Monday, 17 December 2012

Rejoicing That The System Works

On 8 September 2012, there were council elections in the state of New South Wales in Australia. Nothing remarkable about them, except that this time, I forgot about them and did not vote.

In most other countries, the only upshot of an omission like this would possibly have been a sense of regret that one missed a chance to influence the outcome. In a country like Australia, though, where voting is not just a right but also a duty, the consequences had financial bite. 

I received the following penalty notice in the mail a few weeks later, informing me that I owed the exchequer $55 for my sins.

 Note that they do give you a chance to explain why you failed to vote. They also helpfully give you a website to register for an automated email or SMS reminder so you don't get caught out the next time.

They cover other possibilities as well, such as if you did vote (and they seem willing to take your word for it if you merely declare that you did so!), and also let you take the matter to court if you so wish.

I had no option but to pay up, of course, since "I forgot" is hardly a legitimate defence. But all said and done, I was impressed. The sheer efficiency and fairness of the system left me marvelling. Even with my embarrassment at being a violator of rules and the pain of losing $55 (more than a week's worth of lunch), I found myself admiring the beauty of the system and feeling pride in my adopted country.

I was powerfully reminded of the saying that a true patriot is one who receives a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.

I guess I'm a patriot, then!

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