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 »

Selling NSW govt electricity networks could raise $35 billion

September 9, 2011

The NSW government could raise $29 billion – $35 billion, if not substantially more, from sellng its electricity distribution and transmission networks. These numbers come from summing the RABs (regulatory asset bases) of the four businesses and applying a conservative multiplicative factor.

This is a very large amount of money. Careful consideration should be given to whether devoting this capital to electricity networks is its best use, particularly in light of the need for transport infrastructure in NSW.

Submissions – NSW Special Commission into Electricity Transactions

September 7, 2011

It’s difficult to find submissions to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Electricity Transactions. Google searches throw up the following:

The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia submission suggests that privatising the NSW distribution and transmission networks (the “poles and wires”) could realiase between $29.2 billion and $34.5 billion. This feels like a high number to me.

NSW Parliament publication – NSW Election 2011: Overview of Legislative Assembly Results

August 15, 2011

My blog has suffered from neglect recently due to my extreme business in my new job as a consultant for the Allen Consulting Group.

I thought I’d publish a link to something students of NSW politics will be very in interested – the NSW Parliament’s publication on the lower house results of the 2011 NSW state election.

The NSW Government has also published a treasure chest of NSW state electoral history, including electoral boundaries, which I’ll link to on another post. Creating this electoral atlas would have been a truly herculean task.

Back – and a letter to the SMH on carbon tax and hypocrisy

April 7, 2011

My blog hiatus is over after my recent run for a seat in the NSW parliament. See here for the results in the seat of Sydney. It was an extremely interesting experience.

One issue discussed in the media was the impact of the proposed federal carbon tax on voting in the NSW election. In my experience it was mentioned by only a few people – either for or against – it’s hard to know whether any votes were changed in the seat of Sydney.

However, the carbon tax did draw out one question pertinent to voters in the seat of Sydney, in which most voters would strongly support a price on carbon. Did Clover Moore, the sitting greenish-tinged Independent MP, support a carbon tax? Read the rest of this entry »

Water metering for Qld tenants

October 15, 2007

An interesting development in Qld – according to the Courier Mail:

LANDLORDS will be able to charge tenants for their water use under legislation to be introduced to Queensland parliament this week, Premier Anna Bligh says.

Cabinet today approved a number of legislative changes dealing with water that will be introduced to parliament this week, and be passed by the end of the year.

Among the changes are new measures aimed at making renters more accountable for their water use, and the banning of any council charges being applied to water from residential rainwater tanks.

The laws will allow landlords who have installed water saving devices – such as dual flush toilets and low-flow shower heads – in their rental properties to have individual meters installed to monitor their tenants’ water use. 

This will hopefully make price signals for water more transparent for tenants – folding water charges into a tenant’s rent makes price signals for water very opaque, which could be problematic when water is so scarce in Brisbane. I have always rented and I fully support direct charging of tenants for their water use and individual water metering. It’s not immediately clear to me how you put the incentives in to encourage landlords to put water-saving devices into units, but perhaps this is what is happening in the last para I quoted from the story.

2007 redistribution of Qld state electoral boundaries

September 12, 2007

From the latest enrolment figures for Queensland state Parliament electorates (July 2007 and August 2007), it looks as if the conditions for a redistribution of Queensland state electoral boundaries have been met. In both July and August, 35 electorates had (weighted) enrolments outside the plus/minus 10% of the mean enrolment.

According to this page, it looks as if another trigger for a redistribution will soon come into effect: more than 7.5 years has elapsed since the last redistribution came into effect (on 28 July 1999) and a year will soon have elapsed after the day appointed for the return of the writs for the third general election after the last redistribution (see Sec. 38 of the Act here for details).

As only one trigger is needed, don’t be surprised to soon see the wheels of a redistribution of Qld state electoral boundaries start turning.

I havn’t examined the current enrolments and enrolment trends to see the likely impacts of the redistribution but will do so shortly.

Update: I’ve briefly looked at the enrolment figures, and on first glance it looks as if the area covered by the current Gold Coast City (incl. Beenleigh) will gain a seat as will the Sunshine Coast, and that the Pine Rivers area will gain half a seat. The area outside south-east Qld will lose at least 1.5 seats (possibly 2 seats), and metropolitan Brisbane will either keep its current number of seats or lose one. I’ll include the enrolment figures below. Read the rest of this entry »

Internet voting in federal, state and local elections?

September 2, 2007

Recently, I received an e-mail alerting me this year’s elections to the American Mathematical Society Committee and reminding me that I can vote by postal ballot or over the internet. I vote in these elections each year and voted over the internet in their elections in 2006 for the first time. 

I suspect that many organisations allow their members to vote over the internet in their internal elections and I wonder whether voting over the internet will become an option in Australian federal, state and local elections and referenda in the near future? Read the rest of this entry »

Election day – 2007 NSW election

March 24, 2007

Election day is nearly over – there’s only another five minutes or so of voting. Who knows what the result will be – although the polls indicate that Labor will win overall, you never know – anything could happen!

My guess is that Labor will win the election and Clover Moore will win the state seat of Sydney, although there could be an upset (a lot of people were taking Greens HTV). (I’ve previously posted on what I think about Clover’s performance as an MP.)

It was a very hot day – I wilted when handing out HTV in the middle of the day, and enjoyed my second stint of handing out HTV in the shade of a tree. There was a cool change about 40 minutes ago and then it started bucketing down! Read the rest of this entry »

“Clover Moore ‘a hypocrite’ on donations from developers”

March 21, 2007

Here’s a very interesting story by Imre Salusinszky in The Oz:

QUESTIONS have been raised about independent MP Clover Moore’s source of electioneering funds, with a former campaign insider accusing her of hypocrisy over donations from property developers.
Norman Thompson, who volunteered three days a week as Ms Moore’s office manager during her successful 2004 campaign to become Lord Mayor of Sydney – a role she holds alongside her state parliamentary duties – said he became concerned at a $30,000 donation from a group called Living Sydney.

Living Sydney, a registered political party that has backed a number of independent candidates for Sydney city council, is financially supported by about 15 large property firms, including Mirvac, Meriton, Leighton, Westfield, Transfield and Lendlease.

The group reported $139,000 in donations from developers in 1999 alone. Read the rest of this entry »