How often do leaders of government change? An interactive app

I was interested to see if we're actually seeing more party leadership changes in politics these days, or if it just feels that way, so I knocked this app up quickly to look at how often changes happen historically. I've only looked at changes of the head of government here, not changes in opposition parties.

Frank Forde, Australia's shortest serving Prime Minister.

Frank Forde, Australia's shortest serving Prime Minister.

From the options below you can choose a date range and a set of states/territories/the commonwealth to look at, and then the app will show you graphically whenever someone started a term as head of government. There's also a list of all those people with their term lengths underneath. People who served as leader at two distinct times (eg Kevin Rudd) are counted as having two separate terms of office.

There is the option to include currently serving leaders, but note that this will distort average term lengths.

To crudely test if term lengths are actually shorter than historically normal I'm just going to look at the average over 20 year intervals going back to federation (excluding currently serving leaders). I've also included the last ten years as an overlapping interval. Remember that each leader is counted in the interval that they started their term.

Time Interval Average Term Length
1 Jan 2005 - 31 December 2014 940 days
1 Jan 1995 - 31 December 2014 1523 days
1 Jan 1975 - 31 December 1994 1359 days
1 Jan 1955 - 31 December 1974 2113 days
1 Jan 1935 - 31 December 1954 1619 days
1 Jan 1915 - 31 December 1934 1063 days
1 Jan 1901 - 31 December 1914 730 days

So yes, from this crude measure, it's credible that we're churning through leaders much faster than historically usual.

It's interesting that around the time of federation it was entirely normal for Prime Ministers to serve very short terms, and often get two or even three separate goes at the job. It also seems our leaders hit their longest terms in post World War Two years.

It's hard to see any speeding up of the rate of leader churn in the plot below, but it's interesting to play with nonetheless.

Let me know if you see anything interesting in this dataset in the comments or on Twitter @CaseyBriggs

Update 4 Feb 2015, 11:48am: I just discovered an error in the app that was excluding Western Australian leaders (I accidentally inserted a rogue space in just before I deployed it!). That's fixed now and I've updated the table of stats above. Most of them changed by less than 10 days, one changed by about thirty, and one changed by about 100.

The 2014 Hottest 100, by the numbers

There are no doubt going to be lots of conversations and think-pieces about the Hottest 100 in the coming days and weeks. Here are some statistics that you might find interesting and/or useful about the gender balance and country of songs in the countdown. I've also included a look at how accurate the predictions from @socialhottest were.

I've done something similar to this before, for the Hottest 100 of the Last 20 Years.

In all of these calculations, if a band appears more than once in the countdown, they also appear multiple times in these statistics.

The dataset I've made for this analysis is here, if you think I've made a mistake please let me know in a comment or at @CaseyBriggs.

Women in the Hottest 100

I've used two summary statistics to measure the gender balance in this years Hottest 100. The first is female bands, that is, bands in which women make a significant contribution to the music. So a band that is full of men but has a woman playing the triangle in the corner doesn't count as a female band. Obviously this is subjective, to give you an idea of the decisions I've made, I have not included groups full of men that had a female guest vocalist, or bands which have three men and a female drummer. Of the 100 bands in the countdown, 21 are female.

The second summary statistic is a more straightforward calculation of the number of female and male musicians in the countdown. I have included featured artists in this calculation. There are 273 musicians in this years countdown, of which 34 are women.

The first two figures below show these two statistics visually. The bottom figure shows the density of female bands throughout the countdown. This was to see if one gender or the other dominates any part of the countdown. 

Women are pretty evenly spread through the countdown until you get to the top twenty, when you get a complete dearth of women. The only two women in the top twenty are Lorde at number 18, and Sia at number 9.

femaleArtists.png
femaleMusicians.png
genderDensity.png

Countries represented in the Hottest 100

The figure below shows how strongly each country is represented in the countdown. All up 59% of the countdown is Australian.

How close was @socialhottest?

Finally, the Twitter account @socialhottest did a 'Warmest 100' style prediction of what the results would be, by manually harvesting and entering votes from social networks (primarily Twitter and Instagram).

So how close were the predictions? The figure below is a way of visualising this.

