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Kate started her adult life studying Arts/Law at Sydney University – majoring in Australian history – before giving up the law to transfer to a career in technology and innovation. After working and studying across Asia and the US, Kate now has her feet firmly planted back in Australia, where she spends her day job asking ‘why?’, why not?’ and ‘what if?’. She moonlights as a citizen journalist, where she asks the same questions of our political system, believing in the power of conversation to challenge and change the status quo. You can read more of her thoughts at Progressive Conversation.


How long until face masks become the Must-Have summer fashion accessory?

Next time you throw another snag on the Barbie – spare a thought for the fact that if the world stays on its current trajectory of global warming, this generation of Aussies may be the last ones to enjoy this iconic Australian summer ritual.

And it’s not just outdoor summer barbies that are at risk thanks to global inaction on climate change. It’s many other integral parts of our day-to-day lives: enjoying our long hot summers, the Boxing Day Cricket Test, parts of Bondi Beach and the Sydney Opera House. On the current trajectory for global warming – these will soon be gone, gone and let me repeat it in case you missed it the first time – GONE.

Climate change is already impacting our everyday life

This summer, much of Eastern Australia has had just a tiny taste of what the future of Australia looks like due to climate change. At one end of the spectrum – the enormous unfathomable tragedy of the bushfires that have so far burned over 18 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings, killed over 30 humans and an estimated billion animals. In addition, they have covered much of the southeastern part of Australia with a smoke haze so dense the long term health impacts are yet to be determined.

At the other end of the spectrum, there have been many days when just going outdoors has become hazardous for those living on our Eastern shores due to poor air quality – not to mention the talk around cancelling cricket tests and tennis matches being halted as professional tennis players struggle to breathe.

This speaks nothing of the impact severe fires and unprecedented drought have had on rural towns and communities – some of which have been wiped out altogether. More concerningly, experts say many of these communities should not be rebuilt due to the ongoing risk climate-change now brings to their sustainability.

But if we continue at current rates of warming – we can start saying farewell to these icons of Aussie life…

Wind the clock forward – and if the current trajectory of global warming is NOT stopped, here’s just some of the icons of Australian living that we can expect to lose as the impacts of climate change become more intense:

  • Looking forward to a long hot summer – Australia is all about our beaches and our summers. But with global warming, summers will become a time when there will be many days that it will be dangerous to go outside – whether due to poor air quality or days so hot that it will literally be lethal for many to leave the air-conditioned indoors;
  • Outdoor living – Australia is built around outdoor living. From our verandahs, outdoor restaurants, cafes and bars through to outdoor pursuits like participating in and watching sports and the humble picnic. ‘Deadly heat‘ and poor air quality will make outdoor living a thing of the past in our warmer months;
  • The Great Barrier Reef has already been dramatically impacted, but it’s hanging on in parts. If the world continues to warm however, the Great Barrier Reef – and all the related tourism jobs – will be gone for good.
  • The Sydney Opera House – this iconic image of Australia along with one-fifth of world heritage sites will go underwater once we reach 3 degrees of warming;
  • The platypus and other iconic Australian creatures – could be driven to extinction by the severity of weather events such as the drought and bushfires.

These are NOT doomsday scenarios – any more than saying that if you put your hand in the fire it will get burned. The scenarios outlined above are just a part of the reality of where we, and the rest of humanity, are taking the globe right now through our inaction on climate change. As David Wallace-Wells recently said:

“The science says climate change threatens nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, and that inaction will hasten the problems”

It won’t get that bad – will it?

It doesn’t have to. But right now – despite the LNP’s new favourite three-word slogan promising to “Meet and Beat” carbon emission reduction targets, our policies and those of other major global carbon emitters – are not causing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to drop. In fact, the opposite is happening:


Global carbon emissions over the last 5 years plus projected emissions through to 2021

In Australia, our climate has warmed by more than 1-degree celsius since 1910 – and without action, we will continue to warm by as much as 5 degrees celsius by 2090. Five degrees may not sound like all that much in day-to-day weather terms – but in climate terms, it is mammoth. Ice-age mammoth. In fact, there is only a 4 to 7-degree celsius difference between the world we have been living in and the depths of the ice age.

So yes – it will get that bad if we continue to let our politicians do nothing about this. In the words of climate scientist Michael Mann:

“This is the beginning stages of monumental catastrophic climate change that will ultimately drive people away from large inhabited regions of Australia”

We need 55 by 30, and Zero by 50

You probably already know this – but we can’t just flip a switch and reverse climate change overnight – it takes time.

If we (and future generations) want to continue to enjoy Australia as we know it – we need to take urgent action now. More specifically – according to a review by the UN in 2019, we need to:

  • Reduce global emissions by at least 50% by 2030 – more specifically, 55% of 2018 levels if we want to cap warming at 1.5 degrees celsius; and
  • Get to Net-Zero emissions before 2050.

This isn’t a matter of left or right – there are no sides to this – it’s fact. We can argue about how we get there – but our need to get to 55 by 30, and zero by 50 is indisputable.


Truth doesn’t have sides – it’s not owned by the left or right of politics – it just is. To save much of what we hold dear about Australia we need our politicians to pull together and take real action to stem climate change. Now.

We can’t help drive a global solution to this before we take urgent action ourselves – and by ‘we’ I mean the politicians who represent us.

While Australia isn’t the world’s largest carbon emitter in absolute terms – on a per person basis, we are up there with the worst of them (as illustrated in the image below).


And before we can put pressure on the world’s largest global emitters to change we have to show we are serious ourselves. To quote Simon Holmes a Court:

“We cannot expect global progress if we ourselves aren’t prepared to at least pull our weight, let alone show any leadership.”

Exactly how far off “55 by 30, Zero by 50” are we?

If you’re wondering just how far short current LNP policies are of where we need to be – take a look at the graph below. The bar in red on the left is what the government’s own projections show we are actually doing – and the bar in green on the right is what we need to be doing to keep warming at 1.5 degrees celsius.


What we need to do is clear – and we can’t wait for another election to show our politicians that we mean business. However, as individuals, we can’t achieve what needs to be done on our own. If we are to get to 55 by 30 and Zero by 50 – systemic change is needed. And systemic change can only be made by our politicians.

Unfortunately most politicians these days are influenced by one thing and one thing alone – fear of losing their seat. That means our most powerful weapon is public opinion.

If you don’t want facemasks to be the next must-have fashion accessory – #UCAN do something. Demand Urgent Climate Action Now.

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 4.06.00 pm

The good news is that public opinion is controlled by you, me, and our friends and families. In the words of researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley:

What we need are thousands, millions of everyday conversations about climate change…..We must create a chorus of different communities united in asking, indeed demanding, that we act now to preserve a livable world and a viable future.

So get to it my fellow Aussies – if you want to save the world, or at least our little corner of it – tell your friends and families about this. And get them to tell our pollies they need policies that will bring about Urgent Climate Action Now.

Write. Call. Tweet. Post on FB and Instagram. Talk to your friends. Do an interpretative dance outside your local pollie’s office. Post a sign outside your house demanding 55 by 30, Zero by 50.

I don’t care what you do – but do your bit to shift public opinion and let our pollies know they have to shift with it. #UCAN do this.

Tell them we need 55 by 30 and Zero by 50 – and that nothing less will suffice.


This article was first published on

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The new normal: What have we done?

