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Monday Message Board

July 11th, 2016

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

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  1. chrisl
    July 11th, 2016 at 18:40 | #1

    For once I feel pretty happy about my predictions: a Labor win in a class war election.
    “Predictions are hard, especially about the future” Yogi Bera

  2. Salient Green
    July 11th, 2016 at 20:16 | #2

    I predicted a Labor win at the start of the campaign as I could not believe the Australian electorate would be stupid enough to reward such a bunch of liars and bigots with another term.
    A couple of weeks in and I had grave doubts.
    It’s good that the coalition lost a lot of seats but they didn’t lose enough.
    It’s good that Labor came back so strongly but it wasn’t strongly enough.
    It’s good that the Greens came very close to more lower house seats but not that they lost in the Senate.
    It’s good that NXT did so well but probably not well enough to save Arium and the car industry.
    It’s good that the TPP is dead but there are still other job destroying free trade agreements in place.
    It’s an exciting time for anarchy.

  3. Ivor
    July 11th, 2016 at 22:52 | #3

    This is another example of the end-game of capitalism.

    Puerto Rico’s default Friday 1 July marks the first time that a state or state-like entity (Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory) has failed to pay general obligation bonds since the Great Depression.

    The default was expected, and thus isn’t causing much havoc in the wider bond market. The island is over $70 billion in debt — about $20,000 per island resident. Puerto Rico has already defaulted three times on other types of bonds, and it has warned for months that it wouldn’t have the money to pay for this debt either.

    This is also the path that Turnbull’s company tax cut policy will take us down.

    You cannot propose “budget repair” with one tongue and demand “tax cuts” with another.

  4. rog
    July 11th, 2016 at 22:53 | #4

    It may have been mentioned elsewhere but the reports of the entire loss of WA kelp forests plus wholesale bleaching of corals and other shellfish species in the NT has to be setting alarm bells ringing nationally. But it ain’t, it seems that our focus has shifted elsewhere.

  5. Dick Veldkamp
    July 12th, 2016 at 00:41 | #5

    Could somebody explain (to a non-Australian) why there is so much talk about the coalition “losing” ? According to Wikipedia, they get 76 seats (likely) ? Or should I interpret it this way, that this majority is offset by the number of (missing) seats in the Senate?

    I note that the system seems rather unfair: with 10% of the vote, the Greens get 1 seat (instead of 15).

  6. Ikonoclast
    July 12th, 2016 at 03:45 | #6


    I hadn’t heard about the loss of the WA kelp forests. I had heard about this mangrove die-off;


    There is certainly a disturbing pattern occurring: increasing global warming damage and decreasing care and action about the problem.

  7. J-D
    July 12th, 2016 at 07:20 | #7

    @Dick Veldkamp

    I haven’t heard any talk of the Coalition losing. If you show me where it is, I’ll explain it to you.

    Of course, before the election there were people predicting that the Coalition would lose. Those were wrong predictions, which happen before elections in all countries.

    It’s also true that the Coalition lost some seats, but I’m guessing you had that figured out for yourself.

    There’s also talk of the Coalition being in a weaker position — which is true — and being therefore likely to run into trouble in the next parliamentary term — another prediction, and we’ll see in due course whether it’s fulfilled.

    But I haven’t heard anybody say that the Coalition has lost the election.

  8. GrueBleen
    July 12th, 2016 at 09:01 | #8


    True, J-D, but there are those who declare that the Coalition has lost its legitimacy and its mandate. It also lost the Senate in no uncertain terms. And it may even lose its dissolution trigger too, ie the ABCC vote if it ever deigns to hold a combined house vote.

    And Malcolm Turnbull seriously lost his standing and his image.

    I figure that might be enough losses for now.

  9. Ikonoclast
    July 12th, 2016 at 09:51 | #9

    @Dick Veldkamp

    Yes, the system is unfair.

    “Each Member of the House of Representatives is elected to represent an area known as an electoral division. Each electoral division within a state or territory contains about the same number of people on the electoral roll. The electors in each division elect one person to represent them in the House of Representatives.” – AEC.

    So far so good. The seats have comparable voter populations and are not gerrymandered.

    “To vote for a Member of the House of Representatives, a voter is required to write the number ‘1’ in the box next to the candidate who is their first choice, and the numbers ‘2’, ‘3’ and so on against all the other candidates until all the boxes have been numbered, in order of the voter’s preference.” – AEC

    This preferential system is better than first past the post but not as fair as proportional representation. It serves to channel power to the established political duopoly; in Australia the LNP Coalition and Labor Party. It does so by reducing electoral choices to a final false binary alternative in each seat. The votes for lesser parties are essentially cast out (when they come worse than 2nd in the ballot in each seat) and then one of their lower preferences goes to one of the political duopoly groups. The favoured media phrase is “two party preferred” vote which really should be spoken of as the” false binary alternative” or “forced binary alternative” vote.

    If we had proportional voting, like the Hare-Clarke system or similar, then yes it is the case that with the current voting patterns, we would have elected about 14 or 15 Green Party candidates. The current system is an unrepresentative disgrace which the established political duopoly benefits from greatly. This system is a barrier to necessary change; for example climate change mitigation policies or re-regulation of the excesses of neoliberal capitalism. As a barrier to change, it locks the system in a maladaptive status quo and will do so until change demand has built to a very high level. Instead of gradual “happening-in-time” changes we will likely get dammed up pressure and demand and then maybe finally a great flood release of change. The latter will be harder to manage smoothly and the unaddressed problems will have magnified to an unnecessary level.

    There are plenty of these unaddressed social and economic problems building up in our society. The political duopoly are not dealing with these issues at all. Having said the above, there are plenty of democratic nations with political, social and economic problems worse than Australia’s so it is the case that our glass is half full not empty. But oops, this post is already too long for a Monday Message segment.

  10. Ken Fabian
    July 12th, 2016 at 17:59 | #10

    If Turnbull can get enough cross bench Senators on side the result for issues like social equity, environment and climate will be worse than under Abbott who was constrained quite a bit by the Senate. I don’t know what inducements work ‘best’ with Senators – less direct than with MHR’s who can be bought with targeted regional spending.