Along the horizontal axis you can see the actual Hottest 100, and the vertical axis shows the @socialhottest prediction. If @socialhottest predicted a song in the correct place, it appears on the diagonal dotted line. If they predicted would do better than it did, it appears below the line, and if they predicted it would do worse than it did it appears above the line. Obviously the closer the predictions are to the dotted line the better.

Any song that is on one of the lists but not the other I have recorded as coming equal 105th on the list that it is missing from.

So how did it do on the whole? A bit of a mixed bag. The predictions are not very good toward the bottom of the top 100, but they do improve markedly as you get closer to number 1. That's not really surprising, as there are more votes for those songs and hence more robust estimates for their final proportions. It did well on the top five but still couldn't pick the number 1.

This shows that triple j removing the ability to share your votes through social media has made predicting a much harder exercise than it has been before.

If you've got any ideas for other statistics to look at, or think I've made a mistake, please let me know!

UPDATE: People of Colour in the Hottest 100

Someone on Twitter asked me to look at the number of people in colour in the countdown. I've thrown this together but I can count 13 bands that have at least one person of colour in them. Again, I may have made an error, let me know if you spot one.

 

Updates: The Person of Colour section originally said 11 bands had a person of colour

11:33pm: updated the female musicians data after some feedback (in the comments) - left a few featured artists out of the data. 

Podcast Recommendations

I'm getting asked for podcast recommendations and seeing a lot of people ask about it on social media (thanks Serial), so I thought rather than answer over and over again I'd just do a roundup of most of the podcasts I listen to at the moment. And yes, I listen to a lot of podcasts.

I listen to every episode

  • 99% Invisible - A tiny radio show about design, hosted by Roman Mars. Beautifully crafted stories about the design of things big and small. Try this episode about Busta Rhymes Island to get started
  • StartUp - Former This American Life and Planet Money producer Alex Blumberg has started his own business producing podcasts and is releasing fortnightly episodes of this show detailing the process of actually starting a business. Really wonderful. Start from episode 1.
  • Reply All - The first show launched by the aforementioned company started by Alex Blumberg.
  • Pitch - In the same kind of style as 99% invisible, but all about music.
  • RISK! - Story telling show where people tell stories they never thought they'd tell. Very NSFW.
  • Criminal - True crime stories, all self contained to one episode.
  • The Media Report - Radio National's show about the media, hosted by Richard Aedy.
  • QNN - 5 minute weekly update on the news from the LGBTIQ community. Produced by JOY in Melbourne.
  • Free To A Good Home - Comedians Michael Hing (triple j) and Ben Jenkins (The Checkout) go through online classifieds and talk about the weirdest ones.
  • Stop The Posts - Comedians James Colley and Nick Fisher talk about the weeks news by discussing the comments on online news articles.
  • Bring A Plate - Rebecca Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) and Peter Taggart with a fairly unstructured comedy podcast. 
  • Jordan, Jesse GO! - Comedy podcast that is largely unstructured discussion with a guest.
  • My Brother, My Brother and Me - Three brothers take listener questions and give them advice, plus try and answer questions posted to Yahoo! Answers.
  • The Adventure Zone - The three brothers from My Brother, My Brother and Me, plus their dad play Dungeons and Dragons together. Takes a while to get going but I'm really weirdly into it now.
  • International Waters - Pop culture intercontinental comedy quiz show.
  • The Scrutineers - Election news and discussion. I make this so you should definitely subscribe.

I listen to most episodes

  • All The Best - Radio features program on community radio. Produced at FBi, SYN, 3RRR, and 4ZZZ. 
  • More Or Less - Statistics show on the BBC and BBC World service.
  • Radiolab - Science, philosophy, just general curiosity. Along with This American Life, one of the classics of American public radio.
  • This American Life - I probably don't need to explain this one?
  • Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything - Hard to describe.
  • Chat 10 Looks 3 - Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb give news and culture recommendations and generally just chat. They talk about cooking a lot. It's a bit hit and miss.
  • Don't You Know Who I Am? - Comedian Josh Earl hosts a comedy quiz show where all the questions are about the guests.

