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Gillard vs Abbott : I’m an election virgin so, who is the lesser of two evils?

gillard vs abbott

So, it was officially announced by Prime Minister Gillard at the National Press Club on 30 January 2013 that Australia will be going to the polls on 14 September 2013. The reactions to this by both the media and members of the public were mixed – why did she announce the date so early? (227 days early, to be precise). What was she trying to achieve by announcing the election date in the manner in which she did? And why, oh why, must we put up with relentless “supposedly-not-campaigning-but-it-really-is-campaigning” for such a long time? Why put Australian voters through more petty politics, when the country has seen enough in the past five years?

All of these questions are fair enough. But as I discovered the election day in my lunch break from work, I faced a little bit of a different reality. This is going to be my first federal election; my first taste of the sweet juice that is democracy. My questioning reaction was rather more selfish – so what do I do now? Who gets my vote? Where do I go? How do I vote?

All of these questions, ones with obvious answers to more seasoned voters than I, are more uncertain to me than certain facts about the two leaders of the main political parties. I concede that I will probably have to watch the news more often to make my final decision about just where my drop in the ocean of votes will fall, but I think that I have a fair grasp on Ms. Gillard and Mr. Abbott (side note – whenever anybody says ‘Mr. Abbott’ aloud, I always hear ‘Mr. Rabbit.’ Can’t be helped).

It has been made perfectly clear that Abbott’s main flaw to be used against him by the Labour Party to retain their power is the “misogynist” label. Boy, if I had a dollar for every time that word came up in election debates… As such, the Liberals have been strenuously denying this to the best of their combined abilities, ranging from Abbott doing a morning show interview with his wife, to Liberal backbenchers gushing very public praise towards Abbott about his supportiveness of their children and families.

To be honest, I think that both the media and the two Parties have made more than enough of the misogyny point. It’s gotten to the point where it’s exhausting – sure, Gillard’s original speech in parliament was amazing (and it certainly got social media excited about Australian politics for once), but the point has been made, and it must be time to stop flogging a dead horse. In many ways, I think that they are doing more harm than good to the cause of Australian women by continuing to use it as a pawn in their political games.

And then, to make matters worse, Julia Gillard’s partner Tim Mathieson brought this point back to the forefront of media production just when it seemed that all of the fuss had boiled over. His controversial, unfunny remarks about the importance of prostate cancer checks being done by a ‘small, Asian female doctor’ may as well have made Gillard’s famous misogyny speech redundant. Even as Mathieson said these words, one could almost feel the dismay and repressed anger in Gillard’s face. This incident, in combination with Abbott’s interview with wife Margaret, speaks volumes for how the personal should not be mixed with the political.

Speaking as a first-time voter, and I’m probably not alone here, but I’ve noticed that I have a definitive lack of knowledge of any of the actual policies either of the major Parties are advocating, but instead have been overwhelmed by petty political debates. I don’t know whether to place the blame here on the media coverage of this badmouthing or upon the politicians themselves. It just seems that every day, there is a fresh serve of bitchiness to be served about things which bear seemingly no relevance to the upcoming election. Which is why, as a first-time voter, I’m a little bit confused as to what to think.

I try to find what each party advocates and aims to do about policies and issues that matter to me. These range from the ‘controversial’ gay marriage and abortion, to the practical – as a university student, I want to know what my rights and entitlements are going to be going forward; and, of course, just where all of the Australian taxpayer money is going to be going. Yet, it seems that these issues get minor coverage in the media – of course, every now and again they will crop up, but it seems that both the media and the politicians themselves are reluctant to get any of us talking about this. They would much prefer the old chestnuts – Kevin Rudd leadership challenges and carbon tax promises.

What I’m really trying to say is that in the build-up to September 14, perhaps our political leaders should focus more upon policies and stances, and focus less upon petty politics and bitchiness. I think that if this switch of focus actually does occur, the face of our leadership will change dramatically for the better. And if one of the major parties puts all of their energies into this, I think that they’ll find themselves with more supporters as well. Everybody wins.

Although, I must say, this prospect does seem to be just about impossible in a society so obsessed with gossip, and any information we can get that concerns those in the public eye. Maybe we have a societal problem; but nevertheless, this problem should not affect the running of our democracy.

Through the writing of this article, I did not come to a conclusion about who will get my vote, the first vote I will ever cast in a federal election. But, I suppose I have about two hundred days of media coverage to make up my mind.

By Alexandra Van Schilt

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3 thoughts on “Gillard vs Abbott : I’m an election virgin so, who is the lesser of two evils?

  1. I think it’s more than reasonable to want to hear about actual policies rather than the tawdry personality-driven political soap opera that passes for political debate in the major news outlets (including, to a large extent, the ABC).

    The ex-Finance minister Lindsay Tanner has written a book about exactly this problem, called “Sideshow: The Dumbing Down of Democracy” which looks at exactly this issue. Basically, the commercial pressures of journalism practically require that debate is dumbed down and shallow.

    There are, however, some good sites that examine politics from a more policy-orientated perspective. I’d recommend theconversation.edu.au – which is a site where Australian academics and journalists work together to actually explain and contextualise policy, rather than just the politics. Michelle Grattan, in particular, is a columnist well worth reading in the lead up to the election.

    Most other outlets, particularly the TV networks, should be avoided like the plague.

  2. Pingback: Election 2013: Who are you voting for? Week 2 | lip magazine

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