The Referendum

Well, one of the issues that has been at the back of everyone’s minds for the last two years is the Scottish Independence Referendum. Well, I thought so, anyway, but I’ve spoken to a few people in the last week or so who had no idea. Go figure!

Anyway, I’ve been watching the coverage live on the BBC website. It’s great! I never watch the election coverage normally, and I think part of that is due to the fact that it happens overnight. Now, usually the 8-and-a-half-hour time difference (or 10-and-a-half-hour, depending on the time of year) is the bane of my existance, resulting in lessons at awkward times and so forth, but it’s worked to my advantage today. Referendum coverage happened between 10pm and 6am Scottish-time, which is roughly 7am-3pm Australian time. It was slow-going at first, so I didn’t watch much, but by 11am (my time – about 2:30 Scottish time) it was quite riveting. And also right over REM-sleep time for people in Scotland.

What is the Referendum?

The Referendum 2014 is Scotland voting on the question “Should Scotland be an independant nation?”. There are two options: Yes or No. “Yes” results in Scotland becoming an independant nation, while “No” results in them staying with the United Kingdom.

Key issues

Obviously, there are a lot of key issues associated with independence of that sort, but my main concerns would fall in the areas of infrastructure and of political ties.

European Union and Common Travel Area

As far as the EU is concerned, there is no precendent for a member state dividing into two sovereign countries after joining. So no-one knows whether Scotland would automatically become a member state, or whether it would have to re-apply, and whether any of the UK’s current opt-outs of EU policy would apply to Scotland in either situation, or whether it would have to re-negotiate for them, too.

Currently, Scotland, as part of the UK, isn’t part of the Schengen Area – the area that enables people to travel within mainland Europe/EU without passport control. It is, however, part of a Common Travel Area with Ireland, which means that there aren’t any passport controls within the British Isles. (This does lead to the rather interesting point that it’s possible to get from mainland Europe to the UK without border controls if you go through Ireland, which is part of the Schengen Area.

The plan for an independant Scotland was do remain outside the Schengen Area but join the CTA with the UK, which basically means it would be in exactly the same situation as before.

Commonwealth of Nations

This is one thing which I don’t believe has been discussed at all. It’s such a non-issue that it’s barely worth mentioning, but since I talked about the EU, I thought I’d talk about the Commonwealth, as well.

If you don’t know what the Commonwealth of Nations is, it’s basically an association of about 50 countries, mostly former British Empire nations (although not all), with a common history, common philosophy and goals, and a major sports competition. Also, an interest in cricket not shared by most of the rest of the world.

As far as I know, the only former British Empire nation which isn’t part of the Commonwealth is Ireland, because they became a republic before the Commonwealth rules were re-written to allow for republics (this happened when India and Pakistan became republics). On the other hand, the Commonwealth now has member nations with no history with the British Empire, like Rwanda. So even if Scotland had never been part of the UK, it would still be able to join the Commonwealth. And really, after holding the Games this year, of course they would join the Commonwealth. In fact, I think Scotland’s already considered an independent nation within the Commonwealth. They certainly compete independendently, unlike, say, Cornwall, but like Wales.

Currency

This is more of a complex issue than it first seems. I can see a lot of Australians going, “Well, the English have the pound. Scotland should get the euro.” Well, it’s not that simple. You see, Scotland’s national bank has been producing Scottish pounds since before England started producing English pounds. The pound is just as much the Scottish currency as it is the English one. And, in fact, Scotland has three banks currently producing currency, while England has only one.

The way I see it, an independent Scotland has the following three options:

1 – Create a new currency, the Scottish Pound. Not very viable in the current world situation, where countries are uniting to create economic zones with each other.

2 – Keep the Pound Stirling, and create a “Great Britain Economic Zone” with the UK.

3 – Join the Eurozone and adopt the Euro.

Health Care

This was one of the ones I was more concerned about. I knew that Scotland had its own parliament and its own curriculum and education system. Governance, education and health are the three things most commonly discussed coming up to elections, and as far as I knew, Scotland was part of the NHS and thus didn’t have its own healthcare system.

However, I found out recently, NHS Scotland has actually been operationally independent of the NHS in the rest of the UK since 1948, and in fact has a number of different policies in place to those in England, particularly since control of healthcare was devolved to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Another interesting thought is that there’s talk of budget cuts to the NHS in England, which would effect funding to NHS Scotland as part of the UK, but not as an independant nation.

Monarchy

This is another of those tricky ones, where people associate the Queen with England. This is, in fact, not true. The monarchy is just as much Scotland’s monarchy as it is England’s. James IV was King of Scotland before he was King of England, and he’s the one which united the two monarchies.

No real answer was given on the topic of the monarchy in an independant Scotland, but the general concensus was that it would be kept… Just like Australia.

(I also had the thought that the title of King of Scotland should be given to one of the younger children: Edward or Andrew, or even Harry. Historically, this would be considered a perfectly reasonable thing to do when faced with multiple kingdoms and multiple children.)

Flags

Obviously Scotland finding a flag isn’t an issue. They have a flag. No, the question is, “What will happen to the Union Flag?” That’s the one you might know as the Union Jack, the one in the corner of the Australian flag. The one you probably associate with England. That one. You see, all the blue on that flag is actually Scotland’s.

The Union Flag is what happens when you superimpose the flags of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland onto each other. You have red spokes on white in eight directions due to the flags of England and Northern Ireland, and a blue background from Scotland. You could take out the blue and just have eight red spokes on a white background, but it’s a chance to let some other nations be seen. Wales, for example, and Cornwall.

The Cornish flag, actually, offers an option. The Cornish flag is a white cross on a black background, so it would make perfect sense just to swap the blue for black and call it the Union Flag, reflecting the flags of England, Cornwall, and Northern Ireland (still no Wales). However, there’s a slight problem in that a “black Union Jack” is associated somehow with fascism and the devil.

Another question would be, “So what happens to all those Commonwealth nations and territories which use the Union Flag in the corner?” Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, parts of Canada, and many other nations have flags based on the Naval Ensign, or a Union Flag on the top left-hand corner with a blue field. The answer to that is: these flags belong to those nations to do what they like. They’re under no compulsion to change the flag just because the UK changes theirs. And, in fact, for some of us, it’s better to reflect Scotland in our flags because Scotland (and Scottish people) had such influence on our countries.