I listen to some episodes

  • Radiotonic - One of the shows from Radio National's creative audio unit. Unfortunately I find this show misses more than it hits, but they have done some really great work too. Try this story about being gay, disabled, and looking for love on Grindr.
  • Strangers - True stories
  • The TruthRadio plays
  • Death, Sex and Money - Conversations that you wouldn't have in polite company
  • Bullseye with Jesse Thorn - Culture interviews and recommendations. US-centric but Jesse Thorn is great at long form interviewing.
  • Song Exploder - Musicians 'explode' a song and explain everything about the composition in less than 15 minutes.
  • Throwing Shade - Feminasty Erin Gibson and homosensual Brian Safi discuss the weeks news for ladies and gays, with much less respect than it deserves.

Other mentions

  • Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - I've just started listening to this. Very long podcasts about history. Dan is a good storyteller.
  • Kumail Nanjiani's The X-Files Files - I've just started watching The X-Files from the beginning and am listening to this podcast as I do it, in which Kumail Nanjiani and a guest discuss one or more of the episodes in great detail.
  • Sleep With Me - The host of this show tells you a bed time story. It's really boring and really good at putting me to sleep. Several new episodes a week. I really like this.

I'm constantly looking for new podcasts, particularly good ones produced by women because my podcast subscriptions are too much of a sausage fest right now. I'm also always on the lookout for good stuff that's produced in Australia because I'm listening to a lot of US shows. So I'm keen to hear your recommendations!

Sharing The Agenda: Stephen Mayne on AGM Season 2014

We've made another special report on The Scrutineers, all about AGM season and the News Corporation AGM. We spoke to shareholder activist Stephen Mayne about the meetings.

Listen to the story at Radio Adelaide, subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes, and follow The Scrutineers on Twitter.

Click image to listen to or download the program.

Click image to listen to or download the program.

Produced by Dianne Janes and Casey Briggs at Radio Adelaide

Party time: will Xenophon be able to launch a national brand?

Will Nick Xenophon be able to translate his popularity in South Australia to a national party, and win Senate seats around the country? I spoke to him and wrote this piece for Crikey.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon announced plans on Sunday to launch a new political party called NXT (short for Nick Xenophon Team), targeting the “sensible centre”. With renewed interest in minor parties, Xenophon’s move has attracted a lot of media attention. But South Australians know he has tried this before — and the results were not always successful.

Read the article at Crikey [paywalled]

University of Adelaide student election results 2014

I set up a dedicated page for results of the 2014 student elections at the University of Adelaide. Check out that page here: caseybriggs.com/uavotes14/.

First preference votes obtained by each candidate for AUU Board in the 2014 University of Adelaide student elections. Full results at http://www.caseybriggs.com/uavotes14/

First preference votes obtained by each candidate for AUU Board in the 2014 University of Adelaide student elections. Full results at http://www.caseybriggs.com/uavotes14/

Some technical notes: This was my first real world try using the Shiny package for R, developed by RStudio to create interactive web apps to display data. It's a relatively simple data set in this example but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out for not much work. The web app is hosted online at ShinyApps (also by RStudio).

Is This The End Of The Micro-Party?

I wrote an article for New Matilda about submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and some of the particularly concerning proposals.

A senate committee examining the nation's electoral system is likely to result in much needed reforms, but some submissions have raised other worrying prospects, writes Casey Briggs

In the wake of the 2013 federal election, major electoral reform in the senate now appears all but inevitable. The Liberal, Labor and Greens parties are all in support of abolishing group voting tickets and implementing optional preferential voting.

Read the whole thing at New Matilda.

Spending Your SSAF

A piece I wrote for On Dit edition 82.3, about the Student Services and Amenities Fee at the University of Adelaide. This is likely to be very uninteresting to anyone not at the university.

It’s almost impossible to be a university student in this country and not have heard of the Student Services and Amenities Fee, popularly known as the SSAF. For a full-time University of Adelaide student, SSAF is the extra $281 you are charged every year on top of your regular course fees. 

O’Week is one of the most recent products of your SSAF money. It’s likely that the first time you walked on campus this year was for O’Week - a few days of collecting ID cards, setting up email, joining clubs, watching bands, and maybe even attending introductory lectures (yeah right). If you are a returning student, you may have noticed some changes to the week. There was nothing on the Goodman Lawns, the maths lawns next to The Braggs was open and full of clubs and sports, and the university was doing a whole lot more of its own stuff too.

This is a story about what these new events tell us about the ways that your Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) is being spent by the university, and how the university and the Adelaide University Union (AUU) think it should be spent (spoiler alert: they don’t agree).

