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Andrew Bartlett http://andrewbartlett.com Australian & Queensland Politics Sun, 08 May 2016 10:18:40 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.2 First, Do No Harm http://andrewbartlett.com/first-do-no-harm/ http://andrewbartlett.com/first-do-no-harm/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:31:25 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8365 I must have given hundreds of talks and speeches of various types over the last twenty years on the issue of refugees and people seeking asylum – and written plenty of pieces on the topic (not least on this blog).  Last weekend I was speaking to a group of inspiring young medical students at Griffith University on the Gold Coast who were seeking to get a better understanding of health, social and political factors affecting people seeking asylum.  I’d spoken before at similar events put together by the same organisation – Towards International Medical Equality. But it was only while talking to them that the central relevance of the fundamental medical maxim – First, Do No Harm – crystallised in my mind.

There are other phrases that encapsulate a similar idea – some less elegantly than others – but in policy areas where it is not always clear what course of action is the best, that fundamental initial principle should at the very least be a guide as to what not to do – First, Do No Harm.

At the moment, the considered policy of the Australian government – mirrored to a very large extent by the main opposition party – is to knowingly inflict serious, prolonged harm on innocent people.  The situation in the Australian government organised and funded detention camps on both Nauru and Manus Island is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe.  Perhaps the worst aspect of this is that it has always been almost inevitable that this was going to occur.  We knew the enormity f the human harm that would occur as a result of this approach, and yet it was pursued despite, or more likely because, of this knowledge.

There is obviously no quick or easy solution to the global reality of large and growing numbers of refugees, or even to how best to deal with the relatively small number of these people who seek to make their way directly to Australia.

But even complex issues often have aspects of them which are very simple.  And surely one of the clearest and basic principles in determining how best to deal with a situation involving human suffering is not to deliberately add to that suffering.
This coming federal election campaign provides a very clear opportunity to indicate to the two largest parties that policy ‘solutions’ which rely fundamentally on inflicting serious harm on vulnerable, innocent people are not acceptable or supportable.  There are and will always be other ways to address an issue.

The brutality must stop. It can be stopped now. It must be stopped – now.

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Senate Voting Reform: Part 4 – How do you vote someone out if they don’t need votes to get in? http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-4-how-do-you-vote-someone-out-if-they-dont-need-votes-to-get-in/ http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-4-how-do-you-vote-someone-out-if-they-dont-need-votes-to-get-in/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 15:43:25 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8353 There are many problems with how the current Senate voting system has evolved, but perhaps the worst is that it subverts the most basic aspect of a democracy – the ability to vote somebody out if people think they’re doing a bad job. If you can get elected with barely any public support, you have no need to maintain or develop any public support. And if the public is opposed to what you are doing, they can’t mobilise people to stop voting for you, because people weren’t voting for you in the first place, and you don’t need their votes to get back in.

When I had the less than uplifting experience of being voted out of the Senate at the 2007 federal election, I received just 1.88% of all votes cast across Queensland. This might have been better than the Democrats managed in any other state, but it was still abysmal. I am pretty sure if I had gone around the state saying I still deserved to have a seat in the Senate I would have been told where to get off very quickly – and probably not overly politely. Despite making some major mistakes along the way, I believe the Democrats did a great deal that was positive for Australia and for politics, and it was a sad way for it all to end. But end it did, and it was very clear that this was the voters’ intention.

But at the moment we are experiencing a situation where parties with even lower levels of public support are suggesting they have a right to a seat in the Senate, no matter how invisible their policies and their membership – and how minimal their vote – may be. Whatever else people may have said about the Democrats, there is no doubt they were a real political party with a readily identifiable set of policies and a genuine membership base – something which cannot genuinely be said about a large number of the fifty parties currently registered at federal level.

One of the key reasons I joined the Democrats back in 1989 rather than a major party was because I believed politics would benefit from more diversity.  Nearly twenty years later, my desire to see viable political alternatives to the two traditional parties was still strong enough for me to get involved with building up support for the Greens. The first federal election I campaigned in was in 1990, and in every one since then I have been involved, often very heavily, in the arcane world of Senate preferences and the ‘backroom deals’ that have become an unavoidable part of that. There have been eight further elections held since that one in 1990, and each time the preference dealing and potential for perverting the outcome has got worse. As far back as 1996, Cheryl Kernot described the lead up to registering party Senate preference tickets in that year’s election as “probably her worst time in politics”. Everyone has to work with whatever the voting system is, but there is no doubt that the current Senate system is badly broken.

