The Importance of Voting by Gabriela Gonzalez-Forward

3 Posted by - 05/08/2013 - Election, Short

About 13 million Australians will cast a vote to elect 150 members to our Legislative Assembly, and 40 to the Senate on September 7. Voting in this year’s Federal election can’t come soon enough. Whether you’re sick of hearing about the leadership, turning back the boats, or the Palmer United Party, we don’t have long to go. We are electing a government that will lead Australia for a minimum of three years. Too many Australians see voting as a burden or an inconvenience. To many, it’s nothing more than an excuse to get down to a sausage sizzle. But remember: If you don’t vote or don’t vote

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correctly, you have no right to comment or complain about politics in Australia. You had your chance to have your direct input and you took it for granted.

Many do exactly that, and they forget the right to vote was not easily gained. Voting in free and fair democratic elections is something not everyone has the privilege of taking part in. People stage coups, start civil wars and line up for hours just to cast a single vote in other countries. In Australia, the process is simple: your name is crossed off in a big binder (not just full of women) and you are given ballot papers. You go into a private booth, take your time to fill in the boxes, put your ballot papers in the box, and walk away. It normally takes less than 10 minutes to exercise your democratic right to vote. After that, you can eat all the sausages you want.

No one is going to take your ballot paper out of the box and ask why you put Katter’s Australia Party above the Australian Labor Party, or why you numbered all the boxes with a [1], or why you thought it would be funny to write a witty remark. You and every other Australian citizen have the equal right to vote. A woman’s vote isn’t going to count for less than a man’s vote. A 90-year-old’s vote won’t count for more than the vote of an 18-year-old.

This election is particularly important. Through the voting for your State and Federal representatives, you will be voting to indicate whether you support national initiatives such as the National Broadband Network, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the school funding agreement outlined in the Gonski report. Your vote will show your position on the treatment of asylum seekers, on climate change and on the future of big business in Australia.

For the past three years we have had a minority government, a coalition between the ALP, the Greens and the Independents. A minority government was never going to be easy, and passing legislation was always going to take time. Considering the circumstances, they achieved a lot. But the unstable nature of the ALP’s leadership and controversial policy regarding refugees has left many disheartened by politics, and the media hasn’t helped by constantly reporting polls as concrete evidence.

I am of the view that polls prove very little, but if the Abbott lead Liberal and National Party were to win a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, it would be very easy for the Coalition to pass legislation without needing to debate it. This can be good or bad depending on how you identify yourself politically. This is why it’s important to think about who you put number one and, importantly, think about who you preference. Your preference vote will be transferred to the next number if your number one doesn’t get a majority on first count.

It’s going to be a long election campaign, and many leave their decisions till the last minute. This election is going to shape the future of Australia and we have big decisions to make. Every election you are voting for the future; you are voting for the conditions you want when you’ve graduated, bought a house, had children or lost your job. You are voting to protect your future self from all the things life can throw at you. So don’t abuse this privilege; think about how important your vote really is.

Gabriela Gonzalez-Forward

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