Why I can’t be part of this election

I’ve never missed an election. Every part of it – every Op-ed, I’ve campaigned, I’ve watched with gritted teeth as Antony Green guides the nation through what will happen. My whole life, as far back as I can remember, I have and watched the results come in. 

I’ve been political these four years too. I’ve marched… and marched. I’ve worked with Nina Funnell’s and Marque Lawyers on the #Enough campaign to help people understand Australian defamation law, which attracted over 4000 donors and a quarter of a million dollars in a matter of weeks. 

The campaign was a response to watching defamation law wielded like a weapon by politicians against citizens. Whether you care for the man or not, Shane Bazzi’s appeal shapes our democracy now and into the future. It will determine whether politicians can sue private citizens into silence for critique. Not to go overboard but isn’t that starting to sound a little ‘pre facist’ to you?

I know you’re asking then – if I’ve been consistently politically engaged for the four years of this government, why have I gone into hiding when, many would argue, it matters most?

The short answer is – it’s too personal. For me, an election has never felt personal like this. 

I, like Grace Tame, was groomed as a child and have written extensively about it. We can argue about a lack of a smile, but most women in the country know that was never about politeness. It was about pain. 

Reviews were called for and completed, they were held up high, publicly at press conferences by our Prime Minister. Real action on the Jenkins Review? Well, we are still waiting

I don’t want to put words into Grace Tame’s mouth, but as a woman who read the extensive Op-Eds and commentary on that seemingly small moment of etiquette, I saw it as an act of defiance against a man who has failed women individually and collectively. 

The lack of seriousness with which the inquiries like the Jenkins Review have been treated in the lead up to the election feels less than a lack of time and opportunity, and more like a man who is failing women systematically. I will say nothing in detail about the fact that an alleged rapist held one of the most senior government roles for a period of time after the allegations became public. Nor that an entire country marched against it, while our leaders closed their doors on us. 

But let’s go back before that. Before allowing Laming to stay in Parliament and on critical working groups, despite questionable conduct and the online ‘empathy training’ and subsequent retraction of the apologies he did issue. Before the failures to properly manage the nation’s vaccine supply and COVID quarantine measures. 

Let’s go back to when we saw the first hint that this was a Prime Minister who believed the responsibility for what happens in this country sits with the States, but the glory is up for grabs. 

I’m talking about the bushfires. And yes, we can reduce that to a lingering trip to Hawaii, but far more importantly it was about governance. 

At the time I wondered if Morrison had a theory of governing. Of how the federation should spread – but hold – responsibility in a balanced and effective way. I was looking for what I had seen in other Prime Ministers – a little naively perhaps, I thought there might be one. Something akin to Menzies and his belief that a federated system requires flexibility to work effectively. 

I am both a scholar of governance, and someone who lived through those fires. I lived under the orange smoke. I was part of the effort to try and put what was left of a piece of the NSW coast back together, that I have gone to my whole life.

Even now, a full two years later, I sometimes find ash in ocean. When I look at the horizon, ash in hand, and turn behind me what do I see?  That what was once the tallest eucalypts, and the thickest undergrowth, is just a bare hill. A few poor souls rebuilding their homes. 

Whether from within the toxic air or from across the nation, we watched the responsibility for the worst fires in Australia’s history be left to the States. We saw resources from other countries held at bay by our Prime Minister. Yes they were eventually called in, but what was lost in that delay?

With our leader missing in action, citizens pulled together to try and stop not just fire damage across what felt like most of the country, but also smoke deaths. We didn’t always succeed in either endeavour. 

These are the reasons I can’t be part of this election. I have no rage left. As a woman, as a survivor, as someone who lived through the fires, and as a scholar, I only have tears that we have come to this. That any of these events alone isn’t an immediate unforgivable failing of the Prime Minister shocks me, yes, but in a way I have never experienced as a politically-engaged citizen, it hurts. It feels, somehow, personal. 

As we roll the dice on the next four years of this country, for me it’s no longer about partisan politics. It is about one man. A man who has failed people, those in poverty, women, 3 billion animals over one summer, and forests that are beyond measure. 

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