Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Wednesday Quiz In Exile I: Cover Versions

It's not the famous Wednesday Quiz, which has been viciously killed off before its time, but it is almost the next best thing, the Wednesday Quiz's Australian Cousin. Like all good Australian things, it's just a home-grown version of things stolen from other places with a touch of rabid nationalism and an undercurrent of xenophobia, but at least it beats looking at boring postcards (unless you like that sort of thing, I guess).

This week's quiz is on famous books by Australian authors. Identify the missing titles on the Australian covers of these dozen Australian "classics" to win yourself respect and reknown amongst the huge audience of this here little portion of the internet and to score points towards receiving a choice of prizes as yet to be determined. Those who look up, consult with others or otherwise cause their answers to come from somewhere other than the depths of their long-term memory banks will be scathingly lampooned by generations of Australian fictioneers.

Name these books
Warning: This quiz is obviously harder than I thought it was, even for Aussies. Don't get discouraged.


Please leave your answers in fine literary style in the comments. The best way to do this without looking at anyone else's answers if to type them out in a word document or scribble paper first.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Introducing - The Celestines

Sunday marks the last day of the Celestine year, celebrating 800 years since the birth of Pope St. Celestine V and your last chance to pick up a plenary indulgence by visiting his relics in Italy, so if that's your kind of thing, you'd better be hopping on your private plane around about now and jetsetting on over to Roma.

I happened to be reading about Celestine V the other day (I do that sort of thing) , and it struck me that he must have been a pretty hard man. He founded his own monastic order imitating famed desert-dwelling, hair-shirt-wearing preacher-man John the Baptist because he didn't think the Benedictines were ascetic enough, he lived in caves, migrating from cave to cave when he got too comfortable, and generally preached it up, pretty damn cool in its own right. Then, out of the blue he gets elected Pope because he wrote the cardinals an agony aunt letter, and he tries to avoid the job, but he's dragged off to Rome. It only takes him 5 months to pass a law saying that the pope can resign, then he goes right ahead and resigns and goes home. The new pope wasn't too happy with the idea, though, so he chases Celestine around the country, inprisons him in Rome in poor conditions, and our man ups and dies (with a suspicious hole in his skull, but no-ones ever proven anything).

Anyway, the point is that the poor guy tried the best he could, was nice to everyone and just tried to serve his God as well as he knew how, which mostly involved praying all the time, and he pretty much ended up living a life that can't have been very much fun. So I drew this for him, as I think he really needed to take the load off for a while and relax with some barbershop harmonisings. The history books don't show it, but I wouldn't be at all suprised if ol' Celestine V was a hell of a baritone.

Celestine V (or "Pietro", as I like to think of him) is in the back row on the far right, and is accompanied by his namesakes St. Celestine "the Deacon" I (bass, back left), Celestine "Guido" II (lead, back centre), Celestine "Giacinto" III (tenor, front left), and Celestine "Godffredo" IV (counter-tenor, front right), all of whom could have done with a bit of a laugh, and who I like to think of collectively as the Celestines, the first time-travelling papal barbershop quartet. I am aware that quartets generally have only the four members, but given that CII, CIV and CV managed less than a year of papal duties between them I figure they decided to play it safe and bring along a spare part for emergencies.

The Celestines are part of a very sketchy idea that's been floating around in my head and in late-night conversations, which includes popes, time travel, my terrible drawing and general mayhem. I really don't know why but I can't get it out of my head, and it keeps me up a night sometimes, so there you are. I think it's called "Habemus Papas" (extremely original, I know), and I have no idea what's going on with it except that there's apparently papal barbershop quartets and more popes that you can poke 200 sticks at. Anyway, I think the Celestines probably sing all the regular polecats, with modified lyrics as befits their position as moral leaders (Popes called Celestine were a pretty good mob, compared to some of the other guys around, anyway). At the moment they're singing a version of When It Comes To Loving The Girls.

I see lovers, lovesick lovers dance.
That's not for me, for I oppose romance...

When it comes to loving the girls I say that it's out of line.
If you'd be so kind, I'd rather be confined,
Prayin' all the night and day to vespers from compline.

An' when it comes to retiring and shy, I've got Rainman beat' a mile.
As I was washing stoles down by the river bed,
A girl went walking by and I turned kinda red.
'Cause it comes to looking at girls I know that it's out of line.

And when it comes to keeping a vow, I've got continence to spare
I've got a Lord in Jesus who's my hearts desire,
I don't need contraception just a cleansing fire...

When it comes to loving the girls I say that it's out of line.
Yes I'm rather blessed,
now that I've confessed,
praying without rest,
in my Sunday best,
put me to the test, I know I'm going to shine.
Toe the party line...All the time.

