Be the hero we need!

A theme of the last few blogs has been not only highlighting some pretty severe failings in our society – the timing of which turned out to be quite poignant – but also offering ways to solve or mitigate the issues we face. In Tasmania, on May 1st we have one of the best opportunities we have for making a difference: A State Election.

Now I know many, if not most, of you will be one of the different colours of uninterested: Too busy to care, too lazy to care, mind already made up, a dislike in general for politics or you’re not eligible to vote. I would beseech all of you who are uninterested to do me the favour of just a few of your minutes to read about my thoughts and how they might bolster your resolve to become more informed and make a choice based on your strong convictions about the issues.

I am certainly guilty of abstaining from the democratic process and in fact got myself taken off the electoral roll when I went overseas as I was traveling during an election. Without too much informed thinking I decided both candidates were douches and I didn’t want to play. I proudly maintained my abstinence from the electoral roll for a number of years as a silly protest that no one cared about until I was fined and put back on it. Way to go, Dan, you stuck it right up them.

During that time I had a complete distrust and disinterest in politics and the politicians who made up our representatives. I lazily skimmed headlines and jumped to conclusions about how they were all the same and it didn’t matter what I voted for as the result would be the same – nothing would change. In effect I had created a self-fulfilling prophecy there.

As years passed though, there were issues which I cared deeply about and thought needed more attention. That, and one positive legacy of the Trump era is that it has reinvigorated people all over the world to re engage in the political process, either because it was suddenly entertaining or because they saw the results of what too much apathy had wrought.

The hard truth is, everything in life is politics. Engaged or unengaged, a cynic or an optimist, the world we live in every day has been crafted and runs through the democratically elected officials we put in charge of the whole show. So if you aren’t interested, that’s fine, but don’t complain about what happens. You have an opportunity to cast your vote for the vision you want for Tasmania and if you choose to waste it, you forfeit your right to be upset at the consequences. If you do exercise your right in an informed way and things are still crap, please complain loudly, that’s one of the other things we should do. Not only do we have the ability to choose who we put in charge but we have the ability to put pressure on them to do the things they say they’ll do. Ostensibly this is largely the jurisdiction of a free and independent media…but there’s a few issues with that in this country right now so we kind of have to dig a little deeper to get to the heart of things.

All of this is to say that I am now engaged in the political process to an extent that I can see what the consequences of my vote are. There are things I care a lot about and to hold true to those beliefs means that I should treat my vote with the respect that the strength of those beliefs confers. If I throw away my vote I am admitting that my strong beliefs are more like window dressing – there’s no real substance.

I hope you have understood and agree that for the small amount of time it takes to become informed enough to vote according to your strongly held convictions is worth it. You don’t have to do all the research yourself – there are people paid quite handsomely who will do that for you. All you need to do is find the appropriate sources and spend a few minutes to make up your mind.

I would encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bath water though. I’ll explain why in a moment as I will go through the reasons for why I am voting the way I am below – but in short, no political party or politician is going to tick all of the boxes. You won’t agree with every single thing that a candidate stands for and against – they themselves may have had to make some compromises to further their overarching agenda which they believe will do the greatest good. Don’t aim for perfect, aim for the best option you can find. We want to move the needle towards better and if we do that’s a win. Becoming disillusioned because no one is good enough means we go nowhere or the other direction. We can use Darwinism on our politicians. We will select for the ones who more and more resemble the values we hold and over time they will reflect them more and more strongly. In fact it is disinterest and unengaging from the process which has left us with what I would politely call a shambles on a national level.

I’ll go through how I’m voting and why below and provide the resources I used to make my decision and hopefully reading this will help your vote become a more articulate voice for your values on the 1st of May.

It’s important to note that there are two ways to go about voting. Above the line(ATL) and Below the line(BTL). ATL is the more simple version and all you need to do is tick which party is your preferred party. BTL voting shows you a list of candidates in your division and you will number them by preference. It’s also important to note that when you vote ATL your vote gets cast according to the party preference of the party you voted for (within their own party) – which may not be as reflective of your values as if you had chosen the candidates individually. BTL voting is more granular and enables your vote to be more in line with your values and I would strongly encourage you to vote BTL. It is by far the less common choice though as in 2016 in Tasmania 71.88% of people voted ATL. Encouragingly this has fallen from its peak in 2007 of 84.17%. Even more encouragingly, Tasmania has by a significant margin the lowest level of ATL voting in Australia – the next closest being the ACT at 84.82% (see here).

Update: The above section is not completely reflective of the way voting will work in this state election, as I have been helpfully informed by Matt of Facebook fame. I have quoted him here as he explains it all quite well: “It’s worth noting that ATL voting doesn’t exist for voting in our state elections. Your preferences are always entirely up to you. Your ballot paper will instruct you to number at least five boxes. I would encourage everyone to number more. ATL voting is something you will see on the senate paper at the next federal election. However, since the 2016 election, parties only get to determine preferences within their own party, not between parties. This means voting ATL now requires you to select multiple boxes/parties.”

