Government Policy Driven by Internet

Internet Polling is driving the Australian government’s hard-line policy on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.

The Government has finally confessed that it has been using statistics gathered from a number of Internet sites to form the backbone of their “get tough” policy on detainees in detention centres around the country.

Since the image of talkback radio became tarnished with the “Cash for Comment” scandal the Government has been looking for another way of driving national policy. According to a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office, Internet polling has been a godsend.

“Most web sites conduct some sort of a poll,” said the spokesperson who did not wish to be named. “Even TV stations conduct phone polls on topical issues. These polls tend to attract a far greater range of right-wing views than talk-back radio and we have found them useful in swaying Government policy.”

“Using statistics from these calls we can establish a better idea of the caller demographic. Since most calls cost 50c, we can presume callers are more educated, affluent and upwardly mobile. The very sort of people the Liberal Party needs to attract to stay in office. All we are doing is giving them what they want.”

When the Tampa crises began TV stations and newspapers ran phone polls. The results provide interesting reading and show time and time again that most Australians are supportive of the Government’s tough stand

This makes it very easy for the Government to justify their position, and even easier to get public feedback.

Internet polling has proved to be a big vote winner for the Government who quickly tapped into the source.

Most newspapers allow readers to their sites to email their views and respond to stories. While only some of the letters are published, thanks to the immediacy of email, editors and journalists soon see what their readers want and go out of their way to dish it up in an attempt to boost flagging sales.

While there is no proof that poll results are used to generate stories, they certainly go a long way to influencing opinion and it appears responsible journalism is being swayed by two-bit polls.

Many sites also go further by offering readers the chance to vote on topical issues. It is all done in the name of interactivity, with results available for instant viewing gratification.

Every poll about the Government stand since the Tampa crises began has come out in favour of the Government position and it is beginning to show.

Not only is the Government hardening its already tough line, more right wing articles are beginning to appear in newspapers.

No doubt this goes down well with readers, but how reliable are these on-line polls?

Not at all — if the latest Telstra fiasco is anything to go by.

Telstra has happily been rigging the results of on-line opinion polls conducted by ZDNet — who should know better!

Telstra insisted it did not endorse any sort of vote manipulating, but went on to blame ZDNet for making the polls so damn easy to rig.

And that is just the point. What started out as a bit of harmless fun to add a bit of interactivity to otherwise boring web sites has turned out to be responsible for formulating Government policy.

How many other polls are being rigged and manipulated by fervent lobby groups?

More importantly, how much of the Government IT budget is going towards ensuring that public opinion is always weighted towards the Government in on-line polling!