Voter Snapshots: Australians Weigh in

In the week before the Australian election, we’re sending a daily Voter Snapshot to subscribers of the Australia Letter (usually sent weekly). Sign up here.

Australians go to the polls Saturday to vote for their next government. We asked five Australians around the country who they’re voting for and what they care about.

All of them are people we met researching other stories; we went back to them because they each struck us as interesting, hard-to-categorize voters whose voices might not otherwise be heard through traditional campaign coverage.

We asked them not just about this election but also about their dreams for Australia and the worries that keep them up at night.

What we found was that despite very different backgrounds and political beliefs, they shared a clear concern about Australia’s rising cost of living, unemployment and the fate of their future families.

Where they diverged?

How to get to the prosperous, hopeful future they longed for.

The Indigenous elder who wants to limit immigration

Jack Johncock

Age: 59
Hometown: Close to Port Lincoln, South Australia
Voting for: Labor, Greens or independents

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I am a Wirangu man, Indigenous to Australia, I’m very heavily tied up in my community politics: a member of our native title claimant group, president of my local football club. I work supporting children in the juvenile justice system.

I’ve been a Labor man all my life. My mother was a Labor voter, my father was a Labor voter. But I’ve got to say over the last few years, I started looking at Greens and independents. An issue close to my heart is the drilling in the Great Australian Bight. It’s just too pristine to mine out there.

What do you worry about in the future?

In a lot of our big rural towns, the ice epidemic is massive. South Australia, population-wise, isn’t a big state so we don’t have a lot of services like rehabilitation centers. I’ve seen a lot of kids in my community, both black and white, suffering horrendously with the fallout from ice.

Things are getting hard. In South Australia, we pay more for power than anywhere else in the country. A lot of people are living under the poverty line.

What kind of Australia do you want to see?

I want a better Australia for everyone. We’re a country that’s very rich in resources and yet we still have people in third-world conditions. It’s unacceptable. In outback South Australia, there’s some of the biggest uranium mines in the world, yet you have people living in squalor.

We pay billions of dollars in foreign aid. I think first and foremost, we need to clean up our own backyard before we give our money to other countries.

I think there’s too many migrants coming into the country. I just think we should put the brakes on it for a couple years until we clean the country up. They’re trying to encourage migrants to go to rural areas. I’m just talking about my community here in Port Lincoln — there’s no work here for people. There’s got to be other industries set up. We’ve got a shortage of housing, a shortage of jobs.

Our government has to work with the people and invest in the people. We’re the people that put them in power, they’ve got to listen to us too.

The basketball player who sees a future abroad

Nyaduoth Lok

Age: 19
Hometown: Cranbourne, Victoria
Voting for: Undecided

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m Sudanese and was born in Ethiopia, but I came to Australia in 2005 as a refugee. I play basketball for the Waverley Falcons and in three months, I’m going to America for university for basketball. I want to try to make the Women’s National Basketball Association over there.

Do you know who you’re voting for?

Not really. I’ve just been a bit confused lately because there’s so many different politicians. I feel like we’ve changed prime ministers a thousand times. Myself, I’m not really into politics. I feel like the way it’s run, it’s not for the people. Politicians want to advertise just for themselves. I only hear about them when they’re trying to get voted in.

What do you worry about in the future?

Income is the biggest issue at the moment. If that’s not sorted out, it’s going to affect my future. Right now in Melbourne there’s a lot of people that live here. I don’t understand why they’re trying to fix the roads and the trains when there’s hardly any employment so a lot of people are jobless. For example, renting — it’s high but your income stays the same. You hardly have anything for yourself and your children. The one thing I’m scared of in the future is I don’t have enough to treat my children.

What kind of Australia do you want to see?

An accepting country, because lately with migration — even though they’re saying that we’re accepted — I still feel like there’s a big difference between us and the people who live here. Whether they like it or not, everyone’s a migrant.

There’s people in the parliament that don’t want immigrants. That doesn’t make sense to me. As migrants we make a big difference here. Shops, companies, the cars that they have here are from different countries. You have doctors that are from different countries and they’re making a difference in hospitals. Just be more accepting. We can do better than what you think we can.

My culture’s getting targeted at the moment because of some stupid, ignorant little kids. I’m a good person. I go to school. I just do my normal, everyday thing. But because of a minority, I’m targeted as well. If I do something good that’s when I get accepted. If I do something for the country they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, she’s ours.’ But when I’m just doing my normal-day thing, no one cares about me.

The farmer who doesn’t believe in climate change

Brian Sporne

Age: 58
Hometown: Clermont, Queensland
Voting for: Liberal National Party of Queensland

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I lived all my life in Clermont until last Christmas, where we sold our property running cattle because of the drought. Now we’ve bought an irrigation farm in Mundubbera, four hours northwest of Brisbane and we still run cattle but we also grow lucerne.

Who are you voting for?

