I am an Australian voter.
Other than that, I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about me. I didn’t finish college. I am not rich, by this country’s standards, and do not seek fame. I have an ordinary job, and been with the same employer since 1989. I’ve (with my husband) raised two kids to adults that I’m proud to claim as part of my loving family. I’ve been married, for almost thirty years, to the only man I’ve ever been in love with; the best man I know. I’m not suffering. I have, of course, but that was so long ago it’s no longer even a painful memory. I’m not religious, but don’t have a problem if you are, so long as you offer me the same courtesy. Though I always vote, I’m not affiliated with any party, and would be shocked to hear the word “political” used to describe me…mostly “nice”, I suspect. I have a good life; economically, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Seriously, I have no complaints. I’m happy. And the last time I publicly protested anything, I was a minor.
So, if I’m not suffering and have spent a lifetime avoiding the spotlight, why did I “MarchInMarch”? My reasons are, in no particular order:
EDUCATION Though I haven’t bothered to achieve a tertiary education, I want every single child in this country to have that chance; not just the ones who have money to spare or live near a major city. If children (some of them made their own protest placards) can work out that decent, affordable education is a necessity that should be a right in this country, surely the rest of us can, too?
ASYLUM SEEKERS Though I will never, I sincerely hope, know the horror of war, famine or violent persecution, I would never refuse to help someone who has. Yes, quarantine asylum seekers while their needs and refugee status are assessed, but do so with compassion, not cruelty. And, in the name of common decency, do so for a finite period of time. You know things are bad when China (globally infamous for human rights violations) has criticized this country, my “lucky” country, for their treatment of refugees. Just do it better; that’s all I’m asking. Oh, if you approved of “Stop the boats”, look into how much extra it’s costing to have them processed overseas; you’re paying for it.
HOMELESS Though I’ve never been homeless, I know that fellow countrymen—yes; women and children, too—endure such hardship, because I occasionally see them living near my house. If you stop to chat with them, you might meet me; I’m the one bringing them food, clothing and bedding. Not because a god is compelling me, or a government paying me, but because I cannot do otherwise. None of the few displaced people I’ve met have chosen that life (as our Prime Minister once suggested), and they gratefully accept the first opportunity to get out of that desperate situation.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY Though I’m not gay, I am furious and mystified by the fact that, in this century, homosexuals (and the relevant initials) still do not have the same rights as other voters; refused (by law) permission to marry or adopt. And, no matter how else they’ve conducted themselves throughout their lives, being gay is enough that, in the twilight of their years, they might (again, legally) be refused aged care. This one is particularly painful for me, because one of my brothers is gay and just about the sweetest guy you could ever meet. Yes, he marched; for “equal rights”. Look at those words. Does it seem like a lot to ask?
CLIMATE CHANGE Though I am not a scientist, I can read. So, when I learn that an overwhelming majority of the entire world’s scientists believe climate change is the biggest problem facing this planet, and that humans can reduce the severity of it, I paid attention. Apparently, our elected leader doesn’t agree. That doesn’t bother you? You don’t have children, who might have children, who will almost (a little skepticism is a good thing) certainly inherit the disastrous consequences of our reckless actions? It scares the shit out of me, and I’m not often afraid.
INDIGENOUS RIGHTS (My sincere apologies, that I neglected to add this to my placard. The fact that you’re used to being ignored does not excuse my oversight.) Though most of my ancestors are buried in a different country, I respect and admire our indigenous population; not all of them, obviously. That would be folly. But many of them set an example I’m proud to emulate, and I’m glad they received an official apology from our elected representative. I’m just ashamed that they continue to suffer; marginalized in their own homeland. Yes; shame. That’s what I feel about his subject. I’m not used to that feeling, but perhaps I should get used to it.
MILITARY FAMILIES Though I have not fought in a war, and never intend to, I am proud of our armed forces; competently doing what they can to protect me, my country and the idea of democratic freedom. They deserve our respect and, as a small token of that respect, they deserve money from our pockets. Here’s that shame feeling again when I remember that children of fallen soldiers are now getting less compensation for that staggering loss, for which there can be no real compensating. Moving on, before I weep…
NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK (NBN) Though I have fast, affordable internet, not every Australian does. It’s 2014, right? Yet in a first (?) world country like Australia, access to fast, affordable internet is at least partly determined by geography. In remote areas (of course, most of this country), the only option for many is the foreign owned Foxtel. Would you want your access to information determined by those who don’t even live here? I sure as hell wouldn’t, and I don’t expect anyone else to have to put up with it, either.
HEALTHCARE Though I am healthy—rarely even visiting my GP—I know that some voters struggle with illness or injury for extended periods of time; some their entire life. Of course money is going to determine your level of health care; not an easy fact to face, but a fact nonetheless. And I’m realistic enough to accept that. But, at the very least, every single Australian—impoverished and wealthy—should…no, must have access to adequate care. No cuts to healthcare, as promised; that’s all I’m asking.
