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. Missed Insiders myself, and am glad to see that the only comment on it was that someone turned it off.

    Well done, Bludgers!

  2. Bob Katter had a wish list of 20 items to bargain with.

    Gillard agreed to one of them. Abbott agreed to eight of them.

    Anyone out there who knows what these items were and what Gillard and Abbott agreed to?

  3. I just cannot watch it anymore Bushfire. I want to throw things at the TV, and I can’t do that because I’d be teaching my 5 year old bad habits.

    Muting it doesn’t make any difference either – what’s the point.

    I’d much rather dissect the issues here and on other blogs than listen to pompous twits who think they know better.

  4. [Missed Insiders myself, and am glad to see that the only comment on it was that someone turned it off.]

    can’t agree with this – I would suggest all PBers should view today’s insiders to get a balanced left/right/MSM view of the issues of the moment

  5. BB:

    I muted the panel ‘discussion’ about whether McKillop should be sainted or not, and had the rest on in the background while I did other things.

    I have to say, I prefer the show when there aren’t any News ltd people on it. Discussion is much more civil and interesting.

  6. Morning all, as a non practising Catholic I have no problem with those who are still devout and receive spiritual benefit following their faith. The canonisation of Mary McKillop is part of that faith, and as we live in a democracy we are free to follow what ever path we so choose, including our religious beliefs. Practising Catholics believe in sainthood, so be it. regardless others think it is all stuff from Walt Disney.
    My beef is the medias blanket coverage of the proceedings in Rome. This should be a wakeup call to us all of the influence of the Catholic Church in the MSM. Many of the executives and middle and senior management in the media are Catholic, hence this intense broadcasting today from the Vatican.
    These things will also pass, what amazes me is the unhinged one is not there, tagging along with his mentor Pell pal. Perhaps he felt it would have fed us critics too much fodder. It would have Tone, it would have.

  7. [“Our nation is richer for having had MacKillop among us” by Kevin Rudd and Julie Bishop]

    Talking of leaving marks – not sure if this is good or bad.

    Sorry for cross posting from Pure Poison, but wanted to respond to David’s comment.

    David, you raise a good point, I would have expected Tone to have more to say on this. The running seems to be with mesma. Perhaps Tone couldn’t sit down with Kev for this bipartisan piece.

  8. I will only return to watching Insiders when they get rid of those two hysterical right wing gob shite’s Pies and Bolt permanently. There is plenty of talent out there, whats the problem ?. Even Shamaham appears of rational thought after those two oxygen thieves.

  9. OzPolTragic @ 32
    [And Aussie Rules hysteria didn’t, Tom Hawkins? Especially on this blog?]

    But heaps of people got more stuck into Collingwood than have been getting stuck into MacKillop. And more rudely.

    I think it stinks that yesterday was the first time I saw in the MSM any questioning of the miracles – how dare the ABC report them straight?

    I have read a fair bit about her, she did good stuff, worked hard, etc. But, why should the whole Catholic Church miracle thing get a free run? One doesn’t have to be rude about it, but why do we need to just nod along?

    On the other topic, I think compulsary voting is one of the best & most important constitutional/political things we do. EVeryone must have a say, even if I personally think they’re off their trees.

  10. [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 …]

    A “hidden” (& pretty much unacknowledged) factor in the election has to be the “glass ceiling” breakthrough of putting a woman up for election as PM for the first time, and probably explains some of the difference between “which party” and “which PM” preferences.

    In (centuries old) Westminster systems, transition from “little housewife” to “running the nation” has been quite rapid – Thatcher was elected May 1979. There are still many, including women, who will not vote for a “mere female”. OTOH, there were Tory women who, though not changing their party vote, still (often quite vocally) hoped Oz would elect a female PM – just not with their help.

