Always value your right to vote

31 March 2022

“In Australia, we don’t have politics like they have in many other countries. In between elections, Australians basically just get on with their lives … and I actually like that about Australia.” – Scott Morrison

It’s deeply concerning that Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, ‘likes’ that many Australians aren’t interested in politics.

When I talk to voters, what upsets me the most is not hearing they support another candidate, but exactly that – ‘no thanks, I’m not interested in politics’. Because it is through politics or, more correctly, democracy, that we as a society make the decisions that affect our lives – on health, education, our social safety net, our environment, the taxes we pay and how they are spent.

I understand many say this because ‘politics’ is often presented as games, clever marketing and people shouting at each other in question time. I think it is incumbent on all politicians to change this view and build trust in our democracy. But the ‘games’ are not the reason why most people get involved in politics – at the grassroots level through to those in the Parliament.

Last Saturday, I launched my campaign with Senator Katy Gallagher and Labor’s Senate candidate Maddy Northam, joined by many of our volunteers and supporters. Labor is a grassroots movement of people who come together to seek change. It is the conversations, the shoe leather, and the generous donations of people like those at my launch who change governments and change the country.

In 2007, I joined the Labor Party because I wanted to join the fight against the Howard Government’s destruction of the things that made Australia a relatively egalitarian society, fair wages and our social safety net.  I volunteered on every election campaign and got involved in our branch policy committees. After 12 years of that involvement, I had the privilege to run in a democratic preselection, and to represent the great Australian Labor Party as a candidate. The greatest privilege of all has been to represent the people of Canberra as their Federal Member of Parliament for the past three years.

My first political lesson was my mother telling me that you must always value your right to vote, because so many people around the world are dying for that same right. Tragically, we continue to see this today including in Ukraine as people fight to protect their democracy.

Russian-born American journalist Julia Ioffe recently said: “The Ukrainians have had (democracy) for a couple decades and look how hard they’re fighting for it … I think we tend to take it for granted and … we’re complacent about it.”

I want to thank Nige Johnson from 106.3 for playing her comments in full, which I heard as I drove to a mobile office in Kaleen, and reminding me just why those conversations are so important.

The federal election campaign will see thousands of volunteers from all sides of politics spruiking their candidate’s vision for Australia. No matter which candidate they represent, they deserve our respect, because their work is part of our democracy.