Diversity in politics is very valuable and much needed. But that diversity has to be based on genuine public support for identifiable ideas, not artificially generated via misleading manipulation representing no identifiable views or using random rolls of the dice (although if you do really like the idea of democracy/governing via lottery, there is a process called sortition that you may want to familiarise yourself with.) Such approaches totally defeat the purpose of building public support for particular ideas and disempower voters far more than the current system does. If someone especially wants to be disempowered, they can always vote informal, but they shouldn’t expect to force that disempowerment on everyone else.

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Senate Voting Reform: Part 3 – Is this the Greens’ “GST moment”? (hint: No. No it’s not.) http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-3-is-this-the-greens-gst-moment-hint-no-no-its-not/ http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-3-is-this-the-greens-gst-moment-hint-no-no-its-not/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 04:12:54 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8345 I have read a range of comments by people asserting that the current controversy over the Greens support for repairing the Senate voting system will by the “Greens GST moment.” As I am well-qualified to say what a “GST moment” is like, I thought I’d explain why that is not even remotely close to what is happening now.

As a starting point, I’ll address comments about Senate Voting Reform contained in this recent ‘Views from the Street’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald.  This column describes itself as a “snarky rant”, which in other circumstances would mean it would best be perused with a few grains of salt sprinkled on the tongue in one’s cheek. But given the buckets of bile being bellowed bombastically from all quarters at the moment over the alleged evils of Senate voting reform and all who support it, a snarky rant is a placid lake of measured rationality by comparison.

Under the heading ‘Lessons of History’, it repeats the suggestion that the Greens determination to take the opportunity to implement their own longstanding policy of repairing the Senate voting system equates to the Democrats decision in 1999 to support John Howard’s GST.

I was in the middle of that fateful decision by a majority of Democrat Senators to support the introduction of a GST.  Out of all the Democrat Senators from that time, I am the only one who came out of the sad and smouldering ashes of the obliterated ruin and for someone thought ‘I think I’ll go join another progressive party and have another shot at challenging the 100 year hegemony of the two party monolith, because it was so much fun the first time around’. So I am highly sensitive to any possibility of ever experiencing anything which might be described as ‘the Greens GST moment’, as there is probably literally no one else on the planet keener than I am to avoid going through an experience such as that again or witnessing another mistake of that enormity.

But first a couple of corrections to the content of the ‘snarky rant’.  Despite the column’s claim that “once (the GST) passed the party was dead in the water”, the Democrats still won four Senate seats at the following election in 2001. Of course it is reasonable to assume that this only happened because the party membership decided to remove Meg Lees as Leader and replace her with Natasha Stott Despoja, one of the two Democrat Senators, along with myself, who voted against the GST in the Senate (an action consistent with the fact that the majority of the party’s members opposed the GST deal).  The ‘dead in the water’ bit actually coincided with when Natasha Stott Despoja was subsequently forced out of the leadership by a majority of her Parliamentary colleagues. (And as a free piece of genius advice for anyone anywhere ever who is thinking about trying to remove someone from a leadership position, it is probably a good idea to figure out beforehand who will put themselves forward to be a replacement.) But my point was even a decision as stupid and damaging as the GST one did not in itself destroy the Democrats capacity to win the same number of seats at the subsequent election as they had at the preceding one.

The column also seeks to draw comparisons to the Democrats deal on the GST by describing the Greens decision to vote for major legislation implementing an important part of their own policy as also being an “expedient deal that just so happens to benefit the conservative government of the day”.  (For those who aren’t sure, ‘expedient’ means ‘convenient but possibly improper/immoral’).  As I wrote in a previous post, this current political situation and its timing is exceedingly inconvenient for the Greens.  As it is the party’s longstanding policy it is also hard to see how it could be improper. But whilst the timing is inconvenient, it is none the less the only time the chance has arisen to make this major democratic reform in the twenty years since the party first called for it, so it is basically now or never in regards to taking the opportunity.  As has also been noted elsewhere, there is no particular reason why these reforms will benefit the conservatives into the future either. The new Senate voting reforms will advantage those parties  – of whatever philosophical persuasion – that gain genuine public support from voters above those parties that don’t – which is rather the point of having elections in the first place I would have thought.