As we travelled the familiar route from Sydney up to the New England region just before Christmas – my heart slowly filled with foreboding. We’ve driven this route many times before – through times when the countryside was lush and green. And through times when the droughts seemed never-ending. But as we drove under the eerie light of the smoke-covered sky this year, my sense of sadness and grief grew stronger and stronger.

And the thought that kept going through my head was the phrase I’ve heard over and over again since then – about both the drought and the fires:

“I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s never been this bad.”

It wasn’t the drought-ravaged ground – dirt with scattered patches of dead grass – that shocked me. I’ve seen drought many times before. It wasn’t the empty paddocks – which at this time of year normally contain suckling calves and prancing lambs. It wasn’t that the limited stock you could see was skinny and gaunt.

What really shook me up was the dead and dying trees

At first, you don’t really notice them – at least the dying and newly dead ones. Their leaves are brown and their trunks often black, so they blend into the green and brown landscape. But when you start to look more closely – you realise just how many trees are impacted.

Picture was taken near UNE in December 2019

As we continued to drive, it was often difficult at first to distinguish between areas of bush that had been hit by fire and those that had been hit by drought. Trees and plants that die from lack of water look like they’ve been burnt – their bark blackens and their leaves brown.

Further, it’s not just young trees that are dying – the trees that haven’t yet established deep roots. It’s also old trees. Trees that have been there for more than a hundred years – whether native or introduced. And it’s not just one or two – they are dying in droves.

It felt like the trees are giving up…

While it might sound strange – at the time it felt like these old trees were giving up – that it has all just gotten too hard.

I was reminded of this feeling when I read the following tweet from Phillip Adams this week:

As Adams points out, it’s not just the trees that are giving up – it’s the wildlife as well –dying of hunger or thirst. The fires are horrendous – but as Adams points out, in many ways they have just sped up what was already happening as a result of the drought.

And now, for wildlife impacted by the fires, things are even worse. For those that somehow survived – their already diminished food supplies have now reduced even further.

Image from (August 2018)

What have we done to our beautiful country?

Australia has always had droughts – just as it has always had fires. But as anyone who lives in the drought-impacted countryside will tell you, they’ve never been this bad.

Why? Because Climate Change leads to an increase in the severity of ‘weather’ events. And despite Morrison, this week suggesting that drought and climate change are two separate drivers behind the severity of Australia’s ongoing bush fire crisis – the impact of the former is made much greater by the later.

Australia is the continent most at risk from impact by climate change, and it seems the issue many have argued we have time to respond to – Climate Change – has hit us first, and it’s hit us hard. If we can’t find a way to reverse the impacts of Climate Change soon, then this is our new normal – not just these types of fires, but extreme drought, the loss of the barrier reef, the death of our wildlife and trees, limits to our food supply, more severe cyclones and floods and much more.

For some species of Australian wildlife – it is likely already too late. While it’s too early to tell the exact number of species that will never exist on this planet again, we know that many are at risk, if not already gone.

You can’t fix an issue until you agree what the problem is

You can’t fix an issue if you can’t agree exactly what’s causing it. That’s a basic truth. If you go to the doctor with a health issue, the first thing the doctor does is diagnose what is wrong. They can’t prescribe treatment until they do this.

The biggest challenge we as a country face – and we are far from alone with this – is gaining consensus on what the problem is that should be fixed.

On the one hand, we have qualified scientists telling us that climate change is what is creating the new normal – not creating the fires or drought or cyclones – but making them infinitely worse.

And on the other hand, we have the Climate Deniers, Hoaxers and Trivialisers – those for whom the truth is ‘inconvenient’. So instead of acknowledging it they deflect, cherry-pick and distort facts to suit their needs, tell outright lies and possibly worst of all, trivialise the seriousness of the problems Climate Change pose to us.


We’re in a war right now – and the fight is literally for the future not just of our country, but of our planet.

And we can’t win this war until we unite around the truth – so that we can galvanise around what the real problems are that need to be solved and come up with solutions.

There will always be Climate Deniers, Hoaxers and Trivialisers – just like there will always be Flat Earthers. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will align around the one perspective.

But it’s time that those of us who believe in acting on facts, not lies – who believe that the only way to respond to the challenges we face right now, stand up and unite around the truth.

(This article was first published on


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The Pollie-ometer: 2019 Federal Election Tracker

Post updated at 8:45 am on 19 May, 2019

While the LNP and the media are using the word ‘catastrophic failure’ for Labor – the reality is, when you look at the numbers, in terms of catastrophic failures, it’s really the polls that have crashed and burned as they projected a Labor win. They projected it so believable that at least one major betting agency paid out on it prior to the actual election.

In reality, based on current AEC projections, there has been NO CHANGE at all to the number of seats held by either side from the last election. If the AEC’s projections hold – and they may change:


Updates to the Pollieometer based on my model – and ABC numbers – are provided below.

Latest Update: 8:45am on 19 May

The Pollie-ometer is being updated as results become available. It differs from other trackers in that it assumes ‘safe seats’ are already decided and focuses on the seats that will actually decide the outcome. For more information on the terms used in the tracker- and how it works read the information below the tracker.

Pollieometer190845Note: Numbers in Marginals and X-Factors are based on ABC projections.

All votes are equal – but some are more equal than others

As I wrote in 2016, when it comes to deciding who rules the roost in Australia – while all votes are equal, some are more equal than others. This is because the majority of electorates in Australia are considered to be ‘safe’ seats – meaning they won’t be changing hands, because, well, they almost never do. In 2019, 60% of electorates (90 seats) are safe seats. If you – like me – live in a safe seat, your vote in the House of Reps arguably doesn’t decide who rules the roost in Australia.

Who actually does decide who rules Australia’s roost?

This leaves 40% of electorates (61 seats) – the Deciders – who will decide who rules the roost in Australia for the next 3 years. This is made up of:

  • marginal seats – this is around 30% of electorates and includes seats that were won by a relatively slim margin in the previous election, and
  • x-factor seats – meaning they have something unusual going on in them which challenges the status quo (such as popular local independent running). Around 10% of electorates fall into this category in this election – which is an unusually high number – and it is primarily LNP safe seats that are under attack.

How does this impact our pollies in the 2019 Federal Election?

The following diagram splits our pollies into three groups – Safe Pollies (who hold safe seats), Marginal Pollies (who – you guessed it – live in marginal seats) and Endangered Pollies (who live in the X-Factor seats).


The Pollie-ometer: Tracking what’s really happening in the 2019 Federal Election

Since safe seats are pretty much a given – only one changed hands in 2016 – in order to keep track on how each party is really progressing as the election results unfold this evening, you need to know two things:

  • How many safe seats does each party start with?
  • How many marginal and x-factors are they winning as the night progresses?

Typical electoral coverage mixes these up – and it can be difficult to tell what’s really happening.

The Pollie-ometer starts by assuming that all safe seats will stay where they are – and already count towards the 76 seats needed to win. Then it adds the marginal and x-factor seats as they become known. (Additionally, if safe seats do change hands during the night they are moved.)

So stick with me tonight as I update the Pollie-ometer to track what’s really happening.

The first Pollie-ometer will be posted shortly after polls close and results are known.

This post was first published on progressiveconversation.


Dutton or Dudster? Here’s a quick guide to the many personas of Australia’s wannabe PM.

