EDWARD AITKEN is studying politics at Notre Dame University. He’s been looking at some of the trends in catching the voters’ attention over the last few election cycles and reckons 2022 has challenged the traditional media – and is there something they’ve been overlooking that could affect the outcome?
AUSTRALIA’S media landscape has always leaned heavily towards covering the movements, attacks and announcements of the major parties, but this election has somewhat turned that on its head.
With Liberal and Labor hogging the media spotlight, independents and parties such as the Greens have largely taken to social media to spread their message.
The emergence of minor parties’ and independents’ policies and agendas in 2022 is being seen by many as more representative of the future Australia they want to see.
Independents and minor parties still face an uphill battle.
Up against the well-drilled and well-oiled machines of the majors, they are challenged with insufficient campaign funding, minimal mainstream media coverage and beliefs among many citizens that a vote for minor parties is merely a protest vote.
Social media has emerged as a handy campaign tool.
It’s less costly than ads or vying for TV interviews, but more importantly provides a platform to build profiles and promote agendas.
The Greens seem to love this style of campaigning with party leader Adam Bandt posting morning, afternoon and evening to his over 200,000 Twitter followers.
On Twitter and Facebook, candidates like Bandt can air policies on climate or Medicare without mainstream media adding headlines synonymous with Liberal party smear campaigns. It also enables interaction and debate among voters who are often unheard in the political shouting match.
That’s why we’re seeing fewer press conferences being organised by the minor parties.
But while they continue to focus on social media this year’s knife-edge has forced traditional media to take a bit more notice.
The shift comes on what some commentators are calling the “Zali Steggall effect”, named after the independent MP for the northern Sydney seat of Warringah who beat former prime minister Tony Abbott at the 2019 election.
Witnessing a safe Liberal seat taken by an independent on a campaign based upon disillusionment with major parties and frustration over a lack of action on climate change has empowered more independents to run, but importantly, more voters to realise that voting away from the norm can create change.
Traditional media has jumped onto this rise, with minor parties and candidates given greater time to raise issues on TV, radio and print while being fielded with questions of what they would do if they held the balance of power in parliament.
Coupled with the prominent use of social media, smaller political players are getting a greater opportunity of being seen in a more democratised media landscape.
Despite steps by mainstream media to enable greater participation, the same old presidential style ‘two-horse race’ coverage of the election keeps dominating the TV screen.
No better example exists than the ‘ScoMo v Albo’ political debates aired across the nation.
The dominating leader-centric narrative continues to coerce voters back into believing the federal election is a case of black and white, Liberal v Labor, ScoMo v Albo.
There is a long way to go before Australia’s media landscape does truly represent and cover the many different and diverse views in our communities.
Mainstream media will continue to push the policy pitches for Liberal and Labor, while social media will continue as the main tool for independents and minor parties to promote their agenda and remain visible to the average voter.
But the little wins for greater media representation must be celebrated.
The mood of greater discontent with major parties is moving through the community, being picked up by independents and minor parties but also the in the discourse of mainstream media.
This not only benefits individuals who see their priorities promoted and debated in the political but sphere but the overall health of Australia’s democracy with greater representation on the rise.