To beat Trumpism and Hansonism will be hard. But it’s been done before.

Populism is on the march.  So we all read on the news.

I am not going to repeat here what it has been written by many other professional commentators before.  But the common theme is that both Trump and Hanson are ‘anti-establishment’ not part of the ‘political elite’.

One thing I discerned is that while there is a hard rock of islamophobes/xenophobes and general bigots among those who have voted for Trump and Hanson, many who have voted for them are not necessarily so.  They have voted as an expression of feeling left out, of the political class not listening to them.  When you have something like Trump or Hanson that are perceived to be not part of that establishment the vote becomes more an expression of rebellion rather because they are attracted by the policies of those candidates.

While protesting and ‘resistance’ are all well and good, these actions will not motivate people to switch their votes.

What is needed here is to detach those who are not bigots or xenophobes away from those who are and return these ‘alt-right’ candidates to the margins where they belong.

How to do this?  It’s hard, time consuming, and it is a long process, but it has been done before.

If we take an USA example the Obama campaigns were successful because they involved grassroot activities from people who were persistent.  James Ridgeway wrote back in 2008:

Thousands of people sit together in campaign offices, union headquarters and living rooms calling up people they have never met. Thousands more troop through apartment buildings and walk the streets of suburban neighborhoods knocking on the doors of total strangers. Their numbers increase at night, when their own working days are over. Their targets are most likely to be homes, and mobile phone minutes are free. This kind of activity takes place across the US every four years – but never before on this scale. By all estimates, Barack Obama’s campaign is running the largest political field operation in history…..

This kind of campaigning is exhausting, inefficient, time-consuming and expensive. It also works better than anything else does.

I also read an article (that I can’t find) that this people momentum was squandered after Obama took power.  The job was done.  Obama was president and everything was going to be alright.  We have seen with Trump this didn’t happen. Voters became more and more disenchanted. What won the election for Trump was that many voters didn’t turn out to vote.

In Australia there is also this sense of  disenchantment that seems to push voters towards populist candidates.  The bigger danger is that voters’ disenchantment may lead to disregard mainstream media and getting ‘information’ from fake news sources.

But again Hansonism can be beaten if energy is put in to involve people.  I’ve seen this in the 1982 Victorian election where the ALP won government after 30 years of Liberal rule.  The ALP years before organised forums and meetings where interested people, community groups and organisations would be able to discuss and propose ideas.  And some became part of the ALP platform (the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act was an example).

This gave the government a great sense of connection and engaged the electorate.  Of course, like in the Obama case, once in office this lost momentum. But that is another story.

While the Greens do have a network of communities, a party like the ALP, with its Union membership could cast the net wider and even reach and involve those who are not necessarily ‘Labor’ people.  This would engage the community and make it feel part of the political process, reduce the effectiveness of biased fake news.

This is not as easy as a social media campaign as it involves organising and actively engaging people (although social media can help) and it is a long process.

But if we want to stem the rise of populism it may be the only pathway ahead.



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World Cup expansion? Why not. It’s not a competition between best teams anyway.

The football world has been abuzz after the news that from the 2026 tournament, FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from its current 32.

From what I can gather from twitter the overall response has been negative, especially from Australian fans, which is surprising considering that expansion helped us getting into the World Cup when part of the Asian Confederation.  As Craig Foster stated :

Access to four guaranteed spots also gives us the opportunity to avoid the do or die scenarios of the past, and we grow quickly through three consecutive appearances, the last two being directly secured.

But how did Asia get four and half spots? Through expansion from 24 to 32 teams in 1998 (in 1974, Asia and Oceania had one spot combined; Asia one in 78; three and a half in 98 and four and a half in 2002).

I wonder if the reaction would have been different if this expansion was accepted back when Australia was part of Oceania and we failed to qualify for more than three decades.

The main argument against the expansion is that this is a cynical money grabbing exercise by FIFA, and that may be true.  There are very powerful nations which are putting lots of money in football, especially in Asia, that will finally get a spot.

The other argument, and the one that seems to be the main objection, is that the World Cup should be a meeting of the best teams the planet has to offer, and instead there will be mediocre teams that somehow ‘do not deserve’ to be there.

I am sorry, but this is nonsense.

The World Cup is not like the Olympics where every nation has the possibility to participate.  There is a qualifying process which is already skewed.

