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May 16th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

Lost in the Mail

When a party rattles the cup for campaign donations the first rule is simplicity itself: don't vex potential donors with spam emails. There's also a second rule: Don't mistakenly ask reporters for money, as it gifts them an easier story than reporting on your assaults on Labor policies

dead letter IISo much for the exciting new world of social media campaigning. It’s emerging as the political equivalent of one of the sleazier dating apps. Given past gossip, Labor campaign headquarters really should have given the promo email for Friday’s leaders’ forum from the “Bill Shorten” email account a title other than “You busy tonight?” It guaranteed that the follow-up, “How do you think I went”, would sound positively post coital. One could almost hear the gentle rasp of a cigarette being exhaled as Barry White played in the background.

There’s Labor sleaze – and then there’s the Liberal phishing scam. A member of the “Turnbull Liberal Team” faithful was in touch on Sunday evening, protesting a personalised email that had come from an account bearing the name of the party’s federal director Tony Nutt. “This election campaign officially got underway exactly one week ago today,” it began. “Since then, Bill Shorten has made it clear that Labor would be a nightmare for Australia.”

Then – highlighted in yellow – came the line “This morning I noticed that you haven’t yet contributed.”

Again, one could almost hear background sounds, less gentle this time round — a Brooklyn accent, maybe, muttering about sending “da boiz” around.

The correspondent responded in a good Liberal way; like a well-meaning, well-mannered member of the middle-class – well-meaning and well-manner, but exasperated by incompetence that implied, in the immortal words of that titan among treasurers Joe Hockey,  the Liberals might be leaners rather than lifters.

“If Tony Nutt made the list he didn’t check it twice,” came the complaint. “I have made a few donations and I’m rather insulted, to be perfectly honest.”

Alas, we simply assume Big Brother is watching in the Digital Age – even if Big Brother isn’t all that bright. Your Election Diarist might have let the matter rest if he had not received exactly the same email an hour or so later via an account dedicated to PR missives intended for the media.

Christian, will you add your name to our first week donor list by chipping in $5 or more right now?”

Now it’s all well and good to have an eight-week election campaign if you think that’s what is needed to succeed. Announcing the date of a poll is a prerogative our system gives to its prime ministers. But hitting up the media for the cost of it, even in error, at a time when the focus should be on policy confusion in the ALP?

That’s opening up the door for the mother of all scare campaigns on “user pays”.