Election Day 2016

A disappointing day

Australia went to the polls yesterday after a long and generally uneventful campaign between debutante candidates for the top job.

As I write this, the country does not yet know who will lead it for the next three years ……..and how.

I live in the electorate of Chisholm. The seat has been held for nearly two decades by Anna Burke, who stood down before this election. Late last night the commentators were saying that Chisholm had been won by the Liberal candidate Julia Banks. Malcolm Turnbull singled her out for praise in his speech early this morning. However, looking at the numbers I think it is still too close to call. If Chisholm is won by the coalition it will be the only ALP seat in the country to be taken from them by the Coalition.

If Banks wins, she deserves congratulations as she ran a solid campaign in the electorate. I saw very little of the ALP contender during the campaign.

My experience at the polling booth was nothing out of the ordinary. I was surprised that the CFA were present and encouraging people to vote for the Coalition. Ours is a marginal seat (1.6%) so I should not have been surprised that a number of single interest groups were present.

I found the Senate voting sheet unwieldy. Anyone wishing to to be careful and selective in their voting would have had difficulty filling in the sheet in a narrow polling booth. I was fortunate enough to check my sheet before leaving the booth and found to my horror, that I had used the same preference twice! In the cramped conditions of the booth and the time it took me to find the candidates I wished to vote for on the sheet, I had forgotten the sequence of preferences I had already recorded.

I will be interested to see how many people had similar difficulties with the voting sheet.

For me there were some significant issues at stake in this election, namely the continued detention of asylum seekers and equal marriage rights. The latter issue was a clear-cut issue between the major parties, with the Coalition promising a plebiscite and the ALP, immediate reform.

The asylum seeker issue was not so clear-cut with both major parties trying to outdo each other in their cruelty towards those seeking refuge here. The only party with a credible policy on this issue is the Greens. It was my hope that they would gain the ascendancy in the Senate and be able to influence policy and legislation in this area. Or better still, the Greens may permit a major party to form a minority government, in return for humane concessions or perhaps a reprieve for those in detention.

The television coverage was indifferent. I was disappointed with the ABC. At 9.00pm, channels 7 and 9 and Sky had the ALP on 58–59 seats and the Coalition on 58–59 seats but the ABC had the ALP at 67 seats and the Coalition at 73 seats! Did the ABC team want an early night?

The election is currently sitting on a knife edge. Turnbull declared that the coalition would be able to form a majority government. I thought this was a brave statement given the available numbers. We will know more next week.

I was not impressed with the speeches given by the respective leaders. Shorten appeared to be quite happy with himself, smug in the midst of his followers. I was hoping for more prime-ministerial reserve. Perhaps a more gracious attitude towards his opponent. Perhaps some thought for the hundreds of gay couples that would have been disappointed and deflated by the result. There was so much riding on this vote.

I was less satisfied with Turnbull’s speech. Firstly, his address was too late in the day. I accept that he had to wait for Shorten to finish his speech but to still be at home after midnight guaranteed that his address to the nation would keep the country up until the the early hours of the morning.

His energy was all wrong for the occasion. Again he lacked prime-ministerial reserve. Far from being gracious he complained about his opponent’s campaign and even threatened to call in the police.

The speeches confirmed everyone’s concern about the quality of our leadership. Shorten could perhaps be excused because of his relative inexperience and age but Turnbull has no excuse.

I feel we are facing uncertain times. Brexit has created instability in Europe. The US presidential election is creating fear and uncertainty in the US. The Australian economy cannot sustain growth, even marginal growth for much longer. The Reserve Bank’s ability to control economic activity has disappeared through low interest rates. The mining boom is well and truly over and working families are feeling the pinch as small and big business rationalise their workforce and place an increasing number of Australians out of work.

Australia has also experienced some significant corporate failures such Dick Smith and Slater + Gordon. Retail activity is sluggish. The future is uncertain.

In times like these we need strong leadership. We need a vision. We need hope.

I didn’t see any of this in play last night. I didn’t get the impression that our leaders appreciate the significant difficulties of a hung or near hung parliament. I went to bed in dismay.

I feel for both the gay population and the asylum seekers facing indefinite detention. They would not have been happy with the events as they unfolded last night.