I can still clearly remember the moment.
Sometime last winter my husband and I were driving around Lake Wendouree in Ballarat with the car radio tuned to an ABC news or current affairs program. We weren’t taking a lot of notice, but the issue under discussion was something to do with asylum seekers, a.k.a. boat people or ‘illegal’ immigrants.
As the interview progressed, comments were sought from the Leader of the Opposition, when, almost like a bolt of lightning, it struck me – there was no way I would be responsible for voting in any part of a new Liberal government.
So, as a common courtesy I am writing this letter to explain my decision.
Dear Mr Abbott,
I was born quite a few decades ago into what was pretty much a conservative-voting family, one that was not particularly overt in its politics, but one that took an active role in many aspects of life in a rural community. Coming from this background, and having a healthy respect for authority and for the status quo, it would probably not come as a surprise that I have always been inclined to vote conservatively. This mindset extends also to being somewhat private about my political inclinations.
So here I am, pushing myself waaay out of my comfort zone, wearing my heart on my sleeve and publicly articulating my politics.
I am not highly politicized, I don’t claim to be a particularly deep thinker, to follow current affairs all that closely or have any great understanding of the implications of government policy but it seems to me that both major parties have degenerated into a downward spiral of appalling public discourse.
With its shallow thinking and knee-jerk positions on issues such as asylum seekers, climate change and same sex marriage, in my opinion, your party, Mr Abbott – and you in particular- have been the key driver of this.
It can’t be easy governing or positioning oneself as an alternative government. I concede that balancing different opinions, running the economy and dealing with foreign relations is a nightmare, but seriously!
Yes, the Labor Party isn’t all that crack hot at some of this stuff either, but I think the Liberal Party, aided and abetted by the media, currently sets the benchmark very low in appealing to the prejudiced, shallow, black and white thinkers in the Australian public.
Where is the Liberal Party’s sense of decency and humanity? Demonising individuals and families who are desperate enough to take to the high seas, whilst quietly ignoring those who enter by other means, getting hung up and confusing religious beliefs on homosexuality with the right to have relationships legally recognised, and taking a lukewarm stance on our children’s future in relation to climate change are just a few issues I find difficult to stomach.
Yes, PM Gillard has made some ‘unfortunate’ choices but at the end of the day (well 90 or so, by my counting), as far as I am concerned, at the moment the scales will be tipping in her favour.
It seems to me that our political leanings are often historical in their basis, somewhat like following a particular footy team. In supporting any party we can get too bound up in being a supporter, lose sight of what is really at stake and the implications of our decision. For this reason, I am mighty uncomfortable in contemplating voting for a Labor candidate, but am biting the bullet, taking a step back and looking at what is really at stake here.
It is unlikely that any politician will have core beliefs and values that align exactly with our own and I would have to say that at the moment, my values and those you articulate are poles apart.
Speaking with the authority of life experience, I think it’s about time that both parties smartened up their game, stopped having school ground ‘he said, she said’ spats and acted like adults intent on making Australia a greater and safer place than it is already.
It may not be too late Mr Abbott, I may return to the fold eventually, but you will need to go a long way towards proving to me that you have some humanity and the interests of the country foremost in your mind.
P.S. Please don’t be too offended by my letter, I am not beyond offering Ms Gillard free, unsolicited advice as well.
*Heather Wood is an ex-public servant living in Ballarat. Since becoming an “ex” she has been exploring the many hobbies and interests hitherto deferred and thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up.
*Image of stricken refugee boat off Christmas Island via abc.net.au