On 21 August, Australia went to the polls to decide who would govern for the next three years. There was no clear result, only the outcome of a hung parliament.
During election night, you will have no doubt seen the television coverage at some point from the National Tally Room in Canberra. I went to visit the tally room that night, and I was met with this:
Yes, there was a queue outside in the cold. Dad and I waited for an hour snaking around the courtyard before we got to the front entrance. Only a limited number of people are allowed in at one time. Luckily the ABC had a TV outside so it wasn’t all that boring. One unique feature of Australian federal elections is the atmosphere of the coverage, the excitement associated with the result if you will. (This YouTube clip of 2007 election coverage will demonstrate this point, as well as Kerry O’Brien’s famous gaffe). During the last few minutes of waiting, I noticed this placard on the fence:
Yes, that’s the Chaser’s Craig Reucassel with Senator Conroy in the top left corner. The AEC took the opportunity to tell everyone how good they were at administering elections and the media are an important part of the process.
(If you don’t know the rest of the media personalities on that poster, they are clockwise: David Koch, Tom Gleisner and Santo Cilauro, Kerry O’Brien, Ray Martin and Laurie Oakes, Mark Riley, and Alan Jones)
Once inside at about 8pm, the tally board of all 150 House of Representatives seats spans an entire side of the hall. The numbers are manually updated throughout the night by AEC workers. On the other side are the TV media sets. Ten, Seven, Sky, Nine and ABC were there with almost every news personality sitting behind a desk. Politicians were moving between sets to do numerous interviews. Between the public area and the TV sets were representatives from political parties and other media interpreting the results.
Probably the other highlight of the night (besides the hung result) was the surprise visit by Greens leader Bob Brown. I was standing behind the Channel Nine interview of Warren Truss (yes, that’s the one highlighted by the Chaser) when Brown walks in to cheers and the large media pack. With me being me, I got nowhere near, but I did catch these shots:
If I ever visit the tally room again, I’d better bring a larger camera. Dad and I left at about 11pm, and the next day I drove a long way.