the election that is not winter or the rains, this coming Saturday July 2 Australia heads to the polls to vote in the Federal Election. I have to be honest and say I am actually a lot concerned about the election because there are lots of people who don’t seem to care about the importance of their vote or are too apathetic to research to understand what matters to them. It seems that unless information is handed to them on a silver platter they won’t go looking for the information.
It also seems that lots of people don’t understand how the voting system works in Australia. We don’t really need to worry or care about how voting works in other countries unless of course you are a citizen there and need to vote. Australia increasingly in elections run US style campaigns where the leader is the predominant person in all advertising thus people think that we the people get to vote for the leader. This of course isn’t helped with the revolving door of Prime Ministers in Canberra in recent governments. The truth is we don’t! We don’t have a direct vote for the Prime Minister unless they are your local member, we vote for a party and then they vote for their leader who becomes the Prime Minister if they form government.
What you need to understand is that your vote in the House of Representatives (or lower house) is the small green ballot paper and is voting for your LOCAL member. The person that will go to Canberra and represent your local area or community. They should be telling you locally what they will do to help your area. Many of these candidates will be members of larger parties so you will also hear about what the party wants to do for the country as a whole.
To form government in Australia a majority of 76 seats is required, with 150 electorates in the House of Representatives. This majority can be made up of all one party or a combination of a Major Party (ALP, LIB, NAT) and minority parties or independents. Often times a minority government is actually far more efficient and effective than a majority from one of the major parties purely because they need to be far more willing for compromise and negotiation than when one or other major party has the majority. Remember that the LIB & NAT have a preference deal and actually call themselves the Coalition, so a vote for either of these two parties in the lower house is a vote for the Coalition. This is important to know. You might really want the policies of the NAT but not the LIB in this case and the way the coalition works is that you vote for one you will get the other by default.
Both the LIB and ALP have said they will not be doing any deals with minority parties (such as Katter Party, Lambie Party, One Nation, Greens) to form a government. This potentially means that if there is not clear majority and no side is willing to compromise to form a government we will be headed straight back to the polls to vote a second time.
In this election we are also voting for an upper house. Normally we only vote for half. I wrote more about that when I was reminding people to enrol to vote. Our rolls closed over a month ago now so if you haven’t enrolled and you are over 18 it is too late. The Upper House (or Senate) is a very different animal and is often made up of lots of independents or minor parties. This can make the passing of legislation difficult, which is why we have a double dissolution this time around, in the hope that the LNP will gain the majority. Sometimes a double dissolution works and the majority is achieved and sometimes it backfires. Time will tell what will happen this time.
A quick recap on voting in Australia is that it is compulsory and if you don’t vote you will receive a fine. There has been lots of talk about a referendum and plebiscite. Partly this is because there has recently been a referendum in the UK #Brexit. It seems that there was a lot of googling after the event and declaration of the result about what the EU was and what leaving actually meant. In the UK voting is not compulsory! However in Australia it is compulsory to vote in referendums and plebiscites. Plebiscites are in our vernacular at the moment because of the Liberal policy that if elected they will hold a plebiscite regarding marriage equality and then allow their members of parliament to have a conscience vote on the issue when put before parliament if the plebiscite indicates that should happen.
A referendum is typically a binding change to the Australian constitution. For a referendum to be carried a majority of voters and a majority of states need to vote the same way. A plebiscite however, is non-binding and while it is a poll of the will of the people and it is compulsory to vote, the government of the day can choose to completely ignore the outcome if they so choose!
Without getting too political on this it basically means that the entire process of the plebiscite could be a complete waste of time and money. The will of the people could be that there should be a change to the marriage act but when that comes before parliament it is entirely possible that a LNP majority Lower House could reject the change so everything remains the same. The ALP are saying that within their first 100 days in office they will simply put this amendment to parliament to change the marriage act. It is a clear difference and you should know that if you vote for either of these parties.
I have written a little about Mental Health policies and why that is important to me. Personally I think it should be important to everyone but I cannot tell you how to vote, or what issues should be important to you.
What I will say is that I know for me the issues that I believe to be important are how we treat others who are seeking asylum here, our health care system in general but specifically Mental Health, I care about the ongoing funding of Medicare and the education of our children now and into their futures. I care about the environment and what we are leaving to future generations, climate change is very real and I personally don’t believe we as a nation are doing nearly enough. I care about an equitable tax system, one where everyone shares the burden not all at the top and not all in the middle, I want to live in a society that is willing to look after those less fortunate. I care about fair pay for work and protecting things like shift penalties for working times and days that are less sociable! I care about access to affordable childcare and if the policies of government is to get everyone working then who looks after the kids?! I care about equal access to all services for everyone regardless of race, colour or creed, and I care about marriage equality. I know how I want these things to look to me, but do you.
Amy from Handbag Mafia has written a great piece today with lots of links I encourage you to read someone else’s views other than mine. It is quite likely Amy has information I don’t. Amy talks about the voting process and the difference between donkey and informal voting. She also talks about the changes to senate voting which is very important this time around!
I just implore you to please not waste your vote. Don’t think that your vote doesn’t matter like many in the UK have just discovered, they said they voted ‘leave’ because they thought their vote wouldn’t count – guess what it did! Don’t be fooled into thinking that your vote doesn’t matter every single eligible vote counts and every single vote matters. Don’t waste your vote educate yourself and make it matter. No one else can decide for you who you should vote for. People quite literally die for the voting rights we have so please use them wisely.