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Here are 4 things to know about Australia’s contentious election

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Australians head to the polls Saturday to vote in the country’s national election, and it’s shaping up to be a tight race.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government is facing a close contest with the social-democratic Australian Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten. Shorten is a former union leader who previously led his party to a narrow loss in 2016, but has remained in place since then.

Morrison has been the prime minister since August of last year, after his party’s parliamentary caucus voted to oust the previous leader, Malcolm Turnbull. Labor has been ahead in every national poll since the second half of 2017, but the home stretch of this campaign has seen the race significantly tighten.

The contest’s final days are also ending on a somber note, with the recent death of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke at age 89. Hawke, who served in the role from 1983 to 1991, presided over Australia’s economic deregulation in the 1980s, combining policies of free trade and global capital flows with progressive ideals such as universal health care, environmentalism, and women’s equality.

Here are four things to know about Australia’s contentious election ahead of Saturday’s vote.

1) Australia’s political challenges are remarkably similar to America’s

For most Americans who probably aren’t well versed in Australia’s political system, there are some features that might seem a bit odd.

For example, the major conservative party is called the Liberal Party (they’re also part of a larger coalition, but we’ll get into that more later). And while Australians generally use British spelling for words like “labour,” the major progressive force in Australian politics is named the Labor Party, using the American spelling.

So just remember: Labor = progressive, Liberal = conservative.

Australia has a federal political system, with six states and two territories, which have smaller populations. (The Australian Capital Territory is host to the nation’s capital city, Canberra.)

But there are a lot of other things about this faraway country that will sound quite familiar: The nation was founded by British colonists who considered Australia an extension of the British Empire, but it eventually went its own way from the mother country. Unlike the US, though, this happened through a slow process of political evolution during the 20th century, not a war of independence. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II is still the official head of state, and her face is on the $1 AUD bill.

The struggles of First Nations people — the original inhabitants of Australia — are also a big part of the national story: Conquered by the British and subjected to pervasive discrimination for 200 years, they were not even full citizens of the country until a 1967 referendum included them in the census population.

Even today, they continue to suffer from economic disadvantage due to that legacy of exclusion and social mistreatment. Their communities now seek to have an official constitutional role in the policies that affect them, through an elected chamber with real legal power — a matter of serious contention.

And in recent decades, Australia, like America, has struggled to adjust to the developments of multiculturalism, large-scale immigration, and how to adapt their resource-extraction and agricultural sectors to the challenges of climate change and environmental conservation.

2) Climate change has been a major issue for a long time — and there’s still no lasting political solution

Debates over climate and energy policy have dominated Australian politics for the past 10 years. The mining sector makes up a majority of the country’s exports in goods, which also leaves the country vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices.

The Labor government of the early 2010s botched its response to the growing challenges of climate change. Namely, it enacted a controversial carbon tax — despite the fact that then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard had promised during the prior election not to enact a carbon tax. The conservative response from the Liberal Party leadership was to hold Tea Party-style rallies, which included various signs and chants referring to Gillard in vulgar and misogynistic ways.

In strict policy terms, the tax was a success: Emissions dropped significantly during the two years that the carbon tax was in effect, and the country continued to enjoy economic growth.

But the Liberals won the 2013 election by a convincing margin, and repealed the tax in 2014. The climate issue has not gone away, however, and has now become the Liberals’ own political headache. Conservatives’ policies offer only a patchwork of solutions, ranging from the expansion of the country’s hydroelectric power generation, to a “Direct Action” plan of credits and grants to businesses for projects that reduce emissions. (Critics have identified “integrity issues” with how this program has actually been carried out.)

The country’s current prime minister, Scott Morrison, has taken a hardline anti-environmentalist, pro-traditional industry stance — warning in this campaign of “green tape” costing jobs, as well as higher taxes for both individuals and businesses under Labor’s proposals. In 2017, when he was still a cabinet minister, he railed against environmentalism by bringing an actual lump of coal to the floor of Parliament, touting its virtues for the economy and accusing his opponents of “coal-o-phobia.”

