Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prahran: It don't mean a thing if you don't get that swing

So after all that, nothing much has changed. With close to 75% of the vote now counted, the swing to the Liberals in Prahran (on a two party preferred count) is just 0.5% compared to the state-wide swing of 2%. The primary votes suggest that there was very little movement amongst voters between 2002 and 2006, with small swings to the Greens (1.5%), Family First (1.2%, off a base of 0) and the Liberals (0.7%), whilst the ALP had a small swing against it (0.4%), with the absense of a Democrat and Indepedent (Abraham Lincoln!) explaining the rest.

Given the resources that were poured into this campaign by the major parties, how do we explain the lack of movement? Most likely, voters were not particularly attuned to the local battle, and shared the statewide apathy with the election campaign. As Bracks candidly confessed early in the campaign, "They aren't out there with baseball bats ready to get us."

It's worth noting that the Liberals were victorious on primary votes by a significant margin - 4% - and that Labor's victory in the seat is largely attributable to the extremely strong flow of Greens preferences. Winning the seat with less than 4 in 10 votes, as Lupton has done this time around, in hardly a ringing endorsement.

This also points to the remarkable performance of the Greens - 19.5% - who have established a firm foothold as the protest party of choice for wealthy inner-suburbanites. The only thing stopping Prahran from joining the inner-city seats which were on the verge of turning watermelon is that the Labor and Liberal votes are too close to one another, making it near impossible for the Greens to run second and leapfrog their way to victory on preferences. A significant Green vote is here to stay, and a reality that the Liberals will have to get used to if they are to win back seats like Prahran.

So it looks like Ella and Duke were right after all.

UPDATE 1/12, 5:00pm: Polly has pointed to the close battle in Southern Metro region, where the Greens, the ALP and the Liberals are each perilously close to a quota, with only two positions left to be filled. Antony Green suggests that the Greens are likely to pick up the second-last spot, and that the Liberals will just get their toe over the line for the final position:

Liberal 50799 1.0011 Quotas
Labor 50685 0.9989 Quotas

But as Antony says, this one is too close to call. The old adage about absentee votes going to the Liberals more heavily than ordinary votes will stengthen their hand. Also, the Liberal candidate in the balance is David Southwick, a Jew who will poll well amongst the prepolling religious Jews in the Caulfield and St Kilda parts of the electorate. My hunch is that the Libs will get there, meaning that Evan Thornley misses out: a great shame.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Clearly, they have too much time on their hands

From the Daily Telegraph, via Crikey about Her Maj's man in Canberra:

The whispering campaign against Major-General Jeffery recalls a story involving former veterans' affairs minister Danna Vale.

At a wreath-laying function, Ms Vale was allegedly introduced before the Governor-General.

According to Australian War Memorial staff involved at the time, Major-General Jeffery returned to Government House after the function but immediately despatched his aide-de-camp back to the memorial.

Senior memorial staff were informed that what had happened with Ms Vale was a breach of protocol and should not happen again.

Mrs Jeffery has also been targeted. According to sources close to Yarralumla, she tore strips off her husband's aide-de-camp after she didn't wear a hat to an official function whereas other women - including prominent Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop - did.

This, too, was regarded as a serious breach of protocol.

Wouldn't happen if we had a President.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Prahran: Election night results

Four more years
Four more years for Tony.

Counting has finished for the night, and it looks like Talk to Me Tony is back for four more years:


Primary Count

Justin Walker (Green)
VOTE: 19.4% SWING: +1.4%

Tony Lupton (Labor)
VOTE: 38.0% SWING: 0.0%

Clem Newton-Brown (Liberal)
VOTE: 41.4% SWING: +0.4%

Gary Pinto (Family First)
VOTE: 1.2% SWING: +1.2%

After Preferences

Tony Lupton (Labor)
VOTE: 56.3% SWING: +1.9%

Clem Newton-Brown (Liberal)
VOTE: 43.7% SWING: -1.9%

Interestingly only 67.4% of votes have been counted, one of the lowest of any electorates, suggesting that there is a high number of postal and absentee votes yet to be counted. Historically, there's a Liberal tendancy amongst these votes, but the Two Party Preferred margin seems to be too big to be overcome.

