…Well, you know, we all wanna change the world.

  1. It’s absurd for Jeremy to suggest that someone who lives in a society, whether they vote or not, could in any way have no authority to speak on political subjects. All you need to have that authority is eyes, ears and a brain.
  2. Russell seems to confuse “voting” with “voting for Tories”. Although in the UK voting system with first past the post, single member electorates and no preference voting, the system massively favours the big established parties and if you vote for someone else, like an actual progressive candidate*, you are with respect to the contest between the big two parties making it easier for the one you like the least to win government – you’re at least having your voice heard. Opting out entirely (or, in Australia, voting informal) just makes it even EASIER for the big parties to ignore you, and makes it even harder for alternatives to grow.
  3. The fact that the current parliamentary system in the UK is fundamentally broken and undemocratic doesn’t mean that anarchy is better. For one thing, the main flaws in their system could be remedied without abandoning the whole idea of democracy. For another, remember that it’s the Tories who are cynical about the idea of “society”, and the poor and vulnerable who tend to do particularly badly when it collapses entirely.

I look forward to reading Russell’s plan to move towards a better world. Hopefully his gig at the New Statesman will help him push us in that direction.

*Surely even in the UK progressive people do actually run for parliament.

UPDATE: Here’s his piece in New Statesman.

Please –

Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics.

What you’re doing is politics. When you read people arguing things you agree with, or against things you despise, that’s politics. Maybe be a bit more specific? “I am utterly disenchanted by all three big political parties in Britain and the electoral system which locks them in”, perhaps?

Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.

Again, define “politicians”.

Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,”

Actually, voting AGAINST THEM is the only way not to encourage them. Abstaining just encourages them to ignore you and people like you.

and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

Ha ha, but useless. If by “politician” you mean “MP in one of the big establishment parties”, sure. But if by “politician” you mean “person with political views who genuinely has ideas to push the world in a more equitable direction and can persuade people to support you through the strength of those ideas and your advocacy for them”, then no – you’re exactly the sort of person who should make politics your profession.

Young people, poor people, not-rich people, most people do not give a fuck about politics.

But they DO. They just don’t give a fuck about what they’re being told is “politics” (the Westminster farce) or what they’re being told are “the politicians” (the establishment MP jerks).

They see no difference between Cameron, Clegg, Boris, either of the Milibands

…because there’s little.

…or anyone else.

THAT IS A MASSIVE CALL. “Anyone” else? There’s no-one else advocating for the things they believe? NO-ONE? Or is it that there are people who are representing the political views of the young, the poor, the not-rich, it’s just that the establishment media are ignoring them? Maybe let’s go and find these people, or if we can’t, become those people instead?

…There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.

Sure – so we should be fighting to FIX THAT SYSTEM, or consider a better one if one’s on offer. We can opt out of what they call “politics” without opting out of POLITICS.

You know who wants anyone who believes in equality, fairness, social justice, compassion to give up on politics? The people who want the opposite.

We’ve got a long way to go

A comment by “Linda” published on Mia Friedman’s “warning” isn’t “victim-blaming” really, honestly, it totally isn’t, so there piece of foolishness this week:

“Slut shaming” is just a new buzz word to put a complete stop to a decent dialogue about women’s behaviour. My husband is a policeman and is astounded at the situations that women, especially very young teenagers will put themselves in. It is all very well to say that women should be able to wear what they like and drink what they like without men laying a finger on them. The reality is very different. There are still men in society who will spike drinks and who prey on women who are in a vulnerable state. My husband has often rung the parents of drunk teenagers in a state of undress because he is concerned for their welfare. What should be of even more concern is that the parents of these girls often know and don’t care.

Another point I would like to make is that women are sending very mixed signals to men. On the one hand they are dressing provocatively and yes, I use the word provocatively, because exposing your breasts, legs and often backside can only be for the benefit of attracting men. Yet on the other hand, they are saying, you had better not lay a single finger on me, no matter how badly I behave. That may include lying in the gutter spewing my guts out (as my husband has seen on numerous occasions), screaming obscenities and on many occasions exposing their breasts. At all times they are to be treated as complete ladies! If you think I am exaggerating, go to any nightclub in Melbourne at closing time and see what comes staggering out or even many of the railway stations around Melbourne.

CAN ONLY BE FOR THE BENEFIT OF ATTRACTING MEN. “HOW BADLY I BEHAVE”.

While there’s a single part of this comment you think is reasonable, we’re not there yet.

UPDATE: And here’s another idiotic doozy from Susie O’Brien of the Herald Sun, trying to defend Mia on 3AW:

“We need to be educating our girls to make good choices and not put themselves in situations where they can’t give consent to a sexual act,” O’Brien said.

Yes, because women should only be in situations where they are capable of consenting to a sexual act. I mean, that’s what they’re for, right? What the hell are they doing in a place where they’re having fun and enjoying themselves and sex is off the table? How very dare they!

