Saturday salon 23/4

1. Remembering Shakespeare

Four hundred years ago on April 1616, William Shakespeare, “widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist”, died apparently from partying too hard on his 52nd birthday. Arguably he is the world’s greatest writer.

At school there was always a Shakespeare play on the curriculum. I went through four years of secondary school and three years of university English without studying any of his four great tragedies. It was my luck to tangle with Henry V, from which I think I never recovered, although of course it has memorable lines:

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead.


I recall once seeing a performance of Hamlet in Brisbane. Hamlet came on and started his “To be, or not to be” speech. A woman was coughing loudly. He stopped, bawled out the audience, and said, “Now let’s do that again”. He did, but the gas had gone out of his tank.

If you think he’s just a dead white man, Robert White looks at some of his influences, including on Marx, Freud, Hitler, Mandela and Greer. And he invented necessary words, like “bedroom”.

This is possibly a bit hackneyed, but I think he extended our understanding of what it is to be human and still speaks to us today.

2. Truckies’ pay matters

One of the stories of the week was the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) with the help of all crossbenchers except Ricky Muir.

The fact the proponents of abolition can’t get away from is that good pay and hourly pay for truckies saves accidents, lives and is better for the health than payment by the trip.

Louise Thornthwaite gives the history. In brief, the tribunal was doomed from the start, but nixing it doesn’t solve all the problems.

Farmers and owner-drivers are happy. The problem seemed to be that the tribunal-determined rates did not apply to big trucking firms and the hourly rates made the owner-drivers uncompetitive. Not in all cases, but enough.

There’s more here.

I have an uneasy feeling they’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

3. Political hardball in Queensland

The outcome is simple – Queensland will have four more MPs to make 93, and will return to the compulsory preferential voting system. Brisbane Times has the story.

Whenever there is an electoral redistribution in Queensland extra seats tend to get added in the outer suburbs, at the expense of regional areas, or indeed Brisbane City. The LNP and the regional crossbenchers wanted to add more members to preserve rural electorates.

Rejected twice, the LNP succeeded this week in taking hold of the agenda and with the crossbench forced it through. Labor responded by tacking on an amendment to bring back compulsory preferential voting. Under current circumstances this favours Labor. Antony Green says at the last election it would have given Labor nine more seats (not eight, as said in the linked article). All done and dusted in a couple of hours, no public discussion, no committee consideration. Amy Remeikis in the article:

    From a democratic point of view, it was a disgrace.

    As a political manoeuvre, it was pure genius.

4. Clinton and Trump take New York

Under the Republicans’ voting system Trump got most of the delegates in New York, and threatens to come to the convention with a majority. It’s possible.

Bernie Sanders, defeated 43-57, looks finished, but won’t go away. I did hear that he is trying to get the superdelegates to switch to him. It’s his last chance.

Clinton and Sanders appeal to different demographics, but it seems unlikely they could ever work together. Liam Kennedy ponders the effect of his campaign.

5. QNI to be liquidated

    Queensland Nickel owes nearly $74 million to almost 800 former workers, and about $150 million to other unsecured creditors.

    Clive Palmer and his nephew, former QN director Clive Mensink, claim they’re owed money too and are asking for $3 million between the two of them.

    Today’s vote allows liquidators to pursue the pair in court to try and recoup some of the millions owed.

Clive Palmer says, no chance, QNI was just a management company. Two of his other companies own the refinery, which he has under maintenance and is trying to open again.

I’m not sure where this will all end, but lawyers may be the winners.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

28 thoughts on “Saturday salon 23/4”

  1. Shakespeare: Thanks Brian for that reminder.
    I was a poor school student but recall being “taught” some plays – The Tempest, Macbeth and King Lear.
    My favourite passage was from King Lear, spoken by the Fool (who was easily the smartest in the hall) –

    “Have more than thou showest,
    Speak less than thou knowest,
    Lend less than thou owest,
    Ride more than thou goest,
    Learn more than thou trowest,
    Set less than thou throwest,
    In my case, Shakespeare has never quite left my life. It seems that odd traces of him emerge from time to time but I have never minded that.

  2. Two of the best plays I ever saw were on TV; one was Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in modern dress with GJC being a modern dictator. The other was Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion” with Billy Connolly playing Androcles. Both were British, most likely BBC, and made for secondary schools in the ‘Eighties.

    Did like “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a largely forgotten one, “As You Like It”.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Geoff and Graham. There are gems everywhere.

    My other Shakespeare anecdote was going to see Sir John Gielgud’s solo performance of reciting excerpts from Shakespeare under the title The Seven Ages of Man when it came to Brisbane.