Citizenship

Okay, this is a bit of a selfish one. I’m a dual-national, with both British and Australian citizenship by birth. If Scotland were independant, what would I be? Given that such things are usually dependant on birth, it would probably come down to the fact that my father was born in England. However, weirdly, I’d rather be Scottish than English. If I had to choose, and had the choice, I’d pick Scotland. It’s not that I’m particularly anti-England (and for quite a bit of my childhood, I identified as “English”), it’s just that these days, with fiddle-playing and learning Gaelic, I feel more of a connection to Scotland than to England. (One thing in favour of the UK: ambiguity in the term “British”).

This, however, is one of the few issues relating to independence which was actually given a decent answer. Basically, the same sort of things apply to Scottish citizenship as to British citizenship currently: being born there, or having a parent or grandparent born there, or living there legally, or who has lived there for ten years and has an ongoing connection, etc. (British citizenship is contingent upon “father or grandfather” rather than “parent or grandparent”, though).

Why I wanted a ‘Yes’ vote

I have two reasons, really, and they both come down to a comparison to Australia. Of course, not actually living in Scotland means I’m not entirely familiar with the status quo and thus have no particular desire to keep it. No doubt, if I actually lived there, my perspective would be a little different. On the other hand, I’ve grown up around people who talk about Scotland like it’s its own country, I’ve heard about the Clearances almost us much as about convicts, and I spent at least a term in Year 4 learning all about Scottish immigrants in Australia (thankyou, Lochend House Refurbishment).

Firstly, I’ve got to think about how I’d vote if Australia had another referendum. My answer there is firm: No. So why is my first instinct ‘Yes’ on the Scotland front? I’m not the only one: I’ve spoken to a number of Scottish expats and a lot of them are with me: Yes Scotland, No Australia. In my case, I think it comes back to familiarity with the status quo, but surely this isn’t true of the others.

To me, the difference here is that Australia has never been a unified and independent nation. Before European settlement, Australia was hundreds of separated nations and countries. It’s only since European settlement we’ve been unified, and we have no unified and independent history to fall back on. Scotland, on the other hand, spent almost a thousand years both unified and independent, and, if we’re being honest, have suffered a lot since joining with England in the late 17th century.

The other major difference is that Australia was voting to become a republic, like the US, rather than remaining an independent nation with a constitutional monarchy. The problem with that proposition is that, being as far away from where the Queen lives as we are, we are to all practical intents and purposes already basically a republic. But I think we like the idea of being part of something bigger, and as such a young nation with no history of our own to speak of, it’s nice to have the Queen there to make us feel like we’ve got a history.

Scotland, on the other hand, is not as independant as Australia. Australia is its own nation, who just happens to share a monarchy with England. Scotland was its own nation who happened to share a monarchy with England for 104 years, from when James IV became James I in 1603 to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. Since then, it’s existed in an awkward state of being a nation but not a kingdom… or something.

Basically, I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think a nation with as much history and as much independence of Scotland should be, on paper, less of an independant nation than somewhere like Australia. If nothing else, I think the two nations should be equal.

Why I think we got a ‘No’ vote

Aside from the fact that people don’t like change, generally-speaking, I think a lot of it is due to uncertaintly. There are a lot of issues which would need to be addressed in the event of Scottish independance, and very few of them were addressed properly in the lead-up to the referendum. Some were discussed, but no firm plan or outcome was given. So, in addition to a “Yes”-vote resulting in change, voters didn’t even know exactly what those changes would be! If I were living there and had to live with these unknown changes, I’d definately consider changing my vote over, too.

So does this change anything?

Well, if nothing else, the threat of Scotland leaving lead the UK government to offer to extend more privilages and autonomy to Scotland – which, Alex Salmond was quite firm in his acceptance speech, should be realised as quickly as possible.

It has been said in the run-up to the Referendum that, whatever the results, things won’t be the same. I think this is true. 45% of Scotland voted for independence, with four council areas at a “Yes”-majority and at least three very nearly 50-50 (as I type this, the results are not yet in for the Highland council area due to a crash on the major freeway into Inverness, I think I heard). Even if Scotland weren’t getting more privilages from the UK government, that’s still something quite significant. More than 84% voted, which, for a country without mandatory voting, is quite an achievement. This referendum has broken records.

It’s also influenced other countries. The President of the Basque Government said yesterday that it had seen that Scotland could freely decide its own future and sees it as the responisbility of the Basque government to “follow Scotland’s footsteps”.

Closer to home, this Referendum has prompted republicists to start calling for another Australian referendum, and, I think, had it been a “Yes”-vote in Scotland, such a Referendum (or discussions, at least) may well have been held. I think the “No”-vote will put a bit of a dampener on that, though.

This sort of thing doesn’t go away. In Australia, we still have people who want a republic and people who want a monarchy. (We also have people who want Waltzing Matilda for the national anthem). After a “No” result in a referendum, that doesn’t settle the matter. It comes back in fifteen or twenty years – Quebec, for example, has had several independence referenda. I don’t expect this is the last we’ll hear of Scottish independence.

In 2010, the Australian government promised not to think about having a vote for an Australian republic within the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. (After that, it’s anyone’s game). I imagine Scotland might be the same. People like the status quo, and she’s been around for such a long time that people can’t imagine or remember anything different. (Also, we don’t want to hurt her feelings). It all comes back to change, and with a change of monarch, people may be open to change of other things, such as independence and republics.

This Referendum in Scotland has put the matter to rest for now, but hasn’t got rid of it completely. It will subside for a decade or two, and it will come back. Unofficial polling in Australia suggests that a Referendum, held now, might pass – perhaps in fifteen or twenty years, a Referendum in Scotland would pass, too. We simply don’t know.

The ripple effect

I mentioned that Scotland has been promised further devolution and greater autonomy, which is great news for Scotland but has caused uproar in England. Politics in the UK is already a little unfair to England, since they’re the only one of the member states that doesn’t have its own parliament. It has the UK parliament, but there’s no English parliament, like there’s a Scottish parliament and a Welsh (something that is basically to all in intents and purposes a) parliament. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can all vote for their own parliament and about policies which effect just them, without people from the other nations interfering. England doesn’t have that – policies which effect England, and often just England, are voted on by the entire UK.

So there has now been support in England for the establishment of their own parliament, or at least further autonomy and rights – and a lot of members have said that they’re not going to allow further devolution for Scotland to pass until they’ve been given their own devolution of some sort. And Wales has chipped in, too, saying that it wants the same rights and autonomy as Scotland as a nation. It’s only a matter of time before Northern Ireland wakes up for the day and says something of the sort, as well. (It is, after all only just after 7am there).

