The Australian Election

Justine Larbalestier is incensed I haven’t written anything about the Australian election, in which not only did the Liberal party lose big time to the Labor party (equivalent to the Republicans gett sacked by the Democrats here in the US), but the sitting Prime Minister, John Howard, almost certainly lost his seat, becoming only the second Prime Minister in nearly 80 years to do so.

So: Yay! Australian elections! Here’s to participatory democracy!

Also, congratulations to Justine, who is clearly over the moon about the outcome. I hope to feel the same in about a year’s time.

53 Comments on “The Australian Election”

  1. I was living in the US during a recent Australian election, with the Spanish elections being held the same day. Neither were mentioned in any of the TV news reports. My memory of TV news at the time was “…and in overseas news, President Bush is visiting …”. Has anything changed?

  2. Justine isn’t the only Aussie over the moon :).

    We’ve provided a very good example of how an entrenched government can be removed from power, you know. Worth emulating .

  3. I read a blog today by an Australian and she was saying what a sad, sad day it was that something this terrible could happen. That on Monday they were going to secure their mortgage and refinance something or other because the unions were going to take over, etc. etc. But she never mentioned the elections.

    Being an idiot about Australian goings-on, I immediately rushed to the news to see what horrible thing had happened. A stock market crash? A terrorist attack? Then I read about this election and was like, its THAT?! Sounds wonderful to me! If only that could happen here.

  4. The Australian Electoral Commission runs a great website, with tons of data parsed in lots of different ways. I’d rejoice if the US feds and states made our election data this transparent. For example, the left sidebar has a link for candidates – follow the link and you can quickly find any candidate’s name, and the race they’re running in, and from there go directly to the totals page for that race…

  5. Lisa — it’s a shame that blogger didn’t know what she was on about. Thats the problem with our electoral system; by law, you HAVE to vote. It’s such a shame that the people who pay no attention to policies and to the actual workings of our government (both past, and newly elected) get to vote.

    While democracy is a great this, the fact that people who are clueless on things like policy, progress and oh I don’t know, the truth, are allowed to get a say. Thats the only thing I think America has done right. Give people who have an actual interest in voting, a vote. If you have no interest, go about your merry way.

    Of course, I could be totally wrong on the America system, but thats my limited understanding of it. :)

  6. It’s a little sad to know how many people are like that blogger and truly believe that the Coalition made Australia a better place.

    It’s the lack of vision that stuns me. How can anyone think so selfishly and not believe that it will come back to bite them?

  7. Jimbo @ 6: In both the US and Australia, the “clueless” can both vote. One party or the other can still herd them in the direction of the polls.

    A problem with the US’s non-compulsory system, is that if someone doesn’t turn up to vote, then the system doesn’t really care, so it becomes easier to disenfranchise part of the electorate.

  8. I’m very happy that labor won, they seem (somewhat marginally) better than the libs, whose policies have been horrifically bad for a long time.

    And now they are bound to be on the bottom for at least 5 years.

  9. Mike – very true. This would be a wonderful and very interesting conversation to have in person. Quite fun I can imagine. Damn you internet!

    In other news – part of Labor’s plan is Fibre Optic Internet for the whole country. Yeah, like that will happen. But if it does roll out – Real time porn, here I come!

    Kidding, of course. Regardless, I’m really hoping that Labor can do something. Providing it all goes relatively smoothly-ish, Australia should be in for a bit of progress.

  10. My favorite part is that the new Prime Minister speaks fluent Mandarin. When was the last time the head of state of a major English-speaking nation was bilingual? (And no, W’s Spanish doesn’t count.)

  11. I hope to feel the same in about a year’s time.

    So do I, actually. Of course, in the US that would mean the majority in Congress changing parties again, and every single one of the treasonous cowards who voted to surrender to the terrorists in Iraq, like Murtha and Pelosi and Reid and Kennedy, getting voted out in total shame and disgrace.

  12. I must have missed that surrender vote.

    Oh, and I dare you to call Murtha a traitor to his face. Just make sure there’s a TV camera near by. I’ll go make the popcorn.