As happened in 2002, the Liberals won on primary votes, but got beaten soundly after the allocation of preferences. Most of these preferences are from the Greens. The Greens preference flow to the ALP was above 90%, an extraordinarily strong flow, especially given that Newton-Blog went out of his way to establish his environmental credentials.

Enough for now. More tomorrow.

UPDATE 1/12, 5:10pm: An anonymous commenter has asked about whether the results demonstrate the irrelevance of the internet in attracting voters. I think Anonymous is onto something. To me, it comes down the question of who is likely to turn to candidate websites, videos or blogs for information - they are overwhelmingly likely to be switched on politically-minded people who are already well-entrenched in their political beliefs. In other words, swing voters are likely to be apathetic, and therefore not spending their time online finding out about their local candidates.

More likely, the internet plays a role in keeping up energy and excitement amongst true believers, letting them know that the candidate is lively and active. Few undecided voters might have seen Clem's YouTube blog, but plenty of Liberal helpers would have turned to it for inspiration. So long as your helpers don't have the internet as a big part of their lives - ie, the DLP - you can get away with a scant internet presence. For the rest, though, it's essential.

Still, we all know how well went.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Prahran: Final thoughts

In just a few hours time, the polls will open in Prahran and the 33,000 or so rugged individualists who call this place home will have their say. The more I've watched this campaign, the less I've been certain of the result. Those watching from afar would probably have no difficulty picking it: Lupton's a well-known and well-liked sitting member in an electorate of Doctors' Wives and assorted other progressives, and should be returned easily. On the ground, though, the energy of the Newton-Brown campaign has easily dwarfed his opponents, giving the impression that he might just achieve success.

Ultimately, however, for Newton-Brown the 4.3% swing required is just a tad beyond him. Accepting that the statewide swing to the Liberals will be 2.5%, and that Newton-Brown's personal vote may earn him a further 1%, he's still short of the mark. For most voters, the local battle is a mere sideshow to the heavy-hitters - Bracks and Baillieu - and their efforts will count for far more than that of local candidates.

So for Prahran, my prediction is a Lupton victory, with a decent sized swing against him. As unfashionable as it is to say it, in this battle we've been blessed with two quality candidates, and whoever gets in will be a deserving victor. For the loser, this battle will be but a mere stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Just one sleep to go!

Gary PintoJustin Walker
Clem Newton-BrownTony Lupton
A smorgasbord of candidates awaits Prahran voters.

State election predictions

Morgan have the ALP up 53 to 47.

Galaxy have the ALP up 55 to 45.

But then again, "Last poll tips easy Kennett victory"

If both polls are accurate and the swing is consistant across the state, they'll lead to a return of the Bracks government, albeit with a reduced majority. Which sounds about right. Bracks will win the election, but this is as much a result of the commanding victory he had in 2002 as it is a ringing endorsement of the previous four years of his Premiership.

Voters aren't thrilled with Bracks, but they see him as a reasonably harmless bloke, even if he occasionally appears paralysed by indecision. It's a reflection on state and local politics more generally that voters are looking for decent administrators rather than real visionaries. When schools, hospitals, roads and water are at stake, the worst offence is rocking the boat. Mediocrity is a virtue.

Politically, there are three very different styles of battles going on.

Firstly, there are the country electorates. These are the ones made up of lifelong conservative voters who swung to Labor in 1999 and have stuck with them. It's interesting to note that these are areas with little historical tradition of voting Labor, and the Labor trend certainly hasn't carried over to Federal elections. If the working class suburbanites who voted for Howard in 1996 and never looked back are "Howard's Battlers", then perhaps these voters are "Bracks' bumpkins".

It will be interesting to see if they stick with Bracks this time around. They've got every reason to desert him. The drought is hitting regional Victoria hard, water restrictions are harsher in the country than they are in Melbourne and the Fast Train has become the Farce Train. Most likely some of these voters will return to the conservative fold, however the bitter divisions between the Liberals and Nationals are hardly encouraging. Watch for some of these seats to fall from Labor to Liberal. For the Nationals, their days are numbered.