Labor, on the other hand, has positioned itself as a pro-environmentalist party, and is running on proposals to develop a new, clean-energy economy and to develop Australia’s resources and domestic industry toward battery technology and other new opportunities.

And to contrast himself against Morrison, Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to “not bring lumps of coal to Parliament for a laugh, while temperatures soar and bushfires rage, and flood and drought batter our land.”

Public opinion shows growing support for finding tangible ways to address climate change: 61 percent of the voting-age population now believe that action should be taken on the issue, even if it’s expensive.

3) Australia’s electoral system gives everyone a say — and demands that they say it

Australia has a variety of features in its electoral system — developed gradually over the past 100 years — that American advocates of voting and election reform could only dream of.

First, the country uses ranked-choice voting (or RCV, also known as instant-runoff voting) to elect members of their House of Representatives, the chamber that determines which party will govern the country. Instead of voting for one candidate, voters rank each person on the ballot with a “1” for their first choice, then “2” for the second choice, and so on to the last person.

If no candidate in a district has more than 50 percent of the “1” votes, then lower-ranking candidates are eliminated — and each of the voters’ next choices is distributed. A winner is declared once somebody gets to an outright majority.

Because of the way RCV works, the Liberal Party operates together with a smaller conservative organization, the National Party, whose support comes from rural areas. For nearly the past 100 years, conservative governments have actually been known as the “Coalition,” made up of the Liberal Party and the National Party.

RCV also means that there are two different tracks for calculating the overall popular vote. When all the votes are counted, election watchers will be paying attention to both the “primary vote” for Labor against Liberal or National candidates on the first round of counting in each district, and then the “two-party preferred vote” between the Coalition and Labor, when all the voters for minor parties have had their ballots redistributed further.

For example, the 2016 election had a primary vote figure of 42 percent for the Coalition versus 35 percent for Labor, and a final two-party preferred national popular vote of 50.4 percent Coalition to 49.6 percent Labor.

The House of Representatives districts themselves are also drawn by a nonpartisan, bureaucratic process — out of the direct reach of the ruling politicians themselves — which means the issue of gerrymandering that plagues the American electoral system is not as big of a concern in Australia.

Australians also elect an upper house of Parliament, their Senate, via proportional representation, with 12 seats from each of the six states — usually half of them up at each election, including this one — plus two each from the territories. Because of this, lots of different candidates can all run and make their pitches to voters.

There are a total of 1,514 candidates nationwide currently running for the 151 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 seats in the Senate. Many of them have no chance of winning, but they do have an opportunity to raise issues that could force the major parties to respond, thanks to the RCV system.

And voting in Australia isn’t just a civil right; it’s a civic duty. There’s a token fine of $20 AUD (around $14 USD) for people who fail to show up and cast a ballot. As a result, turnout levels can exceed 90 percent.

But this can also have the effect of setting up reliable, predictable blocs of people who always vote for one party or the other. Thus, elections become a close contest for those few swing voters in the middle. (Some have argued that such a system could have made the election of somebody like Donald Trump an impossibility.)

Because of this entire system, Australian politics enjoys the benefits of both a stable, two-party competition, as well as the added pluralism that comes from having many smaller parties. Those smaller parties can exercise influence by winning seats in the Senate, putting them in a position to cast decisive votes on legislation, so that the major parties will have to work with them and negotiate the details of what gets done.

During campaigns, the major parties have to court those small parties for an endorsement to their voters to give their second-choice vote rankings to one side or the other, in the races for swing seats.

The cooperation that the major parties have to pursue with smaller parties has become more and more of an issue that the two parties actually use against each other. For instance, Labor has assailed the Coalition for working with two alt-right parties — the anti-immigration One Nation party, and the United Australia Party of mining billionaire Clive Palmer (whose super-original slogan is “Make Australia Great.”)

Meanwhile, the Coalition has responded by attacking Labor for working with the environmentalist Australian Greens party, casting the latter’s environmental policies as “a far bigger threat to the Australian economy” than somebody like the scandal-plagued businessman Clive Palmer.

4) There have been a lot of prime ministers lately. Voters are hoping that stability can return.

