It is still raining lightly as I write. The drought is slowly breaking across Eastern Australia, although the change is still patchy. Perhaps Mr Rudd will be credited with this, should it continue!
Election day 2007. This will be a busy day for my family, a little less so for me.
I have to wake eldest up in ten minutes. She is working this year for the Australian Electoral Commission at one of the polling stations for some extra money. So she has to be there at seven and will remain there until the end of counting tonight. She is going to be a very tired girl indeed, since she was working at a nearby pub last night and did not get home until after 3.
My wife also has to be up early. She will be handing out how to vote cards for the ALP during the day and then will act as a scrutineer during the count. There is the usual celebration for the party workers after that.
Youngest has been in Byron Bay for schoolies. I have to pick her up from the airport at 4, then get her to a polling station so that she can vote for the first time.
I think I know pretty well how everybody will vote, but that is their business. For my part, I remain a swinging voter. Because of the decline in the Democrats I do not have a Democrat in the lower house, although the Party still has a Senate ticket.
I am going to miss the Democrats. In combination with the Nats and indeed independents, they have provided something of a natural home for me. To those who know Australia this may sound a funny combination, but it just reflects my history and strangely mixed views.
I have always been against the metro domination of Australian life, distrustful of the big party machines, hence my support for independents and Country Party/Nats. In fact, I still describe my personal politics as Country Party.
At the same time, I tend to be small l liberal in a lot of my views and support the role of the Senate in providing a check to the power of Executive Government, hence my liking for the Democrats.
I have also found it easier to vote for the Democrats because they have been a pluralist party prepared to look at issues on their merits. Here I really struggle with the concept of the Greens as a meaningful balance of power in the Senate because I find them so one-dimensional.
I have just dropped Helen of at the Clovelly Surf Club. This is a small booth that services both Wentworth (sitting member Malcolm Turnbull) and Kingsford Smith (sitting member Peter Garrett). What a lovely spot to do booth duty.
I am going to take a break from this post. I have been trying to put up details of the eleven New England seats on the New England blog because I thought that it might be of interest to fellow New England expats. I grossly underestimated the amount of time required, so should continue.
I will continue this post a little later.
Update 8.04 am
There is a traditional Australian phase, vote early and vote often. I don't know about vote often, but vote early seems true.
Wife just rang. She is on the St Joseph's booth in Kingsford Smith. No less than fifty people were lined up to vote when the booth opened at 8. Four seats up on the New England blog, seven to go!
Wife just back to pick up Kevin07 sticker. Apparently no indecision at St Joseph's. People are just going straight to party of choice, ignoring other how to votes.
Having now put up two more seats on the New England Blog, printed off the candidates for Kingsford Smith and the NSW Senate.
Not a great deal of choice in Kingsford Smith - Socialist Equality Party, Greens, Labor, Christian Democrats, Liberal.
The advantage of a first preference vote for a minority candidate who cannot win is that, for those who believe in pluralism, under our public funding rules a tiny bit of cash flows to the candidate you voted for without affecting the overall outcome.
So, as I did in the State elections, I have decided to vote for the Socialist Equality Party. Now there is rather a large tad of a difference between their platform and my views, but I do like the idea of a left party still nibbling away. My second and real preference I will keep to myself.
The Senate is both easier and more difficult.
For the benefit of international readers, candidates in the Senate are elected on a proportional system. You can vote above or below the line.
If you vote above the line, then your preferences are distributed according to the party's how to vote card. I strongly object to this because the parties work out all sorts of preference deals.
You can avoid this by voting below the line. This makes your vote really count. But to do this and record a valid vote, you must number every square, 79 in NSW, in order. If you make a mistake, your vote is invalid.
So I have decided to do this.
I am going to vote Democrat first. Now, if by some fluke the Democrat vote is higher than I expect and a Democrat gets elected, that vote will count and exhaust. I would be happy with this.
Then I am going to vote National.
The National and Liberal Parties have a combined senate ticket. The first National candidate will get in, so I am not going to vote here. My next preference will go to the National candidate who is fourth on the combined ticket.
If my vote were to count, I would be happy with this. However, this candidate will get knocked out and have his preferences distributed. In this event, my vote flows on. Now here I go to Patrice Newell and the Climate Change Coalition. I really would not mind seeing Patrice in parliament.
