GRASS­ROOTS CAM­PAIGNS

Can­di­dates ready to knock on doors, get vot­ers on side

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - DAVID BENIUK State Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor david.beniuk@news.com.au

IT’S a rainy week­day in Huonville and a soli­tary fig­ure hud­dles un­der an um­brella clutch­ing a bunch of brochures.

It could be any door-todoor sales­man, maybe a re­li­gious group or same-sex mar­riage cam­paigner.

But this is the Premier, Will Hodg­man, knock­ing on doors in a bat­tling area of his seat of Franklin. Only in Tas­ma­nia? The state’s politi­cians may be go­ing dig­i­tal, ramp­ing up their use of so­cial me­dia, but they know elec­tions are won in ana­log. Re­cent La­bor up­set vic­to­ries in the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil came on the back of mas­sive grass­roots cam­paigns, and it’s a tem­plate al­ready be­ing bor­rowed six months out from an elec­tion due in March.

“The Premier’s got to show peo­ple that he wants it, that he wants to win,” Univer­sity of Mel­bourne Elec­tion Watch di­rec­tor Ni­cholas Reece told the Sun­day Tas­ma­nian.

“They need to see that he’s try­ing, and that he’s try­ing to

earn their vote.” Door­knock­ing is well and truly un­der way from all three par­ties as they seek to en­gage vot­ers and make pol­i­tics real again.

From the Premier him­self, to Op­po­si­tion Leader Re­becca White and teams of Greens tar­get­ing re­gions af­fected by fish farm­ing, the pre-cam­paign cam­paign is truly on.

Like the slow food move­ment of meals cooked for hours from scratch, many are call­ing for a slow pol­i­tics that takes the real in­gre­di­ents of peo­ple’s con­cerns and bakes them into pol­icy.

“Some­times the big­gest is­sues in the com­mu­nity aren’t the is­sues that are on the front page or lead­ing the TV news bul­letins, and that di­rect feed­back about com­mu­nity con­cerns is vi­tal,” Lib­eral Party state di­rec­tor Sam McQuestin said.

“The fact that the Premier reg­u­larly goes door­knock­ing is ev­i­dence of how im­por­tant it is in or­der to stay in touch.”

It’s worked in­ter­state, es- pe­cially for the read­ily mo­bilised forces of La­bor.

And it worked spec­tac­u­larly for MLC Sarah Lovell, who un­seated in­de­pen­dent in­cum­bent Tony Mul­der in the seat of Rum­ney in May.

Ms Lovell’s team di­rectly con­tacted 11,000 of the elec­torate’s 28,000 vot­ers at their front doors or by phone.

They be­gan cam­paign­ing daily three months out from polling day, ini­tially for two hours a day be­fore ramp­ing it up to 4-5 hours in the month be­fore. “So­cial me­dia is a con­ve­nient way for peo­ple to kind of check you out but it’s not a par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive way for re­ally en­gag­ing with peo­ple,” Ms Lovell said.

“Ev­ery­one’s on it and it’s quick and it’s easy but in terms of re­ally en­gag­ing with peo­ple and mak­ing gen­uine con­nec­tions, con­ver­sa­tions are re­ally the best way to go.”

Can­di­dates from all par­ties are at pains to stress they’re at your front door to lis­ten.

They don’t even need to know every pol­icy in­side out, Ms Lovell says.

“Peo­ple ac­tu­ally don’t want to talk about poli­cies, they want to talk about what’s im­por­tant to them,” she said.

Most of­ten that is health, day­light is sec­ond, then ed­u­ca­tion and jobs. But not al­ways. “Some­times they just want to talk about their pets or their daugh­ter’s grad­u­a­tion re­sults,” Greens Franklin can­di­date Holly Ewin said.

“Some­times it’s about fed­eral is­sues or lo­cal is­sues or is­sues with the neigh­bour and con­struct­ing the fence.”

Ex­changes are mostly re­spect­ful, and of­fers of a cuppa are com­mon, but cam­paign­ing has its more in­ter­est­ing mo­ments too.

“I’ve had some peo­ple come to the door prob­a­bly not ex­pect­ing some­one and per­haps not dressed as ap­pro­pri­ately as they might be if they were ex­pect­ing some­one,” Ms Lovell said.

Be­hind the smiles and lis­ten­ing is a sci­ence that par­ties are try­ing to per­fect.

Data from polling booths is an­a­lysed so that can­di­dates know within a front ve­randa where all the swing­ing vot­ers live.

“At the very least they will know which parts of the elec­torate tend to swing more than oth­ers,” Mr Reece said.

“Then they tar­get their ef­forts to those parts of elec­torates where they know swing­ing vot­ers are to be found.”

Vol­un­teers, some­times from re­spected pro­fes­sions like the emer­gency ser­vices or teach­ing, are trained in deal­ing with dif­fi­cult ques­tions and high­light­ing the choice vot­ers face, Mr Reece says.

“If you get a phone call from some­one who says: ‘I’m a teacher at your lo­cal school and I’m ring­ing to tell you why I’m vot­ing La­bor’, it’s a pretty pow­er­ful cam­paign tac­tic,” he says.

The ALP’s union con­nec­tions mean it is of­ten con­sid­ered to have a nat­u­ral on-the­ground ad­van­tage, but all par­ties will be don­ning the walk­ing shoes in the next six months.

“You can never do enough door­knock­ing,” Mr McQuestin says.

“It’s im­por­tant to door­knock all year around, re­gard­less of when the elec­tion is.

“The is­sues that will win or lose a vote don’t just hap­pen in the few weeks be­fore elec­tion day.”

Th‘

e fact that the Premier reg­u­larly goes door­knock­ing is ev­i­dence of how im­por­tant it is in or­der to stay in touch. SAM MCQUESTIN, TAS­MA­NIAN LIB­ER­ALS STATE DI­REC­TOR

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