Lots of discussion over the last couple of days about the recently released annual surveillance report for HIV, which shows a big jump in the number of HIV notifications for the last year, especially in NSW. Obviously any rise in HIV is concerning and I’ll leave it to the experts to debate the likely causes of that rise, but as I have previously argued, a seemingly important measure of the infection rate remains unreported.
Three years ago, I argued that HIV infections aren’t going up, they’re going down – if you consider that the number of new infections must be a function of the number of people living with HIV, the picture over the last few years is starkly different. I’ve updated the data from that post in the chart below (click it for a larger version):
The pink line on the chart shows the number of new diagnoses per 100 people living with HIV, based on the Kirby Institute data. There has been a noticeable increase in that measure over the last year but this follows a long period of decline from a high in 2002 of 6.29 to a low in 2011 of 4.60 (incidence per 100 PLHIV).
My argument here is that, whenever an HIV infection occurs, one HIV-positive person is the source of that infection, and as the number of people living in the community with HIV rises, some rise in the total number of new infections is inevitable. The picture over the last few years shows that rise has been lower than would be predicted by the increase in the HIV-positive population alone, which I think is a strong sign that HIV prevention efforts have been working.
The increase in the last 12 months – from 4.60 to 4.87 (incidence per 100 PLHIV) – represents a 6 percent rise in infections, and while that’s lower than the 10 percent rise in the raw numbers, it’s definitely worrying. But it’s a single data point and we won’t know for a year or two if that is the beginning of a sustained rise or just a blip in the trend.
It’s understandable that researchers, government and the media are troubled by the annual jump in new infections (and it has been an annual event for many years now) but, as long as positive people are remaining healthy and sexually active, at least part of that rise is directly explained by the increase in the population of people who are available to be the source of new infections.
The usual caveats apply: I am neither an epidemiologist nor a statistician, and the only data I have to work with is that published in the surveillance reports. Happy to be corrected on any of the data or to be (politely) disagreed with as to my interpretation of it.
Constitutional law expert George Williams discusses the Senate election result and the need for reform to the electoral system so the result better reflects the voters’ intentions.
Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition? Really, Labor, this is your response to the election loss?
This may come as a surprise, but if you’ve been banging your head against a brick wall for six* years and your head hurts, it’s almost certainly not because you haven’t been doing it hard enough. If you pick Shorten as the next Labor leader (or Albanese, or Bowen, or Swan, or Burke…) you might as well hang out a sign saying “we are useless and we will never change.”
You’ve had a bit of a loss. As unpleasant as that might me, it’s also a rare opportunity to try something new, see how it goes. Pick a leader who represents generational change, give them the authority to reform the party, and craft a new story about who you are and what you stand for. Shorten is up to his neck in the leadership dramas of the last few years, and no-one will take you seriously with him at the helm.
There’s plenty of alternatives. Plibersek would be brilliant, then there’s Dreyfus, Butler and Clare, although the last two don’t have Cabinet experience. Any of them would come to the leadership with (relatively) clean hands.
Get your shit together, Labor. Your primary vote is so low now it consists almost entirely of people who are so rusted-on they wouldn’t vote for another party if their lives depended on it. Stop bashing the Greens and focus on your real enemy. Find a leader who will reconnect with the base, emphasise your considerable strengths, and break away from the back-room squabbles of the past.
In other words, not fucking Shorten.
* actually, 17 years
They seem so bright, youthful and groovy, with progressive policies like legalising same-sex marriage and marijuana, so it’s no wonder lots of people, especially gay men and lesbians, have decided to give the Australian Sex Party their vote this year. But if you’re one of those who did, you might be a bit surprised to know where your vote ended up.
In three states, above-the-line votes from the Sex Party were instrumental in getting candidates from right-wing microparties elected: the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in Victoria, the Liberal Democratic Party in NSW, and the Australian Sports Party in WA were the ultimate recipients of the Sex Party’s votes in those states.
Elsewhere, votes for the Sex Party ultimately ended up with the Liberal Party (in Tasmania), the ALP (in NT), Nick Xenophon (in SA) and the Greens (in SA, Queensland and the ACT). Sex Party votes did help reelect SA Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young.
Many of the people I have met who supported the Sex Party would consider themselves vaguely left-wing, progressive voters. Most of those would be surprised to discover where their Senate vote ended up.
The full details of how Sex Party Senate votes were distributed in each state are below (these numbers are progressive, as the count is still proceeding, and only include above-the-line votes).
I doubt many of those who voted for the Sex Party would be happy to know their vote ended up electing a gun nut (in NSW), a car nut (in Vic) or sports nut (nobody seems to know what the Australian Sports Party’s policies are, except they seem to like sport) in WA. The fact that they did shows the urgent need for reform of the above-the-line voting system in the Senate.
(States are listed below in order of the size of the Sex Party vote)
There were 43,744 votes for the Sex Party in Victoria. Every one of those votes went to their 42nd preference, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, enough to get Ricky Muir elected to the Senate for the next six years.
