Sausage Sizzle: Week 211

A patriotic car outside the Newtown Public Polling Place: Sydney, Australia

One of the most cherished election activities in Australia is sadly unknown in the US. It has to do with fundraising, but it’s not the kind of money that bankrolls political candidates or sways public policy. In its purest form it involves a bunch of volunteers roasting sausages on their BBQs. However, different permutations involve cake stalls, bake stalls, raffles, boot sales, fetes, mini-fetes, and sausage sizzle-cake-raffle stalls.

“Are you here to vote?” One of the party workers asked as Barret and I approached the gate to the Newtown Public Polling Place.

“No,” I replied. “I’m here to sausage sizzle.”

Voters outside the Newtown Public Polling Place: Sydney, Australia

Sausage sizzles are a cherished form of fundraising by school associations and community groups. There’s even a website that tracks which polling places are offering which food and you can bet the sausage sizzles are reviewed in the post-election news coverage.

I picked Newtown Public because it was close to my house, but I only found out later on the Sydney Morning Herald that the Erskineville Public had vegetarian options and halloumi on their burgers! I kind of wish I had known this beforehand.

Cake Stall at Newtown Public: Sydney Australia

Anyways, Barret had a burger and I went to the cake stall for a glass of lemonade and a rice bubble treat. I talked to the volunteers for a bit until they were distracted by more voters coming out of the polling booth. Since we had completed our patriotic duty, we strolled off to enjoy the rest of the sunny afternoon. I really want this sausage sizzle thing to catch on back home.

About: Election Sausage Sizzles

Advertisements

Government House: Week 195

Garden outside the Government House: Sydney, Australia

If the architect Edward Blore completely had it his way, the servants would have had this view.

That’s what happens when you dispatch architectural plans from London without knowing much about the location’s geography. Unfortunately for the succeeding servants, this oversight was changed at the last minute. When Governor Sir George Gipps first took up residence inside the Elizabethan Gothic estate in 1845, his view was undoubtedly gorgeous.

Not every miscalculation was fixed though. Blore’s original design called for a vaulted double-story open porch as the main entrance. While great on paper, the direction of the layout wasn’t very compatible with Sydney’s wind patterns. It became a wind tunnel that must have bustled a lot of skirts and ruined quite a few fancy hairstyles until it was enclosed and the covered carriageway was added in 1873.

That would have been the end of the story except that the newly enclosed space (with the flags flying off the turrets) had the worst echo. It was a feature I noticed when my guide spent a lengthy period of time covering the history of the building. The echo was so bad the she had to ask one of the guests to stop translating her speech because the sound of multiple voices bouncing off the walls was too distracting.

Government House on a rainy day inside the Botanic Gardens: Sydney, Australia

Despite being the live-in residence of the Governor, the downstairs is open for free tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The interesting part of the tour, at least the part that keeps the guides on their toes, is that furniture periodically changes according to the whims and tastes of the current occupant.

As the tour was more about details like ballroom’s stenciled imitation damask, the role of the governor was only briefly touched upon. From what I grasped the Governor is the Queen’s representative in NSW and their role is largely ceremonial, as required by the state’s constitution.

Government House arcade: Sydney, Australia

The whole idea of the Queen of England still needing an official representative felt a bit antiquated. However I often forget Australia is part of the Commonwealth and while the Government House is no Buckingham Palace, the outdoor arcade probably has a better view. I definitely wouldn’t mind being invited to one of the many private functions held at the Government House. A cocktail and a view of the harbor would go down very well indeed.

How to get to Government House: Royal Botanic Gardens, Lower Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000

White Rabbit Gallery: Week 193

2010 - Xia Xing - White Rabbit Gallery - Sydney, Australia

“2010” – Xia Xing

“I wish I could say WELCOME,” my tour guide enthusiastically cried, “but instead I can only say welcome.” Her arms dropped and shoulders slumped. “You’ve got on the wrong bus.”

The guide was right to offer only a restrained greeting since she wasn’t introducing the most flattering or palatable aspects of a modern China. However, I wasn’t on ‘the wrong bus.’ I was exactly where I wanted to be.

The White Rabbit Gallery is the world’s largest collection of contemporary Chinese art. What started as a personal collection for Judith Neilson eventually transformed into renowned gallery and teahouse.

The Family Album - See You Later - Huang Hua-Chen - White Rabbit Gallery - Sydney, Australia

“The Family Album – See You Later” – Huang Hua-Chen

Judith Neilson has over 1,100 works in her collection and while many of them celebrate the beauty and culture of China, the current exhibition dug beneath the veneer of the most populous country in the world. “In Commune, some of China’s best-known artists and brightest newcomers explore the tensions between individual and group, community and nation, collectivist past and chaotic present.”

On the ground floor was a series of images borrowed from the pages of the Beijing News- circulation 450,000. Xia Xing painstakingly painted each photo by mimicking the way the ink is layered on newsprint- cyan, magenta, and yellow.

The man who was amputated by the criminal he testified against, the fallen angel and her $2 billion dollar lawsuit, Xia transformed the disposable story into something more substantial.

