So, the outcome of yesterday’s Australian election is still unclear at the time of writing (with only 78.12% of the primary vote and 74.89% of the two party preferred count completed), but the general consensus from commentators, analysts and several MP’s is that Australia looks to have a hung Parliament with four independents and one Green holding the balance of power in the House of Representatives.
Over the next few days both the major Parties will be fervently courting the various independent MP’s, trying to form government and finally determine who will be our Prime Minister.
Many have bemoaned this election result, particularly with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate – who may be affiliated with Labor, but are really independent of both major parties, so not guaranteed to support the various legislation put forward – no matter who it comes from.
Personally, I concur with those who have pointed out that this could be the best thing to happen to Australian politics in a long while.
Without a clear majority in the House of Reps – whichever major party forms government is going to have to actually govern – not able to rely on majority support in the House of Representatives and most definitely not able to rely on getting legislation smoothly through the Senate after July 2011. They may just have to improve as politicians and remember that they are the people’s servants, not their masters – having to actually listen to their electorates and take into consideration what the country wants – rather than what Party politics or the Party line dictates. All that said, only time will tell whether this is a good, bad or indifferent result for Australia as a country.
Putting all that to one side for a moment, the one disappointment for me from this election result is the record number of informal votes (ballot papers where nothing was filled out or slogans or messages were written instead of numbering the boxes – or the ballots were filled out incorrectly in general) recorded by the Australian Electoral Commission (618,435 recorded to date – that’s 5.64% of all votes counted so far).
This is disgraceful. I don’t care if you object to compulsory voting in this country. To be honest, Australians can be lazy about so many things, it is probably a good thing it is compulsory to vote – most wouldn’t bother turning up to the polling booths if they didn’t have to. Feel free to yell at me all you like for holding this opinion, but I have heard from too many people the comment of “Why vote? It doesn’t change anything”. Well, this election should show everyone that, in fact, every vote DOES count and when you abdicate your chance to have a say in the way your country is run – this is the kind of result we all have to live with.
I don’t care what your politics are. I don’t care that you can’t stand either of the major Parties. There are plenty of alternative choices for the House of Reps and the Senate that you can support (as shown by the 3.7% swing to the Green Party across the board and the 4.5% swing to Green’s candidate Adam Bandt in Melbourne – making him the Green’s first Member of the House of Reps voted in during a Federal Election).
An informal vote is NOT a protest vote. It is irresponsible and ignorant to think this. What concerns me is how much influence previous Labor Leader, Mark Latham must actually have – as he is the one who suggested in his ill-thought out 60 Minutes story that if you were unhappy with both the major Parties, you should vote informally (or “donkey vote” as it is also incorrectly called). The nation as a whole has already voiced that they consider him an idiot for saying this – so what does that say about those who followed his advice?
Apart from anything else – being able to vote to determine your country’s government is a privilege, NOT just a right.
This doesn’t only apply to Australia. Every democratic country who enables their population to have a say in how their country is run is a privileged country. People all over the world have died and are still dying for the opportunity to cast a ballot and determine who speaks for them in their governments. Australia and others have sent soldiers overseas to support these people and their battles to have democracy. Whether you think it’s right or not to have our troops in these countries or even agree or not that this is the reason they are there – our people are dying in the name of democracy overseas. The least we can do is actually use our own opportunity to vote for the Party we believe in or agree with in our own countries. And if we want those troops brought home – then voting is our opportunity to make that point to our representatives in Parliament as well.
Sure, no political Party is perfect. Do I agree with both major Parties here refusing to support gay marriage? No. Do I bemoan the lack of policy on The Arts and the disgraceful neglect of Old Age Pensioners? Definitely. Was I completely over the fear campaigns and the name calling and the finger pointing and the leaks and the general nastiness of the election campaign? Don’t get me started … no, really, don’t. Did I informally vote on Saturday as a result? Absolutely NOT. I chose the party whose policies, on the whole, fell in line with what I want and require as an Australian to have a better quality of life. Once my local Federal member is sworn in – then I’ll be lobbying them direct to get the other issues that didn’t feature during the election campaign, but are important to me, on the agenda – that is how democracy works. Is my local Federal Representative from the party I voted for? No. But that doesn’t make them any less accountable to me – a member of their electorate.
Australian elections are run locally. No matter what party they are from – ask yourself if your local Representative is doing the right thing by your electorate and addressing the issues that affect you. If it’s a yes, then look at their Party’s policies and decide if they are in line with what you believe and need. If that’s all still a yes, then vote for them. If it’s a no, then vote for the other guy or gal who represent one of the other Parties and see if it makes a difference. We don’t vote for Opposition Leaders or Prime Ministers in our elections – this isn’t America. We vote for the Parties and they vote for their leaders and therefore who is Prime Minister and Opposition Leader is up to them, not us and that, for better or worse, is how it works.
On a side note – anyone who cast their vote because they liked or disliked Julia Gillard or Tony Abbot does not understand how our government works – and on behalf of my fellow Australians who have bothered to work out the system we use over here, I beg you to get yourself educated before we return to the polls – please. Pretty, pretty please.
In closing – to those who chose to vote informally on Saturday – you have no right to complain about the Leaders, the Parties or the outcome of the election. And your actions had no positive outcome. Ultimately, thanks to you – we all got the Government you deserved.