It seems that changes to how Senators are elected is about to pass parliament, which in turn may or may not lead to an early election.
It is difficult to know exactly how this will affect outcomes - informed voters will likely adjust their votes so that their intentions are most accurately reflected by the voting systems, political parties will change their approach to get the most out of the system, a micro-party revolt might affect voting in the House of Reps, and then there are simply the unknowns that will be thrown up by a system that is made more complex because it is preferential.
This is a good time to look at a few different opinions on what these changes will mean.
Antony Green's election blog is always a good source of information on the electoral process. Understanding what the changes mean can be both heavy going and confusing, but check out this post from Antony - it runs a number of scenarios based on actual election returns and shows how the changes would have changed actual election outcomes.
There is also informed opinion on what these changes might mean to governance in Australia. The Conversation website is a great source of information and considered opinion. A recent piece by John Dryzek from the University of Canberra is well worth a read. His argument is that the parliament is (or should be) a place of justification and reflection, a place where members listen to arguments and then form their own opinion on the best way forward. John suggests that with the rise of adversarial party politics, there is more justification and much less reflection. Nowhere is reflection more needed than in the house of review the Senate. And if the changes to Senate elections lead to a greater representation of the major parties, this will only worsen.
It's a good article and well worth a read. You'll find it here.
And finally, if all else fails... the only way to find real and clear understanding of the way politics works... turn to a cartoonist. First Dog on the Moon recently made a half-hearted attempt to explain the Senate changes. His thoughts are no less reasonable than all the other opinion I've read, and of course much more entertaining. You'll find it here.
by Mark Enders
Our economy is transitioning... even Scott Morrison is saying so. But it is not transitioning in a way that he and the Turnbull government have foreseen, or even supported.
It is transitioning toward the new economy, powered by renewable energy.
It is difficult to say what was the tipping point for dirty power sources like coal (which is undoubtedly in structural decline).
Solar panels have become both more efficient and cheaper to produce. This in large part due to the large scale production that has been occurring in China. But it seems future efficiency gains are around the corner with Australian companies like Dyesol making huge leaps forward with its Perovskite product coming in at just over 21% efficiency late last year, and French company Sunpower's product recently coming in at 22.8% efficiency.
Solar-thermal is also reportedly coming to our shores with US company SolarReserve reportedly planning a 110MW facility near Port Augusta which can supply power over a 24 hr period... essentially baseload power which completely negates the final argument as to why we 'need coal'.
Battery storage is fast becoming the technology that will smooth out the lumpiness of generation from wind and solar. The big name in this space has been Elon Musk and Tesla, with batteries already being sold and installed in Australia and with reportedly many more lining up.
One of the great Australian energy storage stories comes from AllGrid energy - an indigenous Australian owned company which is using older technology (lead acid batteries) to provide cheaper battery storage to remote communities where power from diesel generators is expensive, dirty and can be unreliable. The answer for remote communities will be solar and battery, and an Indigenous corporation will be doing its bit to close the gap for people in those areas.
Wind is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. In addition to the high penetration in places like South Australia, the technology is changing and improving rapidly - with larger blades (meaning more capacity to generate power at low wind speeds), as well as blades that fold in high winds (for greater safety in stormy and cyclonic conditions).
Proactive governments like the ACT are fast-tracking battery capacity building, and South Australia has set a path towards 100% renewables. Sadly there is no leadership Federally despite us having the World's Best Minister in this space.
Luckily ARENA is an independent body and is doing the investment heavy lifting in this area.
Interesting new technology projects include - Solar air turbine systems (a project between CSIRO and Mitsubishi), Wave energy projects (in WA and Victoria), and the Kidston Pumped storage project near Ingham, and more.
It's hard not to agree with Malcolm Turnbull - these are exciting times - but not for major sponsors of the Liberal party.
by Mark Enders
The Blog has been offline for some time but has returned just in time - to provide an alternative perspective in Townsville in a Federal election year.
Expect the blog to post well referenced articles, to propose innovative ideas for our region, and speak up for those who have been long abandoned by the major parties.
A lot has happened since our last post - we've seen the back of the worst PM in Australia's history, we've seen him replaced by an egalitarian republican who believes in equality and climate science but does nothing on marriage equality, the republic or avoiding dangerous climate change.
Australian politics is still difficult to fathom, but has been nothing was more ridiculous than Greg Hunt being awarded best Minister in the Whole Universe... or something to that effect. First Dog on The Moon can make more sense of it than I can.
Stay tuned for even more interesting time ahead.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.