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, 16 November 2017

Lest we ever forget this...

Fellow citizens,

Liberal MP Kevin Andrews says a Jewish baker should be able to refuse to serve a Muslim couple and vice versa.

He made the comments while arguing bakers should be able to refuse services to same-sex couples for a wedding if they held a religious view against same-sex marriage.

Asked if a Jewish baker should be able to deny a Muslim couple a cake, he said: “Why not?”. [SBS]

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The State of Play: Déjà vu all over again

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

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, Polling.

As at the end of October 2017, this is how the polling numbers compare to the final polls under Tony Abbott.

The key points are:

The Coalition's primary vote is at 35.5% (2.5% lower than when Abbott was last Prime Minister).

The ALP's primary vote is at 37% (0.2% lower than when Abbott was last Prime Minister).

The Greens' primary vote is at 10% (3.6% lower than when Abbott was last Prime Minister).

The Others Group primary vote is at 17.5% (6.3% higher than when Abbott was last Prime Minister). One Nation accounts for 8% of that Others' 17.5%.

In Two Party Preferred terms, the Coalition's vote is at 46.2% (essentially in the same position as when Abbott was last Prime Minister).

In pure two party preferred numbers, when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister about 1,000,000 voters switched from the ALP to the Coalition.

Now those voters have all switched back.

What goes around...

Primary votes as at end October 2017 %

Last Polls Abbott
Current Polls Turnbull

Two party preferred votes as at end October 2017 %
Last Polls Abbott
Current Polls Turnbull

Friday, 20 October 2017

NZ election result explained

Fellow citizens,

The New Zealand election result explained.

The Labour Party, NZ First Party and the Green Party attracted 50.4% of the vote; the National Party attracted 44.4%.

Labour, NZ First and the Greens hold 63 seats in a parliament of 120; the National Party holds 56 seats.

While National attracted the biggest number of votes for any one party, a majority of New Zealanders did not vote for them and so it is not unreasonable that a coalition of other parties (who did command a majority of votes) form the NZ government.


2017 General Election - Official Result


Nationwide Party Votes Results


Percentage of vote

Party Votes% of VotesElectorate SeatsList SeatsTotal seats
National Party1,152,07544.4411556
Labour Party956,18436.9291746
New Zealand First Party186,7067.2-99
Green Party162,4436.3-88
ACT New Zealand13,0750.51-1
The Opportunities Party (TOP)63,2612.4---
Māori Party30,5801.2---
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party8,0750.3---
New Zealand People's Party1,8900.1---
United Future1,7820.1---
NZ Outdoors Party1,6200.1---
Democrats for Social Credit8060.0---
Internet Party4990.0---

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What's the likely vote on same-sex marriage?

Fellow citizens,

While we won't know what the results from the same-sex marriage survey will be until November 15, there is enough data for us to make an estimate of what the likely result will be.

Women will be the key to this outcome, as I wrote on September 12 in a piece titled "On equal marriage sisters are doin' it for themselves...and everyone else"

Since August 22, Essential Research has published four reports on same-sex marriage and has found the support from women in favour as follows:

65%, 65%, 62%, 63% (average = 64%)

Whereas the support from men in favour was as follows:

48%, 52%, 47%, 52% (average = 50%)

As to the intention to vote, Essential Research published three reports prior to and just as the postal surveys had started to be mailed out and found that the percentage of women who said they would "definitely vote" as:

67%, 66%, 64% (average = 66%)

Whereas the percentage of men who said they would "definitely vote" as:

59%, 58%, 55% (average = 58%)

This ratio of the intended participation of women to men is consistent with the findings of Ipsos Research (published on September 12) which found 72% of women said they would "definitely return their survey form", as opposed to 59% of men.

Since the same-sex survey has been in full operation, Essential Research has found that 41% of women have reported that they have "already voted" as opposed to only 30% of men, illustrating that women are doing what they said they would are the men.

What does this tell us?

That the gender most in favour of same-sex marriage is also the gender most likely to vote and therefore unless something quite extraordinary and unexpected occurs the same-sex marriage survey will be carried.

And the vote?

Using the estimates from Essential Research, if 64% of women and 50% of men vote YES, and 36% of women and 50% of men vote NO, then the total vote for YES would equal 57% and the vote for NO would equal 43%.

And then the difference in participation changes the result slightly.

Again using the estimates from Essential Research, if 66% of women and 58% of men participate in the survey, then the overall vote in favour of YES would increase to 58% and the vote in favour of NO would decrease to 42%.

Nothing, of course, is certain. However, there is enough recent and current evidence of intent and action from the women (and men) of Australia to lead me to conclude that the same-sex marriage survey will be carried comfortably.


