The hitchhikers guide to the election campaign
IF you happened to be walking through the Eastland shopping centre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs on Friday morning, you might have witnessed a bit of old school political campaigning.
Eastland is at the heart of Ringwood and Ringwood is at the heart of Deakin, the second most marginal seat in Victoria, currently held by a sharpish young bloke from the Labor party, Mike Symon.
Friday was a big day for Mike. He opened his new campaign digs, inflated several hundred balloons bearing his name and handed out ham and cheese sandwiches with a grin. And for just a short while, he got to bask in the tanning salon kissed glow of a Labor big gun, on loan to kick things along in a seat looking a bit shaky.
If you doubt Robert James Lee Hawke isn’t the biggest gun in Labor’s armoury, you simply weren’t there on Friday to watch the Silver Bodgie pull out his finest shopping centre swagger.
It was an extraordinary display, an old dog from the roughest of our political junkyards striding through a shopping centre sniffing bums and cocking his leg like it was 1983 and it still all lay before him – Mandela, the Accord and furtive cuddles with Blanche.
Keating wouldn’t have had a chance if he’d been shopping at Eastland that day, Howard would have hidden in the bakery pretending to choose some scones.
Women of all ages blushed, wilted and looked around to makes sure their husbands and boyfriends weren’t watching as Hawkie leaned in close, placed a hand gently in the small of their backs and with a sparkle in his eye said “howyagoin luv?”
Butchers tried giving him bundles of snags to take home; little kiddies cried into their ice creams at the joy of it all and teenage boys with Justin Beiber haircuts for a few minutes contemplated giving up sniffing aerosole cans and instead volunteering to hand out voting cards for their local Labor member.
Stirring, stirring stuff and enough to make you long for those old days of genuine political personality and to hate the current set-piece circus even more.
I thought about this over the weekend as I prepared for my own roll in the 2010 election campaign, one half of The Herald Sun’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Election.
Today I leave Melbourne for the further corners of Victoria, hitchhiking through the state with a video camera and my wits to hear those voices that don’t get within a shout of the shopping centre walk throughs, hospital visits and party-sponsored cake drives that both of the major political parties dress up today as political campaigning.
The only focus group we care about is the one that can give us a lift to the next town while telling us what they really think of this election.
We will travel anywhere people have a vote in the state of Victoria and put on the public record those views ignored by political party head office.
My colleague John Ferguson hit the road last week and managed to get to within stone’s throw of Mildura. Along the way he met a range of people who differed in their political views but who were united in the belief that Canberra wasn’t listening.
Truck drivers, engine salesmen, hotel staff, bakers and the odd postie shared their views on immigration, climate change, the real reason they dumped Kevin Rudd and two leaders who seem different but the same.
Some will knock us and say it’s just a stunt as much as the pollies try to stage. Others will say we see this type of coverage as old hat, that its been done before with an old Falcon, a new Monaro and a red fire truck that hardly left the city because its drivers never left the pub.
To quote Hawkie when asked about Tony Abbott’s leadership credentials: pure bullshit.
This is the real deal, the genuine article, the cats guts and as good as a bought one. Only members of the Milat family need not apply.
- Nick Leys and John Ferguson are on The Hitchhikers Guide to the Election until August 21. Follow their progress at The Herald Sun, Facebook and Twitter and they hitch their was across the state.
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