Chaplaincy | The power of a ‘democracy sausage’

Chaplaincy | The power of a ‘democracy sausage’

The power of a ‘democracy sausage’

I want to introduce to you one of my favourite foods. It’s called the ‘democracy sausage’. A piece of charred, greasy mince, served on a piece of bread, with caramelised onion and barbecue sauce (there are vegetarian versions available too). It may not be the most sophisticated eating, but it’s hugely important for every Australian. They are quite rare. You can wait a long time to see one, but then every few years the Prime Minister goes to visit the Governor General and, before long, ‘democracy sausages’ are popping-up at BBQs and outside polling booths all around the country.

The ‘democracy sausage’ is only possible because Australians always vote on a Saturday and voting is compulsory. You may not realise it, but this is highly unusual.

Judith Brett is a retired professor of politics from La Trobe University, Melbourne. I found a short video on the BBC website in which she explains Australian voting to the world. She makes the point that compulsory voting is quite rare around the world but it brings big advantages.

Firstly, it means that political parties are pulled towards the centre and so popularist votes are less likely to happen. You might feel a bit bored by the ‘sameness’ of politics in Australia but it might be a good thing – it means that we have very stable governance.

Second, because of compulsory voting, marginalised people are better represented. The richest person in the country gets one vote and the poorest gets one vote – and voting is on a Saturday, so everyone can do it. It is much harder under this system to ignore the marginalised.

Lastly, new migrants are drawn into the political process. As soon as you are a citizen you have to vote, so no one is left on the sidelines.

You can see the short video here.

A few years ago, I was in the United States on election day. It had been a heated campaign and I was fascinated to see how it would turn out. I had spent the day in Hollywood and was riding on the bus back to Los Angeles, when I stopped off for some dinner at a local street stall. I started chatting to the people who were both poor and from migrant communities. The first thing I noticed was just how hard it had been for them to vote. It was a Tuesday and they had to work all day. They also told me that the election was ‘rigged’.

I give thanks to God for the country I live in. I appreciate the political system we enjoy. It’s stable, fair, and peaceful. When one government gets voted out, they concede defeat and there is a smooth transition of government. The removalists turn-up to ‘The Lodge’, in Canberra, move one Prime Minister out and move the next one in. Maybe it is a bit boring but when it comes to politics, that might not be a bad thing. It certainly beats living under despots and dictators.

It’s interesting that the very first followers of Jesus were born into the Roman world. Probably not the warmest or kindest regime to live under, yet the New Testament writings are largely positive about government. They say things like, “Show proper respect to everyone, fear God, honour the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17) and pray “for all people, for kings and all in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2). If they can be that positive about Rome, how much more should I be about Australia?

So, whether you are a fan of the ‘democracy sausage’ or not, at least give thanks for Australia and all it represents.

Mr Greg Webster | Senior Chaplain

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