    Mr Turnbull’s shown himself more likely to give ground with the Right of Right when under pressure than fight them to keep the party’s positions more moderate.

  11. Dick Veldkamp
    July 12th, 2016 at 19:01 | #11

    Various authors: thank you for your explanations!

  12. Ernestine Gross
    July 12th, 2016 at 22:37 | #12


    A more or less random question late in the evening on preferential (Australian) vs proportional voting (say Germany).

    Does the conclusion about which system is ‘best’ depend on a list of parameter values? If so, what are these? (Habit or tradition is not interesting per se)

  13. GrueBleen
    July 13th, 2016 at 00:57 | #13

    @Ernestine Gross

    Re proportional voting, why not say Tasmania or the Federal Senate or even New Zealand ? What is special about Germany ?

    Besides, if the idea is that “because the Greens got 15% of the total vote, they should have 15% of the elected members” then there’s always going to be ‘unfairness’, isn’t there: would a Party that gets 0.5% of the total vote qualify to have 0.5 of a representative ? And so on to even smaller percentages etc etc.

    But I guess the strictly proportional representation idea does get us past Ken Arrow’s ‘Impossibility Theorem’. Or does it ?

  14. Dick Veldkamp
    July 13th, 2016 at 01:54 | #14

    @Ernestine Gross

    While there is no perfect system there is no doubt in my mind that (some form of) PR is superior. Firstly there is fairness. Secondly the system encourages civil behaviour towards other parties (after all they could be your next coalition partner), and forces you to come up with arguments for your position. For each decision you need a real majority. Contrast this with the UK, where the Tories can do whatever they want with 38% of the popular vote (ie a majority did not want them).

    I personally like the Danish system. It is PR, but every party declares up front which Prime Minister (candidate) they will support => automatic PM selection by the people. After the election it is not unusual at all to have minority government (with tacit support from some parties).

    Of course there is much more to be said, and things are not as ideal as I sketch them here in a few sentences. However I stand by PR!

    PS There is always 1 seat threshold of course.

  15. Ikonoclast
    July 13th, 2016 at 03:57 | #15

    @Ernestine Gross

    I can only extract my implied (or explicit) parameter values from my post.

    Value 1: Democracy.
    Value 2: Responsiveness to early indicators of needed change.

  16. Ikonoclast
    July 13th, 2016 at 04:04 | #16


    Your argument says: “Perfect equality and fairness are impossible therefore we must forget about implementing practical and possible approaches to equality and fairness.”

  17. GrueBleen
    July 13th, 2016 at 08:55 | #17


    Ikono, I’m moved by the seamless way you can seem to find things to ascribe to me that I’ve never said or implied or even vaguely thought.

    But I’m game: please show me exactly where “[My] argument” says what you claim it says.

    As part of this discourse, could you please define those vague terms “equality” and “fairness”, especially in the context of democratic elections, so we can all know what we’re talking about.

  18. GrueBleen
    July 13th, 2016 at 09:21 | #18

    @Dick Veldkamp

    As you say “there is no perfect system”, and I would like to explore that a little: firstly, there is “no perfect system” because, philosophically and in practice, “perfection” is unattainable. And that remains true even if all of us clearly agree as to what “perfection” might comprise if we could aspire to it.

    But secondly, there is no clear universal agreement as to what comprised “perfection”, is there. So what may seem “perfect” to you, or even to Ikonoclast, may not seem quite so “perfect” to me. So should we have an election to decide who will define “perfection” ? And how will we assure that such an election would be “fair” ?

    As to the Tories and their 38% (actually 36.8% I believe), well apparently only 66.4% of the 45.3 million (approximately) registered UK voters actually voted. So, that’s about 15 million UK voters who have democratically chosen to show that they don’t care who wins the election. So, implicitly add that many to the Tories vote.

    But otherwise, all you can really say is that 63.2% of those registered and voting did not select the Tories as their first option. And since Great Britain has a ‘FPTP’ (First Past The Post’ system, well that’s that. On the other hand, had the UK a preferential voting systems (as in Australia’s lower house), then they’d have been able to indicate their second, third, fourth etc choices. But then, beware of Ken Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem.

    Maybe the “fairest” might be New Zealand’s MMP (qv) system perhaps ?

  19. Ikonoclast
    July 13th, 2016 at 09:25 | #19


    Well, I wonder what was the point of your argument then? Why point out that proportional voting can never be perfectly fair if the argument leads nowhere? It seemed to me you were questioning a closer approach to fairness by saying perfect fairness was impossible. Otherwise, you were just stating the obvious. It’s clear to people here that unused remnants of voting quotas exist in any proportional system. It already happens in the Senate which is proportional but only as the state level. At the national level, the senate is wildly disproportional.

    In the context of democratic elections for representatives of views it is clear that equality and fairness commence with the principle of one person, one vote and logically continue on to the principle of proportional representation. Otherwise, the one person one vote principle is directly undermined by the lack of proportional representation. Propagandised as we are into accepting the two party preferred idea, I don’t think people have yet recognised, on this blog at least, the significance of my outlining the idea of “false binary choice” or “enforced binary choice”. The current preferential system acts, in practice with extant party systems, to force all, or many, valid votes into a binary choice between the current political duopoly. The only exception is the rare one where for example the Greens or NXT or an independent achieve a breakthrough percentage for a rep. seat under the current system.

  20. Ernestine Gross
    July 13th, 2016 at 10:08 | #20

    @ Ikonoclast, GrueBleen, Dick Veldkamp

    Thank you for the responses. My question was motivated by different considerations.

    Consider a public policy issue such as global warming (affects potentially everybody on the planet Earth).

    Consider a public policy issue such as building a railway line.

    Consider a public policy issue such as a soccer field in location A somewhere on planet Earth.

    Suppose we rank a long list of public policy issues, of which the above are three examples, according to their, lets call it, level of generality, defined as the number of people who are affected. This ‘level of generality’ is an index.

    Suppose we now have this global index of generality (our reference index).

    Now we consider ‘countries’, geopolitical regions characterised by their own jurisdiction.