  13. Steve – to his face? Wolfwalker didn’t even have the guts to say it here and sign his real name!

    Jimbo – Not forcing people to vote ensures that only the people who care will vote… but the problem with it is that a motivated, organized minority can have power out of proportion to their numbers. Evangelicals in the Republican party, say… They’re a minority of the country, but they turn out in high numbers, so their point of view is given disproportionate influence.

  14. Steve, any vote to withdraw troops before the terrorists are defeated is a vote to surrender.

    And I never use my real name on the Internet, for the simple reason that I know there are a variety of creeps and cretins who would use it against me. You can call that cowardice if you like. Makes no difference to me.

    Murtha was a warrior and a patriot once. Today, even many of his former comrades in the Marine Corps consider him a traitor — not only because he’s voted numerous times to surrender in the face of the enemy, but also because he assumed that the Marines involved in the Haditha incident were guilty before the investigation had even begun, let alone been completed.

  15. Another Aussie signing in with a “Whoopeee!!”
    Little Johnnie is gone, Rudd is in. The downside though is the Senate.
    The upper house is split evenly, or would be mostly split.
    The coalition (Liberals (the conservative party!) and Nationals (the farmers)) have 37 seats. The government (Labor party) have 32. The Green party have 5 seats and can be counted on most of the time to vote with Labor.
    That leaves two seats. One seat went to Nick Xenophon who ran as an independant in South Australia and got enough votes to jump to the senate (he is a full on nutcase).
    The other seat went to the “Family First” party that just happens to be a right-wing xtian-backed group. Who as a kneejerk will vote against the Greens at any time.
    A tie means a motion fails. From July 2008, the Senate will suck. That could force another election, a double dissolution of parliament.

  16. Hey, Wolfwalker. Precisely WHICH “terrorists” do you want to see defeated in Iraq?

    The Sunni insurgents that we’re arming now?

    The Shiite government that we installed?

    The Kurds who were the only ones who actually wanted to see us when we first entered Iraq?

  17. That’s alright, wolfwalker — you give them liberal pussies hell! And I’m with you about the identity thing. These sci-fi geeks are some crazy dangerous MFers.

    So, anyway, what were you? Army? Guard? Where were you stationed and how long you been out?

  18. wolfwalker, if that’s what you feel, I wonder how you feel about Musharraf who actually signed a non-agression treaty with the terrorists, and yet he’s still one of our biggest allies in this war on terror. I’d also be interested in your thoughts about how the violence in the Basra region went down after the British pulled back to the airport and the British commander directly ties the two together.

  19. 12: I’m sure quite a few British, Irish and Canadian heads have been pretty good in French at least. Probably a few with a bit of Gaelic and Welsh under their belts. Maybe not the same reach as Mandarin, but I had to make a technical point.

  20. As a postscript to my comments at #9: Could the events in Florida at the last US election, (where those who were entitled to vote were turned away on various pretexts,) have been legal in other first world democracies? Should the UN send observers to the 2008 election?

  21. Scalzi: This is why everyone thinks Americans make everything about them.

    We non-USians are so mean, aren’t we? Pointing out the truth like that.

    All the US reporting of the Oz elections has been about two things that we will now remove our (very few) troops from your Iraqui war and that us signing Kyoto leaves you as the only developed nation who hasn’t signed it.

  22. Well of course we make everything about us.

    I’m sure that if I lived in Oz or the UK or France, I’d be tending to make everything about there instead… but I don’t! I live here, so I make everything about here.

    (as a random aside, you should specify foreground colors for your textboxes when you specify a background color. Cyan on white is not cool.)

  23. Concerning #19. I have seen statistics several places that those with more conservative attitudes are more likely to vote than those with liberal attitudes. I have no idea why this should be. But it does seem to be the case.

    However, blaming the conservatives for that is really dumb. Blame the ones who don’t vote, not the ones who do.

