Help us create a citizens’ agenda for the state election08/26/2022
Recently, we hosted a lunch with senior people who work in law and justice in Victoria. There was Sentencing Advisory Council chairman Arie Freiberg, Law Institute of Victoria president Tania Wolff and Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack. There were senior representatives from domestic violence groups, police reform organisations and academics.
Over sandwiches, we listened. We wanted to hear from people who work in this area day-to-day about what The Age should focus on ahead of November’s state election. Law and justice policy is complicated, and there were many views. We were trying to tease out their thoughts about a simple question: What do you want political parties and candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes in November?
We’ll be asking politicians about the issues that matter to citizens, whether they like it or not.Credit:Fairfax Media
We will be holding many more of these lunches, with people who have years of experience working in health, education, transport and infrastructure, social justice, environment, and business and the economy. We will talk to, not just experts, but also people with lived experience of disadvantage, of running a small business, of working in the health system.
It’s part of rethinking how we cover politics ahead of the election, to reframe our coverage around what is most important to the state, what really matters to citizens, rather than allowing major political parties to dictate the agenda, which can be narrow indeed.
It’s a “citizen’s agenda” approach, although we are calling it Victoria’s Agenda. The idea of consulting widely and coming up with a specific agenda to shape our reporting – around six or eight questions – is not new, but it has never been seriously attempted in Australia before. It’s an experiment, really, to see how it changes the way we think through what an election is about, and to demand accountability from politicians based on what we know people care about.
Listening to experts is just the beginning. We are sending reporters across the state to ask people the same question: What do you want political parties and candidates to be talking about as they compete for your vote? People often say issues such as “health” or “cost of living” are most important to them, but what specifically about health? What is most worrying about the cost of living? Is it housing, grocery prices? The cost of child care? I have no idea what the answers might be. Maybe one will be “I want them to talk about what they are going to do about homelessness in the CBD”. Or “How will you attract more people to study teaching?” Or “I want you to talk about the triple zero problems and how to fix them”.
We are also seeking input from our readers and subscribers. We need your help. You will see below a short survey and we encourage you to take it to help us decide where we should put our attention during the election campaign. It includes the same question: What do you want political parties and candidates to be talking about as they compete for your vote?
We will take all these views and come up with six to eight questions that will form Victoria’s Agenda – the key questions that we will know are of burning interest for many Victorians. We will ask politicians about these issues whether they want to talk about them or not. We will do deep reporting and analysis on these questions, and research possible solutions to the key challenges identified by Victorians. We will publish the Agenda in late September, online and in print, and it will guide our election coverage.
We will still cover the stuff of politics. Big announcements and strategy are important to report and analyse. We will be publishing some opinion polls. We will fact-check key claims. We should not be embarrassed about covering the horse race, but who wins and who loses is only one question an election answers. Elections are about Victorians – us – and what we care about, worry about and hope for.
Help us improve our coverage of the upcoming state election. Take a few minutes to complete our short survey here.
Gay Alcorn sends a newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive her Note from the Editor.
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