This Referendum may have been a “No”, but it has changed opinions, it has changed policies, it has broken records, and it has set in motion a whole chain of changes throughout the UK – and even, as the Basque president point out, around the world. For all the outcome of such referenda is often subject to a resistance to change, we cannot deny that change is constantly happening. The UK has been changing since it began, and I think that over the next few years, we will see some of these changes happening a bit more rapidly.

And, as everyone is pointing out, we should just be thankful that this whole thing happened (largely) peacefully, with polling and voting, and without the outbreak of war as so many other nations wanting independence have experienced.

The Australian and British Education Systems

There are a lot of expats out there who are convinced the British system is superior and that Australian education falls short. They patrol around on places like PomsInOz, PomsDownUnder, and other such creatively named forums, telling horror stories about their experiences with the Australian education system. Some expats even go so far as to return to the UK solely for the education.

But are they really that bad? Realistically, is there such a gap between the standard of education that it warrants moving to a different country? Of course not! If you lived in Africa, or the Middle East, or the PNG highlands, then by all means, return to a different country to give your child a better education, but Australia and the UK are both developed nations, have a lot in common, and really, the qualify of just about anything between the two countries is more or less equal. And, to be honest, I’ve heard just as many horror stories about state schools in the UK as I have of public schools in Australia (and, given that I spend far more time in Australia than I do in the UK, that’s really saying something).

One of the first things I notice in many of these stories is that someone has moved their children from a Public or independent school in the UK to a public school in Australia. I don’t know whether it’s foolhardiness, ignorance, or genuine confusion over the name, but comparing two schools like that is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re completely different. A Public school in the UK is a privately-owned, often very exclusive and very selective school, while a public school in Australia is state-run. If you’re going to compare schools, compare UK Public schools with Australian private schools, and UK state schools with Australian public schools. There’s more of a difference between the two sorts of education than there is between the two countries, as anyone in either country ought to know, and I’m going to talk mostly about the state/public sort of education, because it’s much more unified in both countries.

To start off with, the philosophy behind education is rather different in the two countries. In the UK, the point of school is largely to learn facts to help you in later life. In Australia, the point of school is to teach you to think, to adapt and to learn for yourself. Many Australian curriculums don’t emphasise the teaching of facts as much as the teaching of life skills and independent thinking. This results in a stark contrast in the younger years between students in the UK, who often have very academic and rigorous curriculums and lots of homework, and students in Australia, who have a less rigorous curriculum and spend a lot of time doing independent and group-based research on various topics. The truth is, both students are learning pretty much the same things, it just seems from both an outside and a British perspective that the Australian kid and education system is slack.

From left to right: Australian facility/school, Australian Curriculum Band/framework/ School Year in both countries, child's age in both countries, UK National Curriculum Key Stage, UK school/facility.

From left to right: Australian facility/school, Australian Curriculum Band/framework/ School Year in both countries, child’s age in both countries, UK National Curriculum Key Stage, UK school/facility.

Both systems are fairly similar for the first decade or so of compulsory education, and quite a few direct comparisons can be made between the British National Curriculum, the Australian National Curriculum (which is only about half-implemented), and various Australian state curriculums. A fair indicator of how good an education system or curriculum is is whether it’s being used outside of the country it was intended for – and in both cases, it is. Aside from the usual suspects of various Commonwealth and former Empire nations (most notably India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) using a British curriculum, the Middle East uses both British and Australian (Victorian and NSW) curriculums, and there are several schools in Mainland China which also use a Victorian curriculum. Unlike the British curriculum, which is used in more places worldwide, various Australian systems aren’t actively pushed in the international arena.

At a basic level, both the British and Australian National Curriculums (as well as the NSW curriculum, I believe) are made up of Key Stages (UK) or Bands (Australia), which organises education into manageable chunks and offers standards and assessments which should be reached by the end. The Key Stages/Bands more or less correspond, too, with Band 1 and Key Stage 1 being roughly analogous (Band 1 is R-2, while KS 1 is just 1 & 2), Key Stage 2 comprising Band 2 and Band 3, Key Stage 3 and Band 4 corresponding, as well as Key Stage 4 and Band 5. The ANC (as well as, I believe, the NSW and Victorian curriculums) are very strongly based on the British “Key Stage” system. In terms of what’s actually learnt, you can compare the British National Curriculum (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum) with the Australian National Curriculum (http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/) as well as the Victorian (http://ausvels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/) and South Australian (http://www.sacsa.sa.edu.au/splash.asp) there. None of these sites, of course, gives much information beyond about Year 10, and I’ll cover that in a bit, but I’m sure you’ll find the actual material learnt is much the same, although it may be taught and applied differently.

The Australian and British systems of education are much closer in terms of schools, levels, and terminology than either is to, say, the American system, for example. Both Australian and British systems are two-cycle, which means you have one primary school of seven to eight years and one secondary school of five to six years – and unlike the American and French systems, which are three-cycle and include a primary/elementary school, a middle or junior high school, and an upper secondary or high school. Also, both places use school uniforms – and very similar-looking school uniforms, at that.
However, it’s when you get to leaving certificates that the Australian and British systems diverge quite suddenly. In the UK – and in Scotland, which uses a different system (surprise, surprise) – you have two levels of qualifications/certificates at the high school level – the GCSE (former “O-Level”) and the A-Levels. GCSEs are done in Years 10 and 11, and A-Levels in 12 and 13. Both allow students to choose a small selection of subjects to study, with an exam at the end.

Australia, on the other hand, has just one certificate at the end of high school. The name and exact requirements vary from state to state, but (with the exception of NSW), each ends with the words “Certificate of Education” (SACE is South Australian Certificate of Education, WACE is Western Australia Certificate of Education, VCE is Victorian Certificate of Education, and so forth). Such a certificate programme usually lasts for two years (sometimes two-and-a-half years if there are requirements in Year 10, or three years if you choose to spread it out a bit and do fewer subjects at once) and allow students to choose about 5 subjects. Australian certificates of education are much more proficiency-based than GCSEs and A-Levels, which means that only about 30-50% of the final mark for a subject comes from the final exam, and the rest is made up with various assessments and tasks completed throughout the year or semester. It’s thought that this gives the opportunity for students who don’t test well to still do well in the subject.

In terms of education level, the certificates of education (let’s call them ACE, which is probably what the National Curriculum version will be called if they ever get around to developing it) fit somewhere between GCSEs and A-Levels – which makes sense, given that you do GCSEs in Year 11, ACE in Year 12, and A-Levels in Year 13. Personally, I think the British idea of having two qualifications is better than the Australian idea of one, because that means that the less-academic students who drop out/ get a job or apprenticeship after Year 11 then have some sort of education certificate.