Australia has attained a reputation in recent years for cycling through a lot of leaders, with 5 different people serving as prime minister over the past 10 years. In fact, the 2007 election — in which longtime Liberal PM John Howard lost the prime ministership and his own seat in Parliament — was the last time that a governing party went into an election with the same leader it’d had in the previous one.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd led the party to victory in 2007, only for the party caucus to dump him in 2010 for Julia Gillard. Then, with Labor seriously trailing in the polls, Rudd came back to oust Gillard in 2013, but still lost to the Coalition led by Tony Abbott.

But the instability turned out to be contagious: Abbott proved to be an unpopular prime minister, governing from the right with a series of severe budget cuts that violated his own campaign promises. So the Liberal Party dumped him in 2015 for the more socially progressive Malcolm Turnbull.

After Turnbull narrowly won the 2016 election, he went on to trail Labor in poll after poll, and was himself thrown out by the Liberals in 2018 and succeeded by Morrison. (Morrison’s own victory was a narrow one against a more right-wing rival.)

Both parties know that voters are sick of this revolving door, and they have both amended their own internal rules, requiring a supermajority threshold within a party’s parliamentary ranks in order to fire the leader. But it remains to be seen whether these rules can truly hold firm in the future if the parties’ ranks are determined to throw somebody overboard.

The first polls will close on the east coast of the country at 6 pm local time on Saturday — which works out to 4 am Eastern time in the United States.

After the election on Saturday, whichever party is victorious will also have to prepare to negotiate with the newly elected Senate, which will have the power to make or break the government’s policies.

It’s still unclear if an industrialized, democratic country can harness the political will and popular support to embrace a new environmental agenda — but this election may help provide an answer.

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How Self-Hatred Can Insensibly Poison Our Lives

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American woman Shelli Wilder Netko wrote a post about what worries all the women in the world — self-hatred, inevitable aging, and the race against time that will definitely be lost. But instead of worrying about these things, we should just focus on loving the people around us. Her post was so moving that we feel for her from the bottom of our hearts.

Here at Bright Side, this post has moved us a step closer to the most sincere love for ourselves. We hope it will do the same for you.

I have never really liked my hands. I have short, calloused fingers, wide palms, and messed up nail beds from a nail-biting stint when I was in grade school. Add to it the effect of knuckle-popping, which I became obsessed with after I saw the cool kid on the block do it in second grade. But nonetheless, I’ve always referred to my hands as looking like “dog paws,” versus the long, graceful hands that my sister has and that I’ve always wanted. I’ve always thought I was in the wrong line when God sprinkled “beautiful hand fairy dust” on the babies.

To add to my hand shame, since my 20s I’ve had the biggest, juiciest veins in my hands and forearms that have always been a phlebotomist’s dream come true, causing my hands to look a bit masculine and old if you ask me. When my kids were young they liked to sit by me during church and “play” with my veins to make the time pass more quickly. They would sometimes ask why my hands were “like that.” The standard mom answer applied here, “They just are, Hun.” But I always liked it — having one of them holding and touching my hands, no matter where or when or why.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve done my part to win the anti-aging race with my body and face. Eating healthy, exercising, and spending far too much money taking care of my skin. And yet, when I look down at my keyboard countless times a day, I still see these hands that look much older than my heart feels, and appear as if they could use a nice rest.

When the photographer stopped me to pose for this photo at my wedding in March to capture my sash and ring on the lace pattern of my dress, I automatically blurted out, “Can you edit the picture? I don’t like my hands.” Everyone has something they don’t fully embrace about themselves, don’t they?

But when the wedding photos came back I saw my hands in a whole new light. This picture is so beautiful, it captures everything. I saw the hands that had baked about 200 Birthday cakes, a truckload of cookies, changed thousands of diapers, wiped away a million crocodile tears, and clapped till they were raw cheering my kids on through every sport.

I saw this picture and I saw a gift. These hands may not be the smoothest, most graceful, longest, most feminine hands, but they are perfectly suited for the work that was laid out for me. These hands have been blessed with holding my newborn babies and grandbabies and holding the father of my children as he took his last breath.

I will find a beautiful frame for this picture to remind myself constantly of the love and purpose and duty I have in this life, and to remind myself that I have my mother’s hands — her gift to me.

