I watched the apology live this morning. I welled up. You could see what it meant to the people in the galleries. After he'd finished speaking, you could see what it meant to Rudd too - you could read emotion and hope and strength in the man's face, and maybe a little "did I just do that?" as well. I know he and I disagree on some important things, to judge by some of his published opinions, but he's still someone I wanted to run the country and I think if we were to meet he's someone I'd like.

This is what I always thought politics should be - great leaders making great decisions and delivering on promises of great actions. I have confidence that action will follow, and appropriate action at that.

I missed the body of Nelson's speech, but even at the start its promise seemed spoilt by inappropriate emphasis on white Australian history. Were any of you at Federation Square? Did you turn your back on him? I think I wish I'd been there...
Right. So the other day I spoke about the election, and one of the things I said was that GetUp's How Should I Vote? web site might be a useful tool if you're a swinging voter, though I had some reservations. Those reservations got bigger once [personal profile] qamar  had a look at the site and described the statements used to match your opinions to your local candidates as horrific.

I admit I thought a few of the questions were a bit odd. The questions take the usual form of a survey; you're presented with statements and asked whether you agree or disagree, with the option to say you feel strongly about either response and also to remain neutral. Having not so long ago reread "The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making" my gut reaction to [personal profile] qamar's comments was that she was right, and that this is what had seemed off when I took the quiz myself; it also seemed to explain (if such an explanation was needed) why candidates from the Liberal party and other more conservative parties haven't responded. (It should be noted that, in a slightly suspicious turn of events, most ALP candidates haven't either, but they're still ranked according to party line responses determined by GetUp. The other parties are not.)

But going back and looking at them again, most of them don't seem that bad. I thought I'd go through the ones I had a problem with, so you can see what we're all talking about. I might also mention, before I get started, that I tried it for two different electorates - my current one, Melbourne, and my old one, Wills. The party order was quite different, indicating perhaps that at least the candidates are giving individual answers, rather towing their party line or trying to promote a certain view of their party.

The flip side to all of this is that - at least according to GetUp, and I've no reason not to believe them - the candidates have been sent the same questionnaire that is presented to users of the site. So while the questions might be biased or badly worded, they're at least biased or badly worded in the same way for everyone, whether potential parliamentarian or hapless swinging voter.

For my money, the fact that ALP candidates are marked according to party line, but Liberal candidates are left as "no answer", is more a problem than the questions themselves. And I can only hope no-one is really going to rely solely on this web site when casting their vote - though I would dearly love to know how many people opted for the results to be SMSed to their phones on election day morning.

By the way, I'm keen to discuss electoral matters with anyone who wants to. Regardless of my own leanings, I'd be happy to try and answer any questions any of you have; I think I have a pretty good handle on the electoral process, and something of a decent grasp of the policies and agendas of the various parties. It's true I want to see a change of government, and that I feel strongly that the policies of the Greens are the most ethically correct, but that doesn't mean I want you to vote the same way as me if you truly believe someone else has it right. So please, ask away - or better yet, it's not too late to get onto the various party's web sites, or contact the party's campaigns, to ask them questions. Vote for whoever you truly want to represent you - just don't make that decision lightly.
barrington: (Hitch-Hiker)
There's an election in less than a week. Do I have any words to say about it? Yeah, but you've probably heard it all before. Apologies for those to whom this is all old hat or boring.
Recap: Haneef is the Muslim doctor suspected of aiding the planners of the recent bombing attempt in the UK, charged with "recklessly supplying resources" in the form of lending them a SIM card. The judge let him out on relatively low bail, but the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, cancelled his Visa so he's been placed in an immigration detention centre.

Many of the news items I'm reading about Haneef's detention mention the Minister's powers, granted under the Migration Act 1958, specifically section 501. Having dealt with Acts of Parliament in my current job for over a year, it was the work of minutes to look up this Act online. It's true that section 501 is particularly nasty, and allows the Minister to "cancel a visa that has been granted to a person" (section 501(3)(a)) if "the Minister reasonably suspects that the person does not pass the character test" and "the Minister is satisfied that the refusal or cancellation is in the national interest." (Sections 501(3)(c) and (d).) The character test referred to is failed under a number of circumstances, one of which is "the person has or has had an association with someone else, or with a group or organisation, whom the Minister reasonably suspects has been or is involved in criminal conduct" (section 501(6)(b)). This power is granted to the Minister and the Minister alone; but most scarily, and something no media article I've read have mentioned, section 501(5) specifically denies normal justice to someone in this situation:

"The rules of natural justice, and the code of procedure set out in Subdivision AB of Division 3 of Part 2, do not apply to a decision under subsection (3)."