In terms of private/Public schools, in both nations, they’re often fairly autonomous in their curriculum and education standard. In both countries, they’re known for having a higher education standard, and certainly both are known for having better facilities. In both cases, private/Public schools often follow a different curriculum to state/public schools – Cambridge programmes, International Baccalaureate programmes, or an independent programme of some sort. It’s difficult to compare them, since there’s so much variety, but it should be noted that many Public schools in the UK have offshoots in Australia – Winchester, for example.

A common alternative curriculum in both countries is the International Baccalaureate (IB). It is in comparison to the IB that we can draw some more conclusions about the education level and style in either nation. In the UK, schools offering the IB usually offer it all the way through school, or might even offer just the PYP and MYP without the Diploma. In Australia, the opposite is true. It’s far more common for schools to offer just the Diploma, without any opportunity to do the PYP or MYP first. Very few students in the UK swap from the National Curriculum to the IB Diploma programme, while it is more than common in Australia.

Why is this? Am I just making generalisations with no evidence? I don’t think I am. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Australian education emphases individual learning and critical thinking far more than it does knowledge of facts. The IB programmes are the same, although it should be said they probably emphasise knowledge of facts far more than various Australian curriculums do. It’s easier for Australian students to transition to the IB Diploma because all of their education to that point has been very similar – and in many cases directly adapted from – the IB programme. It’s harder for British students because the driving force and style of education is much different.

Australian education is much more “alternative” and wholistic in nature than the British. A quick glance at the two nation curriculums reveals that – in Music, for example, the British system in primary school focusses almost entirely on academics, knowledge and skills, while the Australian system at the same level encourages thinking about why music is made, and where, and how it effects and is effected by culture and people – perhaps to the detriment of actual music skills and knowledge! This pattern is reflected in almost every subject.

Alternative education systems, such as Montessori and Waldorf-Steiner are popular in Australia, and not all that different to the teaching methods employed in various public and other private schools. Homeschooling is far more common in Australia than in the UK, and much more widely-accepted, perhaps due in part to the long geography-induced history of distance and correspondence education. The British system favours hard facts and traditional teaching methods, while the Australian system favours critical thinking and wholistic teaching methods. Both systems have their benefits and their pitfalls, and both systems have good schools and bad schools, and while it does result in a very different experience at the primary school level, neither system is significantly better than the other.

(That’s a nice final, dramatic note to end on, but I’m not going to. I’m just going to put in as an addendum that the UK is significantly better with special provisions than Australia. Australia does well for normal but academically struggling kids, but has very little provision at present for either gifted kids or those with special needs such as autism – and God forbid you have both! The UK, on the other hand, has tonnes of provisions for both ends of the spectrum in terms of programmes in schools and even schools specifically for these needs. Australia has certainly improved in this field from twenty or even ten years ago, but it has a long way to go to catch up to the UK).

What’s Happened?

Well, I haven’t been on in a while for one reason or another, but here is a little bit about what has been happening (not necessarily to me).

While the rest of the world was distracted by the soccer, some of us have been watching the other news. For those of you who missed it due to being inundated by soccer-related news and Google doodles, here are a few highlights.

- The hockey world cup (which Australia won, again)

- The Tour de France (and its requisite epic crash)

- Escalating hatred and violence towards cyclists on Australian roads

- The asylum seekers who got deported to Sri Lanka… maybe… if they ever existed at all (which they did, but not officially)

- Wimbledon (and the Australian teenager who beat Rafael Nadal)

- and the swiftly-approaching Commonwealth Games.

Speaking of which, it seems as though a new sport has been added to this year’s repertoire (and I don’t mean something silly, like Gridiron. Or wintersports, since we can’t, after all, give Canada an unfair advantage such as Australia already enjoys – being both a very large nation [once you eliminate the US and break the UK up into separate countries] and great at watersports).

Anyway, back on track. This new sport of which I speak, what is it? Well, it’s the ‘Worst Uniform Competition’.

I’m serious. I mean, it was painful enough when Australia revealed its uniform… in five clashing shades of green and a couple of shades of peuce-y grey.

(Even the athletes weren’t particularly pleased with it, unlike those of some of the other nations which will be mentioned shortly.)

Then Malaysia came along with their tiger-inspired uniforms.

The Malaysian uniforms are sharp, like a Tiger's claw or glass of 100 per cent orange juice.

And then Scotland revealed theirs.

The parade uniform for Team Scotland

Okay, it’s got to be said that Scotland’s uniform doesn’t actually look too bad from a distance. But then you get up close, and you can see that a spider has come along and puked cobalt-blue web all over their shirts and dresses.

Apparently this pattern is flag-inspired, which I don’t quite understand, since surely a ‘flag-inspired’ pattern would be white checks on a royal blue background? Either way, up close, the tartan – in ‘turquoise’, ‘fuscia’, and ‘caramel’, apparently – clashes with the shirts.

So, what about Canada? They’re close enough to stern, war-mongering America that they shouldn’t get caught up in Commonwealth joviality (and, if we’re being honest, colourblind silliness), right?

Well, at first glance, their uniforms seem pretty sensible, a tried-and-true flag-themed ski suit.

Even if they do look rather like Team England’s uniforms.

But you can’t blame the Canadians for that, after all, because everyone knows that red and white are their colours. They don’t really have any other colours to fall back on, unlike English, who seem apparently to think that St George’s red cross on a white background gives them a right to the colours.

That aside, it’s on closer inspection that Canada’s uniforms fall into the realms of Commonwealth craziness with all the rest. Like Scotland, they’ve got a tartan theme going. Unlike Scotland, however, they’ve kept it to a pre-existing national tartan in readily-accepted national colours: the red, black, and white Maple Leaf tartan. (Scotland has more national tartans that you can poke a stick at, quite a few of them in national colours… why invent a new tartan in such an unlikely combination of colours that the athletes are never going to be able to match to a sensible shirt and kilthose?). Bmf6P8nCcAAvP59Also unlike Scotland, they’ve turned the tartan into “track-suit” parts. But let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw tartan track pants? The potential for the Canadians to be running around Glasgow in what basically amounts to pajama pants places them firmly in the running for the Worst Uniform Competition.

Well, that covers Australia, Malaysia, Scotland, England, and Canada. I can’t find anything on India’s uniform, but I think we can all agree that as long as they don’t turn up in tartan saris, they’ll be all right. (If they do, they might be mistaken for the Scottish team. Tell me I’m not the only one who’s noticed the similarity between a sari and a feileadh mòr/ great kilt?).