    We pick, two jurisdictions, Denmark and Australia, and work out their local indices of generality and compare them to the global index. (Mapping the local indices onto the global index and check to which rank they correspond on the global index.)

    Without needing detailed empirical research I am very confident in saying their local indices do not map onto the same global index levels. (Think of east-west and north-south railway lines in Australia, a soccer field in an outback town in Australia – where is the equivalent in Denmark?)

    My question is, how do differences between jurisdictions affect the discussion of what is the ‘best’ voting system, preferential or proportional?

    My intuition (my best guess) is that proportional is ‘better’ than preferential if policy issues are concentrated in a relatively high level of generality and vice versa. The weight of general issues (global warming) is better reflected in a proportional system than in a preferential system (and, very roughly, vice versa). [1]

    Maybe these discussions should be on the sandpit. I assume as long as no commenter objects, we can carry on.

    [1] An aside, using the methodology of math econ, theorising, which leads to empirical testability or ‘insights’, starts with the intuition. Verbal theorising finishes with the intuition. Inductive methods in economics start with ‘countries’ – as if they would be all the same.

  21. GrueBleen
    July 13th, 2016 at 10:09 | #21


    Ah, right: “It seemed to me …”. So, in short, it was just your personal interpretation of what I said and nothing that I actually said. That’s fair, that’s how we all work, isn’t it: imposing our assumptions and viewpoint on everything anybody says.

    Well I do most humbly beg your forgiveness Ikono for misleading you by stating the obvious, it’s just that in my lifelong experience, unless the obvious is clearly stated it is very often overlooked. Or if not overlooked, then it is very frequently assumed, for no very good reason, that your “obvious” is identical, in substance and temper, to my “obvious”.

    So, also forgive me if I again state the obvious that, if ‘perfect fairness’ is impossible, somebody, somehow, is going to have to define and choose the precise limits to ‘fairness’ aren’t they. And that is something you have resolutely refused to address … or maybe because it’s just “obvious” to you who and how that will be.

    Please enlighten us, Ikono: how, and by whom, will “fairness” be defined and implemented in this case ?

  22. GrueBleen
    July 13th, 2016 at 10:31 | #22

    @Ernestine Gross

    As always, Ms Gross, you have forced me back into “now have to start thinking” mode. Which I will humbly try to do.

    However, I would raise another criteria, which is ‘timeliness of response’. If, perhaps, it may take many years to get enough representatives who want action on climate to get elected, then maybe we should prefer a ‘representative’ majority able to act quickly – in short, a circumstance that Edmund Burke would have been all in favour of.

    We almost did get this with Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme, but then lack of a true consensus killed it at the next election.

    And maybe a dual scheme, such as Australia’s, may be best: the lower house ‘committee of management’ elected representationally, and an upper ‘house of review’ elected proportionally.

  23. Ernestine Gross
    July 13th, 2016 at 12:25 | #23


    As you may have inferred, one of my aims was to get an insight into why there are arguments (to me this signals something istn’t understood well enough as yet and I don’t know why or what – and I am a bit lazy in reading arguments). Another one was to see whether a reader knows of work that deals with this question.)

    Your last paragraph (mixed system) is very relevant, IMHO, as an example of avoiding some kind of bias – a bit strong a word. Sofar, the layers of governments hasn’t been considered either as a mechanism to sort out local issues from regional , ….., global issues.

  24. Ivor
    July 13th, 2016 at 15:38 | #24


    I have never read any BUrke, however,

    where is this “representative majority able to act quickly” endorsed or described by Burke.

  25. Ivor
    July 13th, 2016 at 15:43 | #25

    @Ernestine Gross

    How do you choose fairly between a number of candidates from the same jurisdiction (any jurisdiction) without a secret preferential system?

  26. Dick Veldkamp
    July 13th, 2016 at 18:22 | #26

    @Ernestine Gross

    Frankly I do not see how the level of generality would affect conclusions about what is the best voting system. (Sorry if I misunderstand your point).

    Who decides what is a constitutional matter. Obviously, building a soccer pitch or not would be decided by a town council. A railway line in Australia would be (I imagine) a joint decision by the national and the state legislature.

    The voting system is just about ensuring that every voter (by proxy) has the same influence in any decision. Thus I would advocate PR on town, state and national level.

    There is an interesting twist for bodies like the UN or the European Union: how much voting weight should every country have (each country having 1 representative) ? It turns out that the fairest system is that every country has voting weight that is proportional to the square root of the number of voters in that country. The EU Council of Ministers have weights somewhat like this, but these were arrived at by opportunistic wheeling and dealing. Apparently there was no politician who stood up for a system that would be fairest to all.

    It is rather tragic that there is a whole branch of mathematics dedicated to what the best voting system is (within the constraints of Arrow’s theorem), but that this knowledge is hardly used. Instead we are stuck with all sorts of rubbish from the Middle Ages (basically).

  27. Dick Veldkamp
    July 13th, 2016 at 18:38 | #27


    Of course we can have a discussion about what the best system would be. Criteria could be:
    1- fairness
    2- effectiveness (one might for example argue for a threshold percentage to get into parliament, in Germany it is 5% of the vote)
    3- direct contact between MP and constituency (pointing to some district system)

    However I think a rather basic requirement that (almost) everybody can agree on, is that ALL votes have equal weight. By this simple criterion, FPTP is out, as is the Australian variant of it (as I said before, I think it is grossly unfair that the Greens [or any other party] with ~10% of the vote get 1 seat instead of 10% of 150 = 15).

    As regards the UK, I am not disputing the legality of the current UK government (after all the UK chose to have FPTP). I am just pointing out that it is strange that one party has absolute power, while it is likely that ~2/3 of the electorate did not vote for them. For me, this disqualifies FPTP.

  28. Ikonoclast
    July 13th, 2016 at 19:06 | #28


    My apologies, I appear to be misconstruing you. I guess the people as a whole have to determine what they regard as fair. I know that statement begs all kinds of questions. I am stating what I think would be fairer and endeavoring to argue for that position. No-one has to worry about my views. I am completely without influence.

  29. Ikonoclast
    July 13th, 2016 at 19:44 | #29

    @Ernestine Gross

    1. “My question is, how do differences between jurisdictions affect the discussion of what is the ‘best’ voting system, preferential or proportional?

