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.

Is Aiwass really Galactus?

So I was reading some old Silver Surfer comics the other day, and I found something… odd. Really odd.

It’s this panel:
"Every man and Every Woman is a Star"

In which Galactus, the Eater of Worlds and generally one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, speaks a line of philosophical gibberish. Except that it’s not just any line of philosophical gibberish. No indeed. It is, in fact, a direct quote of Aleister Crowley’s Liber vel Legis (or The Book of the Law, in English). Specifically, chapter one, verse three. (See for yourself.) And it seems rather unlikely that Steve Englehart, who is a very deliberate sort of a writer, used the line by chance. He at least was no doubt aware of its significance and origins (unlike his editor and a large number of his readers).

Funny thing about Liber vel Legis: Crowley always claimed that it was dictated to him by a spirit across April 8, 9 and 10, 1904. A spirit that Crowley referred to be the name Aiwass, and claimed was his own personal Holy Guardian Angel (caps in original).

Now, many later occultists have theorised that Aiwass was simply a part of Crowley’s subconscious (and I lean toward that interpretation myself). Maybe that is the case – in our world! The Marvel Universe, on the other hand, is considerably weirder than our world, though, and since it seems rather unlikely that Galactus would be reading the works of human occultists, I have to assume that the causal relationship runs in the opposite direction, and that it was Galactus who dictated Liber vel Legis to Crowley. Which might explain why Galactus is always finding reasons not to eat our particular world.

So there you go.

Except that there’s more.

You see, Aleister Crowley claimed that Lewis Carroll – the pen name of Charles Dodgson, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jabberwocky and Through The Looking Glass – was a holy seer of sorts. Robert Anton Wilson took this one step further, claiming that the Alice books were dictated to Dodgson by a spirit he called Lewis (in case you’re wondering: Carroll because the spirit allegedly sang, or caroled, the books to Dodgson), and that Lewis and Aiwass are one and the same.

So there’s a case to be made that in the Marvel Universe, this guy:
Galactus
is the true author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jabberwocky, Through The Looking Glass and Liber vel Legis

Update: Period Ending May 9, 2016

Well, that took a while.

There’s considerable upheaval here at The Centre Cannot Hold, which is living up to its name. The Rock’n’Roll History of the World is getting a makeover (largely aimed at simplifying the site), and some parts of the site – notably the Trade Paperback Timelines and Crossover Reading Orders – are being gradually moved away to a new site. This new site is at Reading Orders, and each timeline is being moved, reformatted and (if necessary) updated. (The old pages hosting this material will be updated with pointers to the new site.)

There’s a good chance of this site getting re-skinned in the near future, but there should be no other changes to the content here.

Continue reading

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 http://www.readingorders.net. 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.

Update: Period Ending February 8, 2016

And then it was a month later…

There are many culprits for the lack of work I’ve been doing here – illness, weather conditions, my grief over the death of David Bowie, time spent working for other people, laziness – but I think lack of organisation is one of the bigger problems. Fortunately, I’ve spent a lot of the last week working out what I wanted to get done and how I was going to do it. Progress has, I think, been made, but of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This time next week, there’ll pudding on your plate… or pudding on my face.

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“Dumb Things” by Paul Kelly

It’s InvasionAustralia Day again, and I’ve decided that I’m going to make an annual practice of adding to my list of Australian Anthems. For 2016, I’ve gone with one of Paul Kelly’s early classics.

Something that everyone seems to notice about Australians is our sense of humour. We’re laconic and wry and self-deprecating. Self-deprecation is very much at the heart of Australian humour, the flipside of our national fear of being seen to big note yourself, our love of cutting down tall poppies. It’s rarely been done better than here:

Not only does this song rock your arse off, but it take self-deprecation so far that it becomes almost a boast. The phrase ‘humble-brag’ hadn’t been invented when this song came out, but it is absolutely the best way to describe it. “Dumb Things” includes a lengthy list of stupid to the point of self-destructive actions, but also an allusion to Greek myth, the claim that Kelly always had a go, and finally, the wry acceptance of it all.

I plan to have this song played at my funeral. And I doubt that I’m the only Australian with that plan…

Donald Trump: Performance Artist

Dear Fellow humans:

Over the last few months, I have been watching the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican Primaries with some alarm. I mean, seriously, most of the Republican front-runners are disturbing in one way or another (Carly Fiorina’s insistence that what can most charitably be termed her hallucinations while watching a video are more valid than what the people who actually made the video say is in there; Ben Carson’s attempt to brand himself as in some way dangerous; Jeb Bush’s increasingly obvious desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else; Rand Paul’s existence; etc.) but the Donald is head and shoulders above the pack. He’s not just the clear front-runner in the polls, but also the clear front-runner in sheer offensiveness. He’s the kind of politician who makes satirists take to (more) drink, because there’s no way to exaggerate the reality of what Trump says. As Hunter Thompson said in similar circumstances, “the reality itself is too intense.”

Trump at CPAC 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Trump at CPAC 2011.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

It’s at times like this I miss Stewart and Colbert. And understand, I mean no insult to Trevor Noah or Larry Wilmore – it’s nothing more than the difference a decade plus of hosting makes. In 2026, those two will be honed by experience to an edge of satire even sharper than we now remember Jon and Stephen being. In 2016, even they are stumbling to keep up with Trump. How does he do it? How does he confound some of the best satirists in the world? How is he always one step ahead?

And then it came to me.

How Trump does it.

The candidacy of Donald Trump is nothing more than the next logical step from the persona Stephen Colbert played for all those years on The Colbert Report.

He can’t be satirised precisely because his entire candidacy is nothing more than a giant satire of the entire system it purports to be a part of. Donald Trump the Candidate is merely a character played by Donald Trump the man.

And Donald Trump the man is very, very good at his art.

Now, I realise that there is no evidence at all to suggest that my theory is correct, but of course, there wouldn’t be. Trump isn’t about to leave that to chance, after all. Of course he’s going to be all “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” at this point in the proceedings. A year from now, maybe, he’ll come clean (although frankly, I think a posthumously released home video memoir is the most likely way he’ll tell the truth: free of consequence and at a profit).

Nor should anyone think that I mean to insult Trump with this theory. Quite the reverse – if I am correct, Trump is an absolute genius of political satire. Indeed, listening to the hateful, moronic bile that spews from the word-hole beneath that horrid toupee, I think that this theory is the only viable one for anyone who wants to respect Trump’s intelligence and media savvy.

Trump's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Adam Fagen.

Trump’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Adam Fagen.

“Girls Can Get It” by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show

Girls can get it, anytime they like
Girls can get it, a fact of life
If she calls you for some loving in the middle of the night
She can get a man running at the speed of light

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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.