The ACT Government has found quite a clever way to avoid facing tough questions from journalists or unhappy constituents.
It seems they have discovered the fascinating world of Twitter.
Yesterday did not mark the first time the ACT Virtual Community Cabinet was held, but it was the first time I had heard of it.
How many of you who read this go grocery shopping? A silly question I know, because if not you, someone in your household has to buy the groceries.
How many of you use Twitter?
I do not know the answer but I do know that not everybody is on Twitter, and indeed even people who are on Twitter may not be able to use it during the hour set aside for the cabinet.
Yes, it is a useful tool to connect with the community, and is a great way to connect with a high volume of people.
The drawback is that, in the opinion of this writer, it is a watering down of the political process.
Rather than field tough questions and risk looking stupid on television, the Ministers gave answers in less than 140 characters.
Rather than deal with people face to face in the electorates, the Ministers sat comfortably (I assume) in chairs and typed short quick responses.
On multiple occasions they just posted a web link to a document or web page.
The point of political discussion is to debate the best way to do something.
I made a point earlier about every household having to buy groceries. It would be far better to have the politicians get out into the community they are seeking to represent. Reading text on a screen detaches one from reality sometimes. There are plenty of problems in Canberra which need to be debated, not only in Parliament and Twitter, but also in the streets, and on the doorsteps of people’s houses.
A debate is not possible in 140 characters.
It is a useful thing to be able to use Twitter to connect with people instantly. However, it should not be substituted for actual consultation with constituents and community groups.