Our political system is based on the UK system of parliament. The parliament itself has a two house format. In the lower house we have the members of parliament, and the upper house is the Senate. For the lower house, we vote for our local member of parliament for our seat and whichever of the two major parties has the most seats get to become the governing party. Whoever is leading the party in the lower house gets to be our Prime Minister. For the upper house, there are a number of senators per state and we vote by state.
Around 8 weeks ago, the man who was Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was removed as leader of the Labor Party, and we had a new prime minister, our first female prime minister, Julia Gillard. Soon after, a Federal election was called and after around 6 weeks of listening to campaign ads, interviews, and political rhetoric, yesterday Australians lined up to vote.
Luckily, I have never had to queue for hours to vote, and the short wait yesterday was made better by the prospect of a sausage sizzle and a chat with friends after the deed was done.
|Image from SMH.com.au|
Some historical milestones - this election brings us our first Muslim members of parliaments (I can't find a link for this one but it is being reported on the news), our first indigenous member of parliament (maybe anyway - the votes are still being counted in that seat), our youngest parliamentarian ever, first Greens MP to be elected in a full election (one had been won had a by election which is when only one seat has to vote due the early departure of the sitting member for whatever reason) and, most importantly, our first hung parliament in more than 70 years. It's difficult to imagine that at this stage we don't know who is leading our country, and the power to make that decision appears to lie with four independent members who will decide which party they will side with.
No matter who you voted for yesterday, one of the things that I think that some times get lost in the political headlines, or at least taken for granted, is that as Australians we have a say in who leads our country, and that we get to express that right safely. Other people around the world are killed when they are trying to take up their democratic right to vote, but for us here it is occasionally an inconvenience, but nothing more.
Maybe part of the reason why I found myself thinking about that more than normal yesterday is because I am currently reading The Dead of the Night by John Marsden, the second book in the Tomorrow series. In that series, Australia is invaded by an unnamed armed force, and the people are rounded up and imprisoned. We have been lucky and never actually faced this threat since European colonisation (an important distinction, as some indigenous Australians see the European colonisation of the country as an invasion) although it did come close during WWII, and I hope to goodness that our country continues to be safe and prosperous whoever is our leader once all the votes are counted, and the negotiations with the independent members are completed.
Hopefully, we will know who our Prime Minister will be soon whether it be Julia Gillard (leader of the Labor party) or Tony Abbott (leader of the Liberal coalition). I know who I hope it isn't, but I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.