Gillard to take the plunge with live video chat

Gillard to take the plunge with live video chat

BARACK OBAMA’S done one. Mitt Romney too. Now Julia Gillard will be engaging voters directly in a live video chat room.

The Prime Minister will join a Google+ Hangout on July 21, involving Australians drawn from across the country and many walks of life. The concept is question time for laypeople in cyberspace. The event is being co-hosted by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sun-Herald along with Deakin University and OurSay.

In a video encouraging people to get involved, Ms Gillard invites Australians to submit a question and speak directly to her about the future of the country. ”It’s modern democracy and modern technology at work,” she says. ”I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll ask a question.”

In January, Mr Obama became the first US President to do a Google+ Hangout, taking questions and bantering directly with American voters as part of the session.

The strategy is part of a push by political figures around the world to test social networking tools and use social media more often in political communication.

Questions for this hangout will be solicited using the website, and also on Twitter using the hashtag #pmhangout.

People can vote for their favourite questions on OurSay. Those whose questions end up in the top three will be invited to hangout directly with the Prime Minister.

The exchange will appear on Google+, the Deakin University YouTube page, Fairfax media websites and at

Mr Obama had previously done YouTube town halls after his State of the Union speeches, taking questions submitted on video.

But political hangouts take it a step further, giving some questioners the chance to interact directly with a political leader, so a conversation can unfold. The White House’s director of digital strategy, Macon Phillips, said this year that handing over the choice of questions to direct democracy online was a risk political leaders had to be willing to take.

”For online engagement to be interesting, it has to be honest,” she said. ”We want to give Americans more control over this conversation and the chance to ask questions they care about.”

Both Ms Gillard and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, have begun to use Twitter more interactively in the past year, taking questions directly from voters and explaining their political stances.

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