The New Matilda Election Day team – Max Chalmers, Kirrily Schwarz, Georgina Moore, Gabrielle Lyons, Belinda Eslick and Adam Brereton – hit the polling booths on Saturday to ask voters what was swaying their vote. They filed these dispatches from the electorates of Griffith, Warringah, Melbourne, Lindsay, Greenway, Chisholm, Deakin, Lilley and Calare.
ELECTORATE: Greenway, NSW
4.15PM: The sun is now blaring down with afternoon heat in NSW’s most marginal seat of Greenway. Across the road from Caddies Creek public school – the electorate’s biggest booth – the Australian Sikh Association is having its annual day out which one attendee informs me is colloquially known as ‘the Punjabi Picnic’. As children bounce around in jumping castles, Labor MP Michelle Rowland is outside the school gates greeting voters.
Elected with a wafer thin 0.8 per cent advantage in 2010, Rowland would surely be dead and buried if it weren’t for the kamikaze media performances of Liberal challenger Jaymes Diaz. So abysmal was Diaz, some Laborites were even moved to sympathy. Not Rowland though. “This is a person who says he will stand up for us, but he runs and hides, he won’t speak to anyone, he doesn’t want to get up and actually say what his vision is for the local area,” she told New Matilda.
Like David Bradbury in Lindsay, she is hoping local infrastructure investments, from the NBN to a Girl Guides Hall in Riverstone, will save her from the much feared National Swing. “I’ve been working hard for the last three year since I got elected. I was elected on a Saturday in 2010 on the Monday I was out doing my first mobile office,” she notes.
On each policy point she has a crisp list of responses, suspiciously similar to those given by Bradbury earlier today. There’s a formula; 1) focus on ‘people smugglers’, say something about a broken business model, try to ignore what will happen to the people being smuggled 2) mention the increase in refugee intake to 20 000 3) Say: “no one wants to see people drowning at sea” (here she uses the exact same words as Bradbury did).
Rowland tells me that Labor wants to increase refugee intake again to 27,000 — a number recommended by the Houston Report.
I ask about refugees fleeing homophobia and whether it is safe for them to be sent to a country where homosexuality remains illegal. “You can make judgement on Papua New Guinea itself and its own set of laws but that fact is we are doing something that has the agreement of PNG, we are doing something that is actually having an impact [on people smuggling].” She adds that Labor will ensure adequate levels of welfare are being provided to those resettled.
But the queers fleeing al-Qaeda are not high on the priority list of voters here at Caddies Creek. Andrei Hante is voting Liberal, his usual preference, and is unperturbed by Diaz’s inability to recall even a simple list of policies. Anchal Lal, however, is a 26-year-old research student undertaking a PHD and is afraid of cuts to research budgets under the Coalition.
There are whispers here among Labor staff that internal polling has things neck and neck and that Michelle could pull off the impossible. Rowland and her troops are noticeably more upbeat than the deflated Bradbury team. Do they know something we don’t or are they so sunburnt and exhausted they’ve lost their senses completely? We’ll have to watch this one tonight to know for sure.
– Max Chalmers
ELECTORATE: Melbourne, Victoria
3.45PM: A peaceful protest on West Papua has gathered in Fitzroy.
The 'Freedom Flotilla to West Papua' group is making a statement about the complicity of the major Australian political parties in human rights abuses against West Papuans.
Ruben, a group spokesman, said this is an "act of creative resistance". "It's people on the street who make the difference," he said. "Let's not give up."
– Kirrily Schwarz
ELECTORATE: Chisholm, Victoria
3.40PM: The queue is packed at Chisholm's Box Hill Town Hall polling centre.
Despite being held by a 5.8 per cent margin, Chisholm is one of Labor's most marginal Victorian seats. Labor is traditionally strongest at the southern end of the electorate – around Chadstone, Oakleigh and Clayton – while Box Hill is more marginal.
Many voters feel swayed by national, rather than local, issues and think Labor has had – and failed at – its chance. IT worker and swinging voter, Ben Cordeiro, said "I don't know how they can preform when they've got so much infighting and instability."
