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- First published in The Australian on 6 December 2011
The “light on the hill” got a good run at the weekend’s Labor conference. At least four speakers employed the phrase: Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her opening address; Left Spokesman on Everything Senator Doug Cameron against the sale of uranium to India; and Labor for [...]

Tony Abbott’s forgotten families

- First published in the Australian on 13 May 2011
In his budget reply last night, opposition leader Tony Abbott made two mentions of Australia’s “forgotten families”.
It was an obvious reference to Robert Menzies’ “forgotten people” speech. Kevin Rudd, when in opposition, also referred to the “forgotten people”.
The forgotten people speech was delivered on radio in [...]

Mike Kelly’s Labor preselection in Eden-Monaro may break bellwether habit

- First published in the Australian on 5 May 2015
Mike Kelly, the former Labor MP for Eden Monaro, has been preselected to run in the seat again at the next election. Eden-Monaro is a large, mostly rural NSW electorate. The whims and swings of the state with the most seats naturally has most influence on [...]

A Liberal in Melbourne?

- First published in the Australian 26 July 2012
It has been reported that the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party is very likely to preference Labor ahead of Adam Bandt in the federal seat of Melbourne at the next election.
The expectation in some quarters is that this will send the sole Greens House of Representatives [...]

Revenge of the auditors

IT’S now a little over a year since the Australian Electoral Commission discovered that 1, 370 ballot papers were missing from the recount of Western Australia’s Senate vote for the 2013 federal election. Worse, much worse, was that the closeness of the count made an expensive re-election necessary.

It was around this time that the AEC crawled into the doghouse. It has not yet been invited out.


This blog/website is currently sort of in hiatus while I work out what to do with it. You can read some recent writing at Inside Story.
In Fairfax on same sex marriage referendum and the danger of failure. Here.
In Fairfax on asylum seekers. Here.
In SMH on Trump win (ignore the headline).
In Fairfax on Australia’s in-built political [...]

Polemics no use

- First published in the Australian 12 January 2015
IN the wake of the Islamist terrorist killings in Paris, let’s get a few things straight.
The pen is not really mightier than the sword. That’s just a nice line picked up from an old book. Napoleon Bonaparte isn’t a huge figure in global history because he [...]

South Australia, William Robinson Boothby & the development of Australian electoral institutions

In 2012 I gave a talk in Adelaide’s Parliament House to the Electoral Regulation Research Network. It was a short version of the main findings of my PhD thesis, with the boring bits taken out.

It deals with the development of South Australia’s electoral apparatus in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was the model of running elections, and most importantly enrolling people, that the Australian Electoral Office adopted upon its creation in 1902.

Be warned: it’s five and a half thousand words long and written as a rough guide for speaking. It has no references.

A quick history of enrolment

In 2013 I attended and gave a paper to a workshop run by CABER.

CABER was the then Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn’s Advisory Board for Electoral Research.

From memory this was a two-day workshop and the session I spoke at dealt with automatic enrolment, or as the Commish wanted us all to call it, direct enrolment. This is something I’ve been going on about for years.

The Coalition was strongly against it and one person in attendance was the Shadow Minister of State Bronwyn Bishop. When it was time for questions she commandeered the podium to … patiently explain her position, and eventually had to be talked down so others could have a go.

I called my talk A History of Enrolment in Australia. (I think some of the words were filched from other of my presentations.) It gives a brief history of enrolment, in the “mother country” and then here, before moving to direct enrolment.

Short history of preferential voting

Australians have had preferential voting for national elections since 1918, but it took almost half a century for some key concepts to be understood.

This is something I wrote in 2006 for an academic paper I never finished. This being a longish Sunday, I’ve slightly polished and updated it and plonked it here.

It’s about the history of preferential voting in single member electorates (aka AV) in Australia, and people’s understanding of it. Thinking in terms of a national two party preferred vote (which is not very applicable to UK’s three party system) didn’t really arrive until at least the 1960s.

Originally published in my Australian blog 18 April 2011.