Why I won’t be voting on September 7


I won’t be voting next weekend because I can’t. I’m not yet an Australian citizen.

When I found out in March, to my surprise, that I was eligible  to apply for citizenship, I was thrilled. Nine years of waiting. Four visas. Enough paperwork to fill a jumbo jet and the moment had finally arrived.

So I printed out the 84 page booklet Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond” that tells you all you need to know about this great land to prepare for your citizenship test and read it cover to cover.

Then I downloaded all the forms that I would have to fill in.

I had this great idea that I’d write to all the different political parties asking why I should give them my valuable vote and then turn that into a story for this blog or maybe Crikey (the editor was keen, “a new citizen’s guide to Australian politics” or something like that was how I pitched it).

But then there came the complicated instructions that are standard with anything that has to do with the Department of Immigration. You read them, read them again, ponder them, but still you’re left scratching your head and perhaps heading for the liquor cabinet.

Once again there’s the obligatory police clearance? I must have gained police clearance half a dozen times now for my various visas, surely they know me better than my own mother? Then’s there’s finding people to sign statutory declarations and certifying documents and photocopying.

And remembering!

Once again, I must account for my movements over the past nine years into and out of Australia. Honestly, its all become a blur: who can remember every trip they’ve taken? To make matters worse I lost my previous passport and the one before that is in a box somewhere in my parent’s home in Johannesburg, which means there’s yet another form I have to fill in.

Further dampening my enthusiasm was news that I would have to send off two forms and $43 to the South African Department of Home Affairs if I wanted to have dual citizenship. Approval has to be gained first from South Africa before taking the oath in Australia or you lose your South African citizenship. And the time to process these two forms – three to six months!

So the end result is that the paperwork lies in yellow plastic folder on the big desk in the spare room waiting for me to summon up a degree of enthusiasm to fill in all the details and painstakingly try to sort out what documents I need and who needs to sign what.

It’s hardly the response I’d expected of myself  because the truth is I’ve always wanted to vote in this country. Becoming a permanent resident was a big deal (I even cherished my pale green Medicare card) and gaining citizenship is even more of a badge of honour.

Perhaps it has something to do with my arrival in Australia almost a decade ago, which happened to be just a few weeks before the 2004 election, the last federal poll won by glum John Howard and his cronies. My girlfriend at the time, her sisters, their partners and everyone else lined up to vote, while I milled about the polling station in some backwater country town eating a sausage roll and getting funny looks from the locals (He’s white, he looks Australian so why isn’t he voting?). If that wasn’t enough, we stopped the car to vote on our way to Canberra for the annual flower shower (the Floriade), a trip which included an obligatory visit to Parliament house and a walk past those solemn paintings of past prime ministers.

But now that the opportunity has come – and I probably could have voted in a week’s time if I’d made a big effort on the paperwork front – I could hardly care.

Who the hell would I vote for? There’s very little to inspire me among the neo-conservative Coalition, directionless and clueless Labor and the loopy Greens. There’s the smaller parties with their eccentric candidates so maybe I’d chose them and preference the bigger parties last, but then what would be the point? A protest vote perhaps?

All quite different from when I voted for the first time in South Africa in 1994. That wonderful sunny autumn day when there was hope and belief and joy in the air and as the newspapers rang out “Vote, the beloved country” with photos of lines of people snaking endlessly down city streets, amongst the leafy suburbs and through country side and hilltops.

APTOPIX South Africa Elections

A queue of voters in South Africa, 1994

It was a glorious moment, history in the making, and one of my finest memories.

But there’s nothing to inspire me now, in fact its far more enjoyable watching the circus from the sidelines (so to speak).

The truth is, I’ll eventually find the time and energy to put all the paperwork together and put my application in because to steal from Peter Allen, I also want to call Australia home (in an official capacity).

Indeed, it will be a proud day when they hand me a tree, offer me a lamington and a tiny tub of Vegemite.

But as for voting, I’m happy to wait another three years.

Of Federal Elections and fruity flyers…

conspiracy theoryIf anything evenly vaguely interesting happens to me in my life that causes me to write my memoirs, I will be sure to include some ‘rules” for living.

