AUSTRALIA is facing the longest election campaign in the nation’s history after Julia Gillard today announced the federal election had been set for 14 September.
For Australians back home it will mean seven and a half months of campaigning, policy platforms, costings and counter costings, as the two parties gear up for what is sure to be a bitterly fought election.
Although Australians in the UK may not get to experience the full heat in the election kitchen in the lead up to the showdown, for both parties the UK Australian electorate plays an important role in the outcome of any contest. Up to 200,000 UK Australians could cast their votes in the weeks leading up to the election, with many doing so in person at Australia House.
At the last election, with approximately 16,000-18,000 Australians casting their votes in London, Australia House became the biggest polling booth anywhere in the entire election.
It is for this reason ALP Abroad president Paul Smith urges overseas voters to ensure they are correctly enrolled to make sure their vote counts this election.
“To be sure of your vote you need to enrol to vote as an overseas elector” he said.
Australians living in the UK are able to register as an overseas elector if already enrolled to vote in federal elections, and intend to return to Australia within six years.
Australians must register as an overseas elector within three years after leaving Australia.
Those who are not enrolled need to firstly enrol and then register as an overseas elector.
Smith says he does not want to see people disenfranchised from voting from failing to fulfil the conditions of enrolment.
He says out of the estimated 1 million Australians overseas during the 2007 election, only 70,000 were registered as overseas voters.
Jason Groves, Australian Liberals Abroad president, agrees that the votes of Australians in the UK will be important in the upcoming election.
“It is very important for overseas voters to exercise their democratic vote.”
Groves states Australian Liberals Abroad is gearing up for a solid campaign, and have a base of volunteers keen to get involved.
Both parties will be seeking to appeal to the young professional vote in London.
Smith considers the type of Australian living and working in the UK may have a left leaning tendency, likening the UK Australian expat electorate to an inner-city borough.
“The background of Australian voters in the UK is generally educated, younger, people who have a global outlook and professional.
“They are people who want a country they can be proud of when they are in the UK, and offers fairness and opportunity when they go home.
“At the moment they can go home to the only booming economy in the world, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Groves agrees that a key factor in the decision that Australians in the UK will make this election will be about what kind of Australia they want to return to.
“Australians thinking of going back home will have pause for thought this election.
“We haven’t heard any costing details from the Prime Minister on how they will pay for policies.
“Australians will be looking anxiously and waiting to see what type of tax raises will be in store.
“This is the most anticipated election in the nation’s history, and there are a lot of voters out there who want to have their say.”
For more information on enrolling as an overseas elector see www.aec.gov.au.
Australian Times will be posting regularly on how to ensure your vote counts in the lead up to the election. Check back for further information.