Australia’s political throne has a new contender – one Mr Peter Dutton. But if you’re one of those mumbling “Peter who?” – you’re not alone.

As a contender for both Most Boring and Most Offensive MP in Australian Parliament, when Peter Dutton does stand in front of a camera, many people either find their eyes glazing over or their noses scrunching up in disgust without actually taking in a lot of what he is saying.

So here’s a quick guide to the many different personas of Australia’s chief contender for the PM’s throne…

PDuddyPDuddy – the Dudster

In 2015, PDuddy proved that his ‘Dudster’ name is well earned when Australian doctors voted him the worst Health Minister in living memory.

Clearly pleased with PDuddy’s ability to outdud all that had come before him, then-Prime-Minister Tony Abbott moved him to Immigration and Border Protection in late 2014. It wasn’t long before the Dudster proved that it isn’t only in Health that he is capable of undershining all others.

In fact, since taking over this portfolio, Dutton appears to have struggled with understanding what seem to be fairly fundamental concepts – things like:

  1. Where Australia’s borders are
    Being an island, you’d think that border identification would be an easy task. However, in late 2015, PDuddy’s Borderforce famously announced they were going to check people’s visas by randomly roaming the streets of Melbourne.
  2. What is and isn’t illegal
    Having started life as a policeman, you’d hope PDuddy had received training in identifying what is and isn’t illegal. But after four years in his role, he still refers to asylum seekers as ‘illegal immigrants,’ even though there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum in Australia – no matter how you get here.
  3. When someone is or isn’t employed
    This would seem to be an important thing for the man in charge of Australia’s Work Visas to grasp. But in an interview last year, PDuddy argued that refugees shouldn’t be allowed to come here because they would both take Australian jobs AND languish in unemployment queues.

PDiddumsPDiddums – the sensitive petal

Despite being happy to dish it out – once calling a female journalist a ‘mad f*ing witch’ and telling CEO’s like Alan Joyce to ‘stick to their knitting’ – when it comes to being on the receiving end of anything negative, Dutton is clearly a bit of a sensitive petal.

Over the past few years, PDiddums has claimed to have been:

Despite his sensitive nature, PDiddums does try to put on a brave face – regularly claiming to be the man on Australia’s borders ‘staring down’ the terrorist threats that face our nation. However given PDiddum’s inability to cope with remonstrations from the world’s largest peace-keeping force and the fact that he considers articles by Fairfax to be the equivalent of a murderous jihad – it’s hard to imagine him staring down a group of marauding kittens, let alone terrorists.

PDaddyPDaddy – the big spender

The LNP’s we-have-to-live-within-our-means and it’s-the-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement mantras apparently haven’t reached PDaddy’s sensitive ears. Indeed, he and his department appear to throw money around as though they were in charge of organising Bronwyn Bishop’s travel arrangements.

In fact, while the rest of government is busy cutting pensions and freezing Medicare, PDaddy’s department is spending up big, splashing out on:

And it’s not just at work that PDaddy likes to flash the dosh around. A few years ago, he spent over $2.3 Million on a waterside mansion so that he could take what he evidently believes is his rightful place on Queensland’s ‘Millionaire’s Row.’

Then there’s the $5.6 million in public funding received by a childcare company operated by PDaddy’s family trust recently – and it’s not hard to see where PDaddy got his name.

PDouchebagPDouchebag – the dick move meister

Peter Dutton may not be good at taking criticism – but there’s one thing he is an expert at, and that’s dick moves. In fact, Peter Dutton’s douchery skill levels are so great, that he could give Donald Trump – who, let’s face it, is probably PDouchebag’s hero – a run for his money.

Here are some highlights from PDouchebag’s time in parliament:

  • Walking out on Parliament during the apology to the stolen generation;
  • Joking about the fact that some of our Pacific Island neighbours may go underwater due to climate change;
  • As Minister for Immigration, presiding over an Immigration policy that has:
    • Been criticised by 110 nations at the UN including Axis of Evil member North Korea for being too violent;
    • Led to the UN saying that Australia has breached the UN Convention against torture;
    • Encouraged refugees to return to potential death in a war zone and/or torture; and
    • Seen the sexual assault of children in detention – to which Peter Dutton once responded with the sort of sensitivity you’d expect of the Dick Move Meister: “people have paid money to people smugglers, and they want to come to our country.”
    • Fought sending a 10-year-old refugee boy to Australia for medical treatment;

Clearly being a douchebag is one skill that Peter Dutton is not a dud at.

PotatoDPotatoD – you’ll never look at a potato the same way again

No review of the Dudster would be complete without looking at his uncanny resemblance to the simple potato.

In fact, if you search for images of someone, Google helpfully suggests the most popular categories of images other people have been interested in. For PotatoD this includes things like ‘wife,’ ‘young’ and of course, ‘potato’.


It used to be that a country’s leader saw themselves as leading the whole country – and not just those who support them. But in the spirit of another toddleresque world leader – Donald J Trump – PDivider has already made it very clear that those whose views are not aligned with his are “dead to him”. In fact, he literally referred to those who lean to the left as “crazy” and said, “They don’t realise how completely dead they are to me.”

So if you lean left – the Dudster has disowned you, so feel free to do likewise.

PDictatorStill to come: PDictator?

When you consider the many faces of Peter Dutton, you have to admit that this man is indeed versatile. Now that the party that brought us onion-eating carbon-tax hating Tony Abbott is considering making Peter Dutton it’s King – which version of the Dudster will we see? One of his existing personas?

Or will a new Dutton emerge? PDictator perhaps? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.


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Makaratta: because it’s time for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

As a child growing up here in Australia, I was taught two big lies about Australia’s history:

  1. Lie number one: that Australia was uninhabited when the Brits landed here. Sure – there were some friendly Aboriginal peoples here we were taught, but they were a nomadic people with no sense of ownership of the land.
  2. Lie number two: there was no mention of the barbaric treatment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. No mention of the battles, of aboriginal being beaten to death, chained up, children torn from their families, cultures destroyed. Instead, the stories I heard were of brave explorers who ventured into supposedly unknown wildernesses. Explorers like Burke and Wills – who were said to be the first men to ever cross the continent.

I still vividly remember my shock and outrage on learning the truth about Australia’s history when I went to University. Outrage both at what had actually happened to our Nation’s first people and shock that I – and my classmates – had been taught lies. (Up until that point I had operated on the naive and misguided assumption, fostered by the school system of the time, that History was a set of concrete facts about the past rather than a collection of perspectives and viewpoints.)

I understand school syllabuses today have changed – but there are still many generations of Australians out there who, like me, were brought up on lies about out past.

It is those lies that the Indigenous Leaders of Australia – who met this week in Uluru at the First Nations National Convention – said need to be redressed before we can all move forward. Their request:

a) A treaty – acknowledging not only the original ownership of Australia by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders but also the terms of its transfer into the Nation it is today – reflecting what was done in other British ‘colonies’.

b) Truth-telling – full disclosure about the impact of British colonisation on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since the first true illegal refugees arrived here by boat in 1788 – hopefully putting an end, once and for all to the Great Australian Silence about our past.

We – all Australians – need to do this not just for the First Nations’ people who have been lied about, but for all of us who have been lied to.

Why? Because you can’t put past wrongs behind you until the truth about them is properly acknowledged. And because you can’t build a solid future of trust on the lies of the past. That’s why we hold inquiries into events that happened decades ago – so that the record can be set straight and victims of past injustices can finally move forward.