    He’d obviously done it many times and perhaps was having an off night, but half an hour in it became obvious that he’d lost the audience. It then became obvious that he knew it.

    What happened then was that he lifted his game and struggled to get them back. Somehow it worked and everyone went home happy.

  4. Brian: One of the worst things about Shakespeare in schools, in my opinion, is that we were forced to “study” it rather than to play-act. Play acting it, one scene at a time, would have been fun and it would have built our confidence to speak and perform in public.

  5. What struck me during the Brisbane city council election was the way the LNP promoted “just vote one” using signs that had no clear link to the LNP. (Some people may have thought it was an electoral commission sign.)
    What startled me during the state election was that some Greens booth volunteers thought that all you had to do was vote 1 and the party allocated preferences like they used to do when voting above the line for the senate.
    My natural inclination is to support optional preference voting on the grounds that the old compulsory system resulted in some votes being unintentionally informal because of minor mistakes even though it was clear what the voter intended.
    However, given what Beattie did One Nation was a force, what the LNP has been doing when just voting one works in their favor and the confusion and informal votes caused by differences in the voting system for Qld and the federal elections I am reluctantly supporting the change back to having to fill in all the boxes.
    However, it would be better if the rule was that “at least x boxes be filled” rather than all and the QEC rules meant that votes would be counted to the extent that it was clear what the voters intention was.

  6. John, it’s hard to be unbiased about this one, but I’m inclining to agree. I think (1) that we should have the same system at state and federal levels, and (2) that if we have compulsory voting it can be argued that this should include a full expression of preference.

    Perhaps if the whole thing was computerised we could give all candidates a mark out of 10, which could include zero.

    Certainly there should have been greater discussion before acting. What Labor did is not undemocratic as such, just in unseemly haste.

    The LNP is claiming that non-compulsory preferencing was a Fitzgerald reform. It wasn’t. It came from EARC (Electoral and Administrative Review Commission), a Fitzgerald implementation body, as an idea for the Goss government to consider.

    Now the LNP is promising to reverse the decision if they get in power, which makes it all a circus.

  7. Graham and Geoff, certainly there needs to be ways of making Shakespeare more accessible to modern kids. I understand that language normally changes so that speakers 1000 years apart cannot understand each other. At 400 years it’s a problem.

    Personally I was nearly cured for good when our teacher went through Heny V line by line explaining what it was all about.

    Not sure what happens now, though. The Queensland curriculum had a lot of freedom, which seems to be disappearing as they move to the national curriculum and bring back external exams.

  8. Brian: You are spot on about language change – which does not happen at a uniform rate; this was evident in the massive shifts in the short time between Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.

    I’m fortunate in having the old Folkways record of poetry readings in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. It’s fun listening and trying to follow the meanings in the original and then reading the translation into Modern English to see how close you got. 🙂

    Also, giving all candidates a mark out of ten. How cruel is that; (any chance of slipping in some negative numbers – please).

    John D.: Any scrutineer will tell you that in the majority of informal votes, the voters wishes are clear.

    I’ll stick to my 1-2 system for simplicity and fairness. The candidate you really like gets the 1 and the one you think is nearly as good gets the 2 and no third, fourth or ninety-ninth options at all – for House of Reps, Senate, State or Local Government elections right across Australia.

  9. Graham, I’m up for making a certain number compulsory, but it would be better if it was standard in federal and all state elections, which is a big ask as to how we would get there.

    On negative numbers, on local radio here we have Kelly’s Countdown, where listeners vote for songs they want to hear every Friday in a given category. Listeners are allowed three positive votes and one negative vote, cast for a song you really don’t want to hear. It’s surprising how often the negative votes knock out an otherwise high ranking song.

  10. Confound you, Brian. I’m very busy and have a lot on my mind today. I came here to relax, for a moment, only to have you load my mind with two more matters to ponder.

    Seriously though, implementing a beneficial and fairer change in the way we vote would be very difficult indeed. Those charged with protecting our interests have a real conflict-of-interest because they depend on the present skewed and unjust system to retain their own seats.

    I can’t remember ever hearing of negative votes against candidates in political elections – but it sounds interesting so let’s take the risk and have a Kelly’s Countdown type of poll in the political sphere and see if we end up with better government.

  11. Brian,
    I saw that Seven Ages of Man production in Sydney. That night Gielgud was at his very best. loved every minute of it.

  12. Graham, sadly I think there is no danger of Australia leading the world in democratic innovation, as we did when women were given the vote.