Yep, I'm terribly sorry for exposing you to that, not one of my best efforts. But I hope the remainder of the Celestine year goes well for you anyway, and that you're not exposed to any worse rhyme than that.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Federal Election - Let's Make a Deal

Well, 5 days later and Australia still doesn't have a government. I feel a little bit like I'm living in a little Central American country like Coregos, except of course that I have fresh water to put in my tea, a public health system and electricity except during thunderstorms. The national stock exchange continues to plummet with uncertainty - you'd think that economists would be used to not knowing what was coming next - and in Canberra the major parties continue to wine and dine the newly elected Independents and Green MP in the hope of convincing them that they're the lesser of two evils.

Apologies, gentle reader, for involving you in the mess that is the Australian federal election, but this could be a real watershed moment in Australian politics, sparking parlimentary reform and a mix-up of the Australian party system thats been is virtual stasis since the formation of the Coalition in 1920's. Or it could be the pre-season before more of the same, but we can always hope. Thus, it's time for a refresher course in the Westminster Parlimentary system as practiced in Australia at a national level.

First, the situation. To form government, a prospective prime-minister must be able to count 76 of the 150 Members of the House of Representatives - MP's (I am aware that many consider the apostrophe there incorrect, but I think it looks nicer, so it's staying) - as support, or we go back to polls and try again. At the moment, the conservative Coalition of the Liberal, National, Liberal-National and Country Liberal parties - original names, huh? - led by Tony Abbott looks like it will end up with 73 seats and the current small-l-liberal Labor government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard looks like getting 72, with 3 of those seats still in doubt, and the remainder of the parliament filled out by 3 conservative Independents from Queensland and New South Wales, one liberal Independent from Tasmania, and one Green from Victoria. With all the elected MPs trying to avoid another election immediately - they want to keep their jobs, after all - it would seem to be up to these 5 players as to who gets the top job in the country and who has to settle for leadership of the opposition - and probably try to fend off a leadership challenge, for good measure - .

However, all is not well in the Coalition camp, with the new National party member from Western Australia entering the fray and annoucing that he would not automatically vote with the Coalition, but would sit on the cross-benches and support whichever party would give WA a better deal. He can do this because the WA Nationals are actually a seperate party to the national Nationals, but also because the Coalition has a long-standing tradition - admittedly little seen in recent years - of allowing its members to cross the floor and vote against them if they desire. The Labor party is more likely to throw you out if you try it on them.

So at the end of an election thats been more of a media circus than a referedum about the issues, it fits that we have 6 relative unknowns who will vie against each other for power to determine who runs the country for the next up-to-3 years. I'm your host for this evening, and it's time to Make a Deal. First, let's meet our contestants.

Bob Katter - Independent for Kennedy (QLD)
The man who famously once said he would "walk backwards from Bourke" if there were any homosexuals in Charters Towers, Mr. Katter is a former Nationals MP - when asked why he left the Nats he recently replied "You got about two hours?" - who likes
ethanol fuel, Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the Australian way of life and dislikes privitisation, foreign imports, computers, and all the major parties. He's been in state and then federal seats since the mid-70's, so he knows how it's done. He wants broadband internet in the bush but doesn't want it privatised - which supports Labor policy -, and can be expected to oppose any Emissions trading scheme - Colation policy -.

Tony Windsor - Independent for New England (NSW)
Dumped from the National Party for a driving offence just before pre-selection for the state election in 1991 - he referred to that and his concurrent giving up of smoking as "rid[ding himself] of two cancers" - , Tony has been a state and then Federal member ever since, and was part of the balance of power in the hung NSW parliaments in the 90's, so he's no stranger to this sort of situation. Dedicated to climate change and improving internet speeds in the bush, he could swing either way, and some commentators have suggested that he will... in exchange for the coveted position as Speaker of the House.

Rob Oakeshott - Independent for Lyne (NSW)
Yet another former Nationals state MP, Mr. Oakeshott has held Lyne as an independent since 2008, when he won in each and every voting booth in the electorate. He says establishing an emissions trading scheme is his big issue, and has made waves with his suggestions that, instead of -or as well as - focusing on the independent MP's, Coalition or Labor MP's like former leaders Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull should cross the floor and support the other side to form government instead of leaving a government with only a thin majority of 76 seats. This sort of thing has happened in state parliaments before, but if such a situation could occur nationally, it could change the political landscape in Australia for the short-term, if not for longer, causing party loyalties to be challenged and encouraging more members to cross the floor and vote against their own party, an extremely rare occurence in modern federal parliaments. He's not the only person suggesting some unusual stuff, but he may have started a trend.

Andrew Wilkie - Independent for Denison (TAS) Coming from the Labor stronghold of Denison - held by Labor since 1987 - Mr. Wilkie is an ex-intelligence operative who first shot to fame as a whistleblower speaking out against the Iraq war. He ran for the Greens in the home Electorate of then-PM John Howard in 2004, but was once a young Liberal, and says he has no strong ties to either party but is rather "a new breed of political activist". That said, his policies would seem much more at home in a Labor government.