My prediction: Ripon, South Barwon, Ballarat West, Hastings, Gembrook to fall to the Liberals.

Secondly, there are suburban electorates. The northern and western suburbs have always been Labor heartland, and nothing their will change. In the south and the east, Bracks might be on the nose, Pinnocio-style, because of his Bracksflip on tolls for the Mitcham to Frankston Freeway. But these are voters who have fallen under the charms of St Steve, and the toll reversal will be too long gone to hurt him. These seats will stay with the ALP. There are, though, a few that will fall from Labor's grasp, because the of slender margin by which they're held, and the strength of the local campaign.

My prediction: Evelyn, Kilsyth and Mount Waverley to fall.

Thirdly, there is the intriguing battle in the inner-city, where the ALP are under threat from a relentless Greens campaign. There was talk that these seats might fall in 2002, but then the Labor sitting members achieved a primary vote which was too high for the Greens to leapfrog to victory. This time, though, the primary vote will be lower for Labor and those seats look under real threat. The ALP have tried incredibly hard to publicise the preference deal the Greens have reached with the Liberals. It's a message, though, that means very little to the cynical, disengaged and Green-loving voters at which it is targeted.

My prediction: Richmond, Brunswick and Melbourne will all go Green.

So all in all, here's what I predict will happen:
- Labor will lose five seats in the country, mostly to the Liberals.
- Labor will lose three seats in the inner city, to the Greens.
- Labor will lose three seats in the eastern suburbs, to the Liberals.

Therefore, Labor will be returned with a significantly reduced majority:

Labor 51 (-11)
Liberal 25 (+8)
Nationals 7 (=)
Greens 3 (+3)
Independents 2 (=)

As for the Upper House, in each of the eight regions, Labor will win two seats, and the Liberals will win two seats. As for the final seats, here's how I think they'll fall:

- Southern Metro, South Eastern Metro, Western Metro, Northern Metro: Greens
- Eastern Metro: Family First
- Western Vic, Northern Vic and Eastern Vic: Nationals

Which leaves us with 16 Labor, 16 Liberals, 4 Greens, 3 Nationals and 1 Family First. This fine balance will make things extremely tricky for the ALP if they are returned in the lower house. Even if they were to reach an agreement with the Greens, one one of their number is elected as Speaker, they no longer have a majority on the floor of the house. Perhaps the single Family First member will become Spring Street's very own Steve Fielding. Oh the joy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Prahran: Rules are rules

The VEC site has some fantastic dancing ballot papers...

Makes you wanna get up and vote! Makes you wanna get up and vote!
Makes you wanna get up and vote!

... but I couldn't find the specific rules relating to appropriate authorisation of campaign material. Does anyone want to offer an opinion on whether campaigning SMSs and emails are required to carry the standard "Written and authorised" tag-line? It would seem an unusual exception if it wasn't required of them, and a certain local Liberal candidate has been sending 'em out, authorisation-free.

UPDATE 22/11, 4:20pm: I found the relevant piece of legislation on the AUSTLII website (which, sadly, features no waltzing acts of parliament, nor lambadaing High Court judgements). Section 83 is the one for us:

83. Printing and publication of electoral advertisements, handbills, pamphlets or notices

1) A person must not print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice unless-

(a) the name and address of the person who authorised the electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice appears at its end; and

(b) in the case of an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice that is printed or published otherwise than in a newspaper, the name and place of business of the printer or publisher appears at its end.

Penalty: In the case of a natural person, 10 penalty units; In the case of a body corporate, 50 penalty units.

(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1)(b), a person who makes copies for distribution of an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice that is published on the Internet is deemed to be the printer of those copies.

(3) Sub-section (1) does not apply in relation to-

(a) a car sticker, an item of clothing, lapel button, lapel badge, fridge magnet, pen, pencil or balloon; or

(b) an article included in a prescribed class of articles.

(4) Nothing in sub-section (3)(a) is to be taken, by implication, to limit the generality of regulations that may be made by virtue of sub-section (3)(b).

So does a mass-circulation SMS or email constitute "an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice" which is "printed, published or distributed"? Hmmm, one for the lawyers out there.

