Saturday, August 24, 2013

Australian Federal Election - Preferences

I have previously posted some information about how the Preferences work in the upcoming Sep 7th Federal Election (see this link), however there's also a more humorous and maybe more memorable version of this available at

Yes, I'd obviously prefer you to give me your Qld Senate Preference (or Vote 1 Secular Party of Australia above the line, and see our Preferences here) as I'd like to represent the critical thinking people of Queensland in Federal Parliament.


The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview With A Wookie (And Others)

Last Saturday, Anne Reid (Secular Party of Australia Candidate for the Federal Seat of Griffith, Qld), Michael Sweedman (Secular Party of Australia Candidate for the Federal Seat of Ryan, Qld) and I (Hilton Travis, Secular Party of Australia Lead Senate Candidate, Queensland) were interviewed by Jake Farr-Wharton for The Imaginary Friends Show (dot com) Podcast.  Here's the result for your political listening pleasure:

In addition to this, I was also interviewed by Ross Balch for his Skeptically Challenged vodcast and the result can be found here:

If you are looking for a political party who will support secular values and a separation of church and State whereby all Australians are treated fairly and equally, who will support sensible economic policy, who will support implementing the Gonski Review findings for Australian education, who believes that the health care sector should prioritise patient rights over the organisation's or practitioner's religious beliefs, who wants to ensure refugees and asylum seekers are processed as quickly and safely as possible and who will support marriage equality and other forms of anti-discrimination, then please feel free to have a look at The Secular Party of Australia and if you feel so inclined, please join the Party.  There's a donation button on the main page if you want to donate to the party in general or to any particular State (CND-QLD) or Candidate (eg, CND-QLD-Hilton) by adding this information in the description fields.

If you think that the Secular Party of Australia deserves a chance to represent your views and ensure that a more fair Australia exists for all citizens, please Vote 1 Secular Party of Australia at the Sep 7th Federal Election.


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rational, Reason-Based Government

I'm not shy stating my position - I think anyone who knows me or even knows of me knows that this is the case.  This is part of the reason I was asked to become the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community Partner Area Lead (SBSC PAL) in 2008 - there were people in Microsoft who realised that not only were they not targeting the SMB IT community well, but that the SMB IT community was not really being listened to by Microsoft.  So, Microsoft Australia asked me to take on the role, and as I said when I accepted the position, the only reason I would take it on was if there was a chance, no matter how slight, that I would be able to help steer Microsoft in a more viable direction regarding their SMB partners - to help both Microsoft and, most importantly, their Partners.

Well, we all know that Microsoft was, at that time, well down the path of trying to bury their SMB community.  What has happened since is that Microsoft has continued trying to isolate itself from one of the largest segments of business on the planet - SMB - and the SMB IT community has grown up beyond where it was to become a much stronger community, hence the establishment of organizations such as SMBiT Professionals here in Australia.  I am proud to have played a small part in the establishment of this organization and hope to see it continue to grow to help its members, members' clients and the IT community as a whole.

Now, with that out of the way, can I get started into the politics?  Well, there's a similar reason I'm getting involved - I want to make the world a better place than it is now.

There is simply too much influence over Government, health, education, tax, welfare and the bedroom in Australia by religious organizations.  The special privilege these organizations enjoy is something that needs to be either properly justified or removed.  I have long been outspoken against human rights violations, discrimination and unfairness in Australia and around the world - as can be seen by a number of posts here in my blog, as well as elsewhere.  I have decided that it is time for me to pony up and take a stand against inequality and as a part of that, I am standing for the Senate at the upcoming Federal Election for the Secular Party of Australia because of their stance against human rights violations and platform based around secular values which results in equality for all Australians.

I strongly believe in the separation of church and State – outside one’s personal choices, religious beliefs should play no part in politics, education, healthcare nor the bedroom. If anyone wants to argue that their religious beliefs have merit in any of these areas then it is only reasonable to ask them to provide credible, verifiable evidence that their deity/deities exist. Once that evidence is provided and verified, we can legitimately argue the merits of their religious views on a subject. Until then, anyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs – as per Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( – and the peaceful expression of those beliefs, however no one has the right to use their personal beliefs to restrict nor remove the rights of someone else.

As I see it, LGBT rights are just one aspect of human rights. Women’s rights are another aspect of human rights. What we need to remember first and foremost when looking at the rights of any people being discriminated against is that equality should apply equally to everyone - as per Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( Discrimination is not acceptable in today’s world and I will do everything I can to ensure discrimination is not made acceptable in Australia.

Unfortunately as it currently stands, religious organizations have special exemption from the laws and conditions that apply to other organizations.  They pay no rates, no income nor company tax and have no need to report their financials as other non-profit organizations must.  There are special exemptions to anti-discrimination laws that allow a religious body to fire for no valid reason, a woman who falls pregnant unless she is married.  That's right, it is perfectly legal in Australia to have sex outside a marriage and it is perfectly legal to fall pregnant outside a marriage, however we are giving the church special rights to discriminate against people in this situation (and many others).  If the church wants to be able to have special exemption from discrimination laws, why are we, the taxpayers, funding it through many different levels of tax relief/exemption?  This is simply unfair to all Australians as far as a level playing field goes.

