On the eve of the 2013 Australian Federal Election, politics seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. And rightly so. In a few hours, Aussie’s will head to the polls to cast their votes. My vote was cast last week, at the Australian Embassy in Dili.
It’s a strange thing to vote from overseas. It’s even stranger to vote in a country like Timor-Leste – a country that not so long ago cast their votes for their first ever independent government. For Australian’s, voting is sometimes an inconvenience. For the Timorese, it’s a privilege and a right that they take seriously. It’s a right that they achieved after a long and brutal fight for independence from the occupation of the Indonesians.
Watching the last few weeks of the campaign from afar and from a developing country no less, has been both a challenge and a relief. It’s a relief to be slightly removed from the negativity that campaigns bring, but it’s also highlighted the stark differences between “developed” and “developing”.
While Aussie’s bicker over the best way to achieve super-fast internet, I am paying amounts unaffordable to most Timorese for an internet connection that is dial-up speed most of the time.
In Australia, discussions of who offers the best paid parental leave scheme are abundant. In Timor, maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. And if you survive the first year of life, there’s a huge chance that you won’t survive the next four, with the under-5 mortality rate at 130 per 1000 live births.
While around half of the population of Timor lives below the national poverty line of US$0.55 a day, Australian’s are asking who will give them the biggest tax cuts, or more financial assistance for raising their children. Heck, vaccinate your kids in Australia and the current government will GIVE YOU MONEY! In Timor, less than half the population has had the full range of World Health Organisation-recommended immunizations and deaths from polio and measles are common.
As some Australian’s bemoan the so-called Carbon Tax, Timor is being dramatically effected by climate change with rising sea levels that are threatening the coastal populations, dry seasons that are lasting longer than ever and damaging crops, and wet seasons that are much wetter than before, leading to flooding and landslides.
The differences are stark, and Timor-Leste is just an hour’s flight away from Darwin.
The Coalition, if elected, will cut the aid budget by a staggering $4.5 billion dollars. The Labor Party has not even come close to its aid budget promises and made cuts in the last budget.
Yes, the differences in our two countries are astounding, particularly given the fact we’re on each other’s doorsteps.
Apparently, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott just don’t care.
But, hey, as long as we have speedy internet, right?