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A little more jaded but still valuing my vote



In 2016, when some of my friends told me they weren't going to vote in the federal election, I was aghast. How could they not? I was so keen to get voting that the night before the election, I made a Word document to practise the order of my preferences and memorised it.

Labor leader Bill Shorten raises a dismissive hand as Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes a point during the Leaders' Debate at the National Press Club on 8 May 2019. (Photo by Liam Kidston/News Corp Australia via Getty Images)Fast forward to last week, when I had a slight panic on the train because I couldn't remember which Saturday the election was held on and feared I had accidentally missed it.

Australian politics can be brutal and the past three years were no exception. We've had more dehumanising voting campaigns, more sex abuse coming to light, more climate inaction and somehow yet another prime minister.  

I know we've just had a month of election campaigning, but if you asked me to talk about specific campaign events, I would struggle a bit. This election cycle seems to me like an endless blur of Clive Palmer ads and social media scandals. I know the gist of the major policy proposals, but if I'm being honest, I overwhelmingly found myself tuning out.

In 2016, I was indignant at Bernie Finn's anti-trans and homophobic comments and the toxic debate surrounding Safe Schools. When I recently read that Scott Morrison was questioned on whether he believed gay people were going to hell and he gave a noncommittal answer (which he later revised), I thought of a John Mulaney quote from his comedy special New In Town: 'This might as well happen.' As a queer woman raised Catholic, I could explain how re-traumatising this type of commentary is to me, but I know that this is just another part of the continuing acceptance of public debates on the humanity of LGBTQ+ people; gay people going to hell can be framed as a legitimate political discourse now.

And while I'm glad that action to address climate change has come back the political forefront, I find it hard to read or hear about it without feeling a sense of hopeless climate anxiety.  I recently read a statement from the UN where the speakers remind the audience we only have 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change.

I can't help but do the maths. How many election cycles is that? What age will I be then? What about my younger cousins? With the limited amount of time we have, it's demoralising to hear the Coalition's so-called 'war on the weekend' and for Labor politicians to promise bold action on emissions but not commit to stopping the Adani mine.


"Politicians will inevitably disappoint us and political discourse only seems to be getting worse. But I still won't disconnect, even though sometimes I really want to."


Three years ago, in my first article for Eureka Street, I wrote about my experiences as a first-time voter. For months I researched and read and thought about Australian pre-election politics. It's twee, but I really felt the heaviness of democracy on my 18-year-old shoulders.

When I think about the current election however, I feel a lack of enthusiasm for voting that may stem from crushing experience, the general uninspired feel of these campaigns, or a combination of both.

One of the worst and best things about being a writer is that you're always writing from the now, developing your thoughts and opinions publicly. Some things I wrote years ago, I would write differently — or not at all — now. But as I read over the hopeful words of that earlier article, I'm reminded of my excitement to be part of the political process and my refusal to let cynicism take over.

In the closing paragraph, I said that 'I know that I can't afford to disconnect; if for nothing else, I need to vote for the people who can't.' This has always been true. Even though I sometimes forget it, I'm reminded by the words of the children who march at the School Strikes for Climate, and by Behrouz Boochani's recent piece on this election being an opportunity to vote for freedom and to 'fight indifference'.

The promise I made three years ago to stay engaged is much harder to keep than I knew at the time, but it is still worth upholding. Politicians will inevitably disappoint us and political discourse only seems to be getting worse. But I still won't disconnect, even though sometimes I really want to.

I will vote on Saturday, and on the rest of the election Saturdays. Perhaps not with the enthusiasm of a first-timer, but still with the memory of being that hopeful fresh in my mind.



Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

Main image: Labor leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Scott Morrison take part in the Leaders' Debate at the National Press Club on 8 May 2019. (Photo by Liam Kidston/News Corp Australia via Getty Images)

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, Election 2019, Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten, climate chance, Safe Schools



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Existing comments

There was a time not so long ago - maybe Before Hawke? - there were three taboo subjects at barbecue: Sex, Religion & Politics. Nowadays these three topics (after Sport) are staples in the Main Stream Media (in all its forms). When you can link these three taboos into one story you have hit the jackpot. With regard to Neve's article I'd suggest that the candidates standing for election have divided the taboos (not deliberately) according to their instincts - except for the Big Boys, ALP & LNP. These two have decided to slug it out in the sludge of evasion, grandiosity & obfuscation. Uninspiring.

Uncle Pat | 17 May 2019  

When I was 18 I was briefly excited about voting, but I never got around to registering. Never have since either. I guess I have never been connected, though nor have I accepted the platitude that this somehow forbids me from talking about politics. There is something heartwarming about the fact that the possibility of going to hell is back in the political discourse, I feel. Though I often defend religion, i'm sufficiently shaped by secularism to find the idea of an otherworldly beyond, in which punishment is meted out by a divine judge, barely fathomable. I'm actually in awe of the fact that people can earnestly believe this. A small part of me even wishes I could. I'm not sure if your disgust with this topic is a result of the fact that it has been brought up to score cheap political points, or if you are just upset that some people think it is true. At one time or other, I've fallen under each of the categories in the Izzy Falou text that started this - 'drunk, thief, atheist, homosexual, fornicator'. - yet, I take no offense whatsoever. I suppose i can't find it traumatizing because I can't find it credible. The only hell is here. Nonetheless, I remain rather touched someone cares enough about my possible damnation to provide me with a warning. As to the election, while i won't 'connect', I will certainly soak up some passive enjoyment, watching it on television. Elections make for fabulous television, perhaps even better than grand finals. And with the election and the game of thrones final both on in the space of a few days, it should, all in all, be a pretty good weekend of tv.

josh | 17 May 2019  

josh. Don't forget the Eurovision Song Contest finale and rugby/AFL also on his weekend. Should be a cracker - just as is your "no offence".

john frawley | 17 May 2019  

When I first attained the right to vote I had just turned twenty one. Three years earlier when I was not responsible enough to have this right to a say in the governing of the country I was deemed responsible enough to go to yet another of America's crazy wars in Vietnam under my country's banner! Thus I was a great supporter of making 18 the age when Australians were deemed adult enough to vote. One thing I have discovered, however, Neve is that the Australian electorate almost always gets it right. It seems that when our governments are appallingly bad we change them despite the sweets they hand out before the election. Don't worry too much, Neve. It's a bit like going to your favourite restaurant - you get bored with the same dishes over and over again and need to try something different. Sometimes you discover that the change is not as good and go back to the old one. A quick tally tells me I have voted in approx 40 elections and a handful of referendums and I haven't found much difference in all that time - the electorate usually gets it right. Lets hope it kicks out a few of the ratbags on both sides of politics particularly the climate change science deniers, those who seek to confine our freedoms and the rednecks from the deep north.

john frawley | 17 May 2019  

Thanks for your article Neve. When we look at poor political leadership in Australia and the apathy of many of our compatriots, it is very easy to become dejected and withdraw from it all. Given that we have had a government during the past three years that has been very dismissive of real environmental concerns, very generous to those who least need it and almost punitive towards those who are the most needing of support (ie hopeless on the issues of human rights and social justice), I think it is an imperative that people of goodwill vote in the 2019 elections. I was first eligible to vote in 1964 at the age of 21. The big issues were the Australian government support for the US war in Indochina and its tardiness to improve the lot of Aboriginal people. Very few people had concerns about the environment in those days - apart from a very enlightened minority. As an older bloke, I want to ensure that my grandchildren and the generations who follow them inherit an environment that supports their quality of life and the "web of life" in which we live. I also want to see a stronger move for leaders who think globally and work for peace, social justice, human rights, fair play between nations and an independent, free and non-aligned Australian republic.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 17 May 2019  

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