But back to the overarching suggestion that this may be the Greens ‘GST moment’. It may be that the relentless, well orchestrated attacks currently targeted at the Greens do cause some political damage to the Greens. Self-evidently, that is the intent of those conducting the attacks. We will see what happens on that front, but I think the suggestion (and no doubt fervent hope of some) that it will somehow lead to the Greens experiencing a Democrat-like demise is highly improbable, as I believe there are two key differences.

Firstly, whilst there are certainly large volumes of vomit being disgorged in the Greens direction from a variety of origins at the moment, it still really is a spring shower compared with the tidal wave of public abuse that instantaneously descended on the Democrats when they agreed to support the GST – and there was no Twitter or Facebook in those days to further magnify and multiply such responses.  The anger and outrage on the GST was genuine, organic, immediate and direct from the public and based to at least a reasonable extent on widely available facts.  Compare that to the complaints on Senate voting reform, which are derived from partisan-powered misinformation manufactured and orchestrated from a range of sources that are clear to everyone (as should be their motivations), are mostly focused on issues which actually have nothing to do with Senate voting reform and involving criticisms which have a tenuous relationship with truth, to put it mildly. I emphasise that many of those criticising the Greens in the current context do so from the basis of genuine concern, but none the less those concerns have been based largely on a torrent of exaggerations, highly selective interpretations, misinformation, distortions and flat out falsehoods that have been pumped into progressive networks over recent times .

Secondly, while some of the amendments the Democrats negotiated with John Howard before agreeing to the GST deal were in accordance with previous statements by the party about what sort of changes were needed to make the GST fairer, it was never actually party policy to support or work towards implementing a GST. At best, the party’s position was to consider GST legislation if it was put forward by the government of the day and decide whether it might be bearable if a very large number of amendments were made to it. The GST was the major political issue of the day over a very long period of time, and the centrepiece of the 1998 election. Pretty much everyone in the electorate had a view on it. When GST legislation was put forward, it was the subject of four – yes four – separate Senate Committee inquiries run in parallel, which spent a number of months going around the country pointing out all the things that were wrong with it, all the while assuming the government would make some sort of deal with independent Senator Brian Harradine (who held the balance of power at the time) – whereupon everyone would say how crap his deal was and the GST never should have been passed. Instead, he rather famously said “I cannot”.  Within three weeks, Meg Lees said “I can”- and cue above mentioned tidal wave.

By contrast, the Greens desire for major improvement of the Senate voting system has been expressed consistently for over twenty years, and has been growing in detail and priority in the last ten years. It had gained sufficient importance to the party that a commitment to its implementation was specified in the agreement the party struck with Julia Gillard in exchange for supporting her forming government in 2010.  Whilst Senate voting reform has long been called for by pretty much anybody who understands voting systems and values an effective democracy, it has not been a major political issue in the minds of the public. Also unlike the GST, it was never a significant point of difference between the main political parties. As has been repeatedly pointed out, the Parliamentary Committee that examined the issue in detail after the last election came to a unanimous position supported by Labor, Liberal and Greens. The difference with the GST could not be more stark. Even though the Independent Senator Nick Xenophon – today’s equivalent of Brian Harradine in some respects – came up with a slightly different solution, he also supported the core component of reforming Senate voting laws, which was to scrap the abomination of Group Voting Tickets which allows shonks and shysters to harvest and cross-trade preferences via an ever more complex web of backroom deals.

So to compare and contrast, the Greens approach on Senate voting reform:
•    Implements a long-standing policy of the party in a pivotal policy area
• Is strongly supported by the party’s membership
•    Has long been supported by close to every non-aligned advocate in the field
•    Would clearly benefit the entire community through a far more accountable and fair electoral system
•    Is consistent with the unanimous findings of a comprehensive Parliamentary Committee inquiry process and
•    Was (up until almost the moment legislation finally appeared) supported by both Labor and Liberal parties

This is a very far cry from the Democrats’ support for the GST, which involved supporting something which was:
•    Not party policy and had never been a stated goal of the party
• Opposed by the majority of the party’s own members
•    Ferociously opposed by many organisations from the party’s most supportive constituencies
•    Widely criticised on multiple fronts throughout a comprehensive process of Parliamentary Committee inquiries
•    Clearly and very publicly found through those inquiry processes to cause disadvantage to significant sections of the community unless major amendments were made
•    Never ever something which came even remotely close to having bi-partisan support

Of course, both ending up involving lots of shouts of outrage from the Labor Party and accusations of getting into bed with the Liberals – so I suppose that’s similarity.