Adam Bandt - Green for Melbourne (VIC)
Representing the other of the two safe, safe Labor seats - Melbourne has been held by Labor since 1904 - that have been poached by the left in this election, Mr. Bandt likes the Green party and presumably all their policies and can be expected to side with a Labor government - or at least be sure of not siding with the Coalition - but his support in every vote is by no means a sure thing.

So, these six contestants hold the fate of the nation in their hands, the greatest power any individual MPs have held in parliament in half a century, let's show them what they've won...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Senate Elections 2010 - Bump Out

As I write this, the federal election is still up in the air and likely to stay that way for a while, with neither of the major parties being able to form a majority government, and Australia looks certain to be ruled by its first minority government since Menzies' disasterous WWII United Australia Party colation with two independents that then abandoned the government and put the Labor party in power. While we wait to see which of the major parties can successfully negotiate with the three (possibly four) independents and single green in the lower house to form government, let's go look at the provisional results in the Senate, and see just how off-the-mark last weeks predictions actually were...

In my home state of South Australia, the Greens fell just short of being elected in their own right with 13% of the primary vote, but got over the line on Sex Party preferences (the Sex Party, in a sad reflection of Australians current opinion on mainstream politicians, got a massive 1.7% of the primary vote and came 5th overall). Family First got within half a percentage point of stealing last Senate seat from the liberals after preferences, but failed to get as much primary vote as I anticipated (though they got more than I hoped), and so fell just short. Thus, SA has returned 2 Labor Senators (goodbye to current Senator Wortley), 3 Liberals and 1 Green. Am I the only one who thinks it would be fun to return to conventional latin language roots and call female Senators Senatrices?

Nationally, the Greens did well at the expense of the major parties (the Coalition lost three seats and the ALP lost one), taking a Senate seat in every state, and the Liberals managed to just scrape through on the primary vote in the ACT to keep them out there. The other party to win out was the DLP, who overcame a highly-publicised potential split, almost nonexistant finances and finally my scathing commentary of their chances compared to Family First to oust the sitting Family First member Stephen Fielding and elect the DLP's first Senator since 1974.

Generally, it was an election for records. Not only did we see 20-year-old Wyatt Roy elected as our youngest ever parlimentarian for the Liberals in Longman in Queensland, we saw our first ever Muslim MP in Ed Husic for Labor in Chifley in NSW, our first ever Indigenous MP in Ken Wyatt for the Liberals in Hasluck in WA, the Greens took their first ever seat in the electorate of Melbourne, it's our second-ever hung parliament, possibly our closest-ever election, and the aforementioned re-election of the DLP to the senate after a 30-year absence.

Labor=Red, Greens=Green, Xenophon=Grey, DLP=Vomit, Blue=Coalition in the worlds uglist graphic (if you know how to make it less small without it pixellating up the whoopsie, please let me know)

This result means that, as expected, the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, and the major parties will need either the support of each other or of the Greens to pass any legislation, whichever party ends up forming government is undoubtedly going to have quite a fight on their hands. We'll have to wait and see if the Australian people are the winner or the loser in this arrangement.

In conclusion, I am a pretty good predictor, I just wish that I was female so that I could be a predictrix.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Senate Elections 2010

It's that time again, when my mailbox overflows with advertising from political parties eager to win my vote on the issues they think matter to me. Because I have a reputation to upload as a tremedous bore, in this post I'm going to try and sort out where my votes will be going on August 21st using an awful lot of words and no pretty pictures at all. I'm going to do a bit of a dive into the much neglected Senate, focusing entirely on my home state of SA, which is the only place I have to vote, thankfully. If you disagree with any of my summaries of the parties in this post (I have a tendency to be flippant), feel free to let me know.

If you're reading this, I'm going to assume that you're from the US, since everyone on the internet is from the US. Why you'd be reading this is another question, but I don't really mind, I'm pretty good at talking to myself anyway. This means I'm going to spend some time explaining the political system as a whole before I get into the nitty-gritty of individual candidates. Feel free to skip to the good stuff if you're already familiar with this (or to correct me when I'm horribly wrong, sometimes I'm just wrong, and sometimes I'm over-simplifying for the masses).

So the US Senate has 2 senators from each state, so that each state is represented equally. This is designed to protect the smaller states from legislation that would disadvantage them being forced through by more numerous states who have more seats in the Congress. When Australia federated at the turn of last century we thought that that was a pretty good idea, so we copied it (these days we'd probably get sued for copyright theft or something, but it was a simpler age). We upped the number per state to six, as we decided that 12 guys in a room having that much power was a little bit silly, and bam, parlimentary checks and balances and state equality was ensured. Unfortunately, this didn't work quite as well as it does in the US, as members vote on party lines, without the freedoms (and many of the problems) of the US system, but that's a conversation for another day.

