I am writing a series of pieces documenting my thoughts on the lead up to the Australian Federal Election to be held on 14 September 2013. As a young woman, it will be my first experience of voting in a Federal election. I am not endorsing any particular party or politician. All opinions are mine unless stated otherwise, and while I will try to include honest information at all times, nothing should be taken as fact without further investigation.
I heard the announcement while on the cross trainer at the gym. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has sent out a Save the Date message, but not for her wedding. September 14 2013 will be the date of the Federal election, and while within the period of estimated dates ranging from August to October, the specific date is inherently problematic even before considering the Red, Blue and Green.
The problem is somewhat ironic. An atheist Prime Minister has called the election for a day conflicting with the beliefs and interests of many religious Australians. Jews will be called to the polls on their annual Day of Atonement, the solemn day of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is commonly spent entirely one’s place of worship, praying, sitting, standing and repenting. It is also the only day of the year on which Jews fast. To say scheduling an election for this day is sacrilege would be putting it lightly.
However, whilst Australia’s Jewish population may be fairly small, another group of believers are also to be upset by the date. Everyone knows that September is a month of intense victory, controversy and upset as AFL and NRL teams battle it out for a place in their respective One Day in Septembers. Am I wrong to think that Saturday September 14 will also be a day of footy finals fever? And this is a rowdy crowd, thousands strong. It’s hard to predict which competition we’ll be hearing more about.
Yesterday’s announcement came as a surprise to many Labor politicians as well as other parliamentarians, the media and the public. Gillard’s early announcement is eerily remnant of the American Presidential Campaign, which involves an arduous process of selection, travel, and petitioning and huge amounts of cold, hard cash. The 227 days to this election is significantly longer than the notice given by past leaders where periods of 30 to 50 days were the norm. Prior to this year, the greatest time between announcement and Election Day was in 1966, 106 days before polling day. According to The Age the nation will experience 184,000 births, 95,000 deaths, 139,000 new immigrants and 7 full moons before the election, as well as the presence of Ellen de Generes and no doubt many other famous figures. According to Mark Kenny, the PM had the Christmas period to reflect and realise just how deep the shit she was in, was, and thus relied of the element of surprise to boost her into the New Year. Keeping her News under the radar was of the highest priority that even the official version of her speech circulated amongst journalists made no mention of it.
The Prime Minister is also seeing the New Year in a different light, or through new lenses at least. The move sparked comment from both political and fashion analysts, and Judith Ireland and Shelly Horton wrote, “Some punters hypothesised that the member for Lalor was courting the youth market with the trendy new accessory. “It seems @JuliaGillard is already campaigning to the hipster voters with those new glasses. Well played,” wrote Kath McLellan of Sydney.” Other ideas include the PM projecting the idea that she is finally ‘in business’, and that she is channeling retiring US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. Personally, I wouldn’t put either of these suggestions too far aside. And despite some people saying ‘if the PM was a man, he wouldn’t be receiving these kinds of comments’, it must be vaguely strategic, or why now?
Sportsbet.com.au already has full-page ads in the newspaper and so far, the odds lie heavily in the favour of the Opposition. This is a reflection of Australian culture, where even the most political matters are but a game, a sport, a competition, with a black and white outcome of winners and losers.
Key issues for this election include the state of the nation’s healthcare and education systems, the Budget, what to do about immigration and the influx of people seeking refuge on Australian land, the environment and more specifically, the Carbon Tax, which Mr Abbott plans to cut if elected into office. Of course there will also be a lot of blaming, broken promises and shying away from accountability that Australian politics is wrapped up in.