This is what Indigenous Leaders from across Australia are calling for – so that we can finally achieve ‘Makaratta’ (a word from the Yolngu language meaning “the resumption of normal relations after a period of hostilities”.)

Here’s the invitation that came out of the Convention this week – an invitation to all Australians to put the lies behind us and join in building a better future, one based on truth.

It’s pretty hard to argue with that.


This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.


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Trump awards himself Medal of Honor

In breaking satirical news the White House announced this morning that Trump has decided to award himself the highest medal for bravery in action against an enemy force – the Medal of Honor.

Appearing briefly in the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump announced that after careful consideration, he had decided that there is nobody more deserving than himself to receive this award.

In a short speech, Trump said: “No commander-in- chief of the US army and navy has ever come under such relentless fire from the greatest enemy of the American people – the fake news media.

And no commander-in-chief before me has ever had to fight such injustice and done so with such courage. To recognise these tremendous acts of valour, I have today awarded myself the highest military decoration – the Medal of Honor”.

When asked what had led to this award, Trump replied: “No politician in history has ever been treated worse or more unfairly than I have. Everybody thinks so. While former politicians throughout history have been locked up for years, tortured, beheaded and even hung, drawn and quartered – none of them has ever had to endure the lies of CNN, the taunts of Stephen Colbert or the terrible acting of Alec Baldwin on SNL.”

Trump continued: “In my time as President I have had to withstand slings, arrows and even the threat of being burned at the stake by the ridiculous fake news media. But I endure it all for my people – the people who voted for me – and I know that they would want me to have this Medal.”

The White House confirmed that they are having a special Medal made up for Trump. It will be made of pure gold and be twice as big as the standard Medal of Honor.

Trump is expected to hold a special ceremony to award himself the Medal when he returns from his overseas trip. Fox News and the Russian media will be the only press allowed at this event.

The ceremony will be followed by a brief celebration where Trump is expected to be served three scoops of ice cream and an extra large glass of coke with his cake.

This satirical article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

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Hanson says Royal Commission into Banks not necessary after visiting South Bank in Queensland

Following her election to the Australian Senate in July 2016, Pauline Hanson said that her very first priority was to call for a Royal Commission into the banking and finance sector – saying:

We have families that are losing their family homes, properties – by the banking sector, which I believe needs a full investigation into because documentation that I have seen clearly shows that signatures have been forged.” (Pauline Hanson, 4 July 2016)

Just over six months later, and Pauline Hanson has apparently been talked out of a Royal Commission into all banks – instead settling for a much smaller Senate Inquiry (chaired by Pauline) into the banks’ lending practices as they relate only to farmers.

In breaking satirical news, Hanson was asked why she had backed down from the full Royal Commission. She is reported to have replied that she and Senator Chicken Roberts had decided to visit South Bank in Queensland to check out first hand whether there actually was a problem with the Banking sector in Australia’s cities, or whether it was just part of the Labor/Green agenda.


After taking a dive at South Bank – Hanson is reported to have said:

“If you actually look at the bankers there – in South Bank, in the middle of Brisbane city – they are in pristine condition. Why would we need a Royal Commission into Banks in the city when Banks like South Bank are clearly doing great?

We need to stop people with agendas telling lies about Banks and focus our energy on Banks that Turnbull has allowed us to look at – I mean that matter – in the rural sector. Places like BallBank in rural NSW and Wattle Bank in Rural Victoria.”

In further breaking satirical news, the Police are currently reviewing Hanson’s actions to see if it was illegal for her to kidnap a banker and drag him into the river.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.


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Government to invest in candle factories and horse buggies to improve energy security and lower costs

The LNP has made no secret of the fact that their two top priorities when it comes to Energy and the Environment are security and affordability – announcing this week that new coal-fired power stations could potentially be funded by Australia’s $10 billion ‘green’ bank.


Picture from the Sydney Morning Herald

In breaking satirical news, a government spokesperson announced earlier today that the government would also be pushing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in candle factories and horse buggies, saying:

“One hundred and fifty years ago, nobody complained about electricity prices. What’s more – blackouts were unheard of.

It’s time we stopped this Labor/Green ideological nonsense of looking to the future and instead look to the practical tried and true methods of the past. People safely used candles to light their homes and travelled about in horse-pulled buggies for centuries without having to worry about whether there would be enough power for air conditioning.

The fact that renewable energy sources have not been responsible for blackouts or energy bill increases is actually irrelevant. The quickest, most stable and most efficient way to reduce your electricity bill is not to have electricity – or gas for that matter – at all. “

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

Dangerous Labor-Green Renewables to blame for everything says LNP

The LNP is expected to announce today that even though the spate of blackouts and potential power outages across the country over the past few days cannot be attributed to using renewable energy – this doesn’t mean that dangerous Labor-Green backed Renewables aren’t to blame.

When asked for further details about what it was that renewable energy sources were actually to blame for, a government spokesperson said that they were still looking into it but that:

  • Solar Energy was known to obtain its power from the Sun which is largely held responsible for the heatwaves across Australia over the last few days;
  • Hydro Energy was being investigated for its failure to release sufficient water to control the fires that had broken out across the country, and particularly in NSW, suggesting that it may have aided and abetted Solar Energy. It is also wanted for questioning in relation to major flooding that has occurred in WA.
  • More than one Wind Turbine was spotted in the vicinity of heatwaves experienced across the country. The government spokesperson said that a potential link to ISIS had not been ruled out.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” said a government spokesperson, “And our policy positions – I mean our investigations – lead us to believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that dangerous Labor-Green Renewables did it. Just exactly what they did is as yet unclear. But when we’ve had our spin meeting – I mean our update meeting – later today, I’m sure we’ll able to tell you.”


Hanson apologises to Trump on behalf of Australia

In breaking satirical news – and yes, I did feel the need to point this out, as it’s hard to tell lately – the following draft of a letter penned by Australia’s One Nation Party Leader Pauline Hanson to Donald Trump has been leaked to us:

Dear Lord Almighty your holiness grand wizard king Trump.

As the only senior political leader in Australia who was invited to your coronation, I thought I should make contact after the shocking events of this week. (OK,’ invited’ might be a little strong – but I did eventually get a ticket after my mate and Senator Chicken Roberts pulled every string his little claws could get a hold of, and finally the Australian embassy found someone who didn’t want theirs.)

I am writing to you today on behalf of the Australian people. (Not all the Australian people of course – not those nasty halal loving lefties, or Asians, or those losers who follow Sharon’s law.)

Firstly I would like to apologise for your call with our Prime Minister, Malcolm Trumble. I completely understand why you hung up on him. I would hang up on him too if he would return my calls.

Secondly, you were right to talk tough with Trumblebum about Australia taking advantage of you and your country.

For too long, Australia has used America as a dumping ground for unwanted immigrants like those leftie-loser-lovers Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchette, Chris Hemsworth, Simon Baker, Nicole Kidman and Rebel Wilson.

For too long, we have brain-washed your kids with the propaganda of the Wiggles.

For too long, we have sent you our sheep’s wool offcasts in the form of Ugg boots.

For too long we have sent you beer that we would never drink – Fosters – in cans that are too big for tiny really large hands like yours.

For too long we’ve lorded it over you with our big knives.

