magazine, May 1998

mr nice guy

Richard Fidler's regular net rant

The revolution will not be Webcast

Can we be sure that our selfless politicians are really on top of the communications revolution? Do they even understand the culture? After all, most of them are boomers who believe that popular culture ended in 1973 (or in our PM's case, 1923). You can waste whole months of your life going through our complex IT policies, but I believe far greater insight can be gained from a closer scrutiny of the parties' Web sites. After all, a Web site is a bit like handwriting; it can impart so much information about a person or organisation without their knowledge.

I was shocked and excited to discover that the Liberal Party actually does have a Web site ( After all, your average Lib tends to call the radio the 'wireless' and owns a telephone with a crank in the side.

The Liberal's home page was a scruffy affair: the logo was cheap and nasty, and amazingly, there was no dancing baloney* - surely a prerequisite for a political Web page. Going over to the membership page, I was assaulted with a giant banner headline that read 'THE LIBERAL PARTY IS YOU'. Next to this terrifying news is a picture of a refulgent young family straight out of a Country Road catalogue: the tanned, white guy golfer dad, the one year old in a 'cute' sailor suit and the young Mum who seems to have come directly from the Methodist Ladies' College into the arms of her first husband. The image made me long to posess that lifestyle. Dammit, I want to wear chinos on weekends.

I hit a link to the 1997 Federal Budget on the hompage, and a giant read GIF at the top of the page fairly shrieked at me:
You are about the leave the Official Liberal WWW pages. The information beyond this point is outside our control and may not be officially endorsed by the Liberal Party."

Holy shit, Batman! It was just as well they warned me. Imagine getting info from the Web that may not be officially endorsed by the Liberal Party.

So I thought I'd better give the budget a miss, just to be on the safe side.

I expected to see a nice image of Big Kim Beazley on the ALP's hompage (, projecting leadship, excitement and a common touch, looking like Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf and Homer Simpson all rolled into one. No such luck. The ALP's Web site is about as exciting as a three week convention of roofing insulation cosultants. Very few pics, lots of policy and a calender of upcoming events that lists Orthoptics Awareness Week and Medicare's birthday as it highlights. A deeply unsexy Web site. At least the Liberal site gave me the Country Road lifestyle option.

I was hoping that Cheryl Kernot's picture would still be on the Democrats Web site ( I figured there was a good chance it would be one of those sites that went up in 1996 with a burst of enthusiasm, champagne and finger food, only to be forgotton and never updated.

Sadly this wasn't to be the case. Unlike the Libs, the Democrats have both their leaders, Meg Lees and Natasha Stott-Despoja, right there one the home page. The deal seems to be that Meg gets to be leader but Natasha gets to be up front in all the publicity shots, which is just as well, because Meg is such a charisma-free zone that she makes John Howard look like Iggy Pop.

Nonetheless, this was well designed, informative and by the best site of the bunch.

The National Party's site held few surprises. It looked like the HTML had been assembled on a combine harvester. The design seemed to be based on a Leagues Club bulletin board: the yellow text on lime green wallpaper means that you can't read the text without risking a brain aneurism. Embarrasingly, if you click on the link for their policy on Aboriginal issues, it takes you to 'Tourism' instead. Perhaps they'd rather not talk about it.

Interestingly, there were images of the leaders on all the Web sites except for the Liberals. Are they expecting another leader soon and can't be bothered replacing the pic? It's yet another conspiracy unmasked by magazine. Remember punters: you read it here first.

*Dancing Baloney: an animated GIF designed to impart a false impression of excitement and activity.

- richard fidler uses a PowerMac 8500/120, watches tapes on his Betamax VCR and enjoys listening to music on 8 track cartridge tapes. He also hosts Race around the World and Mouthing Off on cable TV.

typed up by VellaB