These days, there's 12 Senators for each state, and two for each for the Northern Territory (who also represent the overseas territories) and the ACT (Australia's District of Columbia) (who also represent the other mainland territory). Each election, each state votes in 6 of those senators for a 6 year term (equivalent to two three-year federal election periods), so like the US system there's continuity, and the Senate lags behind popular opinion by a considerable margin. The territories do it differently, and although the ACT elections are interesting in their own right, that's not up for discussion today either.

Senators are voted in using a preferential single transferable vote system. A constituent (voting is compulsory in Australia, and every registered voter may be fined for not at least turning up on polling day) votes either for a party, and accepts their preference choices (this is called above-the-line voting), or allocates an order of preference that includes each and every candidate (below-the-line voting). Any candidate that receives 14.3% of the first-preference vote is instantly elected, and over quota votes are distributed to the second-preference candidate (often another member of the same party). Then parties with the lowest numbers of votes are eliminated and their votes allocated to the next preferred candidate, etc. until all 6 seats have been filled. This means the preferences of each party as to who receives their votes
is of vital importance as to who eventually wins the available seats.

Anyway, that means the people of South Australia have to elect 6 people to the Senate on the 21st of August, and those people will be our voice in Canberra for the next 6 years. When we elected the currently retiring group of Senators, the major third party in Australian politics, the Democrats, who'd held at least one SA seat in the Senate at every election since the late seventies (and whose campaign slogan was "Keep the Bastards Honest", an interesting look into the Australian psyche) had recently ripped itself apart, and at the time none of the other parties were a viable option to South Australians. As a result, the major parties, the centre-left Labor party and the centre-right Liberal party, were able to snare the seats left behind in the third-party vacuum, electing three members each and forming a Senate that was extremely light on in terms of opposition to the major parties (who're increasingly seen, in a perfect real-life example of the ice-cream vendor problem, as two sides to the same coin).

The political scene is very different now. Aside from the Labor party regaining power after 13 years of Coalition government led by "Honest" John Howard, we've seen the rise of the leftist Green party as the preferred third party, and the rise of the religious right in the form of the Family First party, who currently hold 5 and 1 senate seat respectively. Also, of the 6 Senators elected 6 years ago, 4 are retiring or have already retired, including 3 high-profile Howard government ministers, so South Australians are faced with a swathe of relative unknowns representing the major parties. The last senate election in 2007 saw both the Greens and hugely popular former-state independent Nick Xenophon take votes (and seats) from the major parties, as South Australians become increasingly unimpressed with both Labor and the Liberals. Xenophon polled 15% of the primary vote, so where those who voted for Xenophon last time around will be voting this time (with Nick very quiet about his preferred candidate) is anyone's guess (both the Greens and Family First are trying hard to ensure a good percentage flows to them).

If the Greens and/or Family First do manage to pick up a good percentage of the voters who supported Xenophon, then they've got a good chance of picking up the last 2 seats. The major parties always poll above 2 quotas each, so the first four seats are shoe-ins, what matters is if the Greens and Family First can gather more after-preference votes the the third candidate from the Labor and Liberal parties respectively. If they can, then the preferences from the Labor candidates will almost certainly elect a Green Senator, and the preferences from the Liberals will almost certainly elect Family First. The way the preferences are set-up, there's almost no chance of either the left (Labor and Greens) or the right (Liberal and Family First) picking up more than 3 seats each without a huge swing that seems unlikely with 2 weeks to go, it's just a matter of which Party will take the seats.

With the stage set, lets meet the candidates:

These are in the order that they will appear on the ballot papers, as well as info about the candidates and party policies I've added a little about their chances and past results, as well as where their above-the-line preferences will flow assuming that only the big four parties are left at the crunch (which seems very likely unless the Democrats get a crazy lucky revival).

Group A: The Climate Skeptics.
After preference vote: Family First.

First out of the gate is father and son team Leon and Nathan Ashby, running for the Climate Skeptics, who're also running a number of candidates in House of Representatives electorates across the state. Most notable for their opposition to any kind of (carbon) Emission Trading Scheme, they have a range of other policies detailed in this powerpoint presentation, which is a great idea I'd like to see more parties take up, but not excellently executed. Nathan ran for the State Legislative Council earlier in the year and managed a very respectable 0.63% of the primary vote.

