No accounting for taste

Matthew Franklin of The Australian reports a Newspoll survey commissioned by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Administration finds Australians’ views on electoral reform are the opposite of my own: 70 per cent back compulsory voting, while “more than half would prefer first-past-the-post voting to the preferential system”.

Now for some other matters I’ve been keeping on the back-burner due to post-election ennui:

Tim Colebatch of The Age offered a litany of evidence last month on the extent of public disaffection expressed at the August 21 election, which seemed especially concentrated in areas traditionally strong for Labor. The turnout of 93.2 per cent, meaning votes cast as a percentage of enrolled voters, was the lowest since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1925. Furthermore, the informal vote rose from 4.0 per cent in 2007 to 5.6 per cent in 2010. Anecdotal evidence of large numbers of blank ballot papers have led to talk of a “Mark Latham effect”, although Peter Brent at Mumble observes it was actually 2007 that was the aberration. However, one of the reasons proffered for the lower informal vote on that occasion was a lower number of candidates (no doubt a consequence of an increased deposit, one of the few agreeable features of the Howard government’s 2006 electoral law changes). That the number was lower still this time brings the disaffection hypothesis back into play. Speaking of Latham, his column in the Australian Financial Review on September 23 argued the election amounted to a rejection of two-party politics with reference to a combined major party vote of 71.8 per cent, when measured as a percentage of enrolled voters rather than votes cast. The Australian’s Cut and Paste section then proceeded to completely miss the point in response. Brian Costar and Peter Browne at Inside Story calculate that the non-voting rate as a proportion of the adult population was 21 per cent, the main culprit being an enrolment regime that uses the power of data-matching to strike those with incorrect enrolments from the roll rather than update their details. The solution to this problem, automatic enrolment, has now been adopted at state level in New South Wales and Victoria, but is opposed at federal level by the Coalition for completely spurious reasons which are examined in another article by Peter Browne and Brian Costar.

• A fortnight ago, the Australian Electoral Commission released a report into the pre-polling irregularities that led to the exclusion from the count of 2977 votes in Bootbhy and 1306 in Flynn. The difficulties in each case related to the reform that allowed pre-poll votes to be treated as ordinary rather than declaration votes, and thus to be admitted to the count on election night. This required protocols concerning the security of ballot boxes which had not applied when each vote was contained in a declaration envelope and later subjected to individual scrutiny – in particular, a requirement that boxes not be opened during the three week pre-polling period. At the Oaklands Park pre-polling booth in Boothby, the polling official emptied the ballot boxes at the end of each day and transferred their contents to larger boxes, so as to keep “an ongoing detailed record of the number of ordinary ballot papers and the various categories of declaration votes issued”. On polling day the boxes were taken to the Boothby scrutiny centre for counting, at which point the Labor scrutineer noted the ballots inside were “stacked and flat” rather than “disordered and jumbled” in the usual fashion. There were two separate incidents in Flynn. In Blackwater, an official opened the boxes and counted the votes upon the final closure of pre-poll voting the day before the election, based on a set of instructions from the district returning officer intended to detail procedures for ordinary booths on polling day. At Emerald, the officer had opened the box on a number of occasions “to rearrange the papers and create more space”, and then applied new security seals (the officer had been provided with extra seals on request to the divisional office, which should have rung alarm bells at the time). This came to light due to procedures used to identify and record the seals. The net effect of the votes’ exclusion in Boothby was to cut Liberal member Andrew Southcott’s winning margin by 339 votes; I am not aware of the impact in Flynn, but the eventual Liberal National Party margin was 5720 votes.

