Ping pong and politics: why every vote counts

By Richard Schonell. April 19th 2016.

the hilarity

Yes Johnathan - the genius of it all boggles our mind too.  Source:

Yes Johnathan - the genius of it all boggles our mind too. Source:

Queensland’s local government elections held a month ago revealed two things about the state of #auspol: one, it can be hilarious, and two, every vote counts.

Lets start with the funny.

Here at Y Vote we definitely don’t condone informal voting, however we never shy away from applauding good showmanship.

One elector from Townsville demonstrated flashes of brilliance when he attempted to vote for Johnathan Thurston (aka the king of North Queensland) even though he wasn’t on the ballot paper, inadvertently confirmed that every stereotype about Queenslanders are true.

Not to be out done, the good people of Toowoomba got on board the #Kanyeforpresident train and voted for Yeezus. 

But the funniest thing to go down by far was the drawing of a ping pong ball from a bucket to resolve a dead heat between two councilors from Croydon shire.

Yep. That's right, they used ping pong balls to decide the outcome of an election.  

What’s even funnier is just how prepared Queensland was for such a contingency.

Under the Queensland Local Government Electoral Act 2011, which sets out the laws that all local government elections must abide by, the returning officer (the person responsible for counting the vote) is required to draw a marble or something similar from an ‘opaque container’ in the event of a tie.

Feel free to check out section 97, subsection 8 if you don’t believe me. 

Right there in black and white. QLD has surely lost its marbles... or other similar things.

Right there in black and white. QLD has surely lost its marbles... or other similar things.

Hilarious as it is, the fact that we have laws like this underscores just how close elections have been in the past and will continue to be in the future.

While it isn’t all that surprising that elections are tight in places like Croydon Shire, which has a tiny voting population of just 195, we still see results that come down to the wire in much larger electorates.

The 2013 federal election for the seat of Fairfax was a case in point.

Even though Fairfax has a voting population of more than 90,000 people, the result came down to a margin of seven votes after preferences were fully distributed. Following a recount, Clive Palmer managed to win by just 27 votes – and this is what the country has been stuck with ever since.

every vote counts

However, there is nothing particularly unusual about tight results.

Is this similar enough to marbles?

Is this similar enough to marbles?

In Australia’s short history we have had a number of elections decided by 10 votes or less. Probably the most exciting of all was the federal election for the seat of Ballarat in 1919, which saw Edwin Kerby defeat the sitting member Charles McGrath by a single vote.

But elections don’t have to be anywhere near that dramatic for a small number of determined voters to have a major impact, as the Queensland Local Government elections demonstrated.

One of the most interesting results on the day was the election of Greens councilor Jonathan Sri in the Gabba Ward.

This marked the first time a Greens representative has ever secured a majority of votes in any election for any level of government in Queensland. What made this result all the more remarkable is that the Gabba has been a Labor stronghold for as long as it has existed. Labor needed a 14% swing against it to lose, which is exactly what happened. 

In the end, the Liberal-National party candidate actually won the most primary votes, with the Greens candidate winning on preferences after securing 6,823 votes compared to Labor’s 6,457 – a difference of just 366 votes.

This just goes to show that there is no such thing as a safe seat if the voters really want change. 

Got a topic or person you'd like to see interviewed? Shoot us an email and we'll see what we can do!

Y Vote goes Heywire: LGBT+ rights, the youth vote and a progressive future

By Novan Sachrudi. April 10 2016.

Jesse Chaffey: journo student, writer, Heywire 2015 winner and Lady Gaga minion. 

Jesse Chaffey: journo student, writer, Heywire 2015 winner and Lady Gaga minion. 

Jesse Chaffey is a final-year journalism student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where he will graduate in September. For the last year and a half, Jesse has written over 60 stories for a Brisbane street press, including arts reviews, interview features and general news. In late 2015, he was selected among over 600 people to represent regional Australia with 45 others in ABC’s ‘Heywire’ competition, where he spoke about LGBT+ issues, and his experiences growing up gay.

Jesse’s main interests are pop culture, technology and music. He’s a die-hard fan of Lady Gaga, who he idolises for her messages about self-acceptance and equality. His dream is to write for a pop-culture based publication in New York City.

Follow Jesse on Twitter.

Jesse, happy Monday! What's happening on your side of the splendid Division of Petrie?
(an electorate in Brisbane for those of you playing at home).

Not too much! It's almost week five of uni so assessments are starting to get a little hectic but I graduate in a few months, so I'm just looking forward to that!

That's pretty exciting! Not too long to go, and I'm sure it'll fly by. Still blows my mind that it's April already.

I know. Completely crazy. Time has had this really odd way of suddenly speeding up over the last few years.

