It was a bleak day for Democracy in Queensland on Saturday, 31 January 2015. As voters went to the polls, something didn’t smell right. An important element was missing. And its absence was to cost the premier Campbell Newman dear.
His decision to call a snap summer election meant most of the people responsible for maintaining this bedrock of our democratic process were on their long summer break. It wasn’t only Can-Do Newman’s party that was taken by surprise.
Those who truly know their onions will be aware that in Australia the sausage looms large in the electoral process.
Here in the Lucky Country we don’t have to catch buses to remote civic halls and queue for hours if we can get there at all to exercise our democratic right and duty.
Our polling stations are conveniently set up in local schools and elections held on a Saturday, a symbol of the universal nature of our suffrage. We vote with our neighbours, as part of a community, and the sausage sizzle is a powerful symbol of that.
So it was with some concern that voters at many polling booths noted a distinct lack of the usual bbq aroma which tends to accompany these things.
Not your Girl Reporter, who was able to feast on the Sausage of Democracy and carry home for later the Scones of Freedom and sweet Raspberry Friands of Unexpected Victory.
But that was in the Independent Socialist Republic of Stafford, and my thanks go to the highly organised Stafford State School Parents & Citizens Association, whose crack troops were mobilised to delicious effect.
However, not every polling station was as well-stocked. The Gold Coast Bulletin reported the merest whiff of Democracy Sausage plus Onions emanating from only three locations.
Ipswich voters also complained of a lack of cake, another essential dimension to our political process.
There were similar tales of woe from the gardens of Toowoomba to the Warrego Plains, on the dusty streets of Mount Isa and in the cosmopolitan playground of Brisbane’s Spring Hill.
Where were the sausages, a bewildered electorate was left to wonder. How can we vote if we don’t have any sausages? Where, oh where, is the promised pork? What is Democracy without its handmaids the Sausage and the Lamington?
Bewilderment turned to rage. In the middle of a hot and humid Queensland summer, rage comes easily and can spread fast.
Campbell Newman should have been more careful. Calling a snap election in the middle of the long school summer holidays was always going to hit a snag – who, after all, was going to cook the sausages and bake the sweet treats?
The first signs of trouble came early, in his own electorate of Ashgrove.
Newmarket State School, where Newman cast his vote, did manage to lay on a good range of sweet and savoury election toppers.
But a volunteer was heard to chide him for giving them so little notice. It takes time to organise that level of baking and our schools only returned from the long summer break on Tuesday, after the Australia Day weekend.
In other words, they had a mere four days to prepare for what is traditionally one of their biggest fundraisers.
Was this the most egregious act of a controversial reign? Perhaps not. But as a final act of bastardy it’s hard to beat.
Maybe, just maybe, it was the tipping point that turned a wave of protest into a tsunami.
When the bruised and battered Liberal National Party gathered to consider just what went wrong, the role of the sausage in their downfall probably didn’t rate a mention.
But know this, all ye who would seek power in Queensland: Deny us our sausage at your peril. There are things we hold dear above all others and our Election Day ritual of a vote, a snag and a catch-up with mates is not to be treated lightly.
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© Sally Baxter 2015
This post was also published at the Australian Independent Media Network.