The World Cup is not a competition of the best teams in the world.  Is a competition between the best teams from each confederation. And where there are two confederations which have the strongest teams: Europe and South America.

This makes qualification in those two confederations much harder.  Netherlands did not qualify for 1982 world cup while New Zealand did. Argentina may risk qualifying for Russia but we may see Panama there. In all the World Cups Australia failed to qualify arguably there were worse teams than us playing.   There is no level playing field.

The level of football has increased throughout the world and this means that it is unlikely to be really hopeless teams among the 48 teams.

Look at what teams a 48 World Cup would look like according to current rankings.  It’s not bad.  I don’t see many that would be totally overwhelmed.

So let’s have more people at the party.  I think it will be fun.

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Italian Referendum. It’s not #Brexit or #Trump

One thing that gets noticed quickly if you are a media junkie like me is that often a narrative arises in reporting an event.  In Australia we had the ‘Howard Battlers’ for some time which really didn’t exist. Now with Brexit and Donald Trump winning the presidency of the United States we have the narrative of ‘the people rebelling against the elite’ and variations of this theme.  This is amplified in social media where people who believe in something feed in this narrative.

After Brexit and Trump, the media went to look for another ‘domino’ to fall. Next was the Austrian election for president who did not fit the narrative as the Green candidate defeated the right wing one.

Next was the Italian Referendum.  I thought that the narrative of attaching anything ‘against the elites’ or the EU was odd to start with.  This election was about changing the constitution to change how the Senate was elected and its function.  There are other changes which are quite detail and not that exciting.  Wikipedia has a good page about it if interested. 

But I already read articles about ‘The next big thing’ to happen after Brexit and Trump and I tweeted this before the results.

And straight after the results the comments in the media were that the result ‘Throws the EU into chaos’.  Basically that’s because the Prime Minister Renzi stated that if the referendum failed he would resign.  Renzi which was not actually elected, but appointed by the President of Italy (considering that Renzi’s party the Partito Democratico has the majority in the lower house).  Renzi was very popular initially but then became very unpopular..very.  And this referendum for many wasn’t much an issue about the reform but a way of voters to get their baseball bats ready for him.

This referendum with its quite dry proposals wouldn’t have had much attention if it was not for the Brexit/Trump narrative.

But beside the media the reaction from the brexiters/pro-Trump in the UK and USA was something to behold.

All I can say is that these people are going to be so disappointed in a few months’ time. Italy is very angry towards Europe. The Euro has really disadvantaged its economy, and some are angry because they believe the EU is not doing enough to help with a refugee crisis they feel Italy has to sort out by itself.

An Opinion poll done just after Brexit,  show that while only 30% has faith in the European Union, 81% is not happy with its immigration policies and 70% view the EU’s political policies negatively, 80% want to stay in the European Union.

Populist parties like the 5 Star Movement may want to do a referendum to get out of the Euro currency, but there’s no talk of completely exiting from the EU like the UK has done.

Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini writes in the New York Times:

Here and abroad, columnists are dashing off dark warnings about the impending collapse of the euro, and maybe the European Union. After Brexit, Rexit! crow his opponents.

Not true. David Cameron didn’t have to call a referendum. But Mr. Renzi had no choice; in Italy, constitutional reforms must gain final approval from the people. This wasn’t an extraordinary event. In any other moment, it would have passed almost unremarked, as the demise of one more Italian government in a long string of them……

Is Mr. Renzi’s tearful demise another bump after Mr. Trump, then? Not really. Mr. Trump’s victory was unexpected; Mr. Renzi’s defeat was entirely predictable. And Italy is not showing signs of post-traumatic stress, like America. The next prime minister will not be Beppe Grillo, the maverick populist (and admirer of Mr. Trump), nor as colorful, nor as lively. After the tumultuous 1,000 days of Mr. Renzi — who proposed a lot, accomplished a little and left few stones unturned — Italy wants to be quiet for a while.

While European analyst Luca Scazzieri wrote in the Guardian:

Italy’s referendum does not mark a political earthquake. Its causes are different, and its effects on domestic and international politics are likely to be contained.

