I’m Alive!

Hi everyone. Just wanted to write a quick post to let you all know I’m alive and well, just really, really, really busy. In case you haven’t been following Australian politics, we’ve recently changed Prime Ministers, which means we’ve had to re-build the campaign almost from the ground up. It also means we don’t know when the election will actually be, since the PM gets to decide election dates and the new one, Kevin Rudd, hasn’t decided yet. We’re campaigning 13+ hours a day– organizing events, writing and testing scripts, training our teams on persuasion and neighborhood team models and layered voter contact, and, most of all, talking to voters–but we don’t know if the election will be in four weeks or four months.

I was invited to stay on longer to continue working on this whirlwind of a campaign, which is why I’m obviously not home yet. I’m doing my best to keep up with Texas politics from afar, and I think a lot of the people I work with are starting to love Wendy Davis almost as much as I do (or getting tired of hearing me talk about her). I’ll be back-mid August with plenty of stories to tell and a lot more listening to do. I’ve been in Australia for almost 3 months, and I’ve never been prouder call Texas home.

Organizing in Australia

I probably won’t be posting much about Texas in the next month or so because I’m currently campaigning overseas in the land down under! Organizing in Australia is completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, and I’ve already learned so much in the few short days I’ve been here.

First day in Sydney

First day in Sydney. Yes, that is a Texas for Obama shirt I’m wearing!

After a day of sight-seeing and a 10-hour jet lag induced coma, it was time to get down to business. I’m working in the NSW Labor Party campaign headquarters, which would be about the equivalent of working in the Chicago OFA office during the Obama campaign. I spent the entire first day sitting in a corner getting familiar with their voter file (it’s not VAN!) and trying not to look too foreign. About halfway through day two I realized there’s not much a Texas girl can do to blend in, so I gave up on that completely. On my third day in the office I met the Prime Minister of Australia for the first time.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard shakes hands and meets volunteers at the Labor Party Headquarters in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday was a National Day of Action, and over 100 volunteers turned up to make calls for the Labor Party that night. Prime Minister Gillard came by the phone bank to help make calls and thank everyone for their hard work. Australian Prime Minister Julia GIllard makes calls alongside volunteers at a large phone bank in the Labor Party Campaign Headquarters in Parramatta, Australia

One of the big differences here is that the Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament instead of by the voters directly so, instead of campaigning for Julia Gillard, everyone in this office is working on separate campaigns for individual local members. The campaigns all share some general Labor Party messaging, but each operates independently of all the others and is highly targeted to specific constituents and issues. Each call list was for a different member of Parliament, or MP, so instead of writing lots of different scripts and trying to keep track of wich script went with which list, we just made a generic one and had volunteers fill in the candidate’s name as they were calling. All the volunteers know which local member went with which area, but I have absolutely no idea and would have been completely lost if I had picked up a phone that night!

I’ll do my best to post as much as possible while I’m here, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with everyone back home.