Matt Hrkac's Blog

More than 6,500 early childhood educators in more than 5,000 early childcare centres walked off the job today over poor pay. 1,000 of those workers rallied in Melbourne. Childcare workers remain among the lowest paid professionals in Australia, mainly because the sector is women-dominated and its historic association with 'women's work'.

The nationwide day of action was staged by United Voice. View the full photo album.




The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) coordinated a series of actions to coincide with the Victorian Transport Association's 2018 Annual Conference in Lorne over the 19th and 20th of March.

The unions were protesting against the Victorian Transport Association's support for the Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT) during the MUA dispute. VICT is owned by Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI), which operates in countries known to be “the worst countries in the world to work in” and where workers have “no guarantee of rights”.

Here are a few photos from the actions:

Protesters stage a silent stand-in at the Victorian Transport Association's 2018 Annual Conferece in Lorne, March 19

At least 50 union activists made the trip to Lorne on March 20 to protest against corporate links to dictatorships

The CFMEU and the MUA were prominently represented at the rally

Shannon O'Keeffe, ITF Campaigns Director for the Asia Pacific

Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) (Construction and General Division)

View full photo album.




Photos from the Palm Sunday 2018 Melbourne Walk for Justice for Refugees. View the full photo album.

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

View the full photo album.




Welcome to my live post for the Batman by-election.

For both the Greens and Labor, the moment of truth has finally arrived. Will five time candidate for the Greens, Alex Bhathal, finally wrest the seat of Batman from Labor? Or will the factional drama within her party, combined with the Ged Kearney factor, see her miss out once again?

Has Labor finally found the right candidate and policy combination to be able to effectively defend its once safe inner city seats against a rising Greens tide? Or is it just inevitable that these seats will fall to the Greens regardless of what Labor say or do?

Keep an eye on this post throughout the day for live updates relating to any significant developments and after the close of polling, for the results as they come in. If you have Facebook, feel free to contribute in the comments below this post. You can also check out my guide to the Batman by-election.


(Times are Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time)

Polling opens at 8.00am.

circa 1.00pm - A lunch time primer - Labor's announced proposal to end franking credit cash rebates for self-funded retirees has potentially thrown a spanner into the works of their campaign; with the Greens yesterday even making an appeal to conservative voters, which, in a progressive electorate, may actually negate the backlash against Labor. The negative effect, if any, for Labor will probably be minimal in any case due to the Batman electorate having younger demographic compared to the national and state average.

Alex Bhathal, with her children in toe, has cast her vote. No guesses as to who for.

5.30pm - Polls for the Batman by-election will close at 6.00pm and counting will begin promptly at that time. Live updates will be posted as the results come in. I expect the first results will start coming in from around 7pm.

6.00pm - Polls are now closed.

6.50pm - First primary vote result has come in from the Newlands Senior Citizens Centre (Murray): Labor: 39.76%, Greens: 38.96%, Conservatives: 6.83%. This is north of Bell St, the so-called "Hipster Proof Fence".

6.57pm - First big polling places north of Bell St have come in - Reservoir and Reserviour West, which are strong Labor booths. Labor are ahead on primaries, for now. But still a large swing (8%+) to the Greens on primaries at this early stage. Labor have a modest 1.2% swing in their favour.

7.06pm - First big polling booths south of Bell St have come in (Collingwood North and Northcote), which have pushed the Greens ahead on primary votes. So far, both the Conservatives and the Greens are absorbing most of the Liberal vote.

7.15pm - The early results so far indicate that the polling places north of Bell St are still holding up firm for Labor while the south is holding firm for the Greens. Still no results from most of the Preston booths, a suburb which straddles on Bell St, which will be likely what determines the outcome of this election.

7.33pm - with a total of more than 30,000 votes now counted (21 of 46 booths), Labor is currently leading the Greens on primary votes. Labor are also currently leading the Greens on the two party preferred vote (with 7 polling places counted, most of which are in the north). Still no results in from most of the Preston booths as yet.

7.45pm - Most of the south of Bell St polling places have been counted, with a number of northern suburbs polling places still to come in. It is not looking good for the Greens, but I'm not prepared to call it until those Preston booths are counted.

8.05pm - 50% of the vote is now counted with most of the regular polling places now in. The primary vote in the Preston booths have come in and it hasn't shifted the primary vote in one way or another. This is likely to reflect the same on two party preferred terms. The two party preferred vote currently sits at 51.7% / 48.3% to Labor. The primary vote sits and has stabilised at 42.9% for Labor, 40.6% to the Greens and (probably crucially) 6.2% to the Australian Conservatives.

8.21pm - Most of the Preston booths are now counted and Labor are still ahead on two party preferred terms with a small swing in their favour. I'm calling this as a Labor retain.




My guide for the Batman by-election is now published!

