09 Oct 2004

voting the aussie way

so this morning, i decided that i should fulfil my obligations as an australian resident and go down to london to vote. for those who don't know, in australia, voting is compulsory, otherwise you would be fined AUD$20 (i think it gets progressively more for subsequent "offenses.") not that i really care, since i have an excuse, but i really want to exercise the right to vote. although futile, i really don't want to see the australian liberal party get another term in office.

you see, in australia, because it's down under, things are flipped. for instance, the liberal party is the most conservative party ever! john howard has not wavered from his goal of making australia the 51st state of america. we are coming against some good competition with tony blair's great britain and "don't forget" poland.

anyway, so i left for an eventful day at the polls, which mean going to the australian embassy in london. i took the train down there, but it seemed like the gods (yes, more than one) were trying to stop me. a freight train broke down in front of us and we were stranded for more than 30 mins. more importantly, my powerbook battery nearly finished. i tried to do the "switching off L2 cache" trick that anil seemed to rave about. but that really killed performance, so much so that exposé wasn't sexy any more! so i determined that not having L2 would actually make my computer run slower, and hence eat as much battery as it would of if i didn't switch it off.

eventually, i reached liverpool station in london, and then 3 or 4 stops later on the tube, i reached temple station. the australian embassy was on the junction of the strand (you'll know that on your monopoly board as the first RED street) and some other street. if you walk down there you'll also find fleet street and trafalguar square. it's $240 a pop if you want to buy it.

they were pretty well organised there. there were signs pointing you away from the regular entrance to a side entrance at the back where they had some security check. to my suprise, there was a huge line outside the embassy. it basically went down one side of the embassy. the mood was quite somber, people minding their own business. a couple of people with ipods, i'm sure were listening to a qantas advertisement song or the latest australian rock.


the seat that my electorate represents is actually safely liberal. so my vote doesn't really count for much, but at least i made some effort to change it. i've probably voted three times since i became 18, and i don't think my vote counted for much each time. i think i've always voted for the losing party, and i suspect that is what i've done this year, again! damn you statistical insignificance!

i sneaked my camera phone into the voting booth and took some pics of the voting form. the one for the australian senate representatives for NSW in the federal parliament is not as funny as the NSW senate one (which was as big as a small table cloth), but still quite funny. here you see pictures of the "beer party", etc.




there were two options in voting for the senate seat. one is the just write a "1" in the box that represents the party that you like (or hate the least), or fill in all the boxes from 1 to 78 in the 78 candidates that there are. i didn't come all the way from cambridge to write a "1" in the box, so i of course filled in all 78. that was fun. i realised that i didn't hate the liberal (ruling) party as much as the other parties like "australian against immigration", "one nation", "david ettridge", "we should kill all asians party." in fact i think i ranked the liberals somewhere around the 30-40 somethings. that gives you an idea on how varied the voting table was.

so that was the end of that voting adventure. to be honest, it was an interesting experience voting outside of australia. the annoying thing is that i didn't find another australian in cambridge so i could register for a postal vote. maybe it wouldn't of been as exciting? at least given the reliability of royal mail, i'm not even sure if my vote would of counted.

on my way back, my trains for delayed again because someone fell under the tracks somewhere around stevenage, which is on the way from cambridge. i wish there was a "building better trains than uk party."

(updated: added link to voting faq for the $20 fine)

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