Monday, 25 September 2017

An address to the nation by Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull

Good evening my fellow citizens.

By now you should have received your ballot papers to participate in the same-sex marriage survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

I encourage you to participate in this survey to make sure your voice is heard.

I also encourage you to vote YES.

And the reason is very simple: Because it is fair.

In the nation of the 'fair go' it is not fair for one group of Australians not to enjoy the same rights as another group of Australians - and those rights are: to have the right, under law, to marry the person that they love.

I know in my case, I would have found it intolerable not to have been allowed by law to have married my wife, Lucy, 37 years ago.

I would have seen it as a grave injustice.

Yet that injustice exists now for all same-sex Australians who want to get married.

We now have the opportunity to redress this injustice.

The survey asks one simple question: Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

A YES vote from the Australian public will see the Government facilitate the introduction of a private members bill to legalise same-sex marriage and we will pass that bill into law before the end of this year.

Now you would have heard a number of arguments from those who are opposing same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately, many of those arguments are without any foundation and, in any event, are irrelevant to the question you are being asked.

As your Prime Minister, I feel it is my duty to deal with these falsehoods being expressed so you know the facts.

First, you have been told that religious freedoms will be adversely affected - this is false. 24 nations have legalised same-sex marriage and there has been no change to religious freedoms in those countries, and it will be the same case here in Australia.

Second, you have been told that freedom of speech will be curbed - this is false. There will be no change to your ability to express your opinions freely and with passion within the laws as they currently exist.

Third, you have been told that the children of same-sex couples are worse off than children of heterosexual couples - this is false. The Australian Medical Association and the Australian Psychologists Society have stated that there is no evidence to support that proposition. The well being of children is determined by the love of their parents not their gender.

Fourth, you have been told that schools will be compelled to introduce a whole range of initiatives that will adversely affect your children's education - this is false. There will be no interference in how schools implement their education curriculums as a result of legalising same-sex marriage in Australia.

Once again, I state, the only question you are being asked to express an opinion on is: Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

My fellow citizens, I encourage you to participate in the survey and I encourage you to vote YES and I do so because it is fair.

Good evening and thank you for your attention.


It is my view that Malcolm Turnbull needs to make such an address right now.

He will earn the respect of the nation and it might just save his Prime Ministership.

Over to you, brother.

Friday, 22 September 2017

John Howard and Tony Abbott foul our democratic nest

Fellow citizens,

Many important pieces covering important issues have been written recently.

One of the most important, in my view, was "Coalition will not be mired in Abbott's white noise" by Niki Savva, September 21, 2017, The Australian.

"Observing politics lately has been like watching a wildlife documentary on the elders of the species eating their young. All the serving and former MPs, including a respected former prime minister, telling people the government can’t be trusted to deliver — in this case legislation that both enables same-sex couples to marry and those who oppose them to freely practise their religious beliefs — helps nobody and damages everyone.
It is no wonder voters lose faith in governments to do their job and turn to those who market themselves as outsiders — the Hansons, the Trumps, the PUPs.

Tony Abbott, expert in these matters, started it, John Howard provided the big bang and, in case anyone missed the point, Matt Canavan (relishing a little too much his freedom from cabinet solidarity) said it explicitly at the weekend: trust me when I say you can’t trust me because I am a politician. It is cynical, opportunistic and destructive of the body politic."
For Howard and Abbott to devalue the profession that has given them so much in life - especially the privilege of holding the highest office in Australia - is a disgrace.

They should be condemned for it. 

And for what?

To win an argument over marriage equality.

Marriage equality will happen. This year, next year, the year after, but it will happen. That is certain.

The repair to the damage of the standing of politicians and effectively the working of our democracy is not certain.

Surely they must understand this.

Abbott, of course, has form on this.

Amanda Vanstone wrote of it "For the record, I'll be voting 'Yes'" August 13, 2017, The Sydney Morning Herald.

"It's just an opinion but it is my view that Abbott has done more than any other politician to trash the standing of politics and politicians. He's had a really good education and been given every opportunity by his party. We expected more. We got less.

Remember, this is the guy who, as a politician, ran the argument "Don't trust the politicians" in the republic referendum debate. People on all sides were amazed at such a blatant undermining of the institution of parliament. When you undermine parliament, you undermine democracy. What kind of mind enters parliament and then trashes it for the sake of one debate?"

Howard mentioned in his joint conversation with Bob Hawke recently, hosted by Annabel Crabb, that he would like to see reform of Section 128 of The Australian Constitution. 

That's the section that deals with constitutional amendments:
"The Commonwealth Parliament initiates constitutional amendments. Section 128 of the Australian Constitution requires that a proposal to amend the Constitution must first take the form of a Bill submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament. Between two and six months after it leaves the Parliament, the proposal 'shall be submitted' in a referendum to the voters in the various States and Territories.

