Yes, this sucks. But we can’t afford to despair

If, like me, you live life on the progressive side of politics – or perhaps even if you live on the conservative side but nonetheless view climate change as an emergency, and see racism, poverty, and xenophobia as serious issues – you probably spent the evening staring at the election results in growing horror.

(Honestly, I felt so nauseated after a couple of hours that I switched off the coverage and stuck in our Keating! The Musical DVD. I mean, I figure I did absolutely everything I could to make a difference in this election – I could skip the aftermath with a clear conscience.)

And look, it really is pretty awful. The Coalition is not going to do a single positive thing about climate change, and we now have another three years of people on Newstart living below the poverty line and being harassed by robodebts and programs that are designed to punish rather than help, and people who need the NDIS being unable access it. We will have three more years of cruelty to refugees and three more years of cuts to the ABC, while Murdoch gets free rein over our media.

Also… we have just shown both major parties that running a scare campaign with basically no policies wins over running a policy-driven campaign. And that’s really depressing, because it means we’ve just taught Labor not to bother running on policy.

I’m not going to sit here and try to say that it’s all going to be fine, that we need to stay positive, that it’s alright. A significant proportion of or population voted out of fear or ignorance or just a lack of empathy or imagination, and we are all going to suffer for it, and it’s OK to feel stunned and angry and sickened and upset and depressed. The future looks pretty scary right now, and we need to come to terms with that.

We need to take time to grieve, and to be angry, and to be numb, and to do whatever we need to do to find a way to accept the reality we now find ourselves in.

And, honestly, that’s going to take time. I mean, I’m white, I’m mostly straight, I’m employed and reasonably financially secure, and I’m healthy. I’m several steps away from being directly impacted by most of the government’s awfulness, and I’m still terrified and deeply sad about the direction we are moving in. I can only imagine how people more marginalised than me must be feeling right now.

So I think step one for all of us right now is to grieve as we need to. That doesn’t mean we can’t do other things later – that we shouldn’t find our own ways to fight for what is needed, to protect our friends who are more vulnerable than us, to move forward so that there is still something left to preserve by the time we reach the next election.

But we don’t necessarily have to do all of that right now. And we definitely don’t have to feel guilty about not doing *everything* right now. If you need it, this is me giving you permission to take the time to rest and to find a way to be OK. You can’t fight the good fight when you are desperately wounded. Give yourself time to heal.

Because it’s  going to be a hard three years, and I need you to survive it, OK? Whoever you are, if you are reading this, you are needed, and you are wanted and you deserve to be OK. No matter what the government may say. So step one is definitely doing what you can to make that happen. Hang out with friends, read something fun and escapist, throw yourself into work, go for a bike ride, join a community choir – whatever works for you. Take care of yourself. Please.

Step two… step two is for when you are feeling less fragile. But when you get there, step two is to find the thing that you care about and the thing you can do. Maybe that thing is volunteering or donating money. Maybe it is being a good friend to someone who needs that. Maybe it’s raising the next generation, or maybe it’s joining a political party and taking the fight to them.

(Step Three is recognising that there is only so much that you, personally, can do, and doing that much, and not feeling guilty about not doing all the other things. I’m still working on step three, to be honest.)

For me? I’m going to sleep for four hours and then get up and try to enjoy Eurovision. And then I’m going to have another nap, and avoid news coverage and social media for a bit.

But step two for me is definitely going to include writing to my local member and anyone else in the ALP who I can think of and thank them for running a positive, policy-driven campaign. I don’t know if we’ll see another campaign like that after the way this one failed, but positive behaviour should be rewarded, and this much I can do.

Please take care of yourselves.

(And who knows… maybe the early votes will save us. But I have to admit, I’m not optimistic at this point.)

Edited to add: I wrote a post on self-care a few years ago.  It has belatedly occurred to me that it might be worth linking to from this post.  So here it is!

Victorian State Election 2018: Post-mortem Part 1

So it looks like Labor won that one, then.  Which is good, because the main narrative I’ve seen floating around the place has been that Victorians rejected the politics of fear and racism, and that Andrews won by being strong on policy and infrastructure (and, it must be said, on the back of four years of actually achieving a fair bit of what he set out to do).

Is this narrative true?  Well, partially, at least.  I’m sure the mess in Canberra didn’t help Matthew Guy any, though amusingly neither side of politics really wants to admit that – Labor, because it takes away from their victory, and the Liberals because then they’d have to admit to getting that wrong (which Mary Wooldridge very nearly did, in fact). But, while I’d love to think that my fellow Victorians are all highly-evolved individuals who are too intelligent to fall for a fear campaign and too kind to be motivated by racism, I suspect that this is not wholly the case.

