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Colour me beige, it’s an election

Voting Australia 40sIt’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.)

VotingThis 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.

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.

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.

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  1. Great Blog, Claire. Thanks

    If nobody voted; not one soul except the candidates (who would presumably vote for themselves) – what would happen then?

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  4. Claire, love this post because it said so much and made me laugh at the same time. It all seems particularly pertinent too, being here in Shanghai, where many people do not have what we take for granted like toilets (other than communal latrines and human waste disposal units built into the side of crumbling buildings) and elections.
    I’m also reading ‘Things we didn’t see coming’ by Steve Amsterdam which is set in a dystopian world that politicians seem set to send us at an ever swifter pace thanks to their lack of action on climate change.
    But Claire, please reconsider voting Green – the balance of power if used wisely can make a difference.
    And finally, on a more positive note, my partner attended The Greens federal campaign launch on the weekend. Apparently the audience booed when Martin Ferguson’s name was raised (they were much better behaved than me – I would have been spitting and hissing), but rather than encourage it, Greens candidates asked the audience to be respectful (or words to that effect). Perhaps I’m just biased or looking for hope where there isn’t much, but this simple gesture in such an ugly election campaign made me feel good.

    • Thank you Trish. I am certainly considering the Greens again after I read about their plans for arts funding and I think you are right about the difference the balance of power can make.

  5. Thanks for this contribution, you succinctly put words to my thoughts. I had almost decided to just get my name ticked off and put a big cross through the ballot to meet my legal obligation without favoring the list of to me, unworthy, choices. I did however a few days ago check the policies of the Australian Democrats who strayed far from the plot and became a minor irrelevancy. Im pleased to report they have a fresh new look and have put some serious thought into what they stand for nowdays. The policy releases on http://www.democrats.org.au/policies/ are a starting point anyway. I cant agree with all of them, but I agree with enough of it to be able to vote for them and keep my conscience calm. I urge you to check ’em out anyway…hopefully they will ease your dilemna (perhaps?)

  6. cool post-made me laugh.

    a lot of people who don’t see the point in voting Green donkey it or vote for labor directly because they figure that’s where their preferential ends up anyway. but perhaps, voting for the Greens adds to their momentum, and the heavy weights in politics (labs/libs) will have to take what they are saying seriously…

  7. Your post made me think about what my main concerns are in this upcoming election – the wars, the NT intervention and refugees. (Yes, I feel guilty about all the things that didn’t make my priorities list, but these are all policies and ‘commitments’ a government could realistically end and [then vastly] improve.)

    So here’s the rub: for the two major parties, their policies are virtually indistinguishable on each of these issues.

  8. Yeah. I am THISCLOSE to defacing my ballot. But right now I’m leaning towards voting under the line, voting for the greens and the socialist alternative and the sex party, not necessarily in that order, because i do not want my preferences tending anywhere vaguely NEAR Labor.

    I’m kinda pissed at the Greens, too, actually. They’re still doing better, but they did nothing about the internet filter and they’re doing nothing about the new pornography laws.

    That said, this website: https://www.belowtheline.org.au/, is interesting. Shows where everyone’s preferences are directed… and the Greens are not going sraight to Labor, bless their tiny green souls.

    • Mind you, one should never underestimate the Tuck Shop Lady – she may have an alternative identity as an informed, politically savvy or just-plain-thoughtful human being. I’m pretty sure Joan Kirner started off as a tuck shop lady … and president of the ‘Mothers’ Club’ … as was my mother. Those women spent a lot of time behind the tuck shop counter and their opinion is/was as good as anybody’s.

      Gee – a bit of a rant!

      • Oh golly, no disrespect intended towards tuckshop ladies. They are the backbone of society, teaching us all about manners and how many carob-buds you can get for 15c. They should form their own political party, you might be onto something there Clare…

        • 🙂 I never thought you meant any disrespect.

          Perhaps we could adopt Jamie Oliver for PM with a cabinet of tuckshop ladies (he seems to have a way with them) – I’m all for it.

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