Ingeborg van Teeseling

Forget donkey voting, the NSW election is about DIY democracy

The NSW election is upon us, but with division and voter apathy taking over the state, many have taken it upon themselves to fix democracy. 



So it has come to this: DIY democracy. Inspired by chaotic politicians, we have now decided to take matters into our own hands. And as usual, when the rabble (that is us) takes over, it can teach the powers-that-be a lesson or two. Do you think you are masters in bedlam, anarchy and pandemonium? Let us show you how it is done! Of course, we are dealing with professionals here, who gave us a tutorial to die for. There was shut-up-Barnaby, busy blowing up his own party for the sake of a seat on the Federal front bench. There were the Greens, fighting over whether they were red, green, or something in between. We’ve had the Liberals, naturally, aiming at each other from foxholes all over the country, usually for no reason at all. One Nation’s Mark Latham, deliberately misunderstanding Aboriginality for electoral gain in racist land. And then is Labor, headed up by a man whose only claim to fame is that he picked a fight with Alan Jones. A great choice indeed, on Saturday. Internationally, we’ve hit the jackpot too. In Westminster, British politicians are showing the world why democracy as we know it originated in this tiny island in the North Sea. Bravely, through Brexit, they are leading us in the dismantling of your own country, one stupidity at the time. Then there is Trump (enough said), Venezuela with two presidents, India and Pakistan risking nuclear annihilation, the Canadians imploding, the Chinese building another concentration camp.

But now we are hitting back. Everywhere you look, people formerly known as voters are taking to the streets. It is like all of us have had one thought at the same time: “Fuck this. If they don’t do it, I will.” Children and teenagers marched against climate change and the brainlessness of their “betters”. In Warringah, Zali Steggall, Olympic skier and lawyer, is taking on Tony—“they are all negative”—Abbott. Instead of allowing him his retirement sniping from the sidelines in his budgie smugglers, the Northern Beaches’ silver-tails are pounding the pavement, wearing fake tattoos on their perfectly bronzed arms and décolletages. Abbott might, in fact, actually lose, despite the efforts of Advance Australia (the “conservative GetUp!”), which has formed in order to protect him. On the Far North Coast, people in places like Byron, Ballina and Lismore are so “pissed off” that they actually enjoy keeping the bigger parties on their toes: they could vote Greens, or Nationals, or something else altogether, or take up a pitchfork and run their electorate themselves. There are now also myriad small parties, on the left and the right. Sustainable Australia, the Animal Justice Party, Keep Sydney Open, the Socialist Alliance, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, and disgraced Green, Jeremy Buckingham. Of course, we know the Shooters and Fishers, Christian Democrats, One Nation. But what about the Pirate Party, Seniors United, HEMP, the Future Party and the Freedom and Prosperity Party? Unfortunately, the Australian Electoral Commission has deregistered the Coke in the Bubblers Party, a party for “young Australians with a sugar-headache who want leadership”, but I would have voted for them.

Do you see a trend here? It used to be that people mocking the democratic process would draw a smiley face on their ballot paper, write a swear word or state their preference for a Star Wars hero instead of their local member. Now we are having fun together, on the streets. Sometimes we pretend to be serious, asking the state government to “Fix NSW” and not sell out our inheritance. More and more often, though, we organise Facebook events, like the one that asked us to “leave a poo at Gladys Berejiklian’s doorstep”, something that was “liked” by more than 14,000 people. In the end, of course, we will do our boring democratic duty and vote. But even there we are disrupting the process: one in four of us has promised to put a tick in the box for one of the micro parties, certain that we will cause mayhem on Macquarie Street even after we’ve had our say. Personally, I see this as an enormous finger, not just to our politicians, but to the process itself, that asks us what we want and then ignores us. If I was an optimist, I would hope that the thrashing we are going to give them on Saturday would chasten our office-bearers. Unfortunately, I think more poo is required.




Ingeborg van Teeseling

After migrating from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, Ingeborg van Teeseling became a historian instead. She endeavours to explain Australia to migrants new and old at her website, and runs, telling people's life stories.

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