The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Extraordinary figures

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, 2014.

Some extraordinary results were published by Essential Research this week regarding the public's opinion of the fate of the Government and Prime Minister just 16 months after a resounding election victory.

To the question of: "Which party do you think is most likely to win the next Federal Election due in 2016?"

Voters answered:

Can’t say

To the question of: "Do you think Tony Abbott is likely or unlikely to still be the leader of the Liberal Party at the next election?"

Voters answered: 
Don’t know

These are disturbing results for the Government, and it's pretty clear the following tables illustrating the polling aggregate state of play as at December 2014 is the explanation.

Primary Votes as at December 2014

Voting intention
2013 election

Two Party Preferred as at December 2014

Voting intention
2013 election

Quite a sobering set of numbers for the Government and Prime Minister to contemplate over the summer.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Compassion: Heart, mind and spirit

Fellow citizens,

At all times, and for all times, it is important to remember that it is compassion that defines humans. For it is true that "compassion is the basis of morality." (Shopenhauer)

Compassion in our heart, mind and spirit. 

In our heart: 

"The dew of compassion is a tear." Lord Byron

In our mind: 

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Albert Einstein.

In our spirit:

"Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek." Dalai Lama

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Nick the Greek has it right (and wrong).

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, 2014.

Idea is right, name is wrong.

Nick "The Greek" Xenophon is right to say there is an opportunity for a 'centrist' party in the Senate. However, naming it the Nick Xenophon Team or NXT is a mistake.

I understand why he thinks it's important to use his name, that is, to make maximum use of the name recognition, but this is not necessary to attract the voters he needs to target and is, I believe, counterproductive.

A party must be a party, not a cult following of one person.

Therefore, I would suggest he calls the party what it is: The Australian Centre Party (see note 1 below).

It's simple, to the point and has what is most vital, clarity. And provides a simple promotional positioning slogan aimed at the 'sensible centre': "The Australian Centre Party; Australia's sensible party."

Learn from history.

He has a template for how to develop such a party from the experience of Don Chipp and The Democrats and, importantly, what not to do to ensure the party doesn't self-destruct.

In The Democrats' first outing in 1977, the party attracted 11% of the primary vote in the Senate, winning it 2 seats. By 1980 it had won 5 seats, and by 1984 it held 7 seats.

It was clear the public was very happy to have a centrist party hold the balance of power in the Senate.

However, when the party lost its way and decided it wanted to be come a 'third force' and not a specialist Senate party, it took only a few elections for The Democrats to disappear.

Voter target groups.

Its primary target group would be disaffected Coalition supporters who feel the federal Coalition currently is a conservative party and not a liberal party and, while supporting the Coalition in the lower house, might be quite prepared to support this new party in the Senate.

In the 2013 election the Coalition attracted 45.5 per cent of the primary vote in the lower house, but only 37.7 per cent of the primary vote in the Senate, a 7.8 per cent difference. Over 800,000 Coalition voters went looking for another electoral home in the upper house.

Its secondary target group would be disaffected ALP supporters who believe too many of the ALP's Senate candidates are ex-union or party hacks and, like their Coalition counterparts, would support the ALP in the lower house but might support this new party in the Senate.

In the 2013 election the ALP attracted 33.4 per cent of the primary vote in the lower house, but only 30.1 per cent of the primary vote in the Senate, a 3.3 per cent difference. Over 250,000 ALP voters went looking for another electoral home in the upper house.

Its tertiary target group would be that group of voters who are termed "Others". 

In the 2013 election this group constituted 12.4 per cent of the vote in the lower house and the same percentage in the Senate. It's likely that some proportion of this disparate "Others" group vote would be interested in supporting such a new party in the Senate, especially as the Palmer United Party hasn't lived up to its promise and its star has faded so quickly. (NB: Adding the Coalition and ALP voters who changed their votes in the Senate, as mentioned above, brought the total "Others" Senate vote to 23.5 per cent). 

Remarkably, in the 2013 election, the Greens found its voters were very loyal, attracting the same percentage of votes in both houses, 8.65 per cent (about 1.1 million voters).

Party positioning.

I would suggest its policy positioning should be a classic small 'l' liberal one, succinctly articulated by Nick Greiner, Bruce Baird and John Fahey in NSW: Warm, Dry and Green.

Warm on social issues; Dry on economic issues; and Green on environmental issues. Though, I suspect, to be truly centrist, the party would need to be a little moister on economic issues. 


Its candidates would need to be seen as genuine concerned citizens and not professional ex-politicians. High profile 'apolitical' candidates would be most preferable. The more apolitical, the better. The higher the profile, the better.


With a genuine centrist positioning, an 'above politics' party perception, good 'non-politician' candidates, a change of name from NXT to The Australian Centre Party, adroit preference deals in the Senate, and learning from The Democrats' experience (good and bad) will be a recipe for success and, ultimately, the balance of power in the Senate.

A little gift.

Just to finish, in keeping with the Grecian theme, here's a free copy of some promotional material that the party could use to accurately reflect how that segment of the electorate to which this party wants to appeal (disaffected voters) feels about politics:

Go for it Nick "The Greek"! Endaxi!

Note 1: Currently there is no Australian Centre Party registered with the Australian Electoral Commission, however there is a website (which commenced in September 2014) registered under this name. It appears a very small enterprise, possibly a lone effort, with the founder of that site looking to attract 500 members so that the party can be officially registered with the AEC.

I'm sure Nick the Greek could come to some accommodation with the founder to acquire the name if necessary and, if all else fails, he could send around Uncle Mitsos to make them an offer they can't understand.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The sky calls to us

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

"The sky calls to us" (Carl Sagan).