So what about New Zealand? Any chance they’ll be wearing something as disgusting as Australia? Perhaps with styalised kiwis and sheep? (as an aside, I don’t get the sheep thing. Seriously, if anything, New Zealand should be known for its deer. They’re everywhere over there. And you can buy venison in the supermarket. I reckon we have more sheep in Australia.)

Somewhat disappointingly, New Zealand has one of the most sensible uniforms so far. They seem to be going with an All-Blacks theme.

Members of the New Zealand hockey team model the team uniform for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with coach Mark Hagar (centre), NZ Olympic Committee secretary Kereyn Smith (second from right) and president Mike Stanley.
And yes, that’s what I’m disappointed about. Aside from being all black, they look like air stewardesses or a school uniform. Not Air New Zealand air stewardesses, though.
With the truly awesome way stewardesses on Air New Zealand dress, you’d think they could go with something a little more exciting than all black.

Ah, well, I shouldn’t complain. Or make fun of New Zealand, since they seem convinced that’s all we do. (It’s not true, by the way. Perhaps the eastern states make fun of New Zealand, but we in South Australia just make fun of the eastern states, and feel a certain sense of camaraderie with New Zealand. Possibly because we’re small and ignored compared to the noisy eastern states. Possibly because our school holidays synch up. Possibly because we have a lot of sheep.)

So, there you go. While everyone else was busy watching the soccer, and that whole Rolf Harris fiasco which I won’t get into, some other things happened. Hockey. Cycling. Cyclist-hating. More asylum seekers. More covering-up with regards to asylum seekers by the government. Tennis. Cricket. Commonwealth Games. And snow.

I’m not kidding, it actually snowed in South Australia. Would you believe it? Actually, it’s been freezing here recently.

Don’t laugh, Canadian and Scottish people. I’m serious. Our thermometer read -13* the other morning.

(Admittedly, that was the thermometer out the back, and the one out the front said +3*, but let’s not quibble, that’s still rediculously cold).

It’s foggy, and frosty, and it hailed once or twice before it got really cold and started hitting 0*. We weren’t sure why it never snows here, since it’s usually warmer than that if you go skiing (in Australia, anyway) and there’s snow there overnight. But we’ve come to the conclusion that the problem lies in that it only gets really truly freezing here at night, because it’s clear skies and nothing to trap the heat in, particularly up north where there are no trees like here in the Hills. So all the heat just disappears and your fingers turn blue in your sleep. As soon as you get a few decently-sized storm clouds that might constain snow, all our heat gets trapped in and its too warm.

Even as I sit here, I can see my breath. Hmm… perhaps it would be warmer in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My) Top Ten Doctor Who Couples

Well, I’ve got a massive backlog of pictures to put up, but the blog-photo-uploader is being tricky so I’ve decided to ignore that for the moment and talk about something else. It might have been slightly prompted by the TARDIS onesie, massive Day of the Doctor poster, and 3 Who-themed coffee mugs (Dalek, TARDIS, and Weeping Angel) my sister recently received for her birthday.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you all about my Top Ten Who Couples. There are a couple of lists of Who Couples out there (http://www.hypable.com/2014/02/12/love-is-in-the-air-on-doctor-who/ and http://www.buddytv.com/slideshows/doctor-who/ranking-the-18-best-romances-of-the-new-doctor-who-55860.aspx, for example), but there are quite a few I don’t agree with and some of my favourites (mostly Old Who) that simply aren’t there. So here’s my version of it, in chronological order:

1 – Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright

IanBarbaraRealPoliceBox1

The first ever couple in Doctor Who, Ian and Barbara were the Doctor’s first (abducted) companions, they were Susan’s teachers in the 1960s and travelled in the TARDIS for the first two seasons before leaving to get married.

2 – Jamie McCrimmon & Victoria Waterfield

Unlike Ian and Barbara, these two were never officially a couple, although it’s generally accepted among the fan-fiction community that they should have been and were. Jamie, a Jacobite and Highlander, first met the First Doctor, Ben and Polly in the 4th Season and continued to travel with the Doctor right up until “The War Games” (when the Time Lords wiped his memory and sent him back to Culloden), plus a hypothetical sixth season to explain his appearances in later specials. Victoria, an orphan from the Victorian times was rescued by Jamie from the Daleks and travelled with the Doctor until she chose to settle with foster parents in the 1960s.

3 – Jo Grant & Clifford Jones

Jo Grant was a UNIT-provided companion of the Third Doctor, and hopelessly clumsy. She eventually leaves the Doctor to start a new life in Wales with hippy/professor Clifford Jones after the invasion of the giant maggots. I’ve mostly got them in here because of Santiago, their grandson, who appears in the Sarah Jane Adventures and even rides in the TARDIS, making them one of only a handful of grandparent/grandchild companions – Wilf and Donna being the only other aside from Susan and the Doctor himself.
4 – Sarah Jane Smith & Harry Sullivan
Like Jamie and Victoria, these two aren’t an official couple – and in fact, Sarah Jane even tried to marry someone else in the Sarah Jane Adventures. But really, who can watch any of the Sarah/Harry/Four episodes without being convinced that there’s something going on with Sarah and Harry (even if it is just a one-sided crush on Harry’s part)?

Sarah Jane even considers “Harry” as a name for her son (Luke).

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart Doctor Who animated GIF

I wonder what happened to Harry?

5 – Leela & Andred

Leela is a human from a primitive community descended from crashed spacefarers, and Andred is a Time Lord cop on Gallifrey. How did they end up together? It did rather seem to come out of nowhere as the Doctor was trying to leave, but it does sort of work.
6 – “John Smith” & Joan Redfern
It’s a bit of a sudden jump from the 4th to the 10th Doctors, but I can’t really think of any good couple in between except maybe Nyssa and Adric (but I think I’ve put enough imaginary couples in the list so far).

The Doctor has to turn himself into a human in order to escape the Family of Blood who are pursuing him. His genes are changed and his memory wiped and replaced with one of a human childhood. He becomes a teacher at a public boarding school in about 1910 (“public” here being the English word for “private”), where he meets Joan Redfern, the school nurse and the woman whose heart he eventually breaks when he becomes the Doctor again.

An imaginary future for John Smith and Joan Redfern.

