Australia Federal Election 2016: What Happens Next?

The short answer is “counting continues”. The long answer is that “counting continues, and it’s a much more complicated process than you might think”. But before I go into how votes are counted, it’s worth taking a look at how they’re cast, because understanding that is important to understanding why counting takes as long as it does.

Starting at the Start:
Voting actually commences before polling day, in several different ways.

There are pre-polling centres across Australia (and the world, but I’ll come back to them) where you can vote ahead of time for whatever reason (say, if you have to work on polling day). Many, but not all, of these are also polling booths on election day. In the cases of those that are also polling day booths, these pre-poll votes will have begun being counted by now, after the polling day votes are counted on election night. In the cases of those which are not, these votes will have been sent to the divisional office to await counting.

There are also mobile pre-polling booths, which primarily exist to serve people in hospital who cannot physically attend a polling booth otherwise. These booths operate throughout the pre-polling period and also on polling day, finally reporting back to their respective divisional offices. (If you look at the results for nearly any division across the country right now (that is, on this Sunday after election day), you’ll see that the majority of votes from these mobile booths have not yet been counted.

There are postal votes, for people who can’t get to a polling booth. These are individually addressed: for each division, postal votes go back to the divisional office for their division. Postal votes are allowed two full weeks – up until the second Friday following polling day – to arrive at their divisional office.

Finally, there are international votes, which are chiefly held at Australian embassies and consulates across the world. Most of these operate pre-polling and polling day services. These votes will be sent back to Australia, and then separated out to their respective divisional offices.

The Big Day
Polling day is when the majority of the country votes and eats sausages (or the local and/or dietary equivalent). According to surveys, it’s also when the majority of voters decide who to vote for, which implies that the gut rather than the mind drives a lot of our electoral results. After the business of voting finishes – it runs from 8AM to 6PM in most locations (and if you go too early in some of them, you’ll be there before the sausages are ready) – the business of counting the votes begins.

Spare a thought for the poor bastards doing the counting on election day, because they are the unsung heroes of this story. The AEC hasn’t updated its staffing practices in a long time – and unfortunately, what we have doesn’t scale well. FT employees on election day start at 7am, and work until they’re allowed to go. They do get some breaks, but they’re not allowed to leave the premises during their entire shift. (They also get paid a fixed amount, irrespective of how many hours they work – this year’s crew got ripped off there.) It’s a pretty shit job, no matter how many sausages you eat.

On election night, the only votes counted are those cast at the physical polling booths on that day for the division the booth is in. (Some few polling booths serve more than one division – counting is particularly slow at those booths, because the staff have to split up and each of them works on only one division’s votes). Very few divisional offices are also polling booths (they mostly lack the space for it), so votes that are sitting at the divisional office do not get counted on election night. This year, with a very high pre-poll vote, that means there’s a good chunk of votes still to be counted – 25-30% in most divisions – so this election is still, potentially, anyone’s game.

Also, on election night, Senate votes are barely looked at. This year, we have a count only of first preferences of above the line polling day votes only counted on election night. I’ll come back to this.

They don’t work the Sunday, never have. No idea why not.

You Keep Talking About Divisional Offices
I do, and it’s because they’re very important.

Divisional offices are where all votes are centralised for counting. So not a lot of counting gets done on Monday, because the Monday is largely taken up by logistics. Monday is when all the polling booths return their votes to the divisional offices, and they each need to be checked to make sure that the numbers match. (A counting of ballots, rather than votes, if you follow me.) From these, the absentee votes (votes cast in one division that belong to another division) have to be separated out, and sent on to where they should be. In most divisions, this means nearby and intra-state votes get sent directly to their divisional offices, while votes for divisions in other states are bundled separately, but sent to their respective state head office to be dispatched to their divisions (which usually means an extra day for the travel and sorting).

From Tuesday onward (sometimes late Monday for the smaller urban electorates), divisions start receiving their own absentee votes, which must also be checked off and then added to the counts.

Throughout this period, postal votes will continue to filter in – the AEC allows until the second Friday following the election for all of them to arrive – they are also each checked off and added to the count.

International votes, like other absentee votes, go to state head offices first, then out to divisional offices. They usually take longer to arrive due to the vagaries of travel times and international freight schedules – some of them will take more than a week to arrive, and the AEC cannot declare a count completed (which is different from declaring a result) until they are all counted.

Plus, all of this is complicated by human error – which is less about votes miscounted than mislaid. It’s not uncommon for a division to receive votes intended to go to another division with a similar name, and these need to be redirected to their correct location.

What About the Senate?
The Senate votes take much longer to count than the lower house votes, for a number of very good reasons:

  1. Before you can even begin counting Senate votes, you need to separate the above and below the line votes, because these two groups are counted apart from each other (and totalled at the end of each count). Currently, all Senate votes go into the same ballot box on polling day – the AEC could save quite a bit of time and money just by putting them in separate boxes.
  2. There are a lot more candidates. Even the simpler above the line vote usually has twice as many candidates as a lower house vote, and below the line there can be more than a hundred candidates.
  3. More candidates mean more eliminations, and thus, more rounds of counting. A lower house seat might have a dozen candidates – at most, it gets counted 11 times. A Senate vote, with over a hundred candidates, is likely to get counted more than twice that.

And because the Senate does not determine who forms the government in our system, it is also generally given a lower priority in counting than the lower house. Each day at each divisional office, there will be at least one count for each house, but the lower house will inevitably be counted before the Senate – although towards the end of the count, the pace picks up, and the Senate votes will be counted multiple times each day as candidates are eliminated.

But Wait, There’s More!
And all of this does not take into consideration the possibility of recounts, which are certainly going to be demanded by a variety of parties in some of the seats with narrow margins (Batman and Cowan, for example, are both very likely to go to recounts based on what we’ve seen so far in the count). There is no set number at which the AEC must have a recount, but generally any result with a margin under a hundred is going to be recounted.

And then, of course, there’s still the possibility – at this point, the likelihood – of a hung parliament when all the counting’s completed in any case. In which case it will be up to the crossbenchers – projected to be at least six of them right now, with possibly more to come – to decide who they want to back. If anyone.

Which means we might go back to the polls yet again, and who knows how that will come out. Probably an even closer result.

Oh, and after all this, the joint sitting of both houses that’s required to try to pass the bills that served as the trigger for the double dissolution in the first place will still need to be held, and will quite likely result in those bills being defeated anyway, because on current numbers, there’s no way that the LNC – even if it wins the election – has the combined numbers in both houses to get it through.

The Centre Cannot Hold goes meta!

First of all, my apologies for going so long with no new content being posted, and no way for you to leave comments. It turned out there was an obscure error in the installation of PHP on the server that took just forever to find. (Oddly enough, once found, it was surprisingly easy to fix – just needed to update the version of PHP.) So things should now be returning to normal.

Except that in some ways, they won’t, as this centre will indeed not entirely hold.

While this site was inaccessible, I started a new site, and have been quietly migrating some of the content from this site to it. You can find the new site at All of the timelines from this site will be moving to there, bit by bit, over the next month or two, as will the crossover reading orders. The idea is to centralise all of those features in a single location and make them easier to find and search. (And while I’m at it, I’ll be updating anything that needs updating, too, as well as adding some all new content, the first piece of which is already up.)

So as each thing moves across from the old site to the new, I’ll be removing it from here and replacing the relevant pages with pointers to the new site. Nothing is going to be lost in the transition, and so long as you don’t mind one extra click, you won’t even need to update your bookmarks.

Other big news coming soon (fingers crossed).

Looking for Players

This is Loki.God of Stories

Loki is the Deity of Stories. (And Gender Fluidity, but that’s not as important to our story. I might tell you about that later if it’s relevant.)

Loki has, historically, been one of the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe. They’ve fought Thor, teamed up with Doctor Doom, kidnapped Jane Foster and betrayed, well, anyone who trusted them. But lately, they’ve reformed. Sort of. Maybe. Somewhat.

