Origins of an election tragic

Warren Grzic

26 July 2014


How does one become an election tragic?  I suspect that it comes from stumbling upon something relating to an election, such as a report or something in a newspaper, and then looking it over.  And then looking it over once more – at this point, one becomes fascinated and wants to know more.  But no matter how much one reads and researches, the only missing thing is an outlet to spell out the knowledge that one acquires.  This applies to me when it comes to elections, and is how I became an election tragic.

Early in 1998, while browsing newspapers in a library, I stumbled across something in the AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW.  It was an electoral pendulum – a graphic with a tubed shaped down the middle and names down either side.  The names were of seats in the House of Representatives, the Lower House of the Australian Parliament, where governments are formed – on the other hand the Senate, the Upper House of Parliament, just covers each Australian state and territory as a whole.  On this pendulum, Government-held seats were listed to one side of the tube, and Opposition-held seats were listed to the other side.  Next to each seat was a number, showing the margin by which either the Government or the Opposition held it, and therefore the swing needed for the seat to change hands.  Obviously, smaller numbers meant marginal seats, which could therefore change hands more easily.  I just became fascinated in this, so I spent a bit of my spare time researching what parts of Australia each seat covered.  And it basically took off from there!

My interest in politics and elections at this point had been somewhat fleeting.  But I remembered a few elections past.

I remembered Bob Hawke becoming Prime Minister after leading the Australian Labor Party to victory at an election in 1983.  Hawke was considered a immensely popular figure, and would go on to win several elections as Prime Minister.  His last win was in 1990, and later on he lost the Labor leadership to Paul Keating, who’d been Treasurer in the Hawke Government for all but the last few months of it.  Keating was very unpopular as Prime Minister, but he managed to win an election in 1993.  In 1996, Keating lost an election to a teaming of the Liberal Party and the National Party, known as the Coalition, with John Howard leading it.

That 1996 election saw the emergence of a political figure of some notoriety, named Pauline Hanson.  She was a Liberal candidate in a Labor seat that the Liberals weren’t expected to win, when suddenly she made news headlines with criticism of Aboriginal people that was portrayed in the mainstream media as racist.  The Liberals disendorsed her, but incredibly, she won the seat.  She went on to become immensely popular, and formed the One Nation Party.  But she was widely portrayed as racist because of criticisms of Aborigines and Asians.

Two years later, by which time I’d come across that pendulum that kicked off my interest in elections, there came a state election in Queensland, from whence Hanson came.  This election saw the ONP win a large slice of the statewide vote and numerous seats in the Queensland Parliament, which shocked all and sundry.  This was fascinating to me – how could a party perceived as racist win so many votes?  As such, I researched more and more, and just kept researching.

Months after the Queensland election, there came a Federal election, which Howard narrowly won.  The following year saw a state election in New South Wales, and then a state election in Victoria.  By now, I was hooked on elections!

Since then, I’ve researched all sorts of things relating to elections, and watched governments fall and survive countless elections.  And having studied how voters have behaved at election time, the current circus of minor parties in Federal Parliament in particular doesn’t surprise me at all.

Over time, this election tragic will have more stories to share and enlighten you all with.