On Monday night I did something I wouldn’t normally do – no, I didn’t hold out on that late-night snack, nor did I grace the treadmill with my presence. But I did treat myself to a rare form of exercise for me; I gave my mind a short political run.

Not a bad introduction to politics if you can get it: Julia Gillard on ABC's Q&A this week. Pic: AAP

Thanks to the onslaught of social media, I would usually find myself sitting in front of a computer, whiling away time by catching up on the latest Facebook sagas. Yet this time, after a busy day, I settled on the couch and, after a bout of channel-surfing that would typically have stopped at an episode of CSI: Miami, I went that step further until I reached Q&A with Julia Gillard.

While I know this probably isn’t that much of a great deal to a lot of people, for me it was like a charcoal artist becoming lost in the world of paint. My brain is not one for politics, and I scrape by with at least the knowledge that Ms Gillard bats for the Labor party, and that Wayne Swan is her crony. Likewise, I am aware that Tony Abbott is running up to the crease, hoping to bowl her out on August 21 in the coming election. And I’m not going to pretend - apart from some others I can name here and there, and the fact that a worm can apparently determine which potential leader is gaining more popularity, that’s basically as far as my political horizon stretches.

I do not attribute blame for this lack of knowledge on anyone but myself, and it’s fair to say I’ve never really been concerned about it before. During the last election that put Rudd in control, I was finishing school and just short of the legal voting age.

This time, however, I find myself in a position where I have to elect a leader for my country, and while I think I know who will win my vote, there’s not a huge amount of background reason for my decision.

One of Julia Gillard’s strongest election stances is her focus on education, and being the former Education Minister for the Labor party, this is not surprising. So here’s the thing: maybe we should be making sure that students are getting a compulsory political education early.

This doesn’t mean making sure that primary school kids can name each party member and their titles, but rather, allowing them to understand that there are different parties with different principles and policies.

They can then make their own choice over whether they want to know more. It is indeed a complex topic, but looking at the Australian education curriculum, it doesn’t appear in earlier years of schooling. And by the time secondary school rolls around, it isn’t necessarily the most popular subject of choice among students.

In this sense, I can understand Ash Nugent’s concern in his piece on raising the voting age, where he questions the legal requirement of voting at 18 years of age. Then there is the possibility that we adopt America’s procedures and make voting an optional responsibility. It may mean that elections become dependent on a smaller percentage of Australia’s people, but at the same time, it will be a group who are fully aware of the political arena and who don’t resort to donkey votes, as Nugent fairly points out.

Then again, there is an element of excitement in having to vote for the first time, a novelty which will most probably wear off by the next federal election.

It’s hard to say whether or not I would have a brighter understanding of politics had I been taught more at an earlier age. But I have definitely acquired respect for those who have the courage to stand up and fight for the lead of our nation, a job which is highly demanding and inevitably going to be criticised.

For the moment, I’ll say that yes, Q&A was entertaining and politicians do have a sense of humour (especially when it comes to measuring how much of a ‘tool’ Mark Latham is). And there’s even a good chance I’ll tune in again next week to hear how Abbott fares against his rival. But until then, I’m retracting my toe from the unfamiliar waters of this political torrent.

Natalie Savino is a freelance journalist and studies at La Trobe University.

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51 comments

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    • dead to me says:

      07:17am | 11/08/10

      A lot of young people voted for Labor last time round because they wanted Rudd as their PM (misguided they were maybe but the young are foolish in so many ways) and the Labor party removed Rudd thanks to Gillard and her union friends and showed no respect to the voters. So lets see if you are going to vote for a party that treats you with no respect.

    • TrueOz says:

      07:55am | 11/08/10

      Regrettably, they’re the only kind of political parties we have in Australia.

    • 31 year old says:

      08:21am | 11/08/10

      This piece is an excellent illustration of why voting should not be compulsory. If young people have no interest or understanding of politics then they shouldn’t have a vote. Most bright eyed young people get swept up by left wing ideals only to mature later in life to realise their folly.

      Labor woul hate it because they would lose a large chunk of the moron vote but this would have to be a good thing and maybe would end the focus group poll tested idiotic governing

    • Super D says:

      09:07am | 11/08/10

      While it is true that the young tend to be more left than the population at large they tend to grow out of it.  Besides which if voting is voluntary it requires two hurdles, first to get people to the polls and secondly to get them to vote for you.  In this case perhaps the young and passionate will show up and boost the greens, the unions will show up and vote Labor and right wing church groups will motivate their followers resulting in a more right wing liberal party. 