Still, true or not, it’s a good narrative, and one that I hope will take root.  “Fear campaigns don’t win in this country” is an idea that I would like to become true.  I mean, wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone in politics went, right, OK, fear campaigns don’t work, let’s make the Federal election about policy instead of about racism and being mean to LGBTQI people.

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Victorian State Election 2018: Meet the Victorian Socialists!

I don’t have time to read all of this!
The Basics


Facebook page:
Themes: Socialism. Workers.  People before Corporations.  Unions.  Equality.  The environment.  The evils of capitalism.

With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket

The group voting tickets of Australia’s various Socialist parties are always such a reliable barometer of left to right politics, and the Victorian Socalists are no exception.  At the top of our ticket, we always have the Greens, the Animal Justice Party, Labor, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party and the Voluntary Euthanasia Party.  The order various slightly, but the Greens are almost always first, and the VEP are always fifth, with the others in between.

At the foot of the ticket, we have the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, the Australian Country Party, and the Australian Liberty Alliance.  All the independents, grouped or otherwise, are dumped wholesale at the bottom of the ticket – the Socialists were clearly too busy preparing for the revolution to read up on them.

I’m interested to note that the Socialists seem to share my suspicions about the Australian Country Party, putting them even lower than the LDP and the DLP.   Incidentally, I’m pretty sure this one is a real ticket and not a Druery special – it’s pretty consistent across the  board, and matches what I expect from the Socialists.

The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations

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What a day.

I am so, so relieved for my LGBTI friends right now.  I am so glad that after all the nastiness of the last few months, we got a Yes.  I hope that Turnbull is able to live up to his promise of getting marriage equality legislated by Christmas.

I am also deeply, deeply relieved that the majority was substantial.  I didn’t want a No, but in some ways a Yes with a margin of 51% to 49% or similar would have been worse – we would then have spent the next year re-hashing the whole debate and arguing about who was suppressing whom. A Yes vote of 61.6% isn’t as high as I’d hoped for (though, interestingly, it’s in line both with our polls and with polls in other countries), but it is unarguably a majority.

And 133 out of Australia’s 150 electorates voted yes, including the 14 of the 15 regional electorates held by Nationals MPs! I love that result, because it underlines the fact that this is what the majority of Australia wants, regardless of which part of the country they live in.  And it is heartening to see that there isn’t a huge divide between rural and city electorates in this respect.  (Also, if I can be a petty Melbournian for just one moment, let me just note that we had a much higher Yes vote across greater Melbourne than across Sydney, which amounts to statistical proof that Melbourne is better than Sydney.  I think it’s the climate. More variable weather means more rainbows.)

One thing about this survey that makes me unequivocally happy is that 79.5% of eligible voters participated in the survey, even though it was non-compulsory, non-binding, and entirely lacking in Democracy Sausage.  Compare this to the Irish Referendum on Marriage Equality, which had a turnout of 61%, or Brexit, where the turnout was 72.2%, or the recent US election, where it was just over 58%.  Whatever else you may say about Australians, we are *absolute bloody legends* at turning out to vote.  Seriously – this is something worth celebrating, whatever you think of the result.  We may be losing one senator per week to the citizenship debacle, but our democracy is in good shape.

(Also, with a turnout of nearly 80%, we once again find ourselves at a point where we can say that this result is a pretty good reflection of the will of the Australian people.  61.6% of 79.5% is 49.0% – which means, effectively, that every single person who stayed home would have had to have voted No in order to reverse this result, and even then, the margin would have been slight.  And, while I am not a statistician, my brief look at the numbers earlier suggested that there was a fair correlation between high voter turnout and a high Yes vote.  I don’t think it was the No voters who were staying home.)

Was it worth it?

In one sense, it was.  If it gets us to a place where we can get a decent marriage equality law onto the books, where people can marry the people they love and have it recognised by the state, then, well, the value of that is incalculable.  Looked at that way, it would be worth it whatever the cost.

But something can be worth the money and emotion and time you put into it, and still be more expensive than it needed to be.

This process has hurt people, sometimes badly.  It has made people afraid of their fellow citizens.  It has divided communities and families, and has eroded goodwill between progressive organisations and religious ones (which is doubly wasteful, because these are two groups that can do amazing things when they work together).  Some of this – much of it, even – is down to individuals, but it could easily have been predicted, and avoided.

This survey has cost Australia in time and labour. The ABS could have been doing a lot of other things with the time and personnel it spent on this, as could the politicians, the LGBTQI charities, advocates, and churches who devoted time and resources to the debate.  The process has put added strain on mental health services.  And let’s not forget that it cost $122M in actual money, money that could have been spent on health, or refugees, or medical research, or schools, or, really, anything that would help Australians rather than making everyone miserable.  (I mean, seriously, has *anyone* on either side of this debate enjoyed the last two months?  Other than Tony Abbott, perhaps, and we shouldn’t be encouraging him anyway.).

Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled for my friends who will be able to marry.  I am one Christian baker who absolutely cannot wait to make wedding cakes for the people she loves.  I am glad beyond measure that Australia is finally taking this step forward for equality.

If we get marriage equality, it will be worth it, absolutely.

But we will still have paid too much.

Politics in the People’s Republic of Moreland – the outcome!

The People’s Republic of Moreland has elected its first ever Socialist!

I’m rather proud that she was in my crazy, crazy Ward (actually, I helped vote her in, on the grounds that she is the first sane socialist I’ve seen in ages and this should be encouraged.  I didn’t expect it to work).  I suspect she benefited mightily from the donkey vote, as I’ve never seen a member of the Socialist Alliance poll 10% before (or more than about 4%, if that).

We also got a Green, a Liberal (an animal rarely seen in Moreland) and an ALP member (usually we get three… their strategy of putting 9 different ALP members on the ticket and then all snarling at each other in public forums didn’t work so well for them).

Of course, if Informal had been allowed onto the Council, he or she would probably have one, as the informal vote was 16%, more than any individual candidate managed to poll on first preferences.  I think people lost count or lost interest.

On the bright side, we didn’t get the really crazy woman with the evil emails and name-stealing or any of that.  On the less bright side, we didn’t get Mo, the standup comedian, who would surely have been the perfect addition to this council…

According to the electoral commission, we were a particularly complicated electorate to count.  Who would have thought?

I do wonder what brought this on, though.  Local politics is usually much more sedate and boring than this.

Politics: Victoria says no, thank you…

Apparently the people of Victoria have spoken, and they have said “We can’t tell the major parties apart. Also, it’s raining, so you can’t expect us to bother voting.”

How on earth can voter turnout be an election issue in a country where voting is compulsory?

I am completely boggled by this.

Anyway, it looks like we won’t know the result until Monday or later. Which sounds strangely familiar, only this time we don’t even have any independents or Greens or unaffiliated Nationals to make it more interesting. It will just be boring major parties all the way…

Politics: Liveblogging Decision Day

10:04 am

You heard it first here…

On our intranet as of five minutes ago:

Due to events happening in Canberra today, Their Excellencies, the Governor-General and Mr Bryce have had to cancel their visit to [my workplace] this afternoon. We will inform you when a new date has been confirmed.

Looks like someone will be visiting Ms Bryce and asking permission to form government.

That, or she’s about to sack the whole lot of them…

1:43 pm

Katter has declared for the Libs.

Oakshotte and Windsor are holding a press conference at 3pm.


2:47 pm

Still no government.

My favourite article so far today is the one that is speculating rampantly on the basis of scrawled notes photographed on Oakshotte’s manila folder earlier this afternoon.

Every time I go to anyone else’s office, they are busy reloading one of the news websites. There is absolutely no work being done in our lab this afternoon. Everyone is busily speculating on government. And then calling in to me every few minutes to ask if we have a prime minister yet…

So far, we don’t.

3:24 pm

I think I speak for all Australians here when I say, “Oh, get ON with it!”

3:33 pm

ALP!  Thank heavens for that.

3:41 pm

Oh dear.  Windsor probably should *not* have just said that they backed Labor because they thought Liberal was more likely to go back to the polls fast… because he thought that the Liberal Party would have a better chance of winning.

This is not necessarily the way to convince the part of the country which voted Liberal that you are being impartial and working in the country’s interests, not your own.

On the other hand, I did like Oakeshotte’s remark about nobody having a mandate and that Parliament ought to have a ‘swear jar’ that people would need to put money into if they used the word.

And now I *swear* I’ll stop posting about the election every half hour.

Politics: Federal Election – Hung Parliament and its Discontents

You know, I think at this point in time, Australians are in fact quite unanimous on the subject of the election. We want it to be over.

On twitter, it appears that Old Spice Guy has something to say to us:

RT @oldspice Hello Australia. Look at your Parliament, now back at me. Sadly, it isn’t me, but it is hung like me. #ausvotes

(this is definitely the funniest thing I’ve read all weekend)

In other news, it would appear that Tony Crook, the appealingly-named Nationals candidate for O’Connor, has told the world that he was planning to act as an independent if he beat Wilson Tuckey, and will not join the Coalition (expect a post about him later). Indeed, I gather the WA Nationals generally are talking as though they plan to secede from the Coalition. Except that they probably will vote with the Coalition anyway, because they are anti-mining tax.

What this election clearly needs is for people to start crossing the floor. Nobody’s done that in ages, and it’s the one thing missing from this hung parliament madness. Turnbull for Labor, that’s what we need!

… I sense a double-dissolution election in the next year or so. And I don’t like either Abbott’s *or* Gillard’s chances of survival unless one of them manages to pull off something spectacular.

