Monday, September 23, 2013

By The Numbers 38/52

The general mood at the moment is FML. No individual issue is too bad or annoying, but the cumulative weight is getting to me.

Net Cash: -$40.59
Less income, higher transport costs.
Jobs applied for: 0

Net Calories: too many
forgot to keep track for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and well aware that I ate too much on those days (especially Sunday where I was just constantly hungry. Many a museli bar was eaten that day)
 Fitocracy points: 0
With one leg out of action, whatever momentum in doing exercise I'd built up has gone away
Weight: 93 kg
Fortunately this hasn't gone up yet with my inactivity. Let's hope it stays that way.

Books read: 1 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I stand by my assessment from last week while part way through in that it is a pale imitation of Against a Dark Background (set in a solar system with conflict brewing, initiated by the death of family members, a quest that takes the characters to interesting places in said solar system, enigmatic technologies with uncertain motives (on this particular point, the Lazy Gun beats qubes hands down)) with a few specific features that tend to pop up in KSR's work (a focus on politics and a strong belief in individual action on grand scales).
Games played: A handful of games of Magic: The Gathering
Bones painted: 1 following on from the coffin last week, this week is an alter in a similar color scheme. The current work in progress is a treasure chest.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Party Games Aftermath 3: Reflections

The initial idea for what became party games was an in depth comparison of the two major parties, comparing them on a number of policy areas with one post a week on a different area (so one post on the NBN, one on health, one on education, etc). The look at the minor parties was to be a side project. I can't quite recall exactly what changed my mind, but I think it was one of the announcements that the number of parties contesting the election (I recall a blog post by Antony Green with links to all the parties as a starting point).

My initial idea of waiting for responses from the parties before doing the write ups obviously was a non-starter. I was wildly optimistic on how responsive they would be. In fact the recurring theme of the project was a gradual disillusionment, interspersed with occasional positives.

The number of xenophobic right wing parties is worrying. Fortunately they seem less organized than the few on the left and centre. There's also a few that seem to be people who haven't thought through the whole political party thing, and only one of those had the self awareness to admit it (The 23 Million for the record).

The engagement of the parties with the people was a mixed bag. The smaller parties made better use of social media such as twitter, but the majors also had an active, although more one way presence. I won't comment on tv coverage, because my only tv sources were Media Watch, Gruen Nation, and The Hamster Decides. Most of my news on the campaign came from watching #auspol and #ausvotes on twitter. Both hashtags were quite busy.

One last disappointment, it turns out the Google Doodle shown on election day isn't unique. They have two different ones they use that they just swap the flags when they use them for different countries.

About a third of the way in, I started to realize just what I'd got myself into, but even though at times coming close to hating the project I kept slogging through (pre commitment to a full series helped with this). This was partly frustration with the subject matter, and partly time pressures (in the two weeks before the election it took up most of my free time). One thing that kept me going was the feedback from people, which was consistently positive, so thank you to all those who did give feedback. A curiosity was a friend who liked nearly every entry on facebook while taking a position of avoiding the election as much as possible to the point of reviewing a different movie each night. I hope I wasn't his only source of information (I'm pretty sure he would have done his due diligence before voting).

The series represents about 10% of the total all time traffic to my blog.

Will I do this next election? I'm not sure, but the odds are in its favour. I'll still be doing research on all the parties around then, but I don't know if I'll blog it all like this time. If I do I'll probably be a bit more organized about it, making sure I have more time. That also assumes a reasonably full term has passed. If Abbott tries to swing an early double dissolution, I will probably still be too over it to get motivated enough to do a full series.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

By The Numbers 37/52

Net Cash: -$162.58
A trip to the dentist, and a lower than normal pay since I took a fair bit of time off last week (a bit more than a day between going to the hospital for the leg and finishing early each day to have better bus options).
Jobs applied for: 3

Net Calories: -24 Calories
On target, and a lot better than the last few weeks
Fitocracy points: 138
Weight: 93kg

Bike Riding: 0 km
Yeah, crutches and bikes don't mix. I'm really hoping I'm allowed to get back to life when I go to the hospital on Tuesday
Books read: 1
I finished The Art of Thinking Clearly. I'm now reading 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson which makes me feel like I'm reading a less good version of Against A Dark Background by Iain M Banks.
Games Played: 2. Roll Through the Ages and a session of DnD.
Bones painted: 1
I started with something easy to start with, since I was a bit out of practice and was working with a limited set of paints (particularly no flesh tones). I need to tidy up some of the high lights and the inside details aren't finished, but it's turning out ok. I was planning to make it look like stone, but coal black is a lot greener than I thought it would be and so green it is.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Party Games Aftermath 2: Interactions

My initial aim for the Party Games series was to be more in depth than I ended up being. One cause of this was simply underestimating the amount of time it would take. The other major factor was that my initial plan was to send each party an email with questions after reading up on them and incorporating their responses into the write ups. On this I was wildly optimistice. I contacted 41 of the 54 parties by email (after a certain point I gave up on this and just focussed on the write ups) and only received a few responses.

