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Weekend reflections

April 22nd, 2005

This regular feature is back again. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

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  1. sb
    April 22nd, 2005 at 11:38 | #1

    Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

    Of course this does not apply if you want to denegrate the new pope or mainstream reigion in which case only those defending will be thrown off. Got that!

  2. Paul Norton
    April 22nd, 2005 at 11:40 | #2

    The Lord has afflicted me with a painful and debilitating viral infection for posting unkind remarks about Pope Benedict XVI and Jennifer Marohasy. Therefore I will be offline until next Tuesday.

  3. Pope Benedict XV (Benno)
    April 22nd, 2005 at 12:46 | #3

    New federal electoral system:
    – Compulsory voting and electoral enrolment for all Australian citizens and permanent residents over 18.

    House of Representatives:
    - Optional preferential Condorcet voting with the Schulze method
    - 150 or less electorates spread evenly around the country based on population size, not constrained by state borders.

    Senate:
    - Recognising that the senate is no longer a states house, but a house reflecting the diversity of the community and as a check and balance on the power of the government of the day.
    - 38 senators, one of whom is the chairperson/speaker for the senate, 19 to be elected each federal election exactly in sync with the house of reps, each requiring a quota of 5%.

    Extra:
    - 4 year fixed terms for the House of Representatives and 8 year fixed terms for the senate.
    - Can Condorcet voting be used for proportional representation? If not then optional preferential voting will be introduced, with no party or group tickets allowed. As stated by Antony Green http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3359.

    Source for Condorcet/Schulze awesomeness: http://www.electionmethods.org/

    The beginnings of an opinion piece, any interest, debunking, hate mail or other email [email protected]

  4. sb
    April 22nd, 2005 at 15:29 | #4

    Nortn
    Suggest you go and take a look at the abmonination Quiggin allowed on this site. He teaches kids and allows the site to be used by people reciting the Nazi national anthem while discussing catholics!!!!!!!! Look at all the hate speech.
    This by a professor at an esteemed university. We have kids who go to UQ and are devout catholics. They aren’t there to be abused!!!!
    Does this man abuse other religions in the way he allowed on this site!!!!!!
    Lets talk about disgust.

  5. John Quiggin
    April 22nd, 2005 at 16:19 | #5

    SB, if you do a quick Google search, like this one, you’ll find that the question of the new Pope’s membership of Hitler Youth was widely canvassed in the mainstream press, notably in Britain. Commentators on the thread in question made it clear that he was a reluctant member.

  6. Dave Ricardo
    April 22nd, 2005 at 16:59 | #6

    “We have kids who … are devout catholics. They aren’t there to be abused!!!!”

    The irony in this diatribe is just delicious.

  7. Pope Benedict XV (Benno)
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:00 | #7

    Could you please refer me to this abomination sb?

    And are you the same ‘person’ that comments under a menagerie of two letter lower case initials? dc springs to mind for instance.

    John, can you do ip bans? Cos that would be sweet.

  8. Neil
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:05 | #8

    SB,

    The ‘Nazi national anthem’ is the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany. Also, your exclamation mark key seems to be broken.

  9. Peter
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:07 | #9

    Of course, one reason the UK media have paid so much attention to the new Pope’s relationship with the Nazi Party is the role of the Catholic Church in Germany under Nazism. I understand that there was only one large-scale public demonstration against Nazi policies after the Nazi Party got a majority in the Parliament (not through an election, but by outlawing its opponents). This demonstration was a campaign by the Catholic Church against the proposed policy of euthenasia. This campaign was successful (although the practice continued to be carried out).

    How much more the Church could have achieved against Nazism if it had only wanted to!

  10. Steve
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:20 | #10

    There has been some debate of late on whether Australia should consider nuclear power.

    I think the assumption is that we could do nuclear power in Australia, but the government is too afraid to consider it because of community opposition.

