British Columbia

Aussie expats and travellers line up in Vancouver to vote in home election

Canada's commonwealth cousin cycles through prime ministers at a dizzying pace, but compulsory voting keeps Aussie citizens motivated to cast a ballot.

Compulsory voting rules encourage citizens to cast their ballots

Some of the 100 or so Australian citizens who lined up outside the Australian consulate in downtown Vancouver to vote in the Australian federal election on May 17, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As if inspired by their national symbol the kangaroo, no country bounces prime ministers faster than Australia.

Our commonwealth cousins cycle through them at a dizzying pace  — five in the last 10 years — six if you count Kevin Rudd's two stints when he was PM, then wasn't for three years, then was again. 

The frustrating politico merry-go-round may partly explain the hour-long lineup outside the Australian consulate in downtown Vancouver Friday morning, where hundreds of Aussie expats and travellers converged to exercise their franchise in Friday's (Saturday in Australia) Australian federal election.

"Every vote counts with this election," said Tasmania native Isabelle Christensen, 20, who made the trip from Whistler. "I don't mind waiting, it's important."

20-year-old Tasmanian Isabelle Urquhart came from Whistler to vote. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Kim and John Day of Perth arrived in Vancouver on a cruise ship yesterday and lined up this morning behind a hundred others for their turns in one of the five consulate voting stations.

"I feel quite strongly that I want to voice my opinion," said Kim Day surveying the long line. "I'm delighted to see so many young people who have taken the time to cast a vote."

Voting in federal elections has been compulsory for eligible Australian citizens since 1924 and voter turnout in the 2016 Australian federal election was over 91 per cent.

Those who fail to vote are slapped with a $20 fine, an amount that escalates each time an individual doesn't vote. Fines for not voting in state elections are much stiffer, some around $150 Cdn.

Being overseas is considered a valid excuse not to vote. However those in line at the consulate on West Georgia Street were more than eager to mark a ballot.

"I think [mandatory voting] is preferable because everyone can complain about the result if they've contributed," said Canberra resident Brian Kennett, who called the current state of Australian politics "confusing."

Voting in federal elections has been compulsory for eligible Australian citizens since 1924. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The last Australian prime minister to serve a full term was John Howard who was elected in 2004 and defeated in 2007. Since then, five subsequent prime ministers have been voted out by their own party, assumed the office mid-term or both. 

If, as some polls have suggested, the Australian Labor Party under leader Bill Shorten defeats the incumbent Liberals and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia will name its sixth PM in the last decade. 

Or seventh, depending on how you look at it.

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