• Ruminating on Labor’s malaise is very much in vogue this season, as demonstrated by the post-election review process being undertaken by party elders Steve Bracks, Bob Carr and John Faulkner, and the publication this week of Power Crisis: The Self-Destruction of a State Labor Party, by former NSW state MP Rodney Cavalier. Writing in The Australian, Cavalier calls for a secret ballots in preselection votes and a prohibition on candidates who in the past five years have been members of the “political class” (“those on the staff of ministers, ALP office and union officials who do not come from the industries the unions represent”). Lenore Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald reports NSW Labor is planning to choose candidates in selected electorates by conducting open primaries, either through a straight vote or “a hybrid of an open-to-all-comers vote and the usual branch member system”. This follows the lead of the Nationals in the independent-held seat of Tamworth and Victorian Labor in Liberal-held Kilsyth. Disappointingly for Cavalier, the latter process turned up Vicki Setches, electorate officer to upper house MP Shaun Leane.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

895 comments on “No accounting for taste”

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  1. [Refer some pedantry from lizzie and me between about 699-714 … 😛 ]

    C’mon Punna — being VERY pedantic there!

    While I agree with you guys on a lot of your points I also believe that language and its usage is organic and changes/develops over time.

  2. whateverpedia @ 795

    [ However, I’m not convinced that Constantine actually did embrace Xtianity, it may well have been foisted upon him on his death bed.]

    No, I think it’s pretty clear that Constantine was a Christian for most of his reign. He practised a rather crude form of Christianity, but his conversion seems to have been genuine. Constantine raised his sons as Christian long before he died, and three of his sons went on to become Christian emperors. It’s true he was baptised on his deathbed – when he could sin no more (this was not an uncommon practice at the time).

    [The story about seeing a “cross superimposed on the sun”, is just that, a story. Let’s leave it at that.]

    Definitely. But there is a possibility that the ‘cross’ was a solar halo, the result of the sun shining through ice crystals in the atmosphere, as suggested by some modern historians. We’ll never know.

    Yep, I think we agree on the big picture. The devil’s in the detail.

  3. [However, I’m not convinced that Constantine actually did embrace Xtianity, it may well have been foisted upon him on his death bed.]

    The ‘Milvian Bridge’ story was to me, an example of a deliberate political choice by Constantine.

  4. What is NEWS?

    I think there are too many “news bulletins” to fill by journos who don’t really have much to tell. Therefore we have the following narrative:

    Event minus 4 days: people are preparing for X
    Event minus 3 days: people are “set to” act on X
    Event minus 2 days: Oppn (or other team) comment on likely results of X
    Event minus 1 day: everyone is gearing up/preparing for/excited about X
    Event day: all media talk about X (except ABC24 which is often 12 hours behind)
    Day after event: X happened yesterday.

    My message: I KNOW it happened, you fools, no need to tell me again.

  5. Thanks Confessions

    You can read alot into that Australian Story. It is clear that he is ambitious and clear that he has risen quickly to the top. However, it is also clear that he does not have any big acheivements under his belt that you would find in similar folk who have held his role.

    [PAUL HOWES: I’ve always felt the need to succeed. That I’ve always felt I need to prove myself as well.]

  6. @Billy

    I attempted to post the same thing a couple of days ago – obviously that never saw the light of day either. So now we are not even allowed to pass comment on the broadcaster we fund.

  7. Re FPP – you could run an opinion poll worded something like:

    “do you support FPP – voting without any preferences, where any votes for minor parties or candidates would be eliminated and have no role in the final count”

  8. William I think you made a mistake in your headline:

    “No accounting for taste”

    It should read thus to represent this current government:

    “No taste for accounting”

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/government-says-revealing-dodgy-insulation-figures-will-cause-unnecessary-apprehension/comments-fn59niix-1225940087035

    [

    THE Gillard government has refused to bow to pressure to reveal how many dodgy insulation jobs have been uncovered by its program of home safety checks.

    Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said to do so would cause “unnecessary apprehension and be open to misrepresentation”.

    Taxpayers will instead foot the bill for “internationally-recognised” consultants and the CSIRO to analyse the inspection results, to help the government decide whether more home safety checks are needed and how they should be targeted.