Being climate skeptics, they want an immediate end to any government legislation based on CO2 emissions or climate change until more than 5 independent scientists (that bit's a bit vague), instead, they want environment funding to focus on establishing a national water infrastructure, capturing more water in dams, pumping and storing it in the far north of the country, building desalination plants and water treatment and recycling (mere mention of which is voter poison in SA for now, despite some council areas already utilising it).Interestingly, they're also behind alternative energy, due to the shortage of fossil fuels, not the perceived climate issues, which makes them different to many pro-oil-company positions we've seen in the past. They're not just a single-issue party, either, they've also got a range of other policies including greater individual property rights, lesser government powers, incentives for self-funded retirees, limits on campaign advertising, more support for the unemployed, and more funding for better broadband internet
A couple of big issues they're also behind include cloud seeding, leasing of national parks to corporations, the building of more cities and the infrastructure to support them.

Bonus points for: Not actually sounding rabid, like most climate change skeptics I'd met.
Marked down for: Wanting more checks and balances, but less red tape. They both sound great, but you should probably pick just one.

Group B: Independent.
After preference vote: Family First.

Mark Aldridge and Christopher Cochrane are running on a joint independent ticket. I can't find any information about Christopher Cochrane, so I'm going go right ahead and tar him with the same brush as Mark Aldridge (if you know different, please let me know and I'll update this info). Aldridge ran for the SA Legislative Council earlier in the year (he got 0.13% of first preferences) with the byline "Change Is Necessary", and boy does he want to change a lot of stuff, a short but impressive list of his policies is available on his homepage, and is well worth a look, but one is struck by huge amount of changes he'd like to make with a lesser government income.

Bonus Points For: Having an accessible and attractive website.
Marked down for: Sounding rabid enough for everyone.

Group C: Labor.
After preference vote: Themselves, then the Greens.

The Labor party (it was named back in the dark ages of last century when modernised spelling was all the rage) is in a pretty good state going into this election, with a relatively popular state Labor government and two currently sitting Senators applying for re-election. They may have banked on this somewhat by putting union boss Alex Gallacher as their number one preference above sitting senators Anne McEwen and Dana Wortley, or perhaps the Hon. Ms. Wortley has annoyed the party in some way, as she'll be the one who might not get re-elected if the Greens somehow manage to beat her over the line for one of the two seats up for grabs once Labor and the Liberals have scarfed two each.

It seems that every day that this election period goes on people become less and less impressed with the policies of the major parties, who seem to be focusing more on slurring their opponents and accusing them of the crime of 'playing politics' than actually making any promises that might win them the election. Both parties have a range of policies which generally differ from their opponents by only a small margin, but with policy mostly off the table as an issue, and no-name candidates in the Senate, the voters are going to be deciding based mainly on the perceived trustworthiness of the respective party leaders, new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who unseated the previous PM earlier in the year, and Tony Abbott, apparent victor of three years of intra-party bickering in the Liberal camp.

If you are interested in policy and have been living in a box or another country for the last...50 years. Labor is for higher taxes and a greater range of government-delivered service, while the Liberals favour relying on corporations and private groups to deliver services and lower taxes. These differences are most noticable with Labor's announcement of a Super-profits tax, a high-percentage tax of profits above a certain level for big mining corporations, in order to pay for a range of environmental and social issues, and the parties competing internet policies, the Liberals want 6 billion to improve the current broadband network in regional areas usign wireless means and Labor wants 42 billion to provide cable broadband to the home, dramatically increasing Australia's internet capability. Labor is for federalising the health and education systems (in fact they've already started) and cutting state revenue, and the Liberals are for individual state education and health programs. These sort of differences will be familiar to any US readers, not that I've fooled myself into thinking this "trenchant" post has any readers at all.

Bonus Points For: Having been pretty productive in government after 13 years in opposition.
Marked down for: Having stuffed up a lot of their productivity.

Group D: Liberal
After preference vote: Themselves, then Family First.

The Liberal party (since they're generally right wing we use the exceptionally ugly terms small-l-iberal and big-L-iberal to tell the difference) are running completely different candidates to those that they ran six years ago, with Amanda Vanstone currently our Ambassador to Italy and Alan Ferguson and Nick Minchin retiring when their terms come to an end. In their place, we have Sen. Mary Jo Fisher, who took Ms. Vanstone's seat when she resigned mid-term, state Liberal party president Sean Edwards, former lower house member David Fawcett, and in an ambitious bid for a fourth seat for the liberals, Peter Salu, who also ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislative Council earlier in the year.

The Liberals find themselves in a similar boat to Labor, hoping to hold onto their three seats against assaults from what has traditionally been their safe right flank in the form of the Family First Party. Facing a big turnover of leadership since the last election, opposing the first female PM in Australian history and still struggling under their fourth leader in as many years, the Liberals should still claw back some ground from the landslide that was their 2007 defeat.

On the policy front: see the Labor post for the big differences.

Bonus Points For: Tony Abbott is a very attractive, witty man.
Marked down for: Ridiculous amounts of negative ads during the campaign.

Group E: One Nation
After preference vote: Family First.

