Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category


Liberals Part 5: Are they hiding a radical agenda?

31 January 2013

This is the fifth part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 examine the party’s climate policies. Part 4 debunks their allegations that the incumbent government is illegitimate. This part argues they are hiding a radical agenda of deregulation and austerity.

The countdown has begun: 226 days until an Australian federal election in which the Liberals look likely to sweep into office. Yet we still have very little idea what the Liberals would do in government. Leader Tony Abbott contradicts himself from day to day, apparently depending on who he’s speaking to, and even his party’s official policies are not very clearly explained. At this stage, a vote for the Liberals is a blank cheque. In this vacuum of confirmed information, I am forced to resort to informed speculation. You’ll know whether I’m right when the Liberals finally announce their fully detailed policies (which looks like it will be about 5pm on 14 September).

The deregulation agenda

I fear an Abbott government would be a wrecker government. We already know the Liberals would repeal the carbon and mining taxes, axe most other climate change policies, and delegate environmental approval powers to the states. These policies should be disturbing enough for anybody, but increasingly appear to be only part of a broader agenda of deregulation and austerity which should trouble even those unconcerned about climate change. It would follow the precedent set by the Newman government in Queensland, which blindsided the state last year by sneaking into power under cover of opposing a long-lived incumbent then proceeding to implement massive cuts. Read the rest of this entry ?


Liberals Part 4: Australia has a legitimate government

27 January 2013

This is the fourth part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 examine the party’s climate policies. This part debunks their allegations that the incumbent government is illegitimate.

Both sidesIllustration: Stephen Wight

There has been a persistent campaign by the conservative Coalition, led by Tony Abbott and his Liberals, assisted by most of the mainstream media, to create the perception that the incumbent Labor minority government, led by Julia Gillard, is illegitimate. Don’t get me wrong: I have a long list of disagreements with the government. But the implication it is somehow illegitimate is simply unjustified. Read the rest of this entry ?


Obama’s reelection won’t change anything

8 November 2012

What does the reelection of Barack Obama mean for climate change? On the one hand, it is a tremendous relief that Mitt Romney lost; but on the other, Obama’s victory is not particularly promising.

Firstly, it is unlikely that Obama will be able to accomplish much even if he wants to. The Republicans will continue to control the House of Representatives, as well as continuing to effectively control the Senate, which means they can continue to block everything as they’ve been doing for the past three years. Why do they effectively control the Senate, you may ask? As explained here, an idiosyncratic rule called the filibuster allows any Senator to prevent a bill being passed (or even being introduced) by debating the motion indefinitely (or secretly threatening to do so). To overrule a filibuster requires 60 out of 100 votes, which the Democrats have not had since 2009 and still don’t have after this election. The Republicans now filibuster pretty much anything and everything, making it almost impossible for the Obama administration to pass legislation. Even if the Democrats had 60 seats, many Democratic Senators representing coal states are unlikely to vote in favor of legislation to address climate change.

It is far from clear that Obama would take the necessary level of action on climate change even if he could get it through Congress. Obama’s first term will be remembered for the failure to act on climate change. The policies he has tried to implement so far have been utterly inadequate. In UN climate talks, Obama has secured a too-high 2°C target and promoted a system of voluntary pledges utterly inadequate to meet it with no intention of ramping them up until at least 2020, when it will be too late (although I say “Obama”, the president himself no longer bothers to show up to climate conferences in person). To his credit, he has invested heavily in renewable energy deployment, but his “all of the above” energy policy also continues to promote and even subsidize fossil fuels. His failed climate legislation, negotiated between Congress and industry lobbyists, was plagued by similar problems to Australia’s policy – weak targets, offsets, free permits for polluters, etcetera – so even if it had passed it was unlikely to be very effective. He delayed that legislation in favor of healthcare reform and financial regulation, after which the Democrats lost the required Senate supermajority. And since March 2009, he has followed a deliberate strategy of not even talking about climate change, instead trying (and failing) to sell climate policies on side-benefits like “green jobs”. Read the rest of this entry ?


Queensland election has disproportionate result

25 March 2012

Yesterday’s Queensland state election result shows the need for a proportional representation system.

The incumbent Labor Government suffered a humiliating defeat, with the Liberal National Party winning an overwhelming majority in the Queensland Parliament. Yet at last count, the Liberal National Party received slightly less than a majority of the vote (49.68%). The rest was split between Labor (26.95%), Katter’s Australian Party (11.50%), Greens (7.27%), Family First (1.37%), and other minor parties and independents (3.23%).