Italy’s no vote does not fit quite so neatly into the narrative of a populist revolt against globalisation and elites. Themes such as globalisation and immigration did not feature as strongly in the debate. Instead, after Renzi stated that he would resign if the constitutional reforms were rejected, the debate was focused on his own record as prime minister. And while of course populists voted no, many of the other no voters did so against the substance of the reforms, arguing that they were anti-democratic and would have altered constitutional checks and balances. Unlike Britain and the US, where elites were homogeneously in favour of remaining in the EU and opposed to Trump, in the Italian case, the political establishment and the experts were split in two……

Opposition to the proposed constitutional changes did not just come from the populist Five Star Movement and the nationalist Northern League, but also from mainstream political figures. These included factions of Renzi’s own Democratic party, former prime ministers such as Massimo D’Alema and Mario Monti, prominent academics and former constitutional court judges. This was not a vote that neatly pitted globalists against nativists or “the populists” against “the establishment”.

As for many things about Italy, and especially about its politics, applying a template which may work in the UK and the USA does not work. It is a more fractured society where there are currents and undercurrents, where things are not clear cut.

That is why those that see this referendum as another blow towards the demise of the EU, or like Trump an expression against the ‘elites’ are going to be disappointed.

Italy will somehow muddle along. Like it has always done.

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457 Visa review is not ‘Hansonism’ or ‘Protectionism. #auspol

In the post Trump word we seems to live in a topsy turvy world where a Prime Minister who owns a multi million Point Piper mansion in Sydney criticises ‘elites’ , and where analysing whether the current way of getting overseas workers through the 457 visa is ‘Trump-lite’ by someone who has exported Australian jobs to New Zealand.

Or even when a government accuses the opposition of populism in the week when they are considering shipping refugees in Malaysia, something they vehemently opposed a few years ago. 

Turnbull has accused Shorten of hypocrisy as the highest number of 457 visas were granted when he was the employment minister. although Labor retorted the numbers were high under Mr Shorten because he inherited a system with few restrictions as a consequence of policies of the former the Howard government.

But going beyond the inevitable partisan toing and froing, the question remains that there is some level of misgivings about this program.  While the media and politicians may have resurrected this issue after Trump, this issue has been bubbling along.  The Australian Union movement has raised it for some time.  ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver talked about this in 2013.

If we characterise this issue as a capital  – labour one, it is important to ensure that capital does not take hold of the arguments like Michael Stutchbury has done on Insiders this morning.

Joanna Howe, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Adelaide wrote in The Conversation that there are a group of employers that are taking advantage of the situation, disadvantaging local workers and exploiting the foreign 457 visa workers.

But when we drill down into how the 457 visa works in practice, Labor does have a point when it claims that local workers are missing out on job opportunities. At present there is no proper mechanism for ensuring there is a skill shortage for the jobs in which employers are using 457 visas. This means employers can use 457 visas in areas where Australians are ready and able to be employed….

This means the 457 visa can be used by employers who wish to access foreign labour for an ulterior motive. While most decent employers will not do this, research shows there is a core group of employers that prefer temporary migrant workers because they are more compliant, work harder and are less likely to complain or be unionised.

Pro-business voices in the media such as Stutchbury, and basically everyone in News Ltd. will be ready to portray attempts to reform 457 visas as ‘protectionism’ ‘Trump-like’ and ‘xenophobic’.  It is a bit where the xenophobia in punishing refugees in Manus Island and Nauru is hidden behind ‘preventing the drownings’.

We should disregard Pauline Hanson saying that Labor is taking its cues from her party.  Hanson will maximise her media exposure, she’s very good at that.

The ALP has to frame the narrative not on ‘we don’t want foreigners taking Australian jobs’ , but in the sense that some businesses are rorting the system to put both Australian and foreign workers at a disadvantage to maximise profits.  This seems the approach of the ACTU and the ALP should follow this lead.

As Joanna Howe states:

……the conversation needs to be respectful and responsible – it should be about protecting Australian access to job opportunities and protecting foreign workers from rampant exploitation. This is a problem of the government’s own making and the fault lies squarely at its door for the shambolic way it manages temporary labour migration.


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Would an Australian electoral system got #Clinton elected? #RankedChoiceVoting #rankedvoting

There is no denying that there are many shocked people about Donald Trump being President of the United States.

One thing that is somehow comforting many Americans is that Hilary Clinton was actually voted by more people than Trump.   With a parliamentary system where members are elected to represent a particular area, having an accurate translation of this into seats does not always happens.  In Australia we also had issues in this.  In the 1998 election the ALP got 50.98% of the vote compared to the Coalition 49.2%, but ended up losing the election with the Coalition ending up with 54.05% of the seats compared with the ALP 45.27% .