The first to get back to me was the Katter Australia Party, who thanked me for my interest and said if I wanted to know more I should have a look at their website. They apparently missed the part where I said "I've read your policies on your website and have some questions based on that", but it was a response. I did send an email back saying I'd already read the website and wanted to know more, but didn't hear anything back after that. A similar response was received from the Palmer United Party. The Non Custodial Parents Party sent back a brief note with a chunk of text copied from their site, and then when I followed up got told that they were too busy due to the election to be able to answer my questions and that I should have contacted them before the election was announced. The Australians First Nations Party also felt they were too busy to respond as they were focusing on their campaign in the Northern Territory, but did offer to respond after the election. The only party that did respond to my questions was the One Nation Party.

On twitter people were more responsive. When I asked a Senator Online candidate how they planned to engage the elderly and other groups not as active online they said that old people can get online at their local library. I'm not sure this eases my concern that the smart-phone using, politically active demographic they're targeting won't be representative of Australia as a whole. The LDP invited me to join their forums to learn more about their policies, which was a trip down the rabbit hole. The DLP candidate said they weren't a catholic party, and failed to explain how a bank that offers returns less than the rate for government bonds is going to raise funds to lend out. The Future Party QLD candidate was able to pick I was a culture fan from the blog title, and said they were for giving rights to artificial intelligences.

Two parties replied to my posts on the blog, the Australian Secular Party, and Senator Online.

On election day I didn't quiz any of the people handing out flyers like I did at the last state election, but was kind of annoyed at the number of people who tried handing me a flyer while I was getting about on crutches. Particularly bad was an LNP volunteer who after watching me slowly make my way down some stairs and commenting that they don't make it easy to get around then asked if I wanted a flyer. After voting I had the traditional sausage sizzle, and on the way out met up with a friend who was volunteering to help out the Greens candidate.

I've now culled back my twitter feed, and stopped it sending notifications for every tweet from a political party, so my phone is now no longer buzzing hyperactively, and the battery is lasting more than half a day (and that was only becuase I had to turn it off during work).

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Party Games Aftermath 1: The Result

The Coalition won. It wasn't what I was hoping for, but it was the one I was expecting. It wasn't as huge a victory as had been feared, so there is that.

The house of representatives will be dominated by the Coalition. There are a few wild cards in the mix. Katter looks to have held onto his seat, as has Greens candidate Adam Bandt in Melbourne. Clive Palmer is still in the running for Fairfax, and in Indi the independent Cathy McGowan is only slightly behind Liberal Sophie Mirabella.

The senate, while not yet fully decided, looks like it will be a bit more interesting. The greens remain a strong presence, the Palmer United Party may get 2 seats, and there may be a few other parties in the mix, although it will be a while yet before the final results are known. At any rate, it won't be the easiest senate for Abbott to deal with, but does lean more to the right than the left. I suspect some new senators may look to Brian Harradine's example and try to make deals for their votes, and one wonders if Abbott will stand by his promise to make no deals with minor parties, or if pragmatism will lead him to the negotiating table.

I'll do two more posts in the coming week, one reflecting back on the process of blogging all the parties, and one going into the interactions I had with some of the parties during the process.

By The Numbers 36/52

A bit of a meh week all around.

Net Cash: -$566.11
Bike repairs, several taxis due to not being able to use the bike and just not having time to wait around for public transport, and too much buying lunch at work. This does pretty much balance out with my tax return from a few weeks ago.
Jobs Applied for: 3
I got motivated this evening.

Net Calories: 689 Calories
Not enough exercise and eating too much. This may also be a low figure as I'm sure I missed some items during the week.
Fitocracy points: 0
Weight: 92 kg
The adventure of the sore knee continues. After getting the MRI, the report said there may be an undisplaced fracture in my tibia (a bit above where I broke it a few years ago). Since my health insurance won't chip in for a specialist, I was referred to the logan hospital, and they were surprisingly quick in giving me an appointment, and work was really good in giving me the time off to go to the appointment. The specialists there weren't too sure, but want to be careful so gave me some crutches and said not to put my full weight on the leg for two weeks, when I'm to go back and they'll see what has progressed. When I said it may be awkward to carry the crutches while riding to work on the bike, they said I shouldn't do that either. So the 2 hour commute each way continues. I'm hoping in two weeks they'll just say it was a bit of an over reaction and all is fine, but in the mean time I'm finding that the only thing harder than using crutches when you can't use your leg is using crutches when you can use your leg but shouldn't, as it is oh so tempting just to cheat (which I am doing at home, but too make up for it I am being even lazier and sitting down even more (which takes some work)).

Bike riding: 12 km
I cheated and rode the bike home from the repair shop. Now it won't get another run until Tuesday week (hopefully I'll be allowed to walk normally and ride again after then).
Books read: 0
Would be more if I could count policy documents as books.
Games Played: 1. Ticket To Ride: Team Asia (and a record high score of 230, and the margin was 88 points). I missed out an a Magic: The Gathering event due to work. Apparently they were giving away copies of a card I'd really like for my collection as a bonus for attending.
Political Parties reviewed: 14
Finished the Party Games project just in time
Votes cast: 2
Senate and House of Representatives.
Times despaired at the collective decision of Australia: too many to count
Miniatures received: 200+
I got my Reaper Bones kickstarter set this week. Now to get some paint and start making them look good.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Party Games 53&54/54 The Coalition: The Liberal Party of Australia, The National Party & The Liberal National Party

And now I reach the end of the line. Since it's late election eve I'm going to do a combination post, partly to save time and partly because the Nationals haven't made enough of an impact that I've noticed them as a separate entity (the fact that I live in Queensland where they aren't a separate entity may be contributing to that impression).