For too long we have let our toilets flush in the wrong direction, without even the slightest attempt to fix it.

And for too long, the Outback Steakhouse has been passing itself off as Australian, and we have done nothing at all to object. (What’s a blooming onion anyway?)

I want you to know that I, and my party, are 120%* behind you, and are doing our best to “Make America Great Again”!

Hugely yours,

Pauline xox

*In case you’re wondering, this statistic was confirmed by Chicken Roberts, who is our Climate Change expert. He’s a whiz with alt-facts and alt-statistics if you ever need them.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

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One Nation: Australia’s own ‘Alt-Fact’ party?

It’s no secret that Australian Senator Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party proudly see themselves as the Trumpian party of Australia. Following Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections last November, three of One Nation’s Donald Trump groupies – including Pauline Hanson herself – giggled like school girls outside Parliament House as they popped a bottle of French champagne.

To be fair, Pauline Hanson did jump on the Trump bandwagon early – claiming in May 2016 that he was actually copying her. (Perhaps Trump’s orange skin and preference for red ties are Trump’s homage to the Queensland redhead?)

But just how closely are Trump’s and Hanson’s political paths aligned?

As I wrote recently, one of the hallmarks of the Trump campaign was his war against the truth – a war so successful, that fact-checking website Politifact assessed that only 4% of Trump’s claims during his campaign were entirely accurate. A war so successful that Trump’s team are now replacing truth with their very own ‘alt-truth’ supported by ‘alt-facts.’ Here’s just one example:

Trump’s alt-fact: Trump is the most popular politician ever. Period. So, therefore, the crowds at Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, must have been larger than those at Obama’s inauguration.

Actual fact: The crowds at Trump’s inauguration were significantly lower than at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. (Thank goodness One Nation Senator and Trump Fan-boy Brian Burston was there to boost numbers – what a champ! )

Trump is clearly a master of the alt-fact – which is arguably one of the key reasons he was elected last year. As Trump wannabes – let’s check out One Nation’s skills in this area…

One Nation’s alt-facts

If you look back at the last six months, it’s clear that Pauline Hanson and her band of merry Trumpettes have some significant talent in the creation and propagation of alt-facts. Here are just some examples:

One Nation’s alt-fact: Pauline Hanson was invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t. Hanson proclaimed – ‘What an honour!’

Actual fact: It turns out that Hanson getting tickets to Trump’s inauguration wasn’t so much an ‘honour’ as a hand-me-down gift that wasn’t actually intended for her. Apparently, after receiving repeated calls from One Nation’s Senator Roberts begging for tickets, the Australian embassy rang around to see if they could find someone who wasn’t using theirs – which they eventually did. The tickets were given to the Australian embassy for them to do what they wished with, and not gifted specially to Hanson as her alt-fact implied.


One Nation’s alt-fact: The Australian Labour Day public holiday is for “left-wing extremists” to celebrate the momentous achievements of Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard – but not necessarily in that order.

Actual fact: It’s a shame this one isn’t true, as in reality, it’s is an excellent idea! Perhaps the Labor party could add a ‘u’ to the spelling of its name and claim this public holiday for left-leaning voters alone. Since One Nation and the LNP typically don’t believe in things like minimum wages, overtime, Sunday rates and extra holidays – I’m sure they won’t mind working an extra day each year.


One Nation’s alt-fact: Climate change isn’t real.

Actual fact: Yeah. It is.


One Nation’s alt-fact: The Great Barrier Reef isn’t dying. (Maybe it’s just resting, taking a nap.)

Actual fact: Yeah. It is.


One Nation’s alt-fact: One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts seems to think he’s a chicken:

Actual fact: Yeah. He is.


The One Nation party – reality or reality show?

Reality shows are all about ‘alt-facts’ – with a just enough ‘reality’ flavouring thrown in to enable them to keep the word ‘reality’ in the title. A bit like when you buy strawberry milk, it rarely has actual strawberries in it, just strawberry flavouring.

Trump is America’s first reality show President – offering simplistic solutions to complex problems, often based on alt-facts. Let’s build a wall between Mexico and the US to stop illegal immigration and drugs he says. Sure – that will stop people entering America illegally by walking across the border. But it won’t stop them climbing over the wall. Or digging under it. Or flying over it. Or going around it in boats. In other words, a wall between Mexico and the US is more security blanket than security measure. But in a world of alt-facts, a world where fiction and reality are blurred – actual outcomes are irrelevant.

The attraction of the reality show approach to politics is pretty obvious. Right now there are serious problems facing the world – climate change, terrorism, millions of displaced people, increasing housing prices, growing debt and jobs being permanently replaced by technology. In a world faced with so many challenges, it’s easy to understand the shiny simplicity and glamour of an individual like Trump or Hanson promising to simply airbrush away people’s problems with alt-facts like “we’ll all be safe if we just stop muslim immigration”. (#InWhatUniverse?)


Hanson at the Reef. (Image from

Pauline Hanson and her team of Alt-Facters clearly embrace Trump’s reality show version of politics. Just look at Hanson’s day trip to an area of the Great Barrier Reef that wasn’t dying off to prove that the parts of the Reef that are dying off – some 1,000 kms to the north – are clearly hypochondriacs. It was the equivalent of Hanson having visited a hospital parking lot, examining the health of someone just going to their car and then declaring everyone in the hospital well because the person she bumped into seemed healthy to her.

One Nation’s visit to the reef attracted them a lot of publicity, but it had very little to do with reality – it was all show and no substance. Similarly, expecting reality show politicians to solve real problems is like expecting you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage when you win the lottery. It’s theoretically possible – but it’s a 13,983,816 to one chance.


This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

P.S. Here’s a tip: If you skipped playing the Chicken Roberts video above – go back. It’s a three-second video, and I still laugh every time I play it.


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What kind of a President would Donald Trump be? (The top 5 signs your would-be world leader’s narcissism is out of control)

With the US Election only days away, the rest of the world watches on as the American public decides who will be the next ‘leader of the free world’ – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

Hillary Clinton has been a key player on the world stage for years now, so we have some idea of what she would be like as President. On the other hand, self-described ‘outsider’ Donald Trump is an unknown when it comes to political leadership. So it’s worth considering…

What kind of a President would Donald Trump be?

One way to judge this is to look at previous world leaders with similar personality characteristics. And according to a number of mental health professionals – including Harvard Professor Howard Gardener – one of the most striking things about Donald Trump’s personality is that he is a textbook narcissist.

Narcissism is sometimes known as the “disease that hurts other people“. It is self-love on steroids – but not in a good way. The narcissist feeds on the admiration of others, seeing themselves as the hero of their own story with everyone else in their life lowly ‘bit players’.

In terms of previous narcissistic world leaders – three of the most famous in the last 100 years have been Stalin, Hitler and Sadam Hussein.

These three world leaders were obviously extremes – but is Trump really that bad? Should we be worried? If Trump wins the election next week, exactly how bad is his narcissism?

Here’s a handy checklist:

The top 5 signs your would-be world leader’s narcissism is out of control

FIVE: They throw a tantrum if you insult them

A narcissist will often put others down. Whether it’s calling an entire race rapists, drug lords, and criminals or referring to women as pigs, slobs and dogs – narcissists are often legendary sledgers. But throw just a little of it back their way, and no matter how old the narcissist, they will typically respond like a five-year-old.