And I did love Sarah Hanson-Young’s big happy smile on election night. Everyone else was looking grim, but you could see from her face that she was thinking “We got a seat! In the House of Representatives! And the balance of power in the Senate! Hung parliament my foot – the Greens won this election!!” The one bright spot in the whole evening, really.

On a more serious note, I do hope the Greens can learn very quickly how to be productive in the Senate and the House of Reps. If we go to a double dissolution, I fear that a lot of people will return to the major parties just for the sake of a result.

Edited to add: Tracking votes through my Electorate and then my booth on the AEC website, I’ve found my Senate vote! It’s very exciting. I can tell it’s mine, because I’m apparently the only person in my booth to vote for that particular candidate, and one of five in my entire electorate. I wonder who the other four people were…?  Actually, I have a pretty good idea about two of them.

(they don’t seem to have got as far as preferencing it yet, however. I can see, looking at the preferences, that my little below-the-line vote is going to be keeping the counters quite busy before it finally comes to rest in its Green home)

Politics: Hung Parliament and Rob Oakeshott

Rob Oakeshott has been the member for Lyne, a coastal electorate in northern New South Wales that borders Windsor’s electorate of New England, since 2008. He’s the youngest of the three conservative independents, at age 40, and the only one with a blog (I think I like politicians who blog). He started his political life at the NSW State level in 1992, as the National Party member for Port Macquarie, and left the party in 1998. This seems to have been partly because he was pro-republic and partly because he felt that property developers were having too much of an influence on the party. He describes himself as economically conservative and socially progressive, which is promising.

Reading his website, I rather like the sound of him.

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Politics: Hung Parliament and Adam Bandt

Let’s now have a look at Adam Bandt, the new MP representing the seat of Melbourne (ie, the inner city and surrounds). Adam Bandt is the second Green ever to be elected to the House of Representatives (Michael Organ of Cunningham, NSW, was the first, back in 2002), and to say the Greens are pretty excited about this is to put it mildly (the Greens also still have a small chance of getting a seat in Grayndler, but I can’t make the AEC website cough up the numbers for me yet). In the past, Melbourne has always been a safe Labor seat.

I wrote about the Greens’ policies previously, however it’s worth being aware that, once pre-selected, Green candidates are pretty much allowed to vote their conscience. This is reflective of Green membership and voters alike incidentally; whenever I scrutineer, I can’t help noticing that the overwhelming majority of below-the-line votes in the Senate have a Greens candidate at number 1, and I don’t even know why we bother telling people how to vote, because unlike Labor and Liberal (where you know after about two minutes of scrutineering exactly what was on their HTV cards because virtually everyone follows them), Greens preferences tend to go everywhere. The vast majority go to Labor before Liberal, but when it comes to the small parties, everyone makes up their own mind, and there is no obvious pattern to the ballot papers. I like to think that this shows that Greens supporters are thinking people. A less kind, but perhaps equally accurate description, might be that they are an entire party of loose cannons.

Still, looking at what Bandt says on his website, I suspect Bandt’s conscience isn’t going to give me any problems in terms of what he votes for. Here’s a bit from his front page:

I live and work in Melbourne. As a barrister and former partner in a major national law firm, I’ve dedicated years to public interest campaigning and workplace rights, fighting the exploitation of sweatshop labour and increasing the wages of our lowest paid workers.

I will be a stronger representative for Melbourne than a Labor politician forced to toe the factional or party line.

My priorities for Melbourne will kickstart a 21st-century clean energy boom and help accelerate Australia’s transition to a world-leading sustainable economy. I will advocate for Melbourne residents’ real values on issues like refugees, health, water & public transport.

Incidentally, I’m tickled to note that Bandt, like many of the Greens, has an official blog. I don’t think any of the other parties have been getting into the blog scene, and it’s very reflective of the Green demographic. I should also note that in searching google for Adam Bandt I found a variety of virulently anti-Greens sites, claiming that Bandt is a hypocrite who thinks it’s ‘legitimate to steal if you had no money’ (the quotes from him do not support this statement), and that the Greens’ policies will lead to children dying of cancer. The Greens in general and Adam Bandt in particular are clearly inspiring some very strong emotions both for and against them.

Adam Bandt, formerly of Slater and Gordon and a man with very strong ties with the unions (and was in fact backed by the Electrical Trades Union to the tune of $350,000 – an unprecedented amount in the world of Greens political funding), has already stated that he will back Labor. This isn’t yet enough to give Labor a majority, and will probably take him out of conversations with the independents. I think I’ll give Green’s member and political commentator Robyn Eckersley the final word on this:

“The Greens need to think very seriously about what it is that’s fundamental that they really have to stand firm on…politics necessarily involves comprise but it can’t involve comprising the really important things, and we’ve seen that Labor’s done that and they’ve been punished severely.”

I really hope they can do so.