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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Prime Minister Gillard may survive a by-election loss

August 28, 2011

A by-election loss for the Gillard Labor Government need not lead to Tony Abbott becoming Prime Minister.

Gillard has the support of 76 members of the House of Representatives while Abbott has the support of 74 (counting Tony Crook). With one Labor MP as Speaker, this turns into a 75-74 vote on confidence motions on the floor of the House – assuming that both Tony Crook and Bob Katter vote with Coalition MPs against Gillard

A by-election loss for the Gillard Government would lead to a 74-75 split on the floor of the house in favour of Abbott. But it is highly likely Labor MP Harry Jenkins would resign the speakership to prevent Abbott becoming Prime Minister. Read the rest of this entry »

One City Council for Sydney?

October 12, 2009

When travelling, something I often notice is how many cities are governed by a single city council, or at least that the central urban core, comprising a million or more people, is governed by a single council. London has a Greater London Council covering a number of london-wide issues in the greater london area while having many small borough councils.

Sydney appears to have suffered from Sydney-wide issues (e.g. transport) not being properly focussed on – those issues have to be dealt with by the state government as there are many small Councils each covering a small part of sydney.

Has the apparent lack of focus on Sydney-wide issues been a result of the non-existence of an elected single entity covering the wider Sydney area?

Why I support wards for the City of Sydney

September 7, 2008

I support the existence of wards in the City of Sydney.

The arguments against usually state that wards promote parochialism and not having a whole-of-Council-area view, while the arguments in favour usually include that having local councillors is more likely to lead to there being at least one councillor with detailed knowledge about each area of the local government.

A key point in these arguments, which is often missed, relates to the accountability of councilllors to voters. Wards promote more directly accountable Councillors, while an undivided Council (i.e. without wards) promotes teams/parties and each Councillor’s election being dependent on their team’s total vote and their position on their team’s ticket (unless they are independents). Read the rest of this entry »

On the Brisbane City Council election

March 25, 2008

The recent Brisbane City Council election result reminds me of Sally-Anne Atkinson’s win in 1988, although I think that Sally-Anne did slightly better.

In 1988, Sally-Anne received about 2/3 of the vote, and the Liberal Party won 17 of the 26 wards.  The Labor Party won 9 wards: essentially it’s then-stronger wards of Deagon, Eagle Farm (similar to Northgate), Spring Hill (covering a large part of the existing Central), Paddington, The Gabba, Doboy, Wynnum-Manly, Inala and Enoggera.  Read the rest of this entry »

Australian ISP filtering plan

January 3, 2008

While checking up on the Australian news, I came across this story on the SMH on the new federal government’s plan to introduce an opt-in scheme for people to access “adult” websites. The plan is that the default would be that people are prevented from accessing p0rnographic material or child-unfriendly material (via a list of websites drawn up by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)) and that a person wishing to access any website on the list would have the inform their ISP.

Before discussing the merits of the scheme, the story quotes the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, as follows:

“Labor makes no apologies to those who argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road,” Mr Conroy said yesterday. “If people equate freedom of speech with watching child p0rnography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree.”

I havn’t heard anyone equate freedom of speech with watching child p0rnography before now. Certainly it’s a very poor defence for their policy. (I redefine freedom of speech to be X which no-one can disagree with, and thus our policy follows.) But enough semantics. Read the rest of this entry »

The CDP’s (Christian Democratic Party’s) policy – “Immediate Suspension of Islamic Immigration”

November 11, 2007

Yes, I came across a CDP election leaflet on the ground this morning. For some reason, the CDP appears to have leafletted Kings Cross, and has put up a number of posters along William St, advertising it’s black tie clad Senate candidate.

I’m not surprised I didn’t receive the leaflet in my unit block as I can imagine residents throwing it in the bin. The leaflet’s headline is


and opening up the leaflet reveals the CDP’s policies, of which the first is:

Immediate Suspension of Islamic Immigration


Read the rest of this entry »

A Liberal Party candidate’s view on science and sexual orientation

October 28, 2007

I just came across an interesting story at The Age’s website: Homosexuality a perversion, says Lib candidate, which details some of the views of the Liberal Party’s candidate for Lalor, Pastor Peter Curtis. To my mind, the best part of the story is at its end:

He (Peter Curtis) said that, if elected, he would be urging the Liberal Party to introduce intelligent design to state school science classes. Intelligent design is an assertion that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by natural selection.

“I would be very much in favour of intelligent design being taught in public schools,” Mr Curtis said. “Just as the theory of evolution is taught as well — in my view regrettably taught in science classes, because I think it’s a theory and not a science.”

What an insight into the scientific method. And this man wants to help create Commonwealth law. While the Liberal Party would probably be happy for anyone to run in Lalor or other safe ALP seats in the upcoming election, you’d hope they could choose reasonable candidates.

Read the rest of this entry »

Government advertising…

October 14, 2007

Now that a federal election for Nov 24 has been called, I wonder how long it will be before the “educational” government advertising will cease? Opening up yahoo.com.au a moment ago, I was confronted with yet another workchoices job which popped up at me.

Letter to the Sydney Star Observer

September 14, 2007

Today I wrote the following letter to the Sydney Star Observer in response to a number of letters in the current edition praising Malcolm Turnbull, the current federal Liberal MP for Wentworth. Read the rest of this entry »