Led by Tony Abbott, the Coalition have spent last 3 years opposing pretty much everything the government has done, even things that in the past have been their policies (emissions trading scheme anyone?). One cannot deny that they have been successful in their negativity.

But it takes more to govern than just being against what the other side are doing. You need to actually do yourself, and here the Coalition have not covered themselves with glory. Holding back on releasing costings and policy details until less than two days out is not the move of a well prepared party. That the costings just list numbers with no explanation of how they will be achieved or having been checked by the Parliamentary Budget Office that was set up specifically for that purpose again shows a lack of seriousness about the matter.

On policy matters I'm not impressed. Repealing the carbon tax while keeping in place all the compensation measures is not going to save money, and it's not going to help the environment. The alternative direct action plan they've said will have a fixed budget and if it fails to achieve the required impact on emissions (as seems likely) they won't spend the more that is required. They have a planned parental leave scheme that is more generous, but gives more to the rich than the poor, that will be paid for by a "Great Big Tax" of the sort they've opposed, and that the Productivity Commission has said will not be significantly more effective than Labor's plan while costing several billion dollars more. And the whole Buy the Boats plan just puts lie to the idea that these guys understand economics. That and the fact that their "We must cut spending at all costs" budget saves a grand total of $6 billion dollars over 4 years, an amount that on a national budget scale is SFA. Cutting funding from rail and public transport projects to pay for more roads. And I've just realized I haven't got around to their woeful attempt at an NBN using technology that is already out of date and won't provide the level of service in a decade that other countries have now.

I made myself read through the entire 52 pages of their policy book looking for some ideas I could get behind. I do like the Colombo Plan of giving students in Asia scholarships to study in Australia and Australian students scholarships to study abroad. $10 million for surf life saving clubs is also pretty good. That's two small items.

The Coalition is saying we need to embrace austerity to improve our economy, but austerity has led to slow and anemic recovery in the US, the UK, Europe (Greece, Spain, and Ireland especially). Our debt to GDP ratio is the envy of other nations, as is our avoiding a recession during the GFC and AAA credit rating.

Between them the Coalition has candidates for each seat in the house of representatives (in a few cases more than one) and senate candidates for all states and territories.

twitter: @LiberalAus
twitter: @The_Nationals
twitter: @LNPQLD

Friday, September 06, 2013

Party Games 52/54 Australian Labor Party

Ok. We're up to the big leagues here. One of the two contenders to form government following the election. Labour have been in power since they took power outright in 2007, and leading a minority government since the 2010 election. Currently led by Kevin Rudd who has returned to the leadership earlier this year after having been replaced by Julia Gillard. Now for all the problems of internal strife since Kevin was ousted and running a minority government that the opposition has characterised as chaos (and to which they contributed by ignoring certain conventions such as pairing), the last parliament has run for a full term and put through a number of significant pieces of legislation including the carbon tax, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, getting a seat on the UN Security Council, and the Gonski education reforms. Yes there has been infighting, yes there has been bluster, but there has also been governance, which is what we expect of parliament. 

 Looking forward, what is Labor offering. Mostly, the contiuation of what they have already started. The continued roll out of the NBN as a fibre to the premises network. Keeping the carbon tax. A parental leave scheme that gives less per person but gives more to those less well off. This also includes robbing the Peter of tertiary education to pay the Paul of the Gonski reforms, subsidizing car manufacturers, and their continued competition with the Coalition as to who can be tougher on refugees arriving by boat and who can make the dodgiest deals with neighboring nations to take them off our hands (this seems to be a contest Labor is set to lose). 

 Newer policies include finally getting on board with marriage equality, moving a navy base to Queensland somewhere, encouraging the study of Korean as a second language, and building high speed rail by 2035 (the Bullet Train Party wouldn't be impressed). 

Labor have a vision for the future that appeals to me, but they need to show a bit more conviction rather than going for the politically expedient. 

 The ALP has candidates for all electorates for the house of representatives and all states and territories for the senate. 

twitter: @AustralianLabor

Party Games 51/54 Australian Greens

 The Australian Greens aim to be the conscience of parliament. There policies and presentation for this election portray them as acting as the safeguard against both Labor and the Coalition, very much taking up the mantle that the Australian Democrats have let slip from their grasp. They speak of what they have achieved with the balance of power in the senate for the last parliament, and what they plan to do with it going forward.

And it is a pretty good list of policies. Decent treatment of refugees, equal rights and pro gay marriage, a housing policy that includes renters and not just home buyers (as a renter I find it hard to get enthused with policies that simply help home buyers), a passionate protection of the environment (that doesn't mean locking everything up and stopping people from enjoying nature despite what the Outdoor Recreation Party says), more funding for education, research and development, and the arts, more generous welfare payments, better funded health care including bringing dentistry into medicare, better public transport (unlike the Coalitions spending 100% on road based infrastructure plan, the Greens propose 40% on roads, 30% public transport, and 30% rail freight).

