maxcelcat: (Dalek)
Cross-posted from

For political junkies like myself, election day is supposed to be something of a highlight. Actually living through a very long election campaign when you've made up your mind some years ago how you're going to vote is not that much of a spectator sport. I just wanted it to end and for there to be a result - hopefully one that I liked.

But the actual process on election day was depressing, not just because I missed out entirely on a Democracy Sausage. For the first time ever I was handing out how-to-vote cards for a party other than the ALP. Following my decision to leave the party after more than twenty years as a member, I threw my lot in with the Greens. Particularly in the seat of Batman because of a particular dislike of the sitting member, David Feeney, a waste of oxygen from the ALP who was gifted the seat after being dumped from the senate. And a particular liking for for Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.

I was also roped into helping in the seat of Scullin, where I now live. And which is a very safe Labor seat. So for three hours in the afternoon I was handing out how to vote cards at a high school in Lalor. On the plus side, it was a fantastically diverse group of people there voting - I handed fliers to Kooris, folks of African extraction, retired migrants of a Mediterranean background, women in Hijabs, including a large number of feisty young woman, and a few in Niqabs. Lots of folks coming from works in the paint-cover clothes.

But then there was a fair percentage of folks who were completely confused by the whole process. Some were first time voters, tall teens who had never done this before. But a fair number were just perplexed, and were asking us, the how-to-vote folks how to fill in the ballot papers. I've always thought the voting process here in Australia was relatively straightforward, consistent between elections and explained a fair bit. But apparently not... We found ourselves explaining the two ballot papers, about how you had to number all the boxes on the green ballot, and who all the parties were. People were saying they'd only ever heard of Labor and Liberal, and were perplexed by all the other parties. I'm not sure what the percentage of informal votes where at the booth, but I suspect it was quite high. Which makes me sad that some folks didn't get to express their preference.

The more depressing event was the two other how-to-vote folks there whom I ended up having a conversation with. The first was a chap from the ALP, who quite readily told me he was a member of the Labor right. The thing that impressed him the most while we were there was a Mercedes that pulled up. He was telling me how much it was worth. A lot, it would seem, the kind of money I would use if I had to have, say, half a dozen sponsor children.

Then I got into a heated discussion with a women from something called the Australian Christian Party. Her sole concern was her strenuous opposition to the Safe Schools Program. She told me an extraordinary stream of misunderstandings and lies about same-sex couples in general and the Safe Schools program. According to her one of the main creators of the program was a pedophile enabler. I asked her what on earth she was talking about, and she quoted me something from a paper this person had published. To me it sounded like the gist was "Teenagers who are same sex attracted, queer etc. need same-sex adult role models" - a perfectly obvious thing to say. But no, according to this mob that meant they were meant to sleep with adults. Other aspects of the program that made her angry: Role playing as Gay or Lesbians as a learning experience - this was teaching kids it was normal to be that way and no doubt converting them. That being LGBTI was being normalised, while claiming at the same time that there was nothing wrong with being gay so long as she could prevent anyone under twenty from ever hearing about it ever. Because of course no teen has ever been bullied for being out.

As you can imagine, she was vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage. Because, I kid you now, marriage is defined by god and science! She could not explain what that meant. I told that she was denigrating the relationships of some of my good friends, and that marriage was a social construct - which she didn't understand.

And then the guy from the ALP chipped in that he too opposed same-sex marriage. Apparently all the religions he was familiar with opposed it. Which I would have disputed but I run out of breath and time. It seems words in a two thousand year old book, and indeed a 1300 year old book hold more import than the diversity of the modern world. Here I was reminded again why I left that political party... Which was confirmed firmly when I discovered they'd preferenced Derryn Hinch in the senate!!

I thought of my friends who are in same-sex relationships, or who a cross-dressing or indeed just not gender-bound. And I felt sorry for them, if this is the kind of frankly irrational opposition they face. I don't have a problem with people being conservative, but I have a strong objection to people holding completely incoherent views that have no solid basis. I'm going to teach my kid how normal this stuff is in a fairly simple way - in fact I largely won't need to, since he'll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples.

