On Tomorrow’s Election
I am a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Melbourne, and I study democracy, so I may be overly interested in elections relative to others. However, this election cycle has been one which is particularly disheartening. Considering the overall frightening trends in global politics (the rise of far right parties in Europe, the recent Brexit results, and the rhetoric being espoused by Donald Trump in his audition for the most influential political position in the world), one should see a reengagement with politics, not the moving away that seems to be taking place at the moment. But my experience of this election cycle has been characterised by a number of people disavowing the current system and swearing off of politics, as if somehow that might induce change. That kind of head in the sand mentality is frustrating because it implies that someone else should fix it, that it is not the responsibility of each and every one of us to be involved with the politics of the community we live in. Every voice matters, and every wilfully silent person amplifies the voices that already have a seat at the table. I get that there are problems, and the things I am sick of this election campaign include:
The Coalition government’s claim of creating jobs is disingenuous. There have been little to no extra hours of work created in the national labour market, jobs have just shifted from being full-time into part-time (see for example, https://www.theguardian.com/business/grogonomics/2016/jun/20/unemployment-figures-suit-turnbull-but-not-those-seeking-full-time-work ). The labour market has gotten worse on their watch. I can’t understand why this isn’t regularly put forth in discussions of “jobs and growth.”
The failure of the mainstream media to adequately advance precisely why a plebiscite on same sex marriage is an absolutely terrible idea for a number of reasons. It’s going to cost a lot of money (estimates range up to over half a billion dollars), and is going to subject an already marginalised and vulnerable group to a high degree of negative campaigning – you can’t advocate for a no on the plebiscite without differentiating same-sex couples for some reason. There is also already a strong majority within the population on this issue, and a global trend towards legalisation of same-sex marriage. Much like David Cameron did with Brexit, Turnbull is offering a plebiscite to appease the more conservative elements within his party rather than demonstrating clear leadership – to the detriment of the population.
The narrative of “Malcolm hasn’t had enough time” in various editorials published in recent days. He was not elected by the party he now leads, which whilst a move permitted by the Australian electoral system and democratic process, it surely negates any narrative that places him as deserving of another opportunity. He did not earn the first opportunity through the ballot box, but rather through the internal politicking of the Liberal Party. This notion is coupled with the degree to which Labor was critiqued for replacing its leaders in recent times. The only way to justify this kind of behaviour is through a major policy platform reformation – but Turnbull has kept the same policies – and indeed, the same penchant for three word slogans. In that sense he is either a clear continuation of Abbott – who was so unpopular as to be deposed; or a new leader entirely – which means he needs to beat Shorten in the policy arena entirely.
The narrative of stable government. The Coalition government is likely to be more volatile than if Labor wins the election. Turnbull has a variety of stated positions which differ markedly from his more conservative colleagues. There will be constant back and forth as the “progressive” Malcolm is pulled back and forth by popularity and his conservative colleagues. One can only imagine that there will be regularly concessions made back and forth, and if the regular comments which Abbott has put forth that he will champion the conservative elements of the party are anything to go by, this won’t always be going on behind closed doors.
The general avoidance of defining what we mean by Medicare when it is talked about in politics. Most Australians take Medicare to refer to something like a universal healthcare policy, with no up-front costs. Can we all just agree on this so that we can have a sensible debate on whether this is sustainable (it is), or whether we should have a co-payment system (we shouldn’t)? It is much more sensible to do that rather than continually going back and forth squabbling over Medicare using different understandings of what exactly Medicare is.
The “Put X Party Last” slogans. This is so incredibly infuriating. There are some truly abhorrent and hate-filled parties which are running for election, maybe put them last, then worry about the business of preferences. Some preferences are not worth having. I don’t like a large number of the policies proposed by the Liberal party, but I like their policy platform a substantial degree more than that proposed by OneNation, or by FamilyFirst. They should be below the Liberals on any ticket, and I can’t countenance the idea that we should put them higher just because it makes for a better slogan. It’s true that it’s a cleaner catch-phrase, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to be saying.
People who are deferring their democratic duty to participate in the electoral process by saying I am uninformed. THAT IS YOUR FAULT. You don’t need to know about all 57 parties running for election, you just need to know about the differences that matter amongst the main 3: The Coalition (either the Libs or the Nationals depending on your electorate), the Labor Party, and the Greens. Every person that is uninformed impacts the votes of those who share their demographic that are informed, by reducing the degree to which they vote as a bloc. It’s true that demographics don’t all vote together, but the impact of a demographic is reduced towards negligible as less people in that group make themselves informed in a politically meaningful way. As a young person, this results in policy areas I care about receiving less attention. Screw you all the young people who think that this election doesn’t matter. You are taking away my power at the ballot box when you take your own away.
People who think that there is no meaningful difference amongst the two major parties. There are so many important and meaningful differences, and they are of a kind that will matter over the course of the next three years: Access to health care (especially with regards to the reappearance of a possible GP co-payment), the amount of funding for and subsequent cost to attain a university education, tax reform (especially with regards to reforming negative gearing policy, as well as how we choose to legislate on same sex marriage, and the most important one for people in my age bracket – the adjustment of penalty rates. Any one of these areas is enough of a difference to decide on, but together they form a clear platform of differentiation.
If any one of those things touches a nerve with you, then please consider not putting the Liberal party at the top of your ticket tomorrow. I honestly still haven’t decided on whether I will place the Labor Party or the Greens at the top of my ballot. I prefer the policies of the Greens, since they (for the most part) are the most philosophically aligned with mine in a perfect world, but at times I do not like their unwillingness to compromise on those values to achieve shifts towards their position. In my mind (and you can respectfully disagree) it is better to be partially correct and relevant, rather than right and always on the sidelines because you aren’t will to concede anything in a negotiation. Richard di Natale is challenging this perception for me, as he has shown a willingness to negotiate and work with both parties on a broad range of issues, but the continued criticism for doing so which he has received by some within the Greens base has frustrated me. Conversely, Labor have passed and continue to advance a range of policies which I disagree with, but often have arrived at those positions through negotiations that make the policies in question achievable.
It is going to be a long night as I consider the implications of voting for either party since neither is a perfect fit for me. Either way though, it is something special to be able to go and express my political will tomorrow, a privilege that billions around the world still remain unable to do, and I look forward to engaging with that process. Whoever you vote for, the fact remains that we are lucky to live in a country where we can do so.