One Nation, a nationalist party that campaign "to protect and nurture our sovereignty and national pride", have been pretty quiet this election after getting on (0.6%) last time around. Robert Edmonds and Peter Fitzpatrick are running in SA, on removal of international trade agreements and tightening of border security.

Bonus Points For: Still trying even though the party is a spent force and national laughing stock. (Sorry, up until then I managed to stay reasonably fair and unbiased, I thought)
Marked down for: Sounding a little bit like the borg with a policy of 'Scrap "Multiculturalism" and require all immigrants to assimilate as Australians'.

Group F: Democratic Labor Party
After preference vote: Family First.

The Democratic Labor Party have been around in Australian politics for a long time, being the descendant of the original DLP which split from the ALP proper in the 1950's and has been drifting slowly to the right ever since. They've traditionally had a good percentage in rural areas and polled almost 1% in 2007, so Paul Russell and David McCabe are onto a pretty good thing. The only reason the DLP doesn't do as well as it used to running on a platform of pro-life, anti-euthanasia, anti-same-sex-marriage social justice platform are the presence of two higher profile parties in One Nation and Family First muscling in on their turf. In fact, the DLP outpolled Family First in Victoria at the last election when Family First Senator Stephen Fielding was elected, but the DLP failed to get enough preferences to get over the line.

The Democratic Labor Party shares most of its policies with the Family First party, but is lower profile. They've obvoiusly put a lot of thought into their policies and have gone to a bit of detail, which is more than I can say for family first, who seem to have tried to avoid making policy statements on as many areas as possible. A vote for either party is going to go to family first anyway, as the DLP just doesn't have a high enough profile to get the votes, and Family First has again outmanouvered them with preference deals with the other minor parties.

Bonus Points For: Having defined policies and sticking by them
Marked down for: Not having merged with Family First yet

Group G: Christian Democratic Party
After preference vote: Family First.

Joseph Stephen and Frank Revink are running for the super-conservative Christian Democratic Party, who line up with the other right-wing parties on issues like abortion, euthanasia, childrens rights and the like, but are more militantly Christian. Their main distinguishing feature is their policy on Islam, they'd like Islamic immigration banned and like Australian muslims to speak out against Sharia law, terrorism and closed communities. The CDP is a force in regional areas in New South Wales and in Western Sydney, but failed to even reach .2 percent of the vote in SA at the last election.

Bonus Points For: Being vocal in what they believe, and keeping their issues alive in the political arena. That's the whole point of minor parties.
Marked down for: Attempting to stop Muslim immigration, which is borderline unconstitutional and just plain rude.

Group H: Carers Alliance
After preference vote: Liberal or Labor.

The Carers Alliance are contesting their first SA senate seat, possibly inspired by Dignity for Disabled's come from behind win in the state Legislative Council earlier in the year. Campaigning for more support for the disabled and their carers in health and education and more rights for the disabled, Garry Connor and Angela Groves could conceivably pick up a good percentage, although they've had a lot less media than Dignity for Disabled did in the state election (they're both alive, for starters). An issue party, they've split their preferences half-half between the two major parties so they should balance each other out rather than giving an advantage to either side of politics, neither of which the Carers Alliance is doing for carers and the diabled, and are campaigning more for awareness.

Bonus Points For: Not picking a side in the federal election.
Marked down for: Not picking a side in the federal election.

Group I: Senator On-Line
After preference vote: Family First.

Simon Lang and Jamie Dawson don't have any policies, they have ideals. Senator On-Line pledge to put each and every Senate vote up on their website, to vote whichever way the majority of voters (or voters who log on to their website, anyway) want, and to abstain from every vote that doesn't get a 70% majority. I don't know how many things a senator has to vote on, but I imagine the website would get a lot of traffic if there was polls for every single vote.

There's not really anything more to say on the party, except that I saw a guy get elected to the Adelaide University SRC using this method last year, and the idea was a spectacular failure, but it can only work better in forum where people might conceivably actually care about the issues, like the federal Senate. They plan to check 'voters' agaisnt the electoral roll, which seems like a tricky thing to do in practice, but if it could work I do think they need to revise their policy so that only people in the state the senator represents can vote, as a senator represents their state or territory, not the nation as a whole.

Bonus Points For: Actually having no policies, rather than just having a lot of fluff that amounts to the same thing.
Marked down for: Dragging the democratic process through the mud.

Group J: The Greens
After preference vote: Themselves, then Labor.

The Greens have tried hard this election campaign to portray themselves as the viable 3rd party, banking hard on their holding the balance of power in the Senate to force the major parties to sit sit and be held accountable for their actions. It's a sign of their changed fortunes that leader Bob Brown participated in the national leaders debate, and if Senate hopefuls Penny Wright, Sandy Montgomery and Jeremy Miller make it past to post, it will be because of the Greens standing as the new third party in Australian politics, not its environmental policies. As if to demonstrate this, Penny Wright, the only Green candidate with any chance of being elected in SA, is not a noted environmentalist, but has been a campaigner for a variety of social issues in SA for a while.

