Uncut: Politics

19/5/2007

Politics has always fascinated me and led to many a feisty argument over a bottle of port, late into the night, with my father, a well known and highly respected political atheist.

One of his favourite quotes was straight from Cicero, the great Roman Senator: It is a true saying that “One falsehood leads easily to another”.

Dad kept his distance from the action and although I was never a big player, there were a couple of times when I made myself stand up.

Let me relate my own political story. It’s sad. It’s all about failure.

My first election campaign was in 1993, the Federal election Paul Keating just had to have and the one John Hewson baked a cake for but forgot to share.

I threw my name in for the seat of Curtin, held by Allan Rocher, a man nobody seemed to know, had ever seen, or expected to see. You should have seen their faces when he showed his at the polling booth: Blank. They didn’t know who he was.

I didn’t go into the election lightly. I researched. I discovered that no-one in the history of the Australian electoral process had ever stood for a parliament without asking voters to put them first on the ballot paper.

Didn’t matter how crazy they were, how doomed, if there were 64 candidates and the seat was held by the most popular PM in the history of PMs, their cards still read: Vote Me 1.

Such egos. Such delusions.

My strategy: Vote Doust 6.

Why 6? It made sense, there were six candidates and I knew I wouldn’t, couldn’t didn’t want to, win.

What normal, sane, sensible human would be keen to spend year after year in a building packed with deluded narcissists with a plethora of other personality disorders playing pass-the-buck and some other games that rhyme with one of those previous words?

My election campaign was a farce.

A highlight for me campaigning in the Curtin Electorate was standing outside a house in Jutland Parade with a megaphone yelling: “Stay calm, don’t panic, you are completely surrounded, by air.”

Then there were the calls from the other candidates asking for my preferences. They were serious. I felt sorry for them.

“I don’t have any preferences.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m No 6 on my own card.”

Silence.

Eventually I got a call from the Natural Law Party, a collection of transcendental meditators.

Their pollster asked me if I would fax my card to him.

“What? Why don’t I just think of it, then you can pluck it out of the ether.”

Another mob who surprised me was a group of independents who wanted to put me No 1 on their ticket. I was sure that aligning with them would deny me my independence and declined their offer.

The second time I stood was the 1998 Federal election for the seat of Forest, up against Geoff Prosser, a man people knew, could see and hear coming their way, but when he arrived, wondered why he had bothered.

My campaign for Forest was pathetic. I couldn’t be bothered working up a policy, a proper vote card, or visiting voters, but I did enjoy working a polling both outside the Bridgetown town hall on election day.

It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with mum, dad and other family members who would normally be too busy to see me

In both elections I finished exactly where I wanted, last.

The strangest aspect in both cases was that over 400 sad and disillusioned voters went against my specific instructions and placed me first on their voting slips.

I received 18 more first preferences in Forest than in Curtin, not surprising as Forest is home to at leat 18 more Dousts.

One of them was my father, whose favourite political quote came from a taxi driver he met in Mexico City: “We have the best political system in the world in Mexico. When we don’t like a politician, we shoot him.”

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