Way to make me feel old haha. But luckily we're all still "young voters" (ages 18-30) so we've got some time still. And speaking of which, we've estimated that about 8740 young folks didn't cast a formal vote in Petrie at the last election. How do you feel about that?

Well that's pretty crazy. I'm not 100% sure about how many votes people tend to win or lose by, but I bet over eight and a half thousand people could have made all the difference.

For sure! It looked pretty tight in Petrie. On a two-candidate basis, the winning candidate won by a margin of only 871 votes. So, 8740 is plenty. And it's a pretty significant chunk in our estimate of around 800,000 young people Australia-wide who didn't vote at the last election. Ouch!

 800,000 is even crazier. Woah.

Yup, but I'll put the numbers aside for now, because I wanna talk about you. First of all, congratulations on your winning Heywire entry. Do you want to tell us a little bit about it?

My Heywire entry was actually not even a Heywire entry to begin with. It was a little film I created for an industry project at uni (University of the Sunshine Coast) run by the ABC, called ABC Open where anyone can submit stories, videos and photos. Our assignment was to track down a group of people around the Sunshine Coast who were part of a group, club, or a community. I wanted to think a little outside the box, so instead of focusing on something like a bowls club, or a sport group, or a group of friends, I thought I'd take advantage of the word "community" and focus on the LGBT community.

I'm friends with a guy at my uni who was part of this group there called the Queer Collective. What that is, is literally just a bunch of LGBT+ people who get together weekly, and just hang out. They talk about life, they go on hikes, they have lunch, they spend time with each other. And so, I just thought, what a perfect group of people to focus on. Not only is it a small "community" at uni, but it's also the LGBT community, so I figured I was being a bit clever by using that word in more than one sense.

Gimme an H!...  Source:

Gimme an H!... Source:

Post-production and post-edit, my tutor for ABC Open suggested I enter it into ABC Heywire. Admittedly I had absolutely no clue what that was. So I did a little research, saw that it was a chance for young, regional people to share their story, and kind of jumped at the chance. So I entered my film, and out of 700 country-wide entrants, turns out I was one of the 45 that won.


That's a pretty cool back story. What I really like about the winning entries is that they were all deeply personal, whether it was about life in a rural or remote town, a station, a farm, moving to the city from the country, disability or challenging their communities. Of course with yours, it was about the Queer Collective at your uni, but also grounded in your own sexuality and experiences to perhaps make a broader statement about LBGT+ acceptance, wouldn't you say?

Absolutely. It definitely helps that I'm gay myself I guess, because I have the experience to back it up. But that's not to say a straight person couldn't do it too, in fact I encourage people outside the LGBT+ community to speak out about our rights. It makes an issue more human when someone who isn't directly involved with the issue speaks about it. Makes people feel like they can make a difference and stand for LGBT+ rights even though they aren't gay, or transgender, or lesbian, and so on.

I'm with you on that one. More broadly, I think that making an informed and impactful vote means that you have to stand up for, or at least think about issues and policies that may not affect you directly, but might be key parts of a particular party or candidate's policies and vision.

Yeah absolutely! It's good to look out for each other, regardless of whether things affect us or not!

I like it. So, would it be safe to say that policies regarding LGBT+ rights will be influencing your vote at the next election?

Oh absolutely. That's pretty much at the top of my list. As well as things related to uni students, hahaha. In terms of politics, I honestly don't think too in depth about stuff. Politics and the government.. it's never been a massive interest of mine. That said though, I have enough common sense to know what's good for our country and what isn't. And I try to be aware of what certain candidates stand for.

I know what you mean. Unfortunately for me, I'm a politics and government nerd, so I'm constantly in the deep end. But it's given me an appreciation for how important it is for people. For example, even when it's not something they're particularly interested in, I think we find pretty quickly that there's at least a couple of things that really affect their day-to-day lives which might be worth them finding a little bit more about. This is why I like having these kinds of conversations with a bunch of other young people with various concerns and views, because it highlights that you don't need to know or care about everything to become engaged.

On that note, if LGBTQ+ is at the top of your list, what are two other issues that will be influencing your vote?

I would say university fees and finances, and climate change.

"Hmm.. seems legit"  Source: Lucas Coch/AAP

"Hmm.. seems legit" Source: Lucas Coch/AAP

You've chosen some big-ticket issues there, and I can understand why. Jesse, you're a journalism student right?

I am indeed!

I'm sure that's has left you with some wisdom regarding staying informed and good sources! Any hot tips? And how do you like to stay informed about current events and issues that matter to you?

My favourite ways to stay informed about things that interest me and matter to me are - sorry to be such a stereotypical 21 year old - social media and the internet. is amazing, and obviously the Sunshine Coast Daily website to keep up with stuff where I go to uni. And also, speaking more generally, I like to use Twitter. It's pretty much the first place news breaks these days. There's nowhere more instant to report breaking news, which in a way is kind of sad because of how much more in-the-dark traditional news mediums are. But it's also incredible, because of how fast news can travel.