Confused by now? So am I. But I do love the complexity and sometimes unexpected outcomes of Upper House voting.
Well, I have voted. Did I vote the way that I said? Who knows! As a swinging voter, I reserve the right to change my mind!
Seriously, the very small voting booths make it difficult to handle something as large as a Senate voting paper where you cannot spread it flat, but have to look backward and forwards.
I went first to St Joseph's. Big queue. So after chatting to wife, went to Rainbow Street instead. Big mistake. Bigger queue! This really made me wonder. Has the Electoral Commission changed the process in some way? This time at Rainbow Street they forced us to queue before entering. Don't know.
On the New England blog where I am still getting seats up, a query from bindieye. If that's where Cowper is, where is Page and Richmond? Ouch. Progress will be made.
If you want to chat as we go along during the day, do leave a comment! This post is likely to roll on for many hours yet.
I still haven't finished the seats post! This is becoming ridiculous.
Just back from picking youngest up from schoolies. Then I took her to Clovelly to deliver something to Helen. There Clare voted for the first time.
Fooled me, she did, by splitting her vote and in the opposite way that I would have expected. Her reasons were very rational, but would not provide comfort to one of the political parties that might have expected her vote. Then to St Joseph's booth so she could see her mum. Then home.
The limited picture I have picked up from all the booths appears the same. People know how they are going to vote. It is very hard, obviously, to draw any conclusions, but the picture is not inconsistent with a major Labor win.
Now to finish the seat material.
Update 6 pm
Well, the polls have closed. I stand by my forecast of a Labor win between 10 and 20.
Update 7.40 pm
At this point in the count the swing is a little less than expected, but it does look as though Mr Howard will lose his seat. The ALP is still refusing to call it a victory.
Update 8.45 pm
A clear ALP victory. Mr Howard's only chance of keeping his seat are absentee and postal votes. Now the key issue is the Senate.
I will look at this once I have put up the next round of votes on the New England blog.
Update 9.36 pm
I have been listening to ABC TV in the background. When will they learn - they do it every year - that people want to know about their own seats, not just marginals and talking heads.
There seems to be an assumption that those who want the numbers can check via computer. This is not true. But in any case, do they want people to stop watching TV?
Update 11.20 pm
Mr Howard has conceded in a remarkably positive way. Mr Rudd is now speaking. And so a new era begins.
Mr Howard paid a strong tribute to Mr Brough who lost his seat. I was sorry to see Mr Brough lose.
Update 11.35 pm - the Senate
First of all, I must say how sorry I am that the Democrats in general and Andrew Bartlett in particular have exited the scene. I will miss them. Obviously I am in a tiny minority, at least so far as votes go.
Turning now to the Greens. While they will be happy at their votes in a few individual seats, their national lower house vote was only 7.8%, up o.6%. This is well below the maximum percentage the Democrats achieved.
The Greens are also likely to be disappointed in their Senate position.
A fair bit of Senate counting remains, especially of the votes of those like me who vote below the line. So the numbers are still very uncertain. However, based on the various how to vote tickets, the position appears to be this.
Western Australia: six senators - Liberal 3, Labor 2, Democrats 1 - were up for grabs. At this stage, the outcome appears to be Liberal 3, Labor 2, Greens 1.
South Australia: six senators - Liberal 3, Labor 2, Democrats 1 - were up for grabs. At this stage the outcome appears to be Liberal 2, Labor 2, Independent 1, Greens 1.
Victoria: six senators - Liberal 3, Labor 2, Democrat 1. At this stage the outcome appears to be Labor 3, Liberal 3.
Tasmania: six senators - Liberal 3, Labor 2, Green 1. At this stage the outcome appears to be Labor 3, Liberal 2, Green 1.
NSW: six senators - Liberal 2, Labor 2, Nationals 1, Green 1. At this stage the outcome appears to be Labor 3, Liberal 2, Nationals 1.
Queensland: - Liberal 2, Labor 2, Nationals 1, Democrats 1. At the stage the outcome appears to be Labor 3, Liberal 2, Nationals 1.
Northern Territory: - two senators - Country Liberal Party 1, Labor 1. At this stage the outcome appears to be just the same.
ACT: - two senators - Liberal 1, Labor 1. At this stage the outcome appears to be just the same.
Enough. It's time for bed.
Update 25 November 2007
It was an interesting day. I will do another update post once we have all the final figures.