Read More

Counting votes, the Wright way

I wrote a piece for Crikey today about senate electoral reform, and how we need to look seriously at changing the counting method.

There’s been an awful lot of attention on the Australian Electoral Commission lately. In the wake of entirely unknown candidates getting catapulted into the Senate, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is currently conducting an inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 election, and every man and his dog has an opinion on what needs to change...

Read the whole thing over at Crikey [paywalled]

WA Senate Election 2014 Group Voting Tickets

In a previous post I summarised the voting tickets for the SA Legislative Council election into one table. I've now repeated that for the WA Senate Election to be held on April 5.

How to read the table

Each of the columns in the table represents a party or group's voting ticket. There are 33 parties or groups of independent candidates in the election. Five groups lodged two voting tickets, and one group lodged three. So there are 40 columns in total.

For example, If you wanted to know the order that the Freedom and Prosperity Party preferenced the other groups, you would read down column H. Number 1 is the first preference group (Freedom and Prosperity Party in this example), number 2 is the second preference (Australian Voice Party), and so on.

Preferences are also coloured, with gradating from bright green for high preferences to bright red for low preferences (with white in the middle).

The group voting tickets can be seen below (scroll to the right to see the rest of the tickets).

View the full sheet (with some other stats calculated on it) on Google Sheets here.

Methodology

The methodology for constructing this was the same as in SA, so see that post for full details. Again, I had to make a number of decisions about when a party is preferenced.

I regarded a party as having been preferenced when:

  • For the Liberal Party: When their third candidate is preferenced on the group voting ticket.
  • For the Australian Labor Party: When their second candidate is preferenced on the group voting ticket.
  • For all other parties: When their first candidate is preferenced on the group voting ticket.

Comments and analysis on Legislative Council preferencing

Voting tickets for the 2014 Legislative Council election in South Australia have been released. You can see my summary of the full detail of the tickets here.

In this post I attempt to analyse the key preferences, and at the end I will hypothesise about what the final results could be.

The Least Preferenced Group (or, the most preferenced against group)

The Independent Nick Xenophon Team are the group that are most preferenced against, with a huge 8 last preferences out of 27 tickets. The runner up for most last preferences is a tie between The Greens and Legal Voluntary Euthanasia, but they only have 3 apiece.

If you look more broadly at the least preferences and count the number of preferences in the bottom 5 each group received, it is a tie between the Nick Xenophon Team and the ALP, with 14 groups apiece.

This means that as in the last federal election, the Nick Xenophon Team will be relying on basically just their primary vote to get elected, and they cannot expect many preferences to flow their way.

The ALP, Liberal Party, Greens, and Palmer United Group have also been strongly preferenced against.

Liberal Party preferences

The Liberal Party have preferenced The Greens above the ALP, a reversal of the position they have taken recently in other jurisdictions. The ALP is preferenced last, and the Greens second last.

Liberal Party preferences flow first into Family First, then into Palmer United, then Nick Xenophon team, then Shooters and Fishers. If there is any Liberal Party overflow this would be a big boost to these groups if they stay in the count long enough.

Australian Labor Party preferences

ALP preferences go straight into The Greens, a huge help for them if there is ALP overflow. After that they go into Dignity for Disability, Family First, and then Powerful Communities. 

It is a little surprising to me that Family First are preferenced so highly on the ALP ticket. There is nothing in the Family First voting ticket that immediately suggests to me a preference deal, although that is not out of the question.

The ALP have preferenced the Nick Xenophon team seventh.

Greens preferences

The Greens have distributed their preferences through a series of very small parties and groups. The two that they are most likely to help are Dignity for Disability (8th) and the Nick Xenophon Team (14th). The ALP are preferenced 15th.

Nick Xenophon Team preferences

Nick Xenophon has adhered to his usual practice of lodging two preference tickets, one flowing quickly into the ALP and the other flowing quickly into the Liberal Party. Before the major parties, they have preferenced Dignity For Disability, Powerful Communities, and Multicultural Party on both tickets.

The Nick Xenophon Team are a big unknown in this election - how strongly will they poll without Nick Xenophon as an actual candidate? 

Other parties and groups

If there's one thing that the micro-parties seem to agree on, it's to preference Nick Xenophon, the ALP, and the Liberal Party very low. 

