Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On the QT: Politics by Twitter feed

A weird, weird Question Time. On this, the day that the Liberal-National Party Rooms were in fiery debate over the ETS Bill, the Opposition decided to start asking the Government non-asylum seeker questions. Obviously this did not involve asking questions about the ETS. Instead we had the Libs going back into the default mode they were prior to the asylum seeker issue cropping up – namely asking questions and ending them with some very lame, obviously focus groped statements. In this case it was “broken Government promise”.

So we had Hockey asking about debt, Pyne about education, Dutton about health. The weird thing was they asked all their questions to Rudd instead of Swan, Gillard or Roxon. Perhaps the Libs now think after 2 years of Government with record high approval ratings that Rudd is a weak link in the Government….

But look this was all irrelevant (OK, QT is often irrelevant, but today more so than usual), what really mattered was what was happening in the joint coalition party room.

And what was happening? Madness was what. It really went ballistic when it emerged that Andrew Robb had come against the ETS… suddenly the opposing camp had “gravitas”.

After Question Time, the meeting resumed and very quickly rumours of spill motions and what not came filtering through the twitter accounts of various Canberra press Gallery journos. It was a fascinating day for political tragics, as the twitter feeds of the journos relayed in real time what was happening, or what was thought to be happening. Here’s a snap shot of the three best of the day to give a taste:

@samanthamaiden (The Australian)

  • Turnbull fights for deal. Reports Andrew Robb now backing Minchin to delay a deal http://tiny.cc/7xjYU
  • rebel liberal MPs now threatening to call for a leadership spill if turnbull refuses secret ballot on ets.
  • Turnbull supporters also putting the pressure on mps to cut a deal
  • Unconfirmed reports that there will be a leadership vote. Wild times. Stand by
  • its a cliffhanger in the libs partyroom: 33 all
  • the suspense is all to much for nearly a dozen MPs after five hours - they're leaving
  • 46 33 against some suggestion turnbull has walked out. another meeting at 8pm
  • joe hockey now trying to reconvene meeting at 8pm claims turnbull stormed out 39 speakers against 33 for
  • quote of the day: lib mp when asked if turnbull stormed out "he walked very briskly"
  • can hockey put humpty dumpty back together again. i doubt it. just asked senator if its a spill at 8pm said "dunno!"
  • it's on. leadership spill. fer sure
  • kevin andrews confirms could be candidate majority opposed
  • abbott was looking pretty serious squirrel when he went back into meeting at 8pm. wonder if he will emerge as leader ?
  • MPs are texting no spill ?
  • bedlam turnbull out noone knows what it means
  • brandis and birmingham out and into leaders office wont say if spill is on, over or off
  • bimingham says turnbull won clear support to back ets ! would assume he's wiping blood off before presser?
  • ok were on steely julie is here and macca. "saved thousands of jobs" this is surreal
  • I’m the leader I’ve made the call- turnbull says
  • crikey how many times is he going to say he's the leader
  • its crash through and i fear very shortly..crash
  • julie a little luke warm there. human shield
  • turnbull is an interesting cat. he will split the party to give PM a win before Copenhagen. frank sinatra defence
  • i did it myyyyyyyyyy waaaay

@latikambourke (fairfax radio)

  • Tuckey's call for a leadership spill has been ignored and debate is continuing, says one Lib
  • Another source says 'not long now,' which I assume means not long until the decision is made. Another source says it's evenly split
  • Source says still 10-15 people to speak on ETS (3 mins each) so still some time to go on the coalition partyroom meeting
  • half a dozen more to go with the yes and noes locked at 33 all
  • Turnbull supporter says all is under control and they have the numbers.
  • Rebels doubt likelihood of any leadership spill. Tuckey's muted attempt may be as good as we'll get tonight?
  • Source says Turnbull declaring victory, didn't have the numbers so declared it while Senators were in a division
  • Yep, source says Malcolm's definitely declared it at 50-35.
  • Sources say mass confusion and another partyroom meeting at 8pm to clear up the outcome.
  • Malcolm chucked a wobbly apparently and said the party had to back the Shadow Cabinet. Dissenters playing down supporters' claims of MT win.
  • Andrews says if this is a spill he's a candidate.
  • Definitely a spill!
  • Everyone out. No spill. Source says lib exerted his authority. From Turnbull supporter.
  • Bronwyn Bishop walked said it was an extraordinary meeting. Confirmed Turnbull didn't have the numbers and looked as though been crying
  • Turnbull, 'i've saved thousands of jobs,' (including my own, just)
  • Turnbull, 'i'm the leader, I've made the call.'

@David_Speers (Sky news)

  • turnbull critics concede he will win today and now doubt any leadership spill
  • No decision in Coalition...they will go back into talks after question time.,
  • Turnbull backers still confident he has 2/3rds support. But on speakers so far it's about 50-50. No-one has threatened leadership spill.
  • rebel liberal MPs now threatening to call for a leadership spill if turnbull refuses secret ballot on ets
  • Key critic of ETS deal tells me only "murmers" of leadership spill if they don't get a secret ballot. But nothing serious.
  • wilson tuckey has moved a spill motion
  • According to a separate source Tuckey threatened spill in his speech, but didn't actually move a spill motion
  • short break in Coalition meeting for Senate division. they're about to go in with 10-15 still to speak. latest estimate 50-40 for Turnbull
  • source says 40-33 against a deal, but Turnbull declared victory (he must be counting the shadow cabinet as 20 more on his side)
  • turnbull has definitely declared victory - several sources
  • ok. they're going back in at 8pm for Turnbull to formally declare result. but he's already declared victory with Senators out of room. odd
  • source: Leadership spill at 8pm
  • Hearing there will be a leadership spill at 8pm. A vote on Turnbull's leadership. if he's dumped, then options considered. hmmm
  • several other sources say they're not sure if there's a spill at 8pm
  • andrews says he may run if spill called
  • If spill successful, sources expect Tony Abbott will take leadership
  • no spill
  • lib source: spill thurs morning

It was fascinating to see news in action – the rumours, the words from sources, the missteps that wouldn’t ever make the final copy, the reactions, the commentary. This is what Twitter, and the net, does best. I don’t know if once news.ltd goes behind the paywall whether their journalists will have to cease twitter as well, but if so it would be a sad day.

Today these journalists (and the others who also were tweeting) gave their followers unfiltered news. No one viewed it as equivalent to an article in a newspaper, or a radio report. You forgive spelling errors, you forgive misreports – the incorrect call that a leadership spill was on. To suggest that these were errors of reportage are to completely miss the point. This was news as it happened, and thanks to twitter we could follow it “live” AND (importantly) participate. Many people were retweeting comments, many were replying to the various journos and were getting responses to questions, others were tweeting friends and followers, commenting on events, making jokes, predictions and generally having fun with the news and the sense of being almost on the inside.

Today was an example of the future of the media. It was fantastic.

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