    Add to this prejudice, that against a woman who is unmarried, living (in sin) with the “First Bloke” and childless – just about every Oz fundamentalist, of any religion (not that many Fundies seem to vote ALP). Now overlay “self-proclaimed atheist”, and “religion” is no longer limited to “Fundies”. Most women who’ve made it to the elected top have been married, usually with children and claiming a religious affiliation – and that’s also true of elected non-Christian women (eg in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh). Interesting that the Subcontinent’s women have been more successful than the ‘white’ Commonwealth’s

    The decision to go to an election with, for the first time, a woman as one of two candidates for PM (the other a male, sporty, fundie RC) was, as Sir Humphery would say, a courageous decision in a nation where only one female had been elected as premier & one to head NT government. To go with an unmarried woman with a live-in partner, no kids & an atheist to boot, was jaw-droppingly “courageous”.

    Having had the courage to shatter several glass ceilings at a time, the Fed ALP now faces the unpleasant truth that the UK, Victoria & WA have not since put forward a woman for their most senior elected positions, and that Isobel Redmond lost the “unlosable” SA election. Canada’s only female PM (Kim Campbell) lasted 4 mths 6 days NZ was in the unique position of appointing Jenny Shipley PM (Conservative coalition) when another woman (Helen Clark) was Labour Opposition leader.

    No major USA Party has endorsed a female candidate for President; 2 women have been nominated as vice-presidential candidates by a major Party: Geraldine Ferraro 1984 (Democrat) 1984, Sarah Palin 2008 (Republican Party).

  11. Mornin’ all.

    Just like to put ina word for The Age, which didn’t feature the Mackillop sainthood, but instead had horse racing, proving that sport is the Melbourne religion after all !!

    I watched Insiders (like to know how the enemy is thinking) and thought Tony Burke did a good job in trying to counteract misinformation. It got quite exciting when the three were discussing the saint bit. Annabel Crabb was trying to say that MacKillop probably deserved an AM for her sterling work (not miracles) and I think David Marr would have agreed, but Cassidy didn’t let her make the point and allowed Henderson to dominate, then changed the subject. Henderson got quite red-faced and aggro (and personal against Marr, of course). It was sad, because there could have been a real discussion, but no, Cassidy keeps it shallow.

  12. [But, why should the whole Catholic Church miracle thing get a free run? One doesn’t have to be rude about it, but why do we need to just nod along?]

    Exactly, Wiggins. there’s a whole lot of difference between debating the issue & deriding people who don’t share one’s view – and there’s no way much of the derision on PB has been within cooee of humorous.

    Debate on religion (any) and atheism /agnosticism is a right – even a responsibility – in a healthy democracy, especially one deliberately secular (without an established religion) as Australia’s is. Allowing debate to degenerate into revilement & abuse of anyone’s beliefs is more characteristic of the very one “party/ faith” systems the abuser seek to deride.

  13. I feel very embarrassed about the parochial “now Australia has a saint of their own” thing. Apparently every nation needs their own saint. Doesn’t feel right to me.

  14. Sorry, Wiggons and Nappin. I was looking at the front page online only, and believing what Cassidy said about front pages. Obviously mustn’t do that again. :blush:

  15. It’s interesting that some of the right’s loudest critics of so-called “leftist bias” at the ABC – have regular appearances ON the abc. Akerman, Bolt, Henderson.

  16. morning bludgers

    OPT @26

    Appreciate your salient comments regarding Mary Mac. I was raised a Catholic, and my own children are being educated in the Catholic system. I am immensely proud of Mary Mac’s courageous work throughout her life. She deserves great recognition for all her good work. My feelings regarding miracles and sainthood are that it is all fantasy. You could say I am a hypocrite, providing my children a catholic education, but not believing its tenents.
    But I do agree with your point, that for some it is a real belief and we must respect that.

    my say may this day bring you joy.

  17. Not forgetting the Institute of Public Affairs, long one of the most trenchant critics of the ABC – getting more appearance slots than any other think thank in the country.

  18. I like the early (very early) saints – much more cool. They seem to have got (without the formal process) to be saints more for what they did in life (or how they left it) than for the miracles afterwards – although I have always liked the idea of the miraculous beard-growing & so forth.

    We do now seem to have two Our Mary’s/Maries/um… now though. What will the ladies’ mags do?

  19. [Not forgetting the Institute of Public Affairs, long one of the most trenchant critics of the ABC – getting more appearance slots than any other think thank in the country.]

    it’s like the abc has some sort of stockholm syndrome.

    on monday’s qanda – tim flannery, a ‘climate skeptic’, the shadow environment minister of a party that rejects global warming and a former editor of the australian will be on the panel. science vs 3 liberals is what passes for balance at the abc these days.

  20. If there are three candidates running for single member electorate and candidate “A” has 34.0% of the vote, Candidate “B” 33.5% and a third Candidate “C” 32.5% which one should be elected. “A”, B” or “C”

    Inverse 66% dont support candidate “A”, 66.5 dont support candidate “B” and 67.5% dont support candidate “C”

    It seams to me that the person elected should at least have the support of the majority (50% or more) of the electorate.

    A preferential voting system is determined on the positive allocation of a second choice alternative vote, Candidate c has the least votes and as such is excluded and their votes distributed according to the voters nominated order of preference. My second “choice”

    Failing that we would need to have a two party only system.

    Under a first-past-the-post voting system two like minded candidates would be splitting their support/vote. In fact the opposing time would nominate someone who role is to be a spoiler candidate and take votes away from the other candidate by splitting their vote. This process involves a negative choice decision not a positive action of support.

    First past the post was implemented at a time when most people would not read or write. It is seriously flawed in execution and principle.

    In France and many European States they have a two round system where the two highest polling candidates face off in a second run-off ballot. This adds significant costs and if the contest is close instability in the period between each ballot. Total wast of limited public resources. Why hold two ballots when one preferential ballot can achieve the same result, ensuring that the candidate elected has the support of a majority of the electorate?

  21. McKillops inspiration was standing up to the authorities of the day and speaking out against the injustice and abuse within the church hierarchy. Yes she is deserving of recognition but does it require all the expense? Is money well spent on the decorations of the tree or is it best spent delivering Te services that Mary worked hard to provide?

  22. Wiggens good point about the old Saints. Also John Paul 11 seemed to have a fixation about canonisation he performed 586 during his Pontificate

    The number of saints and blessed increased in John Paul II’s pontificate. He alone proclaimed more saints and blessed than all his predecessors together since 1588, the year this dicastery was founded.

    There is a very interesting i/v why he did this here

    Incidentally I found a new word while researching this material, it is


    noun (dicaster, ies)
    A term used by the Vatican corresponding to ministry or department as subdivisions of the papal curia, referring to the administrative departments of the Vatican City State, as well as strictly ecclesiastical departments; more often termed congregation.

    Ah ones learning never ends, John Paul, your influence continues you wonderful man 🙂

  23. The only thing that people should take out of this, is that if the IPA thinks it’s a good idea, it’s more-than-likely not going to be good for ordinary people.

  24. privi izumo
    [The only thing that people should take out of this, is that if the IPA thinks it’s a good idea, it’s more-than-likely not going to be good for ordinary people.]
    I heartily concur!

  25. JP2, as well as abolishing the office of the Devil’s Advocate (imagine that on your cv), made more saints than previous popes. They were mostly new world ones, so that the Catholic Church’s growth market could have local inspiration. In a way that’s fair, as Europe got a whole pile as Christianity developed there.

    I think in some ways the major problem is that it is happening now, with modern attitudes & media. We know the picture is idealised of an ideal of…yet who complains about all those nice pix of St Sebastian? We agree she did good stuff & want to honour her for them, but within the Church (which she lived in & worked for), canonisation is seen as the best way.

    &, as usual, the dear old Australian MSM is irritatingly foolish & parochial. I suppose that bit is not her fault. (Isn’t St Gabriel patron saint of the media – including the interweb?)

  26. One of my pet hates is the fallacy…constantly promulgated…..that we have compulsory voting in this country. We never have had and we never will.

    Simple fact…uncontestable….

  27. [Mr Abbott explained why he stayed silent last week when Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones referred to the “s-called” independence of Brigadier McDade.

    “It’s not always easy to get a word in with Alan, as you know,” he said.]

    Of course what Abbott means is that was no need for him to say anything at all when Jones has said it for him.

  28. We are all compelled to attend voting centres…..give our details…..accept voting papers handed to us…….

    What we do inside the voting booth is our own business…….we can choose NOT to vote….