Obviously it is impossible to tell how useful the preference deals they have made with each other will be until we know the results, but for now let's assume nothing about the final order of candidates.

Both Powerful Communities and the Multicultural Party have done well with lots of voting tickets giving them very high preferences, and no tickets giving them very low preferences.

Animal Justice also have lots of high preferences, but they are counter-balanced by some very low preferences.

Family First have a lot of very low preferences, but have picked up key high preferences from Palmer United, Katter's South Australian Party, The Nationals and The Liberal Party. This will be very helpful to them if they can get enough first preferences to avoid elimination before these parties flow (or their overflows do).

The Shooters and Fishers Party have also picked up high preferences from Palmer United, Katter's South Australian Party, The Liberal Party, and the Fishing and Lifestyle Party. Again, this will help them a lot, provided they poll high enough on first preferences. 

The Shooters and Fishers and Family First could well find themselves in direct competition for one seat in the Legislative Council.

Guessing the result

No, I'm not going to try and predict the result. As we know by now, small changes in the results can greatly affect the actual results.

But here are a few scenarios that are reasonable and believable outcomes. They are very much guesses and you should really hold very very very little faith in them. I think that these are likely to be the first 9 seats in the Legislative Council (not elected in that order, I've just grouped them by party):

  1. Liberal Party
  2. Liberal Party
  3. Liberal Party
  4. Liberal Party
  5. ALP
  6. ALP
  7. ALP
  8. The Greens
  9. Nick Xenophon Team

For the final two seats, it's a fight between a few parties for each one. I would guess one is likely to go to the 'right' side of politics, and one to the 'left':

Family First OR Shooters and Fishers OR Liberal Party OR Palmer United

The Greens OR ALP OR Dignity for Disability

Alternatively, Nick Xenophon could poll strongly enough to elect two candidates, in which case there would be a huge battle over the last seat.

I told you I wasn't going to predict the result. Those are the parties that I think are most likely to be elected. However, as we know, anything could happen.

I haven't spent a lot of time analysing these preferences, so these are just my initial reactions to the voting tickets. If you think I've missed something or I'm wrong (let's face it, I probably am), leave me a comment or send me a tweet @CaseyBriggs.

SA Legislative Council Voting Tickets

I've summarised the voting tickets for each of the parties and grouped independents in the 2014 Legislative Council election.

A voting ticket is the document containing the below the line preferences for a particular party or group of independents. If you vote above the line for a party, then your vote will be treated as a vote in accordance with that party's voting ticket.

You can see the summary table in the embedded spreadsheet below, or see the full detail here (in larger text too). See below for how this was made.

There are 63 candidates in total, and 27 voting tickets. It is difficult to compare voting tickets by looking at them on the Electoral Commission of SA website, as you need to compare 27 different pieces of paper numbered from 1 to 63. This table summarises the information in one document.

How to read the table

Each of the columns in the table represents a party or group's voting ticket. There are 24 parties or groups of independent candidates in the election, and one independent ungrouped candidate. The ungrouped independent is not allowed to lodge a voting ticket (as you cannot vote above the line for them). Three groups lodged two voting tickets (I - Stop Population Growth Now, T - Nick Xenophon Team, and X - Your Voice Matters), while the rest lodged one. So there are 27 columns in total.

For example, If you wanted to know the order that The Nationals preferenced the other groups, you would read down column J. Number 1 is the first preference group (The Nationals in this example), number 2 is the second preference (Family First), and so on.

Preferences are also coloured, with gradating from bright green for high preferences to bright red for low preferences (with white in the middle).

View the full sheet (with some other stats calculated on it) on Google Sheets here.

Methodology

This table simplifies comparison of voting tickets by reducing the numbering required from 63 to 24. The candidates for each party and group are collapsed into just one number and each voting ticket is summarised using only these 24 groups.

The ungrouped independent candidate is excluded entirely from this as he did not lodge a voting ticket and the assumption is made that he has no serious chance of being elected.

In the vast majority of cases, groups number their voting ticket by ordering each of the candidates within each group with consecutive numbers. That is, they number all candidates within a group with consecutive numbers, move to another group, and so on.

This makes simplifying the voting ticket easy - you can just collapse the candidates together and the ranking of groups becomes obvious.

