Thursday, August 05, 2004

From the margins to the marginals

Ever since I've been able to vote John Howard has been elected Prime Minister of Australia. I recently figured out if John Howard wins the upcoming election I'm unlikely to see an ALP Government before I'm 30. Talk about a misspent youth.

I well remember the fateful Saturday in 1996 when John Howard came to power. It was the night of my University O'Ball. Earlier in the day I'd slipped my ballot into the box with a frisson of excitement and then trotted off for a night of music, beer, wrist tags and a sinking stomach. I heard the news when I was leaving the Ball. A drunk girl in a short skirt and high heels was unsteadily running up the stairs ahead of me. She had a bottle in one hand, and was calling out to her friend. "I just heard the funniest thing. Someone told me that John Howard is Prime Minister of Australia." And then she slipped and fell on her ass.

That memory really sums up my experience of voting. Disbelieving, useless, frustrating, and ultimately painful. And the truth is it won't get any better because I belong to a generation of voters that is fundamentally disenfranchised. We are completely outnumbered by Baby Boomers and Seniors. We're too busy trying to get a job or pay off our HECS debt to be able to afford a house - which means we're unlikely to live in the outer metropolitan mortgage belts that increasingly hold the balance of power in Federal (and some State) elections.

I've decided that there is only one thing for it. It's time to move to the marginal seats. I don't think it's a crazy idea. It's clear that my generation doesn't have the numbers. We're not going to change the outcome of elections spread across the country. We have to move to the electorates where our vote really counts.

For example, Solomon in the Northern Territory was won by 88 votes at the 2001 election. I think it's worth moving to Darwin to unseat Dave 'make mine a bailey's' Tollner.

On a two-party preferred basis, Don Randall won Canning by only 550 votes. That's right, the guy whose only lasting contribution to Parliamentary debate is to make a nasty remark about Cheryl Kernot and the morals of an alley cat on heat.

In South Australia, Trish Worth held her seat of Adelaide by only 343 seats in 2001, although admittedly a redistribution has increased her margin from 0.2% to 0.4%. But on the bright side, you can vote in Adelaide without leaving the inner city.

And why vote in the two Canberra seats where the election result is always the same, when 15 minutes drive from Parliament House is the key marginal of Eden-Monaro. The margin is just 1.7% of and it's been won that by the party that holds Government at every election since 1972. It might be the only way you'll ever make a difference.

This is a plan perfectly suited to young non-home owners. We can't afford a mortgage so we're mobile. For once in our lives we'll be over-serviced with pork-barrelling. We'll be asked what we really think by any number of pollsters, and most amazing of all, every three years the Federal parties will design policies to suit us. Why be marginalised when we can be marginal?

John Howard claims that only eight seats need to change hand and he's lost the next election. I think it's worth the temporary discomfort of moving house to make sure that we don't have to live with him for the next three years.

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