Thursday, September 01, 2005NZ Election: blogs, podcasts and websites
New Zealand votes in a national election on September 17. I thought I'd post a few websites related to the election.
National gets credit for having a clear policy section, which shows when each policy was issued. I find the Labour site less helpful, and I hate the way it automatically starts playing a video when you load the site. Labour and National both lose marks for using splash screens. The Greens homepage looks overly cluttered to me. The Maori Party really need to stop using frames. Destiny takes the boobie prize for having their policies online for several months, but not actually linking to them. Their policy summary is linked from the home page, but none of their other policies had links. They could be found through a Google site search, so they were online, just not accessible. This problem has recently been fixed.
Summaries of party policies, and candidate lists, can be found at Policy.net.nz and NZVotes.org (a supposedly non-partisan site, but one sponsored by the decidedly non-partisan Maxim Institute). The Electoral Commission website has information on New Zealand's system of proportional representation, and on the different parties, as well as a nifty election calculator, which shows the various possible electoral outcomes depending on each parties share of the party vote, and number of electoral seats won.
So far, so mainstream.
The fringes are more interesting.
Both major print media publishers have attempted to take blogging into the mainstream. Both, to my mind, have failed. Stuff is carrying "blogs" written by the party leaders (except for Labour's, which is written by senior Minister Steve Maharey). But these aren't really blogs. They don't allow for replies, they don't contain links, and they're written more like press releases than like a blog post. They lack the sense of authorial voice that a true blog contains, and come off too much like an official party release. Better is the New Zealand Herald's election blogs, which provide comment on the election and assorted issues, though not written by politicians (or by journalists), but by businesspeople, trade unionists, entrepreneurs, and the president of Grey Power. Again, though, these don't take advantage of the internet format: no links, no facility for readers to comment. (Both Stuff and NZ Herald enable readers to email replies, and print some of them, at their discretion, at the end of the page - not the same as a blog comments function). Press journalist Colin Espiner has just started a blog, which gives personal reflections of his time on the campaign trail. It looks promising.
Better, however, are the more well-established blogs: ACT leader Rodney Hide has been blogging for some time. Former Libertarianz leader (and current candidate) Peter Creswell has a blog with the apt name Not PC. National Party worker David Farrar has a good (and fair-minded) blog, and on the left KeepLeft is funny. The Greens' FrogBlog suffers from being anonymous, but is worth a look. My favourite are the group of bloggers on Public Address, who go into issues in some depth, and (admirably) admit to mistakes (see especially Keith Ng's analysis of National's tax cut policies).
Finally, podcasting. Christchurch's Voice Booth has podcasts featuring interviews with party leaders Don Brash (National), Rodney Hide (ACT), Peter Dunne (United Future), and Rod Donald (Greens). Their website is here and an article about the podcasts is here.
Overall, the net hasn't really impacted on New Zealand politics the way it has in the USA. Bloggers like Farrar are now quoted in the media, and various newspaper articles quote from blogs. But the total audience seems small - the same few people commenting on each others' blogs. And there hasn't been a big issue (like the Rathergate affair) broken by non-traditional media yet. It will be interesting to see if that changes.