Virtual town halls

News.com.au reports:

In what is believed to be a national first, Mr Abbott and Lindsay candidate Fiona Scott sat in Liberal Party headquarters in Canberra and held an hour-long forum run by the party for the crucial electorate, held by Labor Minister David Bradbury, some 300 kilometres away.

The move allows Mr Abbott to further sidestep curlier questions by the mainstream media and Canberra press gallery and talk directly to voters in an extension of the talkback radio format favoured by former prime minister John Howard.

The Liberal Party robo-called listed phone numbers for homes in Lindsay on Wednesday night , attracting 20,000 registrations to be automatically called back for the event, according to Mr Abbott’s office.

Mid-way through the discussion, moderator and former television journalist John Gatfield said there were 8000 people on the line listening to questions from callers, who pushed a number if they wanted to ask a question.

8,000 homes participating from just the one electorate. That is a huge success.  And the idea of being able to just ask a question direct from your living room, by pushing a number is enticing.

While the process was run by the Liberals and some of the questions were simply asking Mr Abbott’s basic positions on issues such as disability care, some voters did press Mr Abbott on his claims, including how he could repeal the carbon tax if he did not have control of the senate.

Another caller asked why he didn’t talk about the effect of the war in Afghanistan in battling asylum seekers.

Issues discussed included everything from potholes in roads and transport to local asbestos problems with the National Broadband Network.

It will only work if you have a politician that can think on their feet.

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