It was early of March that we first began to hear the budget might be moved to accommodate a July 2 double dissolution. In other words, this is about the eleventh week of the campaign. The leaders are pacing themselves. You can see it from their schedules. Yes, they’re flitting around the country, but it’s one state at a time, not two in a day. At the moment it’s one major event in one location every 24 hours.
Malcolm Turnbull obviously hopes the Liberal Party and its customary friends and supporters will set their reservations, slowly slide in behind him and close ranks for the final weeks, rather than be deprived of victory. Bill Shorten hopes the long policy game he’s been playing will pay dividends. And the media are left to work with what they’ve got, which leaves them in a quandary. Even as the photo-op backdrops change, there are only so many times you can show the Prime Minister saying “We have a plan for jobs and growth.” Ditto with Bill Shorten and “fairness”.
But that won’t stop the 24-hour news channels. And it hasn’t stopped the newspapers, who are live-blogging the campaign on their websites. And if Sky, ABC News 24 and their live updates aren’t enough for you, there are any number of subscriber email digests to sign up to. Take The Guardian Australia, for instance. Even though it likes to think of itself as desperately democratic, it is actually even more of a niche product than the Financial Review.
Once upon a time its readers would have perched at their favourite coffee bar with a packet of Gauloises insouciantly placed on the counter alongside them. Now, displaying the Grauniad on their iPhones or MacBook Airs serves the same purpose. But the Guardian also wants to present itself as the voice of people. So it loads up its outgoing politics emails to subscribers with piles of tweets — Twitter, of course, being the new vox populi. Or perhaps that should be pox populi. Some are from civilians. Some are from pollies. Some are from journos – journos reporting journos is a very important way of filling any embarrassing lacunae in the modern media world. And some come from the self-styled web wits who were once only able to share their brilliance with the backs of lavatory doors.
Others come from – well – others. The Guardian chose to pack its last election brief with a whole lot of tweets that were largely screen shots of the reactions to 7.30 report on the three-cornered contest in Indi almost 24 hours before. “I’ve watched the 7.30 segment on Mirabella and McGowan twice and I want to watch it again,” was the most significant comment that accompanied the images.
Ah, but that came from Freya Newman, the student Trot-type who dipped into the records at the design school where she worked to reveal information that, according to the student Trot-themed New Matilda and some equally puerile publications of the left, were deeply embarrassing to Tony Abbott. After her day in court, Ms Newman waltzed straight into a job with the Greens.
Her reproduced tweets weren’t just stale. They were … nothing. They weren’t observations. They weren’t even reflections. They were just repeated images.
Rather like the campaign so far.