It's a sign of the times and I don't think there's anything wrong with it! It's information at your fingertips. It's literally never been easier to get a hold of. And it sounds like you've got your finger on the pulse when it comes to both national and regional goings-on.

Jesse, one final question: what would you say to young people who are thinking of not voting or doing the dodgy at the next election?

Young people are our hope for the future. It's common sense. The older our world gets, the more we've become aware of real, human issues. The more our eyes have been opened. In relation to LGBT+ rights - although this can stem through to so much more - the amount of young people that stand for them compared to, let’s say, ten years ago, is astounding. It's completely incredible to me, it makes me so happy. We have the power to influence what the future holds. It's really quite amazing how much of an influence we have. And so I guess what I'm trying to say is if young people with progressive minds don't vote, we might miss out on having a progressive future. For young voters, the more they decide "I’m just going to miss it" or "I’ll just pretend to write something down", the less chance our future has of looking bright. Our voices deserve to be heard because they matter, and a majority of people around our age have been brought up in a time where minority groups are being looked at like normal humans. Let's keep that going. It's not taxing, it's not time consuming; it's the future. And ultimately, it's in our hands.

Damn.... No kidding, that was pretty inspirational mate! Heard loud and clear. Well, I'm stoked that you've taken time out of a busy work and study schedule to chat to me! Thanks Jesse, it's been real  

Thanks so much for this! Shout out to the Queer Collective at USC, I wouldn't have won Heywire and been presented with so many opportunities since then if it wasn't for you amazing people.

Got a question for Jesse? Tweet him here

Got a topic or person you'd like to see interviewed? Shoot us an email and we'll see what we can do

How to navigate politics and the innovation agenda.

By Novan Sachrudi. March 4th 2016.

Erin Watson Lynn: Social entrepreneur and total champ 

Erin Watson Lynn: Social entrepreneur and total champ 

Our first conversation is with academic and social entrepreneur Erin-Watson Lynn. A Lecturer and Ph.D. Candidate at Monash University, Erin has researched global labour market trends and entrepreneurship for the last 7 years and has published in Australia, India, China and the USA. In 2015, Erin was an Australian delegate to the G20 Youth Summit in Turkey. 

As winner of the Hon. Wyatt Roy MP's Policy Hack, Erin went on to co-found DICE Kids. A not-for-profit whose Patron is Lucy Turnbull AO, DICE Kids is growing a generation of digital, innovative, creative and entrepreneurial kids. Erin is also the founder of Generate Worldwide, an international education provider that operates in India. 

Erin's interests are the changing labour market and entrepreneurship, and is a self described Australia-India enthusiast.

Follow Erin on Twitter here.

Hey Erin, thanks for having a chat with me today! Do you want the bad news or the good news? Bad news? Okay nice. So we've estimated that up to 21,400 18 - 30 year olds didn't vote in your electorate of Melbourne at the last election. 

Holy shit!

Right? How does this make you feel?

That makes me feel like democracy has failed. Or that we failed democracy. 

I don't blame you. So what would you say to young people thinking of not voting at the next election, or pulling the ol' donkey vote? 

Unlike most young people globally, you have the freedom to control the future of a country. Don't waste that opportunity. And that kind of freedom is what millions globally are fighting for. 

Fair point. Thanks for getting the grim stuff out of the way early, Erin. 

I'd like to ask about you and your field of expertise.You and your team at DICE Kids won the federal government's first Policy Hack with a really simple yet effective idea to teach entrepreneurship and its values to primary schoolers: a National Lemonade Day.

What do you hope these kids will take away from this, apart from a lot of tasty lemonade and a sugar rush?  

The purpose of the Lemonade Day is to inspire young Australians to engage in entrepreneurship by giving them the opportunity to own and operate their own business. The day operates at that elementary level where kids are given an opportunity for them to capture, which is what the entrepreneurial mindset is all about.

I want to also ask you about Malcolm Turnbull's buzzword of the moment: 'innovation'. Does the government's new tack make it easier for young Australians to become entrepreneurs and innovators? Do you know about where the other major parties stand on this topic?

Innovation is the buzzword of the moment, but that is a good thing. The Government's push for innovation and entrepreneurship is extremely well timed as we face a changing labour market and more fragmented life-courses. The beauty about this agenda is that there is bi-partisan support. I think it would be foolish (or election suicide!) for any political party to disagree with the Turnbull Government's innovation agenda.

I can't help but think that many young Australians would have some groundbreaking or otherwise innovative ideas and an entrepreneurial attitude to boot, but won't have the capital to realise their plans. How do we make it more equitable?