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Senate Voting Reform: Part 2 (Cowardice, Conviction, Politics & Principle) http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-2-cowardice-conviction-politics-principle/ http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-part-2-cowardice-conviction-politics-principle/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 05:55:20 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8342 Crikey is normally pretty good at cutting through political bluster to identify what is happening underneath. So it was disappointing to see them having a shot at the Greens for refusing to acquiesce to tactical moves by various other parties in the Senate to derail the legislation implementing improvements to Senate voting laws.  It also made me realise that there is a lack of recognition of just how important these reforms to Senate voting laws are.  They are not just a slight improvement of arguable benefit.  They are a hugely important, desperately needed reform.

Crikey’s editorial yesterday – titled “The cowardice of their conviction” – wrote about the Greens that “When it comes to getting rid of crossbenchers who stand in your party’s way, it seems politics trumps conviction every time.”

So I replied with the following (at this link, but behind a paywall unless you subscribe)

Re “The cowardice of their conviction” (yesterday). I know the concept of a political party doing something because it’s the right thing for democracy may seem implausible, but it is worth considering that it is at least possible.

Those who oppose the major improvements to democracy that will come from Senate voting reform are trying to derail it by bringing on debate on other legislation that the Greens also support. The Greens are simply choosing to prioritise one piece of legislation they support — which has a real chance of being implemented if it is voted on this week — over other legislation they support which is very unlikely to pass at the moment.

It is a total misreading of the situation to suggest that the Greens refusal to go along with this equates to “politics trumping conviction”. What is happening is precisely the opposite. The easy politics would be for the Greens to fold in the face of the massive attacks and monumental misrepresentations which have been put around on this issue by a range of people who are clearly putting short-term interests ahead of long-term opportunity. The fact that some of those people know that the Greens are the strongest defenders of the issues they care about makes the politics even more difficult for the Greens and the attacks all the more disappointing (not to mention dangerous for progressive politics). Instead the Greens are showing strong conviction by holding firm on grasping the first real opportunity to fix the Senate voting system, after 20 years of advocating for that reform.

This is not a minor matter. It is about ensuring that Senates are actually elected by the voters, thus ensuring those future Senates are able to be held accountable by the voters for the decisions they made. That affects not only the specific issues that progressive politics cares about now, but every single one of them that might come before the Parliament for decades to come.

It is unfortunate that the principle that voters should be the ones deciding who gets elected at election time has somehow become contentious. But the fact that it has makes it all the more crucial that a rare opportunity is not lost to ensure this very fundamental principle is able to apply in the future.

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Senate Voting Reform: Correcting the Crap (part 1) http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-correcting-the-crap-part-1/ http://andrewbartlett.com/senate-voting-reform-correcting-the-crap-part-1/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2016 03:45:36 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8332 This upcoming federal election will be the tenth I’ve been involved in. As all these have been with a smaller party – either the Democrats or the Greens – and in all but the first I’ve been involved in one way or another with preferences decisions, I have a fair idea of how the current Senate system works, and why it is terribly broken and dangerously distorting for not just the voter but for every genuine political party – large, medium, and small – who currently have no choice but to engage with it.

The need to repair the existing Senate voting system has been acknowledged for a long time, and proposals on how best to do this were put forward by Labor, Greens and Liberal MPs nearly two years ago – as well as Senator Nick Xenophon, who proposed a slightly different proposal to fix the problem. Despite this, now that Senate voting reform laws have finally appeared, there has been a sudden torrent of mostly ridiculous and often contradictory arguments as to why such a change will be terrible. Many of these have involved assertion of so-called ‘facts’ which are verifiably wrong.

So I thought it would be worthwhile to correct some of these statements that are being made in an attempt to paint Senate voting reform as a terrible thing. I’ll start with Glenn Druery, seeing he is the person most identified as having gamed the current Senate voting system to manufacture distorted outcomes. He recently stated in evidence to a Parliamentary Committee that he has helped set up over forty political parties, many of which were created solely to harvest and exchange preferences between each other, and some of which carried names designed to attract voters of a certain political persuasion so that their preferences could be channeled to other parties of precisely the opposite political persuasion.