So the Minister is completely within his "rights", certainly within his power, to do this. It's written in an Act of Parliament; there's no legal recourse for Haneef to get out of detention unless someone wants to challenge the legitimacy of the Migration Act 1958. And all of this at the Minister's whim, a man who has seen the same evidence as the court judge but thought his bail conditions (reporting to authorities every two days) were not good enough. Rather ironically, Andrews was co-author on a 1990 paper entitled "Rights and Freedoms in Australia". Presumably the section covering those living here under a visa was very short.

Glass House

Nov. 1st, 2006 01:12 pm
I agree the reasons for cancelling The Glass House reported in the news are bollocks, but it's not a revelation. I'd been of the impression that the last series was going to be the last series for a bunch of other reasons, not least the presenters not wanting to do it any more. If I found any of them consistently funny then I might also feel worse about it, but I'm afraid I don't; the humour on The Glass House is rarely political in any sense but the topical, and generally not that clever. (The same can be said for much of what goes on on The Daily Show, but it still has moments of incisive satire amongst the stupidity. I looked in vain for examples of such on The Glass House.)

Still, that's one less locally produced comedy show, and it was still miles funnier than The Wedge. It's also curious that The Glass House is targeted for "anti-government bias" (as [livejournal.com profile] hnpcc says, questioning the government is part of an independent media's remit, no matter who's in power) and yet The Chaser boys have apparently not even rated a mention... Perhaps they don't rate highly enough.
It's not often you see someone win a Nobel Prize for something that recently touched your own life, but this year, two Australians (Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren) scored the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease". Luckily for me, I didn't have said bacterium in my guts, but there's now a simple test and treatment if you do. Of course, I can only imagine that nothing particularly noteworthy occured this year in cancer, infectious disease or immuno-deficiency research, since while their work will lead to a lot less discomfort for millions of people, those people will primarily be from first-world nations and not in much danger of dying.

Cynical on occasion, aren't I? Well, that's what you get. I've had an interesting week, with some great houses and performances for Evolutionary. Overbudgeting was a genius stroke, and one I'm very happy about at this end of the production. Plus, I've decided to take the show to Adelaide for their Fringe in February, though this will mean being away for the first week or two of uni (assuming I do get back in). Mind you, having been through it all before and intending to start out with some first and second year subjects, that shouldn't pose much of a problem. I'll just get in touch with the subject co-ordinators ahead of time.

I also received in the mail today a missive from our local federal member, Labor Shadow Minister for Public Accountability Kelvin Thomson, MP (who incidentally can't even get his URL correct - http://home.vicnet.net.au/~thomson is dead space, my friend - and thinks it's cool to set up a Howard watchdog email address at Hotmail, whistleblowersonhoward@hotmail.com). This wouldn't be of much note except that he "exposes" the Howard government's waste of $70,000 to pay for a CSIRO conference for 70 of their Science Communicators at a resort in Queensland. That's a fairly expensive conference, I'll grant you, but rather than discuss the state of science communication in Australia, he mentions briefly (in one sentence) the "recent" changes to their communication policy and then spends the rest of the time making jokes based on the fact they flew a magician from Canberra to entertain the delegates at the conference. (My guess is said magician has links to the CSIRO Science Circus, and perhaps his act was related to the conference, but it's only a guess.)

It should come as no surprise that "public accountability" means taking cheap shots, I suppose, but still... Sure, here's $70,000 that may have been a little too much (though assuming the conference was successful, that's not a huge amount to pay for greatly improving the skills and contacts available to Australian science communicators), and I can see his agenda is clearly stated by his office, but come on. There's bugger all actual information in this leaflet, though I did find the list of increases in household expenditures interesting (apparently mobile phone bills have gone up 183% in the period 98/99 to 03/04, though whether this is because of increased charges or increased usage I've no idea). But my distrust of what he has to say only reminds me of a (perhaps spurious, I admit) survey someone quoted to me recently, which suggested a large percentage of Americans automatically believe anything told to them by a politician, journalist or other authoritative speaker is a lie. (I don't think church representatives were included, but by the sound of it scientists would go in the same category... I think Evolutionary might have to tour the USA.)

February 2012

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