It will be my first and certainly not my last vote, as a new Australian citizen I have now accepted that voting in this country is compulsory (that means mandatory, for you Americans). I think Birdie said something like it’s a $299 fine for not voting today, or something of that nature.
I’ve been taking in the politics since I came here and I think that Birdie has really explained the system best to me, being that I’m from the U.S.: The American political system of “Democrat” and “Republican” is like north and south, where as the Australian system is more like east and west. They certainly in no way align. It makes it difficult for me especially since the parties in Australia are called “Labour” and “Liberal” – I looked at this and just at first glance thought “ah ha! Liberal – that’s me”. But were we think of left and right as two different ends of the spectrum of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ minded – “Liberal” does not mean the same thing here in Australia. In general what I can see is that we have many different topics for discussion in Australia and some things that are big ticket issues in the U.S. have no meaning here or are real non-issues in Australia. Abortion and gay marriage, for example, are non-issues, I don’t think anyone here really cares too much about opposing these issues and so they just aren’t what our politicians focusing on. Top ten major issues here, in no particular order:
1. Immigration /Asylum Seekers (In the last 34 years [from 1st January 1976 to 30th April 2010] we have had a total of 23,024 people come by boat to Australia seeking asylum, yes small in comparison to the U.S. however the population of Australia is only the same as the state of California)
2. Paid maternity leave for mothers AND fathers
3. Baby Bonus (overturned last year, each baby earned a family $6000+)
4. Childcare facilities and adequate staff
5. Education (school and university teachers wages and schools levels of performance)
6. Ease on affordable housing (before we’ve had a home owners grant for first time buyers that was quite effective) – but also to release more government owned land for building
7. Taxes (of course – currently there has been the threat of a tax on our lucrative mining industry)
8. Troops in Afghanistan
9. The building of a National Broadband Network
10. Climate Change
Only some of the issues, but some of the major ones. Doesn’t sound like we have a lot to worry about… and you’re probably right. Sometimes I think that people here have no idea really how good they have it. In 2000 Australia had a rate of 16% homicides with firearms (only legal here for hunting), as opposed to the whopping 65% in America. It’s really just a different kettle of fish.
And back to the voting structure, it’s definitely different from what I am used to. Not only the parties, but the voting structure – basically you don’t cast a vote for the Prime Minister, you cast your vote for the local party or representative of the Senate and Congress in your area. A vote for your local rep is a vote for the party and translates all the way up to the office of Prime Minister. This has been a very difficult thing for me to grasp, so what if you don’t like the local party representative and what they are doing but you do like their party candidate for Prime Minister, or vise versa. OH! My head is aching. I’ve taking a different route this year, and although some may not agree I have gone with a non-party party. I don’t usually share my vote but this year I have voted Green. They do share a lot of my views, however, because they are not a major party and have no chance of winning they are able to transfer their votes to the party of their choice (which I believe happens to be Labour).
As for the major candidates…
We have our first ever female Prime Minister – Julia Gillard. She’s the Labour’s candidate. Her party has been in office for a while and her party ousted our previous Prime Minister – Kevin Rudd to put Julia in office. Kevin made a few mistakes, and so did the party, we can go into that later.
On the other end we have the Liberal party candidate Tony Abbott. Tony hasn’t had the most successful of political careers. He might have been a good candidate until he pushed forward his Christian beliefs onto the campaign trail… something that here isn’t really looked highly upon. Mainly because we are a very religiously diverse country, but also it is a non-issue. I think he would have done much better just leaving it out religious beliefs.
So I headed off to the polling booth this morning with Birdie, at our local secondary school (elementary) and queued (lined) up to cast our vote. As with most polling stations there was a ‘sausage sizzle’ going on and although the line was long, it was quick. Different from home I found it funny that you could put up posters on the voting grounds for your candidate and basically hand out literature all the way up to the door to vote. Very interesting experience for me.
I found this great thing online today, it asks you opinions on the major Australian issues and then tells you who you should be voting for. Give it a try!
Explained: How the Australian federal voting system works
I gave it a shot and, low and behold I came up with a match to my vote today.
…AND ON TO SHOPPING
As you know we have finished our renovations in the master bedroom, en-suite master bath, and laundry. We’ve been doing our final touches and getting the last bits we need to complete before we move on to our next project.
Last week we finished the flooring and had our new bedroom and walk-in closed carpeted, it is so much warmer in there now. Some have said, oh beautiful hardwood floors, and yes that is true HOWEVER, the entire house has hardwood and the break in the bedroom has been a very welcome change. Here’s some before and after shots:
We found our new double front doors today, and found a beautiful bedroom set for our master bedroom. Our current set will go down in our guest room / apartment downstairs for visitors. The new set is a King – finally no more dog kicking me in the back, and no, I’m not talking about Birdie. I took some pictures our our final touches.
Once everything is in it’s place I’ll take some pictures of the finished rooms to post. Hope you have enjoyed coming along for our renovation ride, I don’t plan to do it again. When we build our new kitchen next year, we’re gonna be hiring a crew! Renovations are hard on the back!
Health and Recovery
I have been moving forward, finally off my chemo drugs for a couple months now and going well. I’ve been working on ridding my life of stress and focusing on life, my life, what I enjoy, my work and career, and thinking about family – a family, a family for us. Good news is that my doctors have given me a green light to do start to get ready to try IVF. We’re gonna give it a go, so fingers crossed that it all works out for us. I don’t think I can hang on for the 5+ year wait for adoption in this country so this could be our last opportunity. Your blessings and wishes for us are welcome! Unfortunately the chemo drugs have completely wiped out my egg supply so we have carefully selected a wonderful person in our lives to be our egg donor – we are very very excited.