Prahran: The Clem Show continues

The Clem Newton-Blog DVD has arrived in the post today for me, and presumably for most of Prahran (his only direct mail out this campaign, apparently).

The CNB motorised billboards have hit the streets.

The "Vote Ted... Vote Clem" ad is in the (city-wide) Beat magazine. This is a cashed-up campaign which continues to roll on relentlessly. All of a sudden the 4.3% swing required is looking very gettable.

It's rather prophetic to read the words of Robert Ray, the Labor veteran who was commenting on the 2002 state campaign for the The Age. Two days before the election Ray focussed on the then-challenger Talk to Me Tony Lupton, and the way he ran a strong local campaign:

Communicating with the electorate is what it's all about. An introductory card, followed up by a community survey, several leaflets on specific issues and direct mail from both Lupton and the Premier mean few residents of Prahran don't know of Labor's campaign.

A local campaign has many facets other than just leafleting. Tony Lupton has knocked on over 2000 doors, conducted policy forums, met residents' groups and spent every morning of the campaign at local railway stations. Before all this, he was involved in street chats at the Prahran Market, Toorak Village and the Hawksburn shopping centre. More than 1000 telephone calls have been made to undecided voters.

For many candidates this would be a major chore but a select few, like Lupton, revel in it. Meeting people, mixing it up, copping the odd bit of abuse is all part of the campaign. Lupton would have been buoyed by the fact that Premier Bracks has visited the electorate three times.

Perhaps Newton-Blog has stolen Lupton's campaign manual.

Word on the street, though, is that Talk to Me Tony has been hitting the phones hard, a technique that will be just about invisible to those of us watching the campaign until we see its impact on polling day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prahran: Upper house dilemma

Accepting for a moment that Bracks will be returned, albeit with a reduced majority (although one campaigner working at Liberal HQ suggested that the battle was far from over), our attention now rightly turns to the vexing question of who ought control the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Democrats candidate (and incidentally a former campaign manager of AOTW) from Southern Metro region John Mathieson sent out this email to the true believers... and me as well, for some reason:

In 2006 the voting system has been changed for the Victorian Upper House. Instead of the old system where 22 members were each elected for 2 terms in single member electorates, we now have a senate style voting system where 8 electorates will each elect 5 members. This means for the first time that smaller parties are likely to win seats in the Victorian Upper House. In fact it is more than likely that smaller parties will hold the balance of power in the Upper House. This could maybe be The Greens, or Family First or some of the new dodgy outfits with an unproven track record.

Or it could be a party with a 25 year proven track record of mediation and forward thinking in the Australian Senate such as the Australian Democrats. This year... I am standing, along with my friend, the extraordinarily passionate and dedicated Paul Kavanagh, for the seat of Southern Metropolitan in the Victorian Upper House. Southern Metropolitan covers most of the prosperous areas where you people are likely to be living – from Beaumaris to Port Melbourne to Balwyn to Oakleigh...

I have seen how John Howard has handled his Senate majority “soberly, sensibly and wisely” since he got control of both Houses of Parliament and I’m not too sure he owns the same dictionary as me. Mine is from Oxford, his I think may have been penned by Alan Jones. Howard’s not the first to think that controlling both houses of parliament is a licence to shut down the Democratic process and he won’t be the last. I want to be involved in ensuring that Upper Houses around Australia remain serious Houses of Review and not rubber stamps and that fellows like Howard and his kind don’t get the opportunity to unleash their worst instincts on the Australian public in the future. At the end of the day, why have an Upper House if it is not able or prepared to scrutinize legislation thoroughly and objectively?

It's a fine questions that John poses. It seems most likely that the balance of power will be held by some or all of People Power, Family First and the Greens. Sorry, not the Democrats.

Two of those three prospects are alarming. The thought of a government needing to rely on the support on ideological zealots on either the left or the right in order to pass legislation is a scary one. The Greens and Family First both represent a victory of fundamentalist principles over moderation and compromise.