    This is NOT compulsory voting…..

  29. markjs

    I thought you might be referring to “compulsory registration”. I don’t think there is a compulsion, is there? Someone pls correct me if wrong.

  30. [Plus two in the ACT.]

    Confessions, I omitted the ACT for several reasons, most associated with its being our version of Washington DC: it can never become a state (whereas NT has that potential); as the national “show-piece” Capital it attracts a great deal of money (esp from Nat Government) to gild the lily of international prestige: it has world-class government & private facilities & attracts prestige events – more the result of its Capital status than the efforts of its government.

    Perusal of ACT & NT responsibilities show ACT lacks a state’s & the NT’s breadth of responsibilities and issues (inc agriculture & mining, indigenous affairs, major infrastructure); it’s very localised and relatively homogeneous, and has a small population; so it’s more akin to a big urban Council than a state or NT; eg to Brisbane CC (though Brisbane’s population is almost 2 million; against ACT’s c350,000, most of whom live in Canberra and inherited facilities & infrastructure) than to states & NT (though the NT population’s smaller, it’s far from localised or homogeneous, and infrastructure’s a huge problem). Thus the ACT’s Chief Minister does not have to face the big issues popularly seen as “needing a firm hand on the tiller” or “male domains”. I expect the ACT’s representation to be at least “balanced” if not “tipped in favour of women”.

    Women do very well in Council and Mayoral elections, and have for a long time, probably because the recognition factor is high in homogeneous communities, esp among those with major commitments to local (esp small) businesses & community organisations – in which women have long played significant (if not dominant) roles. NT’s population spread, problems, demographics & electoral structures etc, OTOH, fit a “state in miniature”.

  31. Thanks, Paul. That’s what I thought. The “urge to enrol” to young people was what made me think it might be optional. OTOH, once you’re a ratepayer on a local list, I think you go in automatically.

  32. tom and bk,,, do you watch the grand pre, the cricket, rugby, horse racing.

    well i dont but it is on and i personally dont enjoy any of the above but i dont tell the world about it,

    Mary is only a couple of hours and you dont have to watch it, but get over it i pay my taxes to so we are entitled as the tax payers and purchases of good re commercial channels to have something on tv we like which is once in a life time
    thing, and keep in mind out of all the christian dem. in the country the majority are catholic not practising most of us and with all different ways of continuing our faith.

    just do what i do for above sporting programs which are on in some cases day after day. just dont watch it.

    I know there is some cricket lovers here and you dont see me complaining about the love of a ball that gets thrown up one end, and then two people run down the other end.

    Then there is the other lot that run around the ground after some leather . my oH loves his footy and i just sit a let him enjoy it it makes for cmmunication and thats what being married is all about, friendship and communication.
    He also love the car racing ect. and the occassional horse race.

    EACH TO HIS OWN , i suppose. we also vote.

  33. OPT

    [as the national “show-piece” Capital it attracts a great deal of money (esp from Nat Government) to gild the lily of international prestige: it has world-class government & private facilities & attracts prestige events – more the result of its Capital status than the efforts of its government.]

    In years gone by I was quite annoyed at finding that services missing in rural areas are already in Canberra and the govt of the day would say “it is our policy for everyone to have this”, which didn’t help much.

  34. There is another Australian saint on the way. A martyr this time, so no need of miracles or any debate about them.

    An Australian nun called Irene, brutally murdered in Chile by insurgents. The gutless ****** got a 15 year old girl to pull the trigger.

  35. [Boerwar
    Posted Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    ‘Merely having infidel troops on Muslim land is enough to motivate many Muslim fighters.’ [We are not overcoming terrorists. We are creating terrorists.

    To give The Australian’s Foreign Editor his due, he has had the courage to make his change of mind public.]

    I know it’s a day late but I have been sick and have just caught up ….

    Wasn’t this argument made repeatedly by Bob Hawke and other left wing types prior to the invasion of Afghanistan ?


    Isn’t the mere existence of Israel the most common reason given by extremists for their anti west stance?

    I am neither advocating an anti or pro Israel line just seeking to further understand the problem.


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