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.