It’s time. After eight long weeks of politicians gabbling at journalists and tripping over everyday people in shopping centres and schools as they campaigned for Australia’s vote, it’s now your turn to have a say.
By lodging a vote on Saturday July 2, you can help decide whether Bill Shorten’s Labor or Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition will run the country for the next three years.
During the election campaign, the two men showed they have different priorities for Australia, and different approaches to ensuring these priorities are delivered to voters.
Shorten’s approach is best explained in one of his campaign slogans: “putting people first”. The Labor leader has argued it is more important to spend money now on improving health and education services than on repairing the budget. He also believes a healthy workforce and educated community will lead to economic growth and the creation of more jobs in the future.
But in the short term this means Labor’s budget bottom line will be worse than if the Coalition remained in government.
Shorten has also promised to bring on a parliamentary vote on same sex marriage as soon as he is sworn in as prime minister, whereas Turnbull will proceed with a peoples’ vote – or plebiscite – on SSM if he is re-elected.
In contrast to Labor, the Coalition aims to repair the economy with tax cuts for business, starting off with cuts for smaller businesses in the next three years, and then increasingly bigger companies over the next ten years.
Turnbull argues the companies that receive tax cuts would use the additional money to expand their businesses and take on additional staff. Accordingly, his approach is also contained in an election campaign slogan, namely the one about having “a plan” for “jobs and growth”.
There’s a lot more detail from both alternative governments, of course, including different approaches to child care, family violence, roads, public transport, tax avoidance by big companies, national security and asylum seekers.
After giving voters so much to think about before deciding who to support, it’s a shame both sides then resorted to insulting our intelligence with blatant scare campaigns about their opponents.
Labor has tried to make us anxious about Turnbull wanting to sell off Medicare, while the Coalition wants us to believe a Labor government would bring hordes of asylum seekers to our shores.
Neither accusation is anywhere near the truth.
So it’s no wonder that voters who are fed up with being treated as fools by the two major parties are looking at other voting options for this weekend.
Almost one third of voters have told opinion pollsters they’ll vote for Green, minor party or independent candidates this time around.
And if enough of these crossbench candidates are elected, leaving Labor and the Coalition with less than the 76 votes they need to form government in their own right, they would hold the deciding vote – or balance of power – in the new parliament.
This would make Labor or the Coalition dependent on the crossbenchers to remain in government, just as former Labor PM Julia Gillard was in 2010. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on what type of demands the crossbenchers make in return for their support.
They might want restrictions on poker machines, as independent MP Andrew Wilkie did in 2010, or the introduction of a price on greenhouse gas emissions, as the Greens did in the same year. Or improved access to better internet through the NBN, which was one of the demands from country independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.
Wilkie and the Greens are likely to be re-elected this time around, and although Windsor and Oakeshott are in the running there is less chance they’ll be successful. It’s possible though that one of Nick Xenophon’s candidates, Rebekha Sharkie, will be elected. If she is, Sharkie will want the new government to protect jobs in South Australia.
This means our new parliament could take a number of forms after the votes are counted on Saturday night.
What’s important is that it will be the parliament that we, as voters, have chosen by exercising our democratic right to vote. Be sure to add your voice to that decision-making process by voting on July 2.
You can locate the nearest polling booth by entering your postcode at the Australian Electoral Commission website.