Australia is having a General Election
The Government brochure in Chinese starts as follows:
Does anyone share my view that this does not really answer the question, particularly for someone new to our system of voting.
Does anyone have any election material in Chinese they would like to share?
I will have to revert to English, sorry. Lack of time, and also lack of Chinese. :)
The question: 'why do I have to enrol to vote?' is possibly best answered by: 'to ensure that you vote only once'. More cynically the answer is: 'so we have an address to send the fine to for not voting'.
The answers given do not address the main reason directly, and this I think would be confusing for someone using our electoral system for the first time. Instead the answer goes along the lines:
- it is a privilege to vote in a democracy
- if you don't enrol you can't vote [I am not sure that this is even absolutely true although it is repeated elsewhere on the website]
- if you don't vote we will fine you (about A$200 last time I looked.)
A "conscientious abstainer" would use a blank vote.
Btw, I don't see any conscience in the translation of "conscientious objector" on Nciku : 拒服兵役者
There have been famous campaigns that give up their right to a vote by writing something on the ballot paper (eg. 'No More Dams'). As kimiik points out a blank vote means you 'abstain' but I am not sure that this is conscientious abstaining - conscientious implies that you explain your position, such as ('No More Dams'). But these protests are not protesting the electoral system. There are platforms of electoral reform but this is not 'abstaining'. I remember that uni we had the Anarchists do quite well in the Student Representative Council elections - if they won they promised to disband the SRC.
If you don't vote they fine you and 'too busy at work' is no longer accepted as an excuse. If you don't pay the fine they can suspend your driver's licence until you pay - a wonderful example of federal-state co-operation.
I'm not sure of the penalties for failing to enrol. You are automatically put on the roll if a citizen when you turn 18, I believe (how do they know where you live I wonder?), but you can slip off the roll by not keeping your enrolment up to date. Australians have never agreed to a national ID card like you have in China so there are a few problems for Government bodies trying to keep track of people. Specially if you don't pay personal income tax and/or opt out of the universal health system. Eg. Australians who live overseas can avoid being on any of these lists.
I have just checked on the need to enrol - you can be punished for not enrolling (exceptions for people in gaol and people who are mentally unfit). I was wrong about the fine for not voting - it appears to be initially $20, escalating to $50 and then they can take other action if you don't pay.
Favouring the Labor Party. Enthusiastic Liberal voters may believe that Labor Party voters are more likely to have less education ('too stupid' put in the crudest terms?) to vote; I don't know what the evidence is but these stereotypes look pretty shaky these days. Even the two current contenders are in important ways peas in a pod.
A better explanation may be that Labor voters are likely to be less advantaged, may suffer more disabilities, have a lower income, etc. and these comprise barriers to casting a vote, or at least a valid vote, at the margin. (unlikely to be a significant factor.) Again I haven't seen any evidence, except that the conservatives generally seem to favour non-compulsory voting and this is probably a case of self-interest. Or could it be that they really believe in democracy? :)
Thanks a lot for your explanations. Please tell your Australian friends who hate the nice system that (if possible) they should immigrate to the PRC, where you aren't bothered with elections, good or bad.
The preferential voting system looks complicated at first glance, but when you do come to understand it, you realise that it is the fairest possible system. In a first-past-the-post system, two candidates with similar policies can lose to a weaker candidate, due to vote-splitting.
Unfortunately, prescriptive how-to-vote cards and above-the-line voting detract from the fairness of the system. I don't understand how politicians can crack down on collusion in other industries, yet still believe vote-swapping schemes are OK.
I'm pretty sure that the Democrats would benefit from such a compulsory voting system as people who tend not to exercise their right to vote tend to express preference towards the Democrats in polls. Then again, it could backfire if the Democrats passed such a law and people are miffed that they are made to vote. I like the idea of preferential voting. There have been some talk about it in the States, but I guess it will take a long time to be implemented for the simple reason that Americans often don't like to use other people's systems, no matter how practical they are.
Perhaps practical is not the right word here. Preferential voting is fair, but somewhat less practical than first-past-the-post. In our upper house elections, where there can be over 50 candidates for a handful of seats, the final count can take weeks to finalise, especially when there is a close result.
If the US ever takes up our system, they will want to avoid our pitfall - that is, parties being allowed to nominate how their preferences will be distributed.
bodaweiAugust 09, 2010, 11:05 PM
The election campaign grinds on in Australia ... From a language point of view the most interesting thing is that the likely winner speaks in a voice that is largely unintelligible to the outside world. Voice coaches describe her style as 'using far too many vowels'. It was reported elsewhere about her trip to the US where high school students could not understand a word.
Us Aussies also have a little trouble understanding her, but that has nothing to do with her intonation. :)
I wonder if (should she win) meetings between Gillard and Obama will be held with interpreters in attendance? What about a phone conference?
[Ring ring .. ring ring]
Obama: Who's speaking?
Gillard: It's zhuliyaaa..
Obama: What? Who is this?
Gillard: It's zhuliyaaa!!...ZHULIYAAAA!
btw, here's a short [6s] youtube clip [sorry folks who can't get it] of her speech:
...bit of a worry ...as the clip shows, our pm's not smarter than a 5th grader
Thanks mate for both of those videos - I am really not sure if there is anything wrong with Julia's voice. About 1990 I reckon is when I noticed we became unashamed of our accent. Before that public figures either:
- had posh accents to start with
- polished their accents up when they got into public life
- were picked on by the media for displaying a Westie accent
Until Julia I reckon. Maybe because she's the first woman to go natural.
PS. it is my first look at YouTube in a long time - I don't think I will miss it much when I'm back behind the wall. :)