There are also concerns about the minor and micro parties – including Rise Up, Palmer United and the Secular Party – further diffusing the Senate balance. "(It means) a lot more options, but then at the same time it's going to make things a lot more difficult to get policies through," said first time voter accountant Tanaka Mazirie. "You don't know if the right decisions are being made, if they're getting into power for the right sort of reasons."
– Georgina Moore
ELECTORATE: Calare, NSW
3.40PM: Calare is as blue as they come. In the polling booths in Oberon in the east of the electorate where this picture was taken, only a handful of voters opted for the Greens in 2010 (though the party polled 6 per cent in the seat as a whole then). Even though it was represented by an ALP member for most of the 1980s, it’s classified as a safe National seat and incumbent John Cobb, former president of the National Farmers Federation, is expected to romp it in. The seat stretches from the Blue Mountains out west to Parkes and Forbes and takes in the residents of big towns such as Bathurst and Orange – as well as swathes of mining, farming and forestry country such as Oberon where Cobb is a safe bet.
– Catriona Menzies-Pike
ELECTORATE: Lilley, Queensland
3.20PM: At Nundah State High School, voters waited 35-minutes to vote in former Treasurer Wayne Swan’s seat of Lilley in Brisbane.
Swan could lose the seat to Liberal National candidate Rod McGarvie, and it was clear when speaking to voters that many were disillusioned with the Labor government.
“I voted for Bob Katter,” said Robyn Karugaba. “I just don’t like either of the Labor or Liberal parties at all. They say stop the boats but that’s hypocritical because they are selling off half of Australia to foreign ownership.”
“I would have voted for Wikileaks if they had anyone here,” said Greens voter Daniel Green. “I certainly don’t trust the government in general even though I know the preferences are going to Labor I really don’t think Abbott is going to do anything good.”
A number of Gen Y voters that I spoke to were voting according to the candidates’ environmental credentials, while many of those voting Labor were doing so because they supported education reforms.
Deputy Principal Paul Kenny said he hoped Wayne Swan would remain in the seat to ensure better resources for schools. “I don’t trust Tony Abbot and I don’t think a lot of Australians do. So hopefully here in Lilley, Wayne will be returned,” he said.
– Gabrielle Lyons
ELECTORATE: Melbourne, Victoria
3PM: The crowds at St Marks polling booth in Fitzroy are relaxed and comfortable. Greens volunteer Edward, a 33-year-old academic, says he is "stunned" at the strength of Greens' support, estimating that well over 50 per cent of voters are choosing the Greens.
He noted that people really seem to support Adam Bandt personally, not just the Greens as a party. "I haven't noticed the same enthusiasm for anyone else," he said. But despite the Greens' popularity in Fitzroy, success will depend on responses in other suburbs. "It will be close," he said.
The controversial East-West Link is undoubtedly a critical issue here. Lawyer James, a Labor volunteer, says people have indicated they are "very pleased" to hear that candidate Cath Bowtell is opposed to this Labor policy and fully in support of increasing public transport in the area as an alternative.
Voters Jamie, 37, and Bronwin, 33, said asylum seekers and environmental policy are key factors affecting their vote for Bandt.
Although the Greens look set for local victory, Edward considers a Coalition win to be "a done deal". "That's one of the reasons I got behind this," he said. "With Abbott in government, Bandt's presence in the public discourse is even more important."
– Kirrily Schwarz
ELECTORATE: Deakin, Victoria
2.40PM: The sausage sizzles and cake stalls are in full swing at Deakin's Blackburn Primary School polling centre, where voters are met with a wall of party faithfuls and their 'how to vote' cards as they enter.
Deakin is one of Labor's most marginal Victorian seats. With a 0.6 per cent margin, even the gentlest swing could see it fall to the Liberals – something that party's campaigners seem quietly confident of.
There are also 12 minor and micro parties running here – including the Country Alliance, Rise Up, the Sex Party and Bob Katter's Australia Party, as well as an independent.
The vote seems divided, with many dissollusioned with traditional parties and turning to novel new comers. Nicolette Heip, a hairdresser passionate about education and gay rights, is sending her vote to the Sex Party. "I guess with the Sex Party… it needs all the support it can get. Where as, The Greens have been around a lot longer."
