Saturday, 10 September 2011

Out Of The Loop

I know some people talk a lot of smack about the internet and social media and how disconnected we're becoming due to overuse of both but in my experience that's bunkum.

I have never felt more connected to the rest of the world, more politically and socially aware and more empathetic than I do now.

I've been lucky in the online friends I've made in the various corners of the internet I've found myself, most of them creative and passionate about a range of things and willing to share that passion without condescending or ranting, all of them interesting, all of them friendly.

I've followed along with various protests, political uprisings, natural disasters, international disasters and historical events and I've felt as if they really have something to do with me.
Not in an egocentric way but in a give-a-damn-about-the-rest-of-the-world-and-the-rest-of-humanity way, either because I know someone personally who is being affected by what is going on or because reading blogs, tweets or retweets written by individuals really pushes home the fact that these things are happening to real people who you'd probably quite like if you ever met them.

This has all been very enlightening and great for my outlook and personal development but it has also highlighted how really horrendously bad my personal grasp of the Australian political system is.

I expect I know more about the American political system (thanks to Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72) than I can remember about Australian politics from my social science classes in high school.

Let me try to sum up what I can remember for you:
  • We have an upper and a lower house, the senate and the house of representatives, one is red one is green, I cannot remember which is which on the colour or name or upper/lower count.
  • Laws need to pass through both houses in order to be passed.
  • When we vote in Federal elections we vote for the party we want in, rather than the person even though we know which person will get in based on our vote.
  • In Australia people don't campaign for selection and then get endorsed by their party, whoever is leader of the party gets to be the head of government if their party is voted in. It's all decided in-party way before election time is called and isn't swapped before election unless the current leader is bombing out/useless, and is all done based on how good a job the person is doing in politics, how savvy they are and how they're doing with public opinion.
  • I can't remember how state elections and government work in relation to federal elections and government, though I do remember the state voting process is different (a lot fewer boxes to number).
That's about it.

I mean, there are other things I know or am aware of but off the top of my head, that's it.

That isn't great.

When I rock up to vote I usually know enough about the various candidates and parties that I know who supports things I agree with or who is highly objectionable but I'm not the most informed of voters, I don't feel like I'm fully engaged with or aware of what's going on.

If a foreign friend asked me what the Governor-General was for or how governors of the different states and territories were selected, I would only be able to give very general and possibly misleading explanations*.

And because of that I just went to the library and checked out Australian Politics For Dummies.

I'm not beating about the bush, I'm starting from the most basic level I can without finding a book with pictures and anthropomorphised legislative scrolls.

Because at this stage of my life, this level of ignorance is just embarrassing.

*The Governor-General, as the Queen's representative in Australia, gives the official OK to any incoming Prime Ministers and signs legislation into law, I think that's it. Only once has a Governor-General actually bunted a Prime Minister out of power.
As for governors of states and territories... I have no idea.

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