    I go along with the statement that voting should be totally voluntary. In any election, there are actually three major sides. “I like candidate A”, “I like candidate B”, and “I don’t care.” The “I don’t care” group may be those that like both or dislike both, or have convinced themselves that one vote doesn’t matter, but for whatever reason they don’t take the time to vote. I would just as soon keep things this way. Let those who care one way or the other, and can take the trouble to vote according to their feelings, determine the government. Those who don’t care will be happy either way, or unhappy either way. Forcing people to vote when they don’t want to, or penalizing them in some way, or even rewarding those who do vote, would just encourage the “I don’t care” group, who would be voting for the reward rather than because they are making what they consider the best choice.

    As for people “turned away on a pretext,” I am a voting official in the county where I live. Every election, there are people who show up and try to vote but are not registered. They always swear they have voted “right here in this building for the last 20 years” but they haven’t. Often, the place they claim to have voted before wasn’t even a polling place before the last two years. Sometimes they are miles away from where they should vote, and we point them to the right place. Sometimes there is no record they are or ever were registered anywhere. At least now we have a provisional ballot. If a person should not be allowed to vote by normal rules, they can go ahead and do a provisional ballot. An affidavit and information sheet is on the outside of a privacy envelope, and the ballot goes inside. That way the county clerk’s office has time to search out whether legally this person can be allowed to have their vote counted, rather than expecting the judges on the site to make the final determination.

  24. Michael @ 29@: I’ve lived in USA, Australia, UK, France and Spain. Broadly speaking, the US is unique in not referring to anything in the world unless it interferes with its interests of the moment. While there I was much less likely to be randomly exposed to news from the rest of the world.

  25. marty @ 21: Well, SA voters have now given Xenophon the nod for the third time (twice for the state upper house and now for the senate). Not bad for a full-on nutcase. Although I agree that the Senate make-up is worrying…

  26. When was the last time the head of state of a major English-speaking nation was bilingual?

    I’m sure quite a few British, Irish and Canadian heads have been pretty good in French at least.”
    Well, the British and the Canadian (and also the Australian) Head of State is the same person, has been so for over half a century and she speaks fluent French :).

  27. The Senate, although not ideal, is better than it was – at least the Libs don’t have a majority any more. And even if they did, I’m not convinced that they’ll hold back, say, amendments to SerfChoices (unless they figure that noone likes them anyhow, so they may as well be bastards). Also, they are *so* not going to want a double dissolution with the Liberal Party in the state it’s been in sine about 9pm Saturday.

    I have real hope. I want Rudd and his people to succeed in translating their ideals into policy. And I want Tony Abbot to become opposition leader, because it would serve him bloody well right. Heh heh.

  28. Steve,

    I think Musharraf is a generally unpleasant individual, and we should continue to treat him as an ally only because at the moment, we have no choice. I’m quite happy to see Benazir Bhutto back in Pakistan and rebuilding her power base. I’m also happy to see Musharraf arranging for parliamentary elections — although I’m also very concerned that the extremists might gain power as a result of those elections.

    As for Basra, I have insufficient information to make any kind of decision. I’ve heard three different versions of what happened there:

    1) the Brits did a successful job of non-violently pacifying the area, then pulled back and left a peaceful, functional local government behind.

    2) the Brits tried a nonviolent approach to running the area, only to see Iranian-backed, fundamentalist Shi’ite militias move in and take over. The Brits then ran away in confusion because their own political leaders wouldn’t let them do what was necessary to regain control.

    3) the Brits tried nonviolence, the militias took over, and then the Brits went back in and stomped them before setting up a functioning government and then withdrawing a second time.

    I don’t know which version is correct.

  29. His tightness with Bush and the general unpopularity of Australia’s Iraq adventure was certainly a factor in Howard losing the election. The US is not all that popular in Australia now, and honesty, Bush isn’t competent enough at diplomacy with people who don’t already like him to not tip the situation into something worse.

    On the plus side, gay rights and immigrant rights will be more respected in Australia. Perhaps they’ll reverse some of the damage Howard did in that area.

  30. So, Wolfwalker, which terrorists do you want to see defeated in Iraq, and which branch of the military were you in and how long were you in for?

    Or did you think Steve’s questions were the only ones you could reasonably answer, and people might not push the point?

