Thoughts from last weekend


We asked New Matilda readers to write about their experiences of polling day and were inundated with responses.

We have selected some for this issue. Thank you to everyone who sent them in and keep them coming to us at New Matilda

I am 43, a father of two young kids and I’m angry. It’s 2am on Election Day, and on my way home I drove past Bronte Public School, where I intend to vote in the true blue electorate of Wentworth.

My attention was grabbed by a wall of Malcolm Turnbull posters. I wondered why I could not see any posters for the other candidates, expecting at least to see some for the Liberal defector and sitting MP, Peter King. I got out and walked alongside the school to find the whole entrance area to the polling centre was swarming with Turnbull’s face and labour scare slogans. Drowning in this sea of blue were a few token yellow and green posters, but no Peter King.

I was greeted by two security personnel and expressed my disbelief that it could be possible that one candidate could grab so much valuable waverer real estate. They agreed with me but declined my offer to take some down to even the balance, saying they were there to protect them and that a number of people had expressed similar horror at Turnbull’s blatant lack of integrity and respect for democracy.

I have never felt aroused much by politics till recently and have wavered many times in the past. But there I was at 2am seriously contemplating ripping down some posters in defiance of two burly security folk. Malcolm Turnbull will not be getting my vote today.

I am hoping for another Clover Moore moment where enough people see the essential lack of integrity of self-interested politicians and give their social and environmental consciences a voice. I sense an upset, certainly in this litmus test electorate.

Peter Meyerratken, Bronte

The Sunday morning after the night before, the Murdoch press was relishing the result. œInvincible,  blazed Perth’s Sunday Times front page; œLabor Feels The Axe,  offered the Sunday Tasmanian. Election night, Latham’s dream tumbled incredibly before everyone’s eyes. An election that most predicted would be close now widened the gap between Liberal and Labor, leaving a chasm of uncertainty. Worst of all, and quite unexpected except by that man of plutonic politics, Howard himself, the Senate has been handed over to the conservatives on a plate.

With victory in his veins, this is a dark time for progressive forces in Australia. If power corrupts, what might absolute power do? There is the question of the Coalition having absolute control of the Senate, of course, but even a 38-38 stalemate is an effective stranglehold after July 1 next year, when the new Senators take up their seat. There’ll be no inquiries without Howard’s nod. There’ll be no discovery of documents, no effective accountability and review. Whatever Labor, the Greens and the Democrats initiate, can be knocked out without a glance. Unless someone on the Liberals side is struck by conscience.

There were tears streaming down the cheeks of one print journalist in the tally room, as she talked about the threat to democracy this result now poses. And as many gathered around the television sets there, to hear Howard describe how humbled he was by it all, many from the ABC contingent sat unmoved and stoney faced, not within sight of a telly, hearing the words echo in time-delay through the room.

The news was not all bad that night, but it was hard to hear what was good. At least 54% of Tasmanians were against Howard’s forest plan, and only 42% in favour. But no one wanted to hear that Labor had lost Braddon and Bass before the forest policy announcement. This was too good a story to tell on the night “ Latham being humiliated by the logging workers.

Despite the disappointment of losing Cunningham, the Greens held or improved their vote, and have shifted from around the 5% mark to 7% nationally. The regional vote is consolidating, and inner-city candidates are now scoring in the double digits. Rachel Siewert may be returned as the sixth senator for Western Australia, and perhaps Drew Hutton in Queensland. Almost 700,000 people voted for this third force in politics. For the first time, Tasmanian Green Senate candidate Christine Milne looks like getting elected on a full quota of her own. Bob Brown or Jo Vallentine never managed that “ it’s always been on the intricate flow of preferences. That’s why Family First, sitting on 2% of the vote, might get a couple of Senators of their own from Victoria and South Australia “ Labor and Democrat preferences flowed in those states to them first, before the Greens. It’s all in the preferences. What were they thinking?

Where might it lead? To some irreversible changes. Cross-ownership of media, compulsory voting, sale of Telstra, assault on the ABC, more foreign adventurism. Unlike Paul Keating in his 1993 moment of triumph, this Prime Minister has got ideas, and he’s not afraid of using them. Don’t think Costello as PM, not for quite some time.

But also, it’s unskilful to despair. Not time to conjure what spectre this man will offer up beyond razor wire for refugees or Geneva Convention contraventions. Remember, not even Howard is invincible. Unlike Caesar, he has no one whispering in his ear, œyou are just a man.  It’s best to remember, in the wise words of the ancient wobblies, that for us, it’s time to organise, not agonise.

Adrian Glamorgan is a freelance writer and facilitator. He is a member of the Australian Greens.

I guess I had a bit of an advantage, having had Mum’s postal vote to work off. She’s 89 and a relic of another age. Someone else always did the work. Dad came home to find the accounts from the “Big Stores” on his dresser – he just paid. So someone had to get a postal vote for Mum. She’s in a home and her mind’s not entirely with us. As expected, she asked me to deal with it for her. So I had a couple of hours of sport: the usual stuff, put the Christians at the bottom and work up. So we had a template, our own “How to Vote” card, I suppose.

J and I left about 2:40pm for the few hundred metres walk to the CWA. It’s sad, they’re down to about six members, with only one under forty. I can’t remember much about the approach to the booth; it’s always the same, keep an eye out for the canvassers, lest one unconsciously gives succour to extremists. I scuttled in behind an oldie on sticks but J had to swap banter with the local Liberal zealot. J likes to be polite when she refuses a card but they know I’m grumpy.