The Greens major policies include more compassionate attitude towards asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, more foreign aid in the Asia-Pacific, improving public transport and increased investment in the arts, as well as a swathe of ambitious environmental projects, such as moving toward 100% renewable energy for Australia, dramatically reducing flood-irrigation, developing a carbon-trading scheme and developing alternative energies. The greens are now far from a single-issue party, and their greatest opposition comes from the more conservative christian voters and political parties, who've been dumping a lot of negative advertising their way for their support of high-profile issues like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and their pro-choice stance.

If you think that you can tell a lot about a party by seeing whose preferences flow to it, the Greens are picking up preferences only from the left-fringe parties Socialist Alliance, Australian Sex Party and Secular Party of Australia, another fact that's bound to endear them to the vocal Christian groups in the state.

Bonus points for: Running a comparatively positive, issues-based campaign, with only a little bit of fear-mongering.
Marked down for: Abandoning their traditional re-useable generic posters in favour of candidate-specific advertising material, even if it is recyclable.

Group K: Building Australia
After preference vote: Family First.

Bill Adams and Neil Jackson are the candidates for the brand-new Building Australia party, who are made up of representatives of the building industry and are campaigning mostly on a platform of lower house prices via a range of government and building industry reforms and deregulation. I hadn't even heard of them until I started researching for this election, and given their current limited policy scope, I'm not suprised.

Bonus points for: A simple, functional, straightforward website of the no-nonsense kind you'd expect from an architect.
Marked down for: Limited vision, appealing to other small business owners would seem to be the next step.

Group L: Shooters and Fishers
After preference vote: Family First.

The Shooters and Fishers party are anti-green and pro-gun. I can obtain only a little information about their policies, but they seem to be mostly about hunting and fishing rights, opposing increases to conservation areas and encouraging less stringent gun and surveillance laws. Steve Larsson and Robert Borsak can expect support from agricultural and maritime areas but little urban support.

Bonus points for: Opposing gun-control, probably South Australia's biggest no-no, it takes balls to fly in the face of public opinion like that.
Marked down for: Not having anything but a news feed and forum on their website.

Group M: Australian Democrats
After preference vote: Labor

Jeanie Walker (who ran for the State Legislative Council earlier in the year with little success) and Andrew Castrique are the Democrat's hopes in this election. As we went into in the introduction (it seems like weeks ago, I know) the Democrats were a major force in federal politics a few years ago, but have now fallen back down to earth. The Democrats are still backing themselves as a viable alternative to the minor parties as well as to the Greens, emphasising their centrist credentials and willingness to compromise, even though policy-wise they're very similar social lberals. The main difference between the two is the democrats just as comitted but more practical environmental policy, showing a willingness to find the middle ground and move more gradually than the extremist Greens who have earned themselves so many enemies in their rise to prominence.

At the last federal election, the Dems snared just 0.9% of the SA primary vote, and gained about the same amount in the Legislative Assembly earlier in the year, following their last state MLC abandoning the party to run as an independent. Their failure to secure good preference deals again this year, as well as revelations that their candidate for my local seat is a convicted sex offender, will almost certainly rule them out of contention, but if the Greens were to have hugely unprecedented success (which I doubt, but it could potentially happen) they could do pretty well on Green and Labor second/third-candidate preferences.

Bonus points for: Continuing to develop comparatively thoughtful and balanced policies.
Marked down for: Not getting a shred of positive pulicity in the campaign, try harder, people.

Group N: Socialist Alliance
After preference vote: Greens.

The Socialist Alliance are one of the left wing parties that got a bad draw in their ballot location, and will be appearing a long way to the right, which could be expected to decrease what was already a pretty meagre 0.8% vote at the last federal election. Renfrey Clarke and Ruth Ratcliffe are campaigning on the ambitious party policies of 100% renewable power by 2020 (the Greens plan to develop financial plans to do this by 2030,'40 and '50), increased and free public transport, free university education and a lowering of the voting age to 16. I have no evidence to support it, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Socialist Alliance will support this platform by taxing the bejeebers out of the rich for the good of the proletariat.

Bonus points for: Ambitious domestic and international policy.
Marked down for: Failure to describe at all where they'll get the money.

Group O: Secular Party of Australia
After preference vote: Greens.

Scott Sharrad and Moira Clarke represent the Secular Party, their servers seem to be struggling with the influx of visitors to their website, so be gentle. The secular party are another new party contesting this election, running on exactly the platform you'd expect, opposing government funding of religious schools, religious education, and religious veiws having an impact of scientific advancement, as well as the regular leftist positions on LGBT marriage, abortion, euthanasia (it seems wherever you go, people have strong views either on the positive or the negative or all of these, and I'm getting sick of mentioning them in policy lists). The secular party seem very reasoned and respectful of religious views, as much as they don't want them influencing government policy, which is more than I can say for a few of the parties on the far right.