  31. 12: It’s pretty much required for a Prime Minister in Canada to at least claim to speak both official languages (Chretien being a special case who spoke both languages equally well).

  32. Jon Mann @ 32: I put my 1 in the box next to Mr X’s name, so I’m happy. Mind you, everytime I saw his posters in the last few weeks, saying “Send Nick to Canberra”, I answered it with “.. to get him out of Adelaide!”.
    Thanks for the Wikipedia link.

    Something that also come to mind, is the apparent disappearance of the Australian Democrats as a political force. I was a member of the party (a long long time ago), but I’m not surprised at their loss. The pressure of the Greens split their votes from the environmentalists, and the other “third partys” like Family First took the “Vote for Someone Else” people.

  33. Michael @ 37

    If I might presume to answer for Mister Wolf–he’s probably talking about the terrorists that weren’t there before the USA invaded.

    His military service? The Internet Spin Strike Team, the little-known sixth brance of the armed forces…

    /snark off, all apologies for the discursion.

    Back on topic, I think more-or-less mandatory voting (a la jury duty) would do the USA good, if for no other reason than that it might then be feasible for everyone to get to the polls. (Ever tried to cram voting in before or after an all-day Saturday retail shift? Or, hey. Sometimes that’s your only day off and stuff like buying groceries takes precedence. Or, your work hours theoretically allow voting, but your job’s too far away from the polling place. Etc.)

  34. I’m always torn about the low turnout for voting. In theory it’d be nice to have 100% participation, on the other hand, I don’t know that I want people who are too disinterested to vote choosing who will represent me.

  35. Before anyone asks: In most (all?) parts of the US, employers are supposed to give you time off from work to vote, but in practice this law is not taken very seriously. You’d have to actually ask, and if the employer is uncooperative, maybe threaten; and employers here have unusual latitude (for a developed country) to fire people for no stated reason, so this is a high barrier. In practice, most Americans in my experience act as if they don’t get time off from work to vote.

    I doubt that mandatory voting would be politically feasible here, but I’m all for measures to make it easier–either weekend voting or a national holiday, same-day registration at the polling place (which already exists in a few states), etc.

    Many Americans are going to disagree with me about this, but in general, we need to stop treating voting as a privilege you have to earn. Deserving the vote shouldn’t have anything to do with it. It sounds nice to limit the franchise to people who are motivated, educated, good citizens, but in practice the regulations we’ve got mostly just disenfranchise the poor, minorities, and people with odd residency status such as homeless people and college students; and in the US, in some cases, keeping black people away from the polls was the overt reason the laws were originally passed.

  36. Polling places generally open very early and stay open well after normal office hours, too. 6AM to 6 or even 7PM, in many areas.

    Many Americans are going to disagree with me about this, but in general, we need to stop treating voting as a privilege you have to earn.

    True, we do. Driving is a privilege. Voting is a right and a responsibility that goes along with citizenship.

    It sounds nice to limit the franchise to people who are motivated, educated, good citizens, but in practice the regulations we’ve got mostly just disenfranchise the poor, minorities, and people with odd residency status such as homeless people and college students;

    Also agreed. We need to write regulations that don’t disenfranchise anybody who qualifies to vote and wants to vote, but do keep out the ones who aren’t qualified. College students can vote by absentee ballot. Homeless people, … well, how do you let them vote without any way to verify their identity? That’s an open door for voter fraud on a massive scale.

    Question for the Aussies reading this: how do you solve the problem of voter identification?

  37. Mike,

    “12: I’m sure quite a few British, Irish and Canadian heads have been pretty good in French at least.”

    I am Canadian. As a friend always reminds me, in Canada, French is not a foreign language.


    “Question for the Aussies reading this: how do you solve the problem of voter identification?”

    Other than as a conservative fantasy, is widespread voter fraud an issue.


  38. Actual prosecutable instances of voter fraud seem to be rare, having googled a bit about the results of the 2004 election. On the other hand, disenfranchisement of actual legal voters is common in the US.

  39. Speaking as a college student who was in fact disenfranchised in ’06 due to my “odd residency status”…

    … my problem wasn’t that that I’d need to file an absentee ballot – in fact, I was and am a resident of the state and district my college is in – even switched my driver’s license over that summer.

