Then there were the activities of the IRA and the legacy of the IRB. My parents told my sister, brothers, and me not to engage in any discussion about these organisations. They said ‘You don’t know where people’s sympathies are and it’s best to not get involved.’ This was good advice then. As a result, I grew up uninterested in politics.
When we bought out first house in Australia, we had insufficient funds for a full deposit. We needed a house where the owner was prepared to offer a second mortgage. The Real Estate Agent found such a person and we bought this man’s investment house.
Once we had moved in, he came round to meet us. He told us he had to sell the house to fund his political campaign. He was a candidate for the fairly recently formed Democratic Labour Party (DLP). This passed over my head but I wished him luck. I knew nothing about State Government and Federal Government elections. I have no idea which election he was contesting but I do know he didn’t secure a seat in government. That was that, and I still had no interest in politics.
I became good friends with an older woman. Her husband was a friend of Vince Gair, who had withdrawn from the Labor Party and established the DLP. They had attended Nudgee College together. By this time I was on the electoral roll and not having any political leanings voted for the friend of a friend. I can’t remember the outcome of that election.
A neighbour who worked in the taxation office car-pooled with a young man who had decided to stand in our electorate for the Liberal Party. I saw him most mornings as he called for my neighbour. On Election Day I voted for him. I had no idea who the other candidates were and I didn’t bother to find out. It was simpler to vote for someone I knew somewhat than for a complete stranger. He won and I continued to vote for him until I moved to a different area. Casting my vote had nothing to do with political parties, nor the abilities of a candidate.
For the next election he changed from his original electorate to the one where I now lived. That suited me. I cast my vote as I had previously. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.
Then we were moving again. We bought a house and randomly selected one of the two local solicitors to do the conveyancing. The one we selected told us he was standing for the National Party and after determining we had no political leanings asked if we would help him with his campaign. This was something new to try. We agreed.
What stands out in my mind from the first meeting of this man’s political helpers was an older woman asking me if I was working for the National Party or for Gavan (the candidate). It was a very practical question and one that should have more relevance in politics.
Gavan didn’t win. The then unknown Wayne Goss, who was the other local solicitor, was the Labor Candidate (and future Premier of Queensland), defeated him. I wonder if we had selected him to do our conveyancing would we have become involved in the Labor Party.
The point of my story is all these political opportunities came out of the blue. I never sought political involvement but becoming involved is something I don’t regret. It was a wonderful learning curve. Looking back on my disinterest and lack of knowledge of the political system and knowing there are so many voters that are as indifferent and ill informed as I was makes me question compulsory voting. I believe voting is a privilege and if someone wants to access that opportunity, they should have to demonstrate a credible level of knowledge of the electoral system. ⁑