Bonus points for: Being the most sensible-sounding of the small-l-iberal parties.
Marked down for: Undoubtedly the worst logo in the campaign.

Group P: Liberal Democrats Party
After preference vote: Family First.

Contesting their first election as the Liberal Democratic Party after starting life as the Liberty and Democracy Party, represented by Nick Kerry and Megan Clark (that 3 Clark/Clarke's in 3 consecutive groups), the LDP stands for a wide range of domestic reforms. Large taxcuts would be followed by deregulation and privatisation of transport, postal, broadcasting, insurance and power services, removal of unemployment benefits in favour of a "negative income tax" and international free trade. Also freedom for Tibet and Taiwan, not that it's really an Australian issue at all.

Bonus points for: Using the Eureka flag, Australia's most attractive historical flag.
Marked down for: Being very pro-choice and yet giving preferences to Family First. Makes me wonder if they really believe in their platform.

Group Q: Australian Sex Party
After preference vote: Greens.

Militant internet filters prevent me from learning any more about this party or linking to their website, I'd allege that it was an anti-ASP political maneuver, but it's probably saved me some valuable minutes of my life that I'd never get back. Ari Reid and Jason Virgo shot into the spotlight when the media revealed that they'd been approached for a preference deal by Family First. These guys sure know how to manage the media and the spotlight, it's just a pity that they've used it to release strings of doube-entendres with no actual policy backing instead of turning their powers to advantage one of the minor parties with actual issues. The sad thing is that simply having the word 'Sex' in their title, compulsory voting in Australia probably means they'll get more votes than many of said minor parties.

Actually, the Sex Party might have policies, but I have no way of checking. If they do, I imagine that they're to do with the legalisation of prostitution nationally, provision of healthcare and union rights for sex workers, and greater legal protection for sex industry workers, all legitimate issues in their own right.

Bonus points for: Admitting that they're joke candidates.
Marked down for: Starting a political party instead of a late-night comedy show.

Group R: Family First
After preference vote: Themselves, then the Liberals.

By a freak chance, Family First occupy their rightful place on far right of the 18-group Senate ballot paper. Family First is the high profile "Family Values" party (in case you hadn't gathered, that really means "religious" without saying it out loud), campaigning for smaller government to leave more money for families. They are capable of saying this is many different ways, it's pretty impressive, actually. Family First currently have a federal senator, and have their best chance yet of getting one here in South Australia, whose conservative base is growing with every election.

Bob Day, Andrew Cole and Thea Hennesey make up the candidates for the prominent heterosexual, pro-life party, who can be expected to pick up a greater percentage of the vote this time around in their own right and also as an anti-Green choice, but not enough to get elected without the help of a large number of preferences. Family First must have a great negotiator, as they've secured the major preferences of almost all the conservative and centrist parties, missing only those on the left (for obvious reasons), which combined with Liberal flow-on preferences could just be enough to get them over the line.

That said, the biggest thing in their favour in South Australia is undoubtedly their lead candidate, Bob Day, who is a respected community member who lacks the bigoted bearing of a number of other right-wing candidates, and is widely respected in SA as a down-to-earth thinker, ideas man and all-round nice guy. As much as voters might dislike a number of Family First policies (which they're very vague about on their website), I suspect SA would be well represented by a man of integrity if Bob Day were elected. We could certainly do worse.

Bonus points for: Ok, I'm a Bob Day fan, obviously.
Marked down for: Not disagreeing with the Liberals position on enough things, making them less of an political alternative than they might otherwise be.

Group UG: Michelle Drummond

Running only under the line, meaning to vote for her you'll have to vote under the line, in returning independent candidate Michelle Drummond. Because few people can be bothered voting below the line, and many of those that do stuff up and render their ballot informal, Michelle will likely come in last on primary vote, and will lose out on preferences as well. She's running on a platform of mostly environmental policies, but also on a non-partisan true-independent, I-don't-want-your-dirty-preferences line which one can't help but admire a little bit, even if it does make you wonder if she's really cut out for public office.

Bonus points for: A damn attractive website, seriously, check it out.
Marked down for: I'm not going to mark her down at all, she's got enough against her as it is. Best of luck to you, Michelle.

And there you go, a mere week-and-a-half after it was first posted, I've finally completed my mammoth task, which has certainly helped me decide who I'll be voting for. I'm not going to tell you who the lucky candidate or party is, but I can tell you that I'll be voting under the line, so apologies in advance (well, not that much in advance, since polling day is tomorrow) to whoever has to count my ballot. Hoorah for the democratic process, huh?

I promise that I'll try to put some pictures or something in the next post.