There are 89 seats in the Queensland parliament (and only one house). In a proportional electoral system, yesterday’s result should have distributed those seats approximately as follows: Liberal National 44, Labor 24, Australian 10, Greens 6, Family First 1; with the 3 final seats won by others or perhaps decided by preferences.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Post-Election Wrapup

8 October 2010

I didn’t get around to blogging on the outcome of the 2010 Australian federal election at the time because I was busy revising for an exam — but better late than never, I suppose. (You can read my pre-election wrapup here.)

The House of Representatives

The electoral results were pretty much what the pre-election polls had suggested: the Liberal-National Coalition received 43.3% of the vote, Labor 38.0%, and the Greens 11.7%. This amounts to a 5.4% swing away from Labor, a 1.3% swing to the Coalition, and a 4.0% swing to the Greens. Of the remaining 7.0% of the vote, 2.5% went to independents, 2.3% to Family First, 0.7% to the Christian Democratic Party, 0.3% to the National Party of Western Australia, and various other minor parties received less than 0.25% of the vote each. (A full list can be found here.)

Also as the polls had predicted, the national two-party-preferred (2PP) vote was very close to 50-50 (with Labor leading the Coalition at just 50.12%), but the results varied wildly from state to state. Labor received more than 55% of the 2PP vote in the states of Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia (all in Australia’s southeast), but less than 45% in Western Australia and Queensland (west and northeast, respectively). The 2PP vote was closer in New South Wales but with the Coalition slightly ahead. Of Australia’s two main territories, Labor was only slightly ahead in the Northern Territory but way ahead in the Australian Capital Territory at 62%.

Source: Antony Green, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Read the rest of this entry ?


My View of the Election Campaign

21 August 2010

This is my second post on Australia’s 43rd federal election, which is taking place today. Part 1 contains some background on the Australian electoral system and political parties. I had hoped to say everything that I wanted to say about the election before it was over; but time is fast running out, so I decided just to post what I can. I’ll write a followup post tomorrow. The split is not entirely logical, but this post has more of an emphasis on rhetoric and tomorrow’s will have more of an emphasis on policy. By the time I post the rest of my analysis, the polls will have closed and the result will probably be known. Sorry, I decided not to write the followup. However, I have posted a summary of the results. I am not entirely happy with this post, but I was forced to compromise between writing the perfect wrapup and writing something I could post in time. Kind of like politics, I suppose. Anyway, here is what I’ve written so far.

To recap: the incumbent centre-left Australian Labor Party is led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The centre-right Liberal Party of Australia led by Tony Abbott is in a long-standing Coalition with the rural conservative National Party of Australia. A growing third party, the progressive Australian Greens, is led by Bob Brown.

Most observers, including I, agree that there is little difference between Labor and the Coalition other than their rhetoric, and unfortunately rhetoric is mostly what the campaign has been about. So I’ll briefly summarize some of the spin that’s been flying around. Both major parties have framed the economy, population, and “border protection” as the major issues of the election, while attempting to neutralize the issue of climate change. Read the rest of this entry ?


My First Election

20 August 2010

I don’t intend to talk much about politics on this blog, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Australia will have its 43rd federal election on the 21st, and I am a first-time voter. In a follow-up post either later today or tomorrow, I’ll get into a bit of politics — and given the subject matter of my blog, I’ll mostly be talking about climate policy — but for now, a bit of background about, and analysis of, the Australian electoral system.

Voting is compulsory, though it’s a secret ballot so voters are free to “vote informally” by leaving their ballot paper blank or incorrectly filled in. There are two houses of Parliament: the lower house is called the House of Representatives, and the upper house is the Senate. The House has 150 members, who serve three-year terms and are elected from single-member electorates. Each electorate is supposed to contain more or less the same number of voters (though the rules are complicated, and in practice the number can vary from around 60,000 to around 120,000).

In House of Representatives elections, Australia uses a preferential voting system called instant-runoff voting. Voters must number all the candidates on the ballot paper in order of their preference. If one candidate receives more than 50% of the first-preference votes then they are declared elected. If not, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed according to the second preferences of each person who voted for that candidate. This process continues until one candidate passes the 50% benchmark. Read the rest of this entry ?