Getting the information

July 20, 2010

Yes, I know, two Coalition entries in a row, but Gillard’s not releasing a lot right now, and word is that the Greens will be releasing an updated environment policy very soon, so I’ll wait for that.

Tony Abbott was in Melbourne today with Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb, announcing that the Coalition had found $1.2b of spending cuts, that would come from ‘bureaucracy’, rather than services. It’s worth noting here that they played the same game of handball that they did with the budget reply: Abbott announced there would be cuts, Hockey repeated there would be cuts, and Robb backed them both up by saying there would be cuts. All of this was mixed with a substantial amount of Labor-bashing, which is becoming a feature of any Coalition interview.

What we didn’t get was any details about the cuts. None. Not a single number. Not even a hint. Abbot said he would be ‘happy to go through any changes that were announced today’. That’s great. It would have been even better if he’d actually announced any.

Journalists in the press pack were given a list of the cuts. Anyone watching the press conference, however, could have been forgiven for thinking they’d fallen asleep and missed something vital. Apparently the Coalition thought there was nothing wrong with simply handing out the paper and leaving it to the media to tell the rest of us.

They’re dead wrong. I’ve been watching the media coverage since, and what we are getting can be charitably described as ‘edited highlights’. The exception is 2UE’s Latika Bourke, who along with @zombiemao on Twitter, posted some details and a snapshot of the list as the press conference was taking place. At this point, whoever, the only place to see the entire list is here, after navigating through an article on the Liberal Party website.

This might be business as usual, but it’s not good enough. If politicians expect us to vote for them, the very least they can do is make their policies accessible to us at the time of announcement, not hand around a list and refuse to answer questions about it at the time.

Information should be easily accessible. If politicans can spend millions on election advertising with parodies of The Addams Family or animated red arrows converging on Australia, they can spend a little in on disseminating their actual policies. Don’t bury hard to read PDF files in the middle of speech transcripts. Put the link right up there under ‘Policies’ on the home page. Take out a fullpage ad in the major and local newspapers. Talk about the details while the cameras are on you rather than waste everyone’s time with yet another recitation of Labor’s ‘incompetence’ or mindless repetitions of ‘moving forward’ (rightly given the hashtag #mofo on Twitter). In fact, stop treating us like idiots who are not interested in what you propose to do if we give you our votes.

It’s called communicating with your electorate, Mr Abbott, Ms Gillard. Learn it.

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