Special cases occur when groups choose not to preference all candidates within a group together. These cases, and the decision taken are:

  • Stop Population Growth Now (ticket 1): Candidates in groups C, D, G, N, O, P, Q, R, S, U, V, X are all numbered non-consecutively. In all of these groups except D the only candidate with a significant chance of election is the first listed candidate and it is overwhelmingly likely the second listed candidate will be eliminated. Thus I have not regarded these groups as preferenced until the first candidate is listed. In the case of group D (The Greens), the first candidate Mark Parnell is preferenced 3 where the second candidate Ruth Beach is preferenced 17. Thus, if The Greens exceed one quota then preferences on this ticket will automatically flow past Parnell, but they will stop at Parnell if The Greens do not exceed a quota. It is difficult to predict which of these will eventuate, so I have just taken the results of this Advertiser-Galaxy poll, which indicates that The Greens will not exceed one full quota (albeit this is a lower house poll, not Legislative Council). That is, I have applied the same rule to group D as I have with the other groups noted above.
  • Stop Population Growth Now (ticket 2): The same groups as the other Stop Population Growth ticket are numbered non-consecutively, and the same decisions have been made.
  • Independent Joseph Masika: Group E (Liberal Party) is numbered non-consecutively. I have made the assumption that the Liberal Party will achieve four quotas on first preference votes, and so their fifth candidate is the one that preferences will rest with. Thus I do not regard Group E as having been preferenced until their fifth candidate has been preferenced.
  • Independent Legal Voluntary Euthanasia: Group A (ALP) and Group E (Liberal Party) are numbered non-consecutively. Again, I regard Group as having been preferenced when the fifth candidate is numbered. For the ALP, I have made the assumption that they will achieve three quotas on first preferences, and so do not regard Group A as having been preferenced until their fourth candidate has been preferenced.
  • Independent Mark Aldridge Alliance: Groups A, D and E are numbered non-consecutively. I have applied the same rules as outlined above. Note that The Greens first two candidates are consecutive on this ticket so the assumption that they do not achieve a quota on first preferences is not required here.
  • Independent Environment Education Disability: This is by far the most mixed up and wacky voting ticket. 13 groups are numbered non-consecutively here, with numbers at points appearing almost random. The same rules are applied as in the previous cases.

Comments

Coming soon...

Review: The Sheds

The Sheds poster.jpg

To this day, there has never been an openly homosexual professional AFL footballer. Sporting clubs are home to lots of homosexual slurs and homophobic attitudes. And every time a sports star comes out it makes international news. In short, it's still a really big deal right now if you're gay and you play sports.

So perhaps there's never been a better time than now for a play like The Sheds to deconstruct the barriers to the AFL welcoming gay players. Written and directed by James Cunningham, the show takes the audience into the team ‘sheds’ (the locker room) of the Fitzroy Fighters, an AFL team going into the new season hopeful of becoming premiers.

The play opens with Darren Anderson (Patrick Chirico) having just come out to the rest of his team and the world, through the lens of a media conference. We see Darren and his team mates Liam (Ludwik Exposto) and Jimmy (Andii Mulders) navigate their way through a full season, all from the team sheds. Liam acts as a narrator and guide to the audience, providing exposition between scenes.

While the club initially projects acceptance of and tolerance toward Darren, cracks in this welcoming attitude become clear as the season progresses, exemplified by ever more frequent and dramatic outbursts from Jimmy. 

I wish I could say better things, I really do, but the show has a number of flaws that made it uncomfortable and quite disappointing.

The show does have its merits - the language and culture on display is exactly what you might expect in the boys club that is an AFL club, and the performers certainly look the part. You do feel like you are eavesdropping on conceivably real conversations in locker rooms.

Unfortunately, the cast are often too softly spoken, or too fast paced with their speech that it is hard to understand and follow the scenes. The audience, while forgiving, is ultimately let down by just a few too many slurred sentences and missed lines.

The most extreme example of this on the night I attended was the entire beginning of a scene flubbed by Exposto, who started to perform the opening monologue of the previous scene all over again, before realising a few lines in, backing off the stage and beginning again. 

Ultimately though, the biggest problem is with the plot. Jimmy is the antagonist in the show, but through a series of emotional scenes the audience is clearly pushed to empathise with him and excuse his homophobia. However, not enough is ever demonstrated to warrant this sympathy and Jimmy never proverbially 'saves the cat'.

