As some of you already know by now, I have nominated myself for the 2010 Australian Federal Election as a candidate for the Commonwealth Electoral Division of Sydney, endorsed by the Secular Party of Australia. It is both an honour and a privilege simply to be able to stand for such office. It is truly a remarkable thing to participate in a society that conducts its affairs in this manner.
As many of you who know me well will also know, I do not undertake such an action lightly. I have always considered voting at an Australian election to be one of the most powerful duties I perform, but standing for election is a much weightier thing. I do this because I must; I can’t bear what I hear and see in the media and what comes up in regular discussions with my peers any longer. Many friends, whose opinions and viewpoints I respect, were despondent about the choice that they were being asked to make on August 21, even to the point of pledging to vote informally. I fear for a democracy where the people can not even choose one candidate that they feel will represent them effectively.
As for myself, I’m tired of equivocation; I’m tired of lackluster leadership; I’m tired of guarded responses and insipid discussion; I’m tired of petty, vacuous factionalism and I’m tired of policy driven by polling and focus groups rather than good governance. I’m tired of many things, and I think Australians deserve much better than all of this.
So why do I stand in this election? There are many reasons, but here are three main issues, concerning policies proposed by both major parties, that I simply can’t abide.
1) Depriving gay couples the right to be married
This is a fairly clear open-and-shut case of discrimination based on sexuality, and as such is a human rights abuse. One section of our community enjoys privileged status in the eyes of our state institutions, while another minority do not. It’s the same story repeated throughout history, just when we thought we’d left most of the bad old days consigned to the history books. I can not in good conscience stand by while people who love each other are denied the right to have their relationships recognised fully by a government that is meant to stand for their best interests. Gay couples contribute just as much to their communities as everyone else; governments have no problems levying taxes against them like everyone else; therefore they should have no problem granting them the same privileges as anyone else. The state should recognise relationships between couples universally.
2) The continued demonisation of refugees
It’s the 2010 Australian election. What’s one of the hottest election topics? I give you one guess! Yes! Just like every other election of the past decade, the miniscule number of boats carrying people seeking refuge from persecution and wars is a major debate. Do the major political parties have a “break glass in case of polling crisis” cabinet which contains a “demonise refugees” button that they can mash to gain another couple of percent in polling? They seem to reach for it all the time, and with a media that does not hesitate to sensationalise the arrival of “yet another boat” no wonder we can’t seem to shake this disgraceful treatment of human beings. People arriving via boat, seeking refuge in our country are an incredible minority of all international arrivals, and yet the subject dominates our country’s politics. At the centre of the issue, are real people, fleeing dire situations. I want to live in a country that treats these desperate people with respect and compassion, not contempt. We are an incredibly rich and privileged nation, and with such status comes both great responsibility and a great capacity to do good.
3) Conroy’s Internet filter
Stephen Conroy’s mandatory internet policy has to be one of the most exasperating examples of policy making I’ve seen. With an industry that continues to tell him that it won’t work, Internet users telling him they don’t want it, child protection advocates telling him it will not stop the exploitation of children, it still forms a part of Labor Party policy. Don’t let the two year delay fool you, it’s simply an election device to get a controversial topic off the agenda for August 21. If one of the intended aims of mandatory Internet filtering is to reduce the exploitation of children, the money would be far more effectively spent on the apprehension and prosecution of offenders. Just about every part of the policy stinks: from the secret blacklisting of URLs, to the laughable web-content only approach, to the definitions of refused-classification material. It’s bad policy; it is the policy of an Ostrich — just stuff every Australian adult’s head in the sand and all of the problems will disappear. Censorship is the tool of authoritarian governments the world over, and I will not idly let one of the greatest enabling technologies developed by humankind be subject to such unbridled and unwarranted political control.
These are not only my views, but the views of the party for which I stand. The Secular Party of Australia is a very young political party, and one of the main aims of this election is to promote awareness of the party and the ideals for which it stands. I encourage you to read about what we are trying to achieve.
In the end, I stand to provide one more choice for you to consider, and I hope it’s one that you find sensible, progressive and rational. At the very least, I would ask you to consider all of the candidates on your ballot, for both houses, and urge you to find some candidate that you can support. The Secular Party has candidates standing in nineteen seats, and Senate candidates for most states.
Authorised by John Goldbaum, 7 Rockwall Crescent, Potts Point NSW 2001.