Sunday, August 1, 2010

Decisions, decisions

If you hadn't noticed- or aren't following Australian news- we're in the midst of a federal election campaign. To briefly explain for offshore readers, we'll be voting for a local lower house member, and six upper house senators per state. The lower house will be mainly contested between the left-of-centre Australian Labor Party and a right wing coalition between the Liberal Party and the National (country) party, but in the upper house there is the chance (or likelihood, if you believe the polls) for the balance of power to be held by minor parties or independents- at the moment the balance is held by an unallied group of four senators from the Greens (x2), the Christian Right Family First and a "No Pokies" (gmabling machine) senator.

A lot of people in real life and online have been expressing their lack of interest in the election- it was called in the shadow of the replacement of ALP Prime Minister by a more right-leaning politician, and since the last election, the major parties have backed down on a number of significant environmental policies. There has been a lot of comment that whichever major party wins power, their policies will be the same. And a lot of people commenting that because they live in a safe seat, their vote is irrelevant.

I agree with the view that the major parties are equally disappointing in some aspects, but rather than ostrich-like apathy, my response has been to research alternatives. My favourite election analyst, Antony Green of the ABC, has a very thorough blog on all things electoral, with as much information as anyone could need to know about trends, swings and other roundabouts, which has been more than adequate as a starting point for my research. The Tally Room is also good for summarising the key aspects of the contests.

In the lower house, we live in a very safe major party seat so as far as that goes my best hope is that a vote for a minor party will send a message about my disenchantment. Obviously that's not the case everywhere, and the implications of a such disenchantment would have actual outcomes in the inner city electorate of Melbourne (where we used to live) where the Greens are close to taking their first lower house seat (unless there is a swing towards the ex-Bush-Republican-campaign-worker Liberal candidate... hmm, unlikely?)

The senate, however, is where these feelings of disenchantment could be translated into outcomes. In Victoria, a minor party- probably the Greens- are likely to take a senate seat (probably at the expense of the Family First Senator). The Australian Democrats, a former force in the senate, also have a chance of distinguishing themselves from the major parties on several key issues. So I've taken this as incentive to research my senate vote closely.

In thinking about my vote, I have had to question what is important to me. High on my priority list are the usual things like economic benefit to my family and the community, and provision of community services like health care and education. Having children has also made me more aware of how my vote could alter the country that I bring my children up in (the never-ending Howard era may have something to do with that). I want my children to grow up in a rich, fair and diverse society, which values its people, its industries and its planet. So I have been busy researching policies on climate change, immigration and the environment.

I've put more energy into researching this election than ever before. Because in ten years time, I want to know in my heart that I tried my hardest to make my country the best I could for my children, whether the candidates I vote for win or lose.

So please don't tell me my vote doesn't count.

It does- to me.

Postscript: Interestingly, since I started writing this a few days ago, Antony Green has raised the same issue on his blog- Do Australian Elections Offer Voters a Choice?

And I have just realised that The Tally Room is run by an ex-Greens candidate so caveat lector. But it did teach me a new word: psephology.

1 comment:

Maxabella said...

It does to me too! I care a great deal. Thanks for the wrap-up, I've been reading Antony Green's analysis too.

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