Anyway, now that all of that Secret Warring is over, and things have more or less returned to normal in the Marvel Universe (insofar as the phrase “normal in the Marvel Universe” has any meaning), Loki has a problem. Loki’s favourite brother, the Odinson formerly known as Thor, is missing in action. No one has seen the former thunderer in months. Or they have, but something something timeline rewriting something something. Anyway, the big guy is missing, and Loki’s looking for a few good Avengers to help find him.

Trust them (?)

Loki the Trustworthy

We’ll be playing in Kingsbury – the frequency of sessions, the night of the week and the system are yet to be determined. I’m open to suggestions. Also, you can play an existing Marvel character (with some restrictions – no one gets to be Galactus) or a new one of your own creation.

Proceed with care

Hi folks.

Just letting you know that over the next few days, navigation on this site might be a little tricky, because I’m going to be moving things around and reorganising them. So while every effort will be made to ensure that things can still be found easily, some of it may temporarily disappear from menus. Rest assured, all of it is still here, and can be found by using the search box.

Apologies for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

Changing Direction


This has been a really bad year on this site. Despite the continued popularity of some of my features, updates have been few and far between – especially compared to last year, when I used to routinely post three new pieces each day. There’s a few reasons for this. First of all, I’ve been a lot busier this year, so there’s been less time to get things done. Secondly, when I haven’t been busy, I’ve been ill with depressing frequency. And finally, of course, there’s my own mounting disengagement with the blog.

Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. Somewhere along the line, this stopped being fun for me and became, instead, an onerous task. I’m very proud of what I’ve done here over the last 8 years, but I’ve gotten a tad burned out. And I’ve waited too long to tell you that. Mea culpa.

So what I’m planning to do, after today, is to stop posting new content for a while unless it’s new content that interests me to post. Too much of what I do here I do more from duty than joy, and that’s the fun killer for me.

Now, obviously, a site not regularly posting new content is going to slide in the search rankings, so I don’t plan to do that for too long. I have a plan. In no particular order, here it is:

  • Effective immediately, no more updates to The Rock’n’Roll History of the World. I have more than 200 entries waiting for me to write them – and a like number of bookmarks to assorted lyrics that I haven’t even got that far with yet – but I was also in the process of reformatting all the old ones when the Big River company decided to replace their existing widgets with a “new and improved” version that is larger, uglier, and lacks the fine control of the old one. Until that situation is resolved, there will be no new posts in this feature, and no more reformatting (because I now have to start that process all the fuck over again, and I just can’t deal with that right now).
  • When I come back, I’ll be re-doing the site’s theme and navigation. I’m going to be spending some time brainstorming that, and I have a couple of friends I’m planning to ask for help there, but my goal is to retain the accessibility of the current site while cleaning things up a little. This will most definitely include the creation of a site map, but other than that, I don’t know what else it will look like (although after a while with dark themes, smart money is that the next one will be lighter in colour.
  • I’m also considering going more personal with the blog. More talking about my life, about Australian politics, about the books and comics I’m reading, the games I’m playing, the films and plays I’m seeing. This is something I find a tad worrisome in this insecure age, but I think that what’s missing from this site, most of all, is its author. I’m tired of being the ghost in this machine.
  • I do have a few ideas for new features, some of which I think people are going to love, some maybe not so much. This point intersects with what I was saying about the redesign, above – some of these possible features have technical requirements that would need to be accommodated for them to find a home here. Some of them may wind up on independent sites. At this point, there’s insufficient data for me to decide, so research is going to be happening (not that this will be immediately visible here, but know that I will be busy even if the site doesn’t look like it).
  • The various Trade Paperback Timelines are all going to be staying, and I will be getting back to updating them more regularly. Ditto the Crossover Reading Orders, of which I have a few being worked on at the moment, and a list of the ones I want to add. (If there’s any new content before the redesign kicks in, it will be those.)

So that’s present and future of The Centre Cannot Hold. I hope you’ll be patient while I work this out.