    The government has so far promised to inspect 200,000 of the 1.1 million homes insulated under the now axed $2.45 billion ceiling batts scheme.]

  9. b_g
    [latikambourke Bossie ‘I never get into the science because I find it difficult….to understand it.’ #estimates]
    Tech-heads certainly seem thin on the ground in the coalition ranks…

  10. jenauthor

    [I also believe that language and its usage is organic and changes/develops over time.]

    I agree. For example we don’t use “manufactory” any more. But some people use “language is fluid” as an excuse not to bother, and some simply don’t know.

  11. jenauthor @802

    [ The ‘Milvian Bridge’ story was to me, an example of a deliberate political choice by Constantine. ]

    I’m not so sure. There was no political advantage in adopting Christianity, since Constantine’s own army was predominantly pagan, as was that of his opponent (Maxentius).

    Constantine’s mother (Helena) was a Christian, so I think she was a major influence in his decision.

  12. [Tech-heads certainly seem thin on the ground in the coalition ranks…]
    So who is a tech head in the Coalition – or all they all experts on constitution and military law?
    Paul Fletcher and Malcolm Turnbull I am looking at you.

  13. [Their ABC …

    Burka poses parliamentary security threat: Bernardi]

    [Their ABC …

    Opposition proposes GPS tracking of sex offenders]

    So what you are saying is Labor are best friends of Burka wearing terrorists and sex offenders?

    Or is this just another pathetic stab at the ABC

  14. 90,000 Homes inspected, how many found to be dodgy miss Gillard?

    The only reason you wouldn’t reveal the numbers would be because they are embarrasing. Much like the school halls ripoff’s were embarrassing and you wouldn’t reveal those numbers either.

  15. Mal Washer on Agenda telling it like he thinks it is. He wants to pull the troops out of Afghanistan. He wants to put a price on carbon.

    He has some latitude for the former – there has been a bit of chatter that MPs can speak their minds on Afghanistan.

    But the price on carbon directly contradicts the Liberal Party position. In particular, it directly contradicts Abbott on the issue that was the basis for his gaining the party leadership.

    Another bit falls off Abbott’s choo choo train.

  16. Been a long time since I looked at Constantine, but he could possibly have had a broader agenda of distancing himself/his new regime from “old Rome”…including physically in the foundation of Constantinople

  17. Kenneally reneges on an agreement. Ho hum. NSW Labor does it again.

    Q. What should Gillard do?
    A. Wait until the welshers are given the arse.

  18. [ Was that a hijab that Mary MacKillop used to wear? ]

    Yes, good point Boerwar. Bernardi and his fellow dogwhistlers are just beating up anti-Muslim hysteria, using some phoney security/safety concerns about burkas as an on-ramp.

    I work with two hajib-wearing Muslim women and I find them an absolute pleasure to converse with. Much more so than the fundamentalist Christian in the office next door, whom I studiously avoid – especially when he’s plastering the walls of our office building with posters spruiking the latest Christian/Bible ‘get-together’.

  19. Regarding the talk of religious visions, I had an atheist friend once who was fond of saying

    “seeing is believing”

    sums it up well.

  20. b-g
    The interesting bit was some his discussion about carbon pricing and the relatively exorbitant cost of ‘direct action’. He slammed the cash for clunkers plan on the basis of cost per ton of carbon c/w a market price. It was quite evident that he has not time for the Coalition’s direct action program either.
    Timing: not discussed. Form: not discussed.

  21. Laocoon

    [ Been a long time since I looked at Constantine, but he could possibly have had a broader agenda of distancing himself/his new regime from “old Rome”…including physically in the foundation of Constantinople ]

    Yes that’s possible. Rome was capital in nothing more than name, and most emperors avoided the place. The infrastructure of the city was crumbling, and Rome was too far from the frontiers. Most emperors preferred places like Mediolanum (Milan) in the west or Nicomedia in the east. Once he had established himself as sole emperor, Constantine built a whole new city (Constantinople) as his base. The only reason Constantine marched on Rome earlier in his reign was because Maxentius was holed up there.

