How has Australia forever changed the world? What is the most notable dinky-di invention ever: Google Maps, penicillin, Vegemite, ultrasound scanners, the electronic power drill? It’s an interesting question, but all of the above antipodean achievements are outranked by the secret ballot.
Now adopted all over the democratic world, this concept of anonymous voting and simple make-an-X instructions was introduced in Victoria and South Australia in 1858. It is a uniquely Australian invention and rightly celebrated as the ‘Australian ballot’ — although not, it seems, by YES vote supporters happy to declare their voting intentions via bumper stickers, lapel pins, T-shirts, tattoos, posters and Facebook profiles, even Qantas jets. The suggestion that voting in secret is a freedom to be respected is apparently so much antiquarian twaddle, according to my proud YES-voting neighbours, whose terrace houses on their leafy inner-city Sydney streets are now peppered with YES posters.
The first Yes poster popped up a few weeks ago, giving the occupants significantly woke first-mover status. Other neighbours soon joined the visual chorus, but what started as a trickle has not developed into a full flood. A drive through local streets indicates this little pocket of Paddington may be a hotbed of YES activists but their enthusiasm seems not to be widely replicated in less conspicuously virtuous suburbs..
The polls tell me the YES vote may be struggling, although we are still in early days of the campaign, and we may still end up with streets filled with YES YES YES. The local councils are already doing their bit with resident-funded street flags fluttering from main street flagpoles in support of the YES campaign.
Those who are voting YES are so confident in their progressive virtue they most definitely see themselves as being on the right side of history. So confident are they of their moral superiority that they feel deeply obliged to display it via a prominently placed poster.
‘Look at me! I’m Voting YES! Aren’t I just fantastic! It’s the right thing to do! You should vote Yes too!’
One excited neighbour has taken advantage of their house’s street corner position in order to display a YES poster to each of the cross streets, thus earning double woke brownie points and ensuring whichever direction you approach the house you are in no doubt as to their civic virtue.
So far there are enough YES posters in my street to be annoying, but they still only occupy a small minority of front doors. And this, mind you, in a suburb that elected the woke trinity of Allegra Spender as federal member, Alex Greenwich for state MP and Clover More as Mayor. One could expect that in such a neighbourhood the non-YES households would be so marginalised that they might feel under threat, perhaps nervous that their first-born offspring could be threatened unless they appropriately marked their front door with a YES sign and the blood of a sacrificial kangaroo.
Anyway, enough of Paddington. Let me tell you about a drive to the western suburbs of Sydney on the weekend for Father’s Day, taking Nan from her nursing home to the Catholic crypt at Rookwood cemetery. It is, I suspect, well beyond where Ms Spender and messrs Greenwich and Moore have ever set foot.
All was going well until we took a wrong turn that landed us into the Muslim section, where a large gathering of families was waving Palestinian flags.
Leaving Rookwood behind, we drove to where my wife grew up in Blacktown: Joseph Street, Theresa Street, even Kurrajong Crescent. There were no YES posters, just ordinary Sydneysiders in fibro, weatherboard or brick-veneer houses mowing their lawns or hanging out on the driveway cracking a few beers.
Apparently, there are around 10,000 declared Aborigines in Blacktown. Some of my in-laws are apparently in some mob due to an ancient indigenous grand uncle, although they are more whitebread than Tip-Top. They don’t put dots on their faces or wear possum coats, just eat Maccas and drink Toohey’s. But they do get advanced entry into uni courses and public service jobs.
After our drive, we knocked off some excellent local drive-through at a Blacktown McDonalds in the carpark opposite the goat farm that survives on Reservoir Road. Closest thing I have had to a country picnic for some time.
I thought of asking the Somalian and Indian girls working the Maccas’ drive-through how they were planning to vote on the referendum but thought better of it. Doubt they would have been interested.
My daughter-in-law is a country girl from western NSW. She put in a call to a mate on the weekend to ask how the Voice chatter was going in her town. The response was that there wasn’t much talk, but her indigenous neighbours were voting NO.
I bet they don’t have a poster out front.