Bob Cratchit was a whinging lefty product of our something-for-nothing culture

After the UK Daily Mail’s war on people who, by criticising certain policies, therefore “hate Britain”, here’s The Now Show on BBC Radio 4 doing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as it would be retold by the Daily Mail:

Marley was dead – to begin with. Although he may have been faking, to con the system out of benefits. Mr Scrooge rightly opposed the European Working Time directive, which forced him to give unpaid leave at Christmas to his slacker staff. Bob Cratchit was a whinging lefty product of our something-for-nothing culture, with eight children in his 150,000 pound end-of-terrace hovel in London’s swanky suburbs, including so-called Tiny Tim, whose alleged disability had been reclassified by ATOSS and he had been deemed fit for work. One night Scrooge was visited by three so-called ghosts, who convinced Scrooge that his free-market philosophy was in fact causing terrible poverty and inequality, because the ghosts hated Britain and everything it stood for. These spineless spectres talked the honest Mr Scrooge into backing down and accepting their socialist prescription of increased spending and free turkey. Mr Scrooge ran through the streets shouting his nauseating lefty propaganda as the snow fell, thus proving there is no global warming, and wishing everyone a happy Christmas, even though everyone knows that thanks to the European Union we have to call it Winterval or we will be fined by Brussells.

And the moral of this story is, Charles Dickens hated Britain.

The local equivalent is pretty obvious.

When waste of taxpayer money doesn’t raise an eyebrow

Some defenders of the public purse.

These Coalition politicians are more like “born to rule” types who’ve got their hands back in the till.

As for their cheerleaders – please could someone link me to where all the “let’s stop the waste” right-wingers are damning the frontbench Liberal/National politicians who’ve been caught out charging the taxpayers obscene amounts for their social jaunts? As for Barnaby Joyce’s “study” trip to Malaysia (and the ridiculously expensive flight back) with those laughable “insights” he may as well have pulled off Wikipedia – could there be a more blatant example of snouts in the trough? Where have the great defenders of taxpayers’ money gone? Where’s Catallaxy? Where’s the Daily Telegraph?

Imagine the front pages if this had been anyone in Parliament not from the Coalition.

PS: Yes, I’m calling hypocrite first.

UPDATE: LEAVE TONY ALONE!!11!!

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Now remember, fellow lefties, when somebody becomes PM they deserve respect and for the other parties to support their legislation even if they told their voters they’d oppose it.

It’s time to show the conservatives the respect for their electoral victory they showed us over the last six years when the situation was reversed.

Just like conservatism was banished from the land in 2007, now they get to enjoy a land free of lefties, and we must respect that a few percent of voters, those most disengaged from politics, temporarily switched to the Coalition, which means we must give up on everything we believe and be silent henceforth.

About to vote Liberal? Wow, Tony treating you with contempt really worked.

So the Coalition’s big pitch over the last three years is that Labor’s wasted BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS and only the Liberals and Nationals will STOP THE WASTE.

And yet, when it comes down to it, when they finally shamefully slide the costings across the table at the end of the night and run off, the only way they can manage to eke out a miserable $1 billion improvement in the bottom line is by cutting $4.5 billion from foreign aid.

(And before you say, well, let’s look after our poor people first – just how much of that $4.5 billion do you think is going to improve conditions for the poor in Australia? In round figures? THE ROUNDEST FIGURE.)

$1 billion improvement in bottom line by cutting $4.5 billion from foreign aid.

So – up until that massive whack against the world’s poorest, the LNP are actually $3 billion behind Labor in managing our money.

So much for “Labor mismanagement” – the Coalition couldn’t get over the line without slashing foreign aid. And every railway program they could get their hands on. And superannuation for those on low incomes.

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Did a railway once run over Tony Abbott’s dog or something?

The numbers speak for themselves – the Liberals are not the party of managing your money better, just the party of redirecting it from rail to roads, from the poorest to the wealthiest, from small business to big business.

And of course they quite cynically waited until Thursday afternoon to actually release their list, ill-defined though it is. (Which specific parts of the “Nation Building Program”, which involves things like black spot upgrades and boom gates for level crossings, are they cutting? Just what kind of “streaming” of the Family Court do they think is going to save them $30 million? What the hell does “redirect portrayal of senior Australians in the media” involve, and why will taxpayers spend $1 million on it?)

Why did they do that, if they thought you would like their plans? If, with only the day or so they’re giving you, you think you might actually like their plans, then what is it that they didn’t want you to see?

There’s no answer except that they feared that you wouldn’t like their policies if you had more time to look into them, and they’re hoping that your vote is so locked in that you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt even when they’re clearly trying to pull a fast one.

Are you really set on voting Liberal no matter what they do?

Because your power bills are up? Only a very tiny percentage of that has anything to do with the so-called “carbon tax” – 90% of it is because the states run by Tony Abbott’s party have let the power producers increase all their other charges. Because you really, really despise refugees and you really, really believe that TPVs are the magic solution that will make people give up and stay in Indonesian camps? (Or at least you don’t mind that their cunning plan if they can’t “stop the boats” is just to stop you hearing about it.) Because you have bought the line that Labor is wasting huge amounts of money – so huge that the Liberals can’t actually improve the bottom line without dipping into the small amount, compared with the size of our economy, that we spend – spent – on foreign aid?

