No more Tweet Life: Liberals gagged as election approaches

twitter-logoTwitter poses both opportunities and risk to politicians so it comes as no surprise to hear of a gag slapped on Liberal Party candidates ahead of next year’s federal election.

The story spread, ironically via Twitter, when the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tweeted the following:

So Tony Abbott is banning Liberals from Twitter freedom… welcome to #21stCenturyAbbottStyle KRudd
According to Fairfax Media, the directive came from the head office of the federal Liberal Party in a bid to limit “stuff-ups and scandals”.  While the directive doesn’t “ban” preselected candidates from using Twitter, it “strongly” advises against using the social media platform and strongly discourages tweeting on behalf of the Liberal Party.
The Sydney Morning Herald article said several backbenchers confirmed the directive which was decided at the start of November.
It’s undeniable that social media can be a minefield for politicians. Only a few weeks ago, Twitter caused problems for the Labor Party, when MP Steve Gibbons called Tony Abbott a “gutless douche bag” and Julie Bishop a “narcissistic bimbo” on Twitter. For Julia Gillard’s campaign against Tony Abbott’s misogyny, it was embarrassing at best.
asktony1However, Twitter can also provide politicians a chance to connect directly with the people. For Tony Abbott, this is what his #asktony sessions are about. Whilst trying not to be too cynical, these sessions seem to be more about Mr Abbott answering questions about his personal likes and dislikes than getting into the nitty-gritty of his policies and political beliefs. In the few times I’ve attempted to participate in #asktony I learnt about his favourite colours, his experiences at university and what he likes to eat for breakfast – a latte and raisin toast, if you’re wondering.

During Sky News’ Monday PM Agenda, the Twitter gag was discussed. By the end speers_200x240of the program, host David Speers had received a text message saying there was no such ban in place.

“Liberal MPs have not been told or will not be told to get off Twitter, they are encouraged to be on Twitter,” Speers read out on the program.

However, the directive never seemed to tell MPs or candidates to “get off Twitter”, rather to strongly advise against using the platform and discouraging tweeting on behalf of the Liberal Party.
If the ban is real, it says one thing: Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party are nervous, and it makes me wonder: what skeletons in their closet are they afraid of?
It doesn’t suggest an atmosphere of trust or respect for Liberal MPs or preselected candidates. It also treads closely to issues of free speech and the rights of parliamentarians to utilise social media to communicate with their electorate. As Mark Travers tweeted today, “@TonyAbbottMHR do we now need to write a letter to communicate with our Liberal MPs? Will I have to include a SAE for a reply? #asktony”.
It’s almost ironic that in our democratic nation, which values free speech, the man who wants to lead is telling his MPs to keep their mouths, and social media accounts, closed.
It seems Tony Abbott is afraid of the power of social media and what it could do to his chances of being Prime Minister.  It speaks volumes for Mr Abbott’s reluctance to embrace the 21st century, and the technology that has become part of Australia’s political landscape. Mr Abbott is an old-fashioned man who, if he were to be given the highest political seat in the country would drag Australia back in time politically, socially and technologically. If he is willing to censor the team he surrounds himself with, what will he try and do to the press of Australia if he becomes Prime Minister? It’s a question I’m almost afraid to answer.
Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are proving an area of concern for many politicians and professional companies alike. How can we utilise these tools safely and in a way that represents a company, group or politician in the best light? Let us know what you think in the comment section, via our Facebook page or on Twitter.
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5 Comments

Filed under Buttons & Screens, Politics in a Pinch, Ruby Views

5 responses to “No more Tweet Life: Liberals gagged as election approaches

  1. Geoff

    Personally I think Twitter is for twits… if you have an interest in politics and the future of Australia and Australians you’ll have a lot more to contribute than just 140 characters or whatever the limit is.
    As far as pollies go, if I was one, I’d have a blog and not use twtter at all… and of course we all know, there is no way to know who is actually replying or posting anyway. So it is rather pointless, much like the character count you are allowed. Sound bite (byte) anyone? Short attention span perhaps?

    • I love using Twitter to follow politics, not as a be all and end all, but as a fast way to find and link important articles. It’s a conversation starter, and a great way to get headlines out to the masses. Even my local (National Party) member uses it.

      You’re right though: it is a sound bite-style medium, but due to the shortness of the style, it also allows people to get in touch with their local pollies without having to book an appointment (near impossible if you work 9 to 5, or are in a regional area) or write a significant amount of correspondence, and it allows politicians to address frequently asked questions instantly, as well as making them seem more approachable. It also allows you to directly reach an interested audience without having to get past the gatekeepers of journalists and editors, which can be really helpful during the election period, especially if you have a limited budget.

      Yes, blogs are a fantastic medium, and Australian politicians should be utilising them, but how do you let people know that you’ve got a new post up? What’s the point of writing it if nobody reads it? Both Twitter and Facebook allow for that message to be (forgive my sci-fi terminology) “signal-boosted” to more people who may potentially be interested in what you have to say.

      Twitter certainly has its pros and cons, but to practically eliminate it from your campaign? It’s pretty short-sighted, and to be honest, makes it look like you’re trying to hide something, especially from the younger generations, which as a young voter, is incredibly concerning.

      Either way, thanks for dropping by Geoff! Look forward to hearing more from you!

      • Geoff

        I don’t think it is a very good enabler Noni. In fact it can be quite misleading, blogs are far superior.

        I’d let juniors or staffers twitter… but I wouldn’t, IMO it’s a waste of time. I don’t have any respect for Politicians who use it, it’s cheap and nasty compared to real methods of communication.

        People seeking information or who are really interested in politics can visit forums or blogs or Party and Member sites, or even comment online in the “press”.

        I agree with you about “gatekeepers” and “empire builders” they are everywhere, especially within the parties.

        Trying to contact the “real” person, is next to impossible.

        I’m hoping to hang around Noni… not sure that “males” are welcome, but will soon find out no doubt.

      • Hi Geoff,
        Males are definitely welcome and thanks for commenting on my post! While our aim with the site is to provide females with a platform to write in, we are not necessarily writing content for women. I’m assuming you don’t have a Twitter account, but if you have a Facebook account jump on and like our community page on there. We post links to all our content so you’ll be sure not to miss any posts. Keep the feeback coming Geoff, we love it!

  2. Geoff

    Never assume Miranda, but thanks for the welcome.

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