Human space exploration, like no other human achievement, stirs something from deep within us.

It ignites our imagination, elevates our gaze, realises our dreams and unifies our species. We look into space for something greater than ourselves.

Recall President Kennedy's bold vision when addressing Congress on May 25, 1961: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

Then at Rice University on September 12, 1962: "The eyes of the world now look into space, to the Moon and to the planets beyond."

Recall the world's unbridled joy when, on July 20, 1969, the first part of that vision was realised and Neil Armstrong spoke those immortal words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Now we are embarking on completing the second part of President Kennedy's vision: to take humans to the planets beyond, and land on Mars.

NASA plans to achieve this feat using this new generation rocket - the Orion - which was successfully tested on Saturday.

It is important that we are always conscious of the enormous benefit that fixing our gaze celestially, rather than exclusively terrestrially, has on our society.

It stretches us intellectually, broadens us emotionally and deepens us spiritually. 

It illustrates to us what we are capable of when we unleash our boundless curiosity, fervent creativity and indefatigable determination.

It shows us, ultimately, how much humans can be.

Perhaps, that is why, the sky calls to us.

"Look up at the stars, not down at your feet" (Stephen Hawking).

NASA photo of the Earth and the Moon viewed from the orbit of Mars.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christopher Churchill? I think not.

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, 2014.

After the defeat of the Government's higher education bills in the Senate last week, Christopher Pyne paraphrased Sir Winston Churchill and his "end of the beginning" speech made during World War 2.

Unlike Pyne's situation, in which he suffered a significant defeat, Churchill's speech, made in November 1942, was following a famous Allied victory in North Africa - The Battle of El Alamein. 

"Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." listen to the words spoken by Churchill here

If Minister Pyne is keen to quote Churchill, then he might find a more appropriate quote following the mass evacuation of Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in May and June 1940.

"We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations."

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Adolescent Australia's road to adulthood

In his new Lowy Institute Paper, Peter Hartcher is correct when he writes that Australia is an adolescent country. However, I believe the roots of our adolescent behaviour lie deep in the lack of maturity of our national consciousness.
The juvenile language of our leaders, our false bravado, and our burning need to constantly prove ourselves on the sporting world stage all reflect the characteristics of an adolescent: insecure, uncertain of their place in the world, reluctant to come of age and enter adulthood. 
Speaking of ourselves as a 'middle power', boasting how we 'punch above our weight', saying we are the 'best in the southern hemisphere', is immature — this is Australia.
When watching the 1972 Olympic Games, I clearly recall Shane Gould receiving her three gold medals to a rendition of God Save the Queen; the anthem of Great Britain was also our national anthem at the time. Today very few would consider that appropriate and many would cringe, but back then few thought anything of it. Our nation eventually decided to change its anthem to reflect a maturing nation.
Today, several more things will need to change before we as a nation will fully mature.
First, we need our own truly Australian flag. Our current national flag is clearly a remnant of our colonial past. To have the flag of another nation on our national flag is as inappropriate as having the national anthem of another nation as our own.
Second, we need to become a republic. To have our head of state not one of us but a monarch from another nation is similarly inappropriate for a truly independent nation.
Third, we need to fully come to terms with our treatment of the original inhabitants of this land, our indigenous people. A mature nation would take complete responsibility for its often shameful history and embrace indigenous culture as central to the country and its future.
Fourth, we need to fully embrace the participation of women in the stewardship of the nation, politically and commercially. To have a federal cabinet that consists of 18 men and one woman, and to have only three women as chief executive officers of the top 50 ASX-listed companies (two when Gail Kelly of Westpac steps down), is an indictment on our society and not befitting a mature nation.
Fifth, we need to accept that since 1788 we have been an immigrant nation, full of people from all over the world, arriving in all types of circumstances. A mature nation, with this sort of understanding, would not tie itself in ridiculous knots over asylum seekers. 
Sixth, we need to accept that we are well and truly part of Asia and not a satellite of Europe. The sooner we are able to do this (and it entails more than just trade links), the sooner we will enter international adulthood.
With the right leadership all this will be possible for Australia, but unless and until these issues are dealt with, we will remain adolescent.
Imagine this one day: a national president who was originally an Afghan refugee opens our national parliament. The president swears into office our prime minister, an indigenous woman. The cabinet and parliament of the day reflect the gender and racial make up of our society. Flying above Parliament House is the Australian flag, without the Union Jack.
One might think that when all this happens the nation will have come of age, but that is only partly right; Australia will have fully come of age when everyone thinks this is normal.

This piece was originally published on the Lowy Institute's Interpreter website

Blog Archive

Our home

Our home
Earthrise over the moon (click on picture to view film)

The pale blue dot

The pale blue dot
Earth viewed from Saturn (click on picture to view film clip)

Our neighbourhood

Our neighbourhood
The Solar System (click on picture to view film)

Our Home Galaxy

Our Home Galaxy
The Milky Way (click on picture to view film)

A sister galaxy

A sister galaxy
Andromeda (click on picture to view film)

Another sister galaxy

Another sister galaxy
Triangulum (click on picture to view short film clip)

The Local Group of Galaxies

The Local Group of Galaxies
Our Galactic Neighbourhood (click on picture to view film clip).

Our farthest view of the Universe

Our farthest view of the Universe
Hubble's farthest view (click on picture to view film clip)

The virgo super cluster of galaxies

The virgo super cluster of galaxies
Galaxies within 100 million light years (click on picture to view film clip)

Galaxies within 1 billion light years

Galaxies within 1 billion light years