Bruce Barber, a recently retired research scientist, traditionally a Labor voter, voted for The Greens over the treatment of asylum seekers and what he saw as the appalling treatment of former Labor leader and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Barber said he was dissollusioned with party politics, but was even more worried about a probable Abbott government.
– Georgina Moore
ELECTORATE: Griffith, Queensland
2PM: Vox pops at Mayfield State School, Carina, in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's electorate of Griffith.
Paul, 47, works in management role — voted Labor
I believe that everything isn’t as bad [with the current government]as what the media have made out. I think the media campaign has been absolutely terrible this election. It has been so biased and one-way. There’s been such a glaring problem with the LNP but it hasn’t been reported. For me, it was the fact that the Liberals didn’t put out their costings until the other day. When you budget for a family, you have to know how much money you’ve got to budget, so all the costings should be put out as soon as they can be put out. How are they (the LNP) going to pay for their policies? They could have started from scratch and said, this is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to pay for it. And it seems awfully funny when they’re not going to tell you how they’ll pay for it. It’s well known that Murdoch didn’t want to Labor party to win. And I think they won’t win. I don’t really trust any of them (politicians), but I think the Labor party’s done pretty well with the GFC and we’ve come out of it pretty well. We’ve got relative security in our jobs, and I don’t think we’re going to have that with the LNP. And at the State level, that’s already been proven. I think we’re going to see what’s really going to happen in the first few months [of an LNP government].
Renee, 43, small business owner — voted Labor
It is very scary. I own a small [beauty therapy]business. When all of this happens, and people (government workers) get sacked, my business slows down. It affects my family, my income, everything. It’s a flow-on effect. It happened with the State election, and it will happen again. So you’ve got to readjust everything to cater to it—you have to work longer hours and work harder to try to get those dollars that you used to have.
Lyn, 60, Pharmacy Assistant — Voted Greens
I traditionally vote for the Greens based on their past policies. For me, it was a matter of not being satisfied with the other major parties. Joss, 28, Scientist—Voted Greens I want to nullify an Abbott government in the lower house. I don’t know if that’s going to happen though. It’s just wishful thinking.
Mark, 33, Planner — Voted Greens
I disliked the Liberals’ broadband policy and marriage equality policy. I voted really to keep those policies out. I know it’s probably a lost cause, but whatever.
Alex, 22, Labourer — Cast an invalid vote
I didn’t vote. I just don’t really care and I don’t like either of them.
Mikayla, 18, student — Voted LNP
I don’t even know why I voted the way I did. I’ve just followed my parents my whole life! I voted Liberal, just because Labor likes to spend all the money. I don’t know really. This is the first time I’ve voted and I don’t even really know what I’m doing. I’m not that interested in politics. I just love Johnny Howard so I voted Liberal!
Bill, 59, retired — Voted LNP
I voted for the LNP because of the way that Labor destroyed themselves. With all the Julia Gillard controversy… it’s just a schamozzle. The country—not that Tony Abbott’s much better—but what the country needs is somebody who can speak and vocalise what they believe in and I think Kevin Rudd is just very self promoting. It’s all about Kevin. Having said that, Tony Abbott’s not a great orator either… You know, if you go back in Australian politics to people like Menzies, people who were real statesmen, who you could look up to and admire—they spoke well and were articulate and they knew what they were talking about. But, you know, when Julia Gillard became our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was stabbing her in the back all the time and trying to weasel his way back. It was just disgusting. It wasn’t about the Australian people; it was just about them. The politics just makes me sick. I could have cast a donkey vote if I wanted, but the lesser of two evils for me is Tony Abbott. I agree with getting rid of the carbon tax, but I’m not too sure about his paid parental scheme. It’s just the lesser of two evils for me.
– Belinda Eslick
ELECTORATE: Warringah, NSW
1.55PM: Is Jules Zanetti the man who will unseat Tony Abbott this election? Probably not – Labor polled about 25 per cent in Warringah last election – but he may well be the most optimistic person running for the ALP this election.