7 – Mickey Smith & Martha Jones

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File:Martha & Mickey.jpg

Here’s the ultimate couple you never even thought of until it hit you in the face for about ten seconds and you wondered how it had never occurred to you before. Mickey first appeared as Rose’s pathetic boyfriend in the reboot but really comes into his own before leaving to fight Cybermen in a parallel universe. Martha is a medical student who travelled with the Doctor when he was still pining after Rose and ended up saving the world in the Year That Never Was. After Davros is defeated in the Season 4 finale, Mickey decides to stay in our universe and is seen wandering into the distance with Jack and Martha, now a qualified doctor and an employee of UNIT.

Although “Martha’s on her honeymoon” in Torchwood: Children of Earth, we all assume it’s with Tom Milligan her last known fiancé. But when the 10th Doctor is dying and visiting everyone, Mickey and Martha are fighting aliens together, and the bombshell is dropped that they’re married! Now we’re just waiting for the spin-off series. How does “Smith and Jones: Freelance Alien Hunters” sound?

8 – Amelia Pond & Rory Williams

Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC/Adrian Rogers

This might be one of the most complicated yet consistent and longrunning relationship on Doctor Who yet. Actually, their relationship isn’t all that complicated: Amy and Rory grew up together in Leadworth, best friends. As a child, Rory had a crush on Amy, who was obsessed with her “raggedy man”, the Doctor, who she had met when she was seven. Then the Doctor returns the night before their wedding, and things get complicated.

Then they marry, and travel some more, and their daughter Melody is born…

9 – The Doctor & River Song

… Who turns out to be River Song, the Doctor’s wife!

River, Amy, and Rory

A family picnic: River with her parents, Amy and Rory.

River tells Amy and Rory who she is in A Good Man goes to War

River breaks the news to her parents while standing over her own (Gallifreyan) cradle.

Doctor/River - 5x13 - The Big Bang - the-doctor-and-river-song Screencap

Now, here is a complicated relationship. You see, River’s a time-traveller, too (among other things: despite having two human parents, she was conceived while the TARDIS was in flight and is part Time Lord. She can even regenerate) and they don’t meet in the right order. In fact, the first time we met River (with the 10th Doctor and Donna), she died. And also knew everything about the Doctor. The first time she met the Doctor, she was in her 2nd regeneration and was Amy and Rory’s best friend, although they had no idea who she was and she’d grown up with them. Then she killed him (which was fair enough, given that she’d been stolen as a baby and programmed as the Doctor’s psychopathic killer), and he married her.
The Doctor and River in the Library.
10 – Toshiko Sato & Owen Harper
Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman in TORCHWOOD - Series 2 | ©2008 BBC
Okay, so Tosh and Owen aren’t really a Doctor Who couple but a Torchwood one, although Tosh did appear in Doctor Who (remember that doctor who had the space pig back in the 9th Doctor episode? Yes, that was Tosh, filling in for Owen, who was hungover…).

Tosh is a tech genius and former terrorist (only because they had her mother) who was rescued from a UNIT cell by Jack Harkness. Owen’s fiancée was killed by an alien parasite in her brain, and he’s known at Torchwood as being both drunk and incredibly surly and rude. That doesn’t stop Tosh’s hopeless crush on him, even after his (un)death… Although, in different circumstances, it might be Owen who has the hopeless crush…

Bringing her gifts…

And then they died (properly, again, in Owen’s case). And it was sad, and totally not fair.

(And one extra) 11 – Wilfred Mott and Minnie the Menace

Bernard Cribbins alongside David Tennant in 'Doctor Who'

Wilf is Donna’s grandfather, and a companion in his own right by the time “The End of Time” comes around. He and the Doctor have a special relationship – they’re much more equals than he ever is with any of his other companions. After years of being nothing but supportive of Donna travelling with the Doctor, he eventually organises a crack band of old folks into the most amazing Doctor-search-team you’ll ever see.

Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott) and June Whitfield (Minnie Hooper) in Doctor Who's The End of Time

And that’s where Minnie comes in. Tell me you can see those two as an item?

Here are a couple of fun pictures: Bernard Cribbins in 2150 in the 1966 Peter Cushing movie “Dalek: Invasion Earth”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scots into Strine

Over the weekend, I was off being taught how to teach English. It was a bit exhausting, admittedly, because it was a 20-hour course, but it was fun and I learnt a lot and got to “teach” a few lessons to the class.

One of the activities we did, though, was aimed at getting us to understand what it’s like to be an intermediate learner reading a text and understanding most, but not all, of the text. In order to simulate this, there were about ten Scots words interspersed throughout the text.

(I could already understand about 80% of them, but that’s not the point. Actually, I have a slight problem with Scots in that I can read and understand it just fine, and know a lot of the words and phrasing quirks, but sound like an idiot when I try to speak it. Maybe I just can’t get the accent right. But let’s not talk about that now…)

But, funniness of a text with random Scots words aside (I chortled to myself the whole way through the first time – I wasn’t expecting it), what was even more hilarious was the list of translations/definitions my class came up with:

Birled roon – spun around
Blether – chinwag
Braw – bonza
Crabbit – cranky
Fankle (in a) – tizzy, tiz
Gallus – cocky
Richt (+ adjective) – dinky-di
Skiver – bludger
Teuchter – country bogan
Wabbit – dead beat
Wheesht – oy, listen up!

Sigh. Australians. What do you do with them? Who else would translate one set of dialect words into another dialect?

Just as a final note, some of these translations happened once we got a bit silly. By that, I mean “dinky-di” and “bonza”. A lot of the other words, such as “cranky”, “tizzy”, and “bludger”, really were the first translation the class thought of – although, personally, I said that “skive” is the same here and the translation of “blether” is “blather”. Apparently that’s just me, though.

Humans and Neanderthals are the Same Species After All

This is something that has been argued about by many people since the first Neanderthal skull was discovered in the 1850s, in no small part between evolutionists and creationists. However, today I’m going to try and prove my point, not by looking at Christian/creationist sites and scholars, but by looking to secular/evolutionist information.

The original – and still disturbingly persistent – view of Neanderthals is that they are stupid, hairy, and generally very primitive – a link between us and monkeys. This view was perpetuated in no small part by evolutionists who wanted people to believe that Neanderthals were an early ancestor of modern humans, inferior to us in every way. A lot of early artwork of Neanderthals depicts them as being very monkey-like.

This picture was published in a newspaper in London in 1909, shortly after the first mostly-complete Neanderthal skeleton was discovered. (http://www.strangescience.net/sthom1.htm).

This picture was published in a newspaper in London in 1909, shortly after the first mostly-complete Neanderthal skeleton was discovered. (http://www.strangescience.net/sthom1.htm).

Thankfully, evolutionists have progressed somewhat since then. They now recognise that Neanderthals didn’t exist simply before Homo sapiens, as originally thought, but in fact co-existed with Neanderthals for, at their estimates, between 5000 and 10000 years.

