‘What’s an erection?’ my four-year old daughter asked on our way to her school. I almost veered off the road. I opened my mouth to speak, she saw I was struggling. ‘I heard you talking about an erection poster yesterday.’ I swerved again, and the change in the car’s relative angle allowed her to see – and to point out to me – the poster in question. It was a corflute yard sign bearing the likeness of our family friend and local state Liberal MP.
‘Oh, an election,’ I exclaimed happily, ‘I’m so pleased you’re asking about that!’ We drove past another house, this time with a whole caucus – or is the collective noun a ‘faction’? – of posters of our friend’s Labor opponent.
Given her young age I only explained the basics of our Westminster System with its ‘teams’ (‘parties’ reminded her too much of cake and candles). But with two aesthetically pleasing faces staring at you from every third or fourth front yard, my impressive knowledge of the machinery of democracy only got me so far. Electoral systems got me nowhere at all, but I tried them on as I wanted to avoid what I knew would be my little Voter’s next question.
‘Who should I vote for, Dad?’ As a serious conservative I am ashamed that what I wanted was to say something like this: ‘you should vote for whoever you think will make the best decisions and rules for our country.’ I wanted to be fair. Or open-minded. Or something. It’s the same trap that conservative governments fall into when, in an effort to prove their non-ideological credentials, they appoint prominent progressives (which are the worst sort of progressives) to government boards and ambassadorships, or allow them to continue in these roles lest they be seen as partisan. To be fair, some like Kim Beazley prove themselves as consummate and effective public servants, but why risk it, especially after a mandate-winning election?
One NSW Liberal MP in his final parliamentary speech before next week’s election said that voters always make the right decision. Technically, legally, constitutionally, that is of course true. But morally? Economically? Altruistically? Needless to say, I said something rather more agenda-driven than the feel-good nonsense that first came to my mind. She deserved to hear the truth.
‘Always vote for conservatives,’ I told her. ‘Is this about tax?’ she asked. Maybe she had heard me talking about tax in the same conversation as erections. ‘Yes,’ I said, and explained that tax is a necessary evil. She has a younger brother so she didn’t require much convincing that someone taking less of your stuff is better than than someone taking more. ‘If they take all our money, how can we help other people?’ she asked, as she reminded me of our sponsor child, and the time she sold grapefruits outside our home to raise money for disabled children.
My initial hesitancy was now gone, as my four-year old encouraged me with examples of entrepreneurship, altruism, personal freedom, and a deliciously rebellious attitude to food safety regulations. Excitedly I told her that she can help the most people when the economy is good, and when businesses are able to do well, and when the trains run on time, and when the government can manage the tax it collects, and not spend more money than it has. That last point she thought was obvious: ‘of course. Silly Daddy.’
‘So always vote for conservatives,’ I told her again. As we approached her school, she noticed another face on a yard sign of similar design to our friend’s. ‘She’s on his team,’ my girl squealed as I beamed with pride; she was getting the hang of this. That afternoon at home she saw a DL flyer with premier Mike Baird on it. ‘The team captain,’ I said. She nodded knowingly, ‘always vote for conservatives.’
At some point I am going to have to tell her that Mike won’t get it all right all the time. Of course he won’t, she will say, and we will probably talk about forgiveness. I wonder if he will break her conservative heart – I hope not, but I’m sure one of his successors will. But to the great and important and trusting question, ‘who should I vote for, Dad?’ The answer must be clear because it’s true: ‘always vote for conservatives.’
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