We hear it again and again in the news: voters are unhappy with the ACT Greens, ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals, approval of all three major parties is in the dumps and there’s a general dislike for the status quo. So this ACT election year, more than any other, I want to give voters the low-down on why the status quo is going to stay the same. Sadly, whether you like it or not. It’s a problem that we’ve only recently become aware of with some regularity thanks to the the super information highway – the Internet: the ACT electoral system is rigged this way.
You see, the truth is that even as more and more minor parties are being formed to seek public office – to represent YOU, not many, if any of their candidates will actually be elected in October 2016 however, if you look closely, the minor political parties often put forward exceptional and well qualified, highly capable and experienced community minded candidates that CAN make a big difference to Canberra’s working families and indeed public life. Why!, because they don’t put their own interests first and they want to make positive change, not for the present but for the future – so your kids and grand kids can have a better life..
I’ve decided it’s in everyone’s political best interests to identify and break down these walls that have been erected by both incumbents and an non engaging media for showing the merits and advantages of having minor parties in the ACT. The media – radio and print – in Canberra are generally silent on participatory democracy. Here’s my rough take on what these are (in order of apparent priority):
Lackluster media coverage
Traditionally, minor party candidates have to sell their ideas much harder than their major party rivals because the local media typically don’t find anything newsworthy about them. Sadly, this directly translates into lost votes and an invaluable public voice since an uninformed voter will not vote for a candidate they have heard little or nothing about. Whether this is intentional slighting on the part of some media outlets or just couldnt be bothered attitude in covering local politics is debatable. The most-covered independent campaigns are typically ones that field either a star/celebrity candidate or use novel publicity stunts to force their way into the public eye. The Bullet Train for Canberra and the Pirate Party in 2012 ACT election are classic examples of this – in for the publicity (ie no active campaigning) and not for the punter. I did not see any of their candidates once campaigning.
The media in Canberra seems that they don’t want to be seen rocking the political boat and disinterested in innovative ways of doing things better – often the trade mark of minor political parties.
Fundraising and volunteers
This deserves to go after the media coverage, because while a campaign is usually small when it’s starting, the coverage of the campaign is what drives informed voters to begin financially supporting and volunteering for a campaign. Once the media coverage is triggered, a campaign can typically sustain it’s momentum through increased news generation, campaign events and fundraisers.
Without Canberra media coverage, fund raising and attracting volunteers and committed voters dies in the arse for Canberra minor political parties.
Many pollsters will often lump all ACT minor political parties into “other” categories or not include them at all. Unfortunately, without the aforementioned media coverage, when they are included they often fall into the 2% margins which can not harm the major political parties’ campaigns. One way that minor parties can attack this issue is by openly criticising the pollsters who are not inclusive. But the media won’t print it anyway.
Debating major candidates
The bar has been set excruciatingly high for ACT minor political parties. Their candidates are seldom invited to public forums and if they are the moderator often keeps their voice silent and allow the major parties to hoodwink you into voting for them.
Minor Parties do actually have very good, if not better policy ideas than the major political parties. Why, because they are passionate about making a significant and positive difference for there communities. Yet the media doesn’t want to see it that way, let alone report wonderful minor political party policy ideas. Minor party candidates actually work harder than most political party incumbents and are often generous with their valuable time to listen, learn and engage.