Unlike some other parties that have put forward wish lists such as this without working out how to pay for it, the Greens have identified sources of revenue to cover this extra spending. These include a  beefed up mining tax, a 50% tax rate on personal income over $1,000,000 per annum, a bank levy to make the banks that received an effective guarantee from the state on deposits actually pay for what is essentially an insurance policy for them, as well as doing things like taking away subsidies from fossil fuel production and using the money to subsidize renewable energy sources.

I do have some quibbles with the Greens. I don't like their blanket ban on nuclear power, and I'm not sure about lowering the voting age to 16 (age restrictions on these sorts of things are rather arbitrary, so I think legal adulthood is probably the most sensible way to set a cut off). They are also against foreign investment and the Coles-Woolworths duopoly.

There's also an odd stylistic choice throughout their policy documents. When warning of what the major parties may do, they refer to them as Labor and Tony Abbott. This may have been a hedge when preparing the document as Labor's internal politics has been an ongoing issue, while Tony Abbott has the Coalition under a tight rule.

The Australian Greens have candidates for the senate in all states and territories and for all 150 seats in the house of representatives.
twitter: @Greens

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Party Games 50/54 Socialist Equality Party

The Socialist Equality Party is the Australian branch of the International Committee of the Fourth International, which has its origins with Trotsky (of whom most I know is that the Snowball from Animal Farm is based on him), so they at least can claim to be part of something big and long running, even if their patch of it has only been running since 1998. They are very big on mobilizing the working class for the struggles ahead at home and abroad.

Their policies include reducing unemployment by embarking on massive infrastructure projects, a higher minimum wage, universal free health care, free education, nationalization of banks and large corporations, and better treatment of refugees. Like the Socialist Alliance, I feel these are mainly laudable goals, but nationalizing everything is not the way to get there.

The Socialist Equality Party has senate candidates in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and West Australia.


Party Games 49/54 Socialist Alliance

The Socialist Alliance was formed in 2001 as a merger of a number of socialist groups. As the name suggests they advocate socialist policies for Australia.

On social issues I find them to be quite strong. Equal rights for all including gay marriage, better treatment of refugees, more funding for public transport and making it free to use, a strong commitment to the environment, stronger unions and greater worker's rights.

Part of their plan for achieving a lot of this though is to nationalize a lot of industries. Mining, steel production, farming, and more. I'm generally supportive of state run enterprises, but in situations where market failures make it appropriate, such instances of natural monopolies (such as electricity distribution) or where free rider effects and information mismatches prevent an informed market forming (such as healthcare). For the production of pretty generic and standard items such as food and steel, there is no such need. And saying we should nationalize them to reduce carbon emissions, I think having the government set up some ground rules via a carbon tax is a better way to go.

Overall, I like want they want to achieve, but not the methods. This is a step up from most parties where I don't like what they want to achieve or how they want to do it.

Socialist Alliance has senate candidates in New South Wales and seven candidates around Australia for the house of representatives.


Party Games 48/54 Shooters & Fishers Party

The Shooters and Fishers Party are an outdoors activity party, but compared to the Outdoor Recreation Party's focus on activities involving vehicles, they are more focused on guns and rods. The similarities with the Outdoor Recreation Party are numerous. Support for greater access to national parks for all recreational uses, less protection of marine areas, and less restrictions on gun ownership are all there.

They do stand out on their own in a few ways. With their support of the Convention on Biological Diversity they are the first right wing party I've seen that don't view the UN as some sort of boogey man taking away our sovereignty. They do call for a ban on animal liberation based hate campaigning and terrorism (we already have laws against terrorism, making specific laws for the motivation doesn't sit well with me).

On economics matters they are for scrapping the carbon tax and mining tax, they oppose subsidizing renewable energy while cheap fossil fuels exist, and want to see mining keep on expanding.

The Shooters and Fishers Party has senate candidates in all six states and the Northern Territory

twitter: @sfpAustralia

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Party Games 47/54 Rise Up Australia Party

Rise Up Australia is another right wing party checking most of the right wing boxes. Anti-muslim immigration, fear about sharia law, getting rid of unfair taxes on homes and farms, restrictions on foreign ownership, opposition to multiculturalism (while rejoicing that Australia is multi-ethnic, and that people who come here are free to celebrate their own diverse backgrounds (I don't quite get that one)), tariffs to protect local industry, protection of religious freedoms including the freedom to discriminate based on religious beliefs, opposition to gay marriage, opposition to abortion, opposition to the carbon tax and denial of climate change, love of sports, and the setting up of an Australian oil market that will be completely decoupled from the world market in which oil producers will sell oil for below the world market price rather selling on the world market and making more money.

I've seen it all before, and it again fails to inspire.

Rise Up Australia is running senate candidates in all six states and both territories.

twitter: @RiseUpAus

Party Games 46/54 The Secular Party of Australia

The Secular Party of Australia are for a strong separation of church and state. The main areas they see this not happening at the moment are education, healthcare, equal rights issues, and taxation.

