Tomorrow is a big day for me and an even bigger one for Britain. Tomorrow I am voting in two elections. I will vote in the upcoming federal elections in Australia and in the EU referendum where Britain will choose to leave or remain in the European Union. I am entitled to vote as I am a citizen of both countries.
The process of exercising your democratic right is very different in Australia and the UK. Despite borrowing liberally from the Westminster system of government, Australia has a unique way of managing its political system. I find it fascinating to compare the two.
How voting differs in the UK and Australia
There are many differences in the voting process in our two countries. Here are some of the major ones.
➡ Australia has three tiers of government – Federal, State and Local. Britain has two tiers.
➡ In Australia we vote for the lower (House of Representatives) and upper (Senate) houses of parliament. In Britain membership of the House of Lords is by appointment (unelected)
➡ Voting is compulsory for all adults in all elections and referenda in Australia. In Britain voting is at your discretion. Fewer than 2/3 of eligible voters participated in 2015’s general election in the UK
➡ In Britain referendums are passed by a simple majority. In Australia a majority for the motion must be achieved nationally and in each state and territory
➡ In Australia, campaigning continues at the polling stations on election day and sometimes you have to queue to vote. Both times I have voted in the UK there has only been one other voter in the polling station
Why I vote
Thanks to Google I know most of my readers are of European descent and based in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. I know most of you are women aged between 20 and 55. That fits my profile too. In many ways we are the lucky ones. We are able to vote. Only a few generations before us, women were excluded from the democratic process. In some countries this right was not given until much recently.
I had to look up the date of universal enfranchisement or right to vote for all adults in the UK. This was only achieved in 1928, less than 90 years ago. Prior to this decisions were made by men (mainly rich ones) on behalf of women. In Australia the constitution was amended in 1902 to enable women to vote and stand for parliament. The first country to do so. Last year Saudi Arabia changed its constitution to allow women to vote. Now the Vatican City is the only country where women are excluded from voting. This is a very short amount of time in the context of human history.
To vote is to be counted and have your say. Even if you draw a line through the paper negating your vote, your statement means more than not showing up. We owe it to our predecessors to participate and have our say. So regardless of whether I am required to by law, I will vote.
The issues that matter to me
I was brought up with social democratic values and they have stayed with me as I have grown older. Universal access to education and healthcare are of paramount importance. I think the models we use for health and education need to be flexible to account for rapid changes in technology, demand and medical knowledge. If you have the means, I believe you should pay more for these services.
I don’t believe we can run governments like businesses. They are in place to run essential services. Corporations and financial institutions need to be held accountable for their actions and pay fair taxes. In general I believe in levelling the paying field so individuals have more equitable access to opportunities.
Climate change and globalisation are the forces that will define our generation. I believe we need to act and collaborate globally to address the issues that arise from the changes to our planet and distribution of power and resources to ensure we all live healthier and happier lives.
Lastly, compassion and kindness are values that are important to me. I believe in the right for committed adults to have their relationship recognised as a marriage in the eyes of the law regardless of their gender or sexuality. I support the assisted right to end one’s own life.
These are the issues that drove my choices in both the Australian election and EU referendum.
My thoughts on Brexit
Come what may tomorrow, one thing is for sure. There are many people in Britain who would like to leave the European Union. I am not sure how they think this little island of 65 million people thinks it is going to steer its destiny through the uncharted waters of increasing globalisation. I am firmly in the remain camp.
Reasons I think Britain should stay in the EU
Globalisation and migration
The world is changing rapidly. Globalisation is happening faster than most of us can keep up with. In decades to come there will be more, not less, population movement. Closing borders and trying to shut people out simply won’t work. Especially for a country like Britain. Let’s not forget that the spread of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th century is a major reason many people are seeking work or asylum in the UK . They know the language and the system of government much better than other alternatives such as Germany or France.
Coming from a country like Australia where we have no leverage whatsoever, I can’t imagine why any nation would want to give up its economic negotiating power. I had to laugh the other day when I heard a commentator remark that Australia had negotiated free trade agreements with the US and China. These took a very long time to achieve and the outcomes are questionable in their benefit to the Australian people. Leaving Europe puts Britain a long way down the negotiation ladder with trading partners such as China, the United States and Russia
As a student of history I have learnt there is nothing to be gained by trying to fight the tide of change in isolation. I hope we have learned something from the tragedy of the world wars last century to know that the biggest challenges our planet faces need to be tackled together. Despite its flaws, the European Union is a symbol and vehicle for cooperation and should be reformed from within.
I will proudly vote in both elections tomorrow, knowing I have given my decision a lot of thought and consideration. Whatever the outcomes, I am glad I have the right to participate in the democratic process of these two countries.
The outcome of the EU Referendum will likely be known tomorrow. We will have to wait until July 6th to know if Australia will elect its
I’d love to know from my expat readers if they are allowed to vote in their adopted countries and what the differences are. Do you think your experience living abroad has changed the way you vote or the issues you consider to be important?