      The beauty of compulsory voting is that it ensures political parties gravitate to the centre and that politics is less polarised than it otherwise would be.

      When you call for an end to compulsory voting you need to consider that its not just the people who are in broad agreement with you who will be the ones most motivated to actually turn up and vote.

    • Stewart Henstock says:

      10:03am | 11/08/10

      What a load of rubbish!
      If you let apathy determine who and how the country is run you’ll get exactly what you deserve.
      Having the right to vote doesn’t mean you’re restricted to ideology,social or economic issues.If it boils down to the fact you don’t like red heads and voted Liberal because of it then that should be a good enough reason.
      It’s your Australian right to vote for whomever or for whatever the reason.
      Belittling a section of the the tax paying electorate by calling them morons just shows how ignorant you are about the rights of voting.

    • Tom says:

      10:04am | 11/08/10

      I couldn’t disagree with your second paragraph more, Super D. That is the exact problem with compulsory voting - parties battle over the mediocre centre ground, in a race to the bottom of the well. It basically ensures that we will never have politicians who act on their convictions, rather they will continue to just adjust their policies as opinion polls dictate.

      As we have seen this campaign, in a large number of areas both major parties are throwing up the same populist nonsense - such as asylum seekers, the demonisation of government spending/debt etc. There is a good reason why every election ad being aired seeks to attack the other side, rather than explain to voters what policies their party offers and why this is good policy.

    • Tom says:

      10:40am | 11/08/10

      Stewart, certainly everyone should have the right to vote. I just find it hard to believe that someone who claims not to want to vote for Gillard because ‘you can’t trust rangas’ or Abbott because he is ‘kinda creepy’ (both of which are views I have seen expressed in vox pops in newspapers recently) really cares that much about who leads the country.

      Under voluntary voting, if these people truly did hate rangas or whatever, they would be more than welcome to vote on that basis. However, the more likely scenario is that someone airing that opinion actually don’t particularly care, and wouldn’t bother voting. If someone doesn’t care, why should they be forced to vote? At the moment we have a situation where both major parties essentially pander to those completely disinterested in the political process, and our politics is left poorer for that reason.

    • Carolyn says:

      11:36am | 11/08/10

      Mandatory voting is essential for the course of democracy. At means that all candidates must listen (or pretend to listen) to all sectors of the community. One of the reasons why Hurrican Katrina became such a huge issue in the US was because the percentage of poor, African Americans living in the Southern states is dismally low. Perhaps if someone’s vote depended on whether or not to give aid to those poor people, they might have seen more (and better) aid given to them tha the dismal treatment which was served.

    • All says:

      11:37am | 11/08/10

      Talking to a working experience girl on the subject of politics and she admitted that she would vote Labor. Her reason - her teacher taught them to. A fellow student stated that his parents voted Liberal and the teacher abused him, stated that his parents were idiots and had the class laugh at and ridicule him. She thought this was funny and as a result would vote Labor. Isolated case? I wonder.

    • Shifter says:

      03:55pm | 11/08/10

      @Carolyn: The flip side is when voting is compulsory a lot of folks vote for the person who is going to give them more. This creates the current situation where middle class welfare bribes are masquerading as policy.

      Because a large amount of Australians in marginal electorates are racist and greedy (though they won’t admit it), the big issues in every election tend to be how much will I get for having a kid, and are you going to keep the foreigners out?

      This ends up being the policy equivalent of driving around in a HSV Ute with a ‘Fuck Off We’re Full” sticker on the back. It turns out that doesn’t help the country very much.

    • BJ85 says:

      04:31pm | 11/08/10

      As a teacher I see many young people passionate about the way the country is run and political affairs. A students background plays a significant influence on their political thought and whilst the assumption is made that young people are leftists you would be suprised at just how many students are conservative particularly in private schools.
      “Young people need models, not critics” John Wooden

    • Gerard says:

      07:03pm | 11/08/10

      Stewart, apathy is currently the dominant factor in determining how the country is run. Millions of people don’t understand how the system works, have no interest in policies, and lack the initiative to dissect politicians’ statements. Yet there they all are on election day, against their will, lining up at polling booths to cast a vote for the major party who put on the best show during the campaign.

