Hard News by Russell Brown


Time to Vote

I haven't voted yet. As intriguing as the electorate's unprecedented embrace of advance voting is, I like the idea of going out and casting my vote on the day. For the first time, we'll vote as a whole family, and it's been rewarding watching both our sons consider their decisions.

This has, to state the obvious, been a strange, exciting and occasionally alarming election campaign. From a journalistic point of view it's been great fun. Since I published the first, short blog post about Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics on August 13 (and functionally, that's where the campaign we've been experiencing began), Public Address has served well over half a million pages, and most of that is down to you good folk and your conversations.

Twitter has been mad, funny and frequently fractious. I've picked up more than 2000 followers during the campaign and I almost don't want to know how many tweets I've dispatched. But I'd like to particularly note the working journalists who are there, and who have provided timely reports and observations from the campaign, often scooping themselves in doing so. Felix Marwick, Jessica Williams, Laura McQuillan, Andrea Vance and many others: thanks.

I know that most of them have found some of their engagement with the public wearying. You'd tire of being rudely instructed about your wicked corporate media ways, and presented with banal conspiracy theories about why your stories are a certain way. (Example: People who should know better muttering that the Herald's innumerate 'Backfire' story this morning is something more sinister than a clumsy attempt at a news angle.) Twitter would be more impoverished without them being there than their partisan critics understand.

And we will need journalists to persist with the stories that have dominated this campaign and should not end when the campaign does: the rot underlying the Dirty Politics revelations; the unresolved questions and equivocations around the security state and, this morning from the redoubtable David Fisher, the systematic supression of the OIA process in a way that, I think, amounts to official corruption. As the Ombudsman -- the Ombudsman! -- tells David Fisher, if we can't restore and maintain trust in the system, "We may as well kiss democracy goodbye."

So I don't hold to the view that the big, sensational stories have come at the expense of the important things. Because these are crucially important things. And I hope that once the partisan fervour of the election campaign subsides, we can begin to address them with some degree of common purpose. There is a sense that this democracy needs to clean house.

Moreover, the public square hasn't been quiet. The three "leaders debates" between John Key and David Cunliffe have largely been arid, unfulfilling exercises in scoring points -- but much more so than in 2011, it seems to me that there have been more lively candidate meetings, more public debates and, it must be said, an unprecedented quality of billboard defacement. For all the scorn lately tipped on Internet-Mana, its campaign roadshow meetings were a phenomenon. It's not easy to go out in public and do these things: please do read Laura O'Connell Rapira's guest post on running the RockEnrol youth voter drive.

We need to make it easier for people like Laura, and we need to explore ways of helping those meetings and debates reach more people -- to make the room bigger, by making streaming easier and more accessible, or commandeering Parliament TV, which has broadcasting a holding page since Parliament dissolved. Perhaps that would help us keep up this level of engagement between elections. It would be good for democracy to do that.

I'd appreciate if the discussion for this post was not rancorous -- and, of course, please don't upset the Electoral Commission tomorrow by appearing to persuade any other reader to vote in a particular way. But apart from that, rock on everyone. See you at the polls.

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