AUSTRALIAN MINING, AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION (ABC), AUSTRALIA POST, TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) I know; a lot of titles, and I did some serious pruning to limit it to these few. And they basically boils down to one concern; how much of Australian’s businesses are now, or will become, foreign owned and/or influenced. I, personally, don’t have a problem with the incredibly wealthy. I’m doing quite well, thank you, and don’t fear becoming poor. I’ve been there and it wasn’t so bad. And I’m all for diversity and global trade; genuinely believe we’d be worse off without it. However, I have a big problem with someone sitting in another country having a say in what happens here. You think they don’t? Then you haven’t been paying attention. There are other concerns within this one, about the dangers of privatizing businesses that, by their very nature, need to serve the average Australian. But, given how things are going, I’m not sure the average Australian cares.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS I was quiet while the current government (either deliberately or obliviously; both are sins when you run a country) damaged relations with our nearest (geographically speaking) neighbours. But it was a young friend of mine in Canada who made me realize how bad things have become, via a throwaway comment about Australia becoming a worldwide joke. With, at the time what I thought was justified national pride, I retaliated…also with gentleness and humor; see above, “nice”. But she’s right, and things have deteriorated since then. Perhaps my concern for asylum seekers will soon become redundant; if we upset enough foreign leaders, maybe no one will bother trying to seek refuge here.
ANIMAL WELFARE Though I don’t expect any fellow human to put the welfare of other (yes, we’re animals, too) animals above that of men, women and children, I ask only that you not treat the creatures you eat with barbaric cruelty while they’re alive. If we must have live animal export (and I still don’t understand why), please do so with compassion. In case you’re wondering, I’m a vegetarian, partly on compassionate grounds, but don’t expect or even ask anyone to follow my example. I’ll even cook you a lamb roast if you visit. Improvements have been made on this issue. But, as my brother often reminds me, just because things could be worse, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be better.
WOMEN I’m not ostentatiously feminine or feminist. When I was ordered, at the age of ten, to never play footy with my (male) classmates again, I—though mystified—calmly accepted that decision. After all, I was a child, and one raised to believe that an adult’s word is law…though I’m not sure it was, even then. When I was declared ineligible to join my small (very small) town’s cricket team, on the grounds that one of the men might get hit in the groin and be embarrassed if a young woman was on the field, I smiled and took on the challenge of tallying the score for them instead. Every time a colleague is overtly sexist, I quietly and politely (perhaps a mistake) call them on it, and they apologise; it’s been working pretty well for me. But when the elected leader of our country says—actually says—that women are inherently incapable of achieving the same as a man, that “withholding sex” is a right that needs to be moderated, visibly and actively supports a blatantly sexist campaign against an opponent, and is now in charge of whether or not I get an abortion, it becomes an issue worthy of space on a protest placard. Again, in case you’re wondering on this polarizing issue, I cannot imagine a scenario in which I’d choose an abortion, but I would brave the barricades with you if you made that choice.
ENVIRONMENT You’re curious what that one other protest was against? The Franklin Dam project in Tasmania. I know, even though I was not yet old enough to vote at the time, some will read that and think “another left-wing radical”. But I’m just as likely to vote right-wing, if their campaign sways me…though I liked the old Liberal Party more than this Coalition Party, but I understand why they did that. Anyway, my simplified point on this issue is that, if we don’t think before destroying vast swathes of old growth forest, this wide, brown land will get browner. I almost went with “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit” as my placard, but there are fresh issues exclusive to our current government that urgently need addressing….even so, I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit. Just like with most of these issues, there’s heaps more to be said on this subject, but a couple of minutes and a browser window will find people better qualified to do so.
MEDIA BIAS This one is a new concern of mine; since I marched, in fact. Of course I’ve heard this cry for—to be completely honest—decades. But, until I marched with tens of thousands of other voters, didn’t know that this particular “whinge” was justified. And the frustrating thing is, now that I know about it, what can I do with that information? If you were at the marches, you’d already know what I’m talking about. And, if you weren’t, and miraculously heard about them anyway, there’s no way you’d believe me…I didn’t, until I saw it with my own eyes. Has it always been this bad, though; journalists using colleagues’ coverage as their only apparent source of information? They’re in the business, so they must know that a report is rarely the whole truth. I’m not ashamed about this, I’m embarrassed; of them and for them. Anyway, enough on that; we no longer need them.
So now you know some of the domestic issues that concern this ordinary Australian. I cannot give you one issue I care about the most, because I care about them all. And I am (as accused by several dissenters) asking for a handout, but not for myself, just for those who need it. And I acknowledge (as did my extremely polite placard, which never made it into any news report) that not all of our many problems can be laid at the feet of our current government; they’re just not helping, and (I believe) actually making things worse…and don’t they seem in a bloody big hurry to do so? That’s why I joined my second ever protest march, only months into this current government’s reign; they’re clearly trying very hard to quickly achieve an agenda that was kept from us at the last election.
And I’m not suggesting that you vote for the only other real option in a two party political system…research that term, if you haven’t already. I’m just asking you, begging you, to remember that the only real power we have is at the polling booth. Think, read, ask (“How?” and “Why?” are excellent places to start) and, above all, insist that your (because it’s no one else’s choice) candidate is worthy of your vote. And don’t stop doing so, even if it seems like you’re not making a difference. This is a democracy; only you can make a difference.