In education, they propose removing all religious teaching from public schools, replacing it with comparative religious studies and ethics classes. They are also for reduced funding to religious schools where funding from other sources for the school (fees, endowments, etc) are greater than the standard level of funding per student, with the reduction in government funding be spent on public schooling instead.

On healthcare they want restrictions on complementary and alternative medicines, greater reproductive health access for women including abortion, are pro-euthanasia, and no religious based restrictions on medical research.

They are strong on civil liberties wanting a bill of rights, strong anti-discrimination laws, are pro gay marriage, oppose internet censorship. I feel they fall a bit short on their proposed copyright reform where they simply want to bring copyright back to until death + 50 years from the current until death + 70 years.

Other issues include replacing parliamentary prayer with a non-religious oath followed by a minute silence, are for a republic, while opposing blanket bans on clothing items such as a burqa support requiring the removal of face covering clothing where there are specific safety or identification requirements (similar to how many places require you to remove a motorcycle helmet before entry), and support the carbon tax and investment in renewable energy.

The Secular Party of Australia have senate candidates in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and West Australia.

twitter: @secularparty

Party Games 45/54 The Wikileaks Party

Most people should have heard of Julian Assange and the whole Wikileaks thing. They've had a fair amount of press over the last few years. And now they say they want to keep government honest from the inside. This is a different challenge and will require a different approach. While running on a platform of transparency in government, Wikileaks has a history of being a secretive organization and incidents like the preference kerfuffle show that they still tend to run things with a tight knit central core of people. Then of course there is also the whole issue of how will Julian Assange get back to Australia if elected.

So, on to the policies. First up are whistleblower protection and requiring warrants for any law enforcement or security agency to get access to somebody's records from phone or internet services. On media issues they oppose privatization of the ABC and SBS, want to make donations to non-profit news organizations tax deductible, and set up an Australian Content Fund, which would distribute payments to the authors of the most nominated 100,000 works, including journalism, blogs, reference works, music, videos, and more. This payment would be capped at twice the medium wage (I assume they mean median) and would be funded out of the defense budget (because encouraging popular Australian content makes the world care about Australia, making us less likely to be attacked (their chain of logic, not mine)).

Their refugee policy looks pretty good. Rapid processing in Australia, allowing media and NGO's access to people in detention centres, and greater independence for the Refugee Review Tribunal. Climate change also looks good, sticking with the carbon tax but wanting greater transparency in how permits are allocated to industry.

What they have is pretty positive. I have concerns about what their policies may be on other matters, especially given how they've given preferences out (but then I may just be naively idealistic in thinking preferences should be given to those parties whom you agree with, not out of pure tactical considerations), along with recent comments from Assange about admiring US right wing libertarian types.

The Wikileaks Party has senate candidates in Victoria, New South Wales, and West Australia.

twitter: @WikiLeaksParty

Party Games 44/54 Uniting Australia Party

The Uniting Australia Party, apart from needing a new web developer (who only lists a postal address on a web site for crying out loud), have a short 10 point plan of policies. The things they want include no selling farmland to foreigners, less generous benefits for politicians out of office, harsher penalties for crime, less red tape, more generous welfare payments, better use of foreign aid, supporting gas power stations and cutting the carbon tax, and stopping the boats.

I'd go into more detail, but they haven't so I don't see much point in me doing so. And they really do need a proper web guy. I could have knocked out something better looking with vi.


Party Games 43/54 Stop Coal Seam Gas Party

I back the Stop Coal Seam Gas Party for one major reason. If people are talking about frakking, it should involve Battlestar Galactica, not pumping water into the ground to get out natural gas. BSG is just more fun all round.

But the Stop Coal Seam Gas Party don't see it quite my way. They're more concerned with the environmental impact of this process, such as polluting local water supplies. This is a much more serious and reasonable point of opposition.

That said, they take the precautionary principle too far. They want to completely ban coal seam gas, and have as a guideline no industrial or business activity should be allowed or facilitated which can be proven to be injurious to human health. This does paint rather a broader brush than I think they intend. Driving is proven to be injurious to human health. Rock climbing, bungee jumping, sky diving, and many, many more things that we allow can be injurious to human health.

The big difference is that many of those things can only impact on the person doing so, and where they may affect someone else, we do place limits on the activity (requiring a drivers license). The Stop CSG team are a bit too quick to outright ban it. They say that before a technology is implemented it must be proven to be absolutely safe, and until so any development using it should be prevented. But this creates a catch 22 situation where it can't be proven to be safe until it's actually put into practice somewhere. There needs to be some flexibility to trial things where the impacts if problems arise won't be as severe and that plans to deal with something going wrong are put in place. Just saying no won't work.

That said, Coal Seam Gas is probably still in this "let's make sure it works as we think it does" stage and should be under scrutiny.

The Stop Coal Seam Gas Party has senate candidates in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.

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Party Games 42/54 The Republican Party of Australia

The Republican Party of Australia is a single issue party, and do feel the need to make clear that they are not associated in any way with the Republican Party in the US (not that I can blame them for this). Their single issue is the transformation of Australia from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. I couldn't see a preferred form of republic (Governor General directly elected, elected by parliament, or President with executive powers directly elected) but I think they're a bit more focused on the principle than the specifics at this stage.