Included in the guide is an electorate profile and history, graphs showing the historical voting trend since the 1970s (including a  visualization of the rather impressive rise of the Greens since the 1996 Federal Election, when they first stood a candidate) and maps showing the two party preferred vote and swings to/against the Greens, by polling place, at the 2016 Federal Election.

Candidate profiles and biographies are also included.




On the 15th of January, it was reported in the Geelong Advertiser that Greens Councillor Sarah Mansfield expressed serious misgivings about Australia Day being celebrated on January 26; and that she was the "lone voice" on Council to express this view and that she "may boycott Australia Day events in Geelong".

“Personally, I want Australia Day to be a day that everyone can celebrate. Unfortunately, January 26th is a painful day for many Australians. I believe it is important to recognise this, and it is good to see that a conversation about this is gaining momentum. While I appreciate that there are a number of celebrations planned for Australia Day in Geelong, I am personally ambivalent about whether I’ll be attending them. Our citizenship ceremonies are special occasions, and I support the wonderful growing diversity in our region, but I realise that holding one on this day hurtful for some members of our community.

A statement that is suitably firm on her position regarding Australia Day being celebrated on January 26 and her opposition to that date. Sure, she could be more stronger in her commitment for actually campaigning for the change in date and indeed, other issues that indigenous Australians face - making reference to her consultation with the the local Wathaurong co-op, if she has indeed done any consultation, but we have to play with the cards that we are dealt with.

Of course, local conservative politicians and pundits just couldn't wait to dig in. First cab of the rank, cue the outrage from Geelong's biggest walking contradiction Peter Moore, in another article, January 19:

“Locally, one of our newest councillors Sarah Mansfield, a Green, has bought into the conversation. Now, in her election speeches and “things to do” list, I can’t remember her once saying she wanted to change Australia Day. But within a nano second of the Greens Leader bringing up the topic there she is in the Addy with this: “While I appreciate that there are a number of celebrations planned for Australia Day in Geelong, I am personally ambivalent about whether I’ll be attending them.” Really, Sarah, I thought that was part of your job. I’m sure many of your ratepayers are now rather “ambivalent” about whether they did the right thing in electing you in the first place. Ratepayers of Brownbill Ward were probably expecting someone to represent their interests and concerns rather than those of the Federal Greens. Still, perhaps the Greens are a comic opera in their own right. ”

Then Liberal MLA Simon Ramsay had to weigh in as well:

“The Greens Party’s Geelong City Councillor, Sarah Mansfield, is indicating she won't attend civil duties on that day as a form of protest. With the greatest respect to Ms Mansfield, I am not sure that she will be overtly missed.  But she will no doubt be satisfied she has complied with the ugly demands of her leader Richard Di Natale. Of course, she is paid to carry out her civic duties. How will she spend taxpayer’s money that day?”

Despite these comments clearly being made by conservative commentators and politicians, they clearly spooked Mansfield and the Greens in Geelong. She went back on her word:

“Although I personally have mixed feelings about 26 January, I will attend events on the day in my role as a councillor.”

Not only did she back out on her previous threat to boycott Australia Day events, she also went from saying that she wants Australia Day to be a day that "everyone can celebrate" and that January 26 is "a painful day for many Australians" to saying that she merely has "mixed feelings about January 26". Is Mansfield keeping one foot out of the door here?

Less than six months in the gig and already she has voted for a conservative Mayor and Deputy Mayor, is refusing to rule out supporting funding cuts to council services and is now refusing to commit to a campaign on changing the date of Australia Day from January 26.

Either way, it is clear that the sole Greens Councillor on the Geelong City Council has a serious lack of spine to actually take up principled stances on progressive issues. Peter Moore is right about one thing: I'm sure many ratepayers are rather ambivalent about whether they did the right thing in electing Mansfield. Not because she took a principled stand on a progressive issue, though. But because she refuses to take a principled stand on many progressive issues while at the same time betraying the same values those who voted for her support and expect her to represent.




It has been no secret that I have been highly critical of the Greens in recent times. This criticism has not been without reason and it runs deeper than mere policy matters and their focus as a political party, and the direction they should be going as the third largest political party in Australia. This criticism runs down to the very core of the Greens as an organisation.

... Read more »




Counting for the 2017 City of Greater Geelong Council Elections is finally underway.

As far as possible outcomes are concerned, as reported in the local media, there is a clear front-runner in each ward who are almost certain to be elected to Council; those being Eddy Kontelj in Brownbill Ward, Stephanie Asher in Bellarine Ward, Bruce Harwood in Kardinia Ward and Anthony Aitken in Windermere Ward. All are above or nearing a quota in their own right in their respective wards.

The unpredictability of this election will come down to the lack of any pattern or consistency with regards to preferences. There is a slight tendency for voters giving their first preference to right-leaning candidates to preference other centre-right candidates over left-leaning candidates; however, voters voting for left-leaning candidates tend to be preferencing more conservatively - that is, voting '1' for one of the left-leaning candidates, then ranking one or more of the right-leaning candidates higher over the other left-leaning candidates.