    However, despite the fact that I was told when registering my driver’s license that was also going to take care of transferring my voting registration, it failed to do so. And from what I’ve been told, this is common in my area, because the town doesn’t want college students voting, because we might have opinions on how the town treats the college. So they “lose” our registrations, and do everything else they can interfere.

    And it doesn’t help that despite being here for only about a year and a half, I’ve lived in three separate residences, as my financial situation has had me looking around for a better deal each time my lease is close to running out instead of renewing.

  40. “It’s pretty much required for a Prime Minister in Canada to at least claim to speak both official languages (Chretien being a special case who spoke both languages equally well).”

    I think you meant to say equally badly. Mulroney and Trudeau were both quite fluent in English and French

  41. Wolfwalker,

    “Question for the Aussies reading this: how do you solve the problem of voter identification?”

    Other than as a conservative fantasy, is widespread voter fraud an issue.


    The invigilating official is required to ask you your full name and address, and mark you off on the Electoral Roll, and ask you if you have voted at any other booth in this election. People who vote multiple times would be charged with electoral fraud and fined or jailed. But the honour system works – people vote once, buy a nutloaf and maybe a book or a sausage in bread from the stalls set up on the carpark, and get on with their day. People take their responsibility to vote seriously, but voter fraud has never been a perceptible problem in the system. I think ti helps that the Polling Booths are in local churches and schools, and the election officials are people from your community, so there’s a very good chance that there’s soemone who knows who you are in the hall.

  42. Not having control of the Senate is probably a good thing for Labor. It creates a convenient scapegoat (the Coalition) for any failures to get their policies into law. It also gives them the strength to resist unreasonable union demands. Apart from anything else, Barnaby Joyce has a reasonable amount of common sense and a willingness to think rather than obediently follow party lines.

    There’s a relevant saying about power and corruption. Checks and balances on power are entire point of federation, two houses of Parliament, the separation of powers, etc.

  43. I just want to point out here that Australia does not have compulsory *voting*. It’s compulsory to be on the electoral rolls if you are over 18 and an Australian citizen, and it’s compulsory to turn up on polling day, but there’s nothing to stop you from making no mark whatsoever on you ballot and putting it in the box, thus not casting a vote.

  44. As far as I can tell, Kevin Rudd speaks Manadrin, is really young (compared to John Howard who went to school with Cuthulu) and pretty much every journalist in Australia wants to have his babies.

    One thing both Australia and the US have in common is that you don’t have to be brain-damaged to be a political journalist, but it’s the only way you’re ever going to be promoted.

    BTW, John, I won’t get too upset if you treat the general election in New Zealand next year with the same utter indifference I plan to show towards the Tweedledumb-Tweedledumber battle royale that will put a new tennant in the White House. Seriously, you folks couldn’t do any better than Hilary Clinton and Rudy Guiliani?

  45. I note with interest that Wolfwalker (SMELL the testosteroney goodness inherent in THAT name!) still won’t answer the “what’s your unit, soldier?” question. “Chickenhawker” would be more fitting, no?

    I hope what happened in Australia happens in Canada in the near future, i.e. fellow Bush-fellator Stephen Harper gets shown the door, too. As far as the compulsory/optional vote issue, I’m torn. On the one hand, people clueless enough to have to be *forced* to vote are the ones who generally wouldn’t pass a cursory current events quiz, so fuck ’em; my vote counts for that slight little bit more as per the laws of mathematics when they don’t show up.

    However, I am adamant that the rise of corporate control of govenrments is directly attributable to the lack of interest shown by ordinary citizens at election time. When we don’t give a shit, and we’ve proved it by not showing up at the polling station over the decades, the business lobbyists take advantage of the vacuum. That’s the short version, but if we’re going to take control back from these pricks, it’s got to start with shutting off the TV for an hour and marking your ‘X’. If it takes the threat of a fine for you to do so, then I pity you, but at least you’ve got to get off the damned couch if you want to avoid forking out the cash.

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