Australia election: Voting polls in London are now open

Australia election: Voting polls in London are now open

Voting booths for the Australian election are open in London with the nation’s leaders appealing to UK overseas voters the exercise their right to ensure Australia is in the best possible hands upon their return.

The upcoming 2010 Australian election has been termed by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as: “too close to call” and could leave Australia with its first hung parliament since the Second World War.

As previously reported in Australian Times, the Australian expat vote is vital in determining the outcome, as not only is London the biggest voting electorate, but UK votes have historically determined the how results swing in marginal seats.

High Commissioner for Australia in the UK, Mr John Dauth, officially opened London’s Australia House polling station and cast his vote on Monday.

“It is a source of pride for me that Australia House is the polling booth which takes the largest number of votes in the election. High Commission staff have been working very hard since the election was called to get ready for voting at Australia House, and we look forward to welcoming voters through our doors in the coming days,” Mr Dauth told Australian Times.

While newly-enrolling Australian voters had three days to register and take part after the election was called on July 17, it is anticipated at least 20,000 Australians will cast their vote at Australia House in London before voting booths close on August 20.

Casual staff and employee teams from Australia have been recruited in London to ensure UK-based Australians, who come from 150 Australian electorates, are offered the best possible environment in which to vote.

As voting polls opened today, many Australians took the chance to vote.

Voting booths at Australia House will be open until 10pm on the busiest day, later than in previous elections.

It is anticipated voters will have to queue for up to two hours in peak times due to the popularity of the Australia House voting station.

Australia’s political leaders and their UK representatives of Australian have been studiously campaigning to ensure Australians in London are informed about the issues they believe UK voters should consider and what their aligned political parties offer.

The Australian Labor International Supporters Network (ALP Abroad) conducted campaign meetings and will be picketing votes at Australia House station closes. It will also be providing patient voters with lamingtons as part of their campaign while promoting Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s push to “help move Australia forward”.

The UK branch of the Australian Liberal Party were campaigning in Shepherd’s Bush on Sunday with shadow Queensland education minister Bruce Flegg and members drove a placard-laden truck through London on Monday to promote Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s hopes of “putting Australia back on track”.

Australia’s major political parties and their UK representatives have shared with Australian Times that voters should consider what political direction they want their home nation to employ on a global and local scale, considering overseas voters are planning to return to their home country within three years.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Australian Greens leader Bob Brown shared their messages for all overseas voters with members of the global Australian expat community network Advance this week.

Similar messages are being prepared for UK-based Australians and will soon be published by Australian Times (read them now, here).

While political leaders are divided on the direction of Australia’s finances, immigration and climate change policies — dubbed the most important to UK expat voters and Australian Times readers — election battlelines were drawn in Brisbane on Sunday.

The clearest point made by all politicians is that voters need to decide what sort of country they want to come back to.

Read Ms Gillard’s full message to Advance here | Read Mr Abbott’s message to Advance here | Read Mr Brown’s message to Advance here and interview with Australian Times here

ALP Abroad president Paul Smith told Australian Times Mr Abbott’s opinion that climate change is ‘crap’ is “embarrassing” and said UK-based Australians should consider the Liberals’ apparently lax stance on climate change as an extremely significant issue when considering the global aspect of Australia’s political policies.

He added that the Liberal plan for leading the country is “19th Century”.

However, the UK branch of the Australian Liberal Party representative Jason Groves endorsed Mr Abbott’s Advance message, in which the Opposition leader said: “If elected, I will take real action to repair the economy, reduce the deficit, protect our borders, improve education, take effective measures on water and the environment, improve the public health system, protect private health insurance and provide safer neighbourhoods for all Australians.”

Mr Abbott flagged a plan for lower income tax, fewer tax brackets and an overhaul of welfare payments in his first term as part of his campaign pitch that urged voters to end the ”soap opera” he said the government had become while campaigning in Brisbane on Sunday.

The Opposition Leader said he would unveil a tax plan in his first year that would be based on unused Henry tax review recommendations.
Mr Abbott made no specific commitments, but the Henry recommendations include lifting the tax-free threshold from $6000 to $25,000 and applying a flat rate of 35 per cent on all earnings from $25,000 to $180,000.

“You need to think about what sort of Australia you want to go back to,” Mr Groves told Australian Times.

“You need a government you can be proud of,” added Mr Smith.

The Australia House station is open from 11am to 8pm every day until August 20 (but are closed on Sunday August 15). On August 20 the polling station will be open until 10pm.

To vote in the election as an overseas voter you needed to have enrolled by July 20. The Australian High Commission will accept applications for postal votes from Australians wishing to vote overseas until Wednesday August 18. They must be returned with a postmark not later than August 20.

More election 2010 on Australian Times:

Election exit poll at Australia House in London

Australian leaders appeal for the overseas vote

How Australians can vote in the UK

VIDEO: The Chaser’s ‘The Negotiate Song’ dedicated to Julia Gillard

Australian voter confusion in London

Ashlea Maher

Ashlea Maher

Former Australian Times Editor, Ashlea is back in mother country where mayo just doesn't taste the same on chips, still gets caught out calling the corner store an offie and likes to offer up the odd tidbit to AT HQ. With 10 years as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist, Ashlea enjoys combining her love of writing and producing media with her passion for community life, music, politics, travel and the arts.