Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Politics of Distraction

Today is Tuesday 17th April. In about a week and a half, Queenslanders will be back at the polls to vote for their local councillors and mayors. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about Election Fatigue. It was only days since the ferocious state election, and I was both bemused and afraid at the near-absence of election hype about the council elections.

Surprisingly, things seem to have deteriorated further. Back then, we were at least aware that we’d be back at the polls. Now, most of us seem to have forgotten the council elections are even on. If it wasn’t that every second house in the suburbs seems to have a corflute bearing the beaming face of a candidate, I would’ve forgotten altogether. I just can’t get interested, much less excited.

And it seems, neither can anyone else.

Firstly, I scanned the headlines and the ten “Breaking News” stories on the Courier Mail Homepage. No mention of local council elections there. Next, I checked the top ten most popular stories on the Courier Mail site today, there is not a mention of the council elections there either. In the More Top Stories box, there are eight more stories listed – still nothing about the local council elections.

Further down the CM’s homepage, out of view unless you unless you scroll, we finally hit paydirt, but it’s not a featured story. I click through, and there’s a story about the ALP Candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane challenging Graham Quirk to a debate. There’s a whole six comments on the story, in comparison to the stories about David Gibson, which had well over 200 comments. There’s also a handy link you can click to access more stories on the local government elections.

Curious, I clicked. Yes, there’s a list of stories there on a feature page, but under the Quest Community Newspapers banner. Perhaps the issue here is that the Courier Mail is a statewide publication, and the council elections are local?

I’ll turn my attention to the BrisbaneTimes.com.au. Gosh! I’m entirely underwhelmed. Again, there’s nothing on the homepage unless you’re committed enough to scroll down. There’s the same Quirk versus The ALP Guy debate story, this time with a whole 9 comments.

The comparison here is a story about Peter Costello and his role as an independent auditor of Queensland’s books. Remember yesterday, when Premier Newman ruled out consultants on government contracts? Peter Costello is being paid a sexy $3,300 per day, amounting to $140,00 for about six weeks on the job. I can see why that story might catch some attention, but I don’t recall seeing it in the Courier Mail!

Like everyone else, I’ve been distracted by the spotlight that seems determined to stay focused on Premier Newman. So, back to the Council elections, and the ABC Brisbane Local News page. Guess what? No mention of the Council elections. 

The final confirmation of a state’s election apathy came in the form of a tweet from media academic. In his class of 30 journalism students, only one was even aware that we’re heading into a local council election in less than a fortnight.

It’s a conundrum. If media pays more attention to the council elections, will the public be more engaged? Or does the public need to be engaged to drive media attention?

I think it’s neither. I think we’re all distracted by the fascinating drama still going on in Queensland state politics. The Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidates are so insipid that we just don’t care.


  1. Hi Sal
    Well it's no surprise Queensland is all election"ed" out. And if you live in Ashgrove, where I happen to reside, then the over-exposure to election campaigning is clearly evident. People were bombarded daily by a sea of pink on one corner, blue on another corner, and on some corners a sea of purple (that's what you get when you mix pink and blue). So I don't blame the media for holding their aces on the local election until it counts. What is annoying about the media though is that it is just a battle between Graham Quirk and Ray Smith. Even as a former Senator, Andrew Bartlett barely gets a mention, while Rory Killen and Chris Carson.....ummm who the hell are they? Media is dictated by money, so Quirk and Smith receive all the attention with their multi-million dollar campaign budgets. My campaign budget is ZERO. Other than Spencer Howson, 4ZZZ and MX, no one has taken the time to pursue me for a proper interview, actually had a sit down and get to know me. So because you know nothing about me makes me insipid. You sound like a reasonably intelligent woman Sal, instead of making an uninformed opinion about me because the media has no interest in me, why haven't you made the effort to contact me and make your own well informed opinion based on fact. Take care.
    Chris Carson
    Lord Mayor Candidate

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