The circus was in town again. Red and white striped tents, wall to wall posters of the coming attractions, old ladies with cake stalls and a man who greeted me at the gate with a secret handshake, “go The Greens” he said, “go The Greens” I replied.
Voting day for the 2009 Qld state election was in full swing and like the 70 per cent of voters recorded by the Australian Electoral Commission who turn out in force between 8 and 11 am, I planned to vote early and return to a normal life as quickly as possible.
It was the first time I would be voting in Queensland and for a seat holding so much significance for the ALP’S stronghold over Australia. Both Anna Bligh and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd call South Brisbane home as their electorates.
This year’s election was a two-horse race right from the beginning. Ten days before the vote, opinion polls proved diligent populist campaigning methods by both Anna Bligh and Lawrence Springborg were paying off.
The ALP leader was receiving campaign pledges from Unions and Commonwealth funding from the Prime ministers federal budget while Lawrence Springborg had an ace in the hole in that of billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer, The Courier-Mail reported.
The same paper ran a story shortly before the election describing the confusion an American gold coast resident had with our democratic process, “I don’t know who the candidates are in my electorate … and all we ever hear about are Bligh and Springborg,” the Gold Coast resident told The Courier-Mail.
This has become an increasing trend of political campaigning in Australia and as Dr Paul Williams, a lecturer at the Griffith University on the Gold Coast told The Courier-Mail, “That’s both a shame and dangerous . . . it dumbs down politics”, he said.
“The issues don’t seem as important as leadership and party image,” Dr Williams said.
From the construction of an AFL stadium at Carrara, the looming doom of an expected high unemployment rate and the opposition leader’s promise of a billion dollar surplus in the face of a global financial crisis to the ‘Borg’s’ promise to commence uranium mining in Queensland. No one could blame an environmentally conscious footy mad journalism student for lodging their application to vote at the Australian Electoral commission with post haste.
But after this initial sense of satisfaction in participating in the democratic process had worn off, I couldn’t help but ask myself, why did I bother?
It all started in Greece. A system was born ensuring that not only could un-wanted citizens be removed by methods of ostracisation and deemed “de-necessary”. But the birth of democracy was forged which allowed members of every class to vote and play a role in the issues that affected them.
For Themistocles, the military genius and democratic visionary of the Greek Empire see the evolution of his idea some 2,500 years later become a high school class, presidential-style popularity race. It could be forgiven if he questioned where such a process was developed, and whether or not the Roman educative tours to learn of Greece’s democracy had gone astray.
Election night came and went like a passing storm. The ALP were all smiles as Anna Bligh seized a convincing enough win to form government and become the first female elected to become a Premier in Australia.
The Beattie dynasty was now complete and as David Carlyon an ALP local branch member described, “It’s very hard for a government in power after 11 years when people want change”, he said.
“We did better than we expected, we held seats that we thought we were going to lose, you hear rumblings on the campaign trail,” he said.
The ALP had orchestrated yet another stranglehold over the Australian political landscape with a calculated campaign that saw Lawrence Springborg run out of punches.
“I am happy with the campaign, I’d probably say for both sides the ads weren’t effective,” Mr Carlyon said.
With optional preferential voting playing the major role in this election, allowing voters to not only ‘Vote 1’ for their desired candidate but rank in order their preferences of others parties. It was assured my vote was going to the Labor camp, an ace in the hole that not even Clive Palmer or the “Borg” could parry against. But what it means to vote will be different for some people even if the outcome is almost rest assured.
“It makes me realise that you can make an impact, when you see people lose their seats it really shows that local policy and good candidates are important,” Mr Carlyon said.