Fear and loathing on the campaign trail: the Queensland election 2015 (with apologies to Hunter)


The Southern Downs is the most conservative electorate in Australia. They would vote for the Country Party, if it still existed. They vote LNP because they misguidedly think the ‘N’ means that the Nationals continue to have some input. It’s a land of farmers, white utes, male dominance and a constant strong resentment of anything different. Things are changing very slowly, but fielding a Greens candidate here is probably one of the greatest exercises in futility since Oates went outside declaring he might be some time.

I meet the local Greens candidate in the Visitor Information Centre coffee shop. We’re facebook friends, through a complex web of allegiances that mean we have survived each others social media culls a couple of times, but have never actually met. Elizabeth Ure is a couple of years younger than me, bright, articulate and very open. As the Owl and R. point out, it doesn’t hurt that she is also attractive. Clearly enough of us push for her candidacy; she agrees to run, and rents some shopfront space on the main drag of Warwick to act as campaign headquarters. An enthusiastic, if largely novice, corps of volunteers spring into action. I find myself researching Greens policy more thoroughly than ever before, and trying to spell out a coherent  social inclusion framework for one of the local lobby groups at 10 pm with a glass of wine in one paw.

About the same time the election is called, my workmates from both workplaces quit, or are sacked, leaving me looking nervously at an undefined stint without a day off. The stint actually turns out to be pretty much the length of the election campaign. We set up all the social media structure one morning when I am less busy at work, and operating from my ancient Nokia which refuses to allow me to use twitter. I start getting up at 4 am again so that at least there will be something on twitter when everyone else wakes up. I meet the four or five Stanthorpe tree-huggers with whom I haven’t yet had drinks. The most enthusiastic of them points out that I will never have drinks with her, because AA would not approve. Women in utes ferry corflutes around, and I ninja-corflute the perimeter of town early on Sunday morning on my way to Job 2 after a sleepless night caused by the neighbour’s house burning dramatically and rapidly to the ground.

The Labor candidate, another bright and articulate young woman, is pilloried in the local rag after a nameless journalist stalks her facebook page, mainly for drinking wine and supporting daylight saving, as far as I can tell. Ah, rural Queensland. Meanwhile, the Greens candidate and her main core of supporters are tireless. Goondiwindi, Cecil Plains, Allora, Milmerran, Leyburn, Killarney, Texas, Stanthorpe – a constant driving circuit that sounds like it should be the chorus to a bad country song on local ABC. A late scare about CSG exploration in our catchment area gives momentum to the campaign. I get into silent, vicious facebook fights with someone from the local rag via private message, and whether this helps at all or not, a more balanced look at the candidates and their policies appears the final week of the campaign. Someone with an obviously made-up facebook profile messages me ‘The greens are for people in the city you fuckin stupid greenie slut’, but fortunately it is the same day that I get news of my dissertation results, so I ignore them.

It is show weekend. The smell of frying grease and burnt sugar, award-winning gerberas and manure permeate the polling booths. My friend Z hands out HTVs and reports ‘Exhausting week-end so far. I can happily say I was not beaten up nor particularly abused today while handing out how to vote cards. One guy had an issue with me personally wanting to stop dams and a woman who looked like a hippy told me she didn’t vote for the greens because they want to make abortion “legal murder”. Funny how some people just pick one thing and can’t look at the bigger picture. Oh and some dude reckons the Barrier Reef doesn’t need saving cause “there are still plenty of fish swimming around”.’ Later, Z and I drink gin and ponder whether Campbell will lose his seat. Neither of us expect a Labor win. At home late on election evening, the news coming through starts improving. Campbell is deposed. I switch from Antony Green to twitter for my news. I go to bed when Labor is safely ahead, although how government will be formed is still uncertain.

In the cool, breezy morning after election day, after the show day, after my first day off for three weeks, I go to retrieve the little red wagon from Z & R’s place. R cooks me breakfast and tells me funny stories about trespassers and Triabunna and I return to my working week fortified, until I remember on the way down Mt Tully that it is now February.

+3.4% to the Greens.... So, the issues that we stand for are meaning more to people of the Southern Downs electorate, but we still have a ways to go to break down the barriers of misinformation and help people to realise that the Greens really are a party that put people first, and who can help lead us towards a better future for us all.

And Family First gained 4.4% which is good. LNP lost about that many votes.

When I was out in Goondiwindi yesterday, some people were disgusted with Newman, sone supported his efforts to get the economy back on track. The guy who said that had no idea that: (1) the LNP had taken subsidies from solar and given hundreds of millions in subsidies to coal. (2) the LNP have DOUBLED the deficit and killed small business. Even in Brisbane the small businesses are closing down because the poor and middle class no longer have enough money to spend on little luxuries.

Taking money from the poor to give to the mega rich (Trickle down economics - the economic theory that the LNP subscribe to) only destroys the economy (shuts down small business) and reduces jobs. International economic experts all say that austerity measures shut economies down. But the people out in the country, and most LNP supporters I have met, do not understand the effect that austerity measures has on the economy. And they don't understand that giving money to the poor (rather than to big businesses) always boosts local economy and small business.  

I think this is one area we need to.try and educate our friends about. And I think you'll find that a lot of people who need to know this info are not on Facebook. Hmmm. We need other ways to engage people and help them to understand.


