Tuesday, 18 June 2013

NBN: Changing Party Policies

Political Parties are both easy and difficult to influence.
If you want Hi-Def Fibre Networking to your house, which means every house, there are 12 weeks left to influence your local candidates.

Parties are completely deaf to requests and issues outside, or opposed to, their ideological framework. It's extreme "cognitive dissonance". E.g.:

  • Do NOT attempt to get the Libs to do look at publicly owned Enterprises, no matter what the social benefit, community savings or how justified by Cost Benefit Analysis.
  • Don't waste your time trying to get the ALP to wind-back social support programs, no matter how wasteful, costly, inequitable or unnecessary.
BUT, since the 1920's when Dr Gallup applied his doctoral research in sampling theory to elections, Political Parties have become more and more the slave of "What the voters think".

Ending inevitably in 2000 in the 50.00% / 50.00% electorate split of Al Gore v George W...

John Howard and Paul Keating were our last great ideologically driven leaders here, in Australia.

Political Parties are predominantly Marketing Entities (they want your vote)

John Howard and his team, were masterful in using surveys & samples to most effectively target where to spend their limited money, resources and campaign time. The ALP is said to be the slave of "focus groups", famously lampooned in the ABC comedy series, Hollowmen, though the writers/producers were very careful to leave open which side of Politics "the PM" was on.

We know from frequent media comments that both sides constantly sample electoral opinions and run focus-groups, just like any market-driven seller of discretionary, intangible goods. Hollywood & (computer) Gaming spring to mind as comparable operations.

Political Parties care deeply about what the electorate think, and leaving their blindspots aside, will and do respond to community sentiment. The most outstanding examples are Howard's adoption of many of Pauline Hansen positions and Gillard's forced about-face on refugees and detention (and Carbon Pricing and Mining Tax and ...)

Both major Political Parties are known to keep extensive databases on individual voters. Every contact you make with a candidate or political party will be logged and stored for later analysis. This is so they can then very finely target voters of all persuasions in specific electorates on specific issues, maximising their marketing effectiveness and likelihood of gaining your vote.

This isn't Big Brother or "1984", it's a highly tuned Marketing Machine. But these guys do make the laws and exempt themselves from most (all?) privacy and spam/junk mail restrictions. Both sides agree that they should be able to do almost anything they like... [Others can comment on the limits.]

How to influence the major parties.

Don't contact the Party Office, contact your local candidate, especially the one that has a policy different to the one you're interested in. You'll be asked your name and address, this will be used for their database. They should NOT ask your birthdate, but your age might be pertinent, certainly your 5-year age-group and employment status. If you don't reside or vote in the candidates electorate, don't expect the candidate, or their staff, to listen closely to you.

I have no idea if Letters to the Editor get monitoring by the Parties. I'm sure both sides place many letters themselves.

The software the Parties use weights how approaches are made, starting with you residing in the electorate. These are my guesses at their weighting system, if anyone knows better, please help me update this list:
  • 100 points: personal visit to candidates office
  • 50 points: physical letter to candidate
  • 25 points: phone call to candidates office
  • 5 points: email to candidate
  • 0-1 points: tweets and facebook posts. Counted by the thousand?
  • 0-1 points: "meet and greet"
  • 0-1 points: petitions, online probably less.
You'll note I've not included "are you a Party Member?" or "do you vote for us?". I've no idea how these are weighted. Party Members have different means to influence Policy and access candidates.

I don't know if there's a multiplier for multiple contacts, or a "serial pest" category where your opinions/approaches are removed from the database. It'd be reasonable to expect the more often you contact a candidate over an issue and over a longer time, that it would count for more than a "one-off". 

But hassle them and they'll just turn-off and you've just wasted your time. They're people and salesmen/women: which is first depends on the person. They will react to you in accordance to how likely they think they are to make a "sale" and gain your vote.

How Parties use their Contact Database

Simply, I don't know.
We know they value information they pay for: polls, surveys and focus groups.

I suspect during critical periods they mine their central database for trends, they are sophisticated marketing organisations after all and feed that into their poll results. I've no idea how highly or lowly they weight or rank various data sources, including direct electoral contacts.

You'd expect them to aggregate data over the Country, State and Electorate, even down to a local area.

The "operators" whom capture your 'contact'  can only classify it according to issue-tags already set up in the database. If the Party is purposefully blind/deaf to an issue, there will never be tags for it and voter concerns on the issue/topic will never be aggregated and reported. It's a waste of your time trying to change their ideological position.

It's a self-reinforcing view of the world, but that's how these things work. All Bureaucracies, not only Political Parties, work hard to filter out Bad News or anything contrary to the Prevailing View.

Call to Action

If you do nothing, nothing will change. That's the only certain outcome.

If you don't like the current Policy of either major Party, especially about the NBN, then you can make your views known, you can influence your candidate and their party so they at least placate & sympathise with you and you may get the Party to modify their policy. Maybe... How much do you care about it, how much work are you willing to put in to attempt making a difference?
  • The more people that contact their local candidates, the more likely they are to listen.
  • The more often you contact your local candidate, the more likely they, and their Party machine, will take notice of your concerns. This is a precursor to modifying or "tweaking" their Policy.
  • The more effort you go to, the more influence you're likely to have.
    • If you spend 50 cents and send a real letter, you'll have more chance of influencing change than by phoning in or sending an email.
So, if you don't like the NBN Policy of either major Party as it stands now, then do something about it, don't just think or talk to people who can't change anything.

Whatever Policy is still standing on Election Day will be the best version we'll get, though after Howard's "Core Promises", we know "things may change" and less than what was promised may result.

Speak now or forever hold your peace. Seriously. Act now or we'll get the worst of outcomes.

The NBN Policy in place this Christmas is the one we and our grandchildren will have to live with.
It will be in place for at least 50 years.

Don't believe it?

Great Public Projects never done are the rule, not exception. Good political commentators will list 50-100 important and beneficial public projects that have been promised forever, but never done.

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