My 1997 Honours thesis – Hamiltonian Dynamical Systems and Transport in a Coupled Standard Map

July 22, 2013

I recently rediscovered my 1997 Honours thesis in applied mathematics - Hamiltonian Dynamical Systems and Transport in a Coupled Standard Map which I did at the University of Qld – I only had a single hard copy of it and thought it’d be nice to have a soft copy. Received a ’7′ for this thesis, which was nice.


Text of my speech to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Qld Chapter – 15 April 2013

April 16, 2013

This is the text of my speech to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, in the  Queensland Parliament House on 15 April 2013. I’m publishing the text for anyone who may be interested in reading it.

 

Tweedledee, Tweedledum – Not all electoral systems are created equal

Sacha Blumen

Speech to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, 15 April 2013

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Jagera and Turrbal people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and future.

Electoral reform is in the air in Queensland. The Department of Justice and Attorney General published a discussion paper on the topic in January this year which has engendered much discussion.

Electoral reform has been a topic of interest for many Queenslanders and Australians over the last few decades. Across the country, there have been moves towards one-vote one-value voting systems (most recently in WA), regular redistributions, party registration and placement on ballot papers, and increasing the number of ways in which people can cast their vote (e.g. introduction of electronic voting in the last NSW election).

There have also been reforms to make it easier for people to enrol and for automatic enrolment in NSW elections, in addition to electoral funding and disclosure reforms. In my state of NSW, the Government recently gave redistribution commissioners more flexibility in drawing boundaries, which they may use in the current State redistribution.

In short, experience tells us that electoral reform is never a done and dusted business. And nor should it be – we should always learn from experience, and electoral systems should change in line with societal attitudes. In 1905, laws were changed to enfranchise women in Queensland elections and in 1974 the voting age was dropped from 21 to 18. Some people are now proposing the voting age be dropped to 16.

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Talk – 5:30pm, Mon 15 April 2013 – Tweedledee, Tweedledum: all electoral systems were not created equal – Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Qld Chapter

April 1, 2013

The Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, presents:

Tweedledee, Tweedledum: all electoral systems were not created equal  presentation by Dr Sacha Blumen
 
Monday April 15  - 5.30pm for 5.45pm 
 
Legislative Council (Red) Chamber, Parliament House, Brisbane
 
Parking available and refreshments to follow
 
RSVP:  Friday April 12  ASPG-Q@parliament.qld.gov.au
 
Dear ASPG member / friend

Please join us for this timely event as the Queensland Government considers public feedback on the proposals in the Electoral Reform Green Paper (developed and released as part of its first 6 Month Action Plan).
Take this opportunity to hear Dr Sacha Blumen share his rare insights into the likely electoral outcomes and broader implications of adopting different electoral systems (such as proportional representation and Hare Clark) and electoral rules (such as voluntary voting).  How would the results change if we changed electoral systems in Queensland?
Dr Blumen conducted a mathematical analysis some years ago using Queensland electoral data to determine the hypothetical outcomes had different electoral systems been used.  His interest in the topic was sparked by an awareness of the long-standing gerrymanders in Queensland, particularly the National Party gerrymander extant in his youth.  He has a PhD in Pure Mathematics, first class honours in Political Science (and an A.Mus.A), and is closely involved with politics in Sydney, where he now lives.  Sacha is a senior consultant with the Allen Consultant Group, co-convenor of the Police Powers and Civil Rights sub-committee of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and was President of the Kings Cross residents group 2007-09.  He was the ALP candidate for the seat of Sydney in the 2011 NSW State election and an ALP candidate for Councillor in the 2008 City of Sydney elections.
Save the date now and rsvp asap as indicated above.
For further enquiries, please email as above or phone Ms Robyn Moore (Secretary) on 3406 7309 or Ms Nonie Malone (Chair) on 0412 023 209.
 
We hope to see you there.
 
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ASPG, it is a non-partisan body with a Charter to bring together parliamentarians, academics, members of the media, parliamentary staff and other interested persons to foster research, debate and discussion to further understanding of our Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.  All are welcome.
 
Kind regards
 
Nonie Malone
 
Chair – Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland

Survey results – Should the ALP be a labourist party? Should it change its name?

March 10, 2013

So I created a survey on whether the ALP should be a labourist party and whether it should change its name – see: my Tumblr blog
 

I’m analysing the survey results now – a summary is here: ALP name survey – summary stats_02

NB: I’m only analysing 100 responses although there were 105 – I have a ‘basic’ SurveyMonkey account. Apologies if your survey response is not one of the 100 I’m analysing.


WordPress app

January 25, 2013

So I now have a WordPress app – I can easily post blogs. Excitement.


I’ll be voting for Chris Harris in the Sydney by-election

October 14, 2012

In the absence of a Labor candidate, I’ll be voting for Greens candidate Chris Harris at the Sydney by-election on 27 October 2012. While I agree with much of the Greens social policy, I disagree with much of their economic policy, and so I wouldn’t usually vote for them. But this is an unusual circumstance with the NSW ALP not running a candidate. It’s a difficult decision given that I was the Labor candidate for the seat in the 2011 NSW election and that the Greens have said they want to replace the ALP.

Relative to the other two main candidates (Liberal Shayne Mallard and Clover Moore-endorsed Independent Alex Greenwich), Chris is more likely to generally support NSW Labor’s policy approach in Parliament and to effectively promote progressive social reform. Chris has also effectively said he would seek an agreement to support of a minority ALP government in a hung parliament while Alex Greenwich has said he’d be open to supporting a minority Coalition government. For these reasons I’ll be voting for Chris on 27 October – and then be campaigning against him in 2015 if he is elected.

This is a personal view. The ALP has not recommended a vote for any particular candidate in this by-election.


