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Election diary: on the hustings in the Queensland state election

By Dave Riley

Electioneering is a physically demanding occupation. The way we do it electioneering comprises some very early starts , a lot of walking poking flyers in domestic letter boxes and talking up the campaign.

I've been doing election campaigns for over 25 years like this and the drill is always more or less the same. But this time around, I think there's been a change on the hustings .

We've done the street heat thing much better. Hitting the railway stations from 6 am and leafleting commuters was a very effective means to engage people. We'd always check the bins and we know that our literature was boarding those trains with their passengers.

We've kept up our weekly Sunday market stall -- pictured -- another very early morning start. There we've had so many conversations about what we think, about socialism, and the options facing the world at the moment.

The ALP tried a booth there one Sunday but left early.

In contrast, our commitment, energy and passion has won us a lot of respect.

On top of that we've had flying pickets with corflute A frames on the verges of key main roads at peak hour throughout the electorate we're working in.

Letter box drops

Then there is the euphemistically called "letter box drops."

It's Summer here at the moment and the heat is torrid. If you don't do your letter boxing early in the day you will suffer more as the temperature rises through the morning. A standard drop will take two to three hours and depending on the area you are letterboxing you'll be poking those flyers into slots at the rate of maybe 4 - 6 flyers per minute .

In Sandgate my great joy is that the electorate covers the mud flats. So there's no hills to trudge up. That leaves the occasional street loose dog to deal with and the local's penchant for swing flaps on letter boxes made out of heavy brass. Put your fingers through one of those and its a battle to retrieve them

If you can ensure that you won't dehydrate you can happily walk the walk exploring gardens and architecture as you go.

Because in my area we front onto the Boondall Wetlands and Moreton Bay, the bird life is a constant companion. Standardly you share the street jaunt with Cockatoos, Galahs, Sacred Ibis , members of the Butcher Bird family, and today a clan of Kookaburras.

On Tuesday when I was doing Deagon my route took me to one of the largest flying fox (fruitbat) colonies in Brisbane. Every evening thousands of these creatures take off from their upturned habitat and forage across the metropolitan area. It's quite a site akin to the Wicked Witch scene from the Wizard of Oz: "Fly my pretties! Fly!."

That humans live downwind from such colonies regardless of the 'Phew!' factor takes communing with nature a tad too far I reckon. But no matter the stench , your intrepid campaigner letterboxed every one in cooee of a bat dropping.

And besides, that's what we're campaigning to protect. These marsupials and the mosquitoes and sand flies...

Walking the walk in Bracken Ridge

Today I walked the walk in Bracken Ridge. I went up the ridge in Bracken Ridge then down the ridge at Bracken Ridge, then up the ridge, and down it.... Boy did the horizontally prone mud flats to the east look appealing. Bracken Ridge is a mortgage belt suburb that was created -- no doubt out of bracken covered ridges -- only in the 1980s. It was the fastest growing suburb in Australia for a few years back then. While so much of the rest of the electorate can trace its wooden Queenslander style houses and workers cottages back to pre-war and 1950s style architecture, Bracken Ridge is built in red brick.

To the south of the Ridge you move toward the Murri and migrant( many from the Indian sub continent) settled areas of Taigum, Zillmere and Boondall which the electorate straddles.

Have we made an impression? Is the name of the Socialist Alliance on a few more lips because of our input? Elections can be mercurial events and it's hard to predict an outcome when you occupy a enforced space on the electoral margins. If we pull in a poll result of around 1% we know that we have at least registered our presence. As yet unregistered in Queensland, the Alliance in this electorate goes up against a Greens candidate who, while they have done nothing in way of campaigning and were even reluctant to stand, will soak up the left of Labor vote, pull in over 4% and pick up a tidy subsidy for each vote over that 4 % threshold on the basis of a patented colour alone.

Even the local "community" press -- in this case owned by Rupert Murdoch & NewsCorp -- opted to not cover the candidates singly , preferring instead to accept the massive amount of ALP and Liberal National Party funded advertising in the lead up to the poll. Full page ads. Many page ads. Among the smiling pollies so showcased is that of the 18 year old Michael Palmer whose da is the richest person in Queensland. Palmer is standing for the next door seat of Nudgee -- one which historically is the among the safest ALP seats in Queensland.

But then, in early April, we'll be launching a local Socialist Alliance branch. And we've learnt one very clear thing this election already: in the area we've marked off as our targeted political patch we are going to be the activists. The other parties will simply move back into idle mode the day after the poll ing booths close. But the Alliance, in contrast, will be quickening its pace.

Change on the hustings?

So is there a change on the hustings? The general hostility to the election when it was first called ( early in the government's term), was palpable. Then, very marked in our conversations, the cynicism towards both the major parties was clear. There's nothing to get excited about from either camp. In effect the electorate will be voting against rather than for. Many will simply not vote at all.

But the poll opportunity has given us a platform to talk up socialism and , as I said, after 25 years doing this sort of thing there's a larger segment of the population out there who are listening. A dialogue is opening up which you have no choice but to engage with if you are going to obtain a footing in these communities. You really have to be prepared to talk the talk.

And there's been so many elements to this campaign -- and possibilities, passing impressions of what the way forward could be -- that I 've not enjoyed an election campaigns as much as this before. There's been so many rich elements with little of the drudgery you are often forced to negotiate.

Maybe it's the bird life. Maybe it's because it's part of my patch on earth, my 'community'. Maybe its because I spent 3 years helping to run the local community arts centre and I know the locale and its people.

This election campaign gave us the opportunity to mix it in among them.

While we very much identify with the working people of Sandgate, the question is how much are they going to identify with us...

See also more posts on the campaign experience

A short video documentary about the campaign will be available online next week

1 Com:

Anonymous | March 21, 2009

You seem to imply that fruit bats are marsupials. Some marsupials can glide, but none can actually fly.


Good luck in the Qld. election.


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