This apologism for homophobia is then taken to the extreme in the final scenes. Darren not only starts to blame himself and his coming out for the violent outbursts of others (an entirely normal experience for young queer people), but has this idea actively reinforced by the ostensibly 'good guy' Liam.

While a show of this nature is certainly not obligated to have a happy ending in which the entire team bind together despite their differences and go on to win the footy season (or whatever), the ending of this show leaves a sour taste in the mouth and there is no sense of closure after the ambient lights have been switched back on. 

Following the performance, it was difficult to find a member of the predominantly gay male crowd speaking positively about the show they had just seen. 

If you're planning on heading along to The Sheds, come prepared for strong language and nudity, and to feel a little weird about the whole thing afterwards.

Originally written for The Australia Times

Corflutin' Season

27 days to go.

(No reason for the parties represented here, other than that these are the only four corflute designs I saw on my short walk down North Terrace this afternoon)

Making maps of Electoral Districts

As part of the work for my thesis, I have been trying to find some nice ways to visualise estimated electoral results for different units of geography (and other pieces of data on geographical areas).

The obvious and cleanest way to do this is with chloropeth maps (that is, maps with regions coloured in accordance with the data). 

Using results of the 2010 state election and a shapefile of the electoral boundaries as at the 2010 election, both supplied by the Electoral Commission of South Australia, I am able to produce figures like the one below.

 
Produced using data supplied by the Electoral Commission of South Australia.

Produced using data supplied by the Electoral Commission of South Australia.

 

This figure shows all the metropolitan electoral districts in South Australia (to include the rural districts in this figure would squeeze the metro ones far too small, and it's already very cluttered as it is), coloured according to the Two Party Preferred vote for the Liberal Party at the 2010 state election.

All districts with a 2PP Liberal vote below 50 per cent are coloured red, to ensure that all districts coloured red were won by the ALP and all districts coloured blue were one by the Liberal Party in 2010.

There are more red districts in this plot because all of the safest ALP electorates are in the metro area, whereas all of the safest Liberal electorates are in regional areas.

I can use these maps to visualise all sorts of interesting data across the state. The maps get more interesting when you zoom into collection districts within each electoral district. I'm sure I will share more of these as time goes on.

Next steps for improving these will be to find a way to 'declutter' plots with lots of boundaries in them (like the one above), and labelling interesting regions on the plots.

A Handy Guide To Student Consultation

A piece I wrote for the Higher Education online section of the Australian. Published September 26, 2013.

ALLOW me to present a handy guide for senior university executives: 'How To Get The Answer You Want Out Of Student Consultation'.

Step 1: It's important to agree on principles for consultation: More specifically, it’s important to agree on your principles for consultation. After all, we can’t just have anyone coming in with an opinion and expecting it to be taking seriously. It’d end in anarchy!

You know what all the important issues are and you know what is important to students. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by student representatives pushing their own personal agendas because they’re obviously just pushing their own barrow.

If the student representatives refuse to agree with your assessment of priorities, then there must be something wrong with them. Feel free to cast them aside and find your own more sensible and co-operative student representatives. They only represent the shabby 10 per cent of students who could be bothered voting. You’ll be able to find a student somewhere that’s much more representative of all students. (Hint: the business and law schools are usually a good place to start looking).

You don’t have to consult, but if you do, make a big deal out of it. Talk about it in front of your peers a lot, and make up phrases and acronyms to describe it. It will seem even more unique to other management types who visibly recoil at the suggestion of having to deal with students at all.

(See also the extended guide chapters: ‘You can have input but we will make all the decisions’ and ‘Engage student reps for consultation until they don't agree with you’).

Step 2: Student unions are rolling in money so feel free to make them conduct market research: If you’re not sure what student reps tell you is true or if a proposal is worthwhile, you don’t have to accept it straight away. Send the students away on a data-gathering mission or tell them to produce a feasibility study.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to do any of the work yourself. You work for a university, and universities are responsible with money, unlike student unions. Feel free to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to any internal project you like without seeing any plans or a proposal at all. Your job is SECURE.

(See also: ‘No matter how simple the fact, it ain’t true until a survey says it’s true').

Step 3: All students are -- and have always been – the same. So feel free to make decisions based on what things were like when you were a student: Don’t let the fact that you earn a lot more than students stop you from empathising with them. You were once a student too.

