Canberrans are some of the most politically engaged people in the country, but after witnessing the unedifying behaviour of our political leaders in recent years, combined with the hype of this campaign season, most of us are relieved that we are almost at the end of it.
While there is generally a high level of frustration and disillusionment about the state of politics, it has become very clear that this is an election that really matters. For the first time in many years, there are significant choices to be made about how this country moves forward over the next three years. And here in the ACT with electoral lines redrawn, there are different ways to make our vote count.
If the conversations happening on the sidelines of the soccer matches, the social BBQs or in the packed halls of the candidates’ forums is anything to go by, Canberrans are taking the election seriously. People are hungry for information and keen to cut through the spin. People want to get a clear understanding of where parties stand and what they plan to do over this critical next few years.
It is great to see that a range of advocacy organisations are undertaking analysis to give people a picture of exactly what the parties are saying and promising. While many of these organisations have clear advocacy agendas, they are separated from party politics and can, therefore, give a different perspective of what the parties are offering. The emergence of a range of ‘scorecards’ from these community advocacy organisations and others is an alternative way to test the accuracy of party claims.
Many people are calling this the climate election. With recent reports highlighting the accelerating extinction of species across the globe, and the fact that we have less than twelve years to turn around climate change, this is no surprise. Here in the ACT, the Legislative Assembly is currently debating the need to declare a climate emergency. One of the starkest scorecards released has been that of the Australian Conservation Foundation, which showed a huge variation in how our major parties have responded to this issue. This is complemented by the Climate Health Alliance, made up of a broad range of medical practitioners associations and community groups, who have compiled their own scorecard of how commitments will protect the health of Australians in a changing climate.
Last week, we found out via the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) that are almost 37,000 people living on a low income in the ACT and 26,000 are living below the poverty line. Those most at risk are on Newstart, Youth Allowance and related poverty. As a progressive community who cares deeply about inequality, poverty, and disadvantage, this is a very confronting finding. Many of us are deeply distressed about the impact of asking people to survive on a poverty payment that has not risen in real terms in more than 20 years. If you want to know where the parties stand on this issue, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), who has been spearheading the Raise the Rate campaign, have released a party tracker to assist people in seeing where the major parties sit on this.
There are many Canberrans who care deeply about the issue of gender equity and violence against women. The Women’s electoral lobby has released their scorecard on how the major parties fare in relation to policies and initiatives that promote gender equality and eliminating violence against women. If you care about digital rights, digital rights watch has released their own scorecard.
No matter how you vote, make sure you understand how you can use your preferences to make your vote count. If you need more information, the AEC provides the opportunity to practice voting, and election guru Antony Green has provided this explainer.
Where have you found useful information about the policies of parties and candidates standing in this election?
Rebecca is an active member of the ACT Greens and stood as a candidate in the 2016 Territory election. She has served on the Boards of ACTCOSS and ACOSS and is a previous deputy CEO of ACOSS.