Sunday, October 10, 2004

Get Your Democratic Freak On

[Politics] Like Mulder, I wanted to believe. I'd agreed to help a mate hand out how-to-vote papers at the interstate-voters polling booth in Tuggeranong (real Kath & Kim country) and walked away five hours later still wanting to believe that change was possible. Now I'm trying to decide if the electorate is incredibly forgiving, or if it's in some sick, battered, codependent relationship with Howard; too scared to change.


The morning after the night before, I was nothing short of messy. The combination of beer, wine & Bundy had the effect you'd expect. But I had committed to helping out, so after voting in Civic I made my way to Homeworld, set up the table, put on my 'approachably happy' face and went to work.

As per instructions I stayed away from the front door and didn't get into any arguments with any of the punters, even when they thought it was my fault the AEC had set up a booth only for interstaters in the middle of a local shopping centre. Anticipating this issue would come up, the booth organiser had plenty of local material and lists of local booths ready, but I had my doubts with many of the punters I had to hand it to. Quickly learning that my first question should have been "Do you live locally or are you from interstate?" and giving them the local materials, I still watched about every third one of them walk into the booth and get turned around by the AEC volunteer inside.

Despite being on my feet for most of my shift, the sunburn and the rampant stupidity, there were some good moments. Special thanks for amusement go to the crazy little woman from the Libs table whose shouting had many punters shaking their heads and probably swung some undecideds, and to the guy in his little white hatchback who thought he was being funny and/or tough by waiting until he was turning on to the main road to shout "GO HOWARD" rather than while he was idling right next to the table. Not that I could've reacted anyway (following rule #1), but that level of gutlessness always amuses me.

What interested me during the day was that more older folk were approaching me, while the younger punters were picking up Libs materials. Having learnt that one mate's 80-something always-Lib-voting grandmother had swung to the ALP, solely on the Iraq issue, I had to ask the punters what issues had affected their decision. "Howard's lies." said one old digger. "We don't know how long Howard'll stick around for." said another. Neither issues I would've expected to have stuck in punters minds given the last week of coverage. No punters mentioned Medicare or the economy to me.

I walked into the after-party still positive, but it didn't last long. A room full of depressed middle-aged folk has something of a smothering effect. With the Tasmanian seats lost, the mood at the National Press Club was somber. The Canadian & Kiwi High Commissions should expect quite a few enquiries this week if talk around the room was anything to go by; the word "emigration" was being thrown around a bit. We left after about half an hour, tired and defeated.

So what factors came into play for things to turn out they way they have? Has Australia become more conservative, or did the ALP just not offer a good enough alternative? Was it a personality trait? Was it a particular policy? Was it self-interest outweighing a potential benefit to someone more needy? What does it say about Australian interest in politics that Australian Idol outrated the debate?

I need to see the post-polls because I want to understand.

Posted by Dean @ 10/10/2004 08:41:00 pm

Read or Post a Comment

I know how you feel, believe me.

In all honesty, I think the interest rates thing was a killer. Even after the 2001 result, I was talking to a few people who said that they wouldn't vote ALP again because they remembered paying 17% interest rates in 1989-90. The fact that this was right after the Tampa election made me start to think that interest rates would be the sleeper issue that would bludgeon us well into the future.

And I can understand it. At the moment, I can pay my mortgage reasonably comfortably - it's not causing me financial stress. And when I bought the house, I did the calculations to make sure I could still afford it at 10%, which I figured was the most we could reasonably expect to see over the next five or so years. But if I knew nothing about economics and didn't read the commentators, and I did the figures on 12% interest rates or 17% interest rates, I would have been running scared too.

The truth is that neither party would have been particularly better or worse at keeping interest rates down. The truth is also that our rates are quite high compared to the rest of the world, probably as a consequence of our balance of trade problem. But Labor didn't communicate that well enough, and maybe people wouldn't have believed it anyway.

But, like you, I want to see the post-mortem polls to understand what happened.

Posted by Blogger M @ Monday, October 11, 2004 3:18:00 pm #
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