Elections Matter: Ten federal elections that shaped Australia
Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 294 pp, 9781925523157
The atmosphere among Australian electors lining up to cast a vote at a school, hall, or similar institution is generally relaxed and informal, a ‘vibe’ enhanced by the friendly banter of local party members handing out ‘How to Vote’ cards. But the casualness of the Australian way of voting cannot disguise the fundamental importance of each local, state, and federal poll. As the authors of Elections Matter generally agree, elections matter and voters matter: their collective decision-making has shaped the political, social, and economic nature of the Commonwealth of Australia since 1901.
Elections Matter is an edited collection of essays on ten federal elections that presented the electors with clear choices between different public policy approaches, styles of governance, and key personalities. Through compelling evidence and discussion of major electoral themes, each author generally makes a strong case for the inclusion of ‘their’ federal election as a pivotal moment in Australian political history. While the contributors vary in their conclusions, a general picture emerges of an Australian electorate that seeks to be represented somewhere near the comfortable centre rather than at left or right extremes. On the other hand, the book indicates that voters also don’t want to feel ‘behind the times’, which has often meant that a clever politician such as Labor’s Andrew Fisher (1910) or the Coalition’s John Howard (2001) can create an image of himself as the leader most ‘suited to these times’.