Somewhere amongst the never-ending campaign, the politicians in hard hats, the Murdoch press headlines, and the out-dag your opponent dad strategy, there is something I love. Is it the sausage sizzle? The debate worm? My polling station didn’t have vegetarian sausages (I had a delicious tomato sauce and onion sandwich #questionablelifechoices) and I do not own a television (I promise this is not a rant about student living). The sausage sizzle and debate come close but they are not the reasons why I love elections. I love elections because:
1. Everyone has an opinion. From my otherwise ‘cbf’ minded friends to the window washer on Northbourne, who once yelled at me saying Julia Gillard had wasted 300,000 tax payer dollars, everyone has something to say about Australian politics. Sure, Facebook and Twitter feeds get clogged with arrogant commentary, electoral predictions and sites such as ‘Don’t be a fucking idiot this election’ that you would rather not read; but it is precisely this that is exciting. In a time where Gen Y is often labelled apathetic and fickle, it is refreshing to see so many young people putting in their two cents and engaging with the running of our country. As opinionated and arrogant election conversations may be, they are evidence that we are actively concerned about government actions because they affect us all. It’s a realisation of the things we care about, and elections enable us to reflect and express these thoughts.
2. The local MP takes their three-yearly-gander through the electorate while the MP hopefuls hit every public event. I might be a bit biased in saying this with my political affiliations, but I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Sheikh turning up to every public gathering I attended. Aside from the novelty of shouting, “Simon Sheikh for the Senate,” as quickly as you can when he turns up, I enjoyed seeing the Greens candidate and the other candidates actively vying for our vote. Sure, you say. It’s their job to be there. Candidates are only there because they want to be elected, perhaps. And that’s the point. It is the job of members of parliament to represent us, and I know I would want a candidate who has been out and about, making the effort, self-serving or not, to engage with the community; rather than the candidate that expects votes to flow in without getting to know us first. Local campaigning forces politicians to engage with the community they are voted for to represent. It shows us that our votes are valuable if they are worth pursuing.
3. Elections are part of democracy. The main reason I love elections, even when we lose, is because it reminds me that we’re in a democracy. The decisions we make on polling day affect us in some way or another, whether it is through our education, our health, jobs or environment. But we often forget that being in a democracy means that we do not need to wait for an election to voice our opinions. In this election, we saw a large lurch to the Coalition, as well as a whole bunch of independents and minor parties. It seemed like the Australian public was sending a clear message to the Labor party. But the beauty of a democracy means we can send messages of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, encouragement or optimism all the time. We can jump up and down and stamp our feet until the politicians come out of their offices and the Australian public decide to become vocal about the things we care about. I care about elections because they remind us of the power we have to change the nation. This collective power exists in democracy, and democracy lasts longer than three year terms. So, not happy with Tony Abbott? Protest, join a lobby group, meet with your politician, or simply start talking to people. These democratic actions are just as powerful as voting.