Australians take pride in being plain-spoken people. So why do we pussyfoot around when it comes to voting? Take a dekko at this morning’s Newspoll of voting intention. It doesn’t include a “don’t know”. All it has is a polite footnote that states “six per cent ‘uncommitted’ and three per cent ‘refused’ [and were] excluded”.
What really happened is that close to one-in-ten Australians of voting age either told Newspoll’s poor callers to go, er, and plant seed in their boot or mouthed goldfish noises down the line – or every permutation in between. It’s a fair bet a good proportion of these simply didn’t care. This, of course, is a deeply subversive thought. We always think of our electoral system as one based on compulsory voting. It actually demands compulsory enrolment. While the Electoral Commission would like to see you fill in the ballot papers, technically it’s fine just to have your name on the list, get it crossed off, collect the forms, o off and turn them into origami.
Today is the day that enrolments close for July 2. The Electoral Commission is in a tizz. Ninety-four per cent of us are apparently already on the roll, but it’s still warning us “that leaves approximately 950 000 eligible Australians who are not currently enrolled to vote in the 2016 federal election.”
The worthier websites have been cranking up their own campaigns. “Enrol To Vote, Because 1 Million Australians Haven’t,” the Huffington Post proclaimed a fortnight ago in its best “Don’t forget your hankie, dear” tone. By Friday it was shouting “Reminder: Enrol To Vote Right Now! It Closes On Monday”, warning “enrolling to vote is super important”.
The house magazine of gussied-up and dumbed-down academia, The Conversation, has been even more enthusiastic. “Lecturers: encourage your students to enrol and vote in the election” it proclaimed in almost North Korean tones before going off and indulging in a little hand-wringing with “Many young people aren’t enrolled to vote – but are we asking them the wrong question?”
Fairfax and the ABC have been equally fearful for da’ yoof. “Half of Australia’s 18 year-olds will not vote in this election,” 7.30 fretted 10 days ago while the Sydney Morning Herald decided to report matters sunnyside-up: “Two teenagers behind an initiative to get more young people involved in the political process say Gen Y isn’t as politically apathetic as many like to believe.”
Keeping up the finger-nail chewing, The Conversation claimed,
“One study of Year 12 students and non-students across Australia found most young people enrol to vote because they consider it the right thing to do, but only half reported they would vote if voting was not compulsory … Many viewed political leaders as dishonest and untrustworthy … Another survey published in 2014 identified feelings of powerlessness about the democratic process … Previous studies found young people see “career politicians” as distant. Some young people struggle to differentiate political parties from their members.”
Gosh. In other words youngsters are swallowing the “everything is rotten, we’re all being repressed” rubbish spouted by their teachers, their lecturers, Fairfax and the ABC and, as a result (gasp!), not enrolling to vote.
“The 18- to 24-year-old demographic has the worst numbers on voter enrolment,” the ABC reported this morning. “Nearly half of all 18-year-olds, and a total of nearly 350,000 young people, are not enrolled to vote.”
Well, now we know why – or at least have an explanation why a good chunk aren’t on the roll. As for the rest, here’s hoping they’re doing what young people are always supposed to do: bBreaking the rules.