Other changes that they want to see are a Charter of Rights, a review of the current three tiers of government with an aim at reducing this to two, multi-member electorates (although 75 10 member electorates might be a bit too much), a land tax, clearly defined boundaries between church and state, scrapping the carbon tax, and zero net migration. A bit of a mixed bag there.

The Republican Party of Australia have candidates for the senate in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria.


Monday, September 02, 2013

Party Games 41/54 Australian Independents

The Australian Independents use the name Independents despite being a party because they believe the primary task of a represenative is to represent the will of their electorates rather than their personal or party beliefs. This does raise the interesting question of what exactly do you want to achieve when you elect someone; are you selecting the person who is closest to your beliefs, the person who will best represent your beliefs (but who may not share those beliefs), someone who will do what is best for your electorate (but may not be what you believe), or someone who will do what is best for the nation (that may or may not be what you believe or what is best for your your electorate), and of course trying to work out how much what you believe aligns with what is best for the electorate or nation. I would tend to go with somewhere between the last with a big enough dose of arrogance to think my beliefs would be strongly aligned with what is best.

Despite this emphasise on representing the views of their electorates, the Australian Independents do have a set of policies they stand for. On the spending side of the balance sheet they are for greater provision of health care, greater funding for education including making university free, more public transport, high speed rail, more childcare, a more generous NDIS, and more support for the arts. On the tax side they are for lower income and company tax rates. They also plan to have a balanced budget. 

They have a strong target for reducing greenhouse gas emmisions, and a generous refugee policy. They want to ban all political advertising during election campaigns, limiting everyone to a few pages in a booklet containing every parties statements distributed by the AEC. I'm not quite sure how they feel this meets their commitment to respect basic human rights such as freedom of speech. They also want to ban all donations to political parties by unions and corporations. 

The Australian Independents are running senate candidates in all states and territories, and one house of representatives candidate in each of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria 

twitter: @independents1 

By the Numbers 35/52

Amongst all the political spam I'm putting you through, I should keep up with logging my performance for the week.

It's not been the best week. With my bike broken down I've been catching a 5:40am bus to get to work and getting home around 5:30pm. This hasn't left me much energy for other pursuits.

Net cash: -$0.51
Pretty close to balanced overall. The fact that this doesn't include any grocery shopping has been offset by higher transport costs.
Jobs applied for: 0

Net Calories: ?
I forgot to keep records for most of the week. There was a fair bit of snacking so it wouldn't have been good.
Fitocracy points: 0
Weight: I'll check when I get home this evening.

Bike riding: 0km 
Broken bikes don't go very far
Books read: 0
Games played: 8. Hawaii, Vikings, 6x Magic: The Gathering
Political parties reviewed: 40
This project is taking a lot more work than I predicted, but I should get it all done by Saturday, but not to the quality I initially intended. Plus, I occasionally need to take a break to calm down.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Party Games 40/54 Austalian Motoring Enthusisast Party

The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party likes cars. That's about it. They like driving cars, they modifying cars, they like going off road with cars.

On a practical point they do want better training for new drivers, and more consistency between states in the field of motor vehicle laws.

They have candidates for the senate in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and West Australia. They have explained their preferences as tactical dealings with similar minor parties first, then an even split between Labor and the Coalition, with the Greens after that and then extremist parties last (although I seem to consider more parties extremist than they do).

twitter: @Vote1AMEP

Party Games 39/54 The 23 Million

The 23 Million are a group who are not about governing but are instead promoting a full review of our system of government. They want this to be carried out by a group of 150 randomly selected citizens, which is where they start to lose me.

They also want to use random selection to pick their candidates. For each state they would pick two groups of people, the first being potential candidates and the second choosing from among the first.

I do like the idea of a review of the system of government, but I'd like to see it institutionalised, rather than being a once off thing. Every 50 or 100 years, we could all sit down and say this bit of the constitution worked, this bit didn't, this bit doesn't really make sense anymore since it doesn't take a month to get from Perth to Canberra anymore, do we want to adjust which powers go to the federal government and which go to the states, do we want to add a bill of rights. Give it a big build up and really work to get people engaged.

The 23 Million aren't running any candidates this election as organizing everything took a bit more work than they expected. Maybe 2016

twitter: @the23million

Party Games 38/54 Senator Online

Senator Online is a new concept in party. They have no actual policies, instead saying that any elected senators will vote based on the result of an online poll. Part of the reason for this is that they feel the majority view has been left out of politics by too many minority voices.

So with no official policies other than putting everything up to the whim of people on the internet, it's a bit hard to judge them. They have some celebrity names for the senate in NSW (Tim Ferguson, Tony Barry, and Don McKinnon), but for the rest of Australia the candidates are more regular everyday types.

Senator Online has candidates for the senate in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria.

twitter: @senatoronline

Party Games 37/54 Pirate Party Australia

Inspired by the Pirate Party in Europe, Pirate Party Australia is for copyright reform, strong civil rights, and transparent government. This last they put into practice within their own party, having publicly released information on their policy development and preference deals for this election.

