Matt Hrkac's Blog

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.

Noted Left-wing Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon is under attack from her own party room:

New South Wales Greens senator Lee Rhiannon could face censure or expulsion from the [Greens] party room after a signed complaint letter from all her colleagues accused her of potentially damaging conduct in the schools debate.

The letter regarding Rhiannon’s conduct was discussed at a special national council meeting over the weekend but it is understood the council advised Greens MPs that it was up to the party room to take action as they saw fit.

The decision made here will very well determine whether or not the Greens can viably remain a home for the Left.

If Lee Rhiannon is exciled from the Greens party room, then that will show that the Left have no place within the Greens going forward. If she is allowed to remain, then the Left have a glimmer of hope within the Greens.

Either way, the party is splitting at the seams. Interesting times ahead.

By popular demand, here is an updated graph of how often our Senators vote with the Government:

Once again, One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team, David Leyonhjelm, and Derryn Hinch continue to be reliable votes for the Government on the floor of the Senate, with the latter three firming up as more reliable for the Government over the first half of 2017.

Those most likely to vote opposite of the Government are the Greens, Jacqui Lambie, and Labor; with Labor remaining unchanged, while both the Greens and Jacqui Lambie voted less often with the Government.

In the first sitting half of 2017, Jacqui Lambie was absent from votes a total of 30 times (out of a total of 136 divisions that took place during that period). David Leyonhjelm was absent 23 times.

One Nation has missed 10 divisions and the Nick Xenophon Team has missed 9 divisions, while Derryn Hinch maintains a good attendance record, missing only 2 divisions.

The Greens, and Labor, both have perfect attendance records.

Stats compiled from Hansard.

Biggest load of misguided tripe I've seen written in a long time.

There are a few things to go over here, so let's do that. First, the 'analysis' flatly and bluntly assumes that the LGBTI community wants a plebiscite to achieve marriage equality. The fact is, the vast majority of the LGBTI community and marriage equality advocacy groups don't want to go anywhere near a plebiscite; which they describe as dangerous, divisive, and opens up the floodgates of hate and bigotry to be espoused by the likes of the Australian Christian Lobby and other extreme-right groups.

Considering it is the LGBTI community who would bear the brunt of a hate campaign against them in the event of a plebiscite, I really think that it is they who we should be listening to.

Secondly, the article also assumes that the LGBTI community would rather a plebiscite, then to wait for a parliamentary vote. That is also wrong, as many such advocacy groups are coming out and saying that they would rather wait a few years, and a possible change of government, for a parliamentary vote, then to be subjected to a plebiscite.

Thirdly, Mark Kenny's analysis also assumes that the Turnbull Government is obliged to act on the results of a plebiscite, assuming it winds up being a yes result. Fact is, they aren't, because the plebiscite is not binding in any way. It is merely a glorified opinion poll that the Government can just turn a blind eye to regardless of the result.

If we want an opinion poll on what Australians think of marriage equality, we only need to look at opinion polls published over the last half a decade. A vast majority of Australians support marriage equality.

And fourth, despite Mark Kenny's persistent claim that the Greens aren't willing to compromise (which one is it, by the way, are they unwilling to compromise or are they sellouts?) - they've taken a principled stance in opposing what is bad legislation that a vast majority of the LGBTI community and marriage equality advocacy groups also oppose.

Absolutely poor journalism, and it is telling that The Age, of all media outlets, allowed it to be published.

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