For an amendment to be ratified, the so-called 'double majority' is required. There must be a majority of voters saying YES in a majority of the States (i.e. at least four of the six), but there must also be a nation-wide affirmative vote. Territory votes are included in the national total, but not in any State figure (for the wording of s. 128 see Appendix)." [The Politics of Constitutional Amendments APH Library].
Howard is correct. The Constitution does need reform, as I have written before

However, what chance do you think there is that the Australian people will give any consent to reducing the power they hold over changing the Constitution (and quite likely ceding some of that power to politicians) when two former prime ministers - conservative prime ministers - tell them that you can't trust politicians?

At least Howard's ambitions in asking for trust are lofty, as they extend to the ideal of changing The Australian Constitution.

Abbott's ambitions, for the moment, merely extend to asking Australians to believe every word of his account of the alleged 'Head butt in Hobart'.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Five excellent pieces on equal marriage

Fellow citizens,

There have been some excellent pieces published recently about equal marriage or alternatively, to keep those who are politically correct satisfied, same sex marriage.

If you haven't had a chance to be across these pieces, I have collected a few here for you to read.

Yes, they are all in favour of supporting equal marriage.

Try as I might, I have yet to find a lucid argument against equal marriage.

All I hear - all I've ever heard from those opposing equal marriage - is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

That's not an argument, that's an opinion. And a weak one at that. But at least it's honest.

All the rest about religious freedoms, free speech, political correctness, the effect on the raising of children and the corruption of education are completely dishonest or alternatively, to keep those who are politically correct satisfied, a load of old codswallop.

In any event, they are not relevant to the question being asked - with all due respect (or undue respect, as the case may be). 

Now to the pieces:

"The ambition my brother abandoned because he was gay - why a 'yes' vote matters" 
by David Kirby (brother of Michael Kirby) 
What rational objection could there be to such a marriage? What business is it of others? How would it in any way jeopardise the union that may exist between others?

The suggestion by Tony Abbott that such marriages amount to "such huge change" that it "would shake society's foundations" is absurd. The same change has been adopted in 24 other countries, with a total population of 760 million people. The gruesome changes predicted have not materialised. Such fears are a debating trick, aimed at diverting attention from the simple proposition that to deny the facility of civil marriage to a minority in our community is unfair. It is an injustice that must be rectified. Gays have suffered enough. It is definitely past time to turn the page.

"Where's the biff? Free speech has won every round in the marriage equality debate" 
by David Marr
However they dress up their worries in the rhetoric of freedom, the great complaint of the naysayers is having to campaign at all. A faith that once faced lions is indignant about being challenged.
“We’re under assault,” cries Cory Bernardi but offers no proof of rough treatment. Sure, the contest has been a bit too willing at times but where’s the biff? Where are the martyrs? Who has actually been silenced?

Free speech has won every round that matters in this contest.

"'Yes' vote won't affect religious freedom - even the freedom to discriminate" 
by Jane Caro
Not only can anyone remain opposed to same-sex marriage regardless of the result of the non-binding (there's a clue in that, guys) postal survey, they can continue to speak against it and can certainly think whatever mutinous thoughts they like, and will still be able to even if the Marriage Act is changed. Indeed, if they belong to, run, are employed by or represent a religious organisation, they will continue to be able to discriminate willy-nilly.

"F*** you, I'm done with being respectful" by Laurence Barber (language warning)
For pretty much our entire lives, we’re forced to think about the version of ourselves we put across in public.

As LGBTQIA people, we’re burdened by a supposed need to modulate our behaviour, our speech, our looks. Don’t dress too queer. Stay in the closet at work. Better not hold hands on this street, just in case.

We’re not the only ones who have to do this. Women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and more – many of whom are also queer – suffer the same societal pressures.
Unfortunately, this is the reality we must contend with: one in which we battle to be seen as human so we can express ourselves and live authentically.

The marriage equality debate has delivered a concentrated assault on our collective personhood, but in more insidious forms than ever before.

"Gay people are anything but spineless, Mr Canavan" by Ernesto Montoto
Dear Matthew "grow a spine" Canavan,
I'd like to share my story with you and hope that maybe you'll have some level of empathy to understand the difficulties some of us face in life.

I am a 42-year-old man, who is in a loving 19-year relationship. I'd like to start my life story with you from when I was a young child. I was born in 1975. Only two years prior (1973) homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Homosexuality may have been depathologised in 1973, but the majority of society continued to treat homosexuals as perverse and sick individuals.

 Amor omnia vincit, veritas omnia vincit. 


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