Friday, November 23, 2007

Balancing the senate

It's a bit late to be talking about how we could vote tomorrow, but I think this is important so I'll write it anyway. I don't want to be politically partisan here. All I want to do is talk about how you COULD vote in the upper house.

As we know, the senate is currently unbalanced. The Liberal party has enough senators (38 out of 76) to block any bill they desire. This is downright dangerous if the Liberals win the lower house and a serious annoyance that could cause a double dissolution if Labor is elected to the lower house. The senate is meant to be a house of review not a rubber stamp. The most harmonious and sensible state for the senate to be in is to have at least 2 independents or minor party senators who hold the balance of power, and hopefully who are distributed equally between the left and right hand sides of the house.

Given the current right-wing bias of the senate, even Liberal voters should seriously consider an alternative to the Liberal party or something even further right – perhaps something centrist like the Democrats.

So here's a summary of the most common South Australian above-the-line votes that are likely to occur and what they'd mean. ABC election analyst Antony Green has a Senate Calculator to help predict the likely senate outcomes in each state, which is well worth checking out.

Liberal party
Antony Green estimates the Liberal primary vote at 47% in SA, which would likely see three Liberal and two Labor senators elected with the remaining place being fought between the Greens, Nick Xenophon and Family First. That will do absolutely nothing to help balance the senate.

Labor party
At the very least you'd help restore some balance.

Colin Endian (CCC)Climate Change Coalition (CCC)
This just happens to be my favourite choice. Their published preferences[source: pp. 24-25] are in almost exactly the order I would choose, except that they listed Senator Online after the Labor party, effectively excluding them. Because it's a minor party, The most likely outcome if CCC fails to pick up enough votes or preferences to get a place, is that the vote would be transferred to the Greens, Democrats or Labor, in that order.

Joel Clark (SOL)Senator Online (SOL)
I've already written about this already, because it's a fascinating possibility. A SOL senator doesn't offer any promise to balance the senate, but it does offer the prospect of the lower house having to carefully plan their bills to suit the majority view, not just the senators. It would likely strengthen the senate as a house of review.

If SOL fails to get enough votes to fill a senate spot, their registered preferences are likely to make your vote end up electing either the third Labor senator on the Labor ticket (most likely) or the first Greens senator on the Greens ticket (second most likely). See their preferences[source: pp. 28-29] and if you don't like them in that order you can always vote below the line...

Nick Xenophon (IND)Xenophon
Independent Nick Xenophon is hoping to reproduce his state government senate result in the federal senate. I'd recommend voting for him below the line or not at all unless you fancy having a Family First senator, because that's precisely where his preferences flow.[source: pp. 40-44] In the state election Nick had enough primary votes left over to elect the second person on his ticket. That's unlikely to happen at the federal level and his leftover primary votes will most likely end up with the Family First or the Greens, in that order.

Sarah Hanson-Young (GRN)Greens
Like the Climate Change Coalition, a Greens senator will be good news for the environment but also simply a less rightwing option and an ideal party to hold the balance of power. If the Greens miss out on a senate place their votes will be transferred to most likely result in a CCC, Democrat, SOL or Labor senator in that order.[source: pp. 12-13]

Ruth Russell (DEM)Democrats
The Democrats are similarly a less rightwing option and an ideal party to hold the balance of power. If the Democrats miss out on a senate place their votes will be transferred to most likely result in a CCC, SOL, Greens or Liberal senator in that order.[source: pp. 32-33]

Happy ballot-casting!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Buy nothing on election day!

Clive Hamilton, author of 'Growth Fetish' On Growth Fetish and Buy Nothing Day

This Saturday, apart from being election day, is Buy Nothing Day (BND). It's on the 23rd in the Americas, but the 24th elsewhere. Anyway, I will participate and encourage you to do so too, or even just think about what you're buying and the resources consumed to produce that product if you really must buy. NOT because I think a world without buying is realistic, but because a day without it IS. And a lifestyle with less buying in general (and even lower salaries) almost certainly IS.

Making change is all about raising consciousness and I see BND as a great way to do that.

And, by the way, try not to buy into any of pomposity and lies that will no doubt be spewed from the mouths of politicians that day either!

A bit over a year ago I was reading a book called Growth Fetish by Aussie mathematician/public thinker, Clive Hamilton. Frankly, the effect it had on me still hasn't worn off! I highly recommend it, but unfortunately it's a hard slog if you're used to lighter reading.

The essential idea is that we, probably internationally, but certainly in Australia, fetishise a economic growth (and other kinds of growth) at the expense of our own wellbeing, not to mention the environment. Hamilton also offers approaches to economic and political practices, both at the state and individual level, to counteract our various growth fetishes and so regain balance, personal wellbeing and the integrity of the environment. (Read the Wikipedia article for a more scholarly summary).

While we probably don't need to read Growth Fetish to understand such well-worn truths as "money can't buy happiness" and "over-consumption doesn't increase satisfaction", it is particularly clearly put by Hamilton, and in a calm, unpretentious and empirical fashion.

The main idea that really stuck with me (but perhaps not the most critical one) was the personal application – that avoiding buying too much stuff is good for our sense of wellbeing. AND that the opposite is true. I'm not sure I am capable of applying the logic of this idea particularly well in day to day life, although I did find that you can learn to recognise the feeling of regret/disappointment on considering exiting a shopping precinct without having bought anything, acknowledge it, and gently push it out of your mind. If you have realised that I am in fact female you may not believe this, but you will believe me when I say I made up for it with expensive impulse purchases on other occasions!

The perfect YouTube accompaniment to this post just popped up on my radar (via Gam)

What about the more broadscale application of Hamilton's ideas? I'm in favour of capitalism – with careful regulation. And I'm in favour, at the individual level, of consumption – at a moderate and fully-conscious level, and according respect to our planet's delicate ecosystem. The problem Hamilton brings up is the totally unrestrained, even unconscious, overconsumption and capitulation to the pressure to earn incomes higher than what we need that fund this overconsumption. Naturally I'm also against the various deleterious effects that the consumption of resources for the production of goods and produce has on the environment too.

The study of marketing has put many dollars and massive human resources into devising ways to manipulate human nature to encourage us not only to spend more money but to earn more so we can spend more. Surprise, surprise, this is not actually good for us. Hamilton's rather radical answer was to put an end to marketing as we know it. I am highly skeptical, but how about this alternative? I like to imagine that an equal amount of brainpower and dollars as is now put into researching human behaviour for marketing purposes could one day be put into understanding human behaviour for the purpose of "transitioning to a post-growth society" as Hamilton would put it. For instance, imagine having a body of knowledge that explains with science rather than proverbs how it is that people gain happiness and contentment from moderation. Actually, a great deal of knowledge could simply be derived from observing tenets of marketing and experimenting with reversing these...

I'm not alone in thinking we are at a critical point in time with regard our natural environment and ecosystem. It seems that unrestrained capitalism (or a belief that economic growth is a necessity) must inevitably lead to over-consumption of natural resources and a majority of unhappy people. So why would we support it?

As usual, I welcome your thoughts.

A post on the upcoming election to come very soon because I see it as very much related. The Liberal party slogan for this election is "Going for growth" – obscene wouldn't you say?

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