Let them tweet
“we (sic) will not be silenced!” tweeted (sic) Joe Hockey yesterday, in response to suggestions he should stop jibbering on Twitter during Question Time and pay attention to Parliament instead.
At least his jibbering allowed him to make a political point for the Opposition in a week that showcased what a sham Question Time can be. Better-than-expected GDP and unemployment figures were a gift to the Government, and ministers lined up to use the data against Opposition questioners like clubs on baby seals.
Questions from the Opposition about the billions of dollars being sprayed to every corner of the country by the Rudd Government were batted away as ministers took the opportunity to portray reasonable queries about the schools spending as economic idiocy on the part of the Coalition.
It’s not. It’s the Opposition trying to scrutinise the Government. You know, do its job. Even Julia Gillard admitted this week that when this much money is being spent this quickly there are likely to be problems along the way.
But with every query over a million dollar spend here and there being turned back on the Opposition as demonstrative of its general lack of fitness for office, persuing the issue is a dead end for the Coalition.
Mind you, their rhetoric - calling the Government’s spending “wasteful and reckless” - hasn’t helped, being typical of the tendency in modern politics to appear to shout about everything.
On Twitter, you don’t shout. It’s a conversational and casual form of communication. After a shocker of a start, the Prime Minister is actually pretty good at it. As is Malcolm Turnbull. And it has helped make politics accessible. Every day during Question Time there is an active discussion among Twitter users about the actual activity in the chamber.
When was the last time you heard a group of people in an animated discussion of the action in the House of Representives in real time? It happens every day now, on Twitter, during Question Time.
The Punch covers Question Time live every day Parliament is sitting, with a sizeable crowd of readers joining in the discussion. It’s easy to tell when it’s politics as usual in the chamber - because people stop discussing the action in the House and turn instead to more fun themes like sport, or the NSW Government.
This week, much of the discussion was like that as the Government hopped into the Coalition for daring to question the spending of billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. After Hockey was attacked for tweeting from the front bench, he defended himself on ABC radio:
... (Mr Hockey) ... made no apologies for his messages during debate to his more than 2,500 Twitter followers.
“One of the things you discover in Opposition is, you’re without a voice in Question Time,” he said.
“And to sit there and listen to the Government bag us out every minute for two hours - I think it’s actually quite a good way to respond to some of that criticism.”
It’s hard to disagree. And though I’m loathe to say this about any politician, it’s also a bit cool. In fact just one day, it would be great for political leaders to take the fight into the digital space and address one another on Twitter just as they bawl at each other across the chamber. That would be really getting into the spirit of it.
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