First Time Voter Ruby Bell!

22 / 08 / 2013

For this edition of ‘First Person’, we asked first time voter Ruby Bell to share with us her thoughts. Ruby lives in the federal Seat of Melbourne, a battleground between the current member Adam Bandt from the Greens, and the progressive Cath Bowtell from Labor. Even before polling day, Ruby’s feeling a little overwhelmed by the election material thrust on her – and a little underwhelmed by the general political debate. 

First time voting experiences can be memorable – the YWCA put together these first time voting stories published on their website – featuring Labor’s Tanja Plibersek, the Liberals’ Julie Bishop, the Greens’ Sarah Hanson Young and others (including the fabulous contributor to Sheilas Clementine Ford). Ruby Bell’s story might perhaps feature on such a site in the future! Thanks for sharing, Ruby – and good luck casting your first federal vote. 

By Ruby Bell

This year is my first federal election, however last year I voted in a state by-election and in the local council election, which makes me somewhat of a seasoned voter amongst my peers. I live in Melbourne, which puts me in a unique position of having to decide between Labor and The Greens. The Liberals barely register – they did not run a candidate in the by-election last year and until today I did not know that they were contesting Melbourne at this election.

For the past few months I’ve been bombarded by emails from both Labor and The Greens. I haven’t received a single email from the Liberals. The emails were very annoying. They wouldn’t put me off voting for a particular party or candidate, but I can imagine they would for some people. At last year’s by-election, I voted in pre-polling because I had to work on the actual day. Even at pre-polling there were people from each party handing out flyers. I can’t imagine what it’s like at the real polls. I hate having my personal space invaded and I hate people trying to sell or push things onto me, so I will be voting at pre-polling again. I’m a strong believer in voting below the line. I will be doing this on September 7 and I encourage everybody to do so.

I lost considerable interest in the election on June 27. I called a few of my friends sobbing hysterically that night. Since the leadership spill, I feel like the election is less relevant to me. I prefer to have women in government and I make no apology for that. After the spill, I felt like there was no place for me in politics. It seems that politics is a “man’s game” with no room for women. Julia Gillard was treated in such an appalling and abusive way by the media, fellow politicians and the general public. I’m still disgusted by the way people treated her. I lost a lot of respect for Labor that night.

I think something a lot of people forget is that we vote for our local member, not for the Prime Minister. I don’t think that’s as commonly known as it should be. My seat is marginal, which means we receive quite a lot of attention from both The Greens and Labor, but that’s not the case for every seat. People seem to forget that the primary job of an MP or a Senator is to represent their electorate/state. I think there should be more emphasis placed on the local member and what they’re doing to help their constituency.

Something I feel very strongly about is having diversity and equal opportunity in the parliament. I believe that a room predominantly filled with heterosexual white men is not an accurate representation of Australia. I think that politics would engage far more people if it was more diverse: more women, more people of colour, more Aboriginal people, more migrants, more LGBT people, more young people and more people from professions outside of law and business. I am constantly hearing reports of young people being disengaged in politics. I think people would be much more interested in politics if they saw people like themselves in the parliament.

I’ve chosen who I’m going to vote for based on the local candidates. This candidate’s positions on issues such as marriage equality, asylum seekers, education and general fairness for all Australians has compelled me to give them my vote. I honestly don’t have a prediction of the election outcome, but either way I’ll be drinking a lot of wine on the night.