"The reaction's been pretty good, people are pretty positive," Zanetti told me this morning, over a few patriotic coffees at a cafe near the Manly Corso. "It is what it is. [Warringah] is not exactly a marginal seat."
"But if the polls turn out to be right, then at least we'll have a good record to remember this Labor government." He is on message, but remains realistic. "I do think it was a big ask asking for a third term after a hung parliament," he said.
Zanetti, a 25-year-old IT professional, moved to the seat around nine months ago and won preselection to run against Tony Abbott. Unlike the campaign at large, which quickly went from "A New Way" to "Tony's Cuts", he has been pushing Labor's record over the last two terms of government, especially on economics and infrastructure investment. In a seat like Warringah, not exactly Labor's social democratic heartland, his candidacy has been an interesting indicator of what messages cut through.
"I've been speaking with journos quite often about what we've been doing and the achievements of this government," Zanetti said. "We've spent 60 billion on infrastructure, invested billions in primary education, healthcare, universities, disability care – a lot of the time it's hard to get a soundbite. Obviously though that's up to us … it's definitely up to the party to get that stuff across. A lot of people talk about marriage equality, that's a huge one … and the NBN will be rolled out around here in 2016."
What has cut through, even in the Murdoch papers, which have given him a pretty good run (the local Manly paper is a feeder for the Tele), is the feeling that Abbott takes the seat for granted while he jets around as opposition leader. Even the Greens poll around 10 per cent, partly for the same reason, and a sense of frustration with the major parties. Zanetti has barely had contact with the opposition leader over the last few months:
"Very little. He refused to debate me. There's been very little interaction from him – he assumes he's won it from day one."
During a recent candidates' debate, Abbott sent Coalition Senate hopeful and Howard government maven Arthur Sinodinos to speak in his place. "The locals who were in the audience really didn't appreciate that at all. They would much rather have seen their actual local member there," Zanetti said.
The issues crippling the ALP in New South Wales – the faceless men, the ICAC Eddie Obeid scandal – haven't really been registering in Warringah. The Northern Beaches are a far cry from the travails Labor faces in western Sydney. "There hasn't been a great deal [on the ICAC stuff]– it's not something people really talk to me about," Zanetti said.
He counters by saying that the Libs have been the ones trashing the place, by not presenting a policy front to be scrutinised: "They've been running for a very long time on this idea that they can hide their policies from the Australian people – it's dirty politics, and it's been bad for Australian democracy as far as I'm concerned."
He wouldn't be drawn on questions about leadership, factions or the state of the party post-election – "Mate the election's not even over yet! No way" – but, being a member of a new growing class of de-industrialised workers, had things to say about where Labor's future vote might come from.
"That's a tough one … policies like the NBN will safeguard industries like IT, but they'll also create industries we can't dream of yet," he said.
"We're not losing ground to the Greens, we're losing ground to the Coalition." As for tradies, owner operators and the like, who formed the bulk of Howard's "Battlers", Zanetti said they're still viable for the ALP: "Yeah absolutely! We still do well with these people, Labor, we still account for them! We make BAS easier, cut red tape … [but]there's more work to do in that space."
As for the Labor Party in Abbott country – and in general? "There are a few branches around, some of them are pretty healthy," Zanetti said. "But it's like all community organisations, we're just having trouble maintaining a membership – that's just the way it is … Political parties and community organisations in general are having trouble, because people feel like they don't want to join – I'm not sure why."
Nonetheless, he said, "people here do really respond to the idea that their success relies on the success of other people … [we]don't live in a bubble. Everybody relies on everybody else. While helping out big business helps them deliver big profits, it doesn't make for a very good society at the end of the day."
"It's quite interesting," he continued. "Compromise is an important part of a democracy, and of a functional society. It's interesting watching the Greens play themselves out of the Australian political spectrum the last three years definitely, with Bob Brown leaving and Christine Milne taking over. It's ensured they weren't at the table when a lot of important decisions were made."
Zanetti will go back to the IT sector after the election but remain active in the party. "Throughout history we've only held government a handful of times postwar," he said. "We need to focus on governing for all Australians and be viewed as a mainstream party … activism is best left to other groups, like the Greens."
