Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

More on Senate Preferences

The possibility of people getting elected to the Senate with virtually no public support has been greater coverage, with a piece in today’s SMH and Antony Green letting fly about it on the ABC this morning. Given this is how the Senate voting system works, it’s probably idealistic to hope that people wouldn’t try to game it. And it’s certainly very common for parties of all sizes to look ...


Senate preference mayhem: 0.2% of the vote could be enough to win

This election sees a record number of parties contesting the Senate and a record number of candidates. Even people like me who enjoy filling in all the squares below the line on the Senate ballot paper might balk at having to fill in 82 squares (if you’re in Queensland), 102 (if you’re in NSW) or 97 (if you’re in Victoria). I tend to start with my top few, ...

Climate Change package and the Senate

Barack Obama's visit to Canberra this week has generated a lot of attention.  But I was much happier being  in Canberra last week for the Senate’s historic vote to pass the package of legislation that will finally start moving Australia towards a clean energy future. I partly wanted to be there as a way to bear witness to the efforts of so many members and MPs of the Australian ...

Greens, Democrats and the Senate balance of power

Today marks the day the Greens officially gain sole balance of power in the Senate. It also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the day the Democrats first gained the Senate balance of power back in 1981. Many people focus on the difficulties and disappointments of the Democrats declining years, and it reasonable to consider how the Greens might best avoid this fate. But it is equally important to remember ...

Proceedings of conference on Senate Committee system

A couple of weeks ago I was in Canberra to speak at a conference held to mark 40 years of the modern Senate Committee system.  The audio and video of the proceedings can be found at this link. It had a bit of a Democrat flavour to it, with three former Democrat Senators amongst the speakers - which is fitting as strengthening the effectiveness and reputation of the ...

The full Senate results

The Senate contest in Queensland was formally declared today, and the results in other states and territories will be officially declared over the next week or so.  The understandable focus on who would end up forming government has mean there has been very little attention given to the results in the various Senate contests at this election, especially given it was obvious on election night that the Greens ...

Wild Rivers

Contention over Queensland's  Wild Rivers legislation has been bubbling along for quite a while now. Unfortunately, as with many issues which become polarised, each "side" is focused on defending their position, which has meant that some important underlying issues are not getting the attention they deserve. I've just had a piece on this topic published at The Drum on the ABC's website.  It's fairly long, so they published it ...

Senate committee reports on international students issue

I mentioned in this post about appearing before a Senate Committee hearing  as patr of their inquiry into the welfare of international students.  That Committee tabled its report in the Senate in the final sitting days of the year.  Almost all the attention at the time was on the legislation dealing with climate change, and the related leadership tension in the Liberal Party, so the report got fairly limited ...

Senate’s International students inquiry – the questioner gets questioned

I had the slightly curious but none the less worthwhile experience a couple of weeks ago of providing evidence to a public hearing a Senate Committee inquiry, sitting on the opposite side of the table from where I’d been so many times since 1997. The inquiry is into issues surrounding international students.  While a lot of the media coverage has focused on violence towards some students in some southern ...

Jack Evans: Another Democrat obituary

News has come through that Jack Evans, a pivotal person in the founding and development of the Australian Democrats, has died at the age of 80. I've previously written about other former Democrats when they have passed away, namely Sid Spindler, and Don Chipp.  Whilst its dangerous to single people out, Sid, Don and Jack were amongst the most crucial people in getting the Democrats established and functional.  Certainly when it comes to ...

Why our Parliaments don’t work as well as they should (or our governments get away with too much)

If you are only going to read one thing about how Australia’s federal Parliament works – and more importantly how it doesn’t work – read this fabulous piece by the long-standing Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans. Among many things, he highlights the fact that the supposed ‘Westminster system’ we are repeatedly told Australia has, is in fact no such thing.  The almost totally rigid party discipline – a relatively ...

New Matilda piece on prospects of an early election

Election speculation can serve to distract people from the policy issues and decisions being made which are directly affecting people’s lives.  However, it is a significant issue, especially when it may lead to a double dissolution election which would immediately change the Senate’s make up. Regardless of whether it’s a double dissolution or a normal half-Senate election, it is virtually a certainty that the Greens will hold the balance ...

Babies in the Senate

I wasn’t going to comment on the story about the Senate President ordering the removal of the baby of a female Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, who had brought her child in with her for a Senate vote. It just seemed so obviously an over-reaction by the President that I felt it barely merited comment. The Senate President, Queenslander John Hogg, is a very decent man. While he is quite conservative ...

10 Year anniversary of Harradine’s “I Cannot” GST speech

At 3:07 pm on Friday 14th May 1999, Senator Brian Harradine rose to address the Senate. As with this week ten years later, it was just after a federal Budget had been delivered – Peter Costello’s third.  Unlike this week, discussion over the content of the Budget had been quickly subsumed by speculation over whether the GST – the defining issue of John Howard’s government at the time – ...

One Last Hurdle? – 18 years since Senate Committee called for Jump Racing ban

Racing Victoria meets tomorrow (Wednesday 13 May) to decide whether or not to finally follow every other state (except South Australia) in banning jumps racing. (UPDATE - decision postponed until "later in the week") Nearly a year ago, I said such a ban was well overdue. Instead, there was another review, followed by more ‘improvements’, followed by more horse deaths.  At the time I mentioned there had been two ...

Crikey piece on the Senate’s reject pile

Two weeks of the new Senate is enough to show there is a strong likelihood of the government ending up with a large pile of rejected legislation - plenty for a double dissolution election some time next year should Kevin Rudd want one.  There have already been four packages of legislation knocked back so far this year. I've written about it in more detail in this piece over at Crikey.  

Crikey piece on the prompt return of Senate bashing

Crikey has expanded their efforts at giving exposure to the blogosphere, setting up a page displaying a range of bloggers, including some of their existing contributors having a go in the blogging format. I’ll be writing regular pieces for Crikey which will appear on their site. You can read the first of them by clicking here. It’s about the prompt reappearance of the time-honoured tradition Senate bashing, as soon ...

Double dissolution election chances increase

The first two weeks of the new Senate have made the prospect of an early double dissolution election more likely.  John Quiggin is right to argue that “the rejection of the government’s changes to luxury car tax shortens the odds considerably.” There are three main factors which make me think a double dissolution is quite likely, with the only caveat being that Kevin Rudd would need to be convinced ...

Greens do deal on luxury car tax – but change still blocked in Senate

While it won’t be enough to get the measure through the Senate, it’s good to see the Greens negotiate a reasonable agreement with the federal government regarding the planned tax increase on higher priced cars. (UPDATE 4/9 - The legislation was voted down in the Senate this morning without any opporutnity for amendments to be moved, when the Family First Senator voted with the Coalition). Under the Greens' agreement, ...

Questioning Question Time

Despite the disproportionate amount of attention often given to Question Time in the federal parliament, I have long felt that it is not only an absurd parody of an accountability mechanism, it can also distort the direction and content of political debate. So I was pleased to see last week that outgoing Senate President, long-serving Liberal Senator Alan Ferguson (now in the role of Senate Deputy President), gave his ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

    More... (7)
  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

    More... (0)
  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.