There were 32,599 votes for the Sex Party in NSW. All but 118 of those votes went to their 18th preference, the gun-toting Liberal Democrats, pushing David Leyonhjelm over the line and into the upper house until at least mid-2020. The remaining 188 votes went to the Shooters and Fishers Party, via preference 48.
There were 20,592 votes for the Sex Party in the Sunshine State. These were distributed first to the HEMP Party via preference 5, and then to the Greens via preference 42.
There were 12,376 votes for the Sex Party in WA. Of those 12,338 went to their 11th preference, the Australian Sports Party, pushing Wayne Dropulich across the line and onto the comfy red leather benches for the next six years. The remaining 38 votes went to the Greens.
There were 7610 votes for the Sex Party in SA. These were initially distributed to the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics (preference 11), then to the Greens (preference 41), where they helped reelect Sarah Hanson-Young, before coming to rest with Nick Xenophon (preference 45).
There were 5966 votes for the Sex Party in the traditionally porno-loving national capital. These were distributed first to the Bullet Train For Australia Party (preference 9) and then to Simon Sheikh of the Greens (preference 15).
There were 4112 votes for the Sex Party. These went to the Liberal Democratic Party (preference 21) and then on to the Liberal Party (preference 34).
There were 1410 votes for the Sex Party in the Territory. These went briefly to the Shooters and Fishers (preference 3) before helping elect Nova Peris for the ALP (preference 12).
Source: ABC elections website, accessed 9 September 2013.
Image: Fiona Patten (CC-licensed image from Wikimedia Commons)
Welcome to democracy, Australian style: you go into a polling booth and you get the choice of an impossible 4-dimensional Sudoku puzzle, or just tick a box labelled ‘cars’, ‘sport’ or ‘legalize weed’ and away you go. The end result? Well, you’re standing in it.
Show that you’re part of the solution, not the problem with this highly wearable garment.
In a couple of days, Australia will have a new government and, barring an upset of almost incomprehensible magnitude, it will be a conservative government with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. It is a most unsettling prospect, but what will be will be.
What’s important is what happens next.
Abbott seems like almost the worst imaginable person to be given the leadership of the country, and I dislike the Liberal Party on a visceral, or perhaps molecular level, but the most unsettling part is that Australia is about to elect a government that has kept its plans for after the election secret. There is very little in the way of policy details beyond three-word slogans, and until today we have not been told how the promises they have made will be paid for. Even tonight we only have a costing document that provides a line item for each spending/saving measure but no information about the underlying assumptions.
It’s an appalling indictment on the Australian electorate that people are prepared to vote, sight-unseen, for what will likely be a massive swing to the right in almost every area of public policy. It’s an even worse indictment on the Australian Labor Party, which has squandered its own political capital and led many Australians to regard it as a hopelessly dysfunctional, visionless and talentless rabble, not through poor government over the last six years (far from it – the ALP has driven some key policy reforms) but through internecine squabbles and almost comically poor communication skills.
The Australian electorate hates the Labor Party so much they are prepared to have Tony Abbott – a man that most people think is a sort of intellectually dim, semi-deranged religious zealot – as their PM. Most people, when asked, think Abbott will be a terrible PM. And yet they are prepared to elect him purely out of spite directed at the ALP.
They say oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose them. Well, indeed: this particular opposition leader has not had to do anything more complex than remain vertical and robotically repeat ‘stoptheboatsendthetaxbuildtheroadsofthetwentyfirstcentury’ and he’s headed for a landslide victory.
So Abbott’s going to win. What happens next depends on a few factors. First, the scale of his majority and, particularly, the numbers in the Senate.
If there’s a big swing, Abbott could be looking at a 30- or 40-seat buffer in the House of Reps. That will take three or four terms of government for the ALP to whittle away, if it can at all: Coalition governments all the way through to the mid-2020s. It’s turtles all the way down. In the Senate, things are looking a wee bit brighter – with a bit of luck, the Greens vote will hold up, the byzantine preference deals won’t elect too many right-wing crazies, and the Coalition won’t have a workable majority in the upper house.
The Greens have said they will vote against almost every part of the Coalition’s platform: they will continue to stand up for asylum seekers, welfare recipients and wage earners, and against big business and the top end of town. In other words, they will act on well-articulated principles, not based on political expediency. Maybe it’s time for the ALP to join them?
Perhaps this defeat will be the catalyst that forces the ALP to reexamine its place in the Australian political landscape, and relocate its ideological soul. A party of the left, standing up for ordinary people, protecting and extending Medicare, social security, progressive social policies – you know, the old ALP. And maybe they could discover that the Greens, who have become successful by attracting the votes of disaffected leftist voters, aren’t the real enemy: the tories are.
Together, Labor and the Greens could yet provide an effective brake on at least some of the craziest plans Abbott, Hockey and Robb have in their secret dossier, and in the process they might just rediscover what it is they stand for.
How crazy might those plans be? We’ll know in the weeks and months to come I suppose, but just today the Coalition has suddenly discovered an appetite for a mandatory internet filter, and one of their chief boosters thinks rich people should be allowed to buy their way out of jail.
So that’s freedom of speech and the rule of law gone, and they haven’t even won the election yet.