One of these will most likely be:

“If someone hands you a flyer outside a train station or on the street, always take it.”

For the entertainment value anyway.

The corollary to this rule would be:

“Never believe anything you read on a flyer handed out outside a train station or on the street.”

Today, as I headed out of Southern Cross Station and across Spencer Street to work, an innocuous enough chap handed me a one page flyer from the ‘Citizens Electoral Council of Australia’- or ‘CEC’.

The CEC purports to be a political movement, with a post box address in Coburg, not far from where I live and a 1800 number.

The headline of the flyer reads:

“Only Glass-Steagall can head off planned bankers’ coup, genocide!”

This is the first paragraph (you can read the whole document on the CEC website:

“A faction of the British Crown-led City of London-centred ‘Money Power’ has announced its immediate intention to pull the plug on the unpayable global debt bubble by ending “quantitive Easing” and to instead sieze depositors’ bank accounts en mass (‘bail in’ vs ‘bail out’), while ramming through the genocidal austerity measures against the great masses of the population in Europe, the United States and Australia/New Zealand…”

Make any sense to you?

All I can gather is that someone in London is going to do something nasty and seize the money I have in the bank.

Further on I read

The 24 June Bank of International Settlements (BIS) annual report calls for an end to the Bernanke-led quantitive Easing policy and instead demands a regime of Hitlerian levels of vicious austerity….siphoning off the people’s bank accounts to keep selected banks afloat.”

Bankers. Genocide. Hitler. Stealing money. I sense a theme.

Further on in the flyer, there are mentions of a “plot”, a “drive towards outright fascism”, another mention of fascism and a couple more mentions of “Hitler-style austerity”.

The pamphlet mentions another flyer handed out by  the LaRouche Political Action Committee (LPAC) “headed by US statesman and economist Lyndon H. La Rouche Jr, who is fond of talking in terms of “quaddrillions of dollars” (how much is that I wonder?) and mentioning dead German dictators in his call to action.

According to Wikipedia, and not mentioned in the flyer is that LaRouche was “sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in 1988 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations, and was released in 1994 on parole”.

The Wikipedia entry  is worth a ready for one of the most colourful descriptions of personality you will ever read and for this photo, that LaRouche allegedly campaigned under, complete with painted on Hitler moustache:


Anyway, it appears that the CEC has looked beyond these small misgivings and joined LaRouche’s cult-like following.

It certainly appears to be absorbing the ways of its master.

Here’s an extract from the history and philosophy section of the CEC website:

“A major contributing factor to the present economic collapse, is the anti-human, bestial policies represented by the rock-drug-sex counterculture which took off in the 1960s.”

For more information, perhaps by this handy guide on the CEC website for just $5:

children of satanBut back to the bowel-loosening headline in the flyer handed out to me.


What is Glass-Steagall and what does it have to do with Australia?

Well it refers to a 1933 Act of the US Congress, following the onset of the Great Depression, that created the separation of investment and commercial banking activities.

The act was repealed in 1999 and the global financial crisis followed in 2007.

To prevent fascism and genocide, the CEC want it brought back around the world and in Australia to prevent Australia’s four major banks from collapsing due to them “dangerously exposing themselves to the global financial system, including through nearly $20 trillion in derivatives speculation”.

There is clearly some truth buried within this ridiculous statement about reckless mortgage lending and speculation by banks in the US and around the world that caused the banking system to almost collapse.

But to suggest that Australia’s major banks – among the most conservative and profitable in the world – would speculate $20 trillion in derivatives is to believe that Peter Pan truly existed.

Consider that the total size of the Australian economy is around $1.5 trillion (the 12th biggest in the world) and the Big Four banks have a market capitalisation of around $330 billion and you realise that there is no possible way they could ever invest 13 times the size of the Australian economy in high-risk schemes.

Back on planet earth, I prefer the more considered thoughts of Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens, who suggested in a speech today that while challenges lie ahead for the Australian economy we are still a “lucky” country with low unemployment and where households remain cautious, continue to save and act prudently.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a bit of silly, old-fashioned conspiracy theories and scare-mongering, pick up a flyer the next time you’re in the CBD.

And watch out for those fascist bankers!