Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Blimey! It's been an interesting couple of weeks for all sorts of reasons. Not only have we been slaving away with the whole moving house/studio/office business but I've had the privilege of participating in my first Australian parliamentary elections... and what an election to start with.

Now, when you've been through the whole process of obtaining citizenship there actually isn't an Australian Politics 101 course to enlighten you about the political parties, the electoral system or the history. You are spoon-fed a whole pile of blurb about your rights and responsibilities as a citizen, including the important fact that voting is compulsory and not voting will land you with a hefty fine (which I applaud, on the whole, since I do feel that if you have the luck to live in a democracy it behoves you to ensure that such luck continues), but no-one prepares you for the enormities of the ballot papers.

MY GOD! Two ballot papers and eighty-odd names! And everyone's bandying about phrases such as 'Above the line' and 'Below the line', and you are supposed to know what it all means by osmosis! In the end I was compelled to ask two dear friends of ours what it all meant, and found it all rather amusing.

If you vote above the line you are simply selecting a political party and endorsing whichever candidates it chooses to field. If you vote below the line you are being picky and putting the individual candidates in order of preference - and you're spoilt for choice. Since it was my first election and I've been loosely following things with a measure of incredulity I decided to vote below the line, starting with my least favourite candidates which in my case included everyone from the Families First party and the Christian Democratic Party. The Australian Sex Party were a lot further up my list you will be unsurprised to hear, not because their manifesto coincides with my personal peccidilloes but because they have a great small 'l' liberal approach to life which I like. In the end I found myself quite torn about my top preferences: I am a natural leftie and voted Labour in the UK all my life but Labour means different things in Australia. I am also concerned about the environment and would liked to have been able to vote Green with a clear conscience but some of their policies on things like education worried me.

Anyway, I won't bore on about the details of my (limited) political views: what has astonished me has been the last 17 days' worth of bizarre posturing that has resulted from a very close vote! Madness! The entire nation has been left dangling, waiting to see which party would offer the Indepent candidates the best deal in return for their vote and finally this afternoon the Labour party has been able to declare a minority government after schmoozing the Independents to best effect. As someone who has grown up with 'first past the post' voting it has been very strange, and 17 days of wondering is LONG time... but in the end perhaps it is a good thing? The Independent candidates have pinned the major parties to the wall and demanded their way over all sorts of issues and, in the end, as new Prime Minister Julia Gillard has commented, her minority government is going to be held to account as never before. I wonder what will happen now?

Oh well, never mind the government. What about my studio? I can't give you a final result yet: at this rate it may take more than 17 days to work it all out! But here are the first pictures:

Lots of stuff stacked outside...

Lots of lovely space inside! Although sadly it isn't going to remain calm and peaceful inside for long. I'll let you know how I get on in due course, but I'm having a bit of a break from it for the next few days until the excitement (I mean damned hard work) of the school's Spring Fair on Sunday is out of the way.


Fiona said...

I know what you mean - when you're used to a ballot paper with maybe 10 names on (and in Yorkshire it was generally only about 4) and all you were required to do was put a very child-like 'X' in one box ... the way other countries do it can be daunting.

Our first German election was fascinating (yes, we could vote there!) and I'm not sure I ever got to grips with the enormous ballot paper or voting rules (there were pages of them!). In Germany coalition governments are the norm and it isn't unusual for it to take a long time (sometimes months) to sort out the final government .. and of course, the UK is just getting a taste of what a hung parliament is like.

I'm not sure whether the UK approach is simple and a good thing or primitive in the extreme ... most other countries seem to have felt the need to evolve much more complex systems. I've seen coalitions achieve absolutely nothing because no-one has balance of power and then there was good old Tony and his overwhelming majority that allowed him to war-monger with the US without much that the opposition could do about it.

Politics - gotta love it! But I agree ... voting is something we in the western world take for granted. It's appalling to see low voter turnouts and I'm all for making it compulsory.

Carol said...

Oh, your studio space! I know you'll fill it up but what a wonderful area to work in, and the views...

Well, we have a government, the event nicely described by you. I celebrated a bit too much, out of relief that it wasn't Tony rather than joy for Labor. But I am pleased and I hope it will be the start of a different kind of government. Fingers crossed for Julia.

Snippety Gibbet said...

Above the line and below the line. I think I like that idea! I feel so hemmed in with so few choices here. jan

Anonymous said...

Odd, isn't it, that immigrants are asked things like 'who was Don Bradman ?'
No politician, canvassing for votes, ever explained the voting system to me!

Ida said...

what a lovely studio..can't wait to see what comes out of it....as for voting....doesn't really matter at the moment does it...tony/julia/...julia/tony...
hopefully the greens can do something in the senate...
just enjoy making things in your nice new space!!


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