In the USA this is further complicated by the electoral college system where “electors” are those who pledge beforehand to vote for the candidate of a particular party.

In the aftermath of the Trump victory, there have been recriminations that the other two candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson lost Clinton the election.

According to articles by CNN and Mic  if half (or more) of third-party voters in the key states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had just picked Clinton instead of Johnson or Stein, she would have won.

So what if the USA had an Australian style preferential system, could have Clinton won those states?  Before looking at this it has to be noted that in Australia no candidate gets 100% of the preferences.  Antony Green shows in his website that in 2016 Green preferences flowed 81.94% to the ALP and 18.06% to the Coalition.



So if we had a similar trend in the State of Florida and assume that 82% of preferences went to Clinton she would have received 52,495 extra votes.  Which would mean a total of 4,538,240 which would have not won over Trump.  The issue here is how many preferences would have gone from the much higher vote of Johnson.  The Libertarian Party is a mix bags of abolishing the welfare state completely but allowing abortion and decriminalising drug use, so who knows where conservatives would have placed a second preference.   Clinton would have needed more than 67,275 preferences from Johnson voters which 32.6% of those voters, and that’s not outside the realm of possibility.  But but with preferential voting Johnson’s voters would also give preferences to Trump.  So it would all depend on that.



In Michigan if Clinton got 82% of the Stein preferences she would have got 41,562 extra votes giving her a total of 2,308,935. Include some preferences from Johnson votes I think  she would might have been home and hosed here.



Using the same criteria Clinton would have received 40,108 extra votes bringing her to 2,884,816 which would not have helped her.  She would have needed more than 28,125 from Johnson voters which is not outside the realm of possibility, but again with preferential voting Johnson’s voters would also give preferences to Trump.  I can’t see that preferential voting would have got Clinton the state here.



Here the 82% flow of Stein preferences to Clinton would have got her 25,404 extra votes, taking her to 1,407,616, just under Trump.  In this case the Johnson’s voters preferences would have decided who would win the state.

So could have Clinton won?

I am no psephologist. These are really back of an envelope calculations.  But I hope they can demonstrate that preferential voting can affect the outcome of an election.

Whatever the result, the benefit of preferential voting is that no vote is wasted.  Votes for Stein and Johnson were disregarded, while with preferential voting even those voters have an influence on the outcome.

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Horses for courses. Why misbehaviour at the races treated differently than an #Aleague match.

Why is misbehaviour at the horse racing and the football treated differently? How this exposes the cultural divide.

There have been many comments on social media regarding the way misbehaviour at the Spring Carnival Racing was treated so differently from the misbehaviour at A-League matches. How if football fans got drunk and unruly like many who went to the races it would have been reported with the usual ‘soccer shame’ articles.

However the equivalence is not there.  Going to the races and getting blind drunk (or even at the cricket in some way) it is not ‘acceptable’ but falls within what is a behavour that is within the norm in Australia.  Even at the start of European colonisation alcohol was a feature, as Rob Moodie wrote in The Conversation.

There’s little doubt that alcohol is an important part of Australian culture. According to the author of The Rum State, Milton Lewis, heavy drinking was an established cultural norm transported to Australia at the time of colonisation…..

It was the norm in Britain to drink heavily and gin epidemics were devastating entire communities at the time. Lewis says that alcohol in Europe had long served as a food and source of nutrition as the diets of the time were very restricted and there wasn’t a lot else to choose from.

For a time, spirits were used in barter and convicts were part-paid in rum. In this way, rum became a currency of the colony – hence the term “a rum state”. The control of alcohol gave enormous political power. And alcohol was reportedly involved in the only military coup in Australia – the Rum rebellion in 1808.

So, while it is nothing to be proud of, alcohol consumption even to excess has been part of Australian white culture from the start.

So when it happens at an event such as the Spring Carnival, at an AFL match or at the cricket incidents tend to be sporadic, isolated to individuals which the police can handle quite easily.

With active fans police is confronted with something quite different.  An organised large group of (mainly) young men who jump and chant in unison.  I think this creates a different mindset.  When police have to deal with crowd behaviour, they are not dealing with a few drunken yobbos but they see a whole large group of people as a unit.  No wonder why in certain cases they bring out the riot squad because they believe that if there are any issues they may have to take a large group of excited fans on, rather than pick one or two individuals.

