It’s the day after the Federal election, here in Australia, and, like many Australian, I’m sitting here with very mixed feelings.
Voting this time around has had me thinking pretty hard. Years ago, I would have voted without too much thought. My political opinions were much less nuanced than they are now and I like to think that I’ve been growing more thoughtful over the years.
In many ways, Australia has a different approach to political expression than some other countries. We’ve long been a bit embarrassed about wearing our national pride openly – I mean, we don’t place our hands over our hearts when we sing the National Anthem, for example. People do campaign for political parties of course, but generally voting is essentially a private thing. Asking people who they’re going to vote for, or who they voted for is considered…almost impolite.
On the other hand, we really like to whinge about our politicians, and we do it very openly. We also don’t generally hold our PM in awe like some other nations hold their leaders. (Our current PM is colloquially known as ScoMo.)
But today, there are more mixed feelings openly on display on social media, and also in person, than I’ve ever seen before post-election in this country. Some are openly gloating, while others are in despair.
Sadly, in the last ten to fifteen years, like many nations, we’ve seen the rise of Nationalism, and our two major parties have sometimes been hard to distinguish by their policies. Instead of one obviously left leaning and one obviously right leaning – and I’ve emphasised the leaning deliberately, we now have some almost indistinguishable policies coming out of both parties.
We’ve seen one party bring in dumping refugees on Pacific Island Nations, and the other continue the policy to the extent that I, personally, believe is cruel. (You can see one of my other posts about this here.) We’ve seen both prevaricate over climate change, and the far right of one party wield potentially undue influence in this area.
As a rural Australian, I often feel ignored by both parties, yet I don’t like the policies of the parties who expressly say they advocate for rural Australians. In fact, some of them I find completely abhorrent, as they espouse values that are quite simply, racist.
There’s also a clear age divide. Younger people seem more prone to be in the despair category, often driven by concern about climate change. Older Australians seem to be happier, and I suspect some of that is driven by the issue of franking credits.
It does appear that the Greens may have the balance of power in the Senate, however. And the new government is currently by no means assured of carte blanche in the lower house, as at the moment they may not have an absolute majority. That means they might have to negotiate with the independents and the Greens.
My fear, is that the once right leaning party which is now firmly to the right of centre, may move further to the right, driven by hard right wingers in their own ranks. They’ve had an exodus of women recently. I am a woman. This really bothers me. And while I have some issues with our other major party as well, at least women are prominent and relatively common in their ranks.
For me, this time around, some issues became moral judgements. There were some things that I couldn’t ignore – immigration, our health care system, the steady defunding of a variety of government services. Our poor. Our homeless. Our compassion. Consequently, in the senate, I voted below the line. That meant that my preferences went where I wanted them. Not where a party had predetermined they should go. (And that takes a while!) The senate paper is sometimes known as the senate wallpaper. Here’s a nice link that explains it…
So now, what should we do? I suppose it depends on your perspective. If you’re feeling despair – focus on the senate. That’s our inbuilt safety net. If you’re happy, perhaps reflect on why others aren’t, and where you can work together to encourage our politicians to be more real. To have compassion, and to think about Australia more than themselves, to avoid gloating, political point scoring for the sake of point scoring, and to be honest, people of integrity, who value all human beings equally. I know, I want the impossible. But if the rank and file voters don’t demand these things from our politicians, then they will continue on in the same vein.
I hope one day to be represented by people of integrity. And hope is never dead.