What do you think of this story? Is there something about your appearance that you don’t like? Tell us in the comment section below.

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A Daughter Wanted to Brag About Her Gorgeous Mom on Twitter and Accidentally Started a Beauty Contest

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We’re totally used to social media sites that turn out to be an unpredictable phenomenon today and any post has the potential to go viral. This is what happened to a girl whose screen name is Your boyfriend’s best friend who posted a photo of her 43-year-old mom on Twitter and accidentally started a beauty contest. And even though it was just moms who took part in this sudden marathon, it was a dad who won!

Bright Side couldn’t stand aside and has decided to show you some women who know about the secret of eternal youth. And the winner, of course.

In just one day, a daughter made her mom popular: her post got 23,000 likes and caused a lot of hype in the comments. Twitter users were really interested in her beauty secrets, because this 43-year-old woman looks really magnificent. So some people asked for her cosmetologist’s contact details and others tried to find out the woman’s phone number, promoting themselves as potential suitors.

Some people also wanted to show off their beautiful moms, so they started posting their photos in the comments. As a result, the post turned into a real beauty contest.

The more women who have managed to stop time there were, the more they were suspected in using magic.

Some users even doubted that they were relatives with their moms at all. Let’s agree: when a mother looks better than her daughter, the suspicions about whether they have common genes or not are pretty relevant.

Undoubtedly, all these women are extremely popular with men, even the younger ones.

It’s hard to believe that these hot beauties have 3, 4, or even 5 kids.

The finalists were women who were older than 60. When you look at them, you realize that age is just a number.

But the winner was a dad. Apparently, a user who calls themselves Taste Booster wanted to dilute this beauty flow with a touch of masculinity. All in all, the photo of a man lying down among all the fish he caught, a cat, and a dog hit the jackpot: the picture got 1,700 likes and became more successful than any of the other photos in the comments. The only exception was the photo of the person who started this beauty contest.

Undoubtedly, all the moms who participated in this viral post deserve admiration, but the picture “Dad and some bream” is an amazing sensation. Which one do you like the most?

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Costs of raising pets and changing pet market consumer trends

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반려동물 1마리 키우는데 드는 비용과 소비 트렌드 변화

In the past couple of decades, it’s become far more common in Korea to own a pet.
Owning a pet, of course, usually costs some money.
In this report, our Hong Yoo looks at how much that might be and how the petcare market is changing.
More than 10 million people living in South Korea have a pet.
That’s one pet for every four households.
According to a pet report by KB Financial Group, raising a dog costs an average of 85 U.S. dollars a month and raising a cat requires an average of 64 dollars a month.
Most of that money goes on food and treats.
The rest of the money is used for medical care and grooming.
But people are happy to treat their pets because these days pet owners think of their pets as a member of their family.
In Korea, these people are called “PetFam”.
The pet food market alone has seen an average of 19 percent annual growth on the back of this trend.
And because people think of their pets as part of their family, they want to take their pets along with them on trips.
So tour companies have started creating “pet tours”.
“Because there are people who want this kind of tour, we saw the potential of such a product in the market and so we came up with our Jeju pet tour. Pets can accompany their family all the time during the tour to Jeju Island including at the restaurant, tour spots, and the hotel because this tour is pet-centered.”
There are even home spa products for pets such as skin moisturizers, scaling products and grooming mists labeled as premium products because they are organic, eco-friendly, and pet-friendly. They can cost up to 40 dollars.
“Before, people used to think about pets as a living thing that you can buy just like a toy. But because people think of their pets as a part of the family, the pet market has become similar to the baby market. So now, owners are turning to premium products for their pets.”
And there are also luxury pet shops which sell premium products that can cost up to a thousand dollars.
That is the cost of a pet bed made out of oak in the style of the bed of King Louis the 16th.
And at this luxury department store, the most popular dog food costs more than 50 dollars for just 1-and-a-half kilograms.
These changing consumer trends in the pet market show how owners are willing to spend a lot on the best quality products for their pets now that they are seen as part of the family.
Hong Yoo, Arirang News.

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