    I don’t think the differences you outlined affect what is the “best” system of the three systems in contention in this discussion. Broadly, the systems in contention in this discussion are first past the post, preferential voting and proportional voting. I contend that the proportional system is the best of these three systems for any democracy characterised by mainly party politics. There might be even better systems design-able but of the three mentioned proportional is the best. Whether the jurisdiction is large or small, demographically or by area, a proportional system will give a result which is a better, more just, reflection of the will of the people. Bear in mind, we are talking of modern party politics. Party politics is another given parameter in this debate.

    I cannot see why preferential would be a better system for an area with a “low level of generality” if that is your contention. You have not made the case. In any case, you neglect the existence in Australia’s instance, of state and local governments. These levels deal more with regional and local particularities in at least some matters. A large continent probably needs these levels despite the claims some make that it makes us over-governed.

    2. “An aside, using the methodology of math econ, theorising, which leads to empirical testability or ‘insights’, starts with the intuition. Verbal theorising finishes with the intuition.”

    I have enormous problems with what I consider to be unexamined assumptions in these statements. But it really would take a sandpit to deal with it. Suffice it to say here that I would argue;

    (a) Not all problems can be mathematised.
    (b) Sentential logic (propositional logic) and mathematical logic follow the same form.
    (c) Maths is a set of languages in any case.
    (d) Maths (of any form) is a specialised language not a privileged language.

    But I make these arguments as an amateur. Real philosophers might laugh at me.

  30. J-D
    July 13th, 2016 at 20:47 | #30

    Some people think it’s a good thing to have elections that straightforwardly determine a clear winner, with the winner forming a government with the ability to implement its own agenda, held in check (among other things) by the voters’ right to eject it from office at the next election and replace it with a clear alternative.

    Some people think it’s a good thing to have elections which produce results that mean that representatives of different strands of opinion need to negotiate with each other and whatever government is formed has to be a compromise and blend different elements in its program.

    These are competing and probably conflicting goals, and their demands on the electoral system also compete.

  31. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 00:41 | #31


    I have no idea, Ivor, since I didn’t say Burke had “endorsed or described” those things. That’s something you said, mate.

    But since as you confess you’ve never read any Burke, your apparent curiousity can’t actually be about him, can it. So why did you make up something so you could pretend to ask me about it ?

    However, I do endeavor to promote genuine curiousity, so here’s something to consider:

    Burke: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

    Which is taken from his ‘Speech to the Electors at Bristol at the Conclusion of the Poll’ in 1774. And in that speech Burke also said:

    “But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.”

    Copacetic, now ?

  32. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 00:59 | #32


    Join the club, mate, join the club. Oh, I see you already have 🙂

    Personally, I’m all in favour of fairness in the matter of elections, my problem is that in the world as currently occupied by my species, I don’t know what such “fairness” is comprised of.

    And in particular, I’m not at all sure that “fairness” must, or can, be expressed as some sort of nearly proportional representation by political party. The Australian Constitution, you know, doesn’t even mention political parties, so they have no formal existence in the Australian political system. And, by the way, it doesn’t mention Prime Ministers or Cabinets either.

    Indeed, I’m of the opinion that any imposition of “party discipline” – ie Members must vote along party lines – is actually contrary to the law in the sense that a Member who undertakes to obey his party in order to get pre-selection is actually ‘selling’ his vote to an external organization.

    On the other hand, if not in respect of parties, how could electoral “fairness” be defined ? Any reasonable suggestions are welcome.

  33. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 01:58 | #33

    @Ernestine Gross

    Still thinking, and I hope I will actually have something intelligent to say when I’ve gotten a bit further along.

  34. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 02:29 | #34

    @Dick Veldkamp

    Of course we can discuss what the “best system” would be to our heart’s content, but what if, after that, we don’t agree ? Has the human race ever had a matter on which everybody agreed ? And if we don’t agree, then how do we select the “best system” ? Who (and how) gets to pick the winners ?

    As I’ve mentioned to Ikonoclast, I simply do not know what constitutes “fairness” in a nation’s electoral system. Do you know ?

    For the UK, remember that voting is voluntary and, being FPTP, voters only get one pick, so we can never know many how voters, if asked, might have answered the question: if your choice can’t win, who else would you accept ?

    But in Australia, voting is compulsory, and we have preferential voting [When I say “voting” is compulsory, I mean you are liable to be fined if you don’t turn up at a polling booth and get your name crossed off, but ‘secret ballot’ means that nobody knows what you do with your voting slip – eg cover it with obscenities. But strangely, most people do go on to record a serious, valid vote.].

    So, I usually give my 1 choice to the Greens and then a preference (eventually) to one of the major parties – the ALP or the LNP. But if Australia didn’t have preferential voting, if it too was FPTP, I would never give my 1 vote to the Greens – I’d vote for whichever major party I was really favouring. If there’s a fair few people like me, the Greens vote would suddenly be much less. So, can we say that the Greens really got 10% of the vote ?

    Anyhow, if you are going to go for proportional representation by party, then how are the Greens going to be given an extra 14 seats over and above the one the Greens actually won – by preferences, of course, so it was actually a minority vote, as most electorates are. Do we just make an additional 14 seats into which 14 Greens candidates are somehow selected after the voting is finished and we don’t get any say as to who that 14 should be ?

    That’s basically how the New Zealand MMP system works, but the main (only ?) beneficiary is the Maori party so they don’t have to create a real lot of extra, unconstituented seats. But what if we take this all the way: in Australia any party or person which gets 0.667% of the total national vote is entitled to 0.00667*150=1 seat. Suddenly Australia would have a very big parliament in which it would most likely be impossible for any party to ever get a majority. Which may be a good idea, and maybe not, but I’m not at all sure it’s how I want things to be – does that happen anywhere in the world, do you think ?.

    Note: ALP = Australian Labor Party, LNP = Liberal National Party (aka the Coalition)

  35. Dick Veldkamp
    July 14th, 2016 at 06:53 | #35


    Dear GB,

    I think that I explained what I think is the main requirement for a good (fair) voting system: that every vote (i.e. every person’s opinion) has the same weight. Do you disagree with that? If so, why?

