Is democracy the best form of government?
Is it just me or does everyone hope the marriage equality survey will do democracy a favour?
Almost 900 thousand new people enrolled to vote in July and August, giving us the largest electoral roll in Australian history.
It will be interesting to see how many new enrollments are young people. At last count, the enrolment rate for Australians aged 18 to 24 was just 85.4% compared with 98.5% for over 60s.
Like everyone, I am dismayed by Canberra. Disillusioned by party politics and disgusted by corruption, opportunism and mismanagement.
But I still believe democracy is the best system of government there is. Not everyone agrees.
A survey led by the University of Canberra found just 42 percent of Australians believe democracy is a superior system of government. It’s even lower among millennials.
The same survey found trust in the political process at its lowest ebb in more than two decades. That is fair enough but it doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I don’t just blame politicians for this toxic impasse because as voters we are narrow minded and reactionary. Absolutely any plan put forward by the government or the opposition is immediately torched with cries of ‘What about the homeless?’ The homeless need all the help they can get but if you read the comments section you would think the government has no other responsibility.
In the past Australians proudly chose a political side. Like a footy team, we were largely supportive, prepared to accept the good and the bad.
These days, we have everything we want at our fingertips and bizarrely that makes us are harder to please. Despite the fact we enjoy the highest standard of living in the world, absolutely no government achievement is celebrated. We don’t see political parties as movements deserving of our loyalty but brands we love to punish.
Australians say they want to stop the churn of political leaders and see more long-term planning but we don’t vote that way. I think we’re sending our kids a very unhealthy message. Young people have no qualms telling me they refuse to vote. What they don’t realise is that abstention just makes them irrelevant.
If future generations never adopt the voting habit, turnout will fall further, weakening the legitimacy of elected governments. If you don’t like the current political churn, take a moment to imagine that world.
So here is to the one positive I can find in a marriage equality survey. There is a chance we have mobilised the young voters of Australia. The plebiscite will prove to them their vote counts and with luck they will engage with politics and help to keep the bastards honest.
Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” He was right.