Dr Peter W Tait – PHAA
I assume Malcolm Baalman’s questions: “Why do democratic governments keep letting their people suffer the impacts of climate disruption?” and “Since most of them are supposed to be democratic governments, advised by clear scientific advice, you have to ask why they keep on failing” are rhetorical. I suggest we know why. We (PHAA) even have a policy about it.
That response might be a bit simplistic; there are a few other factors but capture by fossil fuel interests would explain most of it.
The critical question of course needs to be what do we do about it?
As I have outlined elsewhere we can do quite a bit in both our personal and professional capacities.
Focusing on the personal, we can join in, promote to our networks and support the #OurDemocracy project. That bears directly from the PHAA Policy linked to above.
More importantly, there is an election coming.
Usually in elections we public health people focus on parties and their policies. PHAA has developed a #VoteforPublicHealth areas of action call that includes at No. 7 Healthy democracy and public policy-making based on our policy.
As individuals, we can go further than this. In an election where the focus is NOT on substantive policy and more about destroying the opposing parties, then voting tactically within your electorate for a candidate who is most likely to be a good representative is an option. Indeed it is the option that lets you express your power as a voter to the best effect.
A good representative is one who has the skills for the job of being a parliamentarian, who demonstrates they have integrity, who is able to demonstrate a commitment to implementing and voting for the measures that the PHAA Unhealthy Political Influence Policy Position demands, and who commits to engaging with you after the election on issues important to your electorate.
At the very least, you can interview each candidate in your electorate to see where each sits on these criteria. Further, the ANU may be running their Smartvote app again; this helps you match your values and interests against those of the candidates standing. For your current MP, there are a variety of tools you can use to see how they are doing their job already such as their voting record, and at Political Gadgets an eye watering array of information about them including how close to Peter Dutton they vote. These tools may help you refine who you invest time in interviewing for the position as your representative.
If you are keen, you can join an electorate group.
There are two flavours available. The Voices4/of movement are running community independent candidates in a variety of seats, with a focus on electing candidates who are going to support realistic action on minimising climate catastrophe. Very new on the block is Active Democracy Australia who take an approach where the default is to help your existing MP work more effectively for you (collectively in your electorate). Only the ACT sports an active electorate group, but at time of writing interest grows. Active Democracy Australia’s website has a page for every federal electorate in Australia with contact details for any active groups of both flavours. If you want, you can register your interest with them.
Failing joining or starting a group, you can follow what any group in your electorate is doing.
As Michael Moore (the film maker not past PHAA CEO) says: “Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy”.
So being an active citizen somewhere along the spectrum outlined above is crucial to helping create the society you want to live in, and if you have offspring, that you’d like to be here for them and their children to live in.
This is the climate change election. And the election where we decide if we want to continue to have dodgy MPs in parliament, or MPs who will do what is right for us and our planet.
I invite you to vote thoughtfully at least, and be more active if you can.