You and your friends work to secure their responses on these issues. Your summaries of their responses are promoted across your networks— family, other friends, acquaintances, colleagues and your community networks, ultimately assisting people to make informed choices about candidates on election day.
Once your representative takes a seat in the Lower House, you and your friends decide to continue on, monitoring their commitments and/or policy performance.
You check in several times during the first parliamentary term to confirm whether or not your representative is keeping to their word and advocating on your behalf in bringing urgent priorities and policy reforms before our national parliament.
This is democracy at work in 2022—people, especially women, claiming a voice on matters of profound concern to them; pushing back in outrage against those who spend obscenely on buying influence; pressing for policy outcomes which serve the common good rather than naked self-interest; being prepared to maintain a watching brief to see if their candidates make good on their public commitments.
Now that’s accountability for you.
Welcome to Matters That Count—a federal election initiative of the Victorian Women’s Trust.
Back in 1997, we commissioned a now famous poster: Don’t Get Mad, Get Elected! On the back of this early call to action we have sought to empower women at all levels, to claim a voice within what is still an overtly masculine political culture through initiatives such as the Purple Sage Project, Watermark Australia, the Monster Climate Petition, and our pioneering work in developing our model of Kitchen Table Conversations.
We prize our independence. We have entered the public arena at other times of great community unease, such as with the sexism and destructiveness which swirled around the Gillard minority government.
There is too much at stake to wait until the magic day when gender parity is finally achieved in the House of Representatives. Women need to give urgent voice to their interests and concerns, muscle in on the national policy arena, and seek to elevate nation-building policies which would make an enormous difference in their day-to-day lives as well as achieve a far greater measure of gender equality.
And we do so now in the firm belief that the forthcoming election is one of those line-in-the-sand moments in time.
COVID-19 exposed deep seams of gendered inequality for too long ingrained in our economy, our federal budgets and national policies affecting women specifically, and the broader community more generally.
The public furore eighteen months ago over sexual assault allegations, ongoing allegations about sexual harassment, the misogynistic nature of our political parliamentary culture, compounded the quiet fury felt by many women around the nation.
Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. While we can afford pretty much anything, we nonetheless do have to make choices.
Our close reading of the lie of the land over the past few years tells us that there are a number of issues causing great unease in the hearts and minds of many Australians, especially women.
Our collective sense of what makes a decent, fair and compassionate society is being eroded before our eyes. Our planet is in peril, yet leadership is wanting. Powerful calls for an Indigenous voice in our national parliament are summarily dismissed.
For maximum impact, our candidate screening process requires us to focus on a select number of core issues for immediate action. With this in mind, we see eight in particular which must be profiled in the forthcoming federal election:
You can find our treatment of each of these issues at mattersthatcount.com.au. Each of these commitments is represented on an A4 page. On each of these pages we make our case for the importance of the issues, as well as spaces for candidates to sign off on their preparedness to take the actions that are outlined.
We are here to help you take part in this momentous pre-election exercise. Register your activity, and stay in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an edited extract from the Matters That Count instructional guide, available for download here.