A further note, all parties are making promises about all the things they will do if elected. A lot of us have become jaded and tend to tune out to these promises as we have a notion that politicians tend to blow hot air and only make these promises to look good leading up to an election and tend to backflip on them as soon as they are in the chair. While there are plenty of high profile examples of this being entirely accurate, research suggests that overall, politicians do tend to keep the promises they make (see this article for more) – more so at a local level than a federal level. A secondary point to that, local and state elections are the elections that will most affect you, so even though they are harder to find information on and far more boring they deserve your attention as you will directly feel the ramifications of the results.

With all of that said, I am in the Clark division so will get to vote for those candidates (a list of the candidates in each division can be found here). The most useful resource I have found for determining which party and candidates to vote for is the ABC article spelling out the promises of each of the major parties (see here).

Some of the highlights for me:

  • Liberals have not made a single promise on climate change that has made its way to this article – The Greens policy promises are extremely detailed and Labor has made some token offerings
  • Greens have by far the most expansive policy promises for easing the housing burden on low income and at risk populations
  • Greens have no policy promises in Education, Transport, Infrastructure, Primary industry, Sport/Rec, Arts and Entertainment or Tourism
  • Both Liberal and Labor have extensive policy promises for Health – of particular importance to me is the $40m Labor has promised to provide mental health workers in every primary and secondary public school across the state.
  • However it leaves a foul taste in my mouth that Labor have also promised parasitic organisation Speak Up, Stay ChatTY $1.35m to do nothing.
  • Most of the Sport/Rec promises from both parties are to do with fishing which seems to me to be a disproportional amount and smells…fishy. I would suspect lobby groups might be at the heart of this.
  • No Transport promises from any party to address anything in the South of the state. This time the smell is of pork…barrelling.
  • Ditto for Primary industries
  • The Greens policy promises on energy seem to be the most well thought out and in line with international standards on energy creation and consumption. Next to nothing from either major party.
  • In the Liberals health promises they specify they will increase access to medicinal cannabis and allow GP prescriptions

The points I have highlighted are what I view as the critical issues in the state to me. There are many more of course but this is enough information on the values of all three parties for me to make up my mind on which way I will be voting. There is always a choice though. Do I vote for the party which most epitomises my values? In this case the Greens. Before you roll your eyes let me explain why: The climate crisis is the most pervasive and important issue in our lifetimes and time is up. We need drastic, sweeping action to have any chance of getting within a sniff of the levels needed by 2050 to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. Every single issue takes a back seat to that. Your negative gearing and pokies don’t matter if your house and hotel are on fire.

The other choice is to vote for the party which roughly correlates with my values but has more of a chance to win power and therefore can achieve the outcomes they promised: Labor. This is the dilemma. My answer is clear though. As I said, the climate crisis is the most important issue for the human species. Labor doesn’t go far enough in their promises to tackle it. Therefore even if they have no chance of winning a majority, if the Green party can hold the balance of power, it gives them a massive platform to hold the major parties to account on climate issues and help us set the example for other states to follow and hopefully nationally as well.

The Green candidates will be getting my primary votes, then I will preference Labor, Sue Hickey and all the other miscellaneous parties before the Liberals. I find that the Liberals have a number of policy promises I support however they are not doing anywhere near enough on the issues I care most about – couple that with the fact they have the most support and I need to use my vote to make sure I have them at the bottom of the ticket. If I vote ATL I don’t have a say in how my preferences shake out and it is important to me not just who I place at the top of my preferences but who I place at the bottom. Not because I hate the Liberal party (at least locally) but because they will least reflect the values I want in an elected parliament which means I need to give the best chance to my preferred candidates by giving them high preference and my least preferred candidates low preference.

If you read all the way to here, congratulations. This may be one of my more bland topics but I think it is vitally important. Even if you completely disagree with my choices, I hope that you at least take the time to more fully consider yours and put your most accurate vote in on election day. No matter your flavour of disinterest at the moment, even if you can’t vote, I urge you to become a little more involved in the process so you can make a more informed vote and/or help the people around you make a more informed choice with theirs. If enough people do that, anything is possible.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it like 6 times now and it applies here as well. If you TLDR’d to the bottom for the punch line; when it comes to voting on May 1:

#trynottobeadick

References:

https://tec.tas.gov.au/House_of_Assembly_Elections/StateElection2021/HAElection21Candidates-Clark.html

https://www.aec.gov.au/about_aec/research/files/sbps-atl-and-btl-voting.pdf

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-15/do-election-promises-still-matter/100067792

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-06/tasmanian-election-promise-tracker-liberal-labor-greens-policy/100036130