Here’s a recent example of how US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump responded to criticism from Hillary Clinton during the third Presidential Debate held in October:

FOUR: They say ‘Heh – if you’ve got a nuclear bomb, why not use it?’

One of the key trademarks of a narcissist is their pathological inability to feel empathy. Here’s an example:

After being told at an event that two men beat a Hispanic 58-year-old homeless man in Trump’s name —breaking his nose and urinating on him, Trump said: “I will say the people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and want this country to be great again.”

Trump demonstrates no empathy whatsoever for the homeless man. Instead, he focuses on how passionate this must mean his followers are about him.

whattrumpseesinmirrorSo what happens when you take someone whose singular focus is on themselves – and give them the ability to materially impact the safety and well-being not just of the USA, but of much of the world?

To date, the world has arguably been kept safe from wholesale nuclear attack by the ‘Mutually Assured Destruction‘ or ‘MAD’ policy. This policy assumes that if two countries both have nuclear weapons of mass destruction, then neither side will use them for fear of reprisal and the tremendous potential for loss of life on both sides. But exactly how would this work if you put someone who doesn’t care about anybody else’s pain in charge of the world largest’s stockpile of nuclear weapons?

Trump has publicly stated that he would “not do first strikes“. However, it has been reported that in a foreign intelligence briefing a few months back, Trump asked a foreign policy expert three times within an hour:

“If we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?”

THREE: They have to wear flame-resistant pants

For a narcissist, the truth at any point in time is what suits them. If it helps them to say all Mexicans are criminals and rapists one minute and then claim to love all Hispanics the next – then that’s what they’ll do.

Pulitzer prize winning fact-checker website Politifact assesses all American presidential candidate’s statements against the actual facts. According to them, only 1 in 25 of Trump’s statements is completely true. Even if you include statements that are ‘mostly true’ and ‘half true’, the count still only comes in at 3 in 10 – leaving Trump’s pants well and truly in flames for at least 70% of the time.

To avoid his followers being distracted by the readily apparent contradictions in what he says, Trump regularly demonises the media at his rallies. Trump calls the media ‘horrible liars’ and tells his supporters that he’ll tell them “what the truth is”.

Ex-Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott may not have been the suppository of all wisdom – but clearly, Trump believes that he is.

TWO: They literally believe they are the Messiah

As the election campaign has progressed, Trump seems to be speaking of himself in increasingly glowing terms, and often in the third person. More disturbingly, as John Oliver recently pointed out on Last Week Tonight, Trump is now speaking of himself as though he is literally the Messiah:

Many of Trump’s supporters seem to have picked up on this messianic vibe, following Trump with the unwavering religious fervour not often seen outside a church.

ONE: They think the only reason they wouldn’t be elected President of the United States is because the election is rigged

And finally – the number one sign that a would-be world leader’s narcissism is out of control, is that he thinks the only way he could lose an election for President of the United States is because the election is rigged.

In the final presidential debate, Trump famously refused to confirm that he would accept the outcome of the election on November 8, saying that he would wait until the outcome was known before he would make up his mind.

Trump subsequently clarified how he will judge whether the election is rigged – saying:

“I will totally accept the results of this great and historical presidential election results if I win”.

Not – “I’ll accept the results after my scrutineers have confirmed that everything is above board” or “I’ll accept the results following an independent inquiry into possible voter fraud”. No. In this ultimate act of narcissism, Trump’s only yardstick as to whether the election for the most senior political office in the world is rigged is whether or not he wins.

The verdict is in – Trump’s narcissism may actually break records

Trump isn’t the first narcissist to want to rule the world – but if he wins the upcoming election, he would be taking the reins of power in the USA at a crucial time in world history. At a time when the world’s economies are transitioning to cope with the information age, globalisation and a burgeoning population. At a time when the humanitarian crisis is greater than it has ever been. And at a time when global warming poses a huge threat to the future of the planet.

Right now, the world needs strong global leaders to navigate through these problems. But the strength that is needed is not the brash self-confidence of a manipulative narcissist who was literally born with a golden spoon in his mouth and who will focus primarily on his own personal well-being rather than the good of all. What the world needs now is global leaders with the maturity to bring an end to the destruction that war brings and forge a path that unites rather than destroys. Whatever Trump’s level of narcissism – he is definitely not that person.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.


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Turnbull’s Folly: The Double Dissolution Disaster

The Senate results are finally in, and one thing’s abundantly clear – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to take Australia to a double dissolution election instead of just calling a standard election has backfired big time.

Roll back the clocks to March this year, and unable to convince the Senate that they should pass his ABCC legislation, Turnbull threatened Senators with a double dissolution of parliament, saying:

The time for playing games is over.” (21 March 2016)

Turnbull’s goal? Clearly he believed the outcome of a double dissolution election – where all seats in the Senate are up for re-election instead of just under half – would give him a Senate more inclined to deliver on the LNP’s agenda. He could have just called a standard election – but he didn’t. Perhaps he thought the threat of a double dissolution would get some Senators at risk of losing their seats to toe what he perceived to be ‘the line’. But they didn’t – and so Turnbull threw caution to the wind and tossed the Senate dice in the air – believing this would enable him to better negotiate his way through parliament. It turns out – not so much.

A quick reminder of the pre-2016 Federal Election Senate

In brief there are 76 seats in the Senate – 12 Senators from each State and 2 from each Territory. Here’s what the Senate looked like prior to the Federal Election:


In numerical terms – there were:

  • 33 LNP Senators
  • 25 Labor Senators
  • 10 Green Senators, and
  • 8 Cross-Benchers – Jacqui Lambie (JLN), Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang (PUP), Nick Xenophon (XEN), Ricky Muir (AMEP), David Lleyonhelm (LDP), Bob Day (FFP) and John Madigan (DLP).

This mix of Senators meant that in order for the LNP to pass any of its legislation through the Senate prior to the 2016 Federal Election, they needed the votes of 39 Senators. With only 33 of their own Senators, they still needed the support of either the ALP or the Greens to pass legislation – and failing that, six of the Cross-Benchers. None of these groups were inclined to support some of the LNP’s key legislation, which brings us to…

The 2016 Double Dissolution Senate

Following Turnbull’s throw of the double dissolution dice, an election was held in early July. Counting for the outcome of Senate seats was finally completed yesterday, and the Senate now looks like this:


When compared to the 2013 Senate there are:

  • 3 less LNP Senators
  • 1 more Labor Senator
  • 1 less Green Senator
  • 2 more Xenophon Senators (in addition to Nick Xenophon)
  • 4 One Nation Senators (Pauline Hanson plus three others)
  • Of the remaining four independent senators – only Jacqui Lambie, Bob Day and David Lleyonhelm remain (from the previous Senate), and are joined by Derryn Hinch.

Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon now hold the balance of power

As a result of the 2016 election, the LNP now has to get nine additional Senators (instead of six) to support any legislation they want to put through parliament. This will be impossible without the support of either the ALP, the Greens or Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party plus Nick Xenophon’s team (and two other Senators). This effectively gives Hanson and Xenophon the balance of power in the Senate.

What if Turnbull had called a standard election instead of a Double Dissolution?

A number of commentators are blaming the influx of independent Senators and the poor outcome for the LNP in the Senate on changes to the way Senate preferences were allocated this election. However in reality, the challenging outcome is more likely to be due to the fact that a double dissolution election was called instead of a standard one. This had the effect of increasing the number of positions that needed to be filled in the Senate and correspondingly lowering the barrier to entry.

