Election 2013

So is this the most important election, ever? Here at The Conversation the answer is yes. After all, it’s our first. But it could also be one of the most important for Australian politics.

Think of where we stand on the eve of the poll. The world is in an economic mess. OK, Australia has avoided recession, but for how long? Then there’s the geo-political and the mess in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and an estimated 42 million displaced people.

Many see Australia as the place to be, but how we handle this is up for grabs. “Stop the boats” trips easily off the tongue, but it’s doubtful a slogan can encapsulate this issue’s deep complexity.

Then there is the media. Not that long ago the Fourth Estate was seen as the trusted arbiter of election campaigns. But that too has fallen apart. As Shaun Carney writes today:

“The mass media no longer sees the explanation of policies and ideas as a central part of its charter. As it finds itself having to chase eyeballs in order to keep its financial head above water, it becomes more sensational, more attracted to portraying conflict and dealing with what public figures say rather than what they believe or do.”

If Carney is right we all need to work on a new approach. Here’s what we plan to offer at The Conversation:

  1. As an independent voice our sole aim is to try to help make sense; free of an ideological view or commercial interests. Everything on the site is written by academics with relevant expertise. They are supported by our professional editors, led for the election by Political Editor, Rory Cahill.

  2. Michelle Grattan, the doyen of Australian political writers and our Chief Political Correspondent, will lead our news coverage and write a daily Election Diary.

  3. Our ElectionFactCheck led by Gay Alcorn has set a new standard for this new brand of evidence/fact-based journalism. To date we have already assessed the evidence behind more than 20 statements.

  4. Our essays on the state of the nation will look at the 10 key challenges facing Australia. Today we kick off with Australia and its role in the world.

  5. Our Media Panel of 25 academics will be keeping a close eye on the conduct of the Fourth Estate throughout the election. The media barons told us in March that the news media in this country plays an absolutely pivotal role in delivering democracy and “good government”. We’re going to test that assertion.

  6. Then there’s our numbers man, Adrian Beaumont, who will help explain the numbers and make sense of the polls.

And of course, policy will be at the centre of everything we do. As the 5-week campaign draws to a close our team will sum up what we’ve learned and where the parties stand on the key policy issues.

We hope you engage with our writers, and join the conversation. We only ask that you observe our community standards, keep it polite and help us make it an intelligent discussion.

If you have any suggestions for what else you’d like to see us do, let me know. And don’t forget: all our articles are free to read and republish.

Andrew Jaspan