I upped sticks from that booth and headed over to a primary school in the seat of Batman. Happily the mood was different there. I stayed after the polls closed to scrutineer. In this seat the contest was been the Green, my candidate, Alex, the ALP and in distant third at Liberal candidate. There as a total of eleven candidates, but in the booth I was at some of them attracted all of eight to twenty five votes each.

They sort the lower house ballots into piles by first preference votes. There was three notably piles - ALP, Green and Liberal. And one other pile of note - the informal votes. This grew depressingly large. I watched the ballots that went into that pile. A number of them were people who clearly didn't give a stuff, they'd left the ballot blank or crossed the whole thing out. But a large number of them really had tried, but they'd messed it up. Putting a tick or a cross in one box. Numbering only six of the eleven boxes, probably confused by the new Senate voting rules. The informal pile grew till it numbered nearly 10% of the total votes cast. Which depressed the hell out of me. Batman is likely to be decided by a margin of less than 1%, and here was a huge number of people who wanted to vote a certain way and failed.

The next step of the process is to distribute preferences. The three piles were roughly 1000 votes for the ALP, 450 for the Greens and 415 for the Liberals. The Libs were distributed between Green and ALP, because across the whole seat the contest would be between the other two parties. And so I got to watch still more votes head towards the ALP... The Liberal how to vote card had preferenced the ALP tenth and the Greens eleventh. So some 70% of them went in the ALP pile. There I was watching a party I intensely dislike deliberately sabotaging the chances of a party they intensely dislike. I know it's not sabotage but it certainly felt that they hated the Greens more than they hated their traditional rivals the ALP.

I eventually headed home, despondent, and watched the results come in on ABC. And here I was bummed out yet again. I've spent that last three years watching in horror as the conservative government in Canberra has demonized minorities for their own gain, in the process enabling a number of racists to rear their ugly heads. And trying to destroy fabled institutions like Medicare and the ABC and the union movement, repealing working carbon reduction legislation, lying about their being a refugee crisis, nobbling the NBN and... Well, it felt to me like every day there was something new they were doing to get angry about. And here they were on election night in with a fighting chance. Rather than being dumped out office by an outraged nation, there they were sitting almost neck-and-neck with the opposition. Rather than having a prime minster having to make a humiliating speech of defeat, we had smug blue-tie wearing Liberals saying they were hoping to form government again in a few days. I'm not sure what the combination of rage and despair is called but that is what I felt. And to find that the senate is going to be worse than the last term. Pauline Hansen, the prototype racist nutjob is back. Derryn Hinch, a loud angry white man may be in there. Jackie Lambie will be back possibly with a friend. The next three years are going to be grotesque.

I had a fitful nights sleep. I'm going to be spending the next few days refreshing the AEC's website for results.
maxcelcat: (Agent Smith)
(I should be doing homework, so this'll have to be brief!)

There is a very silly bunch of people called 5 Second Films who make, oddly enough, films that go for five seconds. They're a bit hit and miss, but at 5 seconds a pop, you're not wasting much time.

A while back they posted this:

And later this:

About "Tom Fucking Watson, Member for West Bromwich East". I found them hilarious.

Later I discovered there really was at Tom Watson, member of the Labour Party and of the British Parliament... for West Bromwich East. What kind of a name is that for an electorate???? And he wasn't someone they'd just made up for the sake of a silly short film.

He's been in the news a lot lately because of his pursuit of Rupert Murdoch - he's even published a book about the investigation called "Dial M for Murdoch". More power to him, that megalomaniac needs to be taken down.

Tom Watson, it transpires, is also on the twitters and many other social networking sites. I finally followed him on Twitter today (I strongly approve of his politics) and this happened:

He knows about 5 Second Films! A politician with a sense of humour!

(Here is the tweet in question).

So I've had a random day. Also: Vote 1 Tom Fucking Watson!
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
I'm probably not alone in this, but I'm a big hacked off about the result of the federal election...

Not sure who is to blame for this mess, although Bill Shorten and the other "Factional Heavyweights" spring to mind. If the ALP had not paniced, bided it's time till as late as December - with Kevin Rudd still as prime minister - I think the result would have been greatly different.

Some good has come of it, one of my least favourite people in the world, Wilson Tuckey, has been turfed out of his seat in WA. And that bumbling prat from Family First, the loopy Stephen Fielding, has been given the boot from the senate.

