Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Upcoming Australian Federal Election - I Don't Want To Vote

About 31 countries world wide have compulsory voting.

Of those, only about a dozen actually enforce the penalty.

Australia is one of them.

Last night I came to the conclusion that none of the majour parties, Liberal or Labor, represent me.

Nor do the Greens, nor do any Independents.

They don't know me, and I don't know them.

They don't owe me anything, and I don't owe them anything - especially not my vote.

I'm not a 'working family', which is their main tried and true demographic target.

Quite the contrary, I'm a longterm unemployed journalism graduate that's has had a deep-seated moderate clinical depression for the best part of the past 4 years.

I've complied with all of the welfare laws; I've attended all of my appointments with 'Job Services Providers' and Centrelink; I've done volunteer work, and I've gone to all interviews that I was required to go to, and I am still not employed, with little prospects and next to no support from any of their services.

I have a circulatory condition in my left leg that prevents me standing for lengthy periods, and despite being told by local Job Services agents that office jobs are, quote "mostly only for women," they remain the only work I would be suited to.

I've been effectively left to rot on the welfare system, and indeed, writing this blog has helped.

So now I find myself deeply marginalised. Not destitute, not a lunatic, but simply someone who has lost faith in our system of government and things in general - and because of that, I cannot ethically vote for any party, or even just show up and have my name signed off to keep the threat of a fine at bay.

At the last Australian federal election in 2010, there were over 700,000 'donkey', or blank votes - I wouldn't want to add to the uncertainty.

And at well over half a million people who didn't even mark their ballots, I'm not alone in my disgust.

One of the reasons cited for compulsory voting is so that the general population pays attention and participates in democracy.

This is complete buffoonery.

Of the other 1,000 days between federal elections, the government doesn't want to hear two peeps out of you - you just need to go to work, pay your taxes, and at a few months out from an election, you're expected to decipher the cacophony of leader debates and incessant loud election advertising.

I have, however, been paying attention to politics.

My blog has many instances of what I thought were misgivings, or maybe even just gripes with government.

Take the Peter Slipper scandal - this was someone who was known to rort political allowances and was made Speaker, just to bolster the Labor government's numbers.

Or perhaps the Craig Thomson fiasco, where he was allowed to use Parliament to plead his case in the open air - I hardly think any other Australian would be granted that privilege if they were being investigated for criminal wrong-doings.

Or maybe the cutting of payments for single parents.

So no, I'm not an apathetic citizen who is just trying to get out of voting - I am genuinely sickened now by Australian politics, and I now wish to remove myself from its processes as much as possible, and I do not wish to even be remotely implicit in it by voting.

I haven't been listened to for this long period time, and I feel as though I should now just forfeit my vote altogether - which is really only what any political party damn well bloody wants from me.

Last night upon investigating what may happen to me as an Australian citizen for not voting, I came across a description of the usual procedure - first a letter seeking explanation for not voting is posted to you, and then a fine is posted out and you are expected to pay up to $100.

"What if I don't pay the fine," I pondered to myself.

To quote the Electoral Commision of New South Wales:

"The State Debt Recovery Office may issue a penalty notice enforcement order against you. This may lead to the cancellation or suspension of your drivers licence, cancellation of your car registration or worse."

"Or worse," - sounds rather threatening, doesn't it?

Oh boy, better do what they say.

Upon further investigation, I found stories of people that had had their car registration cancelled, sentenced to community work, property seized, their licenses cancelled, and in some cases, even sentenced to jail.

And indeed, 43 Australian non-voters were each jailed for one or two days each for failing to pay their fines in the 1993 federal election and had criminal convictions recorded against them.

You're not criminalised for not making a mark on a piece of paper or just having your name ticked off, but trickily, you are criminalised for then not paying the fine or providing a 'reasonable' excuse.

Sneakily, the political and legal apparatus that forces you to vote hides behind our fines system - it's just like not paying a road fine if you've committed a traffic offense - so in effect, for not voting and not paying your fine, you are automatically criminalised, even though you haven't effectively broken any laws.

Are these the actions of a free and democratic country?

I would think not, and it has made me incredibly wary, as it does raise the bar on my own little experiment of not voting and coughing up a fine just to see what transpires.

Those blatant scare tactics however shouldn't be reason to feel threatened into turning up to the polling booth, especially when you haven't committed any crime by not doing so.

A car and a license I can do without - my car's registration expires in September - it already leaks oil and overheats, and I can't afford to fix it, so I have no intention of re-registering it, anyway.

I have no job to drive to - so I obviously don't need a license, except for ID purposes.

If the court wants to come to my humble room and take my few meagre personal possessions, so be it.

And jail?

That will just succinctly highlight my point.

It seems I'm also not the only one to want to highlight this issue.

Recently, a High Court appeal from a man, 65-year-old Anders Holmdahl, was quashed merely on the grounds that the appeal against his criminal conviction would not succeed after a two year-long legal battle for not voting at the 2010 election.

Interestingly, his case was supported by Liberal Senator Nick Minchin, who has long held the view that voting should not be compulsory in Australia.

Mr Holmdahl is now attempting to have his case heard by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

So, that's how far it can go - all the way to the fricking UN.

It seems my passive political protest and stated reasons for it would largely fall on deaf ears - instead of being a case of simple, peaceful civil disobedience, it would most likely snowball into me being prosecuted and possibly jailed for a few days for not paying up.

I'll see how I feel between now and the election.

During that time, I'll be formulating my response to the Australian Electoral Commission stating my reasons for not voting when they seek my explanation for not taking part in a farcical exercise.