As Husband and Wife - Li Xuan - White Rabbit Gallery - Sydney, Australia

“As Husband and Wife” – Li Xuan

“Indifferent herself to money and fame, she worried that money was corroding Chinese society, “tearing up conscience, morality and kindness”. As Husband and Wife (2010) was an experiment in a style that later became her hallmark: “painting” with torn-up banknotes and PhotoShop. The notes—from China and other nations—not only afforded her an extensive colour palette but literally represented a factor whose role in relationships is much larger than most people are willing to admit.

In this collage, the softly torn, petal-like shapes are a reminder that money is also one of the chief causes of marital conflict. The faceless bride and groom could be any couple, their disagreements stitched up for the happy day. (The artist obtained suture thread from her father, a surgeon.)”

In 2013, Li Xuan lost the battle against depression. She took her own life and that of her child as she could not bear to leave them in this world. In acquiring the piece from her distraught husband, the gallery donated to charity instead of directly purchasing the piece.

The Static Eternity - Gao Rong - White Rabbit Gallery - Sydney, Australia

“The Static Eternity” – Gao Rong

The struggle within a rapidly changing society is not without its fond memories though. Artist Gao Rong spent years recreating her grandparent’s house with foam, fabric and embroidery. The small one-room interior is lush in detail – especially when you realize that worn edges on the kitchen table, the rust spots on the pipes and the cracks on the wall had actually been embroidered.

The installation is a massive feat, which is an accurate assessment of the Commune show in general. It is not the glamorous or flattering side of China, but it is beautiful in its execution and heart-breaking in its honesty.

Teahouse at White Rabbit Gallery: Sydney, Australia

White Rabbit Gallery teahouse

How to get to the White Rabbit Gallery: 30 Balfour Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

How to vote like an Australian: Week 173

An example of an Optional Preferential ballot: NSW, Australia

 

In honor of the 4th of July (I admit I’m a bit behind on my blog), I would like to write about one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do: voting. However, not just any old voting will do. Today we are going to talk about voting Aussie style. Not only is it unique, it’s also compulsory. That’s right, Belgium and Australia are the only two countries in the world in which you have to vote or you will get a nice little fine in the mail.

Depending on the type of the election, there are two main ways to conduct elections. The first and more straightforward method is called Optional Preferential (see drawing above). Unlike the US, which favors a two-party system, Optional Preferential will never leave you feeling like you’ve wasted a vote. Unless of course you are the kind of person who uses your ballot to draw anatomically correct figures.

This form of voting is commonly used in some local council elections and also to elect the NSW Legislative Assembly. The number ‘1’ is placed next to your preferred candidate and you can either finish there or continue numbering as many other candidates as you wish.

At the end of the election, these votes are separated into their first preferences. If one candidate receives 50% +1 of the first preference votes, they win.

If not, the lowest performer is ruled out and their votes are disbursed according to the second selection on the ballot. For example: velvet blue, your first choice, receives the lowest amount of votes. Velvet blue is eliminated from the pool and your vote goes to your second choice, Robin egg blue. If a ballot paper does not have a second choice it is exhausted and removed from the pool.

This continues amongst the lowest performers until a candidate emerges with the majority of the votes. Therefore, if you number multiple candidates, your vote could still count even if your first choice does not win.

The other common form of voting is called Proportional Representation. It’s commonly used to elect members of the Legislative Council and is a system which increases the odds of a minority party being represented.

An example of a Proportional Representation ballot: NSW, Australia

Unlike Optional Preferential, the Proportional Representation ballots can be massive. In fact, the 1999 election was a record-breaking election in terms of the size of the ballot paper.

As Norm Kelly puts it in his book Directions in Australian Electoral Reform:

“The March 1999 NSW Legislative Council election produced one of the largest ballot papers ever used in Australia (and possibly the world), with 81 groupings (including 78 parties) comprising 264 candidates.

The ‘tablecloth’ ballot paper measured 102cm by 72cm (approximately 3’4” by 2’4”). Its size created major logistical issues for the election, requiring the construction of wider voting booths and the use of larger planes for transporting papers.”

The most distinguishing feature of this ballot paper is the think line which runs across the top. It divides the paper according to the two options available: voting above the line and voting below the line.

Voting above the line is the fastest way to complete your civic duty. Just mark ‘1’ next to one of the political parties and you’re done. You could also continue numbering 2, 3, etc. should you feel inclined.

All political parties with a box above the line must have at least fifteen members. The reason being is that a vote above the line is essentially numbering each party member 1-15 in the order in which they appear. Obviously it is the party that decides the order of their own candidates.

Voting below the line is something you might want to do when you either disagree with the party’s order of candidates or you want to cherry pick your own dream team across party lines.

To do this you need to number at least fifteen candidates in numerical order. If you’re really gung-ho you can even number every single candidate on the ballot. Below the line voters can also choose from the group-less candidates on the far right hand that are in an ‘ungrouped’ column.

Even if you aren’t an Australian citizen, you can still benefit from this random bit of political knowledge. Just think about how exciting your next Halloween costume contest or bake-off would be if it were Aussie rules style. I can personally guarantee that the vote tallying makes a great spectator sport.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: