Politically speaking: Barman Brett Blake. Photo: Jim Aldersey
Politics can be a sticky subject when you're on the sober side of the beer taps but, as the second week of the election campaign draws to a close, bartender Brett Blake, 26, says his customers are still having trouble identifying a real difference between the policies of the two major parties.
''A lot of people think it's a negative two-horse race; that it's a lesser of two evils at the moment, between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott,'' says Mr Blake.
Mr Blake pours beers at the sprawling Imperial Hotel at the corner of Bourke and Spring streets, which is in the seat of Melbourne, the only lower house seat held by the Greens.
He says the pub's younger patrons were turned off Labor when Prime Minister Rudd announced he would send asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea.
''I don't think anyone's happy with what's happened in regards to the asylum seeker policy. They see it is as a Band-Aid solution, a short-term fix just to gain votes,'' he says.
''It made a lot of younger people stand away from Labor and a few people have been coming in saying they're swinging more towards the Greens now.'' But there is a sense among some of these swinging voters that choosing the Greens is a ''throwaway vote''.
''A lot of people are positive towards the Greens but I think some people don't realise that, although the vote goes towards Labor it can still pull them to the left. I don't think people realise the power of the Greens vote,'' says Mr Blake.
The bartender is just as likely to pour beers for a Young Liberals fund-raiser as he is to serve a pack of Essendon supporters. And while the club's doping scandal is dividing footy fans, the winner of the first leaders' debate was clear.
''They thought Kevin won the debate,'' says Mr Blake. But three years of a hung parliament and a dysfunctional caucus have left some of the Imperial's customers disenchanted with the political process.
''People are kind of over politics, even though we've only just come into the election. We've been talking about it for so long. People kind of get sick of it after a while,'' he says.
Customers are unsure what Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party stands for, but the Queensland billionaire gets people talking.
''We get a lot of people talking about Clive Palmer,'' he says. ''Instead of ordering a chicken parmigiana they've been asking for a Clive parma. It's pretty funny.''
Since Mr Rudd's reinstatement as Prime Minister, there has been a sense that he is ''ticking off'' policies that appeal to the most voters, according to Mr Blake.
But the policy that all of Mr Blake's customers agree on is marriage equality.
''Older generations, younger generations, everyone's on board. I haven't heard any negative feedback about it,'' he says.
As to who will win on September 7, Mr Blake says most of his customers think Kevin Rudd will hold on to his position.
''People still think Kevin Rudd's going to win,'' he says.
''There's a lot who think the Liberals should win but they're not a fan of Tony Abbott, and that's coming from Liberal voters as well.
''So even after what's been happening I'm still getting lots of people who still support Kevin.''