Reforming and performing

What have ALP internal party reform and the performance of Bach’s The Art of Fugue got in common? The question popped into the blog’s mind this week after hearing the great Angela Hewitt perform the Bach work and spending some time talking to Race Mathews and Local Labor people about their campaign to reform the party. read more

What’s in a name?

Public relations people hate anyone suggesting that what they do is propaganda. Many PR people, particularly in politics, are also adept at accusing opponents of being in the propaganda business. In essence the formula is that we communicate information, you indulge in things which are ‘just PR’ and sometimes you sink to the depths and practise propaganda. read more

Rupert loses some times

For those concerned about News Corporation’s influence on elections it is re-assuring to learn that Rupert does lose some of his political fights.

One of the biggest growth areas in what Tony Abbott calls ‘the Anglosphere’ is the commercialisation of the public education system. The creation of charter schools, the growth of online education, private sector emphasis (eg Microsoft) on educational content are all part of a multi-billion dollar market. read more

Informal hits new record

The blog speculated before the election on just how big the informal vote would be in this year’s Federal election. The 2010 informal vote was the highest since 1984 and the 2013 result looks like being an all-time record.

At the end of the weekend the 2013 informal tally was 5.9% although it may reduce somewhat as absentee and postal votes are counted. As the blog remarked the informal vote comes on top of the fact that somewhere between 500,000 and750,000 million voters are not enrolled at all. The Australian Electoral Commission ran a campaign before the election encouraging young people to enrol. The result – according to a friend who works in an electoral office – was that about 25,000 people responded. His source, an ABC report, which said the voters had not enrolled because they were ‘disinterested’ suggesting that one might despair of the ABC’s literacy along with the state of politics. read more

And the winner is…..informal

Much effort is going into predicting the outcome of the September 7 Federal election with Richard Farmer of crikey, for instance, conducting his usual competition among readers to nominate the seat outcomes.

But this week a Liberal friend said to the blog that 2013 was the first election he could remember when most people didn’t really want either candidate even though he still expected Tony Abbott to win. Needless to say he wasn’t too enthusiastic about that outcome and spent a moment or too wishing that Malcolm Turnbull was the Leader despite knowing that he probably has only one vote (his own) in the Shadow Cabinet. Interestingly in the blog’s local electorate of Melbourne Ports the Liberal candidate has a small photo of Tony Abbott right at the back of the leaflet he dropped in our letter box but a very large photograph of himself with Malcolm Turnbull. But then, given the nature of Melbourne Ports, that’s probably a sensible idea and more sensible than the Liberal candidate from some years ago who campaigned on the risible theme that the sitting member, Michael Danby, was soft on supporting Israel. read more

Nudge theory and the environment

In Australia achieving social change to combat environmental problems is about as high a current mainstream political priority as using market mechanisms. With the dumping of the carbon tax (even before the Abbott Government takes office) the political price of using pricing to combat problems or encourage beneficial alternatives is going to be considered a hurdle too high in Australia for quite some time. read more

Probability theory and elections

Nate Silver, who correctly predicted the result in every State in the 2012 Presidential election, created some interest in the uses of probability theory based on Bayes’ theorem. But the alternative – speculation based on impressions – still seems to be the preferred way to approach problems such as predicting election outcomes. read more

A sense of perspective

One of the great things about getting away from Australia is the sense of perspective it gives. The blog has managed to be away for many recent Federal and State elections including, thankfully, all the 2010 one and most of the current one.

Perhaps the best thing is that the amount of coverage of the Australian election in foreign media is about right – almost zero with the odd exception of the odd short piece in The Economist or the FT. read more

Taking a break part 2


It’s far too easy to take the benefits of digitisation for granted – as the blog was reminded in the last month or so. Recently the blog attended the launch of a history of Port Melbourne, The Borough and its People, by Margaret and Graham Bride. It’s a terrific book and the subject desperately needed to be re-visited since the 1983 publication of A History of Port Melbourne co-authored by the blog and Nancy U’Ren. read more

Taking a break part 1

The blog is taking a break and will be back in about a month. In the meantime a few odds and sods to go along with. Part 2 later today.

The road to Damascus

Recently a Greenpeace anti-GM activist rather upset his Greenpeace colleagues by announcing at a farming conference that he had been utterly and tragically wrong on genetically modified organisms in food. read more