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Teen voter avoids fine from the Australian Electoral Commission



In ten days I will cast a vote for the first time. Well, technically.

My first time should have been in the local elections on the 27th October last year, and as a result, I owe the Electoral Commission $100.

Not a great start.

However on 7 September I will finally be able to have my say in the formation of government. Something I am very excited about.

Even though I’ve never been fond of politicians, I must admit that – unlike many teenagers my age – I do take an interest in political affairs.

I’m aware of the parties, the figureheads and their rarely mentioned policies. I know how parliament works and occasionally watch political shows on the ABC. My brother has told me that this is ‘really sad’. By his admission he doesn’t even care.

His views reflect those of most people our age. The civic apathy, the disengagement and the disillusionment are all common themes amongst the latter part of Gen Y. Many of my friends have conscientiously chosen not to enrol to vote as they see it as a ‘waste of time’ and do not care the slightest about politics. Even those who are enrolled plan on casting an informal vote, or unbeknown to them, a valid ‘donkey vote’.

This undermines the whole process as my vote may be effectively cancelled out by the vote of an ignorant or uninterested voter.

Their ignorance is usually by choice, and frankly, I do not blame them.

I consider myself rather informed, and even I’m lost. I’ve never really had a strong political preference, and ten days out from the election, I still do not know how I am going to vote.

I look to the papers and watch the news for guidance, but they all work to serve different agendas. The media plays a pivotal role during the campaign, and if you look carefully enough, they usually bat for one side. Quirks and gaffes are the focus, policies are unheard of and we see photos with more babies than I thought existed in Australia. What is it about politicians holding babies?

Issues are 'discussed' although you can only hear so much of the same.

Same-sex marriage is in the news and has been for as long as I can remember. The fact is that it is in the public interest and theoretically a democratic government should discuss it.

‘Stopping the boats’ has also been an issue for a very long time and both major parties lose my vote on their so called ‘solutions’.

Another issue is the state of our economy, which many first time voters do not have a clue about. Australia is still one of the largest capitalist economies in the world, so we must be doing something right.

Other serious issues which I believe should be discussed include Indigenous affairs, starting with recognising Indigenous people as Australia’s first inhabitants in the Constitution. There is also online gambling, cyber bullying, organ donor registration, reducing family and female violence, and action on binge drinking.

Politics is all too much for a first time voter, and I keep asking myself who do I vote for?

Many people vote the same way as their parents. However mine are voting differently this coming election.

Do I vote Labor? They have proved to be unstable, untrustworthy and inhumane towards asylum seekers?

Do I vote Greens or another minority party? Minority parties are unlikely to have majority power in the next twenty years. Also I don’t think many people can cope with another minority government.

Or do I vote Liberal? Their leader has commented on ‘sex appeal’, on homosexuality as a fad, and has confused the term ‘repository’ with something that is inserted into the rectum. All of this was said in three days. Imagine three years.

Living in a safe Labor seat, I often think it does not really matter which way I vote. Kelvin Thomson has been our MP since I was a toddler and will continue to be after this election.

It’s scary that in ten days, we first-time voters will be able to cast our votes as to who we believe best reflect our values and beliefs.

Voting will be better than receiving a fine in the mail from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Ten days. I guess that means ten days to figure out who I dislike less.

Nadine RabahNadine Rabah is sports journalism student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, and is a football umpire on weekends. She was awarded Third Prize in the 2011 Margaret Dooley Award for this essay.

Image: aec.gov.au

Topic tags: Nadine Rabah, AEC, voting, election, politics



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Existing comments

It is interesting to see the views of our teenagers on the election game. After all politics and politicians are very complicated.

Fida Rabah | 27 August 2013  

Hi Nadine, We are lucky in Wills to have Kelvin Thomson who was the first Federal member in Parliament to advocate an increase in refugees from 13,750 to 20,000 (see Moreland Leader article on 16 November 2009) a policy which Labor and the Greens later adopted.

Alexander | 27 August 2013  

You are not alone in your confusion. I too understand our political system and voting has always been important to me. I have been voting for 20 years but this year I just want to boycott the election. We are not being provided with leaders to respect and be proud of or policies I would like to encourage.

Ruth | 27 August 2013  

As an oldie, I share your frustration, Nadine. But a vote for a minority party is not a wasted vote - two good reasons are that: 1] it encourages the candidate to continue their political pressure on the two old parties, and 2] minority candidates/parties get electoral funding if they receive over 4% of first preferences to help pay for their campaign. So, even if they won't win the seat, minority parties still win with your 1 vote.

Vote for the Minority | 28 August 2013  

Not only was she the school captain of my primary school, she could just as well be the Prime Minister of Australia.

Louis | 28 August 2013  

Australia has sadly arrived at a position where citizens vote on personality not policy, because the media is mostly owned by Coalition moguls that trivialise the issues and detract from real political critique and discourse. The issues that young people are most concerned about seem to not be acknowledged, addressed or even deemed worthy of discussion in this campaign...which the major parties will realise hopefully at their peril. Unfortunately, many first time voters do not remember the prejudices of the Howard years and that Abbott is cut from the same cloth of moral crusading in a domain that is essentially a social science and therefore requires evidence based policy.

Jef Fluent | 28 August 2013  

Federal Labour in Queensland has been labouring what bad choices Campbell Newman has done since he came to power. What will happen if Tony Abbot is elected as well? I trust Queenslanders remember the financial condition that Labour left Queensland in. What I fear is Labour losing the election and the incoming Government discovering that the Nation is bankrupt. Can’t happen. Can it?

Townsville Fred | 28 August 2013  

Like Nadine I haven't decided who is getting my top vote. I do know the three that are going down the bottom, just haven't decided in what order,

Townsville Fred | 28 August 2013  

Hi Nadine, as a father of a first time voter I definitely agree with your article. I will be sure to show it to my son who is in the same boat as yourself.

Brent | 30 August 2013  

Great article! It will be my first time as a voter too, and just like you, I am still unsure on whether who I'm going to be voting for in 8 days or so now. Lets just hope I figure out who to vote for before then!

Daniella | 30 August 2013  

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