Maybe Tony’s creepy offering of his daughters for votes appeals? Or his last minute attempt to sneak out an internet filter? (Now they’ve been caught at it the policy has quickly been deleted from their page and replaced with this.)

Look, I agree that the ALP have been a disappointing government, blowing in the wind and fighting with each other. But that’s still better than having completely insane priorities, punishing the poor and small business, and trying to trick voters like you because the Liberals don’t trust that if you found out about it you’d actually think what they’re planning to do is an improvement.

If you actually do care about public services like public transport, or seriously tackling climate change (hey, how awesome was that warmest winter on record, eh?), or treating refugees with compassion and common sense (because locking them up on remote islands is both cruel AND expensive) – then a vote for the Greens is the strongest way to use your vote to achieve that. If you want to pull Labor back from the brink of just aping the Coalition on almost everything important, only voting Green will make that clear.

But if you insist on teaching Kevin Rudd and the ALP a lesson, by voting for the Coalition in the lower house, please at least use your Senate vote for a party that will hold their excesses to account. If Abbott deserved to have a free run through the parliament, he’d have come clean about his plans well before today’s blackout. He didn’t, and he doesn’t.

How to solve the long Senate ballots problem

Have you seen this year’s Senate ballots?

A metre long? Are you kidding?

And why? Who are all these micro parties that you’ve never heard of that appear to stand for the same thing as existing parties (“No Carbon Tax”, “Stop The Greens”)? Why would anyone vote for them? What possible purpose do they serve?

Well, because being up at the front of the ballot is worth a few percent, and if you just run one party then, because the AEC selects the order randomly, you only have a one in however-many-candidates chance of getting up the top. For every dummy feeder candidate you run, you increase your shots of being up the front that many times.

So if you’re an unscrupulous big party, why not run some dummy preference farming candidates? Because you’re concerned about the effect on poor old voters having to deal with a metre-long ballot?

Yeah, like you care about inconveniencing voters. The longer the ballot, the more it forces all but the supremely bloody-minded into just numbering one box above the line, and thereby giving you more power in directing their preferences. Remember – if you stuff up numbering the 110 boxes in the NSW Senate paper, your entire vote is discarded. So if you’re not going to put 1 above the line and leave your preferences in the hand of a “faceless man” (who might transfer your vote to a fringe religious nutcase like Fielding, for example), you’d better put aside some time to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. (In 2010, around half the informal votes were caused by numbering errors.) Most voters who want to be sure their first preference vote isn’t ignored because of a minor error, or who look at the idea of trying to choose between a dozen or so micro parties they’ve never heard of as a ludicrous waste of their time, simply vote 1 above the line. And hope their preferences aren’t sent somewhere bizarre.

We could let voters preference above the line – so they’re ordering the parties, just like in the House of Representatives, but don’t have to go to the detail of numbering each indvidual candidate within.

But we don’t.

So we get ever-increasing numbers of micro parties that don’t stand for anything but preference feeding to the majors, and voting becomes more of a hassle citizens resent, encouraging them to further tune out etc.

Four solutions that don’t involve increasing the barriers for new parties but do involve decreasing the reward for big parties to abuse the system

  1. Above the line preferencing;
  2. Optional preferences, where the voters can exhaust their ballot where they like;
  3. No overlap between party memberships; the 500 names on registration to actually be checked off the roll by the AEC; and
  4. Order the ballots according to the first preferences received last election.

The first gives voters reasonable control over their preferences again. If you don’t care about the order of the half dozen candidates within a party, and just want to choose between parties, then you can do so and number a dozen or so boxes instead of over a hundred.

The second ends the undemocratic practice of simply discarding votes that are CLEARLY cast for a candidate just because the voter didn’t want to preference the rest. A vote that numbers half a dozen boxes consecutively and leaves the rest should not be discarded. It should count as a valid vote. That’s one person, one citizen, who has made it clear which candidate they choose. Ignoring them is profoundly undemocratic.

Third, make sure that the same people can’t run multiple parties. There’s been a bit of that this election. It’s just asking for ballots filled with dummy parties.

The fourth might seem a bit odd, since I support the Greens and not either of the two biggest parties. But it’s the order voters actually expect it to be in. I’ve handed out at elections where there’s a candidate with “Labor” in their name in the first few parties on the ballot that gets a whole lot of votes from people who meant to vote for the ALP and didn’t realise that not all parties with “Labor” in the name are the ALP, or even preference the ALP.

Ordering the ballots according to last election’s vote ends the advantage for running dummy micro parties as preference feeders. It makes the ballots less confusing to voters, and accordingly helps them exercise their democratic choice.

If we don’t do these, the ballots will get longer and longer until momentum is created to make it harder and harder for legitimate new parties to arise and compete. They’ll keep raising the barriers to entry so that no-one but the big parties can afford to run – which won’t, by the way, remove the micro parties that are actually funded by the big ones.

Or worse, people will continue to disengage with politics and the informal vote will keep rising.