Kath Day-Knight

When Kath Day-Knight voted for Kevin Rudd in 2007, it was the first time she had voted Labor.

“To be honest, I’m a swinger – when it comes to voting at least,” she says with a giggle.

“But when I saw K-Rudd on Sunrise with Mel and Kochie, he just came across like such a down-to-earth guy. I’ll tell ya, he gave my sauce bottle a fair shake!”

Kel was also caught up in the hype of the Kevin ’07 campaign, and produced a special commemorative sausage for the election: a combination of Darling Downs beef, Chinese five spice and cheese.

However, on 24 June 2010, Kath woke up to Mel and Kochie reporting that Julia Gillard was going to challenge Kevin Rudd for the Prime Ministership.

“I couldn’t believe it! I just felt that it was undemocratic you know? And after everything he’d done for us Indigenous Australians.”

After the election in August 2010, Kath gradually began to come round to Prime Minister Gillard. She was proud of the fact that Australia had a female Prime Minister, and one with whom she could closely relate. In Gillard, Kath saw a fellow footy fan (albeit for the wrong team); a  woman who shared her love of shoulder pads. In Tim, she saw a little of Kel.

But all the time there was a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

“I guess I just felt that Kevin hadn’t been given a fair go you know? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to vote for Tony Abbott, who’s such a negative nancy. But Julia’s just not floating my boat anymore.”

Kath says she’d vote for Kevin “in a heartbeat” if he was to come back for another go, which she compares to Ben Cousins’ return to the AFL to play for Richmond – but without the history of drug abuse.

Her daughter Kim on the other hand can’t see what all the fuss is about.

“Mum and Kel are such Kardonnay Socialites. They forget that Labor brought in the bloody carbon tax. Cujo’s food’s gonna go up $40 a bowl – Brett’s done the sums.”

Kath Day-Knight

Harold Bishop

On 9 March 1954, Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Brisbane for the first time as part of her inaugural two-month tour of Australia. Having already visited the major metropolitan cities of Sydney and Melbourne, she was mildly startled by the enthusiastic reception she encountered in Brisbane. One could certainly feel something extra in the cries of the adoring public as the motorcade passed along George Street that day.

Perhaps one of the most excited members of the thronging crowd that day was young Harold Bishop.

Bishop grew up at a time when Australia decidedly looked to Britain. His parents had come to Australia just after the Great Depression. Very English, very Methodist, and very middle class, they imbued in Harold a conservative worldview that would last his entire life.

When he met Madge in high school, Bishop was instantly smitten and vowed that he would marry her. But it wasn’t to be. One night, the teenage Harold went home with local trollop, Mavis, who swiftly deflowered him. After Mavis fell pregnant with his son, Bishop felt it was only proper to marry her. The couple had another child before Mavis passed away, leaving Bishop to raise his teenage children on his own. Struggling to cope, he reacted in the only way he knew how – by embracing the conservative values and strict parenting style his parents had imparted to him during childhood. Politically, his first vote in a Federal election was for Menzies in 1958, beginning a relationship with the Liberal Party that would only drive his kids away further during the swinging sixties.

Bishop moved to Melbourne in the 1980s. By then, he was a middling man, a tuba player and a Salvation Army volunteer. His individualist, anti-Labor, traditionalist views found a welcome home in solidly middle class Errinsborough. Throughout his life, he had stayed loyal to the Liberal Party. He couldn’t wait to see the back of Whitlam, thought Fraser could’ve gone a bit further in the 1970s, and resented Keating’s sneering at Australia’s British traditions.

Having just bought the coffee shop, Bishop rejoiced when Howard came to office in 1996, certain (although without much evidence) that small business would be better off under the Liberal-Nationals. Moreover, the Australia he had known had changed, and he thought Howard was the man who could reverse the tide. Yet, as the Howard years wore on, Bishop found himself confused. While the deliberate attacks on traditional Australia had subsided, he sensed Howard’s reign was largely an extension of Keating’s. Immediately, Bishop sought a third party in the late-1990s, and for him it was the Christian Democrats.

In 2003, Harold’s life took a dramatic turn after he suffered a stroke. He gave up his vegetarianism, began drinking, left the Salvation Army, and pinched Izzy’s bottom. In this warped state of mind, he also seriously began to consider One Nation as a viable alternative to the major parties. Luckily for Harold, and the nation, he later recovered.

And when he had recovered, he came back to Howard. Even when his church criticised the treatment of refugees, the participation in US wars of adventure and tacit support for torture, Bishop stayed with Howard. He remains a loyal Liberal today, heartened by Tony Abbott’s views on the carbon  tax and his outward Catholicism.

