Paul Wallbank worked on the Peter MacDonald tilt in Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah and has filed an interesting account of what happened on polling day.
Saturday Morning and we had our signs up around the booth at 5am. The Christian Democrats beat us, the Labor workers showed up at 6am and the Libs at 6.45am. The Officer in Charge arrived at 7am, declared the polling booth to start from the street frontage and ordered us all to move our signs back the regulation six meters.
The Libs shipped in dozens of workers from the bush who didn’t know the names of the Liberal candidates (our local booth is a joint Warringah/North Sydney booth). Being nice middle class types we resisted the temptation to tell them the Liberal candidates were Joe Stalin and Leon Trotsky.
Numbers on the ground were no problem for the McDonald camp. If elections were won by the turn out of booth workers, Peter would have romped home. We were able to cover all five of the entrances to our booth all day. The Libs had trouble covering two. It was the same at every booth.
The dirty tricks started early. The Manly Daily ran a front page story that a trade union leader endorsed Peter MacDonald and as expected the Labor party started giving out their stupid advice to independent voters. We were going to have to work very hard to encourage any disillusioned Libs to vote for Peter.
The Libs knew this was a risk as well. They starting handing out a flier saying “A vote for an independent is a vote for Labor. Don’t risk your family’s financial future, 05” When we asked the Office-in-Charge if it was registered election material, the Libs hid them and they were never seen again.
That was about the worst it got at our booth. There have been reports since of the odd blue between the Libs and Mac supporters and a bunch of Young Libs stole all the Peter Mac signs at St Clements in Mosman. At our booth a former Mosman Lord Mayor, working for the Libs of course, tired of pointing out all the harbour views that would soon be lost due to the unchecked growth of trees and broke out the green tinnies.
The AEC officers were concerned about booth workers drinking and scurried off to check the rule book. No doubt there is a rule banning party workers sinking a few cold ones outside the polling place, but like most of the Federal electoral laws, the main parties are exempt.
I cannot recommend sinking a couple of veebs before going into scrutineer. After a day of running around, barely eating and being slightly dehydrated all I wanted to do was grab some sleep. But we had to watch the votes being counted.
By seven, we knew Peter wasn’t going to win the Middle Harbour booth, Tony Abbott was getting 3 out of 5 primaries. When the AEC officer decided to count the Senate before the Rep’s preferences we decided we’d had enough and headed off to the party.
While the crowd were disappointed, the feeling was upbeat: We’d made a difference and we’d sent the Libs a message. Personally I think the Libs would be at their party chortling at having cleverly seen off the silly lefties and looking forward to the rugby later on. It’ll take more than Saturday’s result to make them take the electorate seriously and they would be right. Ted Mack is quoted as saying the people of Mosman would vote for an ashtray as long as it’s the Liberal candidate, he’s right and the Libs know it.
The most telling speech of the night was from the Green candidate, Keelah Lam, who asked “what have we done to our children to make them so fearful of the world?” Sadly, that is one of the few honest things said during the election.
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