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Observations, Politics

There’s a lesson from Brexit and how Britain regrets it

Regular viewers will know that Your Girl Reporter takes a winter break from the blog each year and here in Ipswich – west but not too far west of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia – the cold weather is finally here. Chill winds are blowing. A darkness is spreading across the Earth and the lamps are going out all over Europe. But while it’s nippy in the Ippy, the sun’s out and we are far away from events and their implications for the future.

And that’s a good thing. In these uncertain times there’s a lot of fear and ugliness and division about but, thankfully, not in my back yard which is going to get my focus for the next few weeks, bar a little trip to a local school for a vote and a sausage.

That’s how we do democracy here in Australia where voting is compulsory and polling stations are located conveniently close to where people live. As Your Girl Reporter observed at the last Queensland elections, the accompanying sausage sizzle – an important fundraiser for schools – is not an optional add-on.

BorisUntil now. Australians in record numbers are casting their votes ahead of Election Day on 2 July. Pre-polling used to be the preserve of the travelling or the infirm but this time the sausage-free alternative was taken up by more than 220,000 voters in the first three days alone of early voting.

This is possibly because of the way we’re doing democracy this time with the longest election campaign in anyone’s memory – apparently there is a longer one out there but frankly, if you know the details off the top of your head, you need to get out more.

The electorate has responded to the weeks of campaigning with a universal “yeah, whatevs” and a threat – via the otherwise barely moving opinion polls – to continue to ignore the two major parties and vote for one of the independents instead.

Even Your Girl Reporter, who usually finds the game of politics pretty fascinating, has taken to whimpering pathetically every time a politician bobs up on the television. It’s no surprise to me so many of my compatriots just want to get the damn thing done and bugger the cheap sausage.

Of course just when we couldn’t get more disengaged along come the Poms to take it to a whole new level by accidentally – it now appears – voting to leave the European Union. More than two and a half million signatures on a petition to do the whole thing again, a mere two days after the Brexit referendum.

And that’s perhaps understandable in light of the dispiriting fact the voters of Britain started asking Google “What is the EU?” the day AFTER the referendum:

If Brexit shows us anything, it’s that the future is unwritten and, what’s more, it gets written as much by the people who don’t turn up as the ones who do. Figures indicate more than 70 per cent of 18-24 year olds in the UK wanted to stay in the EU. Alas for them, that number was nowhere near matched by those who could be bothered to turn out to vote.

These are serious times and we have some serious choices to make. That goes  for you donkey voters of Australia’s compulsory voting system too. Don’t choose to leave it until the day after the vote to find out about the issues at stake. Especially not if you think that’s precisely what some politicians and their backers are counting on you to do. That really would be a sucker bet.

Good luck Australia! See you on the other side!

© Sally Baxter 2016

Want more Baxter? I’ll be back at the end of July but in the meantime here are a few choice cuts with a political flavour:

Exercising suffrage insufferable without a sausage – Your Girl Reporter’s Ode to the Democracy Sausage and its unsung role in the downfall of Queensland Premier Campbell Newman

Imperfect lessons in democracy – In which Your Girl Reporter reveals a long history of failing to pick the winner in an election race.

Monkey business ahead for Malcolm, Bill and Tony – An assessment of the political fortunes of Australia’s leaders by way of their Chinese horoscopes, because it makes as much sense as anything else in these interesting times.

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About Sally Baxter

Once I was a girl reporter. Now I'm an interested observer covering the past, present and future of journalism and whatever else takes my fancy. All views my own.

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