Did you know what a spill was before last week? I have to spill the beans (pardon the pun) and admit until I saw it pop up on Twitter I didn’t. But that is the power of Twitter and like they say: “you learn something new every day”.
Australian politics has been littered with spills over the years. In fact this isn’t Malcolm Turnbull’s first nor second, it’s his third after winning his leadership in a spill vote against Brendan Nelson.
In June 1977, a parliamentary Labor Party leadership spill saw Gough Whitlam defeat Bill Hayden (32-30). Other famous spills include Beazley v Rudd and how can one forget Latham taking over the Labor leadership in 2003 from Simon Crean. Or his downfall in 2005 against Kim Beazley.
How times have changed from the mixture of radio, print and a little television coverage of earlier Australian political spills to the continuous coverage of the regular Labor party and Liberal party spills earlier this decade on television and websites. Twitter now brings us real-time coverage and commentary of Turnbull v Andrews v Hockey v Abbott in the latest #spill.
With no 24-hour free-to-air news channel in Australia (come on ABC, 7, 9, 10 & SBS), most of my information about the Liberal Party leadership spills came via Twitter. Of course we did manage to tween some information from Lateline and other current affairs shows.
However political journalist such as @sandraom, @smurray38, @annabelcrabb, @latikambourke, @Colvinius, and @David_Speers gave up to the minute accounts for their followers. It felt like you were walking the halls of Parliament House yourself. Watching the #spill feed on Twitter was far more entertaining and lively than any of the debates seen on television. I guess this fly-on-the-wall coverage is what makes Twitter such a useful news broadcasting tool.
Back to the #spill and for those of you out of the loop, Turnbull’s leadership was challenged for the first time last week after backing the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with a motion to spill held at 1pm Wednesday. Opposition MPs opposed to the bill said there were many among their ranks to support them. However Malcolm Turnbull retained his leadership after the secret ballot with a result of 48-35.
Climate sceptic Kevin Andrew (of Mohamed Haneef fame) led the challenge with Wilson Tuckey putting forward the motion to spill. Most opposing this scheme believe the economic costs to individuals and businesses are far too costly to take on.
Tony Abbott was quoted as saying the leadership fight was not an issue of leadership but of policy, and said that had now been resolved.
“We forced the Government to effectively admit that its ETS was going to badly damage Australia’s industries, badly damage jobs,” he said.
“We think that the amendments that we forced out for the Government will save 25,000 jobs that otherwise would have been lost.”
As the weekend rolled around, rumours were flying left, right and centre that Hockey and Abbott would challenge. There were resignations, offers of support, wheeling and dealing.
Tuesday morning, another motion to spill was passed and Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership to climate sceptic Tony Abbott following yet another secret ballot vote with a result of 42-41. Hockey was ousted from the race early on. We watched the Twitter stream and the live stream from ABC (Thank you ABC).
Twitter is used as an information source by journalists and is an effective place for communal note-taking which adds plenty of background colour to what’s happening on a particular story. Although journalists tend to be serious and professional in their tweets, when House of Representative chambers allowed the use of mobile devices in the chamber this year, a new Twitter superstar was born – the political journalist. Suddenly, Question Time or #qt became a trending topic on Twitter.
Journalists such as Sydney Morning Herald’s Annabel Crabb, Crikey’s Bernard Keane and 2UE’s Latika Bourke began to “..provide up-to-the-minute fashion comment, online heckling and an undercurrent of political analysis…these Australian journalists present a unique larrikin voice in the twitterverse – unedited and informal for the twitter public”
In a recent survey of editors and senior editorial staff by The Alliance, they encountered a mixed response, especially due to economic constraints putting added pressure on staff and quality. However not all respondents were quite so grim with some outlining the added engagement of audiences through online channels.
“Our audience is bigger than at any time in my career and there are more ways to deliver the news than ever before,” wrote one, while another wrote: “I think that journalists are in a great position to gather, harness, interpret, deliver great quality journalism, and now there are a plethora of opportunities in the way that content can be delivered.”
This is certainly the case with the recent coverage of #spill 1.0 & #spill 2.0 with some even prophesising #split as a demise of the Liberal Party. Yesterday during this battle of leadership, policy and whether or not the Liberal Party want to be a throwback to the 1950s or a party with foresight, there were 10,000 #spill tweets in three hours (statistic courtesy of @wolfcat). This doesn’t include all the tweets without the #spill hashtag. Those interested in politics were stuck to their screens and an organic political discussion about the Liberal party, its leadership and climate change policy has taken place over the last week. Coupled with traditional media, there has been a serious amount of coverage for Australians.
The most disappointing part about this whole fiasco is that it has pushed aside important dialogue about the ETS. If economic costs are such a big concern for Liberal Party members – how are they not disturbed at what the economic impact will be when the natural resources we rely on disappear?
If you’re interested in positive solutions and actions to curb climate change, please support our client Run for a Safe Climate. They are raising funds to develop and implement a Safe Climate Transition Plan.
Hope you had a happy hump day! 🙂
the c word