      Let the people who care about the country’s future make decisions about that future.

    • Dave says:

      10:32am | 12/08/10

      Move to China dude, that governemnt loves people like you.

    • BobM says:

      09:38am | 11/08/10

      At least after watching the Labor Lovefest aka Q and A, you didn’t say “Julia is a woman, so I’m going to vote for her. And hopefully you will give Tony Abbott the curtesy of watching the programme next week - although I’m sure he won’t get the stage managed questions and warm friendly audience.

    • Julie Coker-Godson says:

      04:28pm | 11/08/10

      You can bet your life he won’t!  Tony Jones will be at his bullying best.  I hope Tony Abbott prepares well for this.

    • Rosie says:

      09:42am | 11/08/10

      It is sad that we have a section of the community like yourself that haven’t got the time or interest to hear more of what is being said by the two major parties and off course the media. Then again I don’t blame you because if you are a swinging voter it can be very confusing.

      I am sick of the negative personal attacks, mainly by the Labor Party. They is an attack and then counter-attack then attack and then counter-attack and it never stops.

      Yesterday Tony Abbott attended a fund raising lunch at his daughters school and therefore wasn’t able to be at the Liberal’s Broadband Launch. Tony Abbott was attacked by Labor for not attending the Launch and it was made worse when on ABC’s 7.30pm Report he admitted to Kerry O’Brien he was no Bill Gates about technical details. Surely with a competent team the leader should be able to delegate so can’t understand what was the big deal.

      Like you taking some time off to watch Julia Gillard on Q&A I found it very refreshing to see Tony Abbott attend his daughter’s all girls catholic school. A school that has played a big part in his life because his 3 sisters went there and he has been able to send his 3 daughters there. Apparently not far away was the brother school that Tony Abbott himself attended. The traditional values that I saw touched me deeply.

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:27am | 11/08/10

      Bought and paid for advertorial by the Family Council on behalf of the Liberal Party.

      Hey Rosie - we get it. Joolya doesn’t have kids. We got it 3 weeks ago when you lot started foaming at the mouth about it over and over as your daily mantra.

    • Rosie says:

      12:30pm | 11/08/10

      Hey TheRealDave then leave Tony Abbott alone when he says sometimes his responsibilty as a father will come before Poltics. Traditional values Mate something lacking in our female PM.

      We can see before our eyes a female version of Kevin Rudd running around the countryside making promises which only fools will believe.

      More people will vote for a party that believe in strong family values than for the taxpayer’s of $45b worth of broadband that by the time it is installed it will be time to update for a modern version. Common sense is all that is required.

    • Pelle says:

      10:12am | 11/08/10

      Whilst I see the value of giving students a political education at school, the inherent danger is that they will adopt the political persuasion of their teacher.
      Young minds are impressionable and easily indoctrinated.

    • Brian Taylor says:

      11:10am | 11/08/10

      maybe we should be making sure that students are getting a compulsory political education early.
      isn’t that called “Brain washing”?
      I bet I know who you’re voting for Natalie, just a wild guess here, Ms Gillard right?

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:29am | 11/08/10

      Because a bright, young, well spoken, obviously educated, young woman couldn’t possibly make up her own mind in an informed way Brian?

      She needs at least 20 more years of world weariness, being exploited by banks and corporations, be overworked, undervalued, screaming missus and kids etc to be bright enough to vote Liberal?

    • Zeta says:

      11:28am | 11/08/10

      My only question is this: why does Natalie Savino get a sepia toned profile photo while all other Punch contributors get black and white?

      And when the Punch eventually caves and gives me my own weekly column reviewing adult films will I be allowed to have my glorious head portrayed in full color?

    • Julie Coker-Godson says:

      04:33pm | 11/08/10

      @Zeta:  I’d like to see that!

    • Natalie says:

      11:50am | 11/08/10

      Thanks for all your comments - Brian, like I said in the main piece, I have a fair idea of who I would be voting for, but between now and the election, my mind could be swayed either way. There are so many factors to consider when choosing one person to lead an entire country, and it’s hard to decide whether one person will really fill the shoes better than any other. I have much more research to do before then.

      And Zeta, I had to laugh at that comment. I should paid more attention to what photo I was sending in!