I did some quick calculations on the back of an envelope today by looking at preference flows for each of the counts in each State to see what the Senate might have looked like if Turnbull had called a standard election instead of a double dissolution – and there is a material difference:


No single group would hold the balance of power

Here’s a summary of the key differences in outcome if Turnbull had decided to call a standard election instead of a double dissolution:

  • The LNP would have one more seat (31 instead of 30);
  • The ALP would have two fewer seats (24 instead of 26);
  • There would be no change for the Greens or Nick Xenophon’s team;
  • Pauline Hanson would have three less seats (one seat instead of four);
  • Jacqui Lambie would have one more seat (two seats instead of one); and
  • The remaining three cross-benchers (David Lleyonhelm, Bob Day and Derryn Hinch) would be joined by Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and Dio Wang (PUP).

The outcome if Turnbull had called a standard election instead of a double dissolution would have been that the LNP would only need eight (instead of nine) additional votes to get legislation through the Senate. More importantly, the LNP would have more options in terms of negotiating legislation through the Senate as they would not be limited to having to seek the approval of Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon when they were unable to negotiate with the ALP or the Greens (which is most of the time).

In a world where Turnbull had called a standard election instead of a double dissolution, no minor party or Independent would hold the balance of power in the Senate. And while Pauline Hanson would still be there, she would be there on her own and her voice would just be one of many cross-benchers – instead of her being hailed as the ‘queen of the Senate’. Turnbull’s double dissolution folly has unwittingly – but not unforseeably – handed Hanson the keys to the Senate Kingdom, thereby giving her a major influence over all of our futures for the next three years.

Which brings us to…

The real Losers from Turnbull’s Double Dissolution Disaster? The Australian people.

As usual, the real losers when our pollies make poor decisions are the Australian people. Governing a democracy is no easy task – it requires an ability to negotiate and compromise to get things done – particularly in a diverse parliament. This is not typically a bad thing – as if politicians from different parties can reach a compromise, this can end up with a far better outcome for the population as a whole than when one political party dominates. Unfortunately Turnbull’s response to the ABCC legislation earlier this year implied that he is either unwilling or unable to negotiate.

However the stark reality for Turnbull and the LNP moving forward is that to get any legislation passed, they will need to pick one of the following to negotiate with in the Senate:

  • The ALP;
  • The Greens; or
  • Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon (plus two other cross-benchers).

Our only hope now is that Nick Xenophon stays centered

Malcolm Turnbull’s double dissolution gamble has meant that he’s now going to have to pick between negotiations with the left or Hanson’s far-right version of politics. In the best case scenario, Turnbull would negotiate legislative outcomes with the ALP and/or the Greens since they represent the largest groups of Australians.

However, given the agitation within Turnbull’s own party to lean further to the right, it’s hard to see that happening. This means that instead of the majority ruling – as democracy intended – Australia’s future could very well end up in the tiny hands of Pauline Hanson. That said, Hanson can’t deliver the Senate vote to Turnbull on her own – he needs Nick Xenophon as well (plus two additional Senators). The two additional Senators shouldn’t be difficult for Turnbull – as Bob Day and David Lleyonhelm have regularly sided with the LNP.

This leaves Nick Xenophon to be the buffer between Australia and the far-right of politics. Let’s hope Nick Xenophon can stand firm. He may be all that stands between the sane people of Australia and a Royal Commission into climate change followed by a descent into Trump-like lunacy.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but Turnbull has a mammoth task ahead of him – one that requires enormous strength of character and an ability to skilfully negotiate with both the left and right sides of politics. If he can’t manage to find the stones and the skill to do this – and he has so far shown himself capable of neither – we are looking at a parliament either incapable of functioning or one dominated by the far-right.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

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Ever wondered why the Nationals have seven times as many seats as the Greens with less than half the votes? It’s all in the Gerrymander.

Earlier this week I wrote about inaccuracies in our voting system which are impacting who wins government. I showed how the LNP have held government far more often than Australia’s voting preferences suggest they should – and how if we had used a more accurate model in the 2016 election, Bill Shorten might be PM now instead of Malcolm Turnbull.

The reason for these inaccuracies is that the model of voting we use for our House of Representatives is focused primarily on ensuring that every location in Australia is represented in parliament at the expense of ensuring that the mix of political parties in parliament reflects the wishes of the Australian people. The model basically assumes that it’s more important to you that you have someone from your local area representing you than that your representative is from the political party that you support.

Since I’ve had a few questions about why this is, I wanted to post some more information about gerrymandering – which is probably the best way to explain how our current voting system distorts election outcomes.

Gerrymandering explained

Gerrymandering is basically the way physical electoral boundaries influence the outcome of an election. The following diagram from a Washington Post article last year illustrates how the drawing of electoral boundaries can seriously change and distort who wins an election:


The above diagram is a simplified example which shows how moving electoral boundaries in a state with 5 electorates and 50 voters can change the outcome of an election. In the example above, 60% of the people typically vote blue and 40% of them typically vote red. In an ideal world, a voting system which accurately represented the people of this state would elect 2 candidates from the red party and 3 candidates from the blue party to parliament.

The first split shown – labelled ‘Perfect representation’ – illustrates that the only safe way to achieve an accurate representation of the political perspective of these voters, is for all voters of the same political persuasion to live right next to each other. It’s the equivalent of saying – all Labor voters must live in one suburb and all Liberal voters in another. Clearly that’s not practical.

In the second split shown above – labelled ‘Compact but unfair’ – the electorate boundary lines mean that each of the five electorates includes an equal number of supporters from both the red and blue parties. On the surface this sounds fine. However because each electorate only votes in one candidate, it results in only blue candidates being elected, and those who support red candidates bring unrepresented in parliament. This is not an accurate representation of voters’ wishes and is what often happens to the Green vote in Australia. This is because Green supporters are distributed across all Australian electorates – meaning there is rarely enough Green voters in a single electorate to get a candidate elected.

In the third split – labelled ‘Neither compact nor fair’ – the concentration of red voters in a small number of electorates means that the state ends up with three red party representatives in parliament and the blue party only with two. Again this is a distortion of the intention of the voters in that state. This is arguably what happens with the National vote in Australia. They get less than half the votes of the Green Party but have seven times as many representatives in the House of Reps. Why? Because National voters are concentrated in only a few electorates – instead of distributed across the country – so they end up with more representatives than their primary vote suggests they should have.

The bottom line is that the way boundaries are drawn between different electorates – or groups of voters – will determine how many representatives from each party end up in parliament without necessarily any regard for what people’s preferences are about this. It also demonstrates how difficult it is to get an accurate representative model when you are using physical electoral boundaries alone – as our current election model in the House of Representatives does – to determine who should represent us in parliament.

The reason the Nationals get seven times as many seats in our House of Representatives than the Greens is not because the AEC has failed in its job to draw electoral boundaries fairly, or that someone is rigging the system – it’s because the electoral system itself is flawed. The good news is that there are alternative electoral models which factor in both voters’ location and their political perspective – delivering a more accurate political result for voters. (See here for more information.)

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.


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Would we have an LNP government now if we used the NZ voting system?

If you look back at the last thirty Australian Federal Elections, the Australian Labor and Liberal National Parties have won the countrywide two-party preferred vote exactly fifteen times each – a 50/50 split. If our electoral system were accurately translating Australian voters’ wishes into election outcomes – as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in February that it should – then this would mean that each Party would have held the reins of government exactly half of the time. But they haven’t. In fact the LNP has been in government nearly twice as often as Labor (nineteen times to Labor’s eleven).

Great news for LNP supporters – not so much for everyone else.

How should a voting system work?

According to Malcolm Turnbull:

The operation of any electoral system, any voting system, should be to clearly and transparently translate the wish of the voter into a parliamentary result. (Feb 2016)

These were the words Turnbull used to justify changes made to the Senate voting structure in February this year – citing Ricky Muir’s election to the Senate with less than 1% of the primary vote as justification that the current Sentate voting system was broken.

Turnbull is right – to the extent that the goal of an electoral system in any democracy should be to create a parliament that represents the wishes and voices of its citizens. Unfortunately, Turnbull’s actions didn’t entirely reflect the sentiment he expressed. If they had, then his focus would have been firstly on reforming the voting system we use for the House of Representatives. Why? Because the voting system used to elect politicians to our House of Reps was – and remains – far less representative of Australian voters’ wishes than the one used for the Senate.

What’s wrong with the voting system used for Australia’s House of Representatives?

In determining whether any voting system accurately represents the wishes of its voters, you need to look at who or what it is that needs to be represented. When it comes to elections, the two main ways citizens of a democracy typically expect to be represented are:

  • By location – we want people who can speak to the issues that are relevant to where we live; and
  • By political perspective (or party) – we also want a say in the policies our government implements and who gets to govern the country.

The main problem with the voting system we currently use in our House of Representatives is that it is outdated. Unlike other more modern systems, it focuses primarily on ensuring that only one of the two expectations listed above is adequately catered for – location.

While Australian voters do get a say in the political perspective of the politicians elected to our House of Representatives, it is secondary to location. This is because even though each electorate gets to vote for representatives from different political parties, the drawing of electoral boundaries between groups of voters – each of which only gets to elect a single representative – distorts the way seats are allocated to different political parties. (Want to know more? For an explanation on how physical electoral boundaries can distort an election outcome, see Gerrymandering explained.)

How has this impacted the outcome of elections in Australia?

As previously mentioned, over the last thirty Federal Elections, Australia has ended up with an LNP government roughly two-thirds of the time despite voter preferences indicating a 50/50 split. That’s up to twelve more years of an LNP government than the people of Australia actually wanted.

Further, if you take a more detailed look at some of the individual Federal Election results, there are other distortions. For example, in the 2013 Federal Election results, only 45% of Australians picked the LNP as their first preference for the House of Representatives, and yet the LNP ended up with 60% of the seats. Conversely, the minor Parties and Independents received just over 21% of primary votes, but ended up with only 3% of the seats.

What would a more accurate voting model look like?

A proportional electoral system is a voting model which factors in both location and political perspective. It typically does this by giving citizens two votes – one for an individual to represent their electorate and another for a political Party (or independent) that best represents their political views.

This type of voting system is used in 21 out of 28 democracies in Europe and is also used by our Kiwi neighbours. The great thing about this model is not only that it is able to more accurately reflect voters’ wishes, but according to former associate professor Klaas Woldring:

“The European model of proportional representation is co-operative, rather than adversarial in nature…Apart from being co-operative, it also ensures diverse and democratic representation. There are no byelections, pork-barrelling or horse trading on preferences behind closed doors.”

To give you some idea of how a proportional voting system works in practice – let’s take a quick look at the New Zeland model.

Proportional voting in New Zealand

In the New Zealand Mixed Member Proportional (or MPP) voting system, there are 120 seats in parliament – 71 of these are determined by whoever gets the most votes in each electorate (or location), and the balance are allocated proportionally according to the ‘share’ of the vote that a particular political party receives (as long as they receive a minimum of 5% of the vote across the country). Here’s a quick video which provides an overview of how New Zealand’s MPP works:

The New Zealand system is arguably more accurate than our current system because it factors in representating its citizens views both by location and by political perspective.

Would the outcome of the 2016 Australian Federal Election have been different if we used proportional voting?

Very possibly – yes. Obviously we don’t have that system in place, nor do we know exactly what a similar system would look like in Australia if deployed, so it’s impossible to tell for sure. However based on modelling I did using current AEC data and applying NZ rules for proportional allocation – I have looked at what the recent Election outcome might have been if Australia had added a ‘proportional’ component to determining who won seats in our House of Representatives. Here’s a visual representation of the difference between the actual outcome of the 2016 Federal Election, and what the House of Reps might have looked like if we had a proportional system in place:


The first thing you’ll notice looking at the two diagrams above is that there are more elected representatives in the proportional model than in our actual model – 170 instead of 150. If we were to deploy this model in Australia we wouldn’t necessarily have to increase the number of representatives – but we would then have to reduce the number of electorates. Number of seats aside, here’s a summary of the key differences in outcome:

  • The big winners when you apply a proportional count would be:
    • The Greens – who would have sixteen MPs in the House of Representatives (instead of one in our current model)
    • The Nick Xenophon party – who would have six MPs in the House of Representatives (instead of one in our current model)
  • All other elected representatives (under our current system) would keep their seats – including the two independent candidates (McGowan and Wilkie).

The bottom line: The ALP could be in government right now if we were using a similar model to the Kiwis

In the model above, neither the LNP nor the ALP have the 86 seats needed to form Government in their own right. However, in this scenario, assuming the ALP had entered into an arrangement with the Greens and Andrew Wilkie – even if only on supply and confidence motions – then they would have enough seats to form government. This suggests that had we used a proportional model in the 2016 Federal Election, the ALP could be in government now, and Bill Shorten would be Prime Minister.

What we do know

Any model can only ever be hypothetical. But what we do know about our current electoral system for the House of Representatives is that it is outdated and inaccurate. It’s so inaccurate in fact, that it has arguably resulted in:

  • Australia having 12 more years of an LNP government than we otherwise might have; and
  • The ALP potentially missing out on an opportunity to take the reins of government in 2016.

Turnbull promised in February this year to give us an electoral system that more accurately translates Australians’ votes into an election result. Clearly we’ve still got a way to go.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

(Note: there was an error in one of my numbers – picked up by an observant reader. As a result, I updated them at 5:30 pm on 28 July to fix this error. The overall conclusions are the same.)

Assumptions used/notes regarding my model

For those interested in the detail behind my model above, here are the assumptions I used and some additional notes:

  • I assumed that the ‘electorate’ seat allocation and preferential system component of the model was ‘as is’ in Australia right now – meaning I allowed for 150 seats to be allocated according to the recent Federal Election outcome (assuming 76 seats to the LNP and 69 to the ALP).
    • I did not apply the ‘first past the post’ principle that NZ applies to its electorate voting.
    • I did use NZ’s ‘overhang’ rules to allocate additional seats above 150.
  • I used available Senate first preference votes from the 2016 Federal Election available at 17 July 2016 to estimate how Australians would have voted for ‘party’ (which is the proportional vote) – as it more closely approximates the NZ party vote than first preferences at the House of Reps level. (Note – vote counting continues, so these numbers may vary.)
  • I used the Sainte-Lague Allocation formula used by NZ to determine the proportional allocation of seats for all Australian parties that received more than 5% of Senate first preference votes plus anyone who won a seat.


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