Which leaves those of us who value a rigourous but functional upper house in a quandry. At best, the Democrats will be a preference funnel for someone else, picking up a percent or two only the have themselves knocked out of the race just a little after the DLP. Perhaps the way out is the great unknown, People Power, who see to have sprung up from nothing, and have taken what can best be described as a scattergun approach to policy? At the moment I'm leaning in that direction, but not with much confidence.

What's a moderate voter to do?

UPDATE 22/11, 11:10AM: One emailer has queried whether my leaning toward People Power was for my first preference. It's not: instead it's my highest preference out of the three in contention for the balance of power. With respect to my primary vote, well, old habits die hard!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter who has pointed me toward UpperHouse.Info, a site to which I've become quite a fan, especially with its election calculators. For the psephologist nerd in us all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Prahran: Gay, green, and kinda obscene

From yesterday's Sunday Herald Sun:

Green's website sex profile
By Chris Tinkler

November 19, 2006 12:00am

A KEY Melbourne Greens candidate has admitted to declaring on a website a fondness for illegal sexual perversions.

Justin Walker, a chance to win the seat of Prahran (a chance?? who are they kidding. -AOTW), has advertised picking up men in public toilets among his sexual activities on a homosexual dating site.

The 29-year-old, photographed at functions with Greens patriarch Senator Bob Brown, also declared a taste for exhibitionism, group sex, voyeurism and self-gratification.

Having sex in public toilets and indecent exposure are both criminal offences.

The story relates to a Gaydar listing that Justin "Juzzy" Walker had for himself, which has since been removed. (A bit of self correction on my part is needed here - the profile has been amended, not removed. -AOTW.)

Andrew Landeryou over at The Other Cheek seems to be getting very hot and bothered over Walker's unusual proclivities. Though I'm not a big fan of Landeryou's take on this fairly mild discovery that a candidate (shock, horror) has an interesting sex life, I am thankful to him for doing much of the journalistic leg work to publish the original source material. You can check out a screen shot of the Gaydar page here. The sanatised, clean - and still kilt-adoring - Gaydar page can be found here.

As for the rest of the world, it seems likely that the scandal will pass rather
quickly. Indeed, in the electorate of Prahran, for many voters frottage and exhibitionism, is, well, kind of endearing.

(Hat Tip to Michael Hudson for pointing me in the direction of this one. And of course to Handy Andy.)

UPDATE, 21/11 5:30pm: I've received correspondence from Justin, who has rightly pointed out that I erred in suggesting that the profile has since been removed. It has, in fact, been altered.

He also requested that I include his comment from the original article in properly representing his position:

Mr Walker admitted yesterday to putting the content on the website page, which also includes a link to his election campaign blog.

"I put that profile up four to five years ago, I haven't looked at it since," Mr Walker said.

He claimed some of the information was wrong.

"The information was incorrect and I corrected it," he said.

It was rather unfortunate to draw our attention to this confused version of events. Just like Bill Clinton faced impeachment not because of his sexual activities but becaused he lied about them, Walker's biggest sin might be these half-truthes rather than the events to which they refer.

To suggest that he hadn't looked at the profile in four or five years, and yet managed to include a reference to his Prahran candidacy, an event which would have occurred early in 2006, makes no sense. Short of editing his profile without looking at it, this seems a logical impossibility.

This minor confusion aside, the more I think about the sequence of events, the more I sympathise with Walker and the gutter journalism he has encountered from the Herald Sun and Landeryou. The attack is little more than a homophobic witch-hunt, with the focus of the attack not on the suggestion of criminality, but on the notion that being an out, gay, sexually active man is worthy of shame. It isn't, and any journalist who believes that it's worthy of comment is reflecting their own prejudices in their news judgement.

My decision to retell the story was in part to refer to its insignificance, and also as part of my attempt to catelogue the events of the campaign, whatever they may be. Politically, I think that Walker's sexuality is irrelevant, and the way he has been portrayed says as much about his accusers as it does about him.

As Polly has pointed out elsewhere on this topic, the 'allegations' are more likely to help his campaign than they are to harm it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And to think I should be studying for an exam...

The latest edition of Melbourne Pixel is online.

Okay, so nepotism might have taken me to the site, but it's quality content that kept me there. For twenty minutes now, and counting. If you can find yourself a more stylishly designed bit of cyber-real estate, I'd love to see it.

