing more embarrassing than thinking you have, only to scroll down and see The Australian's Samantha Maiden posted the same thing 15 minutes ago.

But there's also an interesting spirit of information sharing among competing journalists.

I didn't have much time last week to see or the news during the day, but checking into Twitter once an hour (or a few times an hour when the action in Canberra was heating up), gave me what felt like a front row seat to the historically explosive flurry of activity in the halls and backrooms of Parliament House, as press gallery journalists not only competed with each other to be the first on radio or TV with breaking news, but the first on Twitter. Most of the time, they twooted their scoops minutes before they broke them on air, or hours before they appeared on their news sites.

There are probably more Australian journalists working the twootstream than politicians, but after this week, that will all change. The idea that any serious politician will head into a late March, 2010, federal election without being on Twitter, or at least having someone in their office twooting for them, and reading the @ feedback, will seem bizarre, so very 20th century, and pigeonhole them as being out of touch with their electorate.

If Twitter really takes off with the Australian public, and it certainly seems to be doing incredibly well so far, we will see up-and-coming politicians build their base through Twitter, and arrive in Canberra with thousands of followers, instantly communicating and sharing news with their electorate online.

I'm not seeing a lot of negatives to the above prediction. Eventually, it will be all but impossible for politicians to lie or deceive on Twitter. They'll get absolutely hammered, near instantly, not only by their own followers, but by their political enemies and the digital media always searching for that next Twitter scoop.

For that reason alone, Twitter is great for Australian democracy, and honesty in politics.

The brighter the sunlight, the quicker the dark clouds of spin fade away.