Up to 115,000 people have been cold-called by a Jay Weatherill “bot” ahead of tonight’s pilot “Tele Town Hall” project, the Premier’s latest bid to “reform democracy”.
The State Government last night dialled 48,000 numbers – both landline and mobile – in the Playford, Salisbury and Port Adelaide council areas, greeting respondents with a voicemail message from the Premier, inviting them to participate in “a conversation” tonight about the future of their district.
The JayBot then said he’d “call you again around 6:30 tomorrow night to give you the chance to take part”.
“This will be your opportunity to speak directly with me and ask any questions you might have,” JayBot said.
The exercise is, in fact, an “open forum” potentially targeting more than 100,000 residents, who will be given the chance to opt in to a radio talkback style conversation and “pose questions directly to the Premier and (Manufacturing Minister Kyam) Maher”.
Maher said the forum would inform the development of the long-touted Northern Economic Plan, intended as a blueprint for automotive transformation and jobs creation in the wake of Holden’s 2017 closure.
“We want the northern community and industries to play a central role in developing the plan, and the Tele Town Hall is a great way to hear first-hand from people in northern Adelaide about their views and issues,” he said.
But one of the 48,000 numbers dialed by the JayBot belonged to Pat Pisoni, the 76-year-old mother of Opposition employment spokesman David Pisoni, and she said while the voicemail message suggested she’d be chatting personally with the Premier there was no mention of a thousands-strong forum.
“It was an automated message – it just said he’d like to speak to me about what’s happening in the western suburbs and he’d call me (tonight) to have a chat personally,” she told InDaily.
“He actually said ‘you’ll be chatting to me’.”
But she does not intend to avail herself of the opportunity in any case.
“I’m not interested; I’m looking after my seven-year-old granddaughter at the moment, and I’m rushed off my feet to be quite honest,” she said.
The septuagenarian said she was “in shock actually” to receive the cold call on her message-bank, and while she “didn’t mind” the automated message, “it put me offside when he said he’d ring personally”.
She lives in the outer western suburbs and cited unemployment as the main issue facing the area, particularly for young people.
“We’re just middle of the road people – not poor and far from rich, but there’s a lot of poverty down here,” she said.
It’s not the first time the broad-brush selection process for one of Labor’s “deliberative democracy” initiatives has inadvertently roped in a political opponent. Property Council executive director Daniel Gannon – who was then Opposition Leader Steven Marshall’s media advisor – was invited to sit on the inaugural Citizen’s Jury.
But while Pat says she was “very interested in politics” in her younger years, that interest has clearly passed down a generation with a broad ideological sweep; besides David’s elevation through the Liberal ranks, his brother Simon, a union official, was third on the Labor Senate ticket at the 2013 election, behind right-faction heavyweight Don Farrell. Neither was successful.
“I’m proud of both (David and Simon),” Pat said.
“They’re on opposite sides of the spectrum but they’re working for the same thing.”
David Pisoni told InDaily the forum showed that “the Premier has no idea how to fix the jobs crisis and the one thing he can come up with is a stunt”.
The forum is expected to last an hour, despite the Government giving each of its interlocutors the opportunity to join a queue to ask questions. The Government concedes it is a work in progress, and the duration could blow out, with Maher conceding: “It’s the first time the government has used the Tele Town Hall concept.”
He said it was “a unique way of connecting with thousands of people at the same time”.
“The Playford Council’s civic centre has a capacity of around 380 for town hall meetings – the Tele Town Hall system enables us to reach tens of thousands of home phones and mobiles for a town hall meeting-style discussion,” he said.
“It’s important we reach as many people in Adelaide’s north as possible to inform them about the Northern Economic Plan, and we’re encouraging people to ask plenty of questions.”
“Hi, this is Premier Jay Weatherill. I’m calling to invite you to take part in a conversation tomorrow night to talk about the future of Adelaide’s north. Northern Adelaide already has many strengths. It can produce clean green food, develop new life-saving technologies and build Australia’s defence capabilities. It is these types of industries will create jobs and improve lives.
I’ll call you again around 6:30 tomorrow night to give you the chance to take part. This will be your opportunity to speak directly with me and ask any question you might have about the future of Adelaide’s north. I hope you are able to join myself, Minister Kyam Maher and host Leigh McClusky for an important conversation about northern Adelaide.”
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