And the ever thoughtful Nahum was at the Make Poverty History Forum yesterday at the Town Hall, and shares some of his thoughts with the MG collecting community.

Prahran: Cutting through

In the midst of an election campaign, one of the biggest challenges for a candidate is to 'cut through' the dross, grandstanding and overhyped posturing of all the others. It's a rare skill, and even more so in an era of cynical politicians and an even more cynical electorate.

In the battle for Prahran, Clem Newton-Blog seems to be doing just that.

The past week has seen CNB come close to overwhelming the electorate with campaign material. Normally this is barely worthy of comment, especially in a marginal electorate. What is noteworthy, though, is that CNB's campaign is fresh and innovative in a way that makes "Talk to Me" Tony struggle in his wake.

Newton-Blog has letterboxed the electorate promoting an afternoon tea on Saturday in the home of one of his constituents, along with guests David Davis and Big Ted himself. The function is limited to 150 places (which is 1% of the electorate) but the flyer would make CNB's accessability known to many more beyond that. It show's Newton-Blog as an open and available person, and the invite has a charming old-world feel to it.

Wandering along Chapel Street, the clogged arterty which runs through the middle of the electorate, I came across two motorcycle mobile billboards trumpeting that I should "Vote Clem... Vote Ted" along with the aforementioned's smiling faces. (Normally I'd publish the photos to share this find, but at the moment my camera and computer are getting on with each other about as well as the Liberals and Nationals are.) Motorised billboards are certainly a step up from Clem's bicycled A-Frame, and would surely have cost plenty.

To add to all that, apparently Clem's famous YouTube debut will be coming out as a DVD, delivered to a letter box near you some time soon. The man clearly means business.

As for the Lupton campaign, there's been a decent volume of mail (although even then it is dwarfed by all the Clem-aphenalia) but crucially it lacks the ability to cut through. Every week there's been a personally addressed letter banging on about the wonderful achievements of St Steve and the horrors of evil Mr Baillieu, but it reads like it came straight out of the Labor election campaign kit. It lacks colour or movement or a sense of excitement.

My hunch is that the Lib's have identified Prahran as an electorate which is likely to swing. The resources poured into the Clem campaign must surely dwarf what even the candidate himself thought possible. This is no longer merely a young local upstart tring to shave a couple of percent of the sitting member. This is now a concerted, highly funded campaign focussed on the end game.

A week to go, gentlemen.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Prahran: A late starter joins the race

Nominations have closed for candidates for the State Election, and the fine citizens of Prahran are blessed with four (count 'em, FOUR!) humanoids desperate to represent them on Spring Street:

Candidates in ballot paper order

WALKER, Justin




Justin, Tony and Clem are well known to this blog, but Gary Pinto is the New Kid on The Block (you'll see why that's funny mildly amusing in a moment).

So just who is Gary Pinto?

The Family First website is largely unhelpful, other than for its colourful and multi font-filled way of telling the world sweet FA.

Lower House Candidate
Details of this candidate will be added shortly.
For more information contact

But a Google search is revealing.

Hit Number 2 is Infusion Nites, who tell us this about the wannabe MP:

Gary Pinto

Australian singer/songwriter Gary Pinto is a man of distinct sound and great vocal talent. Gary fronted the Melbourne based R&B outfit CDB in the mid 1990s and after the group separated, Gary went on to pursue a solo career. Gary's smooth vocals are showcased in his music which is soulful, inspirational, and positively charged.

...and a little futher down the Googlelist we stumble across Pinto's Guy Sebastian connection:

The deeply religious Sebastian said at the weekend he did not intend to moralise to women on the subject but believes establishing such a clinic was vital to help women make informed decisions regarding the consequences of abortion.

"I've met a few women who have had one and their stories are just horrific, they just shock you," he said in Adelaide on Saturday. "Some have never recovered.
"It's the worst thing to do – make an uninformed, uneducated decision. That's how stuff goes wrong."

The planned centre would be aimed at helping both women who have had abortions and those who are considering having them, Sebastian said

"I'm anti-abortion; I don't believe any human being has the right to decide the fate of another, but I'm totally against telling other people what to do," he said.