But that's about it by way of good news. A freakin' DLP candidate has snuck into the senate in Victoria. I'm also not too pleased about the seat of Melbourne falling to the Greens. Although I was more attached to the previous member, Lindsay Tanner, who was a rare decent bloke in the parliament.

I was a scrutineer at a booth in Preston, which was interesting. And probably worthy of an entry of it's own.

Anyway, I'm going to have to not read the news for about a week until this stupid thing is properly resolved.
maxcelcat: (Obama)
Just testing a new icon :-)
maxcelcat: (Voting is the best revenge)
OK, the last bit of Obama fandom for a little while. Please, indulge me, this is bigger than Rudd around this time last year.

There's a very interesting article over on the Time website:
How Obama Rewrote the Book
. Which includes my quote of the Year so far:

"A nation doesn't much need a big President in small times; it needs one when the future is spitting out monsters."

Damn. I wish I could turn a phrase like that.

And, well, the following require no explanation.

Obama Superman

Bush and Liberty

Both by a comic artist called Alex Ross, who is more usually drawing superman.


Nov. 11th, 2008 11:16 pm
maxcelcat: (Deb and Paul)
I've been reading more about a certain Barack Obama. The more I hear, the more I like him...

Amusing side note: when he was a kid they used to call him "Barry". Someone should tell him that a) that's a good Aussie name and that b) "Barrack" has a very specific meaning here.

And here's a video of his half sister, who is part Indonesian (talk about a cosmopolitan family!)

More Obama

Nov. 11th, 2008 12:12 am
maxcelcat: (The Dynamism of a Dog on a Lead)
Found this weirdly poignant or something - Pat Oliphant on Obama.

(Trivia: Oliphant is from Adelaide.)
maxcelcat: (Milkshake)
Found this disturbingly funny: get your war on does the Obama presidency.
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
The Ten Worst Things About the Bush Administration. I'm amazed they managed to pare it down to ten...

Worst. President. Ever.


Mar. 8th, 2008 03:49 pm
maxcelcat: (Einst├╝rzende Neubauten)
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

Mario Savio
Steps, University of California, Berkeley, December 3, 1964
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
The new federal labor government gets on with some serious business while the opposition pulls stunts. I see Brendan "Placeholder" Nelson and that mob staying in opposition for several terms to come...
maxcelcat: (Orange Hair)
Apparently the centre of power in Oz this summer is in Altona.

Actually, makes me kinda... Well, makes me think of the contrast with the last government certainly, and makes one kinda proud that a chick from the western suburbs can end up running the country.

Reminds me of the time I bumped into the then deputy prime minister in Readings on Lygon street. That was random.
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
Gotta love the spin the BBC has put on the announcement of the new federal cabinet:

Ex-rock star in Australia cabinet

maxcelcat: (Flaky Tree Friend)
Posted a youtoob video of this a few days back. But I found the complete text:

Senator Robert Byrd addresses the house in Feb 2003 before the invasion.

OK, no more politics for a while. Next post will be about the cats ;-)
maxcelcat: (Voting is the best revenge)
Last post about the election, I swear :-)

(In recent news: looks like Turnball might well be opposition leader. Interesting times! That should make us a republic before too long.)

Wanted to tell you all about the seemingly dull, yet secretive and interesting for a first timer, world of the Scrutineer.

After the polling booths close, each booth counts the votes which were cast there. Presumably the part timers who man the booth and then count the votes are, at least in part, old hands who are familiar with this work. And to keep an eye on them, to make sure everything is above board, and nothing screws up in a big way, each party is allowed to appoint a number of Scrutineers to each booth. At the booth in Thornbury East, one of them was me.

I had to sign up with the dude in charge of the booth beforehand, and he gave me an el-cheapo ID card with an el-cheapo lanyard.

There's another important roll for the scrutineer which I forgot to mention - getting a tally and phoning it in to the campaign office so they can get some idea how the voting has gone.

Here's a brief description of what goes on behind the closed doors of a polling booth (they lock the doors and no one is allowed in or out till counting is complete!)

The first rule of fight club is that you must... Wait... The first and most important rule for a scrutineer: YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THE BALLOTS. This presumably to prevent the popping in of extra votes or indeed removing o' ballots!

