4 lessons from the 2016 Australian federal election

portraits of Australian federal election candidates

Australia’s 2016 federal election took place Saturday, but the results aren’t in yet. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

The sausage sizzle is a big deal

“Sausage sizzle” refers to both the community fundraising event and the sausage-on-bread food. Volunteers prepare barbecued sausages which are served typically on a single slice of white bread with optional grilled onions and sauces. Sometimes you’ll see other kinds of breads or a roll, but white bread is cheaper and helps maximise fundraising. Increasingly there are also gluten-free and vegan options and sometimes there are cakes and other snacks. You can usually also get bottled water and soft drinks. Note that a sausage on a roll is not the same thing as a sausage roll.


Image: 2RS

Australians always vote on Saturdays and voting is compulsory so a big turnout is expected. Since polling places are located at churches, schools, and community halls, they take advantage of the crowds to raise money.

The “democracy sausage” became a highly publicised facet of this year’s election. Twitter added a sausage-in-bread emoji to the #ausvotes hashtag and #democracysausage was trending. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten astounded the nation and made headlines when he bit his democracy sausage on the side.

Leaders make victory speeches even if the results aren’t in

It’s an election night tradition in Australia for the party leaders to make speeches, but what kind of speech do you give if the results aren’t in?

If you’re Bill Shorten, you give a victory speech. Considering how close the election was (and still is), I was confused. Twitter explained that whilst Shorten didn’t win, he didn’t lose either. The Labor Party performed better this time than during the last election. So, it was an enthusiastic glass half-full speech.

The Channel Seven panel collectively gasped following reports that Malcolm Turnbull was staying home instead of going to deliver his speech at the Sydney hotel ballroom filled with Liberal supporters. We had no idea if this was true, but that didn’t stop broadcaster Alan Jones from coaxing the Prime Minister.

“Malcolm may be watching the Channel Seven broadcast and if you are, Malcolm, you’ve got to change your mind and come and face the people. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Go and talk to them, reassure them, encourage them, be optimistic towards them, but you’ve got to go and do the gig, this is part of being the leader.”

Turnbull did give his speech. Like Shorten’s, it was a victory speech, but Turnbull was visibly less composed and his speech has since been characterised as angry and bitter by some media commentators and political analysts. You can read transcripts of the speeches here.

Nearly a quarter of Australians gave their first preference to parties other than Labor and the Coalition. Among some of the wackier people who won seats are a racist who wants a Royal Commission to determine if Islam is a religion and a media personality who has never voted. If I were Shorten or Turnbull, I wouldn’t be so confident or excited.

Australians elect a racist, still not convinced they’re racists

Australians share our horror at video footage of Black men being beaten by police and at the thought of Donald Trump as the next U.S. President. They agree that the U.S. has a serious problem with racism, but are surprisingly clueless about their own racists bias. The proof is in the pudding. Pauline Hanson has won a seat in the senate. You can read some of Hanson’s greatest hits here.

I have a lot to learn

Why is the ballot so long? Can it get longer? How much longer? Above the line, below the line, what? Why a double dissolution? How many votes does a candidate need to get a seat in the senate? What’s a donkey vote? Why does it take so long to count all the votes? Why is a hung parliament such a bad thing?

I’m comforted knowing I’m not alone in my confusion.



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