    In a system with political parties, that makes PR superior and rules out FPTP.

    I don’t know what you mean by “14 extra seats”. Assuming that 10% of the people wanted a Green representative, the Greens should have had 15 seats. Of course I do not know that, maybe many people gave a preferential vote to a Green candidate just to show that they care about the environment or something, and don’t mind that some other part gets the seat… The point is that if X% of the population really wants Green representatives and not somebody else, they should get 150/100 * X seats in a fair system.

    Why do you say that Australia gets a big parliament? Every 0.67% of all the votes stands for 1 seat, period. Makes 150 seats in all. I admit no exact representation is possible, but (for example) the d’Hondt method gives a seat distribution that is fairly good, and arguably as close as you can get (an alternative is the method of the greatest remainder).

  36. Dick Veldkamp
    July 14th, 2016 at 06:57 | #36


    Re your last question: yes, there are many countries in which no single party has a majority: eg the Netherlands, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries. Germany. So you get a coalition government of 2 or more parties. It turns out this usually works rather well in practice, although it takes some getting used to (in Spain parties still cannot seem to accept it).

  37. Ikonoclast
    July 14th, 2016 at 09:31 | #37


    1. I used the term “approach to fairness” or “better approach to fairness”. This is an important point. It is not possible to achieve “perfect fairness” in anything. Of course, in the context of this debate, an “approach to fairness” means an approach to fair representation. By fair representation I mean proportional representation. Logically, the need for proportional representation stems from the one-person-one-vote principle. Each eligible person (voter) must (a) be given one vote and (b) that one vote must be of equal size to each other person’s one vote. This principle holds if everyone is given two votes as in the N.Z. system.

    It is the same as dividing slices of pie. For it to be done equally, each person must get an equal number of slices each and all slices must be of the same size. Presumably, Ernestine will like this simple mathematical proposition, albeit it is expressed wholly in words and not in mathematical symbols.

    2. Given the above logic, all that needs to be defended is the one person one vote principle. This stems essentially from liberal-democratic principles which assert all persons are or ought to be treated equally and have an equal, at least basal, say in the political organisation and running of their society. This is a normative (moral) political principle which relates not to innate talent nor to all opportunities but to a set of essential rights which it is felt morally ought to belong to and be the right of each adult (autonomous) citizen.

    3. I am aware, as I am sure we all are here, that “The Australian Constitution, you know, doesn’t even mention political parties, so they have no formal existence in the Australian political system. And, by the way, it doesn’t mention Prime Ministers or Cabinets either.” One might note, in passing, that our Consitution is not the limit of “formal” in this context. There is also law, precedent and procedure. A key reality is that political parties have arisen as an emergent phenomenon. Emergent phenomena will always arise from all sorts of sources, including from our attempts to codify and institute a particular set of rules and institutions in our society. One might say “A set of rules to manage or control the current system, changes the system.”

    Given this emergent behaviour, we are now required to act (IMO) to restore and/or augment the fairness of the system defined as electoral and voting fairness as above. Aligned with the rise of parties we have seen that local seat issues are probably significantly less than 50% of the issues that people vote on now when voting for a federal representative. A vote for a federal representative has more to do with national issues (what Ernestine called general issues). In this case, the representatives’ ideological or political economy alignments becomes operatively more important. In most cases ideological alignment is broadly congruent with party alignment. Hence this is another statement of the need for proportional representation along party-ideological lines while the party-ideological character of representative democracy persists in practice.

    4. The mechanics of the Hare-Clarke system (used in Tasmania) or single transferable vote (STV) system answer your concerns. The number of Federal MPs need not be increased. Check the Wikipedia article on Single transferable vote (STV).

    Conclusion. I think that sums up well enough my argument for a proportional system. I have some slightly radical arguments for what should be done with the Senate to change it into a People’s house of review and not a State house of review (which function is obsolete IMO). But maybe we need a sandpit for that.

  38. Ivor
    July 14th, 2016 at 11:04 | #38


    First this @GrueBleen says:

    maybe we should prefer a ‘representative’ majority able to act quickly – in short, a circumstance that Edmund Burke would have been all in favour of.

    Then he says:

    I didn’t say Burke had “endorsed or described” those things.

    So we have a problem.

    Maybe GrueBleen knows naught of Burke, and fabricated its original statement.

    So where in Burke is there any evidence supporting whatever GrueBleen is trying to purport?

    So far we have two random GrueBleen quotes:

    “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

    “But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.”

    which contain no relevance to any so-called “representative majority able to act quickly”. They seem more associated with a constitutional monarch.

    So was the association of Burke with “representative majority able to act quickly” false – just a figment of GrueBleen’s imagination – or is there a real basis?

  39. Ivor
    July 14th, 2016 at 14:26 | #39


    Julian Assange supporting Brexit and opposing Hiliary, tagging her as a liberal warhorse???


    The the journalist (or producer) cut him off.

  40. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 17:04 | #40
  41. GrueBleen
    July 14th, 2016 at 17:07 | #41


    Terrific stuff there, Ivor – you really showed yourself off fully with that one.

    Keep up the good work, mate.

  42. Ivor
    July 14th, 2016 at 18:11 | #42


    Hmmmm … and the answer is ?????

    Read more Burke ????

  43. Ikonoclast
    July 14th, 2016 at 19:48 | #43

    On another topic completely… I am not a birdwatcher per se but I was quite amazed at two sightings over the last few days of a very large eagle in or very near to the suburb where I live (fringe of Brisbane bounded on one side by the Sth. Pine River). I am no bird expert but I am fairly sure by checking online that it was an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) of close to maximum adult size. I saw it both perched (from behind) and on the wing. I’ve seen Wedgetail eagles on the ground and in flight and this bird looked very nearly as big. Its white head and neck and off-white cream underside indicate a White-bellied Sea-Eagle, I think.

    It was extraordinarily wary. I stopped on a path to observe it by looking through trees and undergrowth to its perch about 50 to 80 metres away. It immediately became aware I had stopped to observe it even with its back to me, shifted stance and then decided to fly away. Breathtaking. The natural world in total is worth so much more then we are. We ought to remember that.

