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New Zealand: Destiny New Zealand party leader discusses telephone technology used during elections.

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Tuesday 5 October 2004

New Zealand: Destiny New Zealand party leader discusses telephone technology used during elections


MARK COLVIN: Swinging voters in Makin may well be among those who get home tonight to find a personal Prime Ministerial plea on their answering machines. 


With Saturday's election too close to call, John Howard is using automated telephone technology to get his message across. 


The Labor Party says the unsolicited and pre-recorded calls are desperate and deceptive. 


But as Karen Barlow reports, "phone spamming" is just one of the new ways that political parties around the world are bypassing the mainstream media. 


PRE-RECORDED CALL: Hello this is John Howard. I've taken the unusual step of contacting you with this recorded message to support your local Liberal candidate...  


KAREN BARLOW: That's what the Liberal Party calls an "advocacy call", but Labor says it's an offensive invasion of privacy. 


But while the Prime Minister concedes some people won't like hearing his voice, it is legal, as political parties are exempted from federal anti-spam laws. 


Australia isn't a world leader in this sort of technology or it's application. Automated cold calling is being used right now in the United States, where Republican and Democratic hopefuls are allowing their voices to be dialled out to thousands of potential voters. 


Mobile phone spamming and spam emails were used in the Indian election by the-then ruling party of Atal Behari Vajpayee - BJP. He lost that election to Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party. And in May this year, telemarketing technology was used by the conservative church based party - Destiny New Zealand.  


Leader Richard Lewis says it's a helpful tool.  


RICHARD LEWIS: It was a pre-recorded message that basically started with, 'This is a pre-recorded message from Destiny New Zealand Political Party'. So at that time they could listen further or hang up. 


Our statistics said that most people listened through to the end of the call. 


KAREN BARLOW: It could be seen as impersonal, I suppose. The Labor Party here in Australia said it's like listening to a robot. 


RICHARD LEWIS: Well the person who recorded the message for us was a fairly personable character, and so it was a very simple message, it was a matter of just informing of a public meeting in that location for Destiny New Zealand and nothing more than that. 


KAREN BARLOW: Do you think this is the way politics is going, that you have to bypass the mainstream media and go in straight to the person? 


RICHARD LEWIS: I think it depends on your position at that time. For us, as I say, as a new party, we've been prepared to take those sort of opportunities. But now our profile's out, it's not that necessary. But I'm sure political parties will be getting creative with advancing their message. 


KAREN BARLOW: Generally do you feel frustrated about the way the mainstream media deals with political parties? 


RICHARD LEWIS: Well I guess it depends on the way they're pitching our message. As a new party, we need to control that fairly strongly. We're getting good results here in New Zealand, and the telephone technology was just one part of that. 


KAREN BARLOW: But he offers this warning for established parties considering whether to use the technology: 


RICHARD LEWIS: I think for a new party it would be worthwhile pursuing. For a party that has an established profile, you'd probably do more damage than good. 


You do have to deal with the fact that many people may well take exception to receiving a political phone call during a political campaign. But as I say, that's something that the party has to decide depending on their circumstances at the time. 


MARK COLVIN: Richard Lewis, the leader of Destiny New Zealand, ending that report from Karen Barlow.