In addition to copyright reform, they also advocate for intellectual property reform in general including patent reform. To improve transparency in government they want stronger freedom of information laws, greater whistleblower protection, and fixed terms for parliament.

They are strong defenders of civil rights, opposing censorship, promoting privacy in the real world and online, opposing data retention of users activities without a warrant, and they want to have a bill of rights added to our constitution.

Their asylum seeker policy is one of the few I've seen who recognize that any solution is going to be an international one that requires us to cooperate with neighboring nations rather than just paying them to take on our burdens. I do have concerns about tying foreign aid to the process (less so if we offer more aid rather than putting new conditions on existing aid).

They want to increase the use of renewable energy, have good environmental policies (finally a party that says they care about the scientific consensus who doesn't then go on to disregard the scientific consensus).

 I think I have a new favorite party (sorry Future Party and Bullet Train Australia).

The Pirate Party Australia has senate candidates for Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Victoria. 

twitter: @piratepartyau

Party Games 36/54 Palmer United Party

Clive Palmer is a businessman who made his fortune in the mining industry. Now he feels it is time for a new job and wants to be Prime Minister. To achieve this he's formed a new party named after himself the Palmer United Party, although on their website they claim continuity with the United Australia Party even though that party was dissolved in 1945 and it's leaders formed the current Liberal Party of Australia. There are five main policy issues they want to address.

1) abolish the carbon tax and give refunds. They say these will go to Australians, but since the tax is actually paid by business this would either be a refund to the businesses or some sort of general payment to citizens. Either way, the money will have to come from somewhere.

2) restrictions on lobbyists. Although, unless he sells off all of his business interests, having a Prime Minister who owns a lot of companies would be the mother of all conflicts of interest.

3) guaranteeing that at least 25% of tax revenues go back to the region it comes from. I'm generally wary of policies based on round numbers and they really should define what they consider a region to be.

4) get rid of the mining tax and encourage manufacturing so that we expect value added manufactured goods rather than raw materials. The latter is good if done the right way.

5) the refugee policy is to encourage asylum seekers to come to Australia by plane and set up processing centres at the major airports, putting people smugglers out of business by undercutting them. This does of course rely on asylum seekers having a passport already, and the idea of immediately sending people who get rejected back to their country of origin seems problematic.

Palmer United Party is running candidates in all states and territories and all 150 electorates for the house of representatives, although the candidate for the Victorian seat of Corangamite has been disendorsed for setting up an election night party with adult entertainment as a volunteer recruitment idea.

twitter: @PalmerUtdParty

Party Games 35/54 Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop the Greens)

The Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens) are a group of nature enthusiasts who enjoying getting in touch with nature by driving around it in their 4WDs. They are against rules banning vehicles from national parks as representative of too much government regulation in general.

In addition to letting 4WDs into national park they want to permit access by foot, horse, bicycle, car, boat and aircraft, because so many national parks have landing strips handy. They also want to be allowed to hunt in national parks, and getting rid of all protected marine reserves.

They have a motorbike policy that appeals to me. No tolls for bikes (although I'm happy with the existing lower tolls I pay), more motorcycle parking, and equivalent safety priority of cars are all good. Lane splitting I'm mixed on. On driving in general they want higher speed limits and no "anti-hoon" laws.

On other issues they are small l liberals, being for lower taxes, less government regulation, introducing recall elections, and sunset clauses on legislation.

On the Greens they feel that the Greens are too extreme in protecting the environment by preventing people using them in any way, whereas the Outdoor Recreation Party want to get out and enjoy nature. They're somewhat making a strawman out of the Greens here, and I'm not convinced that allowing unrestricted access for vehicles in national parks won't have a negative impact over time.

The Outdoor Recreation Party are running candidates for the senate in all six states.

twitter: @outdoorrecparty

Party Game 34/54 One Nation

One Nation and it's founder Pauline Hanson have quite a bit of notoriety, having coming in from the extreme right back in the Howard days and since then have had their ups and downs. They had a bit of success at their first state election in QLD, but not much since then. This year Pauline Hanson is running for the senate in NSW.

Policy wise they are nationalistic, protectionist, and jingoistic. They want tariffs on imports, restrictions on immigration, a hard line on refugees, having everyone be fingerprinted to verify you're entitled to government benefits like medicare, restrictions on foreign investment,  subsidies for Australian car makers, and for the carbon tax to be scrapped.

There are a few things in their policies I do like. Greater financial support for university students is one. Their pro-euthanasia stance is the other.

One Nation are also a stand out for another reason. Of all the parties I have sent an email to with questions about their policies, they are the only party to have responded.

One Nation has senate candidates in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and West Australia.

twitter: @HansonSenateNSW

Party Games 33/54 Non Custodial Parents (Equal Parenting) Party

The Non Custodial Parents (Equal Parenting) Party is mainly focused on issues regard the care of children in families where the parents have split up. Their position is that in such cases parenting should be split evenly with both parents spending equal time with the child unless there is a justifiable cause to do otherwise.

When they get into the specifics there's one part that does raise some questions. Part of their plan is changing the rules to the courts from regarding the interests of the child as paramount to the interests of the child being primary along with the rights of the parents as individuals. The question I have is which rights of a parent would come before the best interest of the child?