  44. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 01:34 | #44


    No, I don’t think you’d get any value at all from reading Burke, mate.

    Just stick to what you’re good at and never regret all your missed opportunities.

  45. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 01:49 | #45

    @Dick Veldkamp

    It’s good that all of that is resolved then:

    1. We know what a good (fair) voting system is, even if we don’t have a clue as to what “every vote (…person’s opinion) has the same weight” might actually mean in practice other than it implies PR not FPTP..

    2. It won’t require “extra seats” so we can tell the New Zealanders that they’ve got it wrong when they do include ‘addon’ seats.

    3. Therefore Australia won’t get an increased size parliament and we should adopt the D’Hondt Method even though (i) it’s mostly single member constituencies in the lower houses and (ii) where multi-member electorates exist, the Hare-Clarke Method is exclusively preferred.

    4. Australia should just get used to minority coalition government like lots of other places.

  46. Ivor
    July 15th, 2016 at 09:46 | #46


    So going by your failed answer,

    Burke would not have been in favour of a ‘representative’ majority able to act quickly.

    Unless you have textual evidence to the contrary.

    Have you even read Burke?

  47. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 10:24 | #47


    Sorry about the tardy reply, Ikono, but life, the universe and everything …

    Ok, so following your pointed outline, we have:

    1. Despite ineluctable imperfection, nonetheless we will assiduously seek out “fairness” which means “fair representation” which means “proportiional representation” and that derives from the “one person, one vote” principle. Even when it’s actually “one person, two votes” as in NZ (and we’ll overlook the fact that the NZ ‘electorate MP’ is elected on a FPTP vote in what presents as a ‘dual election’ of electorate MPs, List MPs and ‘overhang MPs all in one go).

    Ok, that’s your position, but since it wasn’t delivered from the mountain on stone tablets, I guess I can still disagree. One problem I have is just what accepting imperfection means: which imperfections and to which extent are tolerable, and how is it decided that the imperfections that we tolerate can’t be appreciably fixed. But at least you didn’t gratuitously throw in those awful weasel words ‘maximise’ and/or ‘optimize’.

    So, onwards …

    2. Hmmm. My view of “fairness” isn’t that “all persons should be treated equally” but that disadvantaged people should be compensated and that ‘advantaged people’ (eg the very rich) should be penalised. Other than perhaps thinking this means that very advantaged people – eg annual income in excess of say $1 million – should not be permitted to vote (like all other criminals who are not permitted to vote) I don’t have any developed ideas as to how to formulate this. But maybe, for instance, disadvantaged aboriginals might have s few ‘hangover seats’ reserved for only aboriginals to be elected in – subject to some acceptable way of being able to prove ‘aboriginality’, of course, we don’t want to revive SA apartheid.

    Incidentally, one of the major sources of ‘unequal votes’, particularly in Australia has been the differing number of electors in each electorate – malapportionment – however, these days that apparently isn’t as bad as it once was. Just another tolerable imperfection, I guess.

    3. Re knowing about political parties, I am impressed and gratified to be, on your testimony, amongst such a well informed and knowledgeable ‘constituency’. I guess I should merely add that my unsystematic observation of commenters and comments on this blog leads me to doubt your proposition that “we all are” so well informed.

    As to the other entities, well laws are made and enacted by those non-constitutional, emergent-property creatures, “political parties”. Even though I may have to obey the laws they pass or suffer penalties (sometimes), I don’t have to consider them as legitimate, do I. Maybe you do, but I’ll reserve my right to lifelong civil disobedience – at least in my thoughts if not always in my deeds.

    But I am quite miffed that you chose to just ignore my proposition that if elected representatives obey ‘party discipline’ in their votes, they are, de facto, selling their votes to a non-constitutional entity which is an illegal practice. Votes are everywhere imprisoned within party discipline, but some (maybe) yearn to be free. Otherwise, I’m not sure I quite see the applicability of your contentions about ideology. Anyway, in my experience, a great many elected representatives (upper and lower) are more likely to be careerists than genuine believers. Only the chosen few can actually see the light on the hill.

    4. I already did check the Wikipedia article on STV – trying to match the knowledgeable state of this blog’s interlocutors. And I also consulted the NZ Electoral Commission’s page on “How Are MPs Elected ?” which apprised me of the NZ practice of creating ‘hangover seats’ to balance out ‘proportional representation’. Not a lot of ‘hangover seats’ to be sure – a maximum of 2 in the 2008-11 election so far – but who knows; once you’re on the slippery slope, it’s downwards al, the way.

    And that “sums up well enough my arguments” as you have said. Well yes, I think it does, but perhaps you’ll pardon my recalcitrance in not entirely agreeing with you. However, I eagerly await your propositions for a “people’s house of review”. A senate that was essentially beholden to the 6000 or so Tasmanians who elected Brian Harradine isn’t exactly “fair proportional representation” IMNSH view.

  48. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 10:29 | #48


    Failed questions deserve failed answers, Ivor, and I endeavour to please. Have you even read what I’ve written.

    I really don’t understand this obsession with Burke that you have, especially since you’ve never read him.

  49. Ivor
    July 15th, 2016 at 10:36 | #49


    It was a simple question, and days later you still have not or can not answer.

    You have tried all manner of diversions, even implying that there is some obsession with Burke???????????? This is senile.

    Maybe you should have used Tocqueville as he seems best matched with you, viz Please forgive all GrueBleen’s chattering by a sick man who is beginning to grow well again and who is amusing himself by chatting without constraint, but also with little usefulness.

    Do you want, honesty, clarity or just forgiveness?

  50. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 11:11 | #50


    “Do you want, honesty, clarity or just forgiveness?”

    Are you actually licensed to offer any of those, Ivor ?

    And yes, your obsession with Burke is visibly senile, mate, though I am relieved that you are beginning to grow well again and amuse yourself. Keep it up.

  51. Ivor
    July 15th, 2016 at 12:08 | #51


    Yes I am licensed.

    So you now have two outstanding matters:

    How can anyone be obsessed with Burke when they have no knowledge of it, and it was others who promoted him?

