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Welcome to Utopia: Australia Votes 2007

It's the morning after the Australian Federal election and people all over the country are waking up to the realization that they've just kicked themselves (or been kicked by others) out of their eleven year comfort zone into a brave new era of Utopian Idealism.

Better the devil you know?

A new government means a new coat of paint, new carpets, new furniture and probably even a new corporate logo or name for every government department that is accessed by the public. Symbolic change, known as the 'transitional' period before the new government really gives us something to complain about.

Cynical?

Kevin Rudd replaces John Howard as our new Prime Minister. In his victory speech I heard him say that it was time to "write a new page in our nation's history". He said this again, later in the speech so that's at least two pages of writing just for starters. Well two pages and a signature on the Kyoto Protocol.

What I hadn't heard Kevin articulate before was this 'Utopian Idealism' that he would be a 'Prime Minister for ALL Australians' in which he listed everyone from Indigenous Australians to those serving in the Armed Forces on foreign soil. Kevin talked about putting 'all the old battles behind us', listing examples such as the fight between Unions and business, Public and Private, Federal and State, Growth and Environment. Finally he extended his reach to working with all the great nations of the world. Spoken like a new Prime Minister. John Howard was probably thinking 'yeah, good luck with all that.'

Personally I was quite excited about stealing the new laptop computer from my kids when, during his campaign, Kevin would hold up a computer and wax lyrical about his 'education revolution'. Unfortunately I don't have kids so that kind of curbed my enthusiasm.

You might think that I'm a disgruntled Howard supporter but, through my understanding of Australia's preferential voting system, my vote ultimately became a vote for Labor and Kevin Rudd. I have a thing about voting for minor parties like the Greens and The Australian Democrats first, in the slim hope that enough people will think like me. Then we could put a party into government that would be stunned into dumbfound silence should that ever happen... "pinch me, I think I'm dreaming... do we even have a plan for the whole nation?". That would sober a few people up very quickly the day after!

There are few occasions where you can get me to agree that something should be compulsory and voting is one of them. I'm pro-choice on just about everything but because people have to vote it at least gets them thinking about politics and who should run the country once every few years. I would hate to be in the USA situation where apathy allows anyone with a powerful minority in with a real chance if they can mobilize enough of their supporters into action on election day.

In this country people argue that we should choose whether we wish to vote like we can't choose not to vote. In actual fact, we still can choose not to vote. The cheap way is to turn up to a polling booth and lodge a blank form. The expensive way is to just not turn up and pay a fine for being too slack to get our name crossed off a list.

One thing I loathe about going out to vote is those people lined up, out front of every polling booth, handing out how to vote fliers. I know I pretty much ignored at least one person I know quite well (sorry to that person on the off chance you're reading this) because I just don't like having to wade through you all that much. Blinkers on, eyes on the door and go! That's me.

You could be my own mother (who will probably read this) handing out fliers for the party I'm going to vote 1 for and I wouldn't even see you until I'm out of the polling booth, mission accomplished. Don't believe me? The person I ignored was handing out how to vote fliers for the Greens party whom I voted for as first choice on both forms. I only recognised this person after I came out of the polling booth and noticed they were supporting the Greens.

I watched how the election panned out on the ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting Corporation, affectionately known as 'Aunty' in this country), because they don't 'spit on your mind', to quote Henry Rollins referring to TV network programming. I briefly tuned in to the commercial networks, who started earlier, where Channel Seven wins the Award for dumbing down the coverage for the 'Home and Away' generation, please... 'Tower of Power' and cartoon graphics of Kevin and John in a literal tug-of-war? Big, Hollywood star graphics? The whole thing reminded me of a pro-wrestling match.

For the first time there was at least one seat that had the whole nation intrigued. The Prime Minister's seat of Bennelong, where he was up against ex-Aunty journalist, reporter, and Labor party candidate Maxine McKew. At the time of writing this the seat was still too close to call. It will probably go right down to postal votes. However John Howard, in his concession speech, indicated that he thought the seat was probably lost, making him not only the countries second most successful Prime Minister but also the second Prime Minister to lose his seat at an election.

Maxine will be a legend if she wins it. She partly demonstrates a point I made to my partner on election day that, for an independent candidate to even have a glimmer of hope of becoming Prime Minister, they would need to be a high profile media celebrity. (Now that I've thought more about it they'd also need a really good, rock solid deal with a major party to work as a coalition. An independent leading a major party with a majority? Pigs would have to fly. Better the independents stick to 'balance of power politics').

So all this is becoming a bit long and a little off point. However I couldn't let the election pass without writing something about it. Politics does interest me a lot more than I let on, even if I don't consider myself to be that well informed of each parties policies.

Today we have a new government in Australia. One that I can only hope will do more good than bad for the country. John Howard did a pretty good job of things in many areas but now we have Kevin Rudd. Welcome to Utopian Idealism. Day 1.

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