Following are some responses to incorrect statements he made in a recent interview on ABC’s Lateline. Given his own experience in these matters, I presume he is aware that a lot of what he is saying is simply wrong, but perhaps he’s just become another person who has been involved in politics so long that they can no longer remember which things they are saying are true and which things are the ones they would like to be true.

–    Statement: The new laws will “wipe out the crossbench” and “wipe out the possibility of any new minor parties and independents coming through the ranks”.
He is certainly not the only person asserting this, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. Leaving aside the fact that the Greens still officially constitute part of the Senate crossbench, there is every possibility of other parties and independents – both current and new – getting elected to the Senate crossbench. If the new laws had been in place at the last election, there is no doubt at all that the new Palmer Party would have gained at least one seat (in Qld) and quite possibly WA and/or Tasmania as well. Brian Harradine and the Democrats both initially won Senate seats – across four elections – under a system without the Group Voting Ticket, which was introduced in 1984 and is the key difference between the current and proposed systems. The 14.8% vote that Nick Xenophon gained when he was first elected to the Senate in 2007 would also definitely seen him elected as an independent under the new system.

– Statement: (the current system) “is the very system that the Greens and Xenophon used to put themselves there in the first place”.
This is close to 100% wrong. Obviously as it is the system that was in place, by definition the only way to get elected was through that system. But the Group Voting Ticket feature of the Senate voting system – which is what Druery and others are trying to defend – was not the reason the Greens and Xenophon first got into the Senate. As stated above, Nick Xenophon first got elected to the Senate on a vote of nearly 15%, which guarantees a Senate seat under any of the voting systems used since proportional representation was first brought in in the late 1940s. It is true that Xenophon first got into the state Upper House in South Australia on a low primary vote of just 2.9% due to Group Voting Tickets (although they also have a lower quota for election of just 8.3% compared to the Senate’s 14.3%). But the key point in terms of the Senate is that he was able to build genuine electoral support, which as with Brian Harradine – another very successful Senate independent – is why he got elected to the Senate. The same option is open to any other independent who has genuine electoral support.

In regards to the Greens, the first person elected to the Senate as a Green was Jo Vallentine in Western Australia in 1990. At that election, the Greens candidate got 8.4% and the Democrat got 9.4%, with the Greens ending up getting elected on Labor and National Party preferences. It is hard to know for sure who would have won that seat under the proposed new rules, but the Greens certainly would have been in the running. In the 1993 election when another Green got elected in WA, the Greens vote was 5.6% and the Democrat vote was 4.0%, with their combined vote putting the Greens above the third Labor candidate and getting elected on their preferences. This would likely have also been the outcome under the new system. When Bob Brown first got elected to the Senate in 1996 from Tasmania, the Greens polled 8.7% and the Democrats Robert Bell polled 7.1%. This was a particularly fierce and sometimes bitter contest between those two people and their parties, but there is little doubt that under the new system Bob Brown would have won as well. As the two WA Greens Senate wins described above were subsequently both regained by the Democrats (before being lost again for good), this win of Bob Brown’s was particularly pivotal in the Greens ability to establish a beach head in the Senate – and Druery’s assertion that it was the nature of the current system that got them there is simply wrong. The only time where Druery’s comment comes even close to being true was when Kerry Nettle got elected for the Greens in New South Wales on just 4.3% of the vote, when the Democrats got 6.1%. But this was a case where the other one left when it was down to three parties in the final count was One Nation. As it turned out, they had put the Greens second last and the Democrats last – not because of any deal but just because someone had to go last. It pissed me off mightily at the time of course, but it was hardly the Greens fault. It is the nature of the system in place at the time – and in any case given the third Labor candidate (who was Warren Mundine, for trivia buffs) had a surplus of 5%, it is far from impossible that once other minor candidates had been excluded that Kerry Nettle could have got above this and then above the Democrats on a greater flow of Labor preferences and won the seat even from 4.3%.

