Being the change you want to see was one of those mantra’s that I have often harped upon, especially in light of the changing world. For years I had felt that leaders seemed less impressive, as the clown car dispensed one joker after the next. With the latest election being held in Australia, I knew that there was little to get enthused about so my intention was to split my votes across those who would have little to no chance of getting elected, but were willing to make the effort to throw their hats into the ring.
Then up stood my brother. It’s a funny thing when a person close to you decides to run for public office. It wasn’t really an idea that came out of the blue, (he had mentioned it a few times as we were growing up,) but certainly one I wasn’t really expecting at this election. That being said, being politically engaged and doing community minded things seem to run in the family. Across the family, they make regular donations to causes around the world, argue about social justice over pancakes as well as make regular submissions to government reports.The more I thought about it, the more I should have realised it was inevitable.
Like a good brother, I did what good brothers do and agreed to help where I could. I spent a few lunches handing out How To Vote cards to those heading in for early voting, offering suggestions on how to articulate a position, or even just helping my brother to clarify in his own mind, positions on issues that he had never really had an opinion on. All of this was also good for achieving some clarity on my own points of view. (I even had occasional flashbacks to when my father was involved in politics and he used to “encourage” us to drop party political junk mail into peoples mailboxes.) All in all it wasn’t the worst way to spend a little of my time.
It was also interesting to meet people who traversed a world far removed from my usual bubble. People actively involved in national politics who were passionate about their candidates and their positions. They ranged from the very young handing flyers out for a relative, (Tweens, I believe the term is now.) to the octogenarian handing out for the euthanasia party. Some were quite vocal and theatrical. (The Greens candidates had their own greek tragedy performance about the current government and it’s heinous attempts to cut funding to the CSIRO.) All the groups, from the very left, to the very right were there, and to be honest, it was all quite light and relaxed. After all, these people had several hours to kill each day and the only people to talk to, were others in the same boat. In the quiet times, candidates were compared and people would happily discuss the overlaps between each others choice.
Election day arrived and it was still a civil affair, though with more people handing out flyers, there were those who made it inadvertently entertaining. Everyone had their styles. I for one, having worked a stand selling gluten free, cholesterol free, dairy free, nut free sugar free chocolate (Far tastier than it sounds.) at many a fair was using much the same approach. Polite but light. Making it fun on a day when people were queueing and wanting to get on with their days. Being moderate left, I was an easygoing person to strike up a conversation with about politics when the queue dropped off. I chatted with the Liberals (Conservatives), Labor (More lefties, democrats for my American friends.) Greens (Who always seemed convinced that this was their election.) and so on. One of the highlights was a man I was convinced was mentally unbalanced and may have been drinking for a large portion of the day. (His candidate got a seat on the senate.) One lady who represented a salt of the earth farmer by the name of Bob Katter whose gal on the ground took the passive aggressive approach to handing out flyers. “Support the farmers, vote for Bob Katter.” and when a person trapped helplessly in the queue declined, she followed it up with. “Oh, so you don’t support the farmers? I guess you don’t want to eat then.” (Her candidate made it in too.)
Then there was the Labor mob. A well oiled machine with uniform red hoodies and beanies. They wanted their people out there regardless, and with a big party behind them, they had the numbers to pick you off no matter how to tried to sneak in to the voting booth. The Liberal party had their blue and white t-shirts that highlighted the fact that they looked pretty, but were essentially useless when it came to the realities of being a person on the ground doing the work on a freezing cold, windy Sydney day. (On the plus, they had the numbers and cash to be able to afford regular cafe runs.) One of their members had developed a style where he would stop and chat with people in the queue directly in front of people from smaller and independent candidates so as to make it hard for them to hand out their flyers. Amongst all of this was the humble Australian Electoral Commission workers trying to monitor the chaos. I spoke to a young guy who had just turned eighteen and had seized the chance to get involved. When I asked as to why he was passionate about supervising the process, he told me with a gleam in his eyes, that he would earn $400, for the days work and that would cover his beer for a month.
It was interesting being involved and it became clear how slim the chances to get elected would be if you didn’t have name recognition or a massive party machine to crank out the supporters, flyers and billboards, posters showing the same heads with their plastered on smiles in perfectly coordinated outfits. The amount of printing that had gone into a few small hours of activity would be, mere hours later, consigned to the scrap heap of history. (Hopefully recycled.)
Well the day was done and the battle fought. My brother didn’t get elected but the learning curve was high (for all of us.) and if you follow the news, Australia still hasn’t got itself sorted. The fear is that with no result, it all will happen again in a few short weeks. I shall put my hand up to help the Australian Electoral Commission, after all, I will certainly need $400 worth of alcohol to get through another election.