In Australia when you turn 16 you can leave home, have a baby (even though many do earlier), get a job, pay tax, have sex, be a supermodel and drive a potentially deadly vehicle, but you don’t have the right to vote for your future.
I consider this to be an outrageously inconsistent part of our democracy. While it seems spooky that our legislators see fit to make the age requirements for the ballot the same as for the battlefield, perhaps this is just part of creating the mythology of nation building.
It’s like saying you’re grown up now, we want to exploit you and take your money and we want to control you by not allowing you to be an (inter)active part of the system. It would be like getting picked for a sports team, allowed only to train but never to play a game – pretty bloody frustrating, really. No wonder there is a certain sense of alienation and lack of interest within certain camps of our younger Australians, especially towards politics.
Compulsory civics in school should go hand in hand with compulsory voting. However, it’s in the interest of governments to have a malleable blob of swinging and vulnerable voters, easily swayed with emotional wedge politics and personal threats. Just imagine if people knew more about our political system and made sense of the smoke and mirrors.
Collective irresponsibility has always been a thorn in my kick flares, and our current system supports it. Imagine people walking in public with a sense of community, putting cigarette butts in ashtrays, feeling concerned for the welfare of others and the environment in which they live. Sounds like a fantasy in these selfish and narcissistic times. Imagine if we thought we could make a change by our own individual actions. Whoops, I think my potent HIV meds are talking!
At a recent AIDS conference I attended in Sri Lanka I was struck by many interesting questions about Australia. Several people thought our indigenous Australians had a set proportion of seats in our parliament, considering they lost their land and culture to an invading one. It made me realise how great the government is, especially the current one, in whitewashing the bad and overselling the so-called good. A tired and exasperated bunch of locals and a none-the-wiser international community get a very warped picture of what is really going on.

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