With the flu season nearly over, have you caught a case of the not so well-known ailment, “voter fatigue”?
After the longest federal election campaign in modern times we have been building towards local government elections just over the horizon.
Voter turnout is commonly used to measure the ailment, but with voting compulsory in Australia turnout is quite high, making it difficult to measure the weariness and disenchantment of voters.
One figure does stand out – the fact the recent federal election became the biggest voter no-show since compulsory voting was introduced ahead of the 1925 election.
Sebastian Garmann, chair of public economics at the University of Dortmund, wrote in 2015 that voters can become demotivated for up to six months after an election, meaning two in two months is far too much.
Perhaps because voting is not compulsory in America many local governments make sure their elections are not held around the same time as a presidential election (local elections in New York City, for example, are held the year after the presidential election).
There is good reasoning for this, because while every government affects us, our local government is perhaps our most important.
It is the grassroots level closest to us and is tasked with creating a vibrant, sustainable and supportive community.
In rural areas the decentralisation of power stops us having to send letters and make endless phone calls to distant Canberra or Sydney begging for resources.
In theory local government is the basis of our democracy, not state or federal politics, and its actions can make a bigger difference to our social fabric than any other.
The Local Government Act states councils must promote social justice principles, conserve the environment and facilitate public involvement, the basics we require to stay happy and healthy.
But what happens when the higher tiers of government drop services we have come to rely on?
Is it the job of local government to take up the slack and provide them even if they are overwhelmed financially? Or do we wake up each day hoping the private sector will have the incentive to get involved?
It is no secret the entire Western world is basically insolvent, which means it’s more important than ever to have grassroots governance that does everything it is supposed to.
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