Driving back home from my run early this morning I passed a lonely figure standing on the side of the road waving a huge yellow sign at essentially nobody. Were it not for the peculiarly Canberra tradition of planting a forest of campaign signage at the sides of roads I’m not sure the 2016 election would’ve been on my radar, but our sign-waving friend reminded me that it was ACT election day. So, after breakfast, I decided to enjoy the sunny spring morning and go for a stroll with my camera to take a highly unscientific reading of the buzz around the 100m exclusion perimeter of the central Belconnen polling booth. I started by heading back up to the guy with the yellow sign to say g’day.
Tom Chen is the campaign manager for Kim Huynh, an independent candidate better known to basically everyone in northern Canberra as “Kimbo” due to his unique and attention-grabbing Go Kimbo campaign. Tom was the only person I could see campaigning away from the Westfield side of the exclusion zone, and the only other corflute sign in sight was for another independent candidate. He said the Go Kimbo campaign decided that being visible was the most important thing and that the team believes voters don’t necessarily respond well to having volunteers rush them with fliers and how-to-votes. After a long day in the sun, the Go Kimbo crew will hit the Belconnen Tennis Club tonight for an election party.
Leaving Tom to untangle his balloons, I walked around to Margaret Timpson Park where anyone wishing to transit for the past couple of weeks has had to dodge dozens of corflutes and volunteers crowded around the edge of the park facing the shopping centre. I couldn’t not grab a photo of a corflute belonging to prominent Belconnon identity and now Labor candidate Tara Cheyne. Over the years, Tara has waged war on the scourge of abandoned shopping trolleys lining the streets of Belconnen and the shallows of Lake Ginninderra. I think she’d appreciate the #belcopride irony.
I spoke to a couple of volunteers from major parties who were happy to chat but didn’t want their names and photos shared. One lady has been handing out HTVs throughout the pre-polling period and said that she felt it was a way of making her contribution to democracy and to advocate for what she believes best for Canberra. Most punters have been polite, she said, even those who disagree with her party’s positions.
At the corner of the park I ran into two Greens volunteers, Ebony Holland and Sam Hussey-Smith, who were enjoying the morning despite the noticeably slow pace of voters heading into the booth (perhaps due to the fact that over 80,000 Canberrans had pre-poll voted before election day — roughly one-third of enrolled voters).
Asked about the general vibe of this election they said there is an undercurrent of antipathy, perhaps due to this poll’s proximity to the July federal election. However, both said they’d had some great conversations with voters about in-depth issues while handing out and door knocking.
It was time for lunch so I put away my camera, met up with my wife and daughter, and we all walked up to our favourite local pho restaurant. After a typically delicious meal, and as we were paying, I noticed a sign in the front window.
“Do you know him?” I asked the owner, pointing at the sign.
“Yes!” he beamed.