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Home ยป Sorting through the promises and pamphlets remains a puzzle – St George & Sutherland Shire Leader

Sorting through the promises and pamphlets remains a puzzle – St George & Sutherland Shire Leader

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today’s is written by ACM national agriculture writer Chris McLennan.

With another election looming here in Victoria the bombardment of messaging from the political wannabees wanting my vote is escalating.

How best to choose should be a subject taught in schools.

I’ve voted hundreds of times now and I’m no better at it than when I wandered into my first booth with an enormous Friday night hangover.

I wanted my name ticked off to avoid a fine.

My folks taught me little.
On polling day, Dad used to cut the Country Party how-to-vote ad from the local newspaper and followed its directions religiously.
There was no debating at home over the various candidates – farmers voted for the Country Party, that was it.
I’ve spent a lot of time with politicians over the years, some I liked, some not.
A few kept their personalities intact, others had been consumed by their parties.

A friend of mine, who won a seat in State Parliament, came back from his first weekend’s party indoctrination to tell me their core message.

“Don’t bother congratulating yourself on being elected, the main game is being re-elected.”

My first real introduction to those who ran our democracy was the third tier of government – local councils.
This raw cadet journalist on a country paper was given the municipal round.

Courts and cops was for the seniors.

My municipal round included five councils a month – Kerang Shire, Kerang Borough, Gordon (Boort-Pyramid Hill), Cohuna and East Loddon.

This was before all the amalgamations.

East Loddon was my favourite and I’ll explain why.

The shire secretary, based at Serpentine on the Loddon Valley Highway, understood his council needed publicity if it wanted its biggest issues to be heard.

Tom Rudkins, as I understood it, approached a closer paper at Bendigo to send a reporter but they couldn’t see the news value in it.
So he asked the next closest which so happened to be us, about 80km north.
My boss said yes, so each month off I travelled up the highway to cover the meeting.
It was always a publication day so I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d done all my jobs and I had to be back before knock off, so the window was narrow.
But it did include lunch at the Serpentine pub, paid for by the council.
There was no media seating so I sat at the council table.
Each year they elected one from their midst to be president, so there was a spare seat.
They had bowls of lollies in front of each councillor – on a cadet’s wage, treats were like gold.
Nothing much happened of worth – lots of talk about potholes and such.
I remember only one front page story came during my years at East Loddon, a big piggery had applied for permission to locate there.

But I got to know the councillors very well, even if I didn’t know the area and had just a basic understanding of what they were talking about.

A couple of times when the lollies were all gone, and I was bored, I even threw on my hand as if to vote with them – just for a laugh.
They were kind enough to let me.
I listened, I absorbed and they explained to me how they worked their communities.

It wasn’t their votes they were chasing, in these small rural communities anyone who showed interest was pretty much assured the job for life.

You just had make sure roads were graded, school bus routes were sorted and the footy ground was sprayed for bindi-eye.

The councillor was called on to make a speech at local events, even when they had nothing to say and zero public speaking skills.

One remembered a popular joke and used it to preface every speech, locals had heard it many, many times but were still considerate enough to laugh.
These councillors, East Loddon and others, taught me a lot.
Good-hearted, community-minded people, that’s what I look for today.
A friend looks for a candidate who is smiling on their way to the booth, or even if the volunteer handing out the candidate’s how-to-vote sheet looks happy, and gives them number one.

As good a strategy as any I suppose.
In case you are interested in filtering all the latest down to just one late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?
ACM national rural property writer based in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Career journalist. Multi award winner.
ACM national rural property writer based in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Career journalist. Multi award winner.
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