Flexible work arrangements

For a lot of my working life, I have worked in the male dominated area of horticulture. This meant that at various points I experienced a lot of macho bullshit, endless discussions of sports that I still don’t understand, frankly disturbing names for female genitalia and a lot of advice about my driving. But one thing in favour of such a pack of unreconstructed blokes was the fact that I never heard the term ‘work-life balance’ and I never had to fill in for them because they wanted quality time with their children. This isn’t a good situation on so many levels – I feel for their partners, I believe that couples should parent equally, I’m sure that there were times when they were at work when they actually should have been fulfilling their family obligations. On the other hand, I only occasionally had to work a seven-day week myself and last-minute calls to cover for someone else were rare.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, being in the work-force and raising a child or several, juggling time and schedules and making sure you actually eat and sleep yourself. Eating and sleeping is good, and we don’t want your children to take up crack or start voting Liberal, so you’d probably spend some time with them too. However, mummy-bloggers and daddy-bloggers do need to be aware that if they start banging on about ‘taking time for yourself’ I am probably going to bite them. For example, this extract from her blog illustrates why I would hate to have Sarah Caputo for a work-mate: ‘I guess for me work-life balance means that I am taking care of myself and taking the time for me that I need to feel grounded and supported without guilt and without hesitation. I know that when I do this, I show up better in all areas of my life.’ That’s lovely, Sarah. I’m glad you’re taking time for you. Are all your workmates getting that privilege as well?

What I am objecting to is the cult of the child, and the expectation that those of us without children are there purely to take up the slack when Possum gets sick or Pumpkin has to play soccer. Just to clarify: we’re not there so you can get some ‘you-time’. We’re not there because we love work so much we want to work twenty days in a row, or to take all the shifts over the Christmas break so you can be with your family. We’re doing what you’re doing – earning a living and trying to fit some other stuff in around the work obligations. Just because it doesn’t involve parenting doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I want to study, to write, to help out with political campaigns, to see my family and friends, to catch up on the reading list that R & J have been adding to when I’ve been too busy to read. I want to go bushwalking and play with my animals and test S’s Anzac biscuit recipe that is guaranteed not to spread. It’s not like work is what you do when you don’t have children. Trust me, I can entertain myself really well on my days off, when I get them. Work is what you do to finance the other things you want to do. If those other things include child-rearing, great. If they don’t, they are still important.

Really, internet, stop encouraging people to pursue their self-actualisation until they actually have the time for it.’Chucking in your job to follow your dreams of running your own business is good in theory, but it’s hard work. Start slowly. If possible cut back your working hours to four days week and use the extra day to build your business at home’ burbles Women’s Health & Fitness (http://www.womenshealthandfitness.com.au/lifestyle/motivation/503-how-to-achieve-a-worklife-balance, if you’re looking for tips). Who do you think is doing that day you’ve just relinquished? What were they doing before they were asked to fill in for you?

It’s not just the parent-bloggers that are on-board with the whole delegate-it-to-the-childless movement. The Queensland Government relates the joys of delegating here: http://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health/balance/lifestyle/index.html – ‘Enlist a good support system — learn to delegate, we all need a little help sometimes’, they suggest. Everyone is just hanging out to be your support system, obviously. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than back up someone’s decision to procreate. I’ve got nothing better to do than work every day of the week as I head towards a lonely, bitter old age.

The website Time Management Success points out ‘Your children are a 20 year plus ‘project’; but they’re this age just once. When your children leave home, they’re a long time gone – but there will always be more work to do. No one looked ever looked back at their life and said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’. It is quite possible, however, that people wish their workmates would spend more time at work.

The personal and the political

green dogsI came to politics late. This was partly a tendency towards the anarchic, partly the fact that I spent most of the ten years after I turned 18 out of the country, and 99 % laziness cloaked as disenfranchisement. Also it was in the days before everyone had to be in an internet café once a week, or die trying. I had no idea what was going on until Pauline Hanson. That’s enough to jolt anyone awake. My best friend always accused me of being a fairweather Queenslander – one that arrived after Joh and before Pauline.

Turning on the tv in a Belfast B & B in November 1999 I saw the ugly cragged face of Bob Hawke fill the screen, and wondered if it was the apocalypse. It turned out just to be that most misguided of referendums http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_republic_referendum,_1999 . I have never forgiven the powers-that-be for scheduling it just after my mother’s birthday. She should have got a republic AND a cakey for her 55th.

Election 2001. Kim Beazley fucks it all up dramatically.http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/comments/how_tampa_became_a_turning_point/ I somehow had been banned from voting because I had missed too many elections and wasn’t where I had said I lived for a long time. My sister voted at Liston, population circa 160 enrolled, and where I now live, because she was still enrolled in NSW. We thought Liston looked like something out of McGahan’s ‘Last Drinks’, which we were both fighting over at the time.

Election 2004. I think this is the first time I threatened to move to NZ. It would have been my 4th wedding anniversary, too, had I still been married. Went to the Townsville Showground Markets. Some guy was playing Redgum and making derogatory remarks about the Greens, which I though was a bit of a dichotomy.

Election 2007 aka Kevin ’07. Nearest and dearest all desert the Greens and vote Labor. I plan to divorce them all. Meg, Joe, Andrew – I mean you. Slightly mollified by Maxine, who I love, pinching Howard’s seat.

Election 2010. Helping my late and dear friend Kate hand out how-tos for the Greens. A freezing cold morning with a howling gale. Dogs wearing green t-shirts. First election day with the Owl – I try and clarify my position but the best I can do is ‘if you vote Liberal it is over between us’. I was one of the few people in Australia that actually liked the result.

I’ve said all the humanitarian eco-system loving stuff ‘til I’ve bored you all rigid. Most of you have kids. All of you love to breathe air. Think about that when you vote.