    What textual evidence is there that Burke was in favour of a ‘representative’ majority able to act quickly.

    And one procedural matter;

    Why was the question “failed”?

    Go to it kiddo ….

  52. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 12:36 | #52


    Oh that’s good, Ivor, where did you get your license ? I might think of getting one too.

    But I’m quite moved by your sudden rush of sense: it’s good that you’ve recognised that you shouldn’t be obsessed with Burke when you have no knowledge of “it”. As to your question on textual evidence, I await your pronouncement on that.

    But, “why was the question failed ? Because all of your “questions” are failed, Ivor. Please try to keep up with things.

  53. Ivor
    July 15th, 2016 at 14:02 | #53


    To get licences such as mine you you have to have pre-requisites and pass invigilated exams and then demonstrate core competencies over a long period in a professional workplace.

    However you may be able to purchase something more at your level by searching on the internet.

    As you have not been able to focus on what you have in front of you I doubt whether there is anything else under the AQF that would apply in your case.

    If you get a question such as “why a question failed”, then the dumbest, most incompetant answer that you usually get from 3year olds is:

    “because …..”

    This is a failed answer.

    So you have made the most fundamental error of all – imputing into others your own incompetencies, and not even understanding the mess you have created.

    Maybe it would be better if you tried to resolve the outstanding matters?

  54. GrueBleen
    July 15th, 2016 at 17:47 | #54


    Now I really do have to sympathise, Ivor, since obviously the trauma of trying to keep up with an adult conversation has caused you to regress into your early childhood. But hey, there’s always Pokeman Go to play, isn’t there.

    But I do like your rush of imagination about your “invigilated exams” – nice one, mate. Keep that up and in no time at all you’ll be writing a column in a Murdoch rag. Maybe even the Herald-Sun ?

    But do try to keep up with things. Really, I have already told you that my failed answers are in sympathy with your failed questions. I have told you that, but then do you ever actually read anything I write ?

  55. Ivor
    July 15th, 2016 at 22:09 | #55


    The questions have not failed, except they have failed to get an answer.

    School yard kiddy-talk does not help you.

    Please hand in your homework as soon as possible.

  56. GrueBleen
    July 16th, 2016 at 00:48 | #56


    That’s why your questions are always failures, Ivor, they never get an answer.

    Now you haven’t prattled on about your Burke obsession in your last couple of posts: can’t you keep your attention on anything ?

    Come on now, pick up your game.

  57. Lesley de Voil
    July 16th, 2016 at 07:12 | #57

    Ikono, I live in the Lockyer Valley and over the years I have intermittently seen the white-bellied sea eagle close to Lockyer and Laidley Creeks. We have regular visits from wedgies patrolling up and down our street (all the other birds kick up an obvious fuss for 10seconds or so and then the whole area goes silent) but the sea eagles seem to be always just passing through.

  58. Ikonoclast
    July 16th, 2016 at 08:29 | #58

    @Lesley de Voil

    Thank you for your reply. I think it is the first time in my life that I have seen a White-bellied Sea-Eagle; or at least the first time I have seen it and recognised it as such. I have lived in or near Brisbane most of my life but have traveled widely, holidayed on farms in Wide Bay Burnett and worked on farms in W.A. I most definitely saw Wedge Tail eagles on the sheep and wheat farms south of Geraldton. I may have seen a Wedge Tail where I live now but in retrospect it might have been a high-flying White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Looking high into a bright sky it was hard to distinguish colour and silhouette details.

    What I find interesting are my memories from childhood and comparing them to today. The bird situation has changed markedly in Brisbane and environs. When post-WW2 suburbs were made in the north of Brisbane, they were obviously clear-felled. No native vegetation was left at all. Gardens were almost all exotic species. I remember from my childhood that our suburban garden had roses, gerberas, geraniums, nasturtiums, poinsettias, a poinciana tree, an edible fig not a native fig, orange tree, lemon tree, so-called “bush lemon”, a Frangipani, a bush of the melastoma, which might have been a Melastoma affine and other plants I don’t know the names of. I doubt any were natives of S.E. Qld except the affine if it was that species. Our “lawn” was couch plagued with carpet grass and paspalum. I doubt any of these were native. Gum trees were just about non-existent in the area until the local primary school planted a row or two.

    As for birds, I recall masses of sparrows when I was a kid. This was the introduced house sparrow. I never see them now around Brisbane. There were at least some crows, magpies, peewees and willy wag tails left. There were no parakeets, lorikeets or cockatoos that I recall. Very occaisionally one heard a kookaburra.

    Brisbane’s bird life changed again as people replanted eucalypts, bottle-brush, banksias, teatrees, paperbarks and so on. A lot of the missing native birds came back but willy wagtails seemed to almost disappear. Some new ones appeared which seemed to be new interlopers behaving in new ways. Native ibis appeared in and around Brisbane feeding at rubbish tips and competing in the central city with introduced pigeons.

    The SMH backs this up – “This bird (Ibis) is one of Australia’s most interesting native species. Highly adaptive and mobile, their natural habitat in interior wetlands was significantly diminished in the 1970s due to changed water flow and urbanisation. However, unlike other affected species, the ibis made the surprise move to near the coast, where their numbers thrived.”

    I also noticed in S.E Qld’s drought years when our dams fell to like 5%, many more green parrots etc. appeared back in Brisbane from further west. I guess they could still find water around Brisbane.

    Moral of this tale? We have had serial effects on bird life, many negative and then later some small positive effects improving matters for the birds again. However, these subsequent improvements, for some species, are not a return in any way to the pre-European status quo. We have altered the environment permanently and a number of bird species have changed behaviours and habitats. I guess those that are still surviving and thriving are making adaptational changes too. We pushing evolution for survivors but also extincting (is that a verb?) some species.