Who to vote for in the 2012 Sydney by-election?

October 13, 2012

On 27 Oct 2012, voters in the state seat of Sydney will elect a new MP to the NSW Parliament following the resignation by Clover Moore to serve as the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. Despite the rhetoric, Clover was not forced from her seat in the NSW Parliament – she made a choice to be Lord Mayor over continuing to be an MP.

This by-election represents a genuinely difficult choice for me and many other locals in the inner city, as the NSW ALP has decided not to run a candidate. Many local residents and ALP supporters think their decision to not run a candidate is a mistake, and people have spontaneously said this to me over the last few weeks. But their decision not to run is a subject for another post.

To me this by-election is a Morton’s Fork – a decision in which every choice is unsatisfactory.

Despite thoughts to the contrary, the ALP has not endorsed any of the candidates running in the election. It is frankly surprising that a former ALP Premier endorsed one of the independent candidates – Alex Greenwich – given that, if he wins, the ALP might have trouble winning the seat in the future.

There are probably a couple of factors that will impact my voting decision.

Policy

In a sense, policy does not matter for this by-election given that the Coalition government holds 69 of 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. An independent or Greens MP could say whatever they wanted, without any responsibility, and be completely ignored. A Liberal MP would presumably support the government line. Nonetheless, a few key points:

- I asked Alex Greenwich at a public forum last Tuesday whether he disagreed with Clover Moore on any policy issue. His answer was no, but that he would act more on small business issues, could disagree with her in the future, and would promote residents’ issues to Council. It’s surprising that he doesn’t disagree with Clover on any issue at the moment.

- I asked Alex Greenwich and Chris Harris (Greens candidate) what they thought the biggest issues facing NSW are and how the NSW Government should address the fact that the ‘rivers of GST revenue gold’ are not as substantial as was once thought.

I don’t recall Chris Harris’ response to the first part of the question, but to the second part he said that the state should not be scared of borrowing, that the government had decided to give hundreds of millions to the Clubs industry and millions to waterfront jetty owners, and that it was a matter of government priorities.

Alex Greenwich said the most important issues facing NSW are the cuts to education and health, and that GST revenue issues could be addressed by cutting waste – not giving a $300m tax cut to registered clubs and not having the Sydney by-election.  

It was frankly surprising that neither of them identified housing affordability or the relatively low growth in Gross State Product over the last ten-odd years as key issues. It’s even more surprising when these issues are brought up in the media quite regularly by economic and social commentators.

Nonetheless, it was clear that, of Chris and Alex, Chris had a better understanding of issues facing NSW and inner Sydney. 

While each of Chris, Alex, and Shayne Mallard (Liberal) have policy platforms, suffice to say that Alex’s reads very similar to Clover’s, while the Greens and Liberals are standard party or government platforms. 

I’ve been quite surprised at some of Alex’s ideas – at Tuesday’s public forum he said that there needs to be a new inner-city high school, that ‘the community’ had identified the old Cleveland St school (corner of Chalmers and Cleveland streets) as a site, and that he would lobby for the re-establishment of a school on that site. I strongly suspect that there are detailed technocratic processes within the Department of Education and Communities the aim of which is to decide when and where new schools are to open and existing schools are to close, to efficiently allocate limited funds for schooling purposes. DEC has limited funds – you can’t just say “let’s have a school where I think it should go.”

Alex has also vowed to ‘save Oxford St’ if elected, by introducing a 40km/hr speed limit and converting one lane to traffic to outdoor dining/additional parking. He also calls on the state government to seriously look at light rail. Putting aside the fact that he was calling on people to ‘not talk Oxford St down’ during last month’s Council elections, it has to be asked whether his plan: (a) would work, if implemented, (b) has a chance of being implemented, and (c) would not result in detrimental impacts elsewhere. As anyone who’s had any involvement with government policy-making knows, policy-making is often complicated with many interacting elements in which there is no clear or straightforward solution. You cannot simply say that a major thoroughfare to the Sydney CBD should be made much slower and nicer without considering the wider impacts. And there appears to be buckley’s chance for light rail to be rolled up the middle of Oxford St.

Alex is also promoting Clover Moore’s idea that liquor licences should have to be renewed on an annual basis.

Approach in a future hung parliament

Alex and Chris were both asked who they would support in a future hung NSW Parliament.

Alex said he was open to negotiating with both sides, while Chris pointed to how the Greens approached the current hung Federal Parliament as a guide to what he would do (in the federal parliament the Greens support an ALP government).

Preferences

Chris indicated that, at that time, the Greens had not finalised their preference arrangements. However, he was wanting the Greens and Alex to swap preferences to prevent a Liberal being elected. The Greens were intending to give Alex a second preference.

Alex indicated that he would not be recommending a preference as it should be up to the voters. This was Clover Moore’s approach.

Tactics

Many Labor voters I’ve chatted with have brought up the tactical issue – the election of which candidate would be in Labor’s medium-term interest? 

Some supporters will vote, in any election, for the Liberals before the Greens or a Clover Moore-style independent. Some also think that Shayne Mallard should be elected as the by-election is likely to be high water mark for Liberal support and Labor would have a good chance of winning the seat against the Greens in the future. 

Some supporters, who can’t stand the Liberals, will vote for Chris Harris and not give preferences as they see Alex Greenwich as a ‘soft liberal’. Some people will vote for Chris or Alex and preference the other, and put the Liberals last.

Some people will think that the best tactical outcome would be for Shayne Mallard to win, but of Chris and Alex, Chris should win as he would be easier to defeat in a future election.

Some people will cast an informal vote, e.g. voting for Paul Keating as a write-in candidate.

The by-election outcome will be interesting.


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