Inside, it’s the Australia of the 1950s. The ceiling is metal, pressed with complex patterns and the walls are fine-flute corrugated sheet. Old fluoro lights hang from the high ceiling; they would have replaced the 300 watt globes which were installed after mains electricity was connected to the town in about 1927. The whole room is covered by multiple coats of Kalsomine matte white, which show that they either didn’t know or, more likely, couldn’t afford stripping back. The excrement of untold flies speckles everything. There’s an Australian flag draped on one wall, pinned like a specimen and a small photo of the “young Queen” on its lower margin.

Registration was quick and I noticed how few of the names had been marked off. Over past decades, we’ve been shunted from one electorate to another, as we seem to be conveniently close to the margins. She asked me if I’d voted anywhere else today and I stated three local villages but there was only the slightest hesitation and she didn’t look up. It wouldn’t have mattered because I wasn’t smiling – it’s been a disappointing few weeks. There was no wait.

Outside, I waited for J. I looked down the main street. There were a few cars parked in front of the supermarket but there was no-one visible. Perhaps there were a couple of cars at the pub but I didn’t notice. The shops opposite are all empty, the hardware shop and the Elders branch long gone.

J finally came out and told me that the couple in the next compartment were trying to find “Pauline Hanson’s One Nation” on the Senate sheet. We have a very high One Nation vote here. They can’t understand their country now. My next door neighbour told me that he was shearing at the property of a local One Nation activist, who told the team about the ruin of the country and then burst into tears. It’s sad, they love their country but, unlike their religion, they can’t find the book with simple answers to the problems.

We started to walk home. Next to the CWA room is a patch of self-sown gazanias. The day was clear and warm and the gazanias were bloody wonderful.

Ian the Grub lives in rural SA

I always thought I would be the last person to write to any kind of media outlet. I am a 26 year old female former Union Official and today I am very hung over and depressed.

People often assume that having been a Union Official I must be an ALP hack. I have never been a member of any political party and certainly do not fit the hack mould. Today I want to join a political party. I want to make a difference. I don’t want Howard to win another term. If he does I will definitely have to move to New Zealand.

I am not surprised that Howard won yesterday’s election. I am surprised (and devastated) he got in with an increased majority in the lower house and looks to have control of the Senate.

I voted in the seat of Sydney, but am currently in the seat of Herbert. I was at a party on election night with about 10 or so other people. We were a disparate bunch of no common political persuasion “ in fact there were many former Liberal voters among us. Of the 10, three people voted for the Liberal party, one person voted for the ALP and the rest of us voted for the Greens. All of those that voted for the Greens are people that feel that the major parties do not represent our interests “ while the Environment is important it has never been an issue that has decided an election for any of us; you could say that none of us are traditional Greenies.

I wanted to vote for the ALP. I really did. I voted for the Greens because they stood up against the war, the GST, the sale of Telstra, for the refugees, East Timor and so on. I understand that while Labor is desperate to build stronger links with the business community I think it is important that Labor recognises that there is a large left wing vote out there that traditionally should have been theirs. It is not anymore. The Greens are the only conscience I see in parliament.

My grandmother is a pensioner and lives in the seat of Barton. She has only voted for the ALP once in her life and that was in a state election about 15 years ago. She, as someone that relies on the government for her income and care, clearly stands to lose a lot in the wake of a conservative victory. I spoke to her on Friday and we discussed the election. She had already voted in line with her traditional voting pattern. As we discussed the politics of the Libs, ALP and Greens she said she was not aware of the majority of things I was talking about. She is a ‘good Christian’, was opposed to the war, is unsure about the refugees and was concerned about the impact of the GST. She still believes that John Howard is an honest man and the best person to lead this country. I should mention that she does listen to Alan Jones (but I still love her). I don’t understand how she could possibly vote for the Libs.

All of my friends and most of my family voted for the Greens in the lower and upper house. I realised as I was watching the ABC last night that I don’t have any right wing friends. You wouldn’t describe my family as rabid socialists but we are a group who believe it is important to look after our community and issues such as public education and accessible health care are vital. The war and the refugees provided greater impetus for my family to vote Green.

Democracy is fascinating to me. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the war “ yet they appear to have voted for Howard. I don’t understand how this happened. When did we become a nation that only cares about ourselves? How did that happen? I am mortified that people appear to believe the crap the Libs have been spinning about interest rates and voted for their own hip pocket.

My mother believes that voting should not be compulsory. My sister believes that part of living in a democracy means you have responsibilities as well as rights. While I agree with my sister I fear that democracy seems to be wasted on a lot of people. This was our chance. This was our opportunity to help our country and to show the rest of the world that we deserve better than a lying, war mongering, refugee hating mongrel and we let it go.

Honestly, I don’t know which party to join. For sentimental reasons I want the ALP to rise again. I want them to remember the worker and the battler. This is a forgotten demographic and while they might be œaspirational  they are out there and deserve a party that respects and fights for their rights. Despite improved health and education policies and the promise to remove AWAs there does not appear to be much of a gap between the two major parties. Do I join the ALP and despite the factionalism try and have my say? Or do I join the Greens and try and help them come up with a decent industrial policy? How long until they have enough power to make a difference? I really don’t know what to do.

As Australians we are meant to be the Lucky Country. Lucky, as it turns out, if you come from a wealthy, God fearing Christian, Anglo Saxon background.

Raph Kennedy

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