It’s Not What You Know…

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WORDS Hannah McNicholas

The democratic process is a beautiful thing. For all we complain about candidates and campaigns and queues at the polls, voting is our chance to have our say in the future of our nation. But if recent events are anything to go by, some of our elected leaders leave, shall we say, something to be desired.

Exhibit A: Costa Rica, where conservative lawmakers have been decidedly embarrassed after voting in favour of a bill that may legalise same-sex marriage. The bill, governing social services and marriage regulations, extends “social rights and benefits of a civil union, free from discrimination”, a huge step toward equality in the South American country and undoubtedly something to be applauded.

The scary part is that the controversial bill sailed through unnoticed because conservative members of congress didn’t read the bill before voting and failed to pick up on language that changed the definition of marriage. Some claim certain congress members didn’t even know what bill they were voting on.

The changes to allow same-sex marriage were introduced by the leftist Broad Front Party. While clearly pleased that the bill was passed, party leader Jose Villalta expressed concerns over the integrity of the lawmaking process, stating “the problem is that there are lawmakers who don’t read what they are voting on”.

To her credit, President Laura Chinchilla refused to veto the bill – but no doubt the people of Costa Rica should be questioning how reliable their elected officials truly are.

Exhibit B: Texan Republican senator Jodie Laubenberg, who demonstrated a new level of stupidity when she offered one of the most ridiculous arguments against abortion the world has ever seen.

A few days before Senator Wendy Davis (who is my new lady-hero, four for you Wendy Davis) made her epic, 14 hour stand against archaic women’s health legislation, Senator Laubenberg argued in favour of extremely restrictive abortion laws with no exception for cases of assault or incest, claiming victims don’t need access to abortion because, and I quote:“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

For anyone unaware, emergency room rape kits are used to collect and document evidence. They do not prevent pregnancy. They do not clean anything out.

Whatever you stance is on abortion, this kind of sheer ignorance in a person elected to lead and make decision on behalf of the people, is frankly terrifying.

Exhibit C: Tony Abbott. The Opposition leader has come up with some absolute zingers, demonstrating a Romney-esque level of misinformation, insensitivity and ignorance. On the list of “Actual Real Things Tony Abbott Has Said” are choice quotes such as;

“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia”.

And in regards to the environment;

“Climate change is absolute crap”.

And of course, in reference to indigenous Australians;

‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done”.

And my personal favourite;

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation”.

Abbott’s ongoing case of foot-in-mouth disease has caused members of his own party to doubt his leadership, some going so far as to call him ‘rude and arrogant’.

I believe in the democratic process. I believe that in Australia, voting is a not a right but a responsibility, and that we all having an important role to play in choosing our leaders and shaping our nation. And I want to be able to trust the people I helped elect – but they don’t always make it easy.

Look, I’m not saying that politicians are idiots. I’m just saying that voters should think long and hard about who, not just what, they are voting for.