As I said before this type of policing is counterproductive. But it demonstrates the perception that a few too many and falling down stairs or trying to hump a garbage bin is ‘just a few people being worse for wear’ while football support is seen still outside the Australian cultural mainstream and therefore problematic, dangerous and foreign.



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Rebecca Wilson. Football, Leyonhjelm and respecting a human being.

I really didn’t want to write this post very much, but as I got involved in twitter debates after the untimely death of Rebecca Wilson I decided I needed to explain my views on this matter.

Should we stop criticising someone just because they died?

I share somewhat the opinion that when someone dies he or she is shielded from criticism.  I think of this when the lives of those who died in terrorism attacks is reported in the media, they are always wonderful human beings. After a few year I remember someone questioning the account of the 3000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks that it was impossible that everyone would have been an absolute angel.

However we must also remember that everyone has a human dimension.  Rebecca Wilson was a soccerphobe, but that does not mean that her death at a relatively young age should be celebrated because ‘it is one less voice against football’ as some have tweeted.

She was a daughter, a sister, a mother and a wife of someone.  Her passing will give grief and pain to other human beings no matter what she wrote in a newspaper, and this will always have to be remembered.

Perhaps I feel strongly because Wilson was one year younger than myself, and I could think of the desperation I would feel facing a diagnosis like that when I have so much life to live, wanting to see my son grow perhaps having children of his own, and having that taken away.

Perhaps because this evokes memories on my brother in law, a healthy man who would ride his bicycle every weekend for hours, struck down by esophageal cancer at 56.  His daughter just had a baby three weeks ago, and he was not to share this event with her.

Perhaps people that tweet somewhat pleased that Wilson is no longer around to write against football are young and have been fortunate enough to experience the feelings that a cancer diagnosis of a loved one can have.

Why I criticise David Leyonhjelm’s tweet

This tweet by Senator David Leyonhjelm has created a huge backlash.  And I have criticised it myself.  Senator Leyonhjelm defends this tweet by bringing to attention her reporting of a leaked document about people banned by FFA (often for minor misdemeanours or even for wrong people) has seriously affected some people’s lives (being sacked from their jobs etc.) He put out this statement:

“Rebecca Wilson wrote a story in the Sunday Telegraph in 2015 in which she purported to name and shame fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers who she claimed had been banned by the Football Federation for loutish behaviour.  This was accompanied by photographs of the individuals.

“In fact, some of the people named had never been banned, some had been banned on spurious grounds, and some were under 18 and should never have been named even if they had legitimately banned”

“The response by fans was to boycott games, eventually forcing the FFA to modify its approach to banning fans and to treat them with decency and natural justice.”

“However, Western Sydney Wanderers fans never forgot Wilson’s failure to check facts or shabby treatment.  As I said in my tweet, I do not expect them to attend her funeral.”

“If you think that’s offensive, you need to get out more.  I stand by my tweet.  Furthermore, death does not suddenly absolve us of what we did when we were alive”


I have criticised Wilson in the past. And I stand by that now.





However, I believe there is a time and place. Wilson was wrong when she wrote that article, and it was shameful she ‘exposed’ minors, innocent people or made out that those who made minor infringements were ‘hooligans’. She didn’t like Association Football and she wrote negative things about it. That is not disputed. I also don’t dispute that when we will remember Rebecca Wilson this should be also be part of her legacy. But to make what could be construed as a lighthearted remark that Western Sydney fans would not attend her funeral just a few hours after her death I think is really insensitive.

The other issue is that what Leyonhjelm is counter-productive. I can see that for some fans, the positive eulogies in the media would have been perceived as unbalanced because her actions against A-League fans were not mentioned.

If the intention was to highlight the injustice meted out to the banned fans then the Senator did an ‘own goal’ by his timing and tone of the tweet, as all the attention and anger was towards him rather than on the issue he wanted to highlight.  Too ‘smart’ for his own good.

I can’t speak for Rebecca Wilson as I didn’t know her.  But from I can gather she was a strong woman and stood by her stories, even if most football fans felt they were biased and wrong.  I think that her actions and writing should not be whitewashed and same as maintaining a critical of them.

There will be plenty of times to talk about Rebecca Wilson the writer.  At this time we should let Rebecca Wilson, the daughter, the sister, the mother, the wife take precedence.

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