Saturday, 01 June 2013 23:34

So, who you gonna vote for?

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I shan’t tell you for whom to vote.  May I tell you, though, for whom you should not vote?

So, who you gonna vote for?

Some things you should think about

In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve - Alexis de Tocqueville.  And we are now only a short time away from the next federal election.  I try to absent myself from political arguments whether they are at an academic level or sitting around a backyard barbecue with a beer in my hand; they are unwinnable.  And why would you want to get involved in an argument or, for that matter, a game you cannot possibly win?  It’s sort of like those sports activities in primary school where no one wins or loses but everyone gets a trophy.  You might as well give a trophy to those kids that didn’t even bother to play if you’re really trying to be fair.  We are almost all either dyed-in-the-wool Party supporters or stubborn political agnostics and that just isn’t about to change nor should it.  But some of us waver a bit in our conviction; still others put off even thinking about it until they get to the polling booth on the day, and it is they that need to be extremely thoughtful about how they exercise their franchise this time, being very careful not to simply throw it away.

I found myself nodding in agreement with an email I received from an acquaintance of mine in Canada late last year.  He was detailing how a couple of his teenage grandchildren, still in school, had been playing a game of trivia and he had challenged them with the question as to where had the Magna Carta been signed.  He was not overly surprised that none knew the answer (Runnymede water-meadow, in Surrey, England) but he was stunned that none even knew with any certainty what he was talking about.  Even when he sputtered that the Great Charter was the beginning of all of our freedoms and the rights we seem to hold so dear today, they were barely attentive and lost all further interest in the conversation.  He waxed lyrical for several paragraphs in his email to me on the failings of the Canadian education system.   I wondered how we would fare here in Australia considering that we currently rank around twenty-fifth to twenty-eighth in the world class rankings out of forty-five countries in things like literacy, maths and science, thus putting us far below the bar.  The fact that the Magna Carta led to the erosion of absolute power of the monarchy, giving rise to our parliamentary system of democratic government allowing us to choose our leaders, it should be given the same prominence and reverence as is the US Declaration of Independence in that country.

Australians are required by law to nominate themselves for the Electoral Roll and, one would assume, to keep that nomination current.  It seems to be little if at all enforced.  Therefore, many people simply do not bother.  I cannot but be astounded by that.  The right to cast a ballot is a right of passage the same as holding a licence to drive and to legally enter a saloon.  Why would a young person not want to grab such things with both hands?  And of them all, the right to vote is by far of the greatest value and the most in danger of being taken away.  There are countries that only pay lip service to democracy with rigged elections, coups, and violence to dissuade people from voting, even in our own region.  Why ever then, do we look upon voting as a chore?  Why ever then, do we complain about compulsory voting?  It is a mystery to me why we would curse this privilege, this freedom, as an odious task that interferes with our Saturday morning rituals.  If there is some reasonable excuse for it, can someone please explain it to me in small syllables and short sentences?

We must vote.  We must determine which Party the majority (of those eligible to vote) believe is able to take us to the Promised Land, or at least knows the direction in which it lies.  And, having voted we must support that government wholeheartedly even if it is not the one you wanted to see partying and hugging each other on election night.  To do otherwise is simply telling the majority of Australian voters that they are stupid and have made a colossal blunder and, on the whole, they are nowhere near as clever as you.  I think there is a clinical name for that type of attitude; you might want to ask your psychiatrist about it. 

The fiscal budget is in.  I suppose that should be capitalized as Budget.  It is an important audit and forecast document and deserves to be treated with some degree of respect and interest.  The Budget reply has also been delivered by the leader of the Opposition.  Neither was other than predictable.  The Budget was forced to do a lot of cost cutting and deferment of payments, but that was no surprise and (nearly) everything had been tipped in the days leading up to the Budget speech, including the fact that it was written for the simple political motive of trapping the Opposition.  The Opposition knew it was a trap, of course, and it said all the right political sounding things so there was no sudden splash of light and ethereal music to surprise anybody there either.  It was about as interesting as a game of chess when there are not enough men left on the board to force a victory or even a stalemate.  So, why is it all so boring and all so predictable? 