– Statement: “the big difference, the big long-term difference is that the Labor Party will never again control the Senate in their own right.”
If it was possible to make a statement that is more than 100% wrong, this one would qualify. The Labor Party has NEVER controlled the Senate in their own right at any time since 1951 when the Senate was first composed of people elected entirely under a proportional representation system. As the Labor Party never controlled the Senate under the current system (or the one before that) and won’t control it under the new system, there is precisely zero difference in that regard. This is not the fault of the voting system, this is because the Labor Party’s primary vote has never been high enough consistently enough to enable this to happen. (As the system used to elect the Senate until the end of the 1940s would regularly produce results where one party would win all seats in a particular state – including the 1943 election where Labor won 19 seats out of 19 across the country – hopefully no one is proposing a move back to that system, although given some of bizarre and off the wall arguments used in an attempt to discredit the proposed new Senate voting system, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody did.).

– Statement: The Greens “used this system to put themselves there.”
As stated above, this is wrong. This system was in place when the Greens appeared as a political party, so by definition it was the only one they could get elected under. But as shown above, almost all the Greens Senate victories would have occurred under the new system as well. The new system will also now make it far more difficult for the Greens to win a Senate seat in the ACT – which was always a very tough ask, but was previously plausible if the Liberal vote dropped low enough, which on a few occasions it almost has.

– Statement: “The Greens used this system effectively to help wipe out the Democrats”.
As someone who for many years was extremely conscious of the threat the Greens used to pose to Democrat seats, I can intimately recall the dynamics of every single Greens versus Democrats Senate contest across every state ever since 1990. Obviously both parties sought to use the system to maximise our chances of winning, but that’s because everyone had no choice but to use the system that was there. But there were very few times that the Greens could be said to have won a Democrat seat on the basis of ‘using’ the system. I described above the New South Wales example from 2001 – which was the result of a ‘who to put last’ decision by someone from a third party, not due to any actions by the Greens. I could just as readily point to occasions where the Democrats managed to get seats the Greens would have won had preference decisions gone the other way, such as in WA in that same year 2001 the Democrats’ Andrew Murray was re-elected instead of the Greens’ Rachel Seiwert based on the decision by One Nation in that state to do the opposite of New South Wales and put the Greens below the Democrats.  All the Democrats lost in the process of being wiped out – which was basically four in 2004 and the other four in 2007, not all of which went to the Greens in any case – was because the Democrats’ primary vote disintegrated, not because of the Greens use of the Senate voting system.

The only other possible case I could point to was the 1990 WA Senate contest, where the Greens won a seat from the Democrats. As I mentioned above, it is certainly plausible that the Greens could have won that under the new voting rules, but under the rules in place then the Greens won that one in large part due to the decision by Labor to put the Greens ahead of the Democrats in that state. But the Democrats won it back again in 1996 despite Labor again preferencing the Greens first, so it could hardly be said to have played any role in the Democrats’ demise. (Lovers of irony and alternative history scenarios might like the fact that this 1996 WA Senate decision by Labor was not entirely unlinked to a decision by the then Cheryl Kernot-led Democrats to put the Liberals ahead of Labor on their how to votes in Kim Beazley’s seat of Brand, which helped contribute to Beazley only hanging on to that seat by 0.2%. Who knows how Labor would have gone after the 1996 wipe out of the Keating government without Beazley to lead them, but within 18 months Cheryl Kernot joined the Beazley led Labor Party, which within twelve months came very close to winning government and making Kernot a Minister).

– Statement: “Lee Rhiannon from the Greens who was one of the big movers and shakers for these reforms was elected on about 2.6 per cent when she was first elected under a system very similar to this.”
This is a misleading and very selective use of facts. This refers to Lee Rhiannon being elected to the New South Wales Upper House, not the Senate. The quota there is only 4.5%, compared to 14.3% in the Senate. Under the current voting system used in the NSW Upper House – which is similar to that now proposed for the Senate, except with no requirement for preferences (which makes it a bit harder for smaller parties) – people can and have been elected on a lower vote than that.

Just to show how balanced I am, I will also point out the main very true thing that Glenn Druery also said in this interview, which is that if a double dissolution is held under the new Senate voting system it is more than possible that a number of people already on the crossbench could get re-elected; which rather blatantly shows that the assertion made by a range of people, including Glenn Druery in this same interview, that the new system will wipe out smaller parties is simply not true.