The risk we face is that some people will have the technical and soft skills to thrive in the #ideasboom and others won't, which will only contribute to widening inequality.

The beauty about raising capital is that anyone can do it. The equity challenge happens at the level where people know how raise capital effectively. It is important that everyone in the community is able to ride this wave and this is why the education system needs to play a role in engaging young people with the skills and preparedness for entrepreneurship. This is why DICE Kids is so passionate about engaging young people with digital, innovative, creative and entrepreneurial skills. A core mission of DICE Kids and our Patron, Lucy Turnbull AO, is to play a role in bringing everyone along for the ride by reaching disadvantaged communities across Australia

I find that when I talk to school-leavers and graduates, they're keen to voice how anxious they are about the job market, let alone the prospects of having a secure or established career before too long. The most common complaint is the paradox about having no experience to get a job, but many jobs, even entry-level ones, requiring considerable experience. It seems like a lot of employers don't want to take a punt on us young folks! Sounds like entrepreneurship can address a lot of these concerns. But how else should government policy or employers address this? 

I am concerned that the mismatch between the higher education system and the labour market is fuelling these employment challenges for young people. This raises two questions. Firstly, is this mismatch a consequence of the demand driven funding system? Government policy can play a role in resolving this problem by adjusting how universities are funded. As access to education becomes more equitable, the number of jobs proportionate to graduates will get smaller and smaller. Which brings me to my second question, is the purpose of higher education the pursuit of knowledge, or to get a job? One might argue that if it is to get a job, then the role of universities is largely vocational.  

Those are some difficult but fundamental questions, and I'd be interested to see how our current government and successive ones choose address this. 

I'd like to zoom out from Australia momentarily and think about the global stage. You were chosen as an Australian delegate to theG20 youth summit in Turkey last year. Were there some stand out needs or challenges that the global youth addressed, and how do we as young Australians fit into this picture? 

The three agenda items for the Y20 in 2015 were youth unemployment and entrepreneurship, education in the 21st century, and peace. As Australians, we were able to make a significant contribution to the policy recommendations for all of the agenda items. However, the outcomes of the Y20 (and the G20 Leaders Summit) were underwhelming. The Australian Head Delegate and I wrote a critical paper that was published by the Lowy Institute of International Policy, arguing that young people's contribution to the G20 is largely pedagogical, rather than a substantive contribution to international policy. The Y20 is building its credibility as an engagement group, but as young people continued to be viewed as 'students', it will be difficult to progress. Government's around the world need to make a commitment to young people's contribution and give them a non-tokenistic seat at the table. 

Well said! Maybe giving young people a grasp on the steering wheel in summits like these might actually lead to progress on some fronts.

I'd like to take our focus back home and ask you about how the economy was framed, particularly at the last election, where it was overwhelmingly centred around the budget deficit and to a lesser extent, job creation. Were those issues as prominent as they were often made out to be? To what extent does framing in the media affect how we engage with important issues and policies? 

At the end of the day, the Liberal party was there to win an election and for the voting public, a budget deficit and fear of employment stability played an enormous role in their success.

The media plays a significant role in influencing how the voting public engages with policy. Going back to the earlier comments on higher education, voting in government elections is when the study of philosophy can play a role in building a more informed and critical society, and thus lead to more accountable governance. 

For the reason you mentioned, among others, I've always had a respect for philosophy and believed in its value towards engendering an intellectually well-equipped and critical public. As an aside, a trial in the UK found that philosophical discussions in primary schools boosted students' literacy. I wonder if that is something that could ever be trialled here. 

Erin, what are the top three issues or policies that are influencing your vote at the next election? 

Any policies that open up the opportunity for people to engage in meaningful work and entrepreneurship will get my attention. 

We've definitely spanned some big issues in this conversation and I think a lot of readers would love to learn more about them, but wouldn't know where to start. How do you stay informed about the issues and policies that you care about?

I consume a lot of media and read as much as I can, it helps that I am an academic by trade!

I would recommend that young people read The Conversation, watch TV shows like ABC's Q&A and engage in the debate on Twitter. I also enjoy Foreign Correspondent, Lateline... my Monday and Tuesday TV watching is quite nerdy!

I also keep up to date on more in-depth commentary through the Lowy Institute, the Australian Institute of International Affairs

Having said all that, I read the Australian, the Age, and other newspapers. The trick is to know how to critically evaluate the content rather than just consume it without questioning its messenger and content.

Nothing wrong with a nerdy Monday and Tuesday night in. What else is a weeknight for?! Erin, it's been a pleasure, thanks so much for having a chat with me today. 

Got a question for Erin? Tweet her here! 

Got a topic or person you'd like to see interviewed? Shoot us an email and we'll see what we can do!