Pre polling

By Grant Philpots  @Dusty_1

25 August 2013

For some time I”ve wanted to get out on the trail with the Gellibrand candidates to experience some colour and movement on the election.  I’ve been a booth captain and have handed out campaign material at several elections, but never an observer.

There is a $4b major railway project underway here (and in neighbouring electorates) called Regional Rail Link, which is a project to separate country trains from metropolitan trains.  Currently both travel on the same tracks, leading to delays and congestion.  Freeing up tracks will increase frequency and also mean more services. It was a policy of the previous Victorian ALP, and the majority of the money is coming from the Commonwealth.  A number of railway stations will also be upgraded or replaced as part of this project.

West Footscray station

West Footscray station.jpg – New West Footscray station being built with old station in the foreground.

On a very cold and occasionally wet Melbourne Friday, I headed off to train stations to observe.

First up was the Greens. They had planted themselves outside the main entrance to the platforms at Footscray station.  Due to the rail-works, all passengers are funneled into one of two entrances.  They chose the entrance closer to the bus stations and Footscray itself.  Three helpers and candidate Rod Swift handed out flyers to commuters. All looked weary from the work week, just wanting to get onto the train.  There was no animosity towards Rod or the Greens. His campaign team have letterboxed nearly all of the electorate, so the commuters are becoming familiar with him.

A few stop to talk: most took the information. The main issues of interest were asylum seekers, education and employment, themes that wouldn’t be out of place in any electorate though.

Rod had a helper playing the flute. something you don’t see every day at Footscray station near a ticket machine.  I’m not sure what the commuters made of it as most were focused on getting onto a train.

The Greens want to knock the Liberal Party out of second place in the ballot.  They are also working hard to ensure that their lead Senate candidate gets wins that place.  In 2010, they got 15{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of the primary vote; Liberal 23{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3}.  Any way you look at it, increasing their vote by 8{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} is a big ask and I am a little sceptical.

Rod Swift1

Rod Swift 1.jpg – Greens candidate Rod Swift at Footscray station with flautist.

Two stations on I met the ALP candidate Tim Watts.  West Footscray station is being replaced with a new station as well as seeing major works due to Regional Rail Link. He was at the top of a pedestrian bridge to the station and the wind was very cold. Tim handed out a flyer on what the ALP would do for public transport in the West. Many commuters took the information, and one suggested some changes to it. The information states that ‘Only Labor invests in the West’ and focuses on the ALPs commitment to the Metro rail tunnel.

Again commuters were pleasant and happy to accept the information. No one was rude to candidates I was with, a different experience to when I worked in the safe Liberal seat of Higgins, where I was routinely abused, sworn at and once spat on while handing out ALP material at voting booths.

Tim was joined by one campaign worker, but did have others earlier who had left to get the train into work. Standing on the bridge it was little wonder they left. Tim left around 9am for one a pre-poll place in the electorate.  I went home and defrosted.

Tim Watts 1

ALP candidate Tim Watts handing out information at Tottenham station in the same week.

After I got feeling back in my fingers I headed to the AEC office where pre-polling was in full It is the office for three safe Labor seats – Maribyrnong, Gorton and Gellibrand. I was to meet with the Sex Party candidate Allan Cashion.  It was just as cold, but there were at least two volunteers from the Liberal Party, and one each from the ALP and the Greens.

Allan had no how to vote material, but said it was coming. When handing out his flyer, Allan said, ‘It’s not all about the name’, a good way of breaking the ice with voters.

Allan has volunteered for the Sex Party at state elections. Standing for a small party means that when he leaves the pre-poll he takes his posters down as no one is there to replace him.  Allan has picked up one volunteer through door knocking and will have some support on election day.

A lady came up after voting to tell Allan that she had put them second on the ballot paper, after seeing the Sex Party Senate candidate on the TV.

Allan Cashion 1

Sex Party candidate, Allan Cashion at the main AEC office for Gellibrand, Gorton and Maribyrnong.

I moved to another pre-poll centre to see Dwayne Singleton, the Palmer United Party candidate for Gellibrand.  I have been to many out of the way polling centres but this one was terrible.  In a park, beside a scout hall, up a one way unpaved road.

Dwayne had just received his how to vote information from head office.  The ALP put him second on its how to vote, but he has the ALP last. With a full time job as a town planner, Dwayne was just getting his campaign started.

The Australian Christians Party candidate, Anthony O’Neill, and Family First candidate, Kerry Arch, have been very low profile.  The Liberal Party candidate, David McConnell, has been campaigning as well, but I was unable to catch up with him.

Gellibrand Seat Reports