I’m voting for the Liberal National Party. I’ve been in business since my 21st birthday and the only way that a nation can be wealthy is if the people who are borrowing money are compensated. Personally, I think Bill Shorten probably is going to make the depression we had look like a walk in the park. There’s too much emphasis on helping those that don’t achieve at the detriment of those that do achieve.

I just don’t think people understand how hard anyone in a small business or a self-employment business works, how hard it is to make a success of themselves.

What do you worry about in the future?

In a democracy, the majority rules but unfortunately the majority know absolutely nothing about life on the land. The politicians, led by the bureaucrats, are making decisions about our future which they really don’t know anything about.

I don’t believe in climate change. Al Gore told us in 2000 that polar ice caps were going to be completely gone. There’s enough scientific evidence now that says that’s all misleading. I personally believe there’s a bigger force out there. There’s people out there studying the stars and the moon who can show you we’re all getting the same lineup as we did during the Federation Drought.

The fact is, the sea hasn’t risen. If there is a global warming, I’m sure mankind has nothing to do with it. There were dinosaurs and an ice age. It’s a normal cycle, it can be explained.

What kind of Australia do you want to see?

I want to see a country that people don’t ask what the country can do for them but, as that old World War Two slogan goes, what they can do for the country. It seems too many people will jump up and down about the fact that someone might say something wrong.

I have no worry with same-sex marriage. I think people are born like that. But I don’t think anyone with an ordinary marriage or Christian belief should be shouted down.

The mum who admires Pauline Hanson

Tammy Crockford

Age: 36
Hometown: Mill Park, Victoria
Voting for: Derryn Hinch Justice Party or Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m a mother of two boys, one with special needs. I’ve been married for 15 years. I grew up the eldest in a family of five kids. I’m an office assistant.

Who are you voting for?

I haven’t actually read the local candidates’ promises yet, for lack of a better word. I’m not a terribly political person. But I’m quite interested in Derryn Hinch’s stance. I admire Pauline Hanson for speaking her mind. I’ll probably vote for either one. Pauline Hanson doesn’t necessarily say things in the politically correct way. But I admire that she’s saying what real Australians are thinking. We should be employing our own youth before employing migrants. Yes, it’s good as a social justice-oriented country to be looking out for refugees and to be supporting them, but I think we need to employing our own youth.

What do you worry about in the future?

Being able to afford things. I’m very lucky — my husband works for one of the big motor companies in Australia. I’ve always got a brand-new car. But for my kids and my siblings who don’t have those entitlements: How will they get where they need to be? Now that my husband and I are both working, we might be able to save a house deposit. But will my kids ever be able to?

With my young one having special needs, what can be put forward for him? The current government and the previous government have done a great job with setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But there’s a lot of loopholes for parents to jump through to set that up for their children when people don’t have time to jump through hoops.

Our farmers are struggling with depression, with the drought, with their experiences that most of us don’t get exposed to. If my generation can’t support our farmers, what is there going to be for my kids? The whole idea of Australian made, Australian grown is very dear to me.

What kind of Australia do you want to see?

An Australia that can support itself. An Australia that looks after their own first.

The social scientist who worries about the environment

Giti Datt
Age: 34
Hometown: Sydney, New South Wales
Voting for: Labor party, Greens or independents

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a social scientist and run a small business. I also founded a community organization that is focused on support for brown, queer people. I’m of Indian heritage, but I’ve spent my whole life in Sydney. My parents came from Singapore and before that, from Delhi.

Do you know who you’re voting for this election?

It would be Labor, the Greens or independents. It would someone on the left. I’m not loyal to a single party. Even the Labor party has moved so much closer to the center than they used to be. It’s hard to stay loyal when they change. I’m basing more on issues and values as opposed to identity.

What do you worry about in the future?

The environment for sure, also the economy. I’m not a believer in capitalism as it exists currently. I’m concerned about sustainability — not sustainability just in terms of environment but socially or health-wise or even work. People are so overworked, we’re under-employed, it’s this constant hustle. How can we go on like this? It feels like we’re transitioning to a space where the systems we’ve set up don’t cater for the realities of today anymore.

Even within the current system we have, there are severe limitations on how much you can actually change. I would love to hear people talk about structural-level change. We need a different value system to go forward. The one we’re using so far cannot take us any further.

Without humans, the economy won’t survive anything. We prioritize the economy over our needs and the needs of our environment. It’s bizarre logic. I’m looking for people who value people, human outcomes and environmental outcomes. We won’t survive without the environment.

What kind of Australia do you want to see?

Someone said to me we’ve been the lucky country which means we haven’t therefore had to be as strategic in some ways because we’ve been so lucky with weather, natural resources and space. I feel like that’s only taken us so far. I would love to see us become a more forward-thinking place. I would like to see us be more aspirational.

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Isabella Kwai covers news and the occasional slice of life for the Australian bureau. She is based in Sydney. @bellakwai

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