Love, religion overtake tax for 'hangout' with PM

Ms Gillard will be in Fairfax Media's Melbourne studio to answer the questions readers most want addressed.
Ms Gillard will be in Fairfax Media's Melbourne studio to answer the questions readers most want addressed.

THEIR questions are worlds apart, but they have one thing in common - the ability to mobilise an online community to help them get an audience with a Prime Minister.

Gay marriage advocates, military veterans and atheists opposed to federal funding for school chaplains managed to outstrip opponents of Australia's new carbon tax in popular polling on OurSay to choose some of the participants in Saturday's google+ hangout with Julia Gillard.

The people who asked the top three questions - Shane Bazzi, David Jamison and David Nicholls - get the chance to 'hangout' with Ms Gillard in a live video chatroom, putting their questions to her directly in an all-digital interview at 11am on Saturday.

Others from across Australia who have submitted questions via social media will join them for the hour-long discussion about policy, priorities and politics.

The hangout, a collaboration between Fairfax Media, OurSay and Deakin University, is a first for an Australian Prime Minister. US President Barack Obama did a similar thing in January, taking questions from Americans about jobs, foreign aid, small business, and even what romantic gestures he had in mind to mark his wedding anniversary.

You can watch live online via the Deakin Uni YouTube page, and tweet your own questions or comments as the discussion with the PM unfolds.

By the close of voting at 5pm today, more than 109,000 votes had been cast for more than 2000 questions lodged with OurSay, a direct democracy project that aims to connect people with their political leaders.

Shane Bazzi, 25, of Sydney, topped the poll, asking how the Prime Minister could explain her opposition to gay marriage given she has no religious reason to object to it - as an atheist - and leads a party that describes itself as socially progressive.

"The policy affects me because I’m gay, so it’s a really personal question that I would like answered," he said last night.

"She said on Q&A that she is not married herself, but she has the choice."

Clinching second place was David Jamison, the national president of the Defence Force Welfare Association, with a question demanding a higher rate of indexation for veterans pensions - contrasting their situation with the indexation rate on the age pension.

In third spot was David Nicholls, 67, who hails from the Yorke Peninsula in rural South Australia and is president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia.

Mr Nicholls wants to ask the Prime Minister about federal funding of school chaplains, believing it has no place in a secular democracy.

"Why are we putting people in schools who are not trained in anything but to pray?" he said.

This story Love, religion overtake tax for 'hangout' with PM first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.