Drum takes prize position on election ballot

By Myles Peterson

Damian Drum has drawn top spot on the ballot paper for the federal seat of Nicholls yesterday, giving him an advantage at next month’s election that even opponents conceded he did not need.

The first position is considered the most favourable for aspiring parliamentarians due to the small, but regular number of voters who number their ballot paper in numerical order, a process known as donkey voting.

‘‘Everyone would like to have the donkey vote,’’ Labor candidate Bill Lodwick, who attended yesterday’s draw, said.

The draw at the Australian Electoral Commission offices, in Wyndham St, Shepparton, was attended by five of the eight candidates, including One Nation’s Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell, who was making her first appearance of the campaign.

The sudden showing of a One Nation candidate was a surprise to Mr Lodwick, who thought a different minor party might step up.

‘‘I was actually expecting a Hunters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate,’’ he said.

While planning the run for some time, One Nation held back publicising it until yesterday, Ms Tyrrell said.

‘‘We’ve only just made it official,’’ she said.

A dairy farmer from north of Shepparton, Ms Tyrrell said she would be campaigning on the issue of water and was finding her first-term candidacy exciting.

‘‘There is a sense of excitement — and I am excited — and it will be interesting to see how the seat goes,’’ she said.

Independents Nigel Hicks and Andrew Bock, both running for a second time, were pragmatic about yesterday’s ballot draw.

‘‘Andrew and I have spent that last few weeks since the election was called just trying to get through the nomination process,’’ Mr Hicks said.

Without the benefit of a party, the independents have had to fund their own campaigns, including the $2000 nomination fee, which doubled from the last election.

‘‘I’ve been saving for the last three years and getting my messages a little more crafted,’’ Mr Bock said.

The Clive Palmer-backed United Australia candidate Stuart Hine was not troubled by the order of the ballot paper.

‘‘I don’t think the ballot draw matters very much. I think when you’re in an era when people do take the time and trouble to work out what people stand for, the so-called donkey vote is largely irrelevant,’’ Mr Hine said.

With voter enrolments closing last week and candidate nominations closing on Tuesday, the field is now set for the May 18 election.

Early voting opens Monday and, between now and then, the AEC will be undertaking the largest logistical exercise of the election, according to electoral commissioner Tom Rogers.

‘‘In this five-day period, we will formally declare candidates, design 159 ballot papers, print and securely deliver around 52million copies and ready more than 500 early-voting locations in Australia and overseas for the start of polling,’’ he said.

‘‘We are fortunate in Australia to have a range of voting services available to us but these options, combined with Australia’s geography, makes it a significant and unique logistical undertaking.’’