– Adam Brereton
ELECTORATE: Lindsay, NSW
1.10PM: As voters queued around the block waiting for the polls to open at Glenmore Park High School this morning, a heavy fog rolled through Penrith Valley. It must have felt like the final dark omen to the Labor faithful in Sydney’s western suburbs who have donned their David Bradbury shirts for what looks to be the Assistant Treasurer’s dying hours as the Member for Lindsay.
Bradbury cast his vote at 9am at Claremont Meadows Public school which sits in the middle of a winding suburb of big homes, big gardens, and big mortgages. It’s exactly the kind of setting that Labor has targeted exhaustively over the last three years, but despite low interest rates and steady employment figures it looks like Claremont Meadows, Glenmore Park, and the surrounding suburbs of Lindsay will deliver a victory to Liberal candidate, Fiona Scott.
Addressing the media gathered at the marginal seat (held by a margin of just 1.1%), the Assistant Treasurer wavered between resolute and morose. Conceding his job was on the line, Bradbury spoke like a man trying to set the historical record straight, rather than one with a mind to being a major player in its future. Almost nostalgic, Bradbury pointed to investment in the Napean hospital and other local infrastructure as proof of the valour of his tenure. Aside from this, he kept to safe generalities (New Matilda can now confirm that not only does Bradbury think democracy is a good thing, he also loves his country).
NM did sneak in a question about Labor’s refugee policies, and whether its recently toughened stance had improved his chances at the ballot box. Somewhat bizarrely, Bradbury denied Labor’s policy under Rudd had become tougher. In his standard party-central response, Bradbury said it was essential for Australia to maintain an orderly migration program. He also made a brief humanitarian pitch (“we’ve increased our intake to 20 000”) but it’s the migration and population angle that seems to have spooked his electorate most, as hinted by Scott’s conflation of asylum seeker treatment and western suburbs congestion issues in a much criticised comment from made this week.
Labor’s successes in minority government have not gone entirely unnoticed. Martha and Andrew, Claremont Meadows locals, said that Bradbury was more visible in the electorate than his rival Scott. Wheelchair bound and employed in disability services, Martha was concerned a Coaltion victory would lead to cuts to the National Disability Scheme. On the ground, voters were warm to Bradbury and even those voting against Labor had little negative to say about him, focusing instead on Labor’s leadership instability and perceived untrustworthiness.
They mentioned Abbott and Rudd more often than Bradbury and Scott. “[Abbott] doesn’t lie to your face,” said one 22-year-old resident, confident that he would prove an honest PM and be better for business in the area.
Across the bellwether electorate, Scott wasn’t so keen to talk to the media posse that assembled to watch her cast a vote. All questions were directed to her media adviser who told us she simply wouldn’t have the time to chat. She did mention she wasn’t counting her chickens before they hatched.
During the half an hour she spent talking to voters and posing for photos she was apparently too busy answer even the most basic questions, let alone the more pressing ones she will be forced to deal with should she enter parliament. Shake hands, take the photos, don’t produce a gaffe, move on – it has been the modus operandi for the Liberal party here and elsewhere.
There is a pox on both houses in Lindsay but judging by voter sentiment it has afflicted Labor far worse than the Liberals. There was little doubt among those voting Liberal that Abbott would make a good PM. Joshua Oringo-Caagday, a 22-year-old student, said his faith in the party had been shaped during the Howards years. Despite being a college student, he said he was not concerned about tertiary education cuts under an Abbott government.
“It has been a really long three years,” Scott confided to one voter as volunteers took shade in the Glenmore Park High School trees. With Labor failing to win back disillusioned voters, it could be an even longer wait for them should things go sour tonight. The western Sydney midday heat may have chased away the haunting fog, but things are still looking decidedly dark for David Bradbury and the Labor Party.
– Max Chalmers
ELECTORATE: Melbourne, Victoria
12.05PM: The mood at St Joseph's College in North Melbourne is one of impending doom as national favour swings toward the Coalition.
