OPINION – Make military votes matter

30 Jun 2016

ROSS EASTGATE, Townsville Bulletin June 30, 2016 

Ross Eastgate

MANY veterans’ organisations believe Australia’s first double dissolution election in decades will finally empower them to make a difference.

Armed with all the modern tools of discourse and communication from social media to online petitions they are mobilising their numbers to influence outcomes on July 2.

While there are electorates with large concentrations of serving and former defence members, there is no single, dedicated electorate to represent that community’s views.

There is a growing number of ex-service personnel represented in both Federal Parliament chambers but they mostly have proved disappointing when representing the wider defence community’s views or indeed listening to its genuine concerns.

There are more running in this election including one attempting to recover a seat lost at the last election.

Having veterans in parliament is no guarantee critical veterans’ issues will be adequately addressed.

There was some initial optimism when Fadden MP and former intelligence officer Stuart Robert was appointed Veterans Affairs Minister but his star spectacularly crashed and burned.

Those veterans who dealt with the Gold Coast based MP quickly discovered his priorities were mostly based on self interest

Some organisations energised by the advent of the Turnbull Government regenerated previously unsuccessful submissions only to be disappointed to receive identical bureaucratic rejections.

Those who harboured optimism their issues might be represented by the variety of rogue independents quickly discovered actual outcomes were inversely proportional to noise generated.

Therein lies the rub.

Take a cross section of the wider defence community and compare it with a cross section of Australian society and you will discover they are almost identical.

The defence community thinks and more importantly votes in the same proportions as that wider community with only a small margin of difference.

There will be almost equal percentages in each sample of those rusted on to the mainstream political parties as there will be of those attracted to minor parties and so-called independents.

Realistically among the issues which energise the majority of Australians, defence and veterans issues are not high on their priorities.

The economy, education, health and even LGBTIQ issues always rate higher than defence.

While each of the many veterans’ organisations may agree internally on the issues which affect them and the outcomes they desire, they are not united in how to do that.

Nor are they universally effective in communicating those issues either internally or externally.

Many are being lured by the seductive but simplistic siren calls of political fringe dwellers who promise much but in reality achieve little.

Australia’s parliament will always be dominated by the major parties.

Single-issue or personality- based parties do not thrive or survive in Australia’s robust political environment.

Given the dilution of veterans’ votes across all electorates, protest votes could have the opposite effect to that intended.

Veterans’ interests will always be best served by supporting a major party and attempting to force change from within.

Your vote is vitally important but will be more effective placed where it actually counts.