Some of their other policies seem to be viewed through a rather narrow prism. Their health policy is to improve care for men, they want tax benefits for parents to be split equally, property and super held before a marriage staying with the original owner, and reforms of the child support laws.

Non family issues include a rejection of wind and solar power because connecting them to the grid is to tough, better public transport. They are also pro same sex marriage. 

The Non Custodial Parents (Equal Parenting) Party have two candidates for the senate in NSW and three candidates for the house of representatives. They also need a lesson in web design.


Party Games 32/54 The No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party

There's not much to say about the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party except to say I have little tolerance for people who say they just want to see what the science says while ignoring the science on the issue they name their party about.

Other things they care about are minor parties getting public funding commensurate to the major parties and publicly funded air time on tv and radio, citizen initiated referendums, greater affordability of homes without popping the real estate bubble (good luck with that one), and are for the NBN.

They have senate candidates in all six states.


Party Games 31/54 Nick Xenophon Group

Even though it sounds like a one man band, the Nick Xenophon Group is on the AEC's list of registered parties, so they get a look in.

Started by Nick Xenophon in South Australia, they focus on a few specific issues. The main issue for the group is pokie machines, which they don't like. And when you consider Aussies lose $19 billion to the pokies each year, it's not hard to see why (I mainly oppose them because they're boring and involve no skill and so don't really see the appeal beyond ooh pretty lights).

They are for stricter labeling of imports, support a more expensive version of the coalition's direct action plan on climate change and the repeal of the carbon tax, and their concern over the fact that Woolworths, Colesand Aldi have a combined 80% of the market share for grocery stores while only employing 43% of people in the industry makes me wonder if they've never heard of this thing called efficiencies of scale.

The Nick Xenophon Group are running 2 senate candidates in South Australia.

twitter: @Nick_Xenophon

Party Games 30/54 Liberal Democratic Party

The Liberal Democratic Party is a strongly libertarian party. They seek a limited role for government to play in society, preferring the free market for all things. This leads to an interesting mix of policy positions.

They are want to privatize nearly all government services (public transport, schools, the ABC and SBS, Australia Post), and limit regulations on business. They do have a novel idea on how to do some of the privatizations. Restructure the asset as a business, determine a number of shares to be created, and give each Australian an equal number of shares to do with as they like (although it would suck for someone born the day after the share give away).

Their defense plans are different. They want to reduce the standing army while beefing up participation in the army reserves, keeping the standing army mainly as an officer corps and specialists troops. Presumably much of the Navy and Airforce would be in this permanent section (fighter pilot for example, being a rather specialist skill). They would also create an expeditionary corps made up primarily of foreign citizens with a small number of Australian citizens as officers. This would be funded by hiring it out to the UN and friendly nations for peace keeping activities.

They do have some good ideas. They are pro gay marriage, for free trade, and encourage motorcycle use (but don't think helmets should be mandatory).

In terms of budget, they want not only a balanced budget, but a government with zero net assets. The first I can get behind, the second just seems ridiculous. Even if you want a limited role for government, would it not make more sense for it to have assets (say owning a building rather than renting) than have to balance out that asset with equivalent debt on which interest must be paid. So keep the net assets low, but zero seems a bad number to aim for.

The thing is, I think the government has a bigger role to play and can do more good than leaving everything to the market (natural monopolies being a big example), and that it can be appropriate for society to say we as a whole want to do this and that government is the way we want to do this.

The Liberal Democratic Party is running candidates for the senate in all six states.

twitter: @auslibdems

Party Games 29/54 Katter Australia Party

Bob Katter is a character. Well known for his big hats and red neck tendencies. A former member of the National party who went independent a while back. He was the only independent during the last parliament who sided with the Coalition rather than Labor, which I can't really say I would have expected otherwise. And now he's got his own party, the Katter Australia Party (KAP).

Based on my knowledge of Katter, I was expecting to find a lot to disagree with, but this has turned out not to be the case. The KAP is accepts climate change and supports more investment in renewable energy sources (nothing about the carbon tax though for or against), is for the government owning and managing public infrastructure assets, and improving education.

On the other hand, the Katter party is for manipulating the value of the Aussie dollar (they want it to be lower so exporters get a better deal), is very socially conservative (stating that Australia is a Christian nation and opposing gay marriage), and wants to impose tariffs on imports.

They also get a bit of credit for being one of the parties to respond to me emailing them some questions, but lose some of that for the response simply being "hey, why don't you read our website."

The Katter Australia Party has senate candidates in all six states plus the ACT, plus house of representatives candidates all around Australia.


twitter: @AusParty

Party Games 28/54 Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP)

The Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) party is another member of the group of parties focusing on drug legalization. Unlike Drug Law Reform Australia which is more focused on minimizing the harm caused by drugs, Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) feels more like a pro user party. Queensland senate candidate Robbo Yobbo does sound like a stoner name.

HEMP is for the decriminalization and regulation of cannabis. As part of this they advocate for recreational, medicinal and industrial uses of hemp, and the removal of criminal convictions for cannabis use from people's criminal records.

They don't mention other drugs for good or bad. They also don't have any policies on issues other than the legalization of cannabis use.

The HEMP party are running candidates for the senate in all 6 states.