    This might have been the major reason why we didn’t choose nuclear power in the past, when governments made all the decisions on energy, but I don’t think it is the case now. We have a deregulated energy market, where the private sector builds new power stations – even the NSW Govt has said it wants the private sector building new power stations, though it can’t sell off its existing ones.

    I think the main hurdle for nuclear power in Australia is that it costs at least twice (3x?) as much as Australian coal. While coal and electricity is cheap, nuclear can’t happen without a massive subsidy.

    Now, the government can handle something like renewable energy subsidies – directing cash towards a paltry amount of renewable energy is within the government’s financial means.

    But financially supporting a new 2,000 MW nuclear power station? I think the money involved would be beyond the govt.

    So, for now, I don’t think nuclear can happen in Australia.

    My advice to nuclear energy proponents is this:

    1. Talking about nuclear energy quickly polarises people and makes everyone cranky. It alienates environmentalists and much of the general public. This will not encourage nuclear power, even if there is a large group of people who actually like it. Just look at the problems wind energy is having in VIC, despite a majority that have no problem with it.

    So the first rule of nuclear club is don’t talk about nuclear club.

    2. To make nuclear viable, it needs to compete with coal. Nuclear wont get cheaper any time soon – after 6 decades of research and implementation, i’d imagine the cost isn’t coming down that quickly anymore. The best bet is a mechanism to make coal more pricey.

    Nuclear proponents should argue for a carbon tax. There is no point arguing for a tax that just supports nuclear, because of point 1 above. You’ll just make everyone cranky. Arguing for a carbon tax is a clever way of improving things for nuclear without explicitly talking about nuclear. Its better to stoush with just the coal industry, than with the coal industry *and* communities concerned (whether sensibly or hysterically) about 3-eyed fish/children.

    3. Environmentalists are (for now) your friends. They are arguing for the very thing that will make nuclear an option. Don’t get in arguments with them. Befriend them, don a koala suit, and argue for kyoto ratification.

    4. Once nuclear can actually compete on an economic level, then is the time to start talking about it – not before. Any debate about whether we can have nuclear now will not work in nuclear’s favour.

  11. John Quiggin
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:36 | #11

    I’d prefer that we drop the sb thread now, and try to avoid flamewars on this topic.

    I think there’s a clear distinction between criticism of an individual religious leader and attacks on Catholics and Catholicism, but if any readers have been offended, I apologise to them.

  12. John Quiggin
    April 22nd, 2005 at 17:55 | #12

    Steve, I broadly agree with what you’ve said. I had a go at the topic here

  13. Pope Benedict XV (Benno)
    April 22nd, 2005 at 18:06 | #13

    If you’re in melbourne go to the July lectures in Physcis held at uni Melb. http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3359

  14. Stephen Ziguras
    April 22nd, 2005 at 18:08 | #14

    Steve
    Back in the days when I was a struggling physics student (financially and academically) and nuclear power was being debated, the main opposition was based on the danger of storing waste materials.

    Is this still a concern or have safer ways been found to deal with this? Or do you see it as a matter of weighing up two competing options both of which have big downsides (global warming versus nuclear waste)?

  15. vee
    April 22nd, 2005 at 18:50 | #15

    It looks like someone has hacked/cracked Meg Lees blog.

    http://www.megsdesk.com/journal/

    My original intention was to provide a link to her thoughts on nuclear power, etc but that proves impossible to do at this time.

  16. Steve
    April 22nd, 2005 at 18:52 | #16

    Hi StephenZ,

    I don’t know the answers to your questions. I’m sure there is plenty of concern over whether current methods for storing waste are safe. I’m also sure that there are plenty of people who think that such concern is unfounded. But a debate on the issue is academic in Australia.

    A debate about whether we should have nuclear is academic, because we haven’t even decided we are going to deal with global warming. The debate is just a distraction from the real question: burn coal or find something else?

    The Australian Govt is happy doing token efforts on global warming, nothing significant. Gives them something to say on green issues, but doesn’t amount to much.