    We are highly disrupting environments around the world. Search the net for the changes in Greenland shark behaviours and the seemingly new phenomenon of their seal predation, first studied at Sable Island off Canada. Greenland sharks have proved to more capable predators than first thought. They were originally pigeon-holed as very slow, deep-seabed scavengers. But they can and do come to shallow waters and have proved to be extraordinary ambush predators in murky waters, functioning by scent. Their dentition is highly unusual and they bite and damage in a way very different from most sharks. (If you are ever in Iceland or wherever up there never eat one fresh. Their flesh is highly poisonous.) It appears Greenland Sharks were drawn to the surface more to take by-catch from the fishing industry and their population may have exploded. Then the fishing industry collapsed (of course). Then lots of shallow-hunting acclimated Greenland Sharks started ambushing sleeping seals in the northern winter. Seals can sleep underwater. The results of the attacks are very nasty for the seals and especially for seal pups. Outer blubber and flesh is torn off in a corkscrew fashion right to the bone. We are pushing novel behaviours in wildlife and thus new evolution (for those species that survive.) The effects continually ramify.

  59. Ivor
    July 16th, 2016 at 09:58 | #59


    What Burke obsession – I have never read Burke.

    My attention is purely on getting answers to two simple questions.

    So here is a third;

    Was your statement that Burke was in favour of a ‘representative’ majority able to act quickly, TRUE or FALSE.

    Of course, judging by your behaviour so far you will be unable to answer and will set off yet another stream of diversions and irrelevant froth and bubble.

    You have had plenty of opportunity now to provide evidence – so the answer now is;

    The statement was FALSE.

    And as far as the other question was – It is not possible to be obsessed with anything if you have no knowledge of it.

    So your statements in this regard are FALSE.

    Finally your statement that the question failed was also FALSE.

    All your random introductions of obsession, licenses, missed opportunities, failed question etc etc were spurious, disruptive, diversionary and self serving.

    So the answers are now clear.

    Thank you very much. You can now feed your homework to the dogs.

  60. GrueBleen
    July 16th, 2016 at 15:58 | #60


    Oh, now I know who you are “Ivor”, you’re actually Gerard Henderson !

    But really, old chap, your Burke obsession doesn’t mean anything to me, you can enjoy it as much as you like, and from your willing waffles so far, that’s a lot.

    However, I do have to admire, reluctantly it’s true, your total dedication to not actually reading, nor even minimally comprehending, anything anybody else says (or writes). It is certainly your crowning glory and it clearly allows you much uncritical self-enjoyment.

    Though I take it from the harried tone of your most recent (to which this is a reply) that apart from employing juvenile capitals, you just can’t come up with anything more. Well then, off you go, lad, happy slumber awaits you.

  61. GrueBleen
    July 16th, 2016 at 16:15 | #61


    Psst, Ikono: English, a language in which there is no noun that you can’t verb and no verb that you can’t noun. You’d surely know that ?

    “Extinctify” ? Pshaw, child’s play.

    But your bit about the vanishing sparrows is interesting. For a while, back a few years ago, they’d almost disappeared from Melbourne too – or at least the bits of it that I frequent. Where once were hosts (and I had to look that group name up, but a “host of sparrows” is apparently what it is), suddenly there weren’t any.

    They are now seeping back, fairly slowly but consistently, and I do see enough in one space now and then to qualify as a host.

    But the birds I find interesting (apart from the small family of frog-mouths that took up residence in my street) is magpies. I occasionally see news items that magpies are “disappearing”. Well you certainly wouldn’t know it from my suburban patch – the magpies are almost as numerous as the crows, and these days more numerous than pigeons and sparrows put together.

  62. Ivor
    July 16th, 2016 at 17:38 | #62


    That’s just silly.

  63. GrueBleen
    July 16th, 2016 at 22:52 | #63


    And oh so very appropriate, Ivor.

  64. Lesley de Voil
    July 17th, 2016 at 05:01 | #64

    GrueBleen, re changing bird incidences, a couple of years ago, I was never more surprised than when I saw a pair of curlews fossicking around the rubbish bins outside a restaurant at Brisbane Southbank early one evening. I had always associated “rare”, “secretive”, and “shy” with this bird, but no longer! There were people walking by about a couple of metres away and the birds walked around casually for about ten minutes. They did not fly off, but just moved on out of sight.
    Iko, the house I grew up in was built on the old Newmarket (Brisbane) sale yards so there was nothing native left. Plenty of sparrows and pigeons, but native birds and animals? Nope. I had never seen a gecko until I went to Mundubbera in my thirties!

  65. GrueBleen
    July 17th, 2016 at 08:22 | #65

    @Lesley de Voil

    Your curfews aren’t the only ones: the magpies, and even the pigeons, that visit my suburban street will hardly pay any attention whatsoever to passing humans (eg me, out for a stroll). They’ll barely even get out of the way of the car when they’re on the road.

    Maybe it’s just that nobody much threatens them these days – even young kids don’t play in the street now like my generation did and apart from me, very few people actually walk around. So whatever inherent ‘conditioning’ the birds have, it isn’t alarming them much nowadays.

  66. Ikonoclast
    July 17th, 2016 at 09:16 | #66

    @Lesley de Voil

    I could go on about changing bird incidences but you bring up the topic of geckos. I assume the Mundubbera geckos you refer to are native geckos. I don’t think I have ever seen a native gecko but maybe I am wrong. Brisbane seemed to have no geckos until the invading Asian house gecko turned up about 15 or more years ago. Now, these a very common. Cockroaches (a few species and at least some of them invading exotics themselves) seem to have declined as the Asian house gecko takes over. Prevalence of various native ant species seems to have changed too in addition to exotic invaders. But here I am comparing childhood memories with current observations… hardly a basis for a scientific study.

    Here is a problem for long-term longitudinal studies in ecology. How do you know what to data collect? You will have no idea of what will change over the long term. The arena of data is impossibly large. To some great extant, we really don’t know what has changed. So much information is already lost (as in never collected and now lost forever).

  67. July 17th, 2016 at 23:44 | #67

    Professor Quiggin wrote:

    Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

    Professor Quiggin,

    Comments in the sandbox of 26 June 2016 were closed some time after 4 July. Will you be opening another sandbox soon, so that I can respond to what was posted there on 1 July?

  68. Ivor
    July 18th, 2016 at 08:28 | #68

    How the bourgeois respond to the deaths in Nice


    This demonstrates the compassion that comes with capitalism.

Comments are closed.