I am passionately in love with Australian democracy. Sure, it has its problems. The preference system has holes in it. Corporate and institutional donations for some parties and not others, make things unfair. There is pork barrelling (promising more to marginal electorates, not necessarily the most deserving ones). At the top, there are dirty tactics such as “mud slinging”. (Digging up secrets about the opponent or their spouse.) The media who are essential to transparent democracy , due to mergers, are increasingly part of the merchant class instead of the fourth, independent estate.
It’s no great matter, when you are standing for hours outside a polling booth, handing out “how to vote cards”, next to political opponents, smiling at them, because you all have the same rights. Without personal bribery, without semi automatic weapons, without the threat of you or your family being “disappeared”, we have the glorious freedom to make our vote count, or influence others, who are unsure. There were no police or military in sight. Just some middle aged ladies that told us at the beginning to stay 6 meters from the door. We were also not allowed to wear our badges inside if we went to the toilet, or voted. Of course we voted, (not Acerules), as all normally functioning adults over 18 have to vote, under the law in Australia. It was a right of passage when we occasionally saw a young person approach to vote for the first time. I congratulated them with a handshake or a hug.
Twenty odd years ago I belonged to and volunteered for a centrist democratic party. (All the members got to vote on things). They were the third biggest political party at that time and held the balance of power. Their slogan was “keep the bastards honest”. Their fortunes waned, mostly, in my opinion, due to infighting. By then I was extremely busy with my ADHD son, and dying first husband.
Now our family belong to the current third largest party in modern Aussie politics, after I spent years as a swinging voter. You know something? Because this is Australia, no one threatened me when I drifted away from the first party, (they weren’t in every electorate I lived in then.) My father, who actively supported our opponents, did not either.
“From the mountain to the valley
From the ocean to the alley
From the highway to the river”
Excerpt from John Farnham’s- That’s Freedom.
South Gippsland, and the seat of Eastern Victoria (both were being voted for in our district,) are beautiful, wondrous regions, one within the other. They stretch from the outskirts of Melbourne, all the way to the NSW border. A huge area. They have everything except Outback. There are National Parks, farming land, regional cities, towns and villages, unspoiled coastal beaches including the ninety-mile beach, rivers, mountain ranges, hills and valleys.
Unfortunately, though, there are floods , storms and bushfires. There is polluting coal. There are fights over wind farms. There are underfunded hospitals and other health services, deteriorating roads, not enough police and ambulance officers, schools that need more money for subjects and excursions they can’t afford to run, and grossly inadequate rural public transport. There is higher unemployment than the big city. There is a problem with illicit drugs, especially ice. Social workers and charities cannot keep up with the need. Workers are so often paid under the award, or minimum wage, and yet they are expected to, by non profit groups, and do, contribute to programs that should be mostly funded by government.
So, Election Day, the stakes were high. Come the Federal election next year, they will be even higher, because the Fed. Government controls much bigger purse strings, and has more power for good, or ill.
“I don’t know why it takes so long
What the world’s doin’ wrong
Never wanted to shove my plan on another
Who can’t understand
All I want is a fast lane
To where the road across this plain
Won’t take you
I want something you understand
To make us stand proud
As nothing else can
Excerpt from John Farnham’s- That’s Freedom.
We did not win this round, but we will not be putting away our badges and stickers for long. Plus, there is always the long game. Because freedom and prosperity for all, is an Aussie right, worth working for. Fighting? Not at our polling place. All was peace and harmony as the opposing volunteers laughed and talked to each other. Small towns can be like that here.
Democracy can be like that here. Free people, given their voice. It can be like that anywhere.
Take note, World.