Australia votes

Australia goes to the polls on 21 August. The election campaign has been one of the most unexciting campaigns in a generation, with both major parties trying to be as much the same as each other as they possibly can. Both aspirants for the job of Prime Minister came to the leadership of their parties relatively recently as a result of party room coups, and in both cases climate change policy looms large as a significant factor in the leadup to the leadership change. In both cases the new leaders were elected on a promise not to implement any real and effective climate change policy.

Like many Australians, I voted Labor in the 2007 election because of two major issues: Climate change and the treatment of Asylum seekers. The inhumane policies of the previous government towards asylum seekers included mandatory detention, separation of families, and offshore processing in an (unsuccessful) attempt to get around Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugees convention. The misery, mental illness, displacement and anti-Australian sentiment which such policies caused have been well documented. The Labor party promised to do away with these policies and act in a more humane way and in accordance with Australia’s legal and moral obligations. That lasted only a few months, and the policies of the major parties are now indistinguishable from each other and from the policies of the previosu government. On Climate change, both parties went to the 2007 election promising action on climate change, and the internal polical machinations of both parties ensured that in the past three years no real action has been taken, and none will be taken in the forseeable future.

Both major parties are promising to do more in Education, and in recent history both major parties have shown themselves to be quite incometent in their attempts to bring about real improvement or change in educational outcomes, especialy for those who need it most. The Labor government funded a laptop for every child, and in most of the country school systems and individual schools are yet to roll out these laptops. The schools benefit from the interest on the funds, but in the meantime students are deprived of the opportunity to use modern technology in their learning. Labor funded school halls, libraries and other improvements to schools as part of the stimulus package which successfully defended Australia from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis, but in many areas the funding and administration of the scheme was botched, and much money was wasted. The Liberal party opposed the scheme altogether.

The Labor government has begun implementing a national Broadband network which will be publicly owned and incredibly expensive, but it will bring Australia up to levels which are nearly as good as the Internet speeds and coverage currently enjoyed by most of our Asian neighbours. Unfortunately the Labor party will also implement an internet filter which will be completely ineffective in preventing access to child pornography and other illegal material, but will bring the speeds of the internet back down to levels not much better than what we currently experience, and possibly worse. If elected the Liberals will scrap the National Broadband Network, replace it with a privately funded scheme which will be cheaper, slower, and have less coverage. They will also implement the filter.

The Greens party will not win enough seats to form a government in this election, but they have a very real chance of winning the balance of power in the Senate and possibly winning a seat or two in the House of Representatives. Their primary vote around the country will also show whichever party wins government how deep is the concern about many of the issues I have listed above. The Greens will use their influence to work for real action on climate change, a compassionate response to asylum seekers, and the National Broadband Network without the filter.

In this election, I am voting Green. I hope that the Gillard Labor government will be returned to power, but with a reduced majority and a clear message from the electorate that they did not serve us well in their first term in office. I will be handing out How to Vote cards in the electorate of Sturt for my local Greens candidate, Peter Fiebig. Our local member of parliament, Christopher Pyne (Liberal), is an excellent and hard working local member, and he will get my second preference. I will not be disappointed if Chris Pyne is re-elected, so long as his party does not win enough seats to form a government. In its swing towards the right on so many issues the Liberal party has shown that it has learned nothing from the defeat of the 2007 election, and I shudder to think what a laughing stock Australia would become with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

In the senate I will be voting Green with preferences to other minor paries ahead of any of ALP or Liberal.The Greens and Independents ensure a level of scrutiny and dialogue over legislation and government policies which is very healthy, and hopefully never again will Australia have to suffer the effects of a major party having a majority in both houses of parliament.

I do not give unqualified support to every one of the Greens policies. In particular,I do not suport active Euthanasia, and whilst I believe that same sex couples should have total equality in every legal and other respect with heterosexual de-facto couples I have reservations about changing the legal or social definition of Marriage to include such relationships. But this is a conversation we need to have as a society, and the Greens will ensure that we at least have that conversation.

It’s Time for a new way of thinking. Stand up for Australia, for common sense and common decency, Move Forward from the corrupt and ineffective ways of the past, and vote Green. That’s what I am going to do.

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