Pour a glass of wine, relax and press play on Left, Right, Out: a new podcast on Spotify answering questions from the public and covering key election topics for young Aussies.
As you listen, you may think you are chatting with two close friends, as Justine Landis-Hanley and Elfy Scott expertly weave political information into a funny and insightful audio package.
Together, they create the perfect team. With Justine’s “behind the scenes” insight into politics through her work as a Senator’s adviser, and Elfy’s passion to deconstruct complex issues into easily digestible information — this, after years of feeling like she didn’t have the right to speak about politics, as a woman of colour growing up in an apolitical household.
It’s no surprise that these talented journalists have managed to capture an audience of young women ready to add their voices to the political conversation, despite being a demographic often undervalued by the mainstream media.
I sat down with Elfy and Justine to discuss how their new podcast is taking a fresh angle on election coverage to answer young Aussies’ burning questions and help those who feel, you guessed it, “Left, Right, Out.”
Q: What inspired the creation of Left, Right, Out?
Justine: I grew up around politics but I also often felt like the biggest idiot in the room when it came to talking about politics. I think that kind of feeling is something so many young people have, especially young women.
So, Elfy and I share that kind of feeling and experience. We wanted to create a safe space where people could have their questions answered by two people who are going to call up experts and put it together in a package for you.
Elfy: We would never criticise the political content that’s out there because it is so useful. But there are so many podcasts and columns that require this massive foundational knowledge that I’m sure not a lot of people have access to because they stop paying attention to politics after year six classes, which I certainly did for a couple of years as well.
And then, when I entered the newsroom I felt like Justine. I felt like the biggest idiot in the room because I had to get the political reporter at BuzzFeed News to explain how the voting system works in my first week.”
Justine: I had been working on a podcast last year around politics and it was a passion project that I made at my dining table. What we saw from that was this real desire, from young women in particular, to have a show that taught them about what was going on in Australian politics.
I knew the election was coming up this year and I knew that thirst wasn’t going away and there should be an outlet creating this kind of content. But it is really hard to convince networks or convince people in the industry that they should invest in or make a show that talks to young women about politics. It is really difficult.
Q: How was your podcast received by the media industry?
Justine: I was talking to this male executive and I said “I’m thinking about starting a Q&A show. I think that would be really cool for young women” and his response was “ok, great, yeah…but how are you going to trick women into listening to it?”
And I just remember thinking, “oh, wait, what? I thought that we just proved that this was something people cared about?” To have that reaction was a strong reminder about why this stuff doesn’t exist easily and why we need to keep trying to fight for someone who is going to believe in it.”
A problem we have had for a really long time is that the media really undervalues young women, how smart they are and their desire to engage in politics, economics and foreign policy.
These are just not considered the things that would actually interest us and I think that is a reflection of some pretty old ideas about what women care about.
Even convincing people that this show was going to be a good idea or that they should make this show was hard and that’s why we are so grateful that Spotify championed it.
Q: How do you plan to tackle the election content?
Elfy: We’re directed by single questions that we answer in each episode. But what we are also very much directed by is the commentary and the DMs that we get on Instagram, because that gives us a sense of what people really want to learn across any particular topic.
In terms of what we can actually feasibly cover in any episode, sometimes we do have to condense the information quite a lot and we do just try and touch all of the most important bases and what we think are relevant for people making their voting decisions.
Justine: We are looking at which issues people care about the most, which issues will define the election the most for young people and how we can give them as much non-partisan information as possible.
Political parties are all going to come out and say “we’ve got the best solution for this problem” and our job is going to be about how we make sure you have all the right information to judge what is the best solution.
Q: Why is there a need in Australia for more accessible political information? And is the media industry receptive to using new platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Spotify?
Elfy: As somebody who has worked on a show using social media platforms, there is still so much cynicism around using new media. I think that a lot of entrenched people who have worked in newsrooms forever and are working on digital reports, for example, can be so cynical about the idea that platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook can provide anything meaningful to people. And they also say things like, “young audiences don’t have attention spans.” But they do.
People really do have the attention and the willingness to learn and they are really curious. Politics can be really hard to digest, especially through news articles alone and there are a lot of people out there who are really good at it and are reading across lots of publications. But at the same time, it is really helpful to have these sorts of media that are passively consumed, like podcasting, because people don’t have time otherwise.
So, I think what we have to offer is something that’s genuinely enjoyable and easy to digest compared to trying to seek out political information in other places.
Q: Your first episode is about how each party encourages women, why did you pick this topic?
Justine: One of the first questions we were asked when we did a call out before the show launched was which party is best for women? Our interpretation of that, because we couldn’t cover everything was which party is best at getting women elected?
I think the reason we chose that topic is because we know that when women are in positions of power in politics, the dynamic creates better outcomes for society as a whole. It makes decisions more representative, it furthers gender equality and it challenges toxic workplace cultures. It’s really important.
So, it just felt like a really good choice for the first episode because yes it is something on the public agenda at the moment, people more widespread are caring about the kind of culture Parliament offers women and the kind of influence Parliament has over women’s lives day to day.
I think that women have been calling for change and banging on doors for decades and this last year we have finally seen some people be heard. And there are still so many people whose voices are being ignored, but progress is being made thanks to the bravery of so many activists. That definitely shaped our first episode.
Q: What do you hope people will gain from listening to Left, Right, Out?
Elfy: As somebody who didn’t feel the right or have the education to enter this world of learning and understanding politics, I just want to be able to equip people with that sort of information. The information that can get their foot in the door and help them to understand the wider context of politics, to feel a little bit more confident understanding these concepts and maybe grow their passions in this area.
The person I am always trying to communicate with in my head is the person in my social group and one of my best friends. The person who doesn’t read the news, who I respect and who I think is fantastically intelligent but is just not necessarily engaged in the sort of stuff I am.
And so, as much as we appeal to young women, probably just based on who we are, I hope we have a bit more of a broader spread and anyone can feel welcome in the conversation.
Justine: We get asked so often, “can you tell me who to vote for?” or we have people write in to tell us anecdotally, “oh this is such a great podcast, I’m always just asking my friends or parents who to vote for.”
I want people to walk away after these episodes leading up to the election, able to go to voting day and confidently vote for whichever party aligns with their values the most because they have the information around election issues and where political parties stand.
I don’t want us to tell people who to vote for because that’s an incredibly personal choice, but if people can feel empowered to make a decision on voting day for themselves that would be a dream.
Full episodes of Left, Right, Out can be found on Spotify. To send in your questions and access episode previews, extra content and behind the scenes videos, follow Left, Right, Out on Instagram and TikTok.