Sunday, 10 July 2016

Your cynicism is a luxury we can’t afford: why I’m voting Labor

Extract from Labor Herald

Keir Paterson • 1st July 2016Source: Facebook/TerriButler

Today, we’ll see the introduction of the biggest improvement to disability services – 40 years in the making – ever implemented in Australia. The next day we’ll vote, and hear the tired old refrain that politics doesn’t change anything…but in fact it does, says Keir Paterson.
On 2 July, we will all go and vote (if we haven’t already).
Yes, all of us, because unlike the US where only half of all eligible people vote, or the UK where a large majority don’t, voting in Australia is compulsory. I get cranky when I hear people complain about being forced to vote.
“The least you can do with your Saturday is collect a ballot and eat a sausage.”
Thaddeus Moore died for your right to vote, shot by soldiers at the Eureka Stockade at the age of 21. Emily Davison died at the feet of King George V’s horse to bring attention to the cause of universal suffrage.
The least you can do with your Saturday is collect a ballot and eat a sausage.
It has become fashionable to say that politics doesn’t matter and that politicians are all the same. In our inner city enclaves, with good jobs, health care, housing and education, we have the luxury of believing that politics won’t affect us. We treat politics as a joke, and politicians with derision and often contempt. I’m guilty of it too.
I’ve watched all four seasons of The Thick of It twice, and probably sat through the Malcolm Tucker swear-filled highlight reels half a dozen times. I laughed along at David Tennant reading out brilliantly insulting Scottish tweets at Donald Trump. I shared the Bronwyn Bishop chopper memes. I’ve created a few political memes that were, if not viral, at least mildly contagious.
But I’ve met a lot of politicians, and even more political staffers, and with a few un-noteworthy exceptions, they were all decent people who have spent most of their lives at (often unpaid) work in the interests of a better society.
I may not agree with what that better society looks like in every instance, but they were all genuine in their beliefs and diligent in their efforts.
“A protest vote might soothe my middle class conscience, but it won’t change the government.”
On Saturday, you get to choose who will run the show for the next few years. I don’t mind who you vote for (ok, actually I do), but make it an informed choice.
All the parties are not the same.
In fact, contrary to the common conceit, the major parties aren’t even that close. Cases in point: one party will introduce a marriage equality bill as its first piece of legislation, the other wants to spend $160m on a plebiscite which won’t even bind its own MPs. One party is spending $37b on education, the other is spending $50b on a business tax cut. One party has a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, the other tried to abolished the Clean Energy Finance Corporation while in government. One party has pledged to increase foreign aid and almost double Australia’s annual refugee intake, the other can only repeat “stop the boats”.
As I’ve written previously, registering a protest might soothe my middle class conscience, but it won’t change the government.
Today, we’ll see the commencement of the biggest reform to disability services ever implemented in Australia, which will transform the lives of people with severe disabilities, 45 per cent of whom live in poverty in Australia.
“That’s what voting is: the power to change lives.”
It’s an area I care about, partly because my Dad had a lifelong and severe physical disability. Although it didn’t impact his ability to work in his chosen profession (despite having to overcome discrimination), many aren’t so lucky. But I’d like to think I would care about it anyway, because it affects the kind of society we live in, and our children will inherit.
Annabel Crabb said it better than I could, but if you’re cynical about politics, today should give you pause. Unlike Boris Johnson, I do care what experts think. I know exactly three people who properly understand disability care and how it works and…it’s complicated. But those people have told me that it will transform lives, giving people with severe disabilities the power to choose the services and resources they need and when they need them.
So if you voted for Whitlam in ’74, or Rudd in ’07 or Gillard in 2010, you had a part in changing people’s lives. It sounds cheesy, and a little too earnest, but that’s what voting is.
“I’ll spend all day at a polling booth volunteering, scrutineering and voting for Labor.”
The power to change lives.
On Saturday, I’ll spend all day at a polling booth volunteering, scrutineering and voting for Labor. I want my vote to elect the type of government that is prepared to spend years – decades even – on the type of difficult reforms that change lives for the better, and society for the better.
How you cast your vote is up to you, but don’t say it doesn’t matter. It’s lazy and it’s a lie.

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