First off, in the school hall of Pender Street Primary school, the entire contents of the lower house ballot box was upended on a couple of tables pushed together. The ballots are sorted into neat piles, the same way around and the same way up. There is also a preliminary check for informal or as they say "spoiled" ballots. You gots to number from one to six, folks!

Myself, the other ALP scrutineer and a middle aged lass from the Greens watched all this take place.

Next, they are roughly sorted into first preferences. There were six candidates in Batman - ALP (obviously), Liberal, Green, Family First, a Democrat and Citizen's Electoral Council! The people who come out from the wood work at election time!

The counters sorted them into two sets of six piles, on either side of the table. Seven in fact, one for each of the candidates and one for the "spoiled" ballots. Actually, in practice there was only six piles - the CEC character got so few votes he hardly got a pile :-)

Pretty soon it was clear who was going to come out ahead. Quite literally, the piles for each candidate dramatically reflected how popular each of them had been. I saw a number of donkey votes - ballots where the "voter" had simply numbered the boxes from top to bottom one to six. But didn't see any mistakes by the counters, they seemed to know what they were doing.

And now a brief interlude where we reflect on Stupid People.

Stupid people one: They found at least five ballot papers in the absentee ballot boxes. These were for people from out of the area, who had to pop their ballot papers in an envelope.

Stupid people two: They found at least five green lower house ballet papers in the senate ballet box. There was a HUGE sign explaining into which box each paper had to go.

Stupid people three: The number of informal ballets ("spoils") was high, about 120 of them! Some were blank. Some had a cross against the candidate in question. Some had repeated numbers. One had ticks in all the boxes... Make you wonder. The senate papers were bad too: people who'd put one number below the line. Ballots with numbers above and below the line. Clearly some of these folks couldn't care less, but some of them were clearly just thick.

Back to the counting. The votes grew into piles. It was clear who was ahead - the Martin Ferguson pile was so large it morphed into two then three piles. At the end of the process, it would be possible to pick the winner just by looking at the size of the piles! But they had to be counted properly.

The stacks were broken into batches of fifty votes, checking again for informals. There were a few more of these, and some discussion about "if the voters intentions were clear." I remembered back to the US Presidential election of 2000, and the discussion about hanging chads and pregnant chads. I like our system more!

The final tally of first round votes was (from memory):
ALP (Martin): 1500 or so
Libs (some guy surname of Peart): 557
Greens: 404
Democrats (remember them?): 54
Family First: 51
CEC: 3!!!

Martin got more votes than everyone else combined. The counters joked that Mr and Mrs CEC, and their one kid, must have been the only one's voting for him here :-)

I was smugly happy about the Family First vote. They'd had at least two people there handing out how to vote cards all day, with some banners and posters. All for 51 votes. They might as well have stayed at home... One of my cronies spotted one of the FF folks serving beer to us at the after party at the RSL!!!!

There was a brief pause while the senate ballots were sorted. Turned out that this was a good idea - as I mentioned, five more lower house ballot papers turned up. And two of them were informal, which figures.

I called through the primary ballots to the campaign office.

So finally we could get on to the distributing of preferences. I'd brought a radio with me, so I could find out what was happening in the rest of the country. Good stuff, it would seem! Two seats falling in Victoria which was a surprise. I conveyed news to the others locked in as I got it, they seemed generally rather pleased.

I had to struggle to remember back to the high school, or where ever they taught us about proportional voting. After the the primary votes have been distributed, the candidates with the fewest ballots had their votes redistributed to the other candidates. In practice, they just pick two parties/people with the most votes and distribute the votes to them, based on who of the two most successful candidates they gave a higher preference to.

During this process, they discovered a bunch of Martin's ballots had got mixed up with the Greens pile! Martin's primary vote went up by about 50...

So. The CEC chaps votes when 2 to the libs, 1 to us. Which is not to say that they'd put Labor second, just they they'd put us higher than the libs! And so on through the Democrats (about thirty to us), Family First (mostly to the Libs). And finally the Greens. The poor greens scrutineer who was still there was very sad when this happened. Their vote at this booth was down from last time.... And their prefs fell to us in a big way! 371 of their 404 votes! Nice.

So the final two party preferred vote, at this (relatively small) booth was roughly:
ALP (my man Martin!): 1900
Libs: 600 and something.