The 2010 election left us with a teeter-totter government holding power only by the ‘I can be bought’ votes of a couple of Independents and the ephemeral promise of the minority Parties.  Miss Gillard did not have a chance of being asked to dance nor was Mr Abbot likely to have his prom card filled.  I am not a political pundit by any stretch of imagination, but in my opinion, the Caretaker Prime Minister should have gone back to the Governor General to say she could not form a majority government.  That would result in a new election being declared and, almost certainly, a strong majority government being elected from one or other of the two major Parties, or a much increased swing to the alternatives whose preferences would give us the comfort of a strong government but one open to debate.  We would have lost little in either event.  However, her decision to accept the support of the Independents in order to retain government was to prove a bridge too far.  Miss Gillard not only had to convince her own front and back benches but convince everyone else as well before she could take any of her ideas to the floor.  That was a sheer impossibility and the fact that she was able to accomplish anything at all certainly does her great credit.  She could expect that the Opposition would harass her, for that is their job, nor would they likely support any Bill her government proposed unless it was altered to suit them; even if the alteration was only to make it look as if she had been obliged to capitulate.  The still unresolved issue of boat people is a case in point.  The loser here was us, you and I.  We did not get much that could be mistaken for leadership and for that, Miss Gillard is only partly responsible.  And had it gone the other way in the original voting so that the Opposition grabbed government by grudging agreement of the Independents, we, you and I, would have fared no better.  The past three years of government has been three years of political wrangling, tit for tat political name-calling and unabashed campaigning for a far off election and very little governance.  That was clearly the result of our not having a Government that could take its election platform to the floor of the house in the certain knowledge that it would pass.  We certainly deserved better, but maybe not if that statement by Alexis de Tocqueville is fair comment.  You see, more than five per cent of the eligible votes cast were informal, meaning they didn’t count, a substantial increase from the previous election and disturbingly far higher than in all previous elections—1984 was an exception but that was thought to be the result of changes to the ballot that confused people, resulting in errors that made the vote informal.  Donkey votes, where the ballot is just filled in with sequential numbers, actually are not classed as informal because there is no way of determining if they were meant to be intentional choices.  There is no way to determine the percentage of such votes and so one can only assume that they are in the same proportion as informal voting, i.e. if the informal vote rises, so should the instance of donkey votes.  Now, some ballots were not intentionally made informal by the voter; errors and mistakes do occur.  This should be a small number, of course.  If we allow that number to account for those above the five per cent figure, then that still means that one person in every twenty voters intentionally threw away their vote.  One in twenty.   If you were one of those, are you happy with the result?  You not only performed a disservice to your country, you let down your mates who were counting on you to take up the slack.  This is not about those bastards in Canberra and one being as bad as the next, someone has to lead the country and we were all counting on you to help us choose.  No one cares if you aren’t smart enough to lick a postage stamp; we want your voice to be heard one way or the other.

Our chance is now.  It does not matter for which Party you cast your vote so long as you cast it for a major party, the ALP or the Liberal Coalition.  This is not an election where preferential voting will satisfy the need for a focused government.  We have been let drift aimlessly for nearly six years and this is not the time to set our compass course by committee or delegation of self interested individuals.  A vote for an Independent, whose only interest lies in enhancing their own position—otherwise they would choose or be chosen by a mainstream party—is only going to hamper decision making as they, sensing an opportunity to promote their own point of view, dither about and muddy the waters of debate.  An Independent is generally someone who cannot get an endorsement or find ministerial advancement within a major Party, or who is at odds with both parties on a single issue.  An Independent from a country area, for example, seeks office on issues that affects only the people in that electorate while the government must govern for everyone.  Whether it be coal seam gas, live-export, tourism or commercial fishing, one voice is not likely to be loud enough to make any difference.  The effect of casting your vote for an Independent is simply to lose the value of your vote.  If you hope to back a winner at a country race meeting, it is almost pointless betting on a horse just because you like the colours of the rider’s silks.

No minority party is ever likely to get control of our Parliament, and thank God.  These people with their wacky ideas of social engineering would destroy us.  The greatest problem is that though many minority parties were born of strong conviction, such as conservation and ecological issues, they degenerate into crackpot side-alleyways of irresponsible agendas.  It is quite probably a good thing that vast areas of Australian coastal waters are made marine parks.  It does not logically follow that making all of our coastal waters a marine park is even better.  This is where their ideas would take us.  They are not prepared to set goals for their agenda, to declare exactly what they wish to accomplish, why it is a good thing economically and how it would serve to put each of us, no matter whom, in a better position.  They do not wish to govern for all Australians, they wish only to foist and enforce their parochial interest and viewpoint upon everyone else. 

Unfortunately, people with strong political convictions tend to get a little upset if their Party goes down a path with which they are not happy.  Being somewhat disenchanted, they often seek to punish the Party by voting for someone else, so long as that someone else has agreed to pass on their preferences appropriately.  This then, is the strength of the minority parties.  They believe, wrongly, that all of the votes they received are an endorsement for their witless, feel-good causes and off they go tilting at windmills and, frankly, just getting in the way of good, sound government.  Do not waste your precious vote.  Your vote can and does indeed make a difference.  You are voting on what will happen to your life for the next three years and maybe far longer in consequence.  I doubt you really intend to spend those years arguing over frivolous issues while jobs become scarce, savings accounts dwindle and sectarian violence is imported from foreign countries all because our government is not strong enough to lead us.

If you doubt where your party of preference is going, then take the time to ask them.  Go and find the candidate and give him a list of questions to which you want answers before the election, and give him your mailing address.  If you were not happy with your local representative last time around, tell them so and tell them what you were hoping for.  Make up your mind for whom to vote and make certain that what they say they will do is precisely what they will do.  Do not be afraid to write them, every week if necessary—you are already paying for the cost of the stamp for any reply—to get them to explain an issue and why they choose to take the course of action they say they are going to take.  Members of Parliament answer to no one else, just you the voter.  Make them give you answers; it is your livelihood, your future and your contentment at stake here, and you have the power of your vote.  So, vote in your own best interest.   And understand that your own best interest must lie in making your wishes known by sensible voting.  But, in any event, get out and vote, and do so with determination.  There are not two sides to every argument as those who would waffle would have you believe, there are only two directions.  To paraphrase Admiral David Farragut; Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

David Edwards

Read 3837 times Last modified on Saturday, 01 June 2013 22:40
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