Scientist have also found proof that Neanderthals had many “human” traits, such as burying their dead (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216154328.htm, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2525175/Neanderthals-intentionally-buried-dead-50-000-years-ago.html), making and playing musical instruments, (http://discovermagazine.com/1997/apr/andaoneandauhuh1108, http://voices.yahoo.com/neanderthal-flute-oldest-musical-instrument-ever-542594.html), caring for the elderly and infirm (http://evoanth.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/caring-neanderthals/, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8043421/Neanderthals-had-deep-sense-of-compassion-new-study-suggests.html) and the ability to speak (http://blog.une.edu.au/news/2014/03/03/talking-neanderthals-challenge-the-origins-of-speech/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140302185241.htm, http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113033928/neanderthal-speech-evidence-from-the-hyoid-bone-122113/).

This article (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13672-neanderthals-speak-out-after-30000-years.html#.Uyrn8c-KBYc) claims that although Neanderthals could talk, their inability to vocalise the difference between long and short vowels, for example the words “beat” and “bit” mentioned in the article, must thus have limited Neanderthal speech dramatically. This, I must say, is utterly ridiculous. There are many, many languages spoken today which make little or no distinction between long and short vowels – a quick example which comes to mind is Spanish. No-one can say that Spanish is in any way a primitive or limited language (it’s the fourth most spoken language in the world and is spoken in more than twenty countries), and yet my Spanish teacher often joked about how he had to be careful not to hand out a “shit of paper”, and how it took him a long time to be able to hear the difference between “shit” and “sheet”, let alone pronounce it.

However, if all these discoveries about Neanderthals aren’t enough to convince you that they’re human, here’s something that really will: not only have Neanderthal-Sapiens hybrids been found (http://news.discovery.com/human/evolution/neanderthal-skeleton-provides-evidence-of-interbreeding-with-humans-130327.htm), but through sequencing both the Neanderthal and modern human genomes, it has been discovered that almost everyone has a certain amount of Neanderthal genes in them – the only ethnic groups which have not been found to have Neanderthal DNA are in sub-Saharan Africa (fitting in nicely with the evolutionist Sapiens-out-of-Africa theory, I have to admit, but more on that later), while all other ethnic groups have a minimum of between 1% and 4% Neanderthal genes. (http://io9.com/5822357/confirmed-all-non-african-people-are-part-neanderthal, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6174/1017.abstract). And that’s just a minimum – since Neanderthal and modern human DNA is 99.7% the same, some scientists suggest that modern humans might carry more that 20% Neanderthal DNA. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/news/2010/05/100506-science-neanderthals-humans-mated-interbred-dna-gene/). Another human “species”, the Denisovans, have had their DNA sequenced, too, and  results from that seem to show that, while there’s a very little bit of Denisovan in all of us, some ethnic groups, such as Melanesians, Papua New Guineans, and Aboriginal Australians, have around 6% Denisovan DNA – which came as a bit of a surprise to the geneticists, because the Denisovan fossils in question were found in Siberia. (http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/anthropology/science-denisovans-homo-species-interbred-modern-humans-01476.html, http://www.nature.com/news/new-dna-analysis-shows-ancient-humans-interbred-with-denisovans-1.11331, https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/denisovan/).

(The irony of those findings is that, back when Neanderthals were considered to be a more primitive version of hominid, scientists claimed that sub-Saharan Africans were “less-evolved” than Europeans. According to these statistics, it’s sub-Saharan Africans who are the least primitive of us all, since they carry no Neanderthal DNA.)

The Out of Africa Replacement hypothesis which has been the accepted model since scientists realised Sapiens and Neanderthals existed at the same time, compared with the Multiregional hypothesis which is gaining popularity with these DNA findings.

The Out of Africa Replacement hypothesis which has been the accepted model since scientists realised Sapiens and Neanderthals existed at the same time, compared with the Multiregional hypothesis which is gaining popularity with these DNA findings.

Well, this is all very well, Rachel, you might say, but what does it have to do with anything? Well, the important thing here is the distinction between a “breed” (or “race”, as it’s called in humans), and a “species”. The general gist of the difference is that interbreeding between different species is pretty much impossible. Closely-related species may be able to interbreed, but any offspring are never viable – that is, they can’t have children of their own. It’s well-known that the child of a horse and a donkey – either a mule or a hinny, depending on which parent is which – is sterile. Chicken-Guinea Fowl hybrids have been successfully hatched, but those offspring are very unlikely, and despite living average-length lives, are never fertile. Chicken-Quail hybrids have yet to be created, despite looking a whole lot more like each other than chickens and guinea fowl.

Three Guinhens (Chicken-Guinea Fowl hybrids). You can see more pictures here: http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Guineas/BRKGuinHybrid.html.

Three Guinhens (Chicken-Guinea Fowl hybrids). You can see more pictures here: http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Guineas/BRKGuinHybrid.html.

Different breeds or races of the same species, on the other hand, can interbreed freely and easily, creating viable and fertile offspring every time. In keeping with the poultry theme, almost all of my chooks are cross- and mixed-breed (as are my sister’s ducks).

This rather awesome-looking pullet had a cross-bred mother (Light Sussex cross Rhode Island Red) and a (mostly) barred Plymouth Rock father. I can’t post a picture of her children, since I’m not sure which ones are hers, but I’m 99% sure I’ve hatched chicks from her with a rooster of yet another breed.

This rather awesome-looking pullet had a cross-bred mother (Light Sussex cross Rhode Island Red) and a (mostly) barred Plymouth Rock father. I can’t post a picture of her children, since I’m not sure which ones are hers, but I’m 99% sure I’ve hatched chicks from her with a rooster of yet another breed.

Basically, the point I’m getting at is, if modern humans have Neanderthal (and Denisovan) DNA in them, we can’t be different species. If we were different species, had any Neanderthal-Sapiens hybrids been produced, they would have been unable to have children and thus their mixed genes would not have been passed on to us. However, if Sapiens and Neanderthals were, in fact, the same species, this would have been entirely possible.

And if that weren’t enough, archaeologists have recently found a skull which exhibits traits found in all four human “species” (Sapiens, Neanderthal, Denisovan, and Erectus) – in the same cave and from the same time as skulls from “pure-bred” members of each of those species! (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24564375, http://www.nature.com/news/skull-suggests-three-early-human-species-were-one-1.13972). Some scientists suggested that that evidence should cause them to re-evaluate and re-define the disparate human “species” as being one species that happened to show disparate characteristics, but the more conventional-thinkers scoffed at that. (Surprise, surprise).

