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Optional voting

By Greg Lees - posted Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Recently Malcolm Fraser, contributing to refugee week, "criticised both major parties for playing politics with asylum seekers and for chasing what he calls "redneck votes". He explained Labor's current position  as "...the party decided that the Liberals had ripped enough redneck votes out of the Labor Party, and they weren't going to let them rip anymore," he said.  ABC News 25/06/11

It is my understanding of "redneck" to be a somewhat small minded bigot, a term imported from the United States where it referred to those in the Southern states who were opposed to civil rights. This reference has over time been colourfully embellished to paint a caricature of grass stalk chewing hillbillies, married to their sisters, illiterate and largely ignorant of the world around them. Such is the TV comic stereotype.

More generally applied, the diluted version of 'redneck'  as I understand its application in a contemporary Australia, is similar to the 'bogan' which I think the stereotype holds as undereducated, low skilled, selfishly small minded, and xenophobic. Was it this character who rampaged during the Cronulla race riot in 2005? Is this the character both parties are courting with their harsh treatment of refugees?


If it is, then is there one more attribute that can be added to my defined bogan? If I can add apathy and by inference political disengagement, would bogans vote if there was no compulsory voting? I assert they would not bother to vote.  And in their not bothering to vote, the political discourse would be changed because their vote would no longer be sought.

Therefore, if one wished Labor and the Coalition to cease the contest about who is the meanest bad ass immigration cop, reintroduce optional voting. It would be simple and easy to accomplish. No referendum required, just a vote in parliament to reintroduce that former freedom we used to enjoy until was removed in 1923.

Some would say that this move would disenfranchise the poor and uneducated, but nothing is being taken away from anyone. Everyone is still free to vote. Indeed something would be added to society, one new freedom, itself a rare thing. When almost all legislation is about adding restrictions to our behaviors and further controlling our lives, in essence diminishing our freedoms, this move would actually return a small freedom to us. 

The improvement this would bring would be an elevation of political discourse that would benefit some refugees in particular, voters in general and the country as a whole.

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About the Author

Greg Lees was born in Bendigo and educated there, majoring in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. He is now retired and 'settled' in Melbourne for the last four years, after much travelling in this country and overseas.

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