bilateral kellerberrin

May 8, 2005

Kellerberrin Sunday 8 May 2005

Filed under: keller dailies — Lucas @ 6:40 pm

I jokingly wrote to my friend Tony in Sydney about how I was going to find it hard to leave this place. I told him that maybe I would buy a farm and stay on. Tony wrote back: “Funny but I find it hard to imagine you running a farm or even living in all that thundering emptiness…”

I like the idea of “thundering emptiness.” Emptiness so vast it makes the cavity in my skull resonate deafeningly. A kind of sublime vacuum.

I like that idea, but I haven’t found it in Kellerberrin. There may be “less” to do, and perhaps the “best coffee in town” is from my own stovetop. But I reckon fewer choices are doing me good. With a population of this size, there must be a greater connection between what an individual does, and the impact that action has on the community (& vice-versa?).

* * * * *

Much excitement last night: Josh and Claire came up from Perth to visit, and I took them to the local council election vote-count. Here’s how it works:

There are about 30 people sitting in comfortable chairs in the Kellerberrin Council Chambers. Frank, the council CEO, is standing over a big pile of yellow voting slips which have been emptied out onto the table in front of him. One by one he picks them up and reads out which names have been ticked. Each voter gets to tick three boxes. Although there are five candidates, only three will be voted onto council. Frank’s voice is a monotonous minimalist musical mantra:

Ranger, Pontifex, Doncon;
Ranger, Pontifex, Doncon;
Smoker, Pontifex, Doncon;
Smoker, McDonnell, Doncon;
McDonnell, Pontifex, Doncon;
Smoker, Ranger, Doncon;
Ranger, Pontifex, Doncon;
Ranger, Pontifex, Doncon…
…(and so on, for just under two hours)…

As Frank reads the names, Raymond, the red-haired deputy, marks them on a board with his felt tip marker: an excessively neat five-bar-gate tallying system.

I’ve never seen hermit crab racing, but I reckon it must be a bit like this.

Everyone is trying to be quiet. Someone shifts and squeaks in a leatherette seat. The hot water urn switches on and off at the back of the room. John Smoker’s daughter chomps down another Cheezle. Suddenly there is a moment of controversy: someone has filled out their form with the numbers “1-5” instead of ticking just their favourite three! Scrutineers and officials are consulted for their opinion on this point of law. It’s decided to accept votes 1-3 from this incorrect slip. The atmosphere is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Josh and Claire, fresh from Perth, have unwittingly been plunged deep into the bowels of the Kellerberrin democratic process. It is a rare and thrilling experience.

Almost from the beginning the pattern is clear: Doncon and Pontifex are shoe-ins. The third position will be filled by one of the remaining three candidates. Smoker has been in council before. McDonnell is a currently-sitting councillor whose term has come up for renewal. Ranger, the dark horse, has only lived in the area for six months, but has apparently been very active in that time.

Very little separates the bottom three candidates. In the final count, outsider Craig Ranger pips the veteran John Smoker by just three votes. Not quite close enough to demand a recount. The result is announced. Everyone stands up and starts congratulating each other.

Stan McDonnell, however, is clearly upset. His final tally was only about eight votes shy of John Smoker’s, but that’s the way it goes. Stan has been voted off the council. He stands up muttering something about going to the pub. As he’s leaving, he passes Pauline and blusters sarcastically: “Congratulations Pauline! You finally got what you achieved! I mean…you got what you wanted!” And with that he storms out of the room leaving her standing there blinking and speechless.

* * * * *

Later Pauline, James, and Tasma hosted dinner and drinks at the Prev. From the councilly-types present, I learned a few things about the local elections:

  • Politics here has not been colonised by the party system. In Sydney, our local councillors belong to the Greens or Labour or Liberal, and follow more or less the party line on development and heritage and whatever other issues come up. But in Kellerberrin (and other WA councils too), it’s just individuals running as themselves, and their success or failure is based on whether people reckon they’ll do a good job.
  • Being a councillor is a voluntary position: they do get a bit of petty cash for their travel and inconvenience, but “don’t quit your day job”.
  • Not much “politicking” went on. John Smoker’s “how to vote” card, for instance, just had a tick next to his name. It didn’t say “I stand for progress” or “better education” or anything like that. You would have to have had personal contact with him in order to find out what he was all about.
  • Even Rob Doncon, who actually took the time to place an ad in the Pipeline Newsletter, hadn’t stated a clear policy or position. His ad began with the headline “A CANAL FROM THE KIMBERLEY!” followed by “Just joking!! The last campaigner to say that didn’t do too well, did he?”. At the bottom of his full page ad he inserted the statement: “This important information has been written and authorised entirely for your entertainment by Rob Doncon…”
  • Delre Pontifex would have won my vote just by dint of her excellent name. Apparently in the 12th century the name Pontifex made its way from Rome to England, where it became a regular name divorced from its papal origin.
    John Smoker was the cool name runner up. I asked him if he was any relation to the musician/painter Joel Smoker, and he said no. John’s family is the South Australian branch of the Smokers, which have no connection with Joel’s Pilbara clan.
  • From what I can glean from the Pipeline, Craig Ranger runs a truck and earthworks company in Kellerberrin. His wife Brenda is a crack Avon lady, having reached the Top 20 Avon Representatives District Honour Roll.
  • Stan McDonnell, the outgoing councillor, is an ex-farmer. I didn’t really find out much more about him. Rumour has it that he could sometimes be bit difficult to work with on the council, so his departure may be a relief for some. Certainly, his ungentlemanly exit from the Council Chambers made explicit, in a public setting, the fact that working collaboratively with Stan was not always smooth sailing.
  • Of 1100 possible voters in Kellerberrin district, it was estimated that there was a turnout of about 30%. This is considered normal.

3 Responses to “Kellerberrin Sunday 8 May 2005”

  1. Jono Says:

    “But I reckon fewer choices are doing me good. With a population of this size, there must be a greater connection between what an individual does, and the impact that action has on the community (& vice-versa?).”

    Kinda like the whole brain cells dying off theory (I think it’s in the Mezzanine):
    You start off with lots of brain cells and as you get older, and breathe chemicals and drink alcohol, weaker brain cells die off. You might think this is a bad thing, but with few cells, more/stronger connections are formed between your remaining cells.
    I think his example of progression was something like: mathematician->artist->philosopher, but I have no idea how he came to that conclusion.

    Council elections sound like excitement in a small town. From what I remember of Kununurra, those who were on the council were, for the most part, quite fond of holding their position, with so little competition I guess it’s hard not to take missing out personally. Not sure what it’s like in over east, but local politics is still something of a joke in WA… it’s reached the point where postal voting is the norm because otherwise nobody bothers to turn up.
    30% turn out sounds pretty good actually.


  2. buffalogirl sera Says:

    thundering emptiness

    well, you know what i find thunderingly empty: the urban streets- not all, but some particulary!

    and check that night sky out there in thundering beautioful emptyness- full!

    and the fathomlessness of the full body smile- the country- land has this effect. this uncomplicated fullness- even in the desert, and the crazy flat ass country like the wheatbelt in WA…

  3. bilateral kellerberrin » Kellerberrin Tuesday 16 May 2005 Says:

    […] before too – he was the voice of the “Ranger, Pontifex, Doncon” symphony during the recent council elections. Frank, also, gave the diagrammatic concept his support from the start, when P […]

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