Who’s hanging out with the PM?
By Paul Millar
It is a tumultuous time in Australian politics. A minority government holds the balance of power on a knife edge, its authority threatened by constant allegations of scandal. The country remains divided over issues of immigration, of the legalisation of gay marriage, of the strength and stability of an economy still reeling from the Global Financial Crisis. Despite the constant saturation of political press releases and parliamentary recordings in our newsfeeds, it is hard not to feel disconnected from the politicians who will determine the next stage of our nation’s history. Now more than ever, Australians look to the future of their country with uncertainty.
In response to this, OurSay will be giving the Australian people the chance to address questions directly to our Prime Minister via the latest OurSay forum. The questions can cover any topic that you feel is important to your future, and the future of the country. OurSay is proud to announce that the people responsible for the most strongly-supported questions shall be given a once in a lifetime opportunity: the chance to personally discuss their questions with Julia Gillard in a Google ‘Hangout’.
At 11:00 AM, July 21st, the people who have asked the three most highly-voted questions will be invited by OurSay to join the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP, in an internationally-broadcast Google+ Hangout conversation to discuss the government’s agenda for the future and what it means for the people of Australia on a personal level. This discussion will give members of the public the unique opportunity to hold their elected government to account and encourage the Prime Minister to personally address the day-to-day issues that are most important to Australian citizens.
Google+, who is partnering with OurSay on this project, is a social networking site owned and operated by Google that currently gives over 170 million people across the world the ability to connect with one another and share their thoughts and experiences. One of the communication features of the Google+ page is the Google Hangout, which allows up to ten people to speak to one another in real-time video chat regardless of time or location. Using this feature users can conduct international business meetings, reunite themselves with family across the globe or just chat with a friend from the comfort of their bed.
This OurSay discussion between the Prime Minister and her public represents the unbridled potential for advancement in democracy and leadership in the 21st century, and will hopefully be the start of a new and intimate relationship between our country’s leaders and the people who voted them into power.
The Hangout will be mediated by political journalist Misha Schubert, who will facilitate conversation between Prime Minister and OurSay’s users to ensure an in-depth discussion of the concerns raised by the public. Misha is The Sunday Age’s national political editor and is a regular commentator in broadcast media, having appeared on such programs as ABC TV’s The Insidersand Sky News’ Agenda programs.
Fairfax Media has also lent its support to OurSay, as a media partner for the project, spreading awareness of this event, covering the Deakin Oursay Hangout in every Sunday paper across the country from the 25th of June to the actual meeting on the 21st of July. These include The Sunday Age, the Sun Herald, the Sunday Canberra Times, all of the Fairfax Media websites, as well as the Brisbane Times and WAToday.
Although this broadcast is the first real digital discussion of this nature in Australia, it is not the first time that a nation’s leader has engaged with the people on a face-to-face level through social media. On the 30th of January earlier this year, President Barack Obama addressed questions posed by the citizens of the United States of America in a similar conversation via a Google Hangout in the first-ever completely digital interview to come out of the Whitehouse in real-time.
Even before this event was aired live on YouTube, over 227,000 people had taken the time and interest to submit questions on topics that they felt strongly about, from the economy and job creation to the status of illegal immigrants in America. In addition to these submitted questions, President Obama was joined by five people (or in one case, a group of people) who engaged him in direct discussion about a range of subjects throughout the interview.
As the world watched, this select few took part in a discussion on government policy with the most powerful man in the world, challenging and developing the President’s approach to governing America in a time of change and upheaval. OurSay strongly urges the Australian public to show the same passion and fervour in taking advantage of this opportunity to help set the agenda for the future of the Australian government. You can do this by participating in our online forum, asking and voting for questions to be directed to the Prime Minister and the government that she represents.
But this, on its own, is not enough. If you truly want this chance to see what true democracy can be in the 21st century, don’t keep silent. Post, vote and mobalise. Share your questions on Facebook, on Twitter, with your friends and networks. This forum is a chance for the public as a whole to tell the Prime Minister what they see in Australia’s future – we can’t do it alone.
This opportunity, the largest digital event in the country, would not be possible without the support of Deakin University, which has funded the forum as part of its ‘Worldly’ campaign. The campaign is focused on promoting the importance of a well-rounded education in creating a more thoughtful and active public to help shape the future of Australia. Ultimately, this is what OurSay’s forum is all about: giving the people of Australia the opportunity and the means to play a part in determining where, as a country, we go from here. The rest is up to you.
You can create and vote for questions for this open OurSay forum at oursay.org.
This piece was commissioned by OurSay.org
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