Harold Bishop

Ossie Ostrich

Oswald Q Ostrich’s family settled in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg in the late 1950s. Fleeing a Europe beset by Stalinism’s iron fist, Ossie’s father Yuri Ostrich took to the relative ease and comfort of Australian life.

Quickly unionised, Yuri joined the Labor Party. Never religious, his religion became the Coburg Football Club and the VFA.

His son Ossie grew up with a strong sense of dual identity between his central European heritage and his family’s love for Melbourne Labor politics and Victorian amateur football.

Ossie, however, couldn’t play football. But he could play politics, and it wasn’t long before he was on the road to becoming one of the great numbers men of the Victorian Right. In virtually every preselection in Melbourne’s northern suburbs from the 1970s onwards, the influence of Ossie Ostrich was felt.

He also grew up with a wise-cracking, self-deprecating sense of humour – probably some sort of coping mechanism he’d developed while growing up an immigrant bird, he’d think as he got older. The humorous Ossie was the one Australia came to love. But the other Ossie is a story which has never really been told.

Ostrich, as a great backroom man, could move numbers against anyone. And when he couldn’t beat them in branch meetings, he’d lure them onto Red Faces on the pretense of a publicity stunt, where inevitably they’d make a complete tit of themselves. No one would vote for someone who Red gonged and scored a ‘2’.

In those days, Hey Hey was a hotbed of political division.  Ossie often nearly came to blows in the Green Room after taking issue with something said by prominent Grouper, Wilbur Wilde.  

Ostrich and his father split over politics in 1992, after former Prime Minister Bob Hawke retired from Parliament. At the ensuing by-election, ever the machine man, Ossie was instrumental in the campaign of the lacklustre Labor candidate. His father, already resentful of Hawke’s liberalisation of the economy, looked no further than his former football hero, Phil Cleary. After Cleary’s victory, Ossie pursued him to the High Court. His father didn’t speak to him for years.

Ossie retired from television in the 1990s to concentrate on politics. While he remains a loyal Labor voter, he was expelled from the party in the early 2000s after trying to oust a sitting MP and factional enemy from his safe seat. Head office grew suspicious when 640 ostriches signed up to the party in a three week period leading up to preselection.

It had Ostrich’s hands all over it. His dream of ending his working life with a spot in the Victorian upper house was dashed. He’d ruffled too many feathers.

Ossie Ostrich

Martin Kelly

Martin Kelly, a suburban architect running his own business in solidly middle class Chatswood, always harboured a sense of resentment. His wife’s death had forced him to leave his lucrative gig in the city and start a business from home so he could juggle the kids and still design home extensions for young North Shore stockbrokers on the make.

Kelly’s success as an architect largely relied on him knowing Sydney’s North Shore very well.  These were his people.  He knew the good streets, he knew the good schools.  He could tell what type of extension someone wanted merely by which end of Killara they lived and where their sons and daughters were wait-listed to go to school.

His politics were Liberal, if passively so.

His secretary Betty manned the polling booths each year for Country Labor in her home town of Walgett. Moving to the city, her strong sense of working class pride was galvanised by Kelly’s bully-boy tactics in the office, creating a clear, two person class divide which secretly incensed the seemingly unassuming secretary.

It was during the Keating years that Kelly became politicised.  He took particular umbrage at the changes to superannuation.  He just couldn’t see why he should have to pay more to ensure Betty had a decent retirement.  He’d struggled as a single parent to provide for his kids, and thought Betty’s retirement was her responsibility. For the first time in his life, Martin Kelly volunteered for a political party – in 1993, galvanized by a Fightback! pamphlet in his letterbox, Kelly handed out how-to-votes on Election Day.

The 1990s recession caused a dive in the fortunes of the suburban architect.  Fewer and fewer were looking to put extensions on their homes.  In the mid-1990s, with the kids out of school and home, Mr Kelly moved to Singapore to join a large architecture firm making a killing in Asia’s growth decade.  Ironically for Mr Kelly, he left just as the renovation boom really took off in suburban Sydney through the late 1990s and early 2000s.

While largely disaffected from Australian politics, from Singapore, Mr Kelly cast a postal vote for the Australian Sex Party in the 2011 NSW State Election.

And what of Arthur Macarthur, the cheeky but lovable boy from next door you ask?

After lapping up stories from Betty of strikes in the bush, ostracising rats, and working the numbers on an intra-factional enemy, Macarthur turned to politics when his family moved to Melbourne in the early 1990s, just as Kennett came to power.

Joining Young Labor, the same qualities that saw him help himself to so many free lunches at the Kelly household stood him in good stead negotiating his way through the internecine union politics of the Victorian Right. After a horrific jetskiing accident in 2008, Arthur is now known in the party as the Faceless Armless Man.

Martin Kelly