It is with much relief I present my final election CABPOLL taken last night in the hack. From the word go, it was shiftus interruptus. My cab was having a service so I kicked off with the ‘dog’ for a couple of hours, before changing vehicles around 8 pm. Heaven in this game is a familiar cab and friendly passengers.
An indication of my weariness with this CABPOLL is the undisciplined inclusion of some non-political fares. I’m just dying to get back to personal passenger stories...
First up I carted a News Limited executive from Holt Street to the Eastern Suburbs. I asked him what he thought, re the election. ‘I think we’re in for a surprise’, he said. ‘we’re just not hearing enough from voters in the marginals’. I was surprised and asked, ‘What, you think Labor ?’. ‘Yep’, he replied. ‘Mate’, I exclaimed, ‘Put ya money down ! At $3.50 in a two horse race, you’ll clean up !’. ‘$3.50..?’, he groaned. ‘Mate, get on !’.
I grabbed a coffee in the Cross then picked up a street hail in Elizabeth Bay. It was a middle-aged bloke, with wild and wiry hair, carrying a camera around his neck. ‘Are you a tourist or a photographer ?’, I asked. He was a freelance photographer for News Limited off to Fuel restaurant to cover the launch of the new Volvo. Yes, we have five star food joints in Sydney where diners share the showroom floor with luxury cars.
Immediately I sensed my passenger would not talk politics. Fair enough, so I tried the next best thing, his profession. ‘Is that a digital camera ?’, I asked. ‘Yea’, he grunted. ‘So what’s the process of filing images with News Ltd. ?’. ‘I dunno’, he snapped with obvious exasperation, ‘I just leave them at the office and they get published’. The subtext being, ‘fuck off’.
Undeterred, I pressed on, ‘Cause at Fairfax they have a dedicated microwave link from head-office out to the printing plant. Their photographers can upload images from home, via a PC, which are edited at Sussex Street then sent straight out to Chullora’. The subtext being, ‘get with it retard’. For my trouble he jumped out at Fuel refusing to close the door properly.
A Paddington hairdresser off to Rose Bay, was not long back in Sydney after an extended stint in England. With a Geordie accent. ‘Everything is so expensive here now’, she lamented, ‘but one thing’s for sure, my parents won’t be voting for Labor. They lost nearly everything in the last recession. I suppose Howard’s been good for the economy, but he’s done little else for the country’. When asked to elaborate, she struggled to identify which areas in particular.
On second thoughts she conceded, ‘Though, Australia has been very successful lately, and it looks like a Howard victory’. On arrival I reassured her cab fares were still cheap, which she readily agreed with.
Later, back in the City, I pick up a very successful older businessman working in property. He travels to a mansion on the cliffs at South Coogee. I ask him will the election result affect his industry. ‘A change of government will put upward pressure on interest rates with a negative effect on housing prices’, he states.
‘But isn’t Sydney atypical of Australian housing prices in general ?’, I ask. He agrees and talks of a phenomenon known as The Big Shift. This involves, ‘a generation of retiring baby-boomers who have recently entered the market carrying solid equity. They are cashed up with superannuation, mortgage free homes and $½ million inheritances’. In doing so they are purchasing weekenders and investing in investment properties.
With the exception of small City apartments this activity is having a knock-on effect, boosting property prices up and down the eastern Australian seaboard. (Later in the evening, on a quiet City rank, a stubby-swilling vagrant advises me, ‘Mate, Tassie’s the place. Invest in Tasmania before it goes off..’.) The businessman confidently tips a Howard victory in a tight finish.
A 20 something Irish lass, handsome(rather than pretty, though nonetheless striking) with dark features and a high forehead, travels to Kings Cross to commence night shift on the Cross City Tunnel. She’s a traffic marshal deep under the Town Hall, below the City Circle railway tunnel.
There she will don an oxygen mask and bottle, plus earmuffs and a helmet and hopefully avoid roaring, bullocking dump trucks all night long. Her previous job was as an assistant to a famous Irish trainer of equestrian horses, one of which fell at the Olympics and had to be put down.
On William Street, I’m hailed by a 30 something fella born and bred in Ethiopia. After emigrating to Australia at age 15, then studying at UTS, he was employed by a global property colossus. His speciality was in finance. Though married, they were yet to start a family. A really nice fella, he sat up front and was only too happy to chat on the long trip home to the western suburbs.
He was of the view Howard would be safely returned. Additionally he was bemused by Labor and their inability to garnish enough support to win power. ‘Earlier in the year, Latham was impressive with his words and ideas’, he said, ‘but now I’m puzzled by his policies’. Namely a shift in position was what he was getting at, though I may not have that exactly right...
For my passenger a big issue is Australia’s foreign policy. As it relates to the UN, the US and refugees, ‘Once Australia had a tolerant reputation overseas, but no more. Our independence has also been tarnished by this Government’. He likes the look of Kevin Rudd though admits the proof will be is his performance as Foreign Minister. Kim Beazley’s elevation to defence is also noted as assuaging the US, after Latham’s wild pronouncements on President Shrub.
He considers interest rates will rise regardless of who wins office, and states global forces will be the determinant factor. Economic management is less of an influence on rates, he feels.
Finally, phew, I conduct some random queries of other cabbies, on early morning ranks, re passenger talk . A Pakistani indicates his passengers are divided, with no overriding feeling of the election result, one way or another. A Chinese driver doesn’t talk politics, period. An Indian feels some support for Howard. An Asian says, ‘It’s very close, very close’.
A rare female cabbie, a skippy from the St. George area, can’t say. Rather, she insists, it’s the passengers who are asking her. A Korean thinks it will be close and doesn’t know. And lastly a skippy thinks Howard will get the nod. He volunteers he works mainly the southeastern suburbs around Marouba and, ‘not one of my passengers out there reckon they’ll be voting for Peter Garrett’. Good luck Pete and good night from me.