Axver (axver) wrote,

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Debating and compulsory voting.

OK, so firstly, I debated way below my potential. Regardless of the fact I had fun, I don't think I did very well.

That aside, let me set the scene for you. I got up at 5:30am so I could make it to Brisbane on time but still get a bit of Internet time before leaving. When I arrived up there, my vain hopes the rules would be relaxed were dashed. With only thirty minutes' notice of the topic and speeches of eight minutes, matters were made worse when we were informed that we were not allowed to have a fourth member in the room. Oh, come ON. When you have only thirty minutes of prep time, you need a fourth person more than ever, to bounce ideas off and to write palm cards of some ideas while the rest of the team continue to create others. We were up the creek from the start, and thanks to a nice little administrative stuff-up, we lost about ten minutes of our prep time for the first debate.

Debate #1: Affirmative - that private schools receive too much public funding.

Let me first point out the irony that a private school was affirmative and a public school negative. Yeah, BRILLIANT. I absolutely hate 'too much' or 'not enough' debates because the definition is so damn subjective. Some (myself included) might consider 'too much' to mean 'any at all', while someone else might say that AUS$5,000 per head per year isn't sufficient, and the reasons for thinking so are most likely highly subjective ... and definitely can't be created with convincing evidence in twenty minutes while trying to figure out a team split leading from general to specific! That debate was HELL. Absolute HELL. It was a disaster and a shambles and we deserved to lose.

Debate #2: Negative - that we did not pay enough attention to the Paralympics.

I would love to know how the negative was meant to argue this. Even the dullest crayon in the box could tell you the Australian nation didn't pay enough attention to the Paralympics. Quite frankly, it was a disgrace and an embarrassment. Our Paralympians deserved so much more than being brushed off as disinteresting and not worthy of serious coverage. And yet we had to debate that the country paid them adequate and sufficient attention! I think we almost won that debate. Had we had the affirmative, we would have walked all over the opposition, but as it was, we weren't so fortunate and just went down. I think the others feel we should have won, but I'm not feeling ripped off. I'm still surprised we managed to competently debate that and so significantly bounced back from the disaster of the first debate.

Debate #3: Affirmative - that voting should not be compulsory.

The second it came up on the screen, a grin came to my face. A SERIOUS POLITICAL DEBATE! What's more, it was on an issue I remain undecided on, and one I could quite easily debate on both sides. I think we absolutely hammered them. Our arguments were cohesive, our speeches were the required length, and oh, the points of information were beautiful. In the lecture theatre we were debating in, the desks we sat at were up the front, and the speaker would stand between the two teams, but behind our desk was a lecturn no-one was using ... until the third negative decided to use it. I think she wanted to intimidate us. So I turned around, glared her down, and kept badgering her with "POINT OF INFORMATION!" She got so flustered. If the opposition become clearly flustered and lose their place over a point of information, you keep going in the hope they will become even more flustered and their speech will fall apart. The way you handle point of information can seriously determine whether you win or lose. And they LOST. That third speaker tried to intimidate us, but I think by the end of her speech, she felt intimidated back into a corner by my piercing glare and continual cries of "POINT OF INFORMATION!"

Hang on, end of her speech? WHAT end? She just suddenly stopped. One second, she was talking and I was about to leap up with another point of information, and the next, she was walking back to her desk. I think everyone saw the total confusion on my face. There was no summary, no conclusion, no hint whatsoever that she was about to end. Her team-mates hadn't been spectacular, but ... that was appalling. I was hanging for more! I was only just starting to get going! Maybe she saw the fire in my eyes and decided to get out of there. Who knows. But whatever the case ... I couldn't believe it. She had a fair amount of paper on the lecturn too, and yet her speech was so SHORT and just ... to say it stopped is putting it lightly.

We don't know who won the debate, though. See, the results of the third debates weren't being announced until after the final (why? I'd love to know!), and I was tired so we left before the final. I doubt I received an award for being one of the best debators on the day considering the abysmal first debate, and I didn't feel like watching the final anyway. It was two inner-city Brisbane schools debating 'That pre-emptive strikes on terrorists are justified' and while I may have normally enjoyed that, when I'm tired and trapped in a horrendously stuffy room, I don't want to listen to a debate. I fell asleep on the drive home.

I would, however, like to discuss the topic of the third debate in depth because it's something I'm uncertain about and I can understand both sides of the argument.

In a hypothetical and theoretical society, compulsory voting would be the best idea. How come? Because it wouldn't even be required in the first place - everyone would be informed of the candidates and their positions, and there would be a political party to suit everyone. Essentially, everyone would make an educated and informed vote for someone they genuinely support. Shame it's just too good to be true.

The positives of a compulsory vote in today's society means that every sector of society has to take an interest. When they arrive at the polling booth, they have to have some idea who they are voting for and it creates a very strong national involvement in the political process, with people across the whole spectrum of society submitting votes. The ultimate winner becomes the winner by the clear decision of the whole voting public - everyone makes a choice and the truly popular choice wins. No-one's political decision is disregarded because they feel they don't need to show up. Everyone is considered. It is a nice idea. It guarantees an extremely high voter turnout to elect the true people's choice of leader (for better or worse).

On the other hand, some would argue (as I did today in the debate) that compulsory voting flies in the face of the freedom of choice that we pride ourselves on in our democracy. The utopia I envisaged before is not a reality, and some people may feel there is no-one worth voting for or that their opinion is best reflected by staying at home. If voting is compulsory, they will walk in and either make a half-hearted decision they do not like, or enter an invalid vote by scribbling on the form (I, for one, will register myself as a political party). It also means that those people who simply don't understand or like politics are still being made to vote - this could mean some drongo from the back of Ipswich will walk in and just vote for whatever name he thinks is the coolest, or some guy stoned off his brains will vote for the HEMP party (Help End Marijuana Prohibition, I think it stands for), even though he's unaware that some other policy of the party will mean his house will be taken from him and he'll be forced to move to Alice Springs.

Making voting uncompulsory offers the truest freedom of choice. People are free to choose who they want to vote for or to not enter a vote at all. They are offered the total freedom of speech by being allowed to stay at home and vote through their couch. I do wonder how many people would fail to vote due to a total disdain for the system. The risk is that there will be a very poor voter turnout like in the USA, where less than half of the eligible population actually vote, and the winner will not actually have received the majority vote of the governed. You can't call that fair, but you can't call the deprivation of liberty fair either. People have a right to vote and they should exercise this right, but should they be forced to exercise this right? If they don't feel that voting is worthwhile, will the politicians even get the message?

So what do you think?

On a totally different note, my father's flying over in less than a month for Presentation Night at school. He told me on the phone tonight, which rather threw me off in a big way. I still don't know what to think, but I'll discuss this at a later date.
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