Turns out there was a swing to Labor - if that's possible! - of about 4.6%, making Batman still the safest labor seat in the country! A clear majority of about 21%! Which, to put it another way, meant that really I was wasting my time, it was always going to be thus. Ah well.

So, with that, it was all over. The still had to count the senate ballots, but that was going to take hours more. I phoned through the final results and headed off to the party. I'd already been there from 6PM till just before 9PM! Long day.

It had been weirdly satisfying seeing democracy, raw actual ballot paper democracy, at work. This could have been a dull job, but in some ways it was exciting to watch that pile of ballots get higher and higher. Will put my hand up again next time around.

Fuck me, this is a long entry. Good night!
maxcelcat: (Voting is the best revenge)
Peter "fuckhead" Costello has fallen on his sword. Hooray.

It's also likely he knows his history. In the history of Australian politics no new leader elected by an opposition immediately after a defeat has gone on to become prime minister. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's certainly the trend. Think of Kim Beazley. Simon Crean. Bill Hayden (anyone remember him?)

In fact, about the only leader to lead a party to an election defeat and later to become Prime Minister was a certain Johnny Howard...

I am very, very, very interested to see who will take over from him. I wonder if it'll be Malcolm Turnbull? The richest man ever to win a seat in an Australian parliament..
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
Just listening to a BBC world service report about the Australian election (ABC News Radio plays the BBC during dead times like Sunday arvos). That really brought it home - they used the word "landslide" and talked about Kyoto, Broadband and getting out of Iraq. If Rudd can just do those three things it'll have been worth it. Oh, and tearing up workchoices!!!!

And in breaking news - Costello is going to the back bench! This just gets better and better! All we need now is for Alexander Downer to be put in a leaky boat somewhere in northern waters, and left to fend for himself with nothing else but a pair of fishnets :-)

I wonder who will be opposition leader? Surely not Tony Abbot after his abominable election campaign.

There was a great picture on the ABC election site - lets see if I can find it again... there it is. A shot of Julia Gillard trying to shush her raucous supporters during the election broadcast. Looks like we might have a wildly popular deputy. Can't be a bad thing. And why the heck not, I've seen her speak in person, and she's impressive.

(Which reminds me of a quote I heard from her. I'm paraphrasing, it went something like "This one week I was addressing groups of people at every meal. It got to Thursday morning and I was at home - wandering around eating my weetbix looking for someone to talk to about industrial relations".)

Went to my first old-fashioned ALP election party last night. That was interesting, although I didn't stay long - I was exhausted after a really long week. Martin Ferguson, whatever his faults, really gives a fuck about Batman which was great to see - talked about the real disadvantage in the northern suburbs for example.

It is beginning to sink in.

I saved some bunting from the polling booth. Not sure what to do with it, but I'm sure I can find a place for two smiling Kevin Rudd portraits :-)
maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
Man, I've waited sooooooooooooo long for this day, it feels a bit anticlimacitc. (That I am sitting at home blogging about it rather than at a party should be evidence enough.)

Back when Latham lost the 2004 election - October the 9th, I remember it well... I've been waitin since then.

In fact, further back than then. Back to 1996 when Keating - who is my kind of arsehole - lost to that short man.

I've been a member of the ALP on and off since the early nineties (it's in my gene's, going back at least a couple of generations). But I rejoined this time around because I figured after the last election, here was a party who needed all the help they could get.

As it turned out, they didn't, particularly not in the safest labor seat in the country! But still...

I guess I am relieved, finally, that tonight the member for Bennelong lost his seat and lost his government. Will take a few days to sink in...

Sorry if this entry is not particularly coherent. Will post more tomorrow when I'm less exhausted.
maxcelcat: (Default)
This is a speech from Feburary 2003. Damn, we need more folks like this. (Ignore the first part in Spanish!!!!)

maxcelcat: (It's Time!)
I'm feeling a bit hopeful and optimistic about the election thing.

If the polls continue the way they are...

And the swing is consistent across the whole country...

We might be talking a landslide people...

A good landslide means at least two terms in office. This has worked a treat for Labor here in Victoria - you win enough seats the first time around, it'd take something drastic to lose the next election... Yay.

And I've been doing my part - I spent a good $17 today on pre-paid envelopes to send out a campaign schedule to my comrades in the Northcote Branch :-)

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