17 December 2010

My Christmas mix tape

Hi folks. I hope that you're all enjoying the time of year that's upon us.

You know, originally, Christmas time was a bunch of different pagan festivals, most notably Yuletide, that got co-opted by Christians keen to embrace stuff that future audiences would love.

These days I acknowledge that Christmas has morphed into a secular display of undignified commercialism and gluttony. Naturally, of course, I love this.

But there is a more serious side to the season. I talk about the unmitigated drivel that pours from speakers all over shopping centres at this time of year. There's only so much "Jingle Bells" or We Wish You a Merry Christmas" that I can take. And if it's not those pepped up and insanely cheerful American odes to capitalism, it's those thoroughly unfathomable one hit wonders Slade and Wizzard. Or those horrid efforts from Cliff Richard or George Michael.

Yes folks, Christmas songs blow dog.

25 August 2010

Post election post

You have to love parliamentary democracy. Even better, you have to love the comments on this article in the Herald-Sun that proves my point that I made several weeks ago about Australians: We all know bugger all about our own system.

The article itself begs some pretty powerful questions.

Firstly, how illiterate actually is the Herald-Sun's readership?

Secondly, is our system actually broken?

20 August 2010

Obligatory election summary post

As I'm prone to do, here is my Jagajaga-centric summary of election posts. It may provide you with a guide to assisting you with voting in this election. Or it might not. Learn some stuff, like:

Or alternatively, you could just go to my Election 2010 tag page.

Happy voting!

How to vote below the line easily (Election post number 9)

And now it is time to look at The Senate.

I've found this great webpage, [link removed, see below] by the way, which helps you put together your own how-to-vote card for the Senate. But more on this in a moment.

Edit 18/08/2013: Vote below the line has moved here.  Also, I think it's worth noting that this stuff relates to the 2010 election.  I'll try to do an updated one for the 2013 election, if I get time.

Edit 18/08/2013: Well, it appears that someone else has moved onto the belowtheline.org.au website and are offering the same thing as last election.  Boy, does my face look red.

The Senate is the house of review in Australia. Each state elects 12 senators, and the NT and ACT get two each. Of these, 6 from each state and 1 from each territory come up for election each election.

As a result, voting for the Senate can confuse your average punter senseless.

17 August 2010

How-to-vote cards (Keeping your member "local" part the last)

I have been amazed by some things this election. I was rendered speechless when I heard that Family First, the not-yet-militant Christian extremists, had been attempting to do a preference deal in the Senate with the Australian Sex Party. Laugh? I nearly spontaneously combusted!

I still hear staunch Liberal voters who claim that economic management will be better off with them than the ALP. That would be worth voting for, if it wasn't for the fact that the current bunch of Libs have promised spending out of control and the leadership sees economics as a tedious footnote to political administration.

More hilarious still, is the fact that the ALP really don't get how they got it right on economic management during the global financial crisis, whether by fluke or design. Why not make this an election issue? It's a guaranteed vote winner, although it might be evidence that the ALP isn't really interested in economics either. I would think it amazing if the ALP felt that voters were turned off by stuff as mundane as economics.

15 August 2010

Interesting things about preferential voting (Keeping your member "local" part seven)

This is where I almost finish up with my investigation of preferential voting using my case study of the seat of Jagajaga. I will look at the Senate soon, I promise.

I learned a lot after my last post. For starters, I learned that votes in a safe seat aren't quite so much wasted as what I thought. As it happens, party coffers are guaranteed funding from the AEC on the basis of primary votes, so, although this is going to go mainly the way of incumbent parties, there is a chance for you, the voter, to ensure that even if your first preference is going to be discarded, you may get to have the taxpayer contribute part of the gravy train that is electoral funding towards a smaller party. This is a valuable piece of information.

02 August 2010

Why am I even bothering? (Keeping your member "local" part six)

People probably wonder why I bother with this. Right about now I'm having thoughts of that nature myself.

"I know who I'm voting for," they might say.

"Why don't you just follow a how-to-vote card?" some might ask.

"Get a life!" order those without a shred of originality, finesse, style, sense of irony or, strangely, a life of their own.

The fact is that, even though I live in an safe Labor seat where any vote is essentially a wasted vote, I strangely want to do things properly. At the end of the day, I will know something about my candidates. How many of you can say the same thing?

Candidate responses - Jagajaga

You might recall that I sent a communiqué off to some of the candidates who will be standing for election for the seat of Jagajaga.

I have in my hot little hands responses from candidates Kearney and Harris. Chris Kearney, as you may recall, is the Greens candidate for Jagajaga and Peter Harris is the Secular Party's candidate.

So what did they have to offer? Let's look at them one by one.

31 July 2010

What is a donkey vote? (Keeping your member "local" part four)

Well the candidates are all in as far as both the House of Representatives and Senate are concerned. I will do a post in the future on voting for the Senate, but at the moment I'm looking closely at how to get a local candidate into the House of Reps.

And although this series looks at the electorate of Jagajaga specifically, I hope that those of you who live in the rest of Australia can get something out of it.

First of all, it's interesting, but I thought that there would be more candidates for Jagajaga. I thought maybe the CEC might field a candidate. And that maybe there might be an independent or two.

But it does appear that as far as Jagajaga goes, all the candidates are going to be representing political parties.

30 July 2010

Keeping your member "local" part three

Folks, nominations have only just closed for all those who are running as candidates for the 2010 election. It's a little early to see exactly who are all the candidates are, but thanks to the ABC, we can already see who three of the candidates are in the electorate of Jagajaga.

Presently, it appears to be incumbent member Jenny Macklin, standing as a member of the ALP, Johannes Bauch (another Joh!) standing as a candidate for the Liberal Party and Chris Kearney who will represent the Greens.

I'll have to wait until the AEC fixes their webpage to catch all the candidates - no doubt that there'll be more - but until then, I thought it would be good to find out about Bauch and Kearney.

Incidentally, the letter I sent to Macklin nearly a week ago still hasn't been answered, yet. I'll give her staffers another week to answer it, then I'll follow it up.

I'll be honest: Bauch and Kearney don't stand a chance. Jagajaga is an ultra-safe Labor seat, and Jenny Macklin is a shoe-in. But still, even though in the grand scheme of things my vote is worth diddly-squat, if I'm going to rock up to the polling booth and cast my vote, I'd rather do it properly.

It's either that or vote informally, which I have to admit, I've done before.

Allow me to digress just for a moment: I have had a discussion with someone who thinks that the above sentence may be interpreted as advice to vote informally which is illegal in Australia. Obviously, only a complete idiot would interpret that sentence this way, but am I wrong? Do courts apply a "what would an unreasonable person with half his faculties missing think" test?


So, in keeping with that theme, I thought I'd take the opportunity to grill Bauch and Kearney about their community involvement. I strongly suspect that Bauch has been parachuted in, as his profile on the Liberal Party's website is devoid of detail, but Kearney on the other hand might be a little more interesting. Kearney appears to have runs on the board according to the Greens' website:

  • He's lived in Macleod for 32 years. OK, he's clearly local.
  • "Many local schools and sporting committees". I need specifics.
  • "Active" member of Macleod Tennis Club. "Active" could mean anything.
  • Member of Eltham & District Amateur Winemakers’ Guild. Very interesting.

Kearney is clearly a standout candidate at this point, assuming that I end up disregarding the candidates' policy platforms of their political parties (a lot of "P"s) which I won't.

I need to ask the candidates individually what they have done for Jagajaga. To keep this fair, I will only make it for the term elapsed since the last election in November 2007:

Dear Candidate,

I notice that you've declared as a candidate for Jagajaga. May I congratulate you on your preselection and wish you the best of luck for what will be, I'm sure, a rivetting contest in Jagajaga.

So that I can vote properly and not roll a dice or blindly follow a how-to-vote card like so many Australians do, I thought I’d ask the question: Is it possible for you to send me a summary of what your contributions to the community of Jagajaga have been during the period covering the last electoral term?

Please note – I am not looking for your achievements personally, nor am I looking for your qualifications of which I'm sure there are a few. I am simply looking for what it is that you’ve done to benefit the people of Jagajaga specifically during the current electoral term and nothing more.

Community stuff is what I'm after. For example I note that the current Member for Warringah is a member of a surf lifesaving club in his electorate and although he doesn’t get rostered on terribly often, he has a record of turning up to do his shifts. So stuff like that please.

Although the election is still a little while away, please be assured that I will consider every syllable of your response when I get to the polling booth in August.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,


I bet they'll be faster than Macklin at responding.

27 July 2010

Quick follow up keeping your member "local"

Just thought I'd follow up the previous post I made about local members.

Whilst I'm yet to receive a response to my letter which I only sent on Friday, I received two junk mail items in my letterbox tonight from my local member, the Hon. Jenny Macklin, MP.

The first one is a four page glossy leaflet filled with "news" articles and photos (lots) of Macklin titled "New Financial Year Update". It's subtitled "Jagajaga News | Jenny Macklin MP" so it's clearly been made to suit the electorate, however, the articles can be summarised as follows:

  • Letter to "Resident" that may also be read as an executive summary of the rest of the leaflet;
  • Details of the paid parental leave scheme (18 weeks at National Minimum wage, or $570 per week);
  • Details of quarterly Pension Supplement payments paid in advance up to $1,005.70 (singles) or $758.10 (each member of a couple) per six month period;
  • Small bit about rise in government pension rates from September last year of $100 (singles) or $74 (each member of a couple);
  • Small bit about one-off Carer Supplement of $600;
  • Small bit about contacting Macklin's office for free information kits;
  • Full page trumpeting tax cuts;
  • Small bit about 50% Child Care Rebate being available as a fortnightly option; and
  • Half page on health reforms and other health initiatives.

The other one is one sheet with details of Labor's Renewable Energy Fund on one side ($652.5 million) and an invitation to come and meet Macklin at Eltham Town Square on Saturday 31 July between 11.15 AM and 12.00 PM on the other.

Neither of these, it should be noted, contain any information on what she's done for Jagajaga specifically in the last electoral term.

Now I am curious.

23 July 2010

Keeping your member "local"

One of the downsides of not having a proper civics syllabus in our secondary schools is the fact that Australians know bugger all about their own system. This is a DISGRACE!!!

Our kids learn about civics the same as we did – bits and pieces of it are carved off and farmed out to subjects as unrelated as legal studies, economics and history. And really, it’s not good enough.

So I thought that I’d get something out there that has been bugging me ever since Julia Gillard became PM: Folks, (and I may be preaching to the converted here) we do not elect our Prime Minister.

The first I heard about this, was a few disgruntled souls voicing their opinion that Kevin Rudd’s rolling by Gillard was undemocratic as apparently, Australians elected Rudd as PM for this entire term of government.

As a reminder, again, we do not elect our prime ministers. PMs get the job by virtue of being the leader of the government, normally formed by a group of members of the House of Representatives who hold the majority of seats. When a political party, defined as a group of like-minded people campaigning under a single platform, form a majority in the House, they get to be the Government. Currently, this is the ALP. Their leader, who is elected by the party room, is the one who gets to be the PM.

Likewise, the group of members who don’t consent to join this first group get to be the Opposition. The dominant political party in this group is the Liberal Party, so their leader gets to be Opposition Leader. Funnily enough, I don’t hear a squeak from Australians about supposed democratically elected Opposition Leaders when they get rolled by their party room. Anyone remember when Malcolm Turnbull got rolled in favour of Tony Abbott? Even further back, what about then Brendan Nelson was done away with? Bueller? Bueller?

In other words, elected politicians replacing their leader is entirely democratic within the context of Australia's parliamentary system.

Adding to the noise on this, consider the following.

Julia Gillard as PM is entitled to live in the Lodge in Canberra, as well as Kirribilli House whenever she’s in Sydney. She has since said that she will not move into the Lodge (or Kirribilli for that matter) until she’s democratically elected by the Australian people as PM.

Let’s call this an election promise, because assuming that Labor wins and Gillard sticks to her word, she obviously may not move into the Lodge.

The media also likes to call this a battle between Gillard and Abbott, or as they like to call them, “Julia and Tony”.

(As an aside, I don’t think that a single news outlet in the States would ever, in a million years, have referred to the last presidential battle as being between “Barack and John”)

The simple fact is that punters are ill-educated in this country and they think that this is between two prime ministerial candidates. The best thing that the media can do is be a little more responsible about the news that they put out there.

In reality, as far as the lower house goes, the only electing that you do, is for your local member.

I live in a safe Labor seat and my local member is Jenny Macklin. If I were to vote for Macklin in this next election, I would be voting for Macklin and no one else. Certainly not Gillard, even though her policies would affect my decision making in this regard. I’m not even voting for Macklin in her role as Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, just for her primary role as the Member for Jagajaga.

So again, you vote for your local member. Obviously, this means that it does pay to know a little about the candidates. Nominations don’t close until the 29th of July, so at this stage, I only know for certain that Macklin will be running but even then, it’s possible that there may be a pre-selection battle in the local branch of the ALP that I don’t know about.