Granted, you didn’t have to pay for your degree or work part-time while you studied, but those are just minor differences.

Since all students are the same, feel free to make generalist statements. Young women and international students don’t drink alcohol. Young people are all tech-savvy and want to spend all their time staring at a screen. Work ethic is a thing of the past. No need for justification.

(See also: ‘I know what you’re going through; I struggle with the mortgage payments on my million-dollar house').

Step 4: Selectively quote examples from other sandstone universities (but only when it suits): For everything that a university does, you can always find a way to demonstrate that the other universities either do it better, or they do it worse. This can be very helpful when it comes to justifying your own priorities and disregarding those of your students.

Cite a study to back up your argument if you can, or even better, tell the students that you can’t show them the data because it’s commercial-in-confidence. Don’t worry about the statistical validity of any studies you use; you’re an academic so everything you say can be trusted.

(See also: ‘Rankings don't matter ’til I say they do (which is usually when I'm allocating resources').

So there you have it! With these handy tricks you’ll be able to neutralise any student uprising. And if you’re ever in doubt just blame the federal government. If you didn’t create the problem, you don’t have to fix it.

Hello Mr, Nice To Meet You

Ryan Fitzgibbon is a man who is sick of the clichés, often perpetuated by major gay lifestyle publications, that surround the gay community.

‘Few of us fit into that mould of what you see on the cover [of gay magazines] and what you see on websites, and what you see in porn’, he says to me over the phone from his office in Sydney. ‘The state of the publishing and fashion media is all about being perfect.’

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Fitzgibbon notes that there has been a lot of discussion and effort to change the perceptions of what it means for women to be ‘normal’ and accept and love their bodies, but he believes similar issues exist unchecked for gay men.

‘There hasn’t been the same sort of conversation about gay men. The statistics of gay men with eating disorders, it’s just perpetuated by the kind of things we put out.’

That’s one of the reasons Fitzgibbon decided to start his own publication, Hello Mr. He wants to change the conversation and present relevant material for a generation of men who date men who feel misrepresented.

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‘My goal was to not print a rainbow in any of the pages, and I succeeded’, he laughs.

‘[Hello Mr.] is giving voice and giving face to a different type of gay man, who doesn’t really care to be objectified in that same way. Down to the realistic portrayal of how our bodies look, to even the choice of paper I used for the magazine, it’s real and it feels more authentic.’

He also differs from the mainstream in his opinion on the priorities of the gay community. ‘The main topic of discussion is marriage equality’, he explains. ‘It’s really taken the priority and puts a lot of emphasis on our values as an entire generation.’

‘While we all probably share many of those qualities and hopes for our own lives, it’s not really the thing that defines us.’

‘The only images that you ever see… [are] two mums holding a rainbow flag, or two men embracing because they love each other so much. It’s all good and well, but the rainbow flag isn’t all there is to us.’

One of the strongest themes in the first issue is that of vulnerability. ‘There’s such an image of perfection that we feel needs to be upheld’, Fitzgibbon explains. ‘We’ve always had to uphold this hand holding, kissing, perfect image of a family.’

‘[Once we] start to just be really honest about how we felt, what we thought, what we cared about, what really tears us apart, I think a lot of people just really pour their hearts out to share their story.’

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Fitzgibbon has certainly tried to capture the stories of a broad cross section of gay men, with contributors of all ages and from all nationalities. This international flavour perhaps stems from the fact that he is quite the globetrotter himself.

After growing up and going to school in Michigan, Fitzgibbon moved to San Francisco to work for a design firm. ‘That job was a consultancy for a global design agency that took me everywhere’, he tells me. ‘I was flying to do market research in India and Brazil and all over the world, and eventually Melbourne as well.’

After meeting a designer in Melbourne and getting a taste of Australia, he decided that Australia was the best place from which to produce and launch Hello Mr.

But now that his Australian visa has expired, he has decided to move to a new city – this time, New York. He tells me that ‘New York is such a hub for media.’

‘Now that I’ve got a physical artifact out there I can really shop it around and get attention by having something to have the conversation around.’

The first issue of Hello Mr. is available now in print or for iPad at hellomrmag.com.

Photography by Luisa Brimble (magazine spreads) and Benny Capp (portrait).

This piece was originally written for On Dit.