In the conurbation that is South East Queensland, most of the towns that have been consumed by population growth still have their agricultural show. The Ipswich Show was held last weekend. Apart from all the ‘fun of the fair’ that you would expect most local politicians were represented by stalls in the exhibitions area, where they or their willing helpers were handing out brightly coloured bags to all comers with the usual pens, notepads and publicity brochures that is customary. The Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann was no different – although he was seen on national television coverage performing the ‘obligatory nodding head’ role to the best of his ability behind Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles’ Ipswich media scrum last Friday.
The contents of Neumann’s ‘showbag’ were pretty typical apart from one item. In a very ‘unALP’ green and teal themed brochure adorned with Neumann’s face there are contact details, his life story (both before and during politics) and a description of the electorate. So far that’s all pretty unsurprising, but that’s not all. Unfold the brochure and it describes our Federal Parliamentary System and Neumann’s work within the system on an A3 page. The sections on the page are “How I became a Member of Parliament”, “What I do in Parliament”, What I do in my electorate” and “My working hours”.
The Parliamentary Education Office is credited with assisting Neumann is production of this brochure and while Neumann is a Government MP, it’s highly likely that other Federal MP’s and Senators from across the Parliament have similar brochures in their ‘showbags’. And why not, the brochure very clearly and simply describes in a general way why we have politicians going to the respective Parliament Houses, how they help the community and the hours they work (which would be considered to be excessive in most other industries). While the idea is clearly a response to the ‘lazy politicians’ themes thrown around by some who should know better, the real issue here is that the brochure is necessary in the first place.
For better or worse we have a democratic system of government where, in theory at least, anyone can aspire to represent their fellow citizens in one of the three levels of government that Australia (and a number of other countries) maintains. There are distinctions around what each level of government manages and it’s doubtful if anyone in Australia could rattle off the lines of responsibility between the levels of government without reference. It’s not realistic to suggest that the contents of Neumann’s brochure and a overview of what each level of government does should be taught in schools as that doesn’t work when students aren’t interested, away that day or a multitude of other reasons including working out what to drop from all the other ‘essential’ material that schools are supposed to teach – as schools can’t teach everything.
You would hope that most Australians of voting age take some interest in the process, maybe not to the stage of regular reading of blogs like this, but they at least know who the Prime Minister, Premier and Mayor of their area are. Obviously there are many that don’t, as demonstrated by Neumann’s brochure. Being a democratic system, there is an expectation that people over a certain age have a vote. In some ways, Australia’s compulsory voting system is clearly superior to the optional voting systems used elsewhere.
For a start, it is extremely difficult the make claims similar to those made by the Trump re-election campaign in 2020 that “truck loads’ of votes were substituted. We know that roughly 95% of eligible voters will vote – if for no other reason than avoiding the fine – it would be very odd for more votes to be counted that could be theoretically cast. If ‘truck loads’ of votes were also removed to make way for the ‘truck loads’ that were brought in, the candidate that organises the fraud risks losing a significant number of ‘legally cast’ votes in the process.
Also in the last week, it was reported that Nigel Farage, one of the leading lights of the UK’s “Brexit’ process finally admitted that it didn’t work, and the promised land of milk and honey was unlikely to occur. Of course, he had pre-prepared reasons (or excuses depending on your point of view) that cast the blame to a multitude of sources that were not his ‘fault’. In Farage’s view, Brexit had nothing to do with a campaign by self-appointed conservatives that claimed they would make Britain great again (sound familiar) if it isolated from the rest of Europe. While there was a vote, a lot of disinterested or those that believed their vote wouldn’t count stayed away. As a result, Brexit occurred.
The problem the UK has now is that the regulation and subsides that have been shown to be essential to the economy have now ceased and trucks are queued up on each side of the British border waiting for customs clearance to proceed. Large global manufacturers are planning on leaving the UK in droves as it is too hard to get materials into the country and the manufactured goods out. Migration is higher than prior to Brexit as no one in Britain wanted to do the dirty and unskilled work that was previously done predominately by eastern Europeans who could enter and leave the country as they chose.
We too have our politicians that exist based on the votes of the ‘can’t be bothereds’. These people heed the advice of those in the media taking a swipe at the ‘gumment’ while knowing they will never be accountable for the ratbag promises they make. Neumann’s brochure is a positive step towards countering the disinformation but there needs to be more done to demonstrate to everyone that the system is important, how they can play a role and exert their influence. In Australia anyway, there is no such thing as a wasted vote.
The alternative is Trump’s America or Brexit – and we don’t want to go there.
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