I find it hard to understand and to accept why so many people always vote for the same party, election after election. I mean if we all did that, then there would never be a change of government and many people wiser than me think that it is in a country’s interest to have a change of government every now and again. Fortunately there are enough people who are not 100% committed to either of the two main parties – people we refer to as swinging voters. I am one of those swinging voters and at my near octogenarian status, that’s about all that swings these days.
I started off life on an inauspicious footing being born in a Public Assistance Institution which had previously been a Workhouse. I have a record of my mother’s admission to the Institution which referred to her as an inmate, not a patient. From there I was brought up in a part of the town that was commonly referred to as a slum. All the workers in the street were blue collar workers and lived on very poor wages. Nobody had a car and very few had a house phone or television. But mostly they were all very friendly and looked after each other. I wouldn’t change it if I was given the option to as I learned lessons in the first twelve or so years of my life that I could not learn anywhere else.
Whenever there was an election, virtually every house in the street would have a red Labour sticker on a window. Labour was the only party that cared for the working class in post war Britain.
In time we were fortunate in that we were moved into a council house in a council housing estate where the mix of people was quite different. I was very lucky to go to a good school where I discovered what I was good at to shape my career. At the age of 20, I joined the Intelligence Corps where I became a translator (Chinese and Indonesian). By this stage, I had progressed from being a Labour fan to being a Conservative believer. And by the time I came to Australia to live permanently in 1966, I would describe myself as a middle to right wing Liberal believer. The first election I was able to vote in was in 1968 and I helped to vote Sir John Gorton into power.
I wanted to be successful, to achieve. At one stage I even considered a career in politics and I am glad that never happened. I was however fortunate in that my first wife Patricia enjoyed discussing almost any topic other than sport whereas my second wife Margaret loves talking about any form of sport but won’t discuss politics, religion et al. C’est la vie! Over the years, Patricia and I had countless discussions on all sorts of topics and I can honestly say that we never argued, or at least Patricia didn’t. I always struggled to win a point in our debates – but she was far more intelligent than I was. She was a committed Labor supporter although not a party member. I found it hard to defeat her political reasoning and in time I found myself thinking with a different perspective. I think that I gradually came to understand that I was not the sort of person who was destined to be a captain of industry or even a politician. I recall the day I asked her if she would vote for me if stood for Parliament as a Liberal candidate. Her response was that she would cook my meals, wash my clothes, sleep with me, but she would never vote for me – even if I was the Prime Minister. Ouch!
I realise now that I was gradually returning to my roots, to where I belonged. And I started to believe that come election time, I should not be voting for what was the best outcome for me personally, but for what was the best outcome for all Australians. By the time I lost Patricia to MSA, I was a committed middle of the road socialist and I still am. But that doesn’t mean I will always vote Labor. At this stage of my life, it actually doesn’t matter who I vote for because neither party is going to affect me as a ‘not very well off’ self-funded retiree who can’t get the age pension because of a stupid CentreLink ruling.
I was a fan of Malcolm Turnbull. It seemed to me that a man who had been brought up by a single parent father who wasn’t wealthy, could eventually achieve for Australia what he had achieved for himself. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law, before attending Brasenose College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a Bachelor of Civil Law.
He established his own law firm, Turnbull McWilliam and in 1986, he defended Peter Wright,, a former MI5 official who wrote the book Spycatcher, successfully stopping the British government’s attempts to suppress the book’s publication in Australia. The case was widely reported, making Turnbull a public figure in Australia and the UK.
I was prepared to vote for Turnbull in the 2019 Federal Election but couldn’t because he was ruthlessly deposed as the Liberal Party leader by Scott Morrison. There was no way I was going to vote for Morrison after that. I am still a middle of the road socialist and I think I will be until I reach my use by date. I do believe that what we need is a strong leader who is middle of the road or near enough who can listen to both sides of the party and manage to make the right decisions. In my mind, the last Prime Minister who could that was Bob Hawke