    There might be a public debate on nuclear power, but it makes no difference if the debate is all about environmental issues. It’s a distraction, and serves to create a lot of noisy bickering between greens and the nuclear lobby (the fluorsecent greens heh heh heh), to the political benefit of the coal lobby.

    Nuclear’s main problem in Australia is cost compared to coal. The nuclear lobby should just keep quiet until the green movement has effectively got a carbon tax in place to make nuclear economic.

  17. April 22nd, 2005 at 23:20 | #17

    Speaking informally (ie, with no proof whatsoever) one of the implications about the use of nuclear power is that it means a very high technology solution. Big Science, Big Engineering, Big Security. And therefore Big Government.

    If we are going to go down that route, we may well find other complex technologies or aggregates of technologies which would work. Lots of windmills, huge solar arrays, tide power, hydro in Tasmania, tunnels into the magma, geosequestration of coal produced CO2.

    In that way, we may never need to build nuclear power stations. But we will have to debate anew whether we sell uranium on a much larger scale.

  18. Tristan McLeay
    April 23rd, 2005 at 23:52 | #18

    Re his late holiness’s post above (3).

    Why when advocating fixed election terms does everyone seem to advocate four years? Is there something magical in four? Australia seems to get by with elections roughly every three years, and Britain every five. And fixed-every-three shouldn’t require any constitutional change, but fixed-every-four would.

    As to whether condorcet methods work in multi-candidate electorates, I think it necessary does not. Because all voters are always counted, as soon as you get your first winner you multiply all votes by the relevant proportion and are left with … the same winner! Condorcet methods are meant to find a compromise; proportional methods are meant to represent everybody in proportion.

    I think a better method is simply Hare-Clark with Robson Rotation. Without giving parties the magical ability to direct preferences it makes tactical voting of the sort show by Labor in the last Victorian Senate election impossible. I designed a complicated system to protect against it before realising that without tactical voting, it was stupidly irrelevant!

  19. April 24th, 2005 at 01:59 | #19

    Tristan, five is arguably too long in terms of holding the government to account. Personally I don’t mind three. Am I right in thinking that Qld is the only state left with a three year term?

  20. Pope Benedict XV (Benno)
    April 24th, 2005 at 16:02 | #20

    yes, Queensland and federally have 3 yr terms, which on reflection I like. And yeah condorcet and PR wont go well, just thinking out loud. So STV for senate. By the way I am more qualified to call myself what I do than anybody else here, despite not having been baptised.

  21. Tristan McLeay
    April 24th, 2005 at 20:21 | #21

    Sorry, I wasn’t meaning to criticise your name, just having a joke. Thought that’s what you were doing, too.

  22. April 24th, 2005 at 23:37 | #22

    For what it’s worth, one important thing is to have relevant electoral terms either uncorrelated (so few or no fixed terms), or coprime so that they don’t coincide often. Thus, four years are bad since four has two as a factor and is likely to correlate with half the terms on offer. Two seriously different prime numbers are good.

    For what it’s worth, it should work well to have a Canadian style upper house working with a short term term-limited lower house, to offset their different flaws. The upper house would work better as a house of origination not of review, though with finality remaining with the lower house if special or multi-term majorities beat a delaying power. (And that makes an upper house less state oriented than a lower house.)

  23. Tristan McLeay
    April 25th, 2005 at 00:09 | #23

    Thing is, you can’t have ‘seriously different’ primes with one low enough to provide a suitable level of responsivity to the electorate.

    Maybe we should look at months, then, and have the HoR elected every 37 months (a month more than three years), but half the Senate every 67 months (seven months after five years).

    Yet I don’t think the Australian electorate would stand for that. Think of the money wasted in twice election campaigns! Maybe, then, and seeing as the Senate’s intended to be a States’ house after all, half the Senate should be elected every time a State holds its lower house elections (the Senate would therefore change far more frequently than at present). This would probably have some very interesting rammifications. Anyone know of a precedent? (I suppose it would decrease the relevance of the states, as their elections would be fought on Federal issues.)

