As widely expected, Julia Gillard has called an Australian federal election for the 21st August. As part of making the announcement, she said the following:
Today, I fulfil the pledge I made on the day I became Prime Minister. On that day, I acknowledged it is the right of every Australian to vote for the Prime Minister, and that in the very near future I would ensure all Australians could exercise their right.This is simply not true. It is not the right of every Australian to vote for the Prime Minister. It is our right (indeed statutory obligation) to vote for a representative in Federal Parliament. It is up to the members of parliament to elect their leaders. It may be the case that in the popular mind we identify with a leader and vote for them, but this is a dangerous oversimplification. For Gillard to use this as the opening of her announcing affirms this misconception in the minds of voters. The problem with this line of thinking is that wise deliberation is further crowded out by personality politics more suited to celebrity magazines. Our system does not mean we elect people to mirror our views, or that MPs are obligated to advocate what the majority of voters want. We elect representatives who deliberate and make judgements on our behalf.
I am also disappointed to note that Gillard seems to be the kind of leader who is happy to allow and reinforce such misunderstandings of our system (and Abbott is no better, by the way). I know I'm fighting a losing battle on this issue, but it frustrates me to see that not even our highest elected official is willing to threaten voters' sense of entitlement (stoked by the popular media) in order to get it right.
By the way, don't forget to enrol or update your details. Ten percent of eligible voters, including about fifty percent of 18 year olds, aren't enrolled to vote and even more are yet to update their details. You can do so here.
UPDATE: Ben has pointed out that Bob Hawke has some typically colourful thoughts on Gillard's collusion with public confusion.