“Australians don’t want Kevin Kardashian as prime minister” ; Australia Leader Tries ‘Selfie’ Snapshots to Connect with Youth Vote

Updated August 21, 2013, 7:51 p.m. ET

Australia Leader Tries ‘Selfie’ Snapshots to Connect with Youth Vote

ENDA CURRAN

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Australia will decide on Sept. 7 whether to change prime ministers, and the incumbent, Kevin Rudd, has a strategy to woo younger voters. The WSJ’s Enda Curran tells Deborah Kan why Mr. Rudd thinks “selfie” photos will win them over. SYDNEY—Politicians are always looking for ways to connect with the elusive youth vote. For Bill Clinton, it was playing saxophone in shades on television. For Barack Obama, it was “slow jamming” the news with a hip-hop band on a late-night TV show. For Kevin Rudd in Australia, it is the photos known as “selfies.”In the run-up to the Sept. 7 national election, Australia’s prime minister has borrowed a page from the celebrity social-media playbook.

Out are the stiff handshakes and forced smiles of the disconnected politician working the lines. In are a friendly arm draped casually over a shoulder, heads close together, a camera phone held at arms’ length facing the subjects—and a posting on Facebook soon after.

Mr. Rudd’s return as Labor leader and his social-media awareness have given his party a boost, but opinion polls show the center-right opposition is still on track to win the election.

After speaking at a charity dinner in his home city of Brisbane, Mr. Rudd, 55 years old, stayed back to mingle. He and Brent Marshall, a 24-year-old who works in real estate, gripped Mr. Marshall’s iPad together and posed.

“We took a couple to make sure we got it right. He jokingly said, ‘Give us a look.’ We showed him and he said, ‘That looks great,’ and he went on to the next person,” Mr. Marshall said.

Mr. Marshall posted the snaps on Facebook and Instagram, a photo-sharing website. And, he said, he has switched from being undecided to Mr. Rudd’s Labor Party.

A spokesman for Mr. Rudd said the prime minister had already been an avid user of social-media outlets before he returned as Labor leader and prime minister in June, taking the posts back from Julia Gillard, the nation’s first female prime minister, who was instrumental in ousting him in 2010.

But the pursuit of publicity—performed hundreds of times—has prompted derision from some of Mr. Rudd’s opponents.

“Australians don’t want Kevin Kardashian as prime minister,” said Joe Hockey, a senior member of the opposition right-of-center Liberal party—a reference to U.S. celebrity and champion selfie-snapper Kim Kardashian.

Mr. Rudd’s supporters say it is worth embracing a demographic that is generally left-leaning, like Mr. Rudd is. And while young people also are famously hard to persuade to vote, that is less an issue in Australia: Voting is compulsory for those 18 years and older.

But around 400,000 voters between 18 and 24 failed to register for polling day, according to the electoral commission. That’s equivalent to around 2.7% of the voting register—a notable number in an election where marginal seats are expected to play a key role.

When Salvador Compagnone, a 30-year-old student from Venezuela, chanced upon Mr. Rudd on the streets of Brisbane, he expected little more than small talk and a handshake. Instead, Mr. Rudd threw his arm around him, and a selfie was in the making—even though Mr. Compagnone isn’t eligible to vote.The selfies have helped Mr. Rudd eclipse Tony Abbott, the 55-year-old Liberal party leader, when it comes to social-media clout. He has around 1.4 million followers on Twitter, compared with Mr. Abbott’s roughly 190,000.

Mr. Abbott “is not really a selfies kind of guy,” observes Andrea Carson, a lecturer in media and politics at the University of Melbourne.

Mr. Compagnone held the camera as the two huddled. “We took the picture, then he just stared at the camera and said, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ ” Mr. Compagnone said, adding that workers from a nearby construction site descended from the scaffolding for their own selfies with the prime minister. Mr. Rudd’s security detail stood by.

When Mr. Campagnone posted the photo for his friends on Facebook, “Everybody said, ‘Wow.’ ”

Not all of Mr. Rudd’s efforts at inter-generational outreach have been successful. His use of street slang, such as “whatevs” (whatever) and “gotta zip” (I’m out of here), are often ridiculed on satirical TV shows.

Several websites parody his sometimes clunky use of English—such as describing himself as a “happy little Vegemite” (a yeast-based extract) or asking voters to give him a “fair shake of the sauce bottle” in the election. Such pronouncements are dubbed “Ruddisms” among Australians.

In his own recent post on Instagram, the prime minister uploaded a picture he took after cutting himself shaving. He sported bloodied tissue paper on his cheek. “Note to self: when rushing out the door in the morning, make sure you take care with the razor. It is sharp,” Mr. Rudd said in the post.

It drew more than 8,000 “likes,” or approvals, from people who saw it.

Mr. Rudd has found it easier to get his arms around self-portraits with voters.

Timothy Goettler, 23 and from Brisbane, was at a rugby match between a visiting British and Irish team and Australia’s national team in June. It was days before Mr. Rudd returned as leader of his party and prime minister.

“I went to the toilets, came back out and there was Mr. Rudd,” said Mr. Goettler, a pastry chef. “He was really keen to take photos with whoever wanted a photo,” he said. “I had one arm around him and the other hand taking the photo.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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