Your local member. What does this mean?

Your local member should represent your community. Oh sure, there are many Australians who just see a vote for their local member as a vote for who you think should be prime minister, but those people need to frigging well wake up to themselves and consider who is going to best represent them, because that’s who they’re voting for.

With that in mind, I thought I’d compose a letter to my local MP and ask her what she’s done for Jagajaga during the past electoral term. I may have potentially missed something, but I simply don’t know and I suspect that I’m not too different to a lot of Australians in this regard:

The Hon. Jenny Macklin, MHR
Member for Jagajaga
149 Burgundy Street
PO Box 316
Heidelberg VIC 3084

Dear Jenny,

I do hope that you don’t mind me addressing you as “Jenny” in this letter and not the usual “Minister” as your position befits. I am writing to you as my local member of parliament and not to you in your capacity as a minister of the Crown.

As I’m sure you would be aware, there is an election coming up and I am of the understanding that you will be re-nominating as a candidate for Jagajaga, if you haven’t done so already.

So that I can vote properly and not roll a dice or blindly follow a how-to-vote card like so many Australians do, I thought I’d ask the question: Is it possible for you to send me a summary of what your achievements have been in the last electoral term?

Please note – I am not looking for your achievements in your role as the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, nor am I looking for achievements that the Rudd and Gillard governments have managed. I am simply looking for what it is that you’ve done to benefit the people of Jagajaga specifically during the current term and nothing more.

This list of achievements doesn’t need to be limited to stuff related to your parliamentary duties. For example I note that the Member for Warringah is a member of a surf lifesaving club in his electorate and although he doesn’t get rostered on terribly often, he has a record of turning up to do his shifts. So community stuff would be a pretty nice thing to have written in this list as well.

Although the election is still a little while away, please be assured that I will consider every syllable of your response when I get to the polling booth in August.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,


It would be really good if we all did the same thing with all our local members.

19 July 2010

Last chance to register to vote

Yes people, an election has been called. I will be blogging during this campaign and hopefully get back to blogging regularly again.

But anyway, if you are not registered to vote, you have until 8PM tonight to do it. Remember folks, voting is compulsory in Australia.

More to come?

26 January 2010

Happy Australia Day 2010

Hi folks. Yeah I haven't been blogging for while, but it's the new year and I hope that this means that things will change.

It's Australia Day 2010, and I thought I'd jot down a few things of what Australia Day means to me. Really, I do love this place. And I'm sure that everyone thinks the same about the place that they live in. But there is things that we could do to improve the place.

Some of you might be aware that it is also Republic Day in India at the moment. Happy Republic Day to you, if you're Indian and reading this.

Relations between here and India are not what they could be. And this is a real shame, because Australia and India have a lot in common and I'm not just talking about a celebrated rivalry on the cricket pitch.

For starters, we were both colonies of the British Empire. And while we're still technically a constitutional monarchy, India is a republic and has been for some time. This is pretty irrelevant - for starters, our Governor-General pretty much enjoys all the trappings of our head of state, even though she's technically only a representative of the Queen of the United Kingdom in Australia. And funnily enough, since our constitution describes the GG as our head of state, I suppose that we're pretty much a republic, for all intents and purposes anyway.

But I've digressed. India and Australia have a lot in common. But our relationship has been strained in recent years with quite a few violent incidents involving Indian students in Australia.

We have a lot of Indian students studying in Australia.

One of the things that Australia has in common with India is an independent and free media. But where the (admittedly not 'out of proportion') attacks on Indian students might have been swept under the rug here as being 'normal' - and I've seen no stats to indicate that they're anything but - the Indian media has been going berzerk.

We were quick to write this off as media hysteria. I actually wondered myself for a little while why, if there was a racial problem, why is the evidence not being provided to the police?

I still wonder about this, but I can tell you right now - we have a problem, and we need to fix it.

I saw this first hand last week on the train. I had hopped on the train at Parliament station, where I normally get on for my ride home. Settling into my seat, I was a little curious at the trio of young kids with plastic bags chroming away in broad daylight up the far end of the train. One of the three, a girl who couldn't have been much older than 14, looked at me and yelled, in a fairly aggressive tone, "Stop looking ya cunt!"

