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Is Politics Still Putting You To Sleep?

With an upcoming election brandishing the voting sword at us yet again I thought it imperative to give you all an insight into the exciting world that is politics (note they sarcasm), due to my lack of interest, understanding and to put it bluntly care in the matter I thought it best to have a professional write this blog…

So please welcome my guest writer Victoria Rollison, critically acclaimed author of ‘Times of Trouble’ and one of Sydney’s most in-demand feature journalists.

(It should be noted that the following DOES NOT represent any of my own interests, political beliefs or values.)

When 95% of Australian’s hear the word ‘politics’, they switch channels, turn off the radio or just let their mind fog up like they are sitting in maths class. I know what you’re thinking… politics is boring. It’s for nerds. It’s for old people who grumble and moan about the state of the world. But, boring or not, you can’t ignore it forever. Since we are lucky enough to live in a country where it is compulsory to vote, isn’t it time you knew a little more about Australian politics and most importantly, whose side you are on?

Before I begin my short synopsis of the Australian political landscape, I want to declare straight up that I am a devoted leftie and a member of the ALP (Australian Labor Party). So be prepared for my complete bias! With the leadership spill of last week resulting in our first ever female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, it looks like a Federal election could be coming up sooner than expected (as early as August if the rumours are true). So it’s definitely time to work out where you stand!

There are two parties in Australia who can form a federal government. For sake of brevity I’m going to ignore the Nationals (who are in coalition with the Liberals), the Greens (who lobby on the environment) and the independents. All these groups are important in making decisions in the senate, but ultimately, even if you vote for the Greens or an independent, you’ll still need to decide whether you prefer Labor or Liberal in ranking your preferences. These preference votes often decide the outcome of the election. So there is no way to avoid picking a major party.

So why would you vote Liberal? Many people argue that the Labor and Liberal parties in Australia are quite close together on the political spectrum, ie neither is particularly ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’. However, if you delve below the spin, you can see that the two parties generally suggest policies that promote their core position. Abbott, the leader of the Liberals, is a clear conservative, from the right of his party. Gillard is a leftie, firmly from the left of the Labor party. Of course I could write a million words about incidents when each party has strayed from this position, but that might put you to sleep once and for all! Back to the point. Liberals are right wing. This means that they believe in the power of the free market. They prefer governments to have limited involvement in society and believe capitalism is the key motivator in all decisions. Money is king when it comes to Liberals. If you believe that we should make decisions based on what is economically rational for our individual bank balance, then the Liberal party is for you. Since Liberals believe that the free market can be relied on to solve all of society’s problems, they also don’t think that wage earners, business owners and companies should pay disproportionate amounts of tax. They believe government should run as sparsely as possible, with a strong focus on law and order, national defence, keeping refugees from coming to Australia and limited regulation of our financial markets. I can hear you saying, ‘less tax must be a good thing! I’ll definitely vote Liberal if I get to pay less tax!’ For some people, paying less tax is all the incentive they need to choose who they will vote for. But there are other issues to consider.

Don’t forget that when a government’s ideals are firmly based in a free market economy, they aren’t concerned about generating government funds to spend on services. Unfortunately, it is impossible to ignore that the free market doesn’t look after everyone. It’s very convenient for those born into privilege to claim it does, as this gives them opportunity to keep forging forward and never look over their shoulder at those left behind.

If you are a Labor voter, you generally believe that the government’s role is to look after the welfare and opportunities for all Australians. Rather than believing that the market should decide on the outcome of a person’s life, Labor’s values promote equal opportunity for rich and poor alike. Whether you are born in Vaucluse or Stony Crossing, why shouldn’t you have a chance to achieve everything you want in life? This is why Labor governments generally tax at a higher rate, to redistribute the country’s wealth amongst the entire population.

Now, I totally understand, no one likes paying tax. And a lot of Liberals believe that Labor governments are spend-crazy and just want to take hard working people’s money and give it to the undeserving unemployed or the disabled or the people who are too poor to look after themselves. But there are so many problems in our society that can’t be solved by capitalism, I believe it is imperative that the government raise enough funds to protect all our interests.

For instance, how is capitalism going to solve the environmental effects of climate change? Will industry really stop polluting without the government giving them a tax funded incentive? How will indigenous Australian’s improve their standard of living and reduce their mortality rate without support from the government? How can we have paid maternity leave without a government program? How can our school graduates afford to go to university without a government loan for their fees? How will our aging population survive retirement if they don’t have access to government health care, pension support and compulsory superannuation? I could go on, but I think you get my point.

As someone who was educated at a private school and a former small business owner, you’d expect that I would espouse the values of the free market. But I believe that ultimately, redistributing wealth is good for Australia’s future, and good for individuals. The Liberal obsession with the free market inevitably promotes a widening of the gap between rich and poor as the people who are born rich just get richer, but the poor are given no opportunity to change their circumstances. I like the idea that every child in the country can get a good education, whether their parents can afford it or not. I am proud that everyone is given the basic human right of having health care when they need it. These things cost money, and I’m happy to pay my share of tax to make sure this happens.

You might not find politics interesting, but hopefully I’ve given you an insight into the core ideals behind all the arguing. If you still wonder where you fit, try to give it some thought, without letting your parents’ choices or your friends influence you. My parents are both lefties, but their parents were Liberals. When my grandpa found out my dad was letterboxing for the Labor party, he was told not to come home that night. So as you can see, political alliance is fraught with conflict. But there is nothing boring about a well informed, enlightening political debate. Why don’t you give it a try? At least if you know the bare essentials, you can make a decision based on your beliefs, which is what living in a healthy democracy is all about! –

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