This even rings true to those who ran on tickets - for example, in Brownbill Ward, people voting '1' for Sue Bull, who ran with Sarah Hathway for Socialist Alliance, are not putting the latter at number 2, and the same is true for those voting for Sarah Hathway not putting Sue Bull at number 2. On the contrary, people voting for Eddy Kontelj tend to be putting Freya Fidge at number 2, and vice versa, which formed a basis for their respective campaigns.

The lack of tight preferencing discipline on the progressive side, and the more disciplined preferencing on the conservative side comes down to the fact that most of the more conservative candidates had more money at their disposal for advertisements and promotions than most of the progressive candidates did. This allowed them to get their preference recommendations out to voters more effectively.

It will also pose the biggest problem for progressive candidates getting elected. In Brownbill Ward, for instance, Greens endorsed candidate Sarah Mansfield will likely take out 15%+ of the first preference vote - placing second on primaries but well below a quota (25%), however, without a strong direct flow of preferences, which on early indications she is unlikely to receive for the reasons mentioned above, she will likely be pipped for the final seat by another candidate - likely Michael King - who is getting strong preference flows. Both Freya Fidge and Peter Murrihy are also benefiting heavily from strong reference flows.

In any case, below are my predictions as to who will get elected in each ward. As you can see, it will be a rather conservative council with one or two progressive voices.

Bellarine Ward:

  • Stephanie Asher
  • Jim Mason
  • Anne Brackley X

 Brownbill Ward:

  • Eddy Kontelj
  • Peter Murrihy
  • Michael King X

Kardinia Ward:

  • Bruce Harwood
  • Ron Nelson
  • Pat Murnane

Windermere Ward:

  • Anthony Aitken
  • Kylie Grzybek

But, we will know for sure by this Saturday.

Update: Successfully calling 9 out of 11 isn't bad.




Nominations for the City of Greater Geelong Council Elections have now formally closed, and a field of 53 candidates will be contesting the four wards.

Brownbill Ward will be the most heavily contested ward in this election, with a field of 18 candidates contending for three seats. However, no particular candidate or set of candidates have emerged as frontrunners at this stage. George Ballas, though, has drawn some favourable local media coverage, while Michael King also drew a lot of local media coverage around the time of his announcement back in July, but that has seemed to have subsided. Interestingly, neither of these two candidates are investing heavily in social media, with George Ballas even shunning it completely. Freya Fidge and former Liberal-aligned Councillor Eddy Kontelj are working together to direct preferences to each other, while Greens candidate Sarah Mansfield, as well as Socialist Alliance candidates Sue Bull and Sarah Hathway, have been mobilising grassroots campaigns and are very well in the race for one of the seats.

South of the river in Kardinia Ward, it is a similar story but with 11 contenders for three seats; with no clear front-runner emerging as yet. Pat Murnane is running a very strong social media campaign. Doug Mann, who stood for Mayor at the 2013 Mayoral by-election, is also a strong contender on the basis of his now higher profile; though he did leave it fairly late to formally announce his candidacy in this particular election. Labor-aligned Brent Lyons-Lee and former Councillor Bruce Harwood should also factor strongly.

On the Bellarine, where 13 candidates will be vying for three seats, Stephanie Asher, who has stood in numerous elections at all levels over the years and also has a column in the Geelong Advertiser, will be a strong contender for one of the three seats on offer there. Liberal-aligned Trent Sullivan, Labor-aligned Jim Mason, and Anne Brackley are also very well still in the race.

Windermere Ward, covering the northern suburbs has been the most intense contest of this election campaign so far despite there being only 11 candidates running for the two seats on offer. Ken Dickens, Moshtagh Heidari, Kylie Grzybek and Anthony Aitken are clear front-runners at this stage, with the latter three, in particular, running very grassroots campaigns, while Ken Dickens is drawing all sorts of media coverage, both good and bad. All four of the aforementioned candidates, along with David Withington, are running very strong social media campaigns and are spending big on advertisements and promotions.

There is now a two-week window between today and October 10, when ballots packs start going out in the mail. Ballots must be returned by October 27, however, based on the trends of previous Council elections, most residents will have voted and posted back their ballots well before this deadline.




I have posted my guide for the upcoming Geelong Council elections, which outlines information on each of the candidates including their biographies, political affiliations, their perceived political alignment (based off both their public statements and their political affiliations) and their key issues.

View Guide

If you are a candidate, and want to send me an updated biograophy, please email me. I'll be updating candidate details periodically as they make more public statements, and will also add social media and website links as well. Candidate profiles on the ward pages are ordered in alphabetical order according to their surname.

Please note: I will not be changing political affiliation details, even if a candidate is a former member of a particular party. This information is important for the sake of transparency and for the sake of people knowing who they are voting for.




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