Without meaning to sound too snobby, these three were pretty much gutter trash, and from the loud conversation they were having, it was clear that they were so wasted that they'd hopped on a train on the Hurstbridge line by mistake. I didn't catch where they were headed, but they hopped out at Clifton Hill and seemed a little bit disoriented, and I don't think that it was just the inhalants.

She then proceeded to list why she disliked or liked certain non-anglo racial groups: Asians and "Lebos" (general Australian vernacular for Arabs/Middle Easterners in this context, I think) were considered OK. She even described Asians as "excellent" at one point - for anyone reading this from the UK, the term "Asian" in Australia does not include subcontinentals. But Indians and Africans (we have a lot of people of Sudanese and Somalian backgrounds on Melbourne) were considered bastards, or "...cunts the lot of them".

I haven't seen this in the past at all. I should point out that I move in fairly ordinary middle class circles where I work with all sorts of ethnicities, including Indians, and have never seen anything quite like this.

So the spectre of racism has raised its ugly head in Australia, and we don't really know what to do about it. Some would say that it's always been here: I've never seen it. I've hired people in the past to jobs based on merit and those that I've hired have come from a range of different ethnicities.

And if you think that I've been living under a rock - you could be right. The problem is, just like this instance on the train, I need to see it for myself before I'll acknowledge it. How many Australians are like me I wonder?

On thinking about it, maybe I have seen it, although I might have seen the other side of racism. "Racism" as we know it these days requires an underprivileged ethnic group to be discriminated against. Yes I know that is not what the term means, but really, this is how it is these days.

The other side of racism isn't quite so ugly, however it's not really rosy. I've chatted with many taxi owners who have told me the reasons why they prefer Indian students as taxi drivers: They're reliable.

I've also chatted with the odd convenience store owner who admits to hiring Indian students because they're more honest and hard-working than their other applicants, who are usually of Eastern European or Middle Eastern backgrounds. Anglos? Well apart from not being as honest and hard-working, apparently, Anglos don't apply for these jobs.

Anglos are too stuck-up to apply for jobs in convenience stores or as taxi drivers, which says a great deal more about Anglos in this country. This is an interesting little thing in its own right. I've seen this and it's pretty poor. I have close friends (all Anglos) who preferred to be unemployed for long periods waiting for the right job to come along rather than take a job stacking boxes or serving in convenience stores.

(I do know one Anglo ex-Taxi Driver, but he was at the upper end of Generation X and appeared to know the value of having an income flow even if it was a small one, while he awaited his dream job. And he awaited that dream job for years.)

And I've heard friends tell racist jokes. They don't mean anything by it, but it shits me beyond all measure that these friends don't understand how disrespectful this can sound. My question would be, would you say that in front of an Indian? Or a Somalian?

We are a pretty great country, I think. But we could be excellent. We just have to get off our arses and start making an effort in this regard. Here's a few things that we could could do to make Australia truly great:

1. When someone tells a racist joke, or even makes a racist slur about different ethnicities, why not ask them if they'd say that in front of someone of that ethnicity?

2. When someone refers to themselves in an "empowering" way (fuck I hate you, post-modernists) on the basis of their own race or ethnicity, ask them if they'd mind if someone from a different ethnicity did the same thing about them? A good example is African-Australians who seem to have started referring to themselves as "niggaz" - would they like it if an Anglo did it?

3. It's quite OK to have a job as a convenience store clerk. Gen Y - go out there and get a job and stop bludging off your parents.

4. Indian students have been complaining of racist treatment for some time. Why can't the police ask Indian student groups or the Indian media for evidence? Wouldn't this confirm their claims?

5. If the police have evidence, why can't they do something about it, rather than sweeping it under the carpet?

6. I don't care who you are - anyone who believes in "celebrating diversity" is usually a racist buffoon. We have manners and etiquette for a reason - it helps us to understand each other's intentions. Special pleading on the grounds of race is usually an excuse to shoehorn some kind of racist generalisation in somewhere.

7. Whilst I publicly consider generalisations of young Anglos as lazy and dishonest to be offensive, privately I sorta agree. I don't mean to be ageist, but it would help if young Anglo-Australians made more of an effort.

8. There's a reason why I haven't mentioned Aboriginal Australia in this post. Try to figure out why that might be.

9. Indian students (and Chinese, for that matter) bring a lot of money into Australia. It might not be as much as our earnings from iron ore exports to China, but think of this when you're helping one out.

10. Next time you hear anyone who was born here describe themselves as "Asian" or "a wog", politely point out to them that they were born here.

Cheers, and have a great 2010.