A dispatch from the booths

It’s a cold, rainy morning in Sydney, so much so that when I saw the queue shivering at my local polling booth, I nearly turned away. Compulsory voting claims another victim. While I was waiting for an eternity to exercise my democratic right, I got a chance to check what messages the parties are trying to push on polling day.

After reading this briefing on the messages the campaigns are trying to ram down your throat, you’ll be safe to keep your eyes firmly closed or even put a paper bag over your head so none of the annoying volunteers can bother you as you walk into your booth

Climate Change Coalition: If a photo of a confused-looking Dr Karl wearing a Hawaiian shirt is enough to convince you to elect him to the Senate, you may find one or two hiding at the outer reaches of your booth. Except that Dr Karl isn’t even first on the ticket – it’s Patrice Newell, Phillip Adams’ wife, using his profile to try and get in to the Senate. As we all know, Dr Karl understands almost everything, but I fear he may not quite have understood just how slim his chances were before resigning his ABC job.

Democrats: A noble ambition, but a slogan to fire up the troops. And of course there are lots of ways of bringing back balance to the Senate – voting Labor for one. The original slogan tapped into most Australians’ feelings about politics, namely that those involved are “bastards” who need to be “kept honest”. This worthy yet limp approach perfectly encapsulates Lyn Allison’s slow, steady hand steering the party into the ground. And would you believe, they didn’t have anyone handing out how-to-vote cards at my booth for some time?
Eventually one lone Democrat showed up as I was leaving. He was wearing a fetching orange “Lyn to Win” t-shirt. I was surprised by this, since Lyn Allison is from Victoria. But then I realised the genius of the Democrats’ plan. The NSW candidate is Lyn Shumack. That spelling is almost as rare as a Dems supporter these days, so to find someone who ticks both boxes is a remarkable campaign coup. At first I was hailing the brilliant strategy which would deliver the Dems a purely Lyn-based recovery. But then I realised it’s probably because that they can only afford one set of t-shirts.

Family First: It’ll surprise no one when I tell you that in Darlinghurst, they didn’t bother campaigning. It seems the rights of gay families aren’t among those being put first. I’ll update this when I’ve actually seen some of their supporters elsewhere in Sydney.

Greens: They’re got lots of pictures of Bob Brown everywhere. Which seems strange, since he isn’t running in NSW, and unlike the Lower House where your vote does actually help elect the leader, those voting Green today aren’t giving Bob Brown anything more than friends. Still, no one’s heard of anyone else from the Greens, and their campaign staff are wearing spunky green t-shirts, and they want to do something or other about the environment, which is as much as anyone voting green ever knows about their party’s plans.

Labor: Kevin07 t-shirts are everywhere – a clever bit of branding, except that they’ve been around for a few months now and are sooo August. And “Kevin” isn’t exactly Prime Ministerial, compared to the serene gaze of John Howard that has appeared everywhere on election day since I was a toddler; or at least it seems that way. I was in Wentworth this morning, and was surprised to see that not only has George Newhouse’s team got the election date right, but they’ve managed to deliver the appropriate how-to-vote cards in the right places. The first signs of competence yet from the Newhouse campaign.
The election day poster is the same one we’ve seen all campaign of Rudd in an open-necked shirt, smiling beatifically against rolling hills on that day he briefly returned to the country he so successfully left behind. The slogan is “new leadership”. Which is something Julia Gillard will be endorsing if Rudd loses.

Liberals:Not a lot of posters of John Howard to be seen at my booth. Instead they’ve opted for huge signs, bigger than anyone else’s. They warn that when Labor gets in “they’ll just change it all”, on the basis that when Peter Garrett had his “short, jocular conversation”, he was actually formulating policy. And really, if you were a Labor candidate at the left-wing end of the spectrum, is there anyone you’d rather trust with the masterplan for three years of office than Steve Price? The problem with these signs is that a lot of voters will be delighted at the idea of everything changing, and be only too happy to vote Labor. And since they’re in traditional Labor red, they look like an official policy. This could backfire badly.

The poster features images of Garrett, Gillard and Swan with question marks on their faces. I was confused by this – where was Rudd? Then I realised everyone knows what he stands for – continuity with Howard. Peter Costello’s more of a question-mark than Rudd nowadays.

Nationals: Sorry, I live too far into the inner-city for them even to bother campaigning here, but I’ll update this page once I’ve had a chance.

Unions: The Coalition has been presenting the ALP as a coalition between Labor and the unions, calling it “Union-Labor” wherever possible. Of course that’s not actually true. The unions have far more power than, say, the Nationals. But you’ll see evidence of a campaigning coalition at the booths, with separate ACTU campaigners and signs from Labors, in cheerful orange. They’ve continued the “Your rights at work, worth fighting and voting for” theme, oblivious to the problem that it also covers bosses’ new rights at work, which they’ll certainly be voting for. They should probably just have come out and said “Screw WorkChoices”. Still, it’s good to see the union movement still actually has people in it – there have been grave doubts about that lately. Presumably all the people handing out just want a favoured passage to the Labor frontbench.

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