I have seen a lot all over social media why people don’t want to vote and why they hate voting and why should they vote waa waa waa when I see that it makes me want to make this face (thanks Kristen Wiig).
We have an election coming up. It is going to be a long campaign by Australian standards I think 55 days from when the writs were issued, and that is me saying that – a self confessed political junkie!
We have the pleasure of a double dissolution this year. Since federation Australia has had six double dissolutions with four of those being in my lifetime though this one being the fifth, is the first I can vote in. Here is a super brief rundown of those:
1974 – Gough Whitlam called a double dissolution because his government was struggling to get things done with a hostile senate controlled by the Coalition at that time. The Whitlam government was returned with a smaller House of Reps margin, picking up seats in the Senate but not enough to get the bills passed they wanted. With a joint sitting of both houses the Whitlam government had a 3 seat majority that enabled them to pass their bills. The most significant one of those was the introduction of the Universal Health Care bill that we know today as Medicare. However, the Whitlam government was doomed from the beginning really.
1975 – Gough Whitlam and his government was sacked by Sir John Kerr, Malcolm Fraser was installed as a caretaker government to pass the supply bills to keep the country running with a double dissolution called. The outcome being that the Coalition government was returned in a landslide with the Whitlam government loosing 30 seats.
1983 – Malcolm Fraser called a double dissolution in the hopes of capitalising on the Labor disunity. This didn’t pay off for him and the ALP now headed up by Bob Hawke won with the largest swing against a sitting government since 1949.
1987 – Hawke called an early election with the nominal trigger being the Australia Card. However, the truth was he hoped to capitalise on disarray the opposition was in. The Hawke government was returned for the third time with 86 seats in the House of Reps the highest ever.
With the history lesson out of the way what does a double dissolution mean for you?
It means that both houses of parliament are dissolved so instead of some senators sitting their full term they will potentially only sit half a term. A typical election is only half the senators every second election. This time we get the opportunity to turf the lot of them and start again. It is highly unlikely that the actual faces will change but the numbers of seats each party can hold could change. There is a hugely complicated mathematical formula that is used to work all of this out but essentially each state and territory gets a certain number of senators proportional to their populations and then the senators from each state/territory are then made up from the actual votes. An example might be that NSW has 12 senators on population and then based on votes 3 go to the ALP, 3 go to the Coalition and 6 go to the minor parties with a tiny crazy number of votes! The minority party situation is less likely to happen this time around because of recent voting and senate changes by the Coalition just before the election was called.
So none of this really pisses me off because truthfully I love politics. I love getting annoyed and frustrated and I quite enjoy yelling at how dumb they are and how I could do it all better. When of course it is far more complicated that. Though seriously I do think that a number of my mates and I could do a better job with my Dad in charge of the Treasury/Tax system and Mum in charge of Aged Care, my Aunty Lola in charge of Social Services, my Uncle is a Stats man so he can gives us the numbers we need and Hubby can look after the national Emergency Crisis Management we might not be popular but by jeez we will get things done!
What really pisses me off is the apathetic nature that most Australians have to the privilege of voting! Waa, waa, waa, why do I have to vote? I hate politics, I don’t care who runs the country, all politicians are liars and on it goes. There is some truth in all of this however, the truth is you do care whether you think you do or not. You know what you don’t agree with or you know what is important to you. But to say you don’t care just makes me want to say:
The issues we all care about are going to be different depending on the age and stage of life you are at. If you are young and trying to buy your first home you probably care about negative gearing and how will that impact your ability to afford a home. You might also care about study and the cost of education and how much it will cost you to get to where you want to be, will a uni degree debt mean that the uni degree be something that will be too far out of reach for you. If you are parents with children you might care about these things for your children too, you might care about changes to family benefits and how that will impact your family. If you are a single parent family your concerns will be different again. If you are at the other end of the income spectrum you will have different concerns about the change of government. If you are older you might be concerned about your superannuation and what the proposed changes mean for you, or older again and you may be worried about health and ageing.
There are so many different things to consider when you vote education, health, ageing, social services, science, the arts, the environment, jobs, the economy, infrastructure, superannuation the list goes on and on. There will be something amongst this list or somewhere that you do care about. It might be the migration policy or asylum seekers who knows but there is something we all care about something. Find that one thing and get informed about it.
There are people all around the world fleeing persecution to have the right to vote democratically. There are women desperate to be able to vote for who they want! There are families desperate to access free information about all sides of the political landscape so that they can form their own choice not the one made for them. So many countries require peacekeepers to go in to have free and fair elections. Some people trek for days to find a polling booth to express their democratic right to vote.
I have heard it said that if voting is compulsory as it is here in Australia and 21 other countries around the world then you are not really expressing your democratic opinion. Of course you can, if you are that apathetic about it you can not turn up, not vote and cop a fine (albeit a fine so ridiculously small I am not sure why we even call it a fine!) You can go get your name marked off and draw all over your ballot form or write anti government slogans or simply put your ballot in the box blank. Or you can inform yourself and make a choice, choose the person or party that fits best for your values, for your hopes and dreams for the future. The point is here that because we live in a free country with democratic elections you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your vote. Ask anyone who has come from a country without these options and why they are important it might make you value your vote more or at least appreciate the privilege it is.
When you don’t have compulsory voting the potential is that you could end up with a clown like Donald Trump in charge of one of the world’s largest economies and the potential to have the nuclear launch codes. When you don’t care, when you don’t get informed, when you don’t make your vote count you get by default what others choose for you and frankly no-one really likes that.
If you are not enrolled to vote you can’t just turn up on the day and hope to make it count. There is a deadline to enrol but unlike the dark days when I enrolled you can do it online now! The deadline is 8pm Monday 23rd May 2016 and you can do it here.
If you want to know how the government is doing based on their promises at the last election you can find that out here.
If you want to follow the campaign here is a link to the ABC Election Coverage. If you want information direct from the parties you can get it here Labor, here Liberal, here Nationals and here for The Greens. They are the major players in Australia at the moment. However here is a full list of all the parties from the AEC if the major players don’t excite you maybe one of these will.
Remember while you are voting for federal issues you want to know who your local member is and what they have done for your local community and what they are going to do. What will they fight for in your local community, where do they stand on issues that matter to you? All of this information is so readily available now there really is no excuse.
Clearly this is important to me. I honestly don’t care what your politics are, I do care if you simply just can’t be bothered when people are quite literally dying, some even in offshore camps on our watch for the rights we have as citizens. Please don’t dismiss how important your one vote could be.
Here endeth my rant