Please just shut up and vote: Why what you do on election day really does matter

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It’s 4.30am a dark cool morning. I’m squinting, looking for a face I recognise, but all I can see are outlines and profiles.

Torch lights dash across faces, there’s about 20 people I’m guessing. I see a guy I’m sure is a tradie, several young uni student-looking kids, a fella that looks like he just got out of the big house, who’s next to a guy I think I’ve seen at Glenmore Park Woolies.

You could mistake this for the start of an Adhoc military recon mission, though you’d expect those involved to look more athletic and less academic! The one thing we have in common is no one here gets paid.

Our mission? We are off to make humble public schools look like a Comic-Con for politicians. We have gaffa tape, zip ties, and rolls of bunting with David Bradbury’s smiling face printed for hundreds of metres. I’m here because my kids go to school with David’s. I’ve met him several times he seems like a really nice guy, so I volunteered.

Facebook is the book we probably never should have opened. This strange land has more opinions than experts, everyone can have their say and everyone does! Here traffic controllers have more to say about medicine than doctors. When it comes to politics it’s the equivalent of a battlefield. The right to an “opinion” also seems to coincide with the right to repeat a mixture of misunderstandings, myths, half-truths, and some complete bullshit!

Many of these are thought terminating clichés, statements designed to quash independent thinking, put the reader in their place, and get the writer off the hook from providing detailed answers to complex problems.

“It doesn’t matter who you vote for”, “All politicians are the same”, “It’s all rigged”, “It’s all the media’s fault” and “There’s no difference between the parties”. For those comfortable in their oblivion keep scrolling, others ready to consider read on.

In Australia we have a thriving democracy, we frequently take for granted. Across the world, citizens are crying out for safe and corruption-free elections while in Oz some people whine about getting the opportunity.

In Russia when you decide to run against President Putin you invariably get really sick, very suddenly. In many countries simply standing in a line to vote can see you bungled into a van. The fact that none of this happens in Oz suggests that it is NOT rigged.

Does it really matter who you vote for? There are numerous rebuts to this brain-numbing cliché, but in purely economic terms, your vote is worth money. Every political party that receives at least four per cent of first preference votes is entitled to election funding from the Australian electoral commission (AEC). Currently, that is $2.94 per vote plus rights to certain rebates for costs! Wondered why we currently have a candidate who doesn’t live in our electorate, never has, and most likely never will? Perhaps it’s because if that party gets past four per cent your vote REALLY counts!

Some Australians are becoming disengaged, “all politicians are the same” or “there’s no difference between the parties” is a thought stopper we commonly hear. When you stop to look at the range of political parties in Australia this myth dissolves quicker than a tax refund.

Between the two major political parties in this election, Labor says they will introduce a powerful anti-corruption commission by Christmas, and the Liberal Party says it has no plans to introduce one. That alone is a Great Sandy Desert-sized difference right there.

Look at some smaller parties and the divide gets wider and wilder still. Some parties promote not advocating vaccination at all, not simply against COVID-19 but also against conditions like Measles and Polio. Others believe we need to pay for basic dental for everyone. Talk about comparing apples with bicycles!

Origins of these thought terminating clichés are often those who hope to whittle away our power as a population, who benefit the most from reducing our democratic rights. America a nation we often look to, or perhaps at, is struggling with democracy. The Republican party is increasingly making it difficult for minorities, the disabled, or those of colour to vote. Republicans have falsely claimed that an election independently declared the least corrupt in living memory was rigged.

Australian politics to date has not witnessed any of this arse hattery! Though the mimicking of these tactics by the United Australia Party and One nation should enact a collective shudder.

While it’s true the AEC pays political parties a rebate per first preference vote that’s where the money stops. A vital cog in the wheel of making sure we have a thriving democracy is the people who volunteer for their political party. Those people you avert your eyes from when you walk towards the polling booth or if you are devoid of logic, reason, and basic human decency you swear at.

If you care about things like your politicians delivering on hospitals for when you’re sick or school funding for your kids, we need these people. Without volunteers promoting choice between parties, the result is the same party being elected again. Ever noticed when political parties are keenest to deliver for you is around the time you make a choice on who you vote for? 800k for a new footy club house here, upgrade a hospital there?

Ed has been volunteering at the Banks drive, St Clair public school booth for 36 years! Eddie has a tiny frame, but an enormous heart. He tells me that when he’s handing out “How to vote” flyers and a voter comes in a mobility scooter it makes him happy.

He says, “they have benefited from schemes like the NDIS which the party pushed for.” He sees his volunteering as ensuring politics delivers results for those most in need.

This weekend you have a choice, I’m not going to tell you I don’t care who you vote for, I bloody well do! More importantly though, realise that your vote really does count, and so do people like Eddie. So please grab a democracy sausage, cast your vote, and celebrate your thriving democracy!

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