Do I have an issue with anyone having a personal religious belief?  Not in the slightest, and I will fight for anyone's right to have a personal religious belief - just because I have seen no credible evidence for any supernatural beings doesn't mean I want to legislate that people can't believe - that would be plain silly, not to mention against the UNDHR.  What I want to see is religion - all religion, no matter which specific flavor - treated fairly and all Australians treated fairly by religious organizations.

What I also want to see is Australians complying with their obligations under internationals laws and treaties with respect to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.  Refugees and asylum seekers - what do these terms even mean?  Well, according to the UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - a "refugee" is "someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country" and an "asylum seeker" is "someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated".  Right now, the way we are treating asylum seekers arriving or attempting to arrive in boats (particularly in boats) is appalling.  The Government's current plan to redirect asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea for settlement and not allow them into Australia is tantamount to us jailing some legitimate refugees - especially LGBT refugees.  Have a read of this article and this article for more information on how LGBT people (including refugees) are treated in Papua New Guinea.

I completely agree with the UNHCR when they state:
National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries.
The efficiency of the asylum system is key. If the asylum system is both fast and fair, then people who know they are not refugees have little incentive to make a claim in the first place, thereby benefitting (sic) both the host country and the refugees for whom the system is intended.

Australia needs to have a serious look at how we are handling both refugees and, in particular, asylum seekers.  We are not handling this anywhere near what I would call "well".  For an interesting discussion with Julian Burnside QC that includes a good look at how we can better handle refugees and asylum seekers, have a look at ABC's "Adam Hills Tonight: S03E12 from 37:12 to 43:35.

As a country, we need to take a look at how we treat refugees and asylum seekers, how we treat women and LGBT folk, how we treat our own citizens and how we treat foreign nationals, not just how we appear to the world, but how we treat the world.

And Education.  Where do I start...  We need to ensure our children receive a good education, grounded in reality.  We need to teach our children how to think, not what to think.  We need to encourage critical thinking at school - the ability to take something you've been told and understand how to pull it apart and look at the core components to determine if what you've been told is actually correct or not.  We do not want to create automatons.  I have also blogged some thoughts on Public Education In Australia before.

On a lighter note, one of the beautiful things about science is that it knows that it is often wrong - the pursuit of truth is exactly that, a journey.  A great example of this is "The Galaxy Song" written by Eric Idle for Monty Python.  At the time the song was originally written, around 1983, the song was "correct" given the knowledge of the time.  As science tends to do, new discoveries have caused some of that knowledge to become outdated and now "The Galaxy Song" is not an accurate representation of what we know of the universe at present.  So, to correct this issue, Eric Idle and Brian Cox have rewritten "The Galaxy Song" to be correct as to our current understanding of the universe which, as is the case with science, will likely change again in the future as we learn even more.  So, to end this post, here's the updated version of "The Galaxy Song".  Enjoy! :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Hilton Travis - Lead Queensland Senate Candidate - Secular Party of Australia

Just in case you've not yet found out, I am the lead Senate Candidate for Queensland for the Secular Party of Australia.  Yes, I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth was and make a stand, giving people the opportunity to let me represent secular, humanist, equal opportunity rights in the Australian Federal Parliament.

So, feel free to head on over to my Facebook Page to see what I'm up to, the Secular Party of Australia site to see hat we stand for, and if you feel so inclined, a donation to the party with "CND-QLD-Hilton" or a generic donation to the Party would be greatly appreciated.

Now, some quick points on our electoral system - preferential voting.
  • If you are completely happy with a major party (Greens, Labor, Liberals), then Vote 1 your major party of choice.
  • If you are not completely happy with the major parties, then Vote 1 the minor party who best represents what you consider will be the best path forward for Australia, Vote 2 the next party who best represents your views and all the way down to the party who least represents your views
  • By voting 1 minor, and then 2 (or lower) a major party, this ensures your vote gets the most value for a number of reasons, namely
    • You give your minor party of choice a chance to actually represent your views in Australian Government
    • You serve the major parties notice that you are not overly happy with their policies and/or directions and/or performance to date
    • You give the minor party of your choice a chance to gain some electoral funding - once a Candidate receives 4% of the primary votes (in the Senate, the group needs to receive 4% of primary votes), they/the Party will receive $2.48800 per first preference vote.  For a minor party, this is a significant boost as they are generally at least heavily funded out of the pockets of the Candidates themselves.
  • Only 5% of Australians vote below the line in the Senate.  By voting above the line, you give that party the ability to distribute preferences as they see fit.  So, Voting 1 Secular Party in the Senate will enable the Secular Party to distribute preferences - our preferences will be detailed on our website as soon as possible after being notified of all Candidates running in the Federal Election.
  • Voting 1 for a minor party is not a wasted vote - it enables your vote to same numerous things


The Outspoken Wookie