    Paul B, memories! I wondered whether Gielgud being in the provinces led him to take things too easily. I’m glad he cared enough to get it right!

  13. If the negative vote thing were to happen, once the greens hit zero, would the remainder come off the ALP ?
    Just like positive preferences add to them now ?

  14. If the negative vote thing were to happen, once the greens hit zero, would the remainder come off the ALP ?

    Very simply, no, they are an entirely different party. The ALP has no responsibility for them or what they do.

  15. OK cool, with LNP primary at around 46% and most of them would put negative to greens, they’re gone completely.
    The greens 13% off LNP would put LNP about even with ALP.
    ALPs negative on that would see ALP megalandslide.

    So the haters win out, horaay!

    Probably not a positive way for a Nation to go forward though.

    ( Obviously preferences are the only thing keeping ALP in the game coz LNP are by far most popular. )

  16. ( Obviously preferences are the only thing keeping ALP in the game coz LNP are by far most popular. )

    It’s pretty simple, really, jumpy.

    When it comes down to an either/or choice roughly 50%, sometimes a bit less and sometimes a bit more, prefer the ALP to the LNP.

  17. Let’s not forget Jumpy that the LNP are in fact two parties, neither one of which would have a hope of becoming government on their own even with preferences. Labour achieves the government benches on their own regularly with preferences.

    So it was just so much more of the psychotic crap flowing out of Abbott’s mouth when he was criticising Labours coalition of the Gillard Government.

  18. Brian

    When it comes down to an either/or choice roughly 50%, sometimes a bit less and sometimes a bit more, prefer the ALP to the LNP.

    The Primary vote is consistently LNP ( with a notable exception of Ruddslide ) . The Primary Vote is peoples first choice to Govern and therefore have more value than a preference vote on an individual basis. The notion a preference vote should be as influential a primary vote is ridiculous.

  19. Jumpy, I think my idea of a mark out of 10 is fairest. But a ‘just vote one’ situation defaults to a first past the post. It’s ridiculous to suggest that a second preference has no value.

    Outside my idea there is a choice between optional preferential and compulsory preferential voting. There are arguments for both, and you can’t say that one or the other is undemocratic.

    A preference vote does allow a voter to ‘send a message’ but still have a say in the real contest.

    There are other arguments but I’ll leave it there.

  20. I don’t sugest no value for preferences, just proportionally reduced.
    Primary being full, second being 50%, third 25% or some such. The number crunching boffins can determine a message out of the results. But honestly there a numerous avenue to send a message, Elections should be purely about choosing Representation in the most fair and accurate way.

    I think compulsory preferential, minimum 1st 6 correct with descending value of preferences at the moment.
    I don’t care the outcome when considering the process.

  21. Jumpy, I agree with you that elections should be about choosing who governs, not about sending a message. If 50% plus ‘send a message’ then they actually choose, and you can’t know what everyone else is going to do.

    But I think your “primary being full, second being 50%, third 25% or some such” is arbitrary.

    All around the world there are democratic systems which allow in the end full choice of the last two standing, for example in presidential elections where they have repeat votes with the worst performers being dropped off until the get a 50% plus. I think a system that allows full value of votes between the final two is the most democratic, when there is a clear choice between who you want and who you don’t want.

  22. Jumpy you are trying to paint a picture to suit your prejudices. The fact is that the Liberal party and the National Party Coalition at the moment have 41.7% whereas the Labour Party and the Greens Coalition (GULP Greens United Labour Party) have 45.9%.

    On the voting strength strength of the primary coalitions LNP loses and GULP wins.

  23. BilB, you have missed where I said

    I don’t care the outcome when considering the process.

    If the Greens and ALP what to form an honest coalition rather than an under the table one, why don’t they ?

  24. Brian,

    But I think your “primary being full, second being 50%, third 25% or some such” is arbitrary.

    Of course, the ” some such ” indicated my flexibility on it.
    Perhaps 1= 100%, 2= 80%, 3= 60%…….

    The ratios I’m happy to discussed but fundamentally it can’t be argued that a lower preference should have the same power as a Primary vote.

    Even though I like the idea of smaller parties, a seat won on 1% of the Primary is wrong.

  25. Jumpy, the primary vote does have extra power. It decides whether the candidate stays in the race or drops out. That’s as it should be.

    You can’t say that less than 1% was “wrong” (presumably you are thinking Ricky Muir) because the candidate endured when there were about 100 in the race. It’s wrong democratically that the voters didn’t decide the preference flow, but that’s now been fixed.

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