It is readily possible that current Senators such as Jacquie Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and Bob Day could get re-elected under the new voting system in a double dissolution. In Queensland, people like Clive Palmer – should he run for the Senate this time and spend even more of the money he should be using to pay his workers and creditors – and for that matter Pauline Hanson could also potentially win a seat given the lower 7.7% vote which is needed to win a seat in a double dissolution. If Ricky Muir turns out to be as popular as many people now assert, he also would have a better chance of getting back in. The point though is that if any or all these people were elected, it would be on the basis of votes and preferences directly chosen by the voter, not as a result of the shonky capturing and passing on of blocks of preferences by backroom operatives.

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Teaching & schooling http://andrewbartlett.com/teaching-schooling/ http://andrewbartlett.com/teaching-schooling/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:33:47 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8326 Last year I did some high school teaching, which I found to be the most difficult paid work I’ve ever done. Definitely way harder than being a Senator – apart from anything else, Senators have staff to help them do what they need to do (& get paid 3 times the money of course). And there is of course also ready access to other resources – apart from anything else, when I was a Senator I didn’t need to go to Officeworks to make sure I had enough pens to do my job the next day, and I didn’t have to be worried if I was blowing the printing budget each time I clicked OK on extra copy of an exam sheet for my class.

Having said that, the teaching I’ve done was not as hard as some of the unpaid work – also known as volunteer work – that I’ve done, but I guess that’s a separate story. I should also emphasise that sometimes I found teaching to be very fulfilling and rewarding (in a non-financial sense), but there is still no doubt that to do it well, day after day – which of course is what every parent hopes/demands and our community needs – is bloody hard.

In any case, I think teaching is much harder than it needs to be because teachers are ridiculously underpaid and undervalued (despite all of the nice sounding words about how we have to invest in our children’s future, etc), and the expectations on what every teacher is meant to cover and be fully across as a matter of course verge on the ridiculous.

So even with my limited direct experience, I’m not surprised that the recent resignation statement of a Brisbane based school teacher of thirty+ years standing has got so much attention. Although this statement is from a primary school teacher, I think many aspects of it are also relevant for high school.

Perhaps in part because I have a Social Work degree alongside my teaching qualification, I have been surprised/apprehensive/astonished about all the things which all teachers are technically meant to be across as a matter of course. I understand why these expectations have arisen, but if they have reached a level which is frankly unrealistic to expect all teachers to be able to deliver, then we have a problem for students (and for teachers as well, but the students have to be the priority).

Having said all that, I will try to do some more paid teaching work in the future (assuming I haven’t ruined my chances by writing/posting these words).

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Onward (& upward?) http://andrewbartlett.com/onward-upward/ http://andrewbartlett.com/onward-upward/#comments Sat, 02 Jan 2016 13:56:58 +0000 http://andrewbartlett.com/?p=8323 Just as well my New Year resolutions of 2015 didn’t include blogging more, as I only did 9 posts all year. Having said that, 6 of those blog posts were in January, so maybe I did make that resolution without remembering it – one of the benefits of not writing resolutions down I guess.

I did write a couple of resolutions down last year – to try to do more to reduce the impact and power of hate-mongers in our country, and to try to have fewer people claiming there is a budget emergency to justify cuts to social services and income support. I feel like I didn’t do enough as I should have on either front – I didn’t expect that I would be able to single handedly achieve these outcomes, just do more things to help push the tide in a better direction – so perhaps writing these things down doesn’t make such a difference after all.

But I’ll have another try at doing better at both in 2016. Hate-mongering has definitely got worse in the last twelve months, and even though Tony Abbott is no longer our national leader and thus less able to facilitate this from quite such an influential position, he is also now more freed up to give more explicit voice to such things himself and to give more direct encouragement/support to his far too many fellow travellers.

And whilst the term ‘budget emergency’ might have gone a little bit out of fashion – not least because the Liberal/Nationals have shown themselves to be complete failures at budget managers, even on the terms they themselves set – there is certainly no let up in governments and commentators using ‘savings’ as an excuse to gun for people on low incomes and on the services that these people are most reliant on. Less than a month ago, the release of the latest update on the federal government’s budget situation provided the (barely tenable) justification for proposing yet another round of attacks on the most vulnerable.

Still, the times during 2015 when I feel I did best at living up to those two resolutions coincided strongly with when I was feeling healthier and more together personally. Which has made me think that some of those more traditional New Year resolutions aimed at personal improvement could be worthwhile after all. I might even write them down! 2015 was a very up and down year for me, with quite a lot of changes – and having a year with some ups was a definite improvement on years without any. Something to build on even.

more to come

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