Labour of love

Labour of love

Remember the first time? That moment when your adulthood was more than a licence to drive and a drive to get drunk—it was when you first became visible as a citizen. You were no longer someone’s son or daughter but a constituent—a politician’s friend or foe. You had a voice and a responsibility to make it heard. You had a passion and belief in democracy; informed decision-making based on lifestyle—an end to terrorism, lower HECS fees, and less red meat—then six weeks of sifting through the rhetoric to find after all the ballot papers had been tallied the bewildering truth … nothing’s changed. Broken-hearted, one such 18-year-old was heard to say: ‘I feel like such a jackass, next time I’ll just donkey vote’.

Papier mâché

While both parties promised to save the world, if not the forests, little attention was paid to the environmental cost of the election itself. In preparation for polling day, the Australian Electoral Commission utilised 45,500 ballot boxes, 155,800 voting screens and 13,900 recycling bins. The cardboard castles of October 9 comprised some 525 tonnes of cardboard.

The AEC informed Eureka Street that prior to the 2004 Federal Election, all polling booths were returned to a central AEC storage for possible reuse. This year, things are different. Any booth that has been used will be sent to a recycling plant. Unused booths will be stored for future use.

In metropolitan areas, an AEC truck will take the material to be recycled to a local depot. In regional and remote areas it is the responsibility of the Divisional Returning Officer. The officer is instructed to dispose of any used material ‘sensitively and locally’. This may mean that it is taken to a local recycling plant, or distributed to local playgroups or schools, where the booths may indeed become cardboard castles in a school play.

Eureka Street is also looking into figures for the numbers of sausages sizzled on the day. In addition to sausages we expect to find massive expenditure on pork rolls and pork chops given the pork barrelling of the preceding weeks.

One liners

When Samuel Beckett was once asked to write the lyrics for an opera, he offered a one-line libretto for the soprano: ‘I do not want to sing tonight’. At election time, he might be asked to write the same script for other professions: speech writers, for example, economists, and political commentators. And no doubt, caught in underworld investigations, many Mr Bigs would be delighted to hear their minions chortle, ‘I do not want to sing tonight’. The practice might even be catching. Might it not be reassuring to hear generals, invited to draw up plans for the next invasion of a resourceless country, to intone, ‘I do not want to fight tonight’?

Angelic chorus

Still, there are some nights when it is good to hear enthusiastic song. Particularly to celebrate a nice bit of Jesuit partnership. Recently Christopher Willcock’s choral setting of Andrew Bullen’s poem ‘Etiquette with Angels’ premiered at a concert for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. The concert, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, honoured the sixtieth birthday of John Tavener, popularly known for his Song for Athene, sung at Lady Diana’s funeral.

Boundless gifts to share

There is extravagance and extravagance. A fat-wallet election campaign that promised money to every strategic voter in every targeted seat, concluded with an extravagant gesture of quite another kind. Ben and Margaret Lochtenberg spent big to take out full page advertisements in the Sydney and Melbourne dailies, inviting voters to reflect on Australia’s treatment of children in detention. After his father died in a prison of war camp in occupied Indonesia during the 1939 war, Ben and his family were warmly welcomed in Australia. Hence the extravagant gesture on behalf of the most extravagantly mistreated people in Australia, meeting the extravagance of a campaign dedicated to keeping and gaining power.

Messages from the gods

The Romans used to foretell the result of battles and dynastic struggles by watching eagles attack other birds, and investigating entrails. Today we rely on opinion polls. But the traditional methods, besides being more interesting, remain pretty effective. If, the day after the calling of an election, you are knocked off your bike by a straying Mercedes; if two weeks out from the election Port Power win the Grand Final followed by the Bulldogs a week later; if, on the day of the election, you seek peace on your bike only for it to leave you a five kilometre walk after the tyre bursts; if, after a movie watched to avoid the counting and commentary, you have to avoid the local lads doing wheelies through the car park—then after all that, you would have to be pretty obtuse not to know the result.



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