Monday, January 7, 2013

Not So Compulsory Voting

I am probably too young to remember the last time that the notion of erasing compulsory voting in Australia was floated, but recently the idea has been dug up by the Liberal Party of Queensland.

Much to the chargin of the Greens and Labor.

Several Coalition MPs nationally have signalled that it might be a good idea, with 'personal liberty' being the tagline cause for raising the issue.

Australia is the only country in the world where voting is compulsory, where it was introduced in 1912.

A few reasons have been given as to why this is, such as Australia's small population, that it's a civic duty, that Parliament would be more reflective of the will of the people, and that it shows the population the benefits of political participation.

The last reason is an interesting one, because for the other 1,000 days where people do not have to vote, the mast majority of them show little interest in politics, and bemoan or just downright deride it.

And the you force them to a polling booth one out of those 1,000 days and somehow expect them to make an informed choice.

Many of them would have no idea who or what they are voting for, with many just leaving the ballot blank or filling it in incorrectly.

That isn't to say that voluntary voting is the way to go, either, however.

If you gave Australians the option of voting, you would be left with a handfull of people that are passionate only for their respective parties turning up, and concentrating political power with them.

The argument to that of course is that in every other democracy on the planet, voluntary voting usually works just fine, and continues to operate without too many problems.

In fact, the yearly push to encourage people to enroll to vote in those countries, such as the United States, could actually stimulate the minds of people to think about who, what and why they are voting.

This however also leaves the door open to special interest groups that would pressure people and influence their vote.

So what's the answer?

Would you prefer that lazy weekend sleep-in with bacon & eggs knowing you wouldn't be fined for not voting for something you care little about, or would you rather at least make an effort to participate in democracy?

Of course the first option would win out, although you may have a nagging in the back of your mind that you should have hauled your sorry butt out of bed and performed this illustrious civic duty bestowed upon you by our forefathers.

The important thing perhaps to make clear is that 'voting' itself isn't compulsory - it's really just turning up to the place of polling and having your name ticked off - as the ballots are of course secret.

Given that, politicians rarely, if ever, want people to think, let alone think critically about them.

Free thought is the politician's greatest enemy, and it is countered at every possible turn through propaganda and media advisers.

They are always right, and the other guy (or girl) is always wrong - any deviation from that premise, and they possibly lose your vote.

Given that, how are people meant to make an informed decision at the ballott box?

Do I choose tap water or spring water?

There's 'dyed-in-the-wool' voters and 'swinging' voters - do the wool voters think less perhaps?

It's an endless to-and-fro argument, but perhaps the greatest reasons to keep compulsory voting is as follows - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

While Australian democracy is abrasive and sometimes disgusting at times given the vitriolic language from commentators, it is in fact remarkably stable; one of the most stable political systems in the world.

It differs from China, for instance, where not voting is compulsory, which is a far more greater infringement on civil liberty.

It's perhaps best to forgo your bacon & eggs and just turn up, you are free to complain and whinge, make your mark or no mark, and go back to bed.

After all, you have a 50/50 chance of the majority dictatorship of your preference being installed.

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