    • Pelle says:

      02:37pm | 11/08/10

      Dear Natalie unless you reside in Julia Gillard’s electorate or Tony Abbott’s electorate, you will not be voting for the person to lead the country. You will be voting for a representative from your electorate, who will then, along with other members of his Party, elect the leader, be that the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. As we saw on the 24th of June this year, the person people wanted as Prime Minister in 2007 was deposed by his own Party.You only have to look at NSW Labor to see the revolving leadership.
      I hope that makes your choice easier.

    • TrueOz says:

      06:29pm | 11/08/10

      Natalie, Pelle is correct. Let me help you out a little more. It really doesn’t matter too much who you vote for - very little changes. Given the spineless behaviour of our current set of candidates for PM I think we can safely say that this will be as true now as it always has been. Labor gets elected - they run up debt, raise taxes, employ far too many public servants, and throw our money away to counselling services for disabled, hairy-arm-pitted, single mother lesbians with AIDS. Liberals get elected - they reduce debt, raise taxes, employ far too many public servants, and refuse to spend money on anything that is even remotely socially worthwhile. Either way, the elector continues to get fleeced by a pack of out-of-touch air thieves who call Canberra home. Maybe you should run for office.

    • Gregg says:

      11:56am | 11/08/10

      It’‘s great that you have seen the need to get some understanding Natalie and I agree a lot of younger people could benefit from an understanding of politics and issues on which politicians campaign on, even if decisions fall by the wayside.

      In regard to Gillard, Abbott and all the other whatstheirnames the first thing you need to appreciate is that your voting for either G or A to be PM is more indirect than direct like the Yanks may have voted for Obama and unless you are in an electorate of wither you’ll not see their name to put a tick alongside but a whole heap of other Whatstheirnames.
      In reality though, there will be a lot of people who will either be wanting Julia to knock a double hundred up in quick time or for Tony to get a hat trick on the way to keeping the batting score down and thus votes will go to the appropriate party candidate in their electorate.
      Given Sister Rabbit talk anything and even a few bunnies from dogs or bomber beanies could be on the score card
      Unfortunately your choice between CSI: Miami and that that step further to Q&A with Julia Gillard would probably not help so much with the best understanding for the questions were of the dressy soft type allowing like answers, the ABC always having been renowned for having a slant towards Labor and Kerry O’Brien’s nickname is not Red for no small reason.

      As an example, earlier on the ABC Monday Night 7:30 report, a tele link interview with Gillard featured, the interview done by their political editor Heather Whatshername and though a sharp Kookie, nowhere near as cutting as Red, another soft interview you could say.
      Come Tuesday night and Red is there looking to sink his fangs into Abbott and to the extent he persevered with technical discussion on broadband even though Tony Abbott had said at the outset he was no technical person when it comes to broadband details, it being Red’s exercise in wanting to show Abbott up, the Liberals having plans to have a far cheaper outlay for the Broadband than Labor who have a program under way with cost up around $40B.
      The problem with that is there has been no business plan, no justification needed according to Labor and we are just to trust them when they have not yet scored any centuries other than when it comes to millions squandered on other programs recently.
      O’Brien would not have asked similar questions of Gillard and only succeeded in showing flying his true colours even more so and making a fool of himself with no credibility in doing so.
      Come Q&A with Abbott and it will be interesting to see if they have an audience as good for Tony as thay had in one with a love for Julia, the Tool question as an example just so irrelevant to the election.
      Tony Jones’s credibility is also on the line.

      Aside from the media attention given to personalities, if you want substance as to what is good for a country, a simple solution is to consider how for the longer term you would want to run your own life.
      Do you consider it is appropriate to save for your future desires or do you think you might as well always have a huge credit card balance and be paying a nice whack of interest out of every pay.
      Can you accept what you can provide for yourself from your own means and use those standard government services or do you think the government should be borrowing a lot more money for programs and in the case of the NBN broadband not know how it will be spent or what may come from it.
      As you may be appreciating, politics can be a messy complex part of our lives and best to attempt to break it down into digestible size chunks but realise there can be significant interdependency.

      ” One of Julia Gillard’s strongest election stances is her focus on education, and being the former Education Minister for the Labor party, this is not surprising. So here’s the thing: maybe we should be making sure that students are getting a compulsory political education early. “
      I would be sure Julia would love to have it as part of a national curriculum and aside from there being teachers who may be in favour of either side of politics and lets not forget the minor parties and the Greens getting a reasonable following, one of the problems would be relying on teachers to teach without bias, politics for many teachers being a topic they can have a very strong interest in.
      I would really question whether anything much could be achieved for teaching about politics at primary levels and there probably is a certain ammount of politics learnt indirectly through subjects like social studies and history with studies of particular era issues.