Two female public servants, who asked not to be named, said they were "very depressed" and "sick to the stomach" at the prospect of an Abbott victory. One is hoping that Labor candidate Cath Bowtell will be successful in the seat of Melbourne; the other is predicting a "very close" battle between Labor and the Greens, stating that key issues swaying her vote were the treatment of asylum seekers and cuts to foreign aid.
David, a 42-year-old lawyer, is predicting "Greens for sure". "I think there is a lack of moral compass in the Labor party," he said. "Voting Labor is voting according to the judgement of middle class wealth in Australia."
Architect Rodney, 31, is also predicting a win for Adam Bandt, saying "he's already in there".
Meanwhile, voters are busy scouring St Joseph's for evidence of a sausage sizzle that appears to be missing in action.
– Kirrily Schwarz
ELECTORATE: Melbourne, Victoria
11.05AM: Voters arriving at Carlton Gardens Primary School are greeted by a gauntlet of party volunteers.
Greens volunteer Claudine Chionh says she has enjoyed "a few in-depth conversations so far". A quick survey of voters indicates that Greens candidate Adam Bandt is popular here, however, some like voter Alex predict that "he'll lose his margin by a bit".
But Labor volunteer Adam Ford remains "quietly confident". He plans to stay at Carlton Gardens all day. Even as we speak, he is accosting all passersby with Labor flyers, punctuating our conversation with cries of "Vote Labor!".
But despite the enthusiasm of both the Greens and Labor at this polling both, voters are predicting a federal coalition victory. "It will be Abbott by a landslide," said voters Margaret and Mary.
– Kirrily Schwarz
ELECTORATE: Higgins, Victoria
11AM: A triangle of party posters – with Liberal incumbent Kelly O'Dwyer at the fore, and Labor and The Greens facing it off on the base – sums up the likely result here in Higgins. O'Dwyer holds the blue-ribbon seat by a margin of 5.4 per cent.
But there are a few dissenters in line this morning, such as Frances, whole feels nauseated by the campaign. "The whole election's making me feel sick. I think both parties are a disgrace… And for the first time, I'm a swinging voter."
Many are voting on national, not local, issues. Michael Kitson, who decided never again to vote Liberal during the Howard government, is concerned about relations with Asia,and the way the incoming govrrnment will deal with the mining boom and the economy. Indeed, the economy remains top dog for many. "I think (we should be) getting out ecomony back in a position where we can get to a surplus and not a deficit," said Joshua Gilbert "(And) being a little bit careful with where our money's being spent and a little more conservative. "
– Georgina Moore
ELECTORATE: Warringah, NSW
10.30AM: On this patriotic morning I'll be filing a few dispatches from the stronghold of Tony Abbott country: his seat of Warringah. It's a diverse place suited to a PM who will govern for All Australians. From the glittering multi-million dollar harbourfront properties of Mosman, to the marginally less spectacular harbourfront properties of Neutral Bay; the beautiful beaches of Manly, Curl Curl and Narrabeen and the bronzed multiethnic community that enjoys them – there truly is no Federal seat that captures the depth and breadth of Australian society. The yachts and ferries beloved by all Australians speak to a simple life: this is a place where the boats stop.
Warringah is a sunny, cheerful place, which explains why, in the language of its original Indigenous inhabitants, its name means the "sign of rain". Tony Abbott has promised to be a "prime minister for Aboriginal affairs", a man of practical action when it comes to reconciliation. It's a sound approach; at the 2011 census, Warringah boasted fully 603 Indigenous Australians – 0.4 per cent (nationally, it's 2.5 per cent). A practical PM like Tony could give a dose of direct action to every single Indigenous constituent and still have time for an afternoon swim.
Unfortunately, not all is well in this veritable Arcady; at the last census around 2600 of Warringah's residents were unemployed, a disastrous 3.5 per cent. Median mortgage repayments are up at a crippling $2600 a month – $800 higher than the national average. Scrimping and saving, the tough working families of Warringah somehow manage to make ends meet on a paltry $2837 a week. In a changing, fast-paced world voters crave stability. No wonder then that the seat has been held since 1922 by a conservative candidate. Abbott has been Lord of the Land since 1994, but could this year be different? Stay tuned: I'll be interviewing Labor candidate Jules Zanetti later this morning.
– Adam Brereton
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