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Policies & Commentary

In the brave new world of social media, I’ve seen campaigns launched on Facebook, policy statements on Twitter, and some truly disturbing videos on Telegram. But this is a first. After searching high and low for Victorian Senate candidate Bernardine Atkinson, one of our readers finally managed to turn up a policy statement – which was contained in an article in the Shepparton News. Thanks, DS, for finding this!

Atkinson has no website, no social media presence, no campaign material available online whatsoever. This article is the only place that has any information whatsoever about her election goals. Now, this might be a more effective strategy if she were running for the Lower House seat of Shepparton, but for a Senate candidate? It’s unlikely anyone outside her local area will even know she’s running until they see her name on the ballot on election day. I have to wonder if she’s aware of just how the quota system works. I mean, I’ve heard of small target strategies, but really …

Just who is Atkinson, then? Well, this isn’t her first election rodeo. She was a candidate for Senate in 2007, and for the seat of Wannon in 2016. Both times she was unsuccessful, but this doesn’t seem to have deterred her. Given this experience in campaigning, I would have expected a more visible presence, but here we are.

So, let’s take a look at the little information we have, courtesy the Shepparton News.

Atkinson’s signature policy is nuclear power, a cause that this “independent academic” has championed for a long time now. As far as she’s concerned, it’s the answer to all Australia’s power needs, and Mr. Uranium has been unfairly maligned by those nasty nasty fans of Ms Renewable. All this time, there’s been a terrible conspiracy working to keep the Truth from us all. No, really. She even wrote a book about it:

Included in this edition is Dr Atkinson’s previously unpublished, fourth letter, which exposes the monumental duping experienced by Australians in relation to their uranium resource management; a story that could even surpass the Trojan Horse legend for the prevailing depth of cunning and deceit by passive invaders and the ineptness of local governors.

Monumental, huh? Sounds like Dan Brown needs to lift his game, because as conspiracy thrillers go, this sounds like a real page-turner.

It’s not exaggerating to say Atkinson is a true believer when it comes to nuclear power. From the little information we have from her, this policy doesn’t come from focus groups or reading the electorate,but from her heart. Of the three policies she lists in the Shepparton News article, going nuclear is by far both the longest and most passionate. And, you know, believing in what you’re selling is something that isn’t as common in politics as perhaps it should be.


Some of Atkinson’s assertions suggest that she doesn’t quite grasp exactly what nuclear power is. For example, she speaks of uranium rods as “just like giant batteries.” They’re really, really not. Uranium rods are fuel that are ‘spent’ in the process of generating energy. Batteries store energy already generated. I can’t help but think that if Atkinson doesn’t grasp something as fundamental as this, then just maybe she’s not the person to be leading us into the bold nuclear future.

What about her other policies? Well, we have two to choose from: restoring and expanding National Service, and easing the rate burden on property owners. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that rates are a local government responsibility, this latter policy depends on the former for its funding. Let’s look at that one, then.

It’s important to point out here that Atkinson’s proposal isn’t just to provide military training for young Australian adults, nor is it based on conscription. What she proposes is, in fact, far removed from national service as Australia has known it. Perhaps it might better be described as a massive extension of the public service, specifically in a few areas. Atkinson calls these the “three Ds – home guard defence, disaster relief, and ecological development. This national workforce, made up of adults aged up to a staggering 86 years old, would be responsible for everything from planting trees to undertaking medical training. Atkinson sees this as a solution to long-term unemployment, and suggests that older people could supplement their pensions by having their years of experience “gainfully applied for the nation’s benefit.”

There are several problems with this idea. First, the massive bureaucracy that would have to be created to administer the program. Second, trying to attract people to sign up for a job that sounds a lot like cheap labour. Third, the fact that this program would see the government paying wages of potentially thousands more people. It wouldn’t ease the burden on the welfare budget, just shift it into the national service budget – and then some. Finally, Atkinson suggests that implementing her version of national service would generate revenue for the government, but hasn’t taken into account just how much would need to be spent each year to keep the scheme alive. It’s more likely to be a net loss than profit for the government.

This is pure idealism – one of those ideas that looks great when it’s scrawled on the back of a coaster in the middle of a hard drinking session at the pub. When you don’t have to worry about pesky little issues like who’s going to make it happen and how the hell you’re going to pay for it.

All in all, then, Atkinson’s policies appear to be ill-researched, uncosted, and based on some fundamental misunderstandings of how to Science. And she doesn’t seem too concerned about working to gain your vote. With that in mind, I suggest you don’t give it to her.

Just a reminder that Loki and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