Bad Medicine

If you’re a fan of both party games and Pharmacopoeia Fantastica, check out Bad Medicine. It’s a new game of horribly bad pharmaceutical drugs and their absurd (and often dangerous) side effects. If you’ve enjoyed reading about fictional drugs, imagine how much more fun you’ll have creating them!

Bad Medicine

I’m backing Bad Medicine – and I’ll be posting an after-action review or two once my copy arrives.

That was quicker than I thought…

But sometimes, you have an idea, and you just know that it’s right.

So tomorrow sees the debut of the first new regular feature for 2015 on The Centre Cannot Hold.

To help ease the transition, it’s a bridge from one of our existing features – but that’s all I’ll say until the big unveiling.

Welcome to 2015

By which, of course, I mean both to welcome you, Dear Reader, to 2015, and also to welcome 2015 to the world. Here’s hoping for a year that doesn’t strut and fret its hour upon the stage.

Here at The Centre Cannot Hold, I’m hoping to see another year of new content added. Here’s a few things to look forward to:

  • The reformatting of The Marvel Universe Trade Paperback Reading Order is reaching its end. When that’s done, the timeline should be up to date, albeit with gaps here and there, which I’ll be working to plug.
  • The Rock’n’Roll History of the World has reached a state where there just aren’t enough entries left to do one for every date of the year. On the days that there is one, there will be one. On the other days, other features will fill in the gap. This is another feature that’s undergoing a reformatting, albeit more slowly – soon, you’ll be able to click through to any day of the year and see the events of that day in chronological order.
  • The Campaign for Symmetrical English is going to be a more prominent feature, with new entries appearing most days of any given week. There’s still literally hundreds – if not thousands – to go, so this one will be with us for a while yet.
  • I’m also going to make more of an effort to write more general blog posts this year, not unlike this one, only more specifically focused. These will be on an irregular schedule – as the mood takes me – but a lot more frequent. There’s a good chance that they’ll feature a fair amount of ranting about Australian politics.
  • And, of course, there’s more – some things I’ve already thought of to do, some will no doubt occur to me as the year progresses. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride as much as I do.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The End of an Era

So, today saw the completion of The Truth About Melbourne, which is the single longest sustained writing project that I have ever done. With its end, there’s a need to reshuffle things around here. This is the shape of things to come:

First of all, The Rock’n’Roll History of the World will be continuing each day, and there will be at least three posts (if not more) in it each day. I currently have over 300 new posts waiting for their days in the sun in this feature, and my plan is to finish the entire thing by year’s end. Next year, it will be back in a different form, but new posts will then be added to it only as I find them – for the time being, I want to clear out my backlog of them.

For the time being, there will be a third post each day of the week, in one or another category. Each Monday will see the posting of the Weekly Update, and any day that doesn’t have anything else will feature a new entry in The Campaign for Symmetrical English. There will still be new entries for features like the Daft Lyrics Database and the Pharmacopoeia Fantastica, but not on a regular basis.

Marvel Comics fans, I am nearly finished the reformat of the existing pages, and once that’s done it will be a simple matter of keeping up with new releases (like how the New 52 timeline currently works). After the main Marvel timeline is completed, I’ll be reformatting several of the other timelines as well, until they’re all a consistent format.

I’m considering some new ideas for features on the site at the moment, but I haven’t made any decisions as yet. When I do, I’ll let you all know about it, never fear. For now, I just want to take it easy for a while.

The Rules of the Campaign for Symmetrical English

So, when I started this project, it was just for a bit of a laugh. But with a total of 117 words so far, and no real end in sight, I thought there should be some limits. These are the rules that I’ve evolved over time and now attempt to keep to:

  • Only English language words are eligible.
  • Loan words from other languages are fair game if they’re accepted as parts of English.
  • All words must be created from actual words by removing either a prefix or a suffix.
  • The words thus created must not already have a meaning in English, whether or not it relates to the symmetrical meaning.
  • The words thus created cannot start with any combination of consonants unless that combination is an accepted usage in English.
  • If it is possible to create multiple words by removing different prefixes or suffixes, then such words are valid if they meet the other rules. (e.g., since ‘a-‘ and ‘ab-‘ are both legal prefixes, both could removed from a word like ‘abacus’ to create new words.)
  • For the most part, derived terms (e.g. plurals, adverbial or adjectival forms, etc) will not be defined.