  24. April 25th, 2005 at 01:28 | #24

    I was looking at the prime thing from a theoretical perspective before pulling in the practical side. The practical side was one reason I ended up preferring a permanent sitting/for life upper house, as vacancies would occur in a non-correlated manner. It’s still worth having prime number terms for a lower house to minimise pumping/being pumped by anything “natural”. Thus, it would be good to have three year frequencies with long enforced gaps, maybe with a two term limit to allow enough continuity to run the process without anyone having a chance of a political career.

    Incidentally, one reason I prefer cumulative voting is that it is reasonably proportional and favours people over intermediary bodies (parties, professional politicians, etc.). One problem is a transition, which I think would need grandfathering; while turkeys won’t vote for Christmas they will vote to kick the ladder away after them (e.g., politicians’ retirement benefits).

  25. April 25th, 2005 at 14:36 | #25

    All very interesting. P.M. Lawrence, do you mean that the house of reps should be elected through Proportional representation and the senate through single member seats? Or am I miss-reading you?
    In other words swapping the members of each house so that prime minister and most of cabinet reside in the senate.?

    I find your prime number terms hilarious, and the prime number months are also funny. Of course I still take them seriously.

    I wasn’t offended Tristan, I’m happy for you to take the piss wherever it comes. I was just informing people that my name is Benedict in case people were wondering, a kind of pre-emptive strike if you like, for when someone did criticise my name, which doesn’t offend me at all.

    But now for the big question which I am lost. optional preferencial voting or compulsory?, either for “Cloneproof Schwartz Sequential Dropping” or for ‘normal’ preferential. One possible optional preferential method would allow more than one candidate to be given the same order in the preferences and a candidate not specified would be considered a default last or equal last. You could have this same system in compulsory of course, because even though some candidates are equal everyone eventually specifies a choice even if the ballot paper is unmarked. This would lead to very few informal votes of course (it would still be possible to obscure the boxes completely).

    Or the other kind of compulsory doesn’t specify un marked candidates at all, this can happen with or without the allowance of the other stuff.

  26. April 27th, 2005 at 01:34 | #26

    Misreading. To clarify, the Canadian Senate elects members for a long term (originally for life, now until a retirement age – rather like our judges). They found the system unwieldy and problematic.

    So, what I was outlining was a short term lower house, with term limits, elected more fairly than by first past the post but transparently and without encouraging intermediaries like parties, along with a Canadian style upper house elected – or even nominated undemocratically somehow – but with no term for the house as such. Then the two could work together with the lower house acting as a states house and reviser and the upper house as initiator, but still reserving the final say to the lower house.

    This, it appears to me, would resolve many difficulties of either approach on its own (provided tie breaks were referred to the people by delaying past an election or forcing an election), and it would eliminate much intermediation. Think of it as an analogue to the Protestant thinking behind eliminating an intermediate between man and God.

    The prime number thing was an abstract exploration of implications of fixed terms; certainly, mutually reinforcing election cycles lead to policy choices according to election cycles. This scheme avoids that since short termers and long termers don’t need to worry about subsequent elections. The only catch is that turkeys (politicians) wouldn’t vote for this Christmas; however they will vote to kick the ladder away after them (their competition is the next generation of young and hungry turkeys). That can be done with a grandfathering transition. The USA has used this trick in Dr. Moreau style “nation building” before, e.g. in Paraguay, and looks on course to do this in Iraq.

    Oh, I see a way to reduce levels of government in a federal system, just by cutting slantwise as it were. The lower house could easily be a joint sitting of various state level lower houses, with states going unicameral except for appeals to a council. (The “reform” of abolishing appeals to the Privy Council was silly, in that it didn’t substitute an Australian analogue but simply left the way open for judicial encroachment – the Privy Council does still serve a useful purpose, for those countries that still use it.)

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