  22. [Looks like Mary McKillop will be made Patron Saint of the Abused and of Whitleblowers.]

    The abuses of St. Mary Mac have started. Leave her alone.

  23. Which reminds me. If you don’t believe in saints, or the organization that hands out sainthoods, and if she is not your sister, or your mother, is it more appropriate to refer to Ms Mary MacKillop or Miss Mary MacKillop?

  24. boerwar

    I think it’s a courtesy to call her whatever she is known within her religion. Same as a minister of a foreign country…

  25. Actually, the J. Order owes me back wages.

    The good sisters made me clean the boys toilets for a half a year until my parents cottoned on and put a stop to was effectively the illegal exploitation of child labour.

  26. [Boerwar
    Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
    b-g
    The interesting bit was some his discussion about carbon pricing and the relatively exorbitant cost of ‘direct action’. He slammed the cash for clunkers plan on the basis of cost per ton of carbon c/w a market price. It was quite evident that he has not time for the Coalition’s direct action program either.
    Timing: not discussed. Form: not discussed.]

    So an attack on the current Shadow. Hmmm. Interesting.

  27. [“A spat between the PM and the NSW première”]

    Where is Chrissy Pyne when you need him – A spat of two back alley bitches?

  28. [ The good sisters made me clean the boys toilets for a half a year until my parents cottoned on and put a stop to was effectively the illegal exploitation of child labour. ]

    Just be thankful they were nuns, Boerwar… 🙁

  29. lizzie

    Courtesy is one thing but being forced to call someone by a title that is not true is another thing.

    I can sort of get the ‘sister’ and ‘mother’ thing. But the saint thing, particularly when people are running around stating that she is a ‘saint for all Australia’, is another thing.

    Using the title ‘saint’ is a bit like being complicit in a vast conspiracy to fool the gullible and the credulous.

  30. Toorak Toff @ 790

    [A lot of people don’t know that criterion is the singular of criteria. A bad one is Winbleton for Wimbledon.]

    I had the recent pleasure to correct a ‘Meeting Nazi’ in our office who is obsessive about needing an agenda before any meeting. She circulated her agenda for a recent meeting which had only one item, so I was able to request that the document be re-labelled as an ‘agendum!’

    A smart arse I may be, as modern English does permit the use of ‘agenda’ as both a singular and a plural, but it helps sometimes to be able to prick the pomposity of others with some of their own medicine.

    p.s. I especially hate ‘Wimbleton’ from alleged sports commentators …. Bruce McAveney is the prime offender there, along with his classic mispronunciation of the word ‘final’ as ‘finaw.’

    Dawkins deliver me from these unspeakable verbal atrocities!

  31. Morewest 767

    Thanks for the link to that calculator! Very interesting to put Australia and other countries into it. The data seems to be up to 2008 so the comparison woudl improve even further for Australia since then.

    As for Sweden, I wonder if a carbon tax also had the same beneficial impact as a minerals tax might have on our economy – encourage development of other industries so they don’t put all the eggs in one basket.

  32. lizzie

    I didn’t mind. Was actually proud of the responsibility. What I will never forgive or forget was the treatment I received from the Marist brothers. I don’t think I will ever quite overcome the psychological damage they did to me.

  33. Boerwar

    In this ‘modern’ world, I tend to drop all labels. So to me (although I doubt if I shall ever talk about her very much) she will be simply Mary McKillop.

  34. [She circulated her agenda for a recent meeting which had only one item, so I was able to request that the document be re-labelled as an ‘agendum!’]

    Sir Humphrey also did that when an agenda of PM Hacker’s had only one item.

  35. Hooray. The Prime Minister gave SHY an implied kick in the bum on the way through, although she did not specifically name SHY.

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