Tag Archives: the greens

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Benny on electoral reform

The latest Electoral Reform Green Paper, Strengthening Australia’s Democracy (available from http://www.pmc.gov.au/consultation/elect_reform/strengthening_democracy/index.cfm ), was recently released. While it covers an issue that has been jumped all over recently by mainstream media, that of lowering the voting age, which while somewhat interesting, it also covers issues which I think are far more discussion worthy.*

I love talking about electoral reform. It is one of my favourite topics. I could talk about this paper a lot.

For today, sections 5.42 to 5.62 discuss the voting system used in the house of representatives. Currently, the house of representatives uses a preferential voting system. In effect, this means you can choose to give each candidate a number, and if for some unknown reason you give your first preference to a Family First candidate, throwing your vote away, you get an automatic reprieve and your vote is reallocated to your second preference. This process of preference skipping is repeated until a preference for a sensible party (or occasionally the greens) is reached.

In all seriousness though, the preferential system is a mostly sound system. The main problem from most perspectives is preferential systems always favour majority groups. A candidate needs to be the first to reach 50% of votes, via an initial majority or through preferences. For example, in Queensland, in each electorate, the candidate who gets to 50% first will win. Thus, as one of the main parties will generally get to 50% on preferences first in each electorate, minority parties will generally fail. Thus, even if 10% of Queenslanders support the anti-environment party and everyone else puts them as last preference, if those who support are roughly distributed evenly across all electorates, they won’t win a thing. Thus, sizeable minorities that otherwise do not form the majority views in any electorate will have no representation in the lower house.

Alternatively, the Senate has a proportional system. A fantastic article on how our proportional voting system for the Senate works can be found here : http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/senatevotingsystem.htm . Or if you are dull like me, go read (the incredibly wordy and complex) section 273 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The way our proportional quota vote counting system works is very interesting, and I don’t think too many people in Australia have much idea how the Senate is actually elected.

So, back to the new green paper. One of the opportunities it outlines is for the House of Representatives to shift to a form of proportional representation, with divisions at the state or sub-state level. The green paper even discusses many of the arguments for and against the idea (it is quite the paper). This change has the potential to change the political landscape. It also raises some interesting issues for how the ballots will be developed (i.e. will the option remain of voting “above the line” for a single political party, thus accepting the party’s preference order for candidates).

I am still making my way through this paper (at 260 pages it is quite a study). And there have already been a few parts of it I have been disappointed with (the discussion of current proportional vote counting in the paper is poor). But this thing provides topic fodder for months.

*Utilising Nathan’s asterix technique, and noting my prior post, lowering the voting age is pulp news. Further, a 16 year old who wants to sail around the world is not news, and everytime the State Premier/Deputy Premier etc has a press interview, they should not be asked their opinion on said teenager sailing around the world, and their comment is not news.

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Election Scorecard: Candidates in Townsville

The campaign proper has been underway for two weeks now. Here’s part one of my take on the candidates for Townsville’s three seats:

Townsville:

Mandy Johnstone – Labor’s factional darling somehow got the nod to replace Mike Reynolds, the seat’s former member. It says a lot about Mandy Johnstone’s campaign that her campaign website features a prominent photo of Anna Bligh and a tiny photo of Mandy Johnstone. 

She seems nice enough – but is yet to make any impression on the campaign, except for an announcement of $10 million in funding for the Jezzine Barracks development. 

Grade: C+

Murray Hurst – The LNP picked a former Cowboys Coach with some experience as a Thuringowa City Councillor to run for the seat – at the time they had no idea who they’d be running against. Hurst has visibility, has a connection to the city’s most popular icon, and has some experience in government – what he doesn’t have is the ability to make any promises on anything before “he gets into government”. Oh, and he annoyingly drops a football metaphor or reference to his coaching experience into political discourse at the drop of a hat. 

Grade: C

Jenny Stirling – we all know how I feel about the environment – and in particular the Greens. Jenny Stirling is largely to blame. Every time she speaks I want to punch myself in the face. If I was to act out that compulsion I would be black and blue – she talks everywhere. Anywhere her views can be expressed – be it the Bulletin’s feedback forms, Magnetictimes.com, letters to the editor, her own website, the media… she’s everywhere, commenting on every issue. And running at every election. While I’ve been here she’s run for council, for Mayor, for Federal Government, for the State Government, and now is running again. That’s five elections in three years – and she’s lost them all. Unfortunately her vote is increasing – and she’s probably got the profile to give this election a real shake. She also knows a media opportunity when she sees one. 

Grade: B-

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Mothering instinct

You know what gets my goat. People who blame “mother nature” for things like massive bushfires and floods. 

How come “mother nature” is allowed to be evil and nasty and yet atheists and other anti-Christian philosophers say their big problem with the Christian God is that an “all loving, benevolent God” would not allow suffering.

Other thoughts:

I don’t know where the idea of God being “all loving” is – I think he’s holy and righteously angry as well. It’s in the bible people. 

Fires and floods don’t seem to be particularly “motherly” unless you’re a really nasty parent.

Why is it “more rational” to attribute this sort of disaster to “mother nature” than to God? I confess I don’t see “mother nature” out there trying to find followers. 

If there’s one thing that annoys me more than Christians trying to piggyback their causes cynically on the back of a disaster it’s hippies doing the same. If I hear one more hippy claiming that these fires are proof that we need more stringent carbon targets I will scream. My thoughts on climate change not withstanding the idea that Australia, a piddling island nation in the scheme of things, has much influence on the climate anyway is ridiculous. And calling for something that will cost Australian jobs while people are struggling with massive loss of life and a looming recession is not very sensitive. It could be political suicide though. On second thoughts. Go for it Greens. And invoke “mother nature” as you do it.