Published 9 August 20109 August 2010 · Main Posts Colour me beige, it’s an election Claire Zorn It’s time to decide Australia. It’s time to stand up and grasp the rope of democracy – woven from the fabric of thousands of Anzac souls – and swing between apathy and outrage, determination and despair, boldness and boredom. It’s possible to swing between Julia and Tony as well, although the association of ‘Tony Abbott’ and ‘swinging’ is enough to put one off one’s Iced Vovos – and let’s face it, if you are reading anything associated with Overland, it’s unlikely you would consider voting for the Tonester. Then again, this is a strange and often disturbing age we live in and there are only so many times you can say you are voting for Jed Bartlett and still get a laugh. Eventually we are all going to find ourselves in a cardboard booth at the local primary school, with the only person to turn to for advice being the woman who is handing out the pencils, the one in the turquoise muumuu who makes sticky buns for the tuckshop. And even then, I’m pretty sure she’s not allowed to share her opinion. We will all be left on our own to decide between beige and beige, between two candidates with little to distinguish them from one another besides their genders. (Or just vote for the Socialist Party for the heck of it.) We will have to put numbers in boxes. Or will we? I have a friend who, years ago, drew a donkey on his ballot. I was outraged. I yelled things at him about the sacrifice of our grandparents’ lives, about Burma and Tibet, honour, human rights and possibly Luke Skywalker. I said ‘You are an intelligent, compassionate, articulate and discerning person, you are the sort of person who simply MUST vote! That man over there has a sticker on his car that says “No Fat Chicks” and he’s going to vote!’ He answered that there was no-one he wanted to vote for. I remained outraged, because I am stubborn and I’m very good at being outraged, yet now, years later, I find myself idly designing donkey motifs every time Julia or Tony appear on the television. The thing about this election, as many before me have pointed out, is that there is no discernable difference between the parties, though both are going to great pains to pretend there is. If Labor is to be believed, Tony Abbott is going to be scrapping the national broadband network and reinstating Morse code as the primary tool of communication. According to the Liberals, Julia Gillard is a sort of modern day Sheriff of Nottingham, taxing ‘working Australian families’ within an inch of their lives. (As opposed to all those bludging, aristocratic Australian families.) Maybe it’s just me, but these things seem like nothing more than electioneering in comparison to the two issues that would decide where I place my own vote: asylum seekers and carbon emissions reduction. Both Labor and the Liberals are concerned about the tiny portion of boat people who arrive on our shores every year (fleeing countries without functioning democracies, ironically), but not concerned for their welfare, more concerned about how they are going to destroy the ‘Australian way of life’ and clog up the M4. Yet both parties have decided not to worry about the thing that is sure to destroy the Australian way of life and life in general: climate change. They’re not concerned with cutting carbon emissions for the moment, because they don’t want to ask people to give up their Foxtel subscriptions to accommodate the rising energy costs. How considerate of them, at least when we’re all starving because our food crops have either been scorched out of existence or vanished beneath the ocean we’ll be able to keep ourselves entertained with Family Guy marathons. Which brings us back to the beige problem. What to do on Election Day? Normally I’d go Green, but they’ve promised to give their preferences to Labor, so it seems more sensible to save the administration costs and cut out the middle man. But I can’t support Labor’s spineless attitude to carbon emissions or asylum seekers. And I couldn’t vote for Tony ‘I’m a Christian, but I’d turn the boats around’ Abbott. (I dare you to explain that one to Jesus, Tone.) Which leaves the donkey. But I just don’t know if I can do it. I’m the great-granddaughter of a man who fought at Gallipoli; yes, by all accounts he was mildly insane and it’s possible he had no idea what he was fighting for and didn’t care, but I cannot sully his memory by squandering my right to vote. (As opposed to sullying his memory by declaring via the world wide web that he was mentally infirm and trigger-happy.) This doesn’t feel like democracy, because I was taught to believe that democracy is the election, by the people, of a government that will act on the people’s behalf. There is no-one acting on my behalf. There is no-one standing up saying: ‘to heck with popularity, we should not be imprisoning children and we should stand up to the bloody mining and oil companies to ensure there is still a world for those children to live in one-hundred years from now.’ In the words of Jacinda Woodhead, ‘we need a democracy with a pulse’. Yet all the blogging in the world won’t change the fact that in a couple of weeks we will all find ourselves in a cardboard booth, and I honestly don’t know what the hell I’ll do when I’m there. Claire Zorn Claire Zorn is a Sydney-based writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in various literary journals and she has a particular passion for writing young adult fiction. More by Claire Zorn Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 25 May 202326 May 2023 · Main Posts The ‘Chinese question’ and colonial capitalism in New Gold Mountain Christy Tan SBS’s New Gold Mountain sets out to recover the history of the Gold Rush from the marginalised perspective of Chinese settlers but instead reinforces the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty. 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