Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The short version of this post:
Please do Vote Compass before you vote in Australia's election this weekend. Then vote carefully and wisely. Please.
The long version:
I don't like to bang on too much on this blog about the aspects of life in Australia that depress, exasperate, disappoint, frighten or disgust me but if I'm honest, today, after stupidly deciding to listen to some political debate and commentary on the radio, that list is feeling a bit too long for comfort. Before I moved here I thought Australia was quite progressive. Sadly after living here for three years I don't think that anymore.
I've found this election campaign truly depressing and I know I am not alone as so many people I know seem to be having great difficulty deciding who to vote for. As one friend put it "It is like choosing between a really frightening option and a truly terrifying option". I know what she means. After listening to the radio this morning I found myself shouting at the two supposed leaders "Big picture guys! Just say your vision for the sort of country you want this to be in 10, 20 or 50 years time then outline the steps you think we need to take to get there! Even the hard, unpopular steps. And base it on solid research, not prejudice and unfounded beliefs!" (Yes, I got quite ranty.) But instead all I heard was petty bickering over minutiae and the promotion of attitudes, policies and actions that seem surprisingly outdated and out of step with much of the rest of the world.
(And before you think here that I mean that NZ has all the answers, I certainly don't. If you ever get 46 minutes to spare, watch this: Mind the Gap by documentary maker Bryan Bruce . Basically a New Zealand story but with lessons for everyone everywhere. Hope that link works. My internet speed is so slow that I couldn't check it. Sigh.)
Here are some of the reasons I've found this election campaign so depressing.
One of the major parties has released almost no policies and absolutely none aimed at addressing what seems to me to be one of the main challenges for Australia in the coming decades: climate change. Every year since we have been here numerous weather records have been broken, with this latest one being the hottest year on record. Australians apparently have the biggest carbon footprint of anyone on the planet and as coast dwellers are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Years before I moved here I heard talks from a panel of international water experts and their predictions for Australia's future in a world of changing weather patterns, sea level rise and increasing soil salinity were dire. They predicted that within my children's lifetimes, great chunks of Australia would be so adversely affected by climate change that the country wouldn't be able to feed its population. Since moving here I've heard similar predictions many times from many different sources, yet from Australia's two main political parties there is near silence.
The Murdoch press are blatantly backing one party. News Corp Australia is by far the most dominant player in the newspaper market here so they have considerable clout among people who believe what they read in newspapers. A commonly held belief is that News Corp are doing this because the party they are backing would ditch the National Broadband Network currently being built, which would leave Australia with its current snail-pace internet speeds, which would effectively lock new players out of the internet-entertainment industry (watching TV on demand here is often p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow) which would then protect Murdoch's income from their Foxtel interests. Surely that can't be true. It's like something out of the Simpsons.
Recently I have been on my first protest march in many years because each of Australia's two major parties are trying to outdo each other with ever more cruel asylum seeker policies. Obviously they are doing this because they think this will win them votes, but I am horrified by the measures they are promoting. I was so shocked by the ghastly Tampa affair that I became a volunteer helping refugees to settle into life in Christchurch and I did that for several years until we left NZ. But attitudes towards asylum seekers have become even worse here, to the extent that human rights lawyer Julian Burnside recently described asylum seeker bashing as Australia's new national sport.
Choosing who to vote for here becomes even more difficult because of Australia's crackpot Preferential Voting System which ensures that votes get skewed and diluted; it looks to me like a system made up by a bunch of gambling drunks. The more I analyse this system and the seats it delivers compared to votes cast, the more it reminds me of many board-games that are essentially strategy undermined by randomness. There are all sorts of complicated electorate by electorate guides on how to vote to ensure that your vote actually has the effect you want it to. There are better ways people.
I can't vote here but I really do care about Australia and the many serious issues it faces (or refuses to face) and therefore I really do care about the election result. So I have been spreading the word about the most interesting thing I have seen in the whole election campaign. The ABC is hosting an interesting tool called Vote Compass which basically compares your answers to a whole series of questions to the policies of the main parties. Then it tells you which party you are most closely aligned to and why.
I recommend that anyone out there who can vote in this election gives Vote Compass a whirl. Then take a deep breath and think very carefully if it gives you a completely unexpected result, as it has for many people I know who have had their entrenched voting habits challenged by this tool. Then vote very carefully and wisely this weekend.
Then go out somewhere nice on Saturday night as whatever the result, watching the election result unfold on TV will surely be a very grim way to spend an evening; we are treating ourselves to a night out at Circus Oz.
Hopefully by the next election Australians will be given a choice between real parties, with well thought out policies and honest, credible leaders. Maybe that is too much to hope for, but Australia is a great country and it certainly deserves better than the nonsense they have been offered this time around. Then hopefully sometime in the not too distant future Australians will realise what a complete barking dog their electoral system is and change to a less crackerdog one. One that actually reflects who Australians vote for. What a novel thought.