The fact that this particular collection of skulls was found in the near east, where the Tower of Babel was, and where humans would have lived before God muddled up our languages and sent us off on our way to the various corners of the earth to become distinct peoples (races, tribes, nations, whatever), surely can’t be a coincidence. I’ll say it again: there’s less than a 0.3% genetic difference between the average Neanderthal and the average modern human – while, according to some sources, there is up to an 11% genetic difference between any given two modern humans today! (http://news.softpedia.com/news/12-of-the-DNA-Differs-Amongst-Human-Races-and-Populations-40872.shtml, http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/are-there-human-races/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_genetic_variation).

Scientists often say, “Wouldn’t it be great if Neanderthals were still around today? We could find out what it really means to be human!”. To this I say, if there were still full-blooded Neanderthals around today (which there might be, but I’m not going into that right now), we wouldn’t even realise they’re a different species. (Because they’re not).

Well, I hope all that has, if not convinced you that Neanderthals are the same species as us, at the very least taught you something new about them. Either way, I’m going to leave you with some rather more recent reconstructions of what Neanderthals might have looked like. The first one comes from the National Geographic, and you probably saw it a couple of years ago when they published it. (Don’t you just want to tell her, “Would it kill you to smile? Or wash, for that matter?!”)

Oh, and just out of interest, here’s an article about Neanderthal skin tones: http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2012/03/were-some-neandertals-brown-eyed-girls?ref=hp.

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Voting

Well, I just got back from voting for the first time (State elections). In honour of the occasion, I’m going to tell you then things about voting in Australia:

1 – Lots of people will tell you that it’s compulsory to vote in Australia. This isn’t entirely true. Instead,
(a) It’s compulsory to be on the electoral roll if you’re an Australian citizen* aged 18 or over.
(b) It’s compulsory to turn up to vote on (or to vote by post prior to) Election Day, on pain of a $20 fine (or good explanation), and have your name ticked off on the electoral roll.
(c) Since it’s a secret ballot, what you do with your bit of paper is entirely your own business. You can scribble on it, do a dot-to-dot, put it in blank, or do a donkey vote.

2 – *British Citizens and citizens of other Commonwealth nations (except South Africa but including the Republic of Ireland) who were on a Commonwealth electoral roll in 1984 (or earlier), and who have had residence in Australia for a minimum if 6 months, are also required to vote.
(a) It’s compulsory, just as for any Australian citizen over 18.
(b) It doesn’t apply to Commonwealth citizens who were on electoral rolls after 1985 and have permanent residence.
(c) These countries include, in alphabetical order, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Fiji, Hong Kong, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, the Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Western Samoa, and Zambia.

3 – Your right to vote may be suspended if you’re in prison serving a sentence of 3 years or longer, or if you’re got an intellectual disability which means you can’t fully understand what voting means. The right to vote might be compromised if you’re homeless, because of the difficulty in proving identity and providing a permanent address.

4 – In Australia, it has been compulsory to
(a) enrol to vote at federal elections since 1912
(b) turn up to vote at federal elections since 1924
(c) turn up to vote at state elections beginning in Queensland in 1915.

5 – If you don’t vote, the Australian Electoral Commission sends out a letter demanding a good explanation.
(a) If a good explanation can’t be provided, you have to pay $20.
(b) If you don’t pay the $20, you’re sent to court.
(c) If you’re found guilty of not voting in court, you can be fined up to $170, plus court costs, and will have a criminal conviction recorded against you.

6 – South Australia was the first state to allow all males 21 and older to vote in 1856. Victoria was second, in 1858.

7 – South Australia was the first state to grant women the vote in 1894.
(a) New Zealand granted women the vote in 1893.
(b) The entire of Australia had granted women the vote by 1902.

8 – Aboriginal Australians did not have the right to vote across the whole of Australia until 1967.
(a) Almost 91% of Australians voted to change to Constitution to give Aboriginals the vote in 1967.
(b) However, Aboriginal Australians already had the right to vote in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, since they were legally considered British subjects along with European Australians – so men had been allowed to vote since the 1850s and women since 1895.
(c) Until 1967, only Queensland and Western Australia denied Aboriginal Australians the vote.
(d) However, throughout the implementation of the White Australia Policy, it was made very difficult for Aboriginals, along with Chinese, Indian, etc, to vote.

9 – Even though we use British spelling for everything else, one of our major parties, Labor, still uses the American spelling which experienced (very) brief popularity around the time the party was formed.

10 – Although we strictly-speaking have a two-party system, with Liberal and Labor, Australia is very much verging towards a three-party system, with the Greens included in televised vote counts.
(a) Although Liberal technically represents the businessmen and farmers, and Labor the working man, the truth is, there’s not much difference at all between them.

Now, I have ten things to tell you about this particular election. The information has come from a Port Augusta newspaper, the Transcontinental. You can see the original here: http://www.transcontinental.com.au/story/2145705/10-election-facts-you-may-not-know-sa-election-2014/?cs=1286.

1 – During Election Day (today, the 15th), electoral officials are covering an area four times the size of the United Kingdom.

2 – 27000 pencils were purchased for use during the election, and 15080 pencil sharpeners have been deployed to keep them sharp.

3 – The use of pencils isn’t mandatory, and you can used a pen if you want (or if you’re paranoid about tampering). Pencils are supplied simply because they’re easy to store and don’t run dry.

4 – The election required 4 million ballot papers, 7000 polling booths, and 11000 cardboard screens.

5 – About 80% of voting will happen today. (The other 20% will be made up with postal votes and forgot-to-votes.)

6 – Over 5000 people have been employed as officials for the election day.

7 – Running today’s election involves the largest co-ordination of people and resources in a single day than any other South Australian event. (Which is even more amazing considering it’s Mad March and we’ve had the Fringe, the Grand Prix, and WomAdelaide all happening.)

8 – In elections between March 1950 and March 2006, Liberal won at least 50% of the primary vote only once, while Labor won seven times.

9 – The most House of Assembly electorates won by a single party between 1950 and 2010 at a South Australian election was by the Liberals, in 1993, with 37 seats. Labor took the other 10, and no minor parties or independents were elected.

10 – There are 25 parties running for the legislative council in this election, with names such as “The X-Team”, “The South Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party”, “Stop Population Growth”, and “The Multicultural Party”. Thankfully, Federal parties such as “The Motoring Enthusiasts” and the “Party Party Party Party” aren’t in there.

Well, I hope you’ve learnt something about voting in Australia.