So, it isn’t going to be over any time soon, but you know, one day…

An Unkindness of The Ravens

Well, actually, I consider this to be something of a kindness. I mean, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a truly awesome poem, and here are five fantastic actors reading it. So who’s your favourite?

John De Lancie
James Earl Jones
Christopher Lee
Vincent Price
Christopher Walken

In Defence of Fanservice

The prevailing wisdom among critics these days is that fanservice – all fanservice, without exception – is bad. Like the overwhelming majority of ideas held by critics, it is based on a misapprehension: that critics are the intended audience for fanservice. Apparently the name wasn’t a big enough clue for them. And they’re such clever people, too…

Fanservice, in case it was unclear, is for fans (which is why critics don’t like it – it’s not for them). But that’s not the point. The point is that any work in any medium, is for fans. To call single out parts of a work as fanservice is to forget that all works are created to service fans. It is not the reason why creative works exist, but it is something they must do to thrive and survive. In this sense, the entirety of a work is fanservice.

But I’m being pedantic here. Critics use the term fanservice in a particular way: to describe elements of a work that (in their judgement) have no reason to exist other than to please (or service) fans. And there is a valid point there: if a work consists of nothing but such elements, it tends to not be very good, since fanservice often gets in the way of minor details like plot and character logic.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Almost nothing badly done has to be badly done. It merely is, all too frequently. But there are many examples of it being done well. The knee jerk assumption that fanservice must be bad can be as damaging to a work as bad fanservice.

This is particularly the case with finales. It seems to be a very common complaint that finales are often “all fanservice”. Why the Hell should they not be?

How many people are going to watch the final episode of a tv show or read the final volume of a series as the place that they start? No, the people who really care about the finales are the fans, and there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t get to say goodbye enjoyably.

In short: critics of the world, try to remember that it’s not all about you.

Bars of the Solar System

Is it just me, or is a little unfair that Mars gets all the attention? Correcting that problem, The Centre Cannot Hold is pleased to present the other planetary candies of the solar system.

Mercury Bar – There’s not much to a Mercury Bar. Small, and quick to melt if you keep it in your hand too long (which is to say, longer than about two seconds). But for all that, it’s very crunchy while it lasts.

Venus Bar – An experiment to see how well the public would like chili oil-infused chocolate. The general consensus is that there was just a smidgen too much chili oil, and that reducing the amount of it by, say, 400%, would be an improvement.

Earth BarEarth Bar – bland to the point that if it actually was made of dirt, it would actually be more strongly flavoured than it is.

Jupiter Bar – A big, fluffy bar, best known for the single raspberry found in each one.

Saturn Bar – Much like the Jupiter Bar, only without the raspberry and with a frosted sugar band around the outside of it.

Neptune Bar – Deep. Mysterious. Oddly salty.

Uranus Bar – Inevitably a problem to sell – as successive campaigns inviting the public to bite, suck or lick Uranus Bars never seemed to find the right audience. In recent years, the Uranus Bar has sold better in summer, when refrigerating it is an option: like revenge, it is best eaten cold.

Pluto Bar – The poorest selling and most unpopular bar in the line, right up until it was announced that it would be discontinued, at which point suddenly everyone loved it again. The Pluto Bar is slated to be revived as part of the new “Bite-sized” line, along with the Haumea Bar, the Eris Bar, the Ceres Bar, the Vesta Bar and the Makemake Bar, although probably not until its orbit again crosses that of Uranus.

Vulcan Bar – There is no Vulcan Bar. There never was a Vulcan Bar. This is not the Bar you’re looking for. The first rule of the Vulcan Bar is you do not talk about the Vulcan Bar. The Vulcan Bar has always been at war with Eastasia.