    • Amber says:

      12:41pm | 11/08/10

      Natalie, just ask yourself these questions.
      If you had a $90B debt.or even a $90,000 debt, would you go on a spending spree? Would you even be allowed to go on one?
      Do you want more boat people to keep arriving, sucking funds out of our social welfare system, while Australians wait on the growing heap of people needing help?
      Do you want to have your energy bills, and ALL your bills, because there is NOTHING that electricity doesn’t affect, (yes-even Woolworths and Coles - have you checked out their lighting and refrigeration?) train fares, cinema tickets, restaurants, etc etc etc.?
      Do you want a healthy country that is back in surplus (money in the bank) to weather the next recession, which is coming, which ALWAYS comes?

      If you answer YES to the above, then Liberal is your vote. If you answer NO, then vote Labor.
      Everything else is superfluous.
      Thanks for listening.

    • Andrew says:

      01:26pm | 11/08/10

      Amber, ask yourself these questions.
      Do you understand that boat people arrivals number about 5000 out of a planned immigration intake for the year of about 170,000. Are you aware that nearly every person arriving by boat is a legitimate assylum seaker who breaks no laws and jumps no queues to get here, while those arriving via plane are much more likely to be non- guenuine assylum seaker? Are you aware that they are not “sucking funds out of the welfare system”. Do you appreciate how close the world economy came to total collapse and that the government’s stimulus measures have been almost universally praised by economists around the world? Are you aware that these measures will leave the country with a tiny debt equal to 6% of GDP that is forecast to be repaid by 2013?
      Indeed if you answer “no” to these questions then voting Liberal is your vote.
      Because none of of the above is superfluous.

    • Ben81 says:

      02:56pm | 11/08/10

      Andrew, people with the means to pay a people smuggler, discard their identification and repeat “they want to kill me” until they are given asylum status are much less deserving of our resources than about 100 million other people starving in refugee camps or living in absolute poverty.  Illegal entries by plane account for a tiny percentage of people in immigration detention. 
      Anyway, the point is that insisting that we turn over part of our refugee intake to people smugglers for political reasons is plain mind numbing stupidity. And I can only imagine your outrage if it was the Liberals not Labor who actually singled out particular races for delayed processing.

      The global financial crisis was not an excuse to throw around money with no expectation that the government should have any accountability for blatant waste.  it was bad enough when it all started, but what about the massive amount of spending and waste going on well after any threat of recession was gone?  Before you keep parroting that same old line about economists praising Labor, look at things more objectively. Start here, it will save me writing more of a wall of text.
      http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/qed/2010/08/academics-praise-failure

    • john says:

      04:03pm | 11/08/10

      Andrew, you either don’t know or are being disingenuous when you say debt under labour will be paid off in 2013. The govt will have the budget back in surplus by then but not debt, which is paying ineterest on at 100 million a day!
      Its bit like getting your weekly grocery spend under control while you still pay off a million dollar mortgage.
      And boatpeople are queue jumping. While there is no physical queue they are using money to their advantage to get here and for every one of them that arrive by boat pushes back a genuine refugee rottinga way in a camp somewhere who doesn’t have the funds to pay their way here. You state yourself how many refugees we take, per capita more tham most. We dont know who is coming illegally as they burn their documents. Even Indonesia has stopped an al-queda operative.

    • Andrew says:

      04:36pm | 11/08/10

      Thanks Ben 81. As I said in my reply, the government’s stimulus package was “almost universally praised.”. This statement allows for a minority of dissenting views published by blatant right wing magazines such as the one you’ve directed me to.  The opposition’s stance on boat people is totally out of proportion to the numbers of people arriving but totally in proportion to the extreme views held by a misinformed public.

    • Gregg says:

      05:27pm | 11/08/10

      Amber,
      I think you meant a Yes for all but the Boats question would mean a Liberal vote would be good.
      Andrew, you should not confuse the AS with regular migration.
      Skilled migration can take six months or more for even the fastest employer sponsored approach when an applicant considers the preparation and the independant skilled visas can be a year, two or more for the whole process and it is people with known skills, having to had their qualifications assessed and then character and health for them and all family members.
      Family stream visas also require people to have taken health examinations and have attained police character checks and even more stringent ones for people of many countries, the whole process being six to twelve or more months.
      The processing times of those visas is being extended because limited resources are being applied to the AS situation.

      On the so called AS have a read of http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm and also research some UNHCT data and you’ll see that there are refugee centres in Pakistan and India housing over 2M and then about 1M in Iran and many more throughout Asia.
      So you may call your ASs as not queue jumpers but when people with access to funds have done what they do and people in refugee centres are penniless, it seems very much to me queue jumping.

      For the welfare money paid to ASs, where exactly do you think the money has come from?. a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow out Leonora way or at the Brisbane Motel, a lease taken there for 12 months and yet the government claims only short term housing is provided.
      If that is the case, where are the hundreds from Leonora off to?

      And Andrew, the planet’s economy is still close to more trouble than the significant trouble it still has in case you had not noticed and whereas many countries used stimulus packages and still there are problems, even in Australia with retail transactions right now slowing, but the point being that whereas Australia did not have official recession whereas other stimulated economies did, that says some other circumstances occurred here and guess what?
      We had different economic structure and great cash flow because of resources demans maintained and what do Labor want to do?
      Kill of the golden egg goose.
      And as small as debt may be, again because of resources income, do you want to be moving forward to a good Greek diet?

      And lets hope commodity prices do not drop for even without that a lot of domestic prices are going to go up, quite likely with unemployment, more Mc Mansion finance defaults and then we’ll be heading for that Freddie Mac and Fannie May territory.

    • Ben81 says:

      01:28am | 12/08/10

      Sorry Andrew, I couldn’t find anything on Crikey or the Green Left that actually questions the issue for some funny reason.  You can repeat Labor’s lines all day, but getting some willing academics to put their names on what is practically a carefully worded Labor party press release that doesn’t even address the issue of value for money or acknowledge waste and spending long after any urgency had disappeared doesn’t make it all go away.

      And what’s so “extreme” about wanting to stop people smuggling, when it’s been shown prior to 2007 that we can fairly easily stamp it out and take in just as many refugees responsibly?  Tony Abbott didn’t make it an issue, Kevin Rudd did when he made it a problem again.  The whole argument of “we have X amount of people entering the country each year, therefore we should allow people smugglers to operate” is just asinine.
      You must be in complete denial if you only conveniently talk about the Liberals position on this issue and avoid mentioning Labor’s belated very similar stance anyway, even though Gillard and everyone in Australia knows she’s going nowhere with the whole ridiculous East Timor thing but is still looking us straight in the eye and taking it to the election.

    • ted says:

      12:59pm | 11/08/10

      Voting should not be compulsory, there should be no second preferences and voting limited to taxpayers. The taxpayers should include people retired from workforce as they pay/have paid for everything.

    • Cry Freedom says:

      01:28pm | 11/08/10

      If you don’t want to vote, that’s easy. Don’t enroll.
      Once you are enrolled only then does it become mandatory. I had never voted up until last election at the age of 34, taking the opinion that the majority of Australia will choose who they want in without my assistance in the mob mentality and media orgasm called “The Election.
      Unfortunately when I did enroll, I voted Labor.
      Not this time.

    • Ben says:

      01:48pm | 11/08/10

      I think you’ll find that once you turn 18 it is compulsory to enrol. The recent court decision to allow 100,000 people to enrol even though they had missed the cut-off date sort of missed the point, they should have been enrolled anyway!

    • Cry Freedom says:

      03:06am | 14/08/10

      @Ben.Compulsory yes, but so is driving at the speed limit which people don’t do all the time. So unless they come around, bash down your door, put you in a headlock, force a pen into your hand and make you fill out the enrollment enrollment form by controlling your hand…

      When I did eventually enroll I was not fined nor dragged off to a cell, beaten with rubber hoses. All that happened was that I had to start voting. And at 34 I cast my first vote because I wanted to, not because it was “compulsory”

    • Amber says:

      01:53pm | 11/08/10

      Natalie - ask Andrew is he’s from planet earth?
      Boat people jump no queues? They pay more thatn a first class air-fare to get here from indonesia, because they are ILLEGAL!  And who’s paying for their daily existence here? - you are Natalie, as we all are.
      Natralie ask yourself, if stimulus packages work so well - why is the USA, UK and most of Europe still in dire straits? It is because they didn’t start out with a $27B surplus, that Howard left behind and because they don’t have our minerals.

    • Jess says:

      02:35pm | 11/08/10

      What about the majority of ‘illegal immigrants’...people here on holidays who have overstayed their visas?? With no intention of going back? What are they doing to our society? I’m guessing something similar to the much smaller number of those who come on boats. But they get to stay where they want….if we were to be fair, maybe we should spend taxpayer money rounding these people up and sticking them in some remote prison like facility until they were PROCESSED and either granted further visas or sent home.
      No? Thats not how it should go? They are all people. Dude, we have so much space, take a look around the world and see where these people are coming from. Imagine living there for 30 secs. No, really imagine. It might make a tiny little impression.

      And,in case you’re wondering, my vote probably won’t go to Labour or Liberal. I want them to stop seeing numbers, or potential votes and start actually seeing people.

    • Gregg says:

      05:43pm | 11/08/10

      Jess,
      Exactly what you suggest is already policy and has been for many a year and like all policing, it is a case of catching up with people.

      An immigration department report a couple of years ago highlighted that the greatest overstayers were English grannies - come out to see family, love the weather etc. and did’t want to go home.
      Many younger people with plans of wanting to return will leave on time because they realise there’s not a great futyre in illegally overstaying for even if they front up late to leave they will be ecluded for three years from making most further visa applications.
      There are people who work here illegally after coming in on tourist visas and then overstay, probably because they reckon the money they earn while here is worth the risk, usually people from Asia.

      Yep there’s plenty of places about we wouldn’t want to be living in and we do have a substantial refugee program, it being distorted and strained by boat people.
      One of the reasons we can offer resettlement to some refugees and other people sponsored under the humanitarium program is that we are a country based on law and order and develop structured programs.
      If we abandon that concept, chaos would reign and if a no control, no restriction approach was taken, we would have numbers of so called ASs growing and growing.
      How many would be too many?
      50,000 P.A. , 100,000, 200,000
      ‘There’s currently about 7M refugees in the Asian region and quite a few more million in Africa too and so if the message of get to Australia anyway you can with a good story is maintained, our population could quickly grow even more.
      Where do you house them?, feed then?, educate them? etc. etc.

    • Pat McConville says:

      12:27am | 12/08/10

      There is plenty that can be said to contradict the usual, but still discomfiting, sensationalist rhetoric about asylum seekers perpetuated by Amber and others on this blog. But I won’t bother, because arguments based on compassion or on proportionality generally fall on deaf ears on this website.

      One comment I will make, though, which I doubt Amber will be able to process, so different a perspective than her own does it comes from, is that as an Australian taxpayer, I don’t mind my taxes contributing to the “daily existence” of people most likely to be escaping persecution. Just as I don’t mind my taxes contributing to the unemployed, students, those requiring carers, or suffering from diabetes or mental illness or heart disease. To me, that’s what we sign up to as members of a compassionate society. That is the logical conclusion of my, “Australian values.” And I don’t really care whether the beneficiary of my taxation has an Australian passport or not.

      Or maybe Amber’s right, and the people travelling here on leaky boats are actually poor little rich kids who decided to spend their filthy lucre on an authentic border crossing experience, rather than a first class airfare. In that case, hold onto your money, Amber. Save it for a rainy day. You should buy an umbrella then, and definitely not before.

    • Janett says:

      02:00pm | 11/08/10

      I really enjoyed the program ,Gillard has one my vote at the moment.
      I will watch ‘Abbott and see what he has to say,sadly I must admit his view on the Internet doesn’t agree with me.And he looks so scared and plastic,relax men ,take a puff if you have to,be yourself .
      I am still open to suggestions .

    • Christine Smith says:

      02:35pm | 11/08/10

      This was a very interesting look at the process by which young people become politically aware. f course people who don’t have the ‘right’ to vote will be less interested, it’ds only natural to become more involved in things that are applicable to your age and role in life. One thing I would question though is that people who vote ‘voluntarily’ are actually really any better informed or involved. The example of voting trends in the US, where so many people feel disenfranchised that they don’t even bother to get involved and have left the decision making to the most extreme groups is a frightening one. I like compulsory voting because I think it makes it clear that it is a shared *responsibility* as well as a right, and therefore we ALL have to make some effort, small or great.

    • Amber says:

      03:11pm | 11/08/10

      Jess - you are right - there a many many other illegals, but does that mean we should just open the gates to all and sundry? If we could find them we would send them back. They are all bucking the system, but how can we expect boat people to respect our country and our laws when they are welcomed by the navy, given nice accommodation, flown around the country when space is limited and generally treated royally when all the time they KNOW THEY ARE BREAKING OUR LAWS?? What message is that sending out to people who claim to be fleeing for their lives, but wouldn’t go to Nauru. If it was MY family, I would go ANYWHERE, to make them safe and not cherry-pick where I’d go.  They openly admit we are a soft touch with great social services. They are mocking us.
      Yes we have open spaces, which are barren.  The money to be wasted on Broad Band should be spent on bringing water down to the south and centre so we can then welcome many, more people and have somewhere to put them, without overloading our major cities.
      If you intend on voting Green, at least check out their policies.  The ETS will send many Australians broke with massive energy-price increases; the 40% mining tax will drive away investment, leaving Australia jobless and with NO tax to draw on; closure of Lucas Heights will leave cancer sufferers with no hope; closing power stations will leave everyone with no power to do ANYTHING! banning fishing up and down the east coast will leave families with few recreational areas; banning cars using petrol will leave us all walking; etc etc. Do you get the picture? PLEASE read their policies first. That’s all I ask of anyone voting Green.
      Oh, and by voting Green, you WILL be voting Labor.

    • jess says:

      03:51pm | 11/08/10

      to be really honest, the donkey vote is looking lovely. I hate that there isn’t really a party that I feel represents what I believe.

      I hear what you’re saying about rounding up the visa overstayers. My true opinions would probably horrify you. We are so rich here in Australia. And that is the basis for a lot of my decision making - I am scared that we are going to become such an inward looking society, and that is not something that I want to be part of. So I guess, yes I wouldn’t mind more flexibility when it comes to illegal immigrants. I don’t expect everyone to share my opinion, and I would happily listen to others to explain theirs, but please don’t tell me that I am stupid or ignorant because my opinion is different. Idealistic, maybe. Stupid, no.

      (And also, I don’t vote for anyone without first reading their policies. Informed choice and all)

    • Amber says:

      03:19pm | 11/08/10

      My dear late father used to say he liked the compulsory voting system otherwise only the fanatics would vote.  I often ask myself - was he right? How would the outcome be different? Who are the ‘‘fanatics’‘?

    • Rosie says:

      03:28pm | 11/08/10

      Natalie I don’t know the family you hail from but all I know a lot of your generation would kill to have a family like Tony Abbott’s family. There is no doubt Tony Abbott’s three daughters have their feet on the ground and are well prepared to venture out into the world with great confidence.

      I enjoyed my young years and all the credit to my parents who instilled into me good family and christain values.

      You may not like Tony Abbott but his team consists of very competent experience shadow ministers in Julie Bishop - Foreign Affairs, Joe Hockey - the Treasurer, Andrew Rob - Finance, Peter Dutton - Health, Christopher Pyne - Education all played a big part in the successful 12 year Howard Liberal Govt.

      Julia Gillard’s back up team lacks the experience & competency that Tony Abbott’s team have. At the moment they haven’t a Finance Minister, a Defence Minister and a leader who politically stabbed the nation’s elected PM in the back to take up the top job. While our PM is campaigning to win your vote the ousted Kevin Rudd is lurking in the background hoping that one day he gets his dream job back.

    • Gerard says:

      07:29pm | 11/08/10

      The political system and process was part of the curriculum at both my primary school and Commerce classes in high school. While the lessons certainly did not favour any party or political philosophy, what was taught bore absolutely no resemblance to the reality of politics. Everything was about how the parliamentary system is *supposed* to work- absolutely useless when attempting to make sense of the crap that goes on in Canberra and Macquarie Street.

      My advice for anyone interested in learning about politics is to read Nineteen Eighty-Four. I learned far more about politics from that one book than I did in thirteen years of school.

    • Pearl says:

      12:53pm | 12/08/10

      Nice call Gerard!

      I personally would like to see greater education on preferences and how best to get your vote across without it losing its intended purpose.

    • Dave says:

      03:15pm | 12/08/10

      I was doing some cold calling for my candidate recently. The ones who had the most to say about what issues they thought were important for this election were the youngest voters 18-22. The older ones generally had no idea or were ‘too busy’ to talk to me.

 

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