mr. zilla goes to town

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

it's time

At lunchtime today I ducked into the Australian Embassy's polling booth to get my democracy on. I bloody well love voting. I can't fathom how people consider it a chore or would pass it up given the choice. My interest goes back over twenty years now and I can pinpoint the very day where it all began: March 5, 1983. It was a momentous day in late 20th century Australia. It was my seventh birthday.

In the early 80s, my family lived in a fine old house in Wooloowin in inner northern Brisbane. We hopped around a bit from place to place in those days, and we only lived there for about four years until moving to Canberra when I was eight. But this is the place I distinctly feel was the formative place of my childhood. It had a great backyard for cricket, a tree house in a mulberry tree full of mulberries perfect for smooshing on your older sister, and a gaggle of neighbourhood kids to play cops and robbers with, pick fights with, make up with, and ride BMX bikes with pell-mell through Kedron High School across the street. I went to preschool and started school here, incessantly worried out a whole lot of my baby teeth, saw my first stripper get all her gear off, that kind of thing.

I remember the curiosity I had as we headed out on the sunny Saturday of March 5th 1983 because the folks added this odd thing called "voting" into the roster of much more essential events of that Saturday, which in particular involved buying my long anticipated Lego Police Station birthday present. Voting must have been pretty important to get in the way of the annual festival of Cynan.

Adding to this festival further, on this day I tied the knot with an abiding love that has spanned the intervening years unbroken. A couple of days before I had brought home from school a pamphlet from the nearby Teacher's North's Rugby Club looking to re-build their junior ranks, and giving rugger a belt seemed like a pretty tops idea. I was turning seven after all and had to make sure life didn’t just pass me by, strippers notwithstanding.

So in amongst the Lego Police Station and the voting and all kinds of usual Saturday morning running around, a trip to Shaw Park was made and I registered and became perhaps the tiniest ever Under 7's player in the state of Queensland to pull on a club jersey. Thriving in the barefoot 10-a-side style of QRU play, I put my success in my first season at hooker down to one particular night spent at Nana and Pop's place in Redcliffe where I had to share a bed with my younger-but-bigger cousin down from Rockhampton. Billeted with heads at opposite ends of the bed we proceeded to kick the living snot out of each other all night and the techniques discovered there worked a treat in the scrums of other wee tackers like myself. The following seasons on up through under 13s at flanker and then halfback were never quite the same, but the game was in the blood by this stage and to this day I find rugby loooiige to be as boring as puppy dung and the entire code worthy only for stealing useful players from.

So anyway, as far as I could tell the actual mechanics of "voting" involved the parents leaving us kids in the car to play with the indicator lever and scrabble piteously at the window as the temperature rose, and go into someone else’s primary school and into a little booth to do a crossword puzzle or maybe a number game, and when the tests were marked the person who got it the most right got to pick the Prime Minister. Or something. It didn’t seem really fair that only adults got to vote, though at this tender age I had already learned after badgering my Pop for a whole stubby one day that it wasn't the only thing that dastardly adults kept from us. No doubt I had my very own keen appreciation of the dynamics of class struggle and bourgeois paternalism, but of course had to keep a lid on it if that Lego Police Station was going to trickle down before sun down.

Of course March 5 1983 didn’t turn out to be just any old federal election, but a bloody beaut affair that brought world record holder (for sculling 2 ½ pints of beer in 11 seconds that is) Robert James Lee Hawke into office. It didn’t matter that he had become a teetotaller in the years since setting the belchmark, I think the respect was there regardless from the boofhead community and no doubt it’s a similar vein that armbreaker Marky Mark taps with little difficulty. It’s like once in a generation the ALP party machine seizes up and a leader with genuine populist charisma climbs over a few busted gears to the top of the machine, Metropolis-style.

This Labor government then went on to stay in power right up until I got the chance vote in my first federal election in 1996, and wouldn’t you know it I've been bloody trying to get the buggers back in ever since. Maybe there's something I'm doing wrong in the polling booth, since although obtaining a polsci degree I never became any good at crosswords.

Still it makes me wonder whether every time I vote for Labor (or these days, preference them at least) there's a small part of me trying to recreate the halcyon muddy mornings of childhood ushered into my world by the reign of RJL Hawke, or perhaps it is nostalgia for the occasional peaceful afternoon after school spent in the company of tiny smiling policemen who were never ever without a smile, even when you ran over their heads with the lego train.

Either way... go Mark. Get over the line mate. Inspire a new generation of slightly confused young tackers and put an end to this rocky Howard horror show for the rest of us.


  • It’s a truly rare event mate, but I read every last word of that. Nice.

    By Blogger Chris, at 3:29 pm  

  • (I don't mean to be anon but I don't remember a user name)
    Cynan that was lovely.
    Voting is wonderful. Rugby no comment.
    1983 I was 14 and I handed out my first how to votes. I loved seeing Fraser cry, I don't care how cuddly he's supposed to be now. Please let's have a charismatic populist Labor PM again, no matter how conservative. Although I'm hearing the polling in WA shows that women see him as 'the kind of guy who would beat his wife', I think he's on a roll and Howard is seriously getting the twitches which you probably don't get to see much on telly but can discern from his semiautomatic sprays of $'s and desperate policies.
    The best possible outcome is an ALP victory with a big enough green vote for the g's to be our One Nation and push the govt to the left. But anything other than a Lib victory will do nicely. Let's just get it over with.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:03 am  

  • Great post.

    I haven't been down to the High Commission in London just yet but I love voting too. Last election I stood outside in the freezing November London drizzle, lining up to vote the night before the election with a few hundred others. The line took about an hour but everyone was in good spirits. And you don't even have to vote if you are outside of Australia.

    The next day I woke up, rang someone to find out the result and sadly joked that I wasn't moving back to Australia for three years. Turned out to be true. Later that day I went to a pub to watch the Wallabies get beaten by the Poms at Twickenham. What a depressing day.

    In the '99 referendum I voted at Bondi Public School, looking out at the Pacific I wondered if we had the conviction to let go of a colonial past and embrace the future like a fresh ocean breeze. Instead we stumbled, falling for Howard's tricks of language, and remain shackled to 20th century symbolism.

    In '83 however I remember my parents handing out how to vote Labor pamphlets in what was one of the safest Liberal seats in Australia, in Sydney's northern suburbs. Later on I think there was a celebration in the backyard. Something important had happened but I wasn't really sure what, I was only 9. Whatever it was, I got to stay up late. Halycon days indeed.

    By Blogger Nathan, at 11:21 am  

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