He hopes to establish the centre with the help of one of his backing singers, Gary Pinto, who was formerly part of the group CDB.

The links between Sebastian, Family First and the Assemblies of God are well known.

That style of Christianity has struck a chord with outer-suburbanites, many of whom are deeply conservative 'aspirational class' voters. It's much less certain, however, that this brand of family values will play well in the god-forsaken heathen-loving idol-worshipping Sodomite Kingdom of Prahran.

Pinto will no doubt have his hands full pitching the Family First message deep in enemy territory. Still, the man can sing. Clem? Tony?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Live it, don't just blog it

I've just spent a delightful afternoon in the cosy surrounds of the James Squire Brewhouse with some well-informed friends watching the Midterm Midtacular results on CNN. Between the dozen of us, there were enough smart-arse remarks, well-formed observations and generally intelligent questions to make the afternoon a fun one. Sure, the flash looking big-screen TV was an essential part of our election-info diet, but it was an event to be enjoyed collectively.

Not so the blogosphere. After arriving home, I've logged on to see what the rest of the world has to say, and I'm startled by the obsessiveness of many bloggers. There were countless bloggers who took it upon themselves to blog the events of the evening in excrutiating detail, with every twist and turn documented for all eternity.

Sure, I admire their commitment to their craft, but here's what I don't get: why did these clearly intelligent and well-informed people spend their election night whiling away the hours in front of their computer screens when there were many an election party to be enjoyed? Would their time have not been better spent enjoying victory or commisserating defeat in the arms of friends, no doubt whilst imbibing a Dennis Hastert-like quantity of ale? Or, and this is the intriguing thing, are their on-line buddies now their circle of friends, with a big night spent with them being preferable to one in the company of flesh-and-blood humans?

Happy Democrats
Victorious Democrats, moments before returning to their computers to blog all about it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prahran: Tram It, Dammit

This week's Stonnington Leader has a decent amount of election coverage, although its treatment of the issue of the week, transport, was monumentally lame. The biggest transport issue for Prahranites: are the old W-Class trams on the Chapel Street route too noisy and cumbersome? Local residents complained about the noise, Tony said he liked 'em and Clem didn't bother. Right.

How about this as the transport question for Prahrainians: what can we do to increase capacity on peak hour trains? As most transport wonks will tell you, it's a question of infrastructure.

Firstly, Melbourne's antiquated signalling system limits the frequency of services because it requires big gaps between trains. It can and should be overhauled.

Secondly, the number of tracks at some outer-suburban parts of the network are inadquate and need to be increased. This effects the frequency of services in the inner-city. Triplication all the way to Dandenong would do wonders.

Thirdly, the city loop is at its limits. The long term option needs to be the building of a fifth and sixth loop, but in the mean time there need to be more train lines that "do a Sandringham" and go direct to Flinders Street.

Looking beyond the Prahranese, there is a desperate need for infrastructure in the outer 'burbs. The trainline to Rowville has been mooted for decades but is no closer to being built. Deviating from the Dandenong line at Huntingdale, it could service Rowville, Scoresby, Mulgrave and Monash University very easily, overhauling that part of the city's reputation as a public transport black hole. Millions have been spend studying the possibility. Electrification to Craigieburn and (finally) the train line to South Morang should be high on the agenda.

So is either major party walking the walk? Not likely. Whilst Rome burns, the two parties fiddle.

Adjusting ticket pricing is the easy option that the parties have adopted. Baillieu wants to provide (PDF warning) free transport to students and merge zones 2 and 3. Talk about missing the point! For those who live within range of decent public transport, PT is undoubtedly better value than a car. For those who live beyond decent public transport, no financial saving will outweigh the inconvenience of using it. Bottom line is that consumers are much more sensitive to service levels and infrastructure than they are to pricing.

Credit ought to go to the Libs, though, for promising the building of the Cranbourne East train line and the extention to South Morang as praised by the fine folks at the Public Transport Users Association.

As for the ALP, thus far into the campaign this is what they have to offer (PDF warning) on public transport: