NSW 2019 – the race in eastern Sydney


Today I’m focusing on a block of 29 seats in the eastern half of Sydney. This area doesn’t really identify as “eastern Sydney” but could be defined as a number of smaller regions: the inner west, eastern suburbs, north shore, northern beaches, St George district and the Sutherland Shire.

If you look across the whole of Sydney, there are three bands of electorates: Liberal seats along northern Sydney from Manly to the Hills district and Hawkesbury (let’s include Vaucluse as an honorary north shore electorate), Labor seats from Maroubra to Londonderry, and Liberal seats on the southern end of the city, in the Sutherland Shire, on the Georges River, and the south-western fringe of the city.

All but one marginal seat in the city lies on the edge of one of these bands. The only exception is Heathcote, which borders a block of Labor seats in the Illawarra region.

In the eastern half of Sydney, seats of interest tend to be most concentrated close to the city in the inner west and eastern suburbs. There are no seats of interest on the north shore, and then there is also Oatley in the St George district and Heathcote at the southern end of the Sutherland Shire.

Half of these seats of interest are non-classic electorates held by Greens or independents.

I’ll run through these seats one by one below the fold:

How many numbers is too many?


I wrote yesterday about the Queensland government’s slate of reforms to Queensland local government elections, most of which I think are excellent. I focused on the shift to proportional representation for undivided councils (which is mostly synonymous with small regional councils).

I would love for the government to go for PR for Brisbane City and other big councils, but recognise that’s a much bigger step which affects much more powerful forces and also would require a redrawing of ward maps. Another fight for another day.

But there is one proposed change that would be completely unworkable and set proportional representation up for failure: compulsory preferential voting (CPV).

Compulsory preferential voting means that voters must number every box (or close to it) for their vote to be formal. In the interests of encouraging voters to “make their vote count”, we punish them with complete informality if they don’t comply.

The Queensland government’s report justified many of its reforms on the basis of aligning local elections processes with state and federal equivalents. While it is true that CPV is used for single-member elections in Queensland and federally, there is nowhere in Australia which uses full CPV with a proportional representation system in Australia.

We used full CPV for the Senate from the introduction of proportional representation in 1949 until the Senate reforms in early 2016. From 1949 until 1983, voters did not have any option to vote ‘above the line’, so had to number every box correctly for their vote to count. As the number of candidates increased, the informal rate continued to climb. Eventually the problem was solved by allowing voters to outsource their preferencing to their party of choice using group voting tickets. This post from Antony Green shows the informal rate in the Senate before 1984.

Help back in proportional representation for QLD councils


The Queensland government has recently announced plans to introduce proportional representation to some council elections as part of a broad set of reforms. This proposal is a significant improvement to the local electoral system, but is facing a fierce backlash from self-interested groups, in particular the Local Government Association of Queensland. I’ll run through the reforms and explain why this particular change is so important.

These reforms strengthen integrity rules, introduce caps on expenditure, strengthen disclosure rules, and align a bunch of election laws to match state election laws. Most of these seem good, but I want to focus on one in particular. I’ll run through all of these reforms at the end of this post.

Most local councils in Queensland are undivided, meaning all councillors are elected to represent the entire council area. I say “most councils”, but this does not mean “most voters”. 22 out of 78 councils use local wards, but these councils cover 83% of the state’s population. This includes almost every council in South-East Queensland and most major regional centres. The only big towns which don’t use wards are Toowoomba, Mackay, Gladstone and Noosa. This map shows which councils are divided or undivided.

The rest of this post simply deals with the undivided councils. Every divided council in Queensland uses single-member electorates. These electorates will be shifting from using optional preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting, to use the same method as elections to the Queensland Legislative Assembly and the House of Representatives. In an ideal world these councils would also use proportional representation, but that’s an issue to discuss another day.

The existing system for undivided councils is first-past-the-post. This is bad enough when used for single-member electorates but it gets even worse when electing a large number of councillors. Say you are electing eight councillors. Voters get to vote for eight candidates on the ballot. You count up these votes, rank them and then elect the first eight. No preference flows. It’s possible (and indeed very likely) that a large proportion of the electorate will not contribute to electing a candidate.

NSW 2019 – join the conversation


One of the most fun parts of this website in the lead-up to an election is the comments on each seat guide. Every seat guide has its own comment section where you can discuss that electorate and what is going on.

I thought it would be interesting to identify which electorates have the most comments, which gives an insight into which seats are most of interest. A number of these seats are marginal, but it also includes some safe seats where a conversation was sparked for some reason. East Hills is miles ahead in the lead.

There are also eleven seats where there haven’t been any comments so far: Canterbury, Davidson, Fairfield, LakembaMacquarie Fields, Mount Druitt, Swansea, Sydney, The Entrance, Willoughby and Wyong.

Most of these are reasonably safe but there’s a couple of surprises on the list.

NSW 2019 – how about the Shooters?


One of the most interesting features of this election is the radically increased significance of the party now called the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

The Shooters Party was founded in 1992 by John Tingle, who won a seat in the NSW upper house in 1995. The party has won a seat at every election since 2003, as well as winning seats in the Victorian and Western Australian upper houses since 2014 and 2013 respectively.

The party has gained ground at every state election in New South Wales since 2003, polling just under 4% in 2015.

The party adopted its current name of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF from here on in) in early 2016, before the big success of the Orange by-election.

The coalition government gained enough seats in the Legislative Council at the 2015 election to allow them to pass legislation with just two extra votes, which they usually got from Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party. The alliance between the government and SFF broke down, leading to the Shooters deciding to run a candidate for the by-election in Orange in November 2016.

The Shooters have traditionally avoided contesting lower house seats, with not a single candidate running in the 2015 election. But things have changed.

ACT redistribution – submissions suggest the way


The ACT is currently redrawing its electoral boundaries for the local Legislative Assembly, and as previously discussed there are not a lot of options for how the boundaries can be drawn.

The first round of submissions have now closed, with ten individuals and five organisations making submissions. The Liberal Party and Labor Party each made submissions.

It’s interesting to look at the two major parties’ proposals to get a sense of what is likely to happen. Interestingly, both parties agreed on almost all boundaries, with only one small change in southern Canberra affecting two out of the five electorates.

The above map shows the existing boundaries as used for the 2016 election.

Both Labor and Liberal proposed moving two suburbs (Evatt and McKellar) in northern Belconnen from Yerrabi into Ginninderra. This deals with Yerrabi growing faster than Ginninderra due to rapid growth in the Gungahlin area.

Neither party made any suggestions to change the northern boundary for the central electorate of Kurrajong.

The southern electorate of Brindabella has also fallen below the population quota, and both major parties proposed an identical change to bring this electorate up to quota, shifting the eastern half of the suburb of Kambah from Murrumbidgee into Brindabella.

The only difference between the parties is on the border between the south-western electorate of Murrumbidgee and the central electorate of Kurrajong.

The loss of eastern Kambah requires a boost to Murrumbidgee. Labor has proposed moving Red Hill into Murrumbidgee, while the Liberals have proposed shifting the neighbouring suburb of Deakin. Either suburb produces an almost identical quota balance.

There is no guarantee that the boundaries will follow these suggestions, but the very similar proposals do suggest that most of these changes are likely to be implemented.

NSW 2019 – the race in south-east NSW


I’ve defined this area to cover parts of the state which don’t neatly fit into any of the other categories. I’ve included the four seats in the Illawarra area, plus Bega, South Coast, Goulburn and Monaro.

I’ve identified four out of the eight seats in this region which are worth zooming in on.

The Illawarra is not a particularly interesting place in this election. Labor holds Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour comfortably. Heathcote is a marginal Liberal seat, but is mostly in the Sutherland Shire so will be covered in a different post. I will focus on Kiama.

The Coalition holds five seats in this region, and four of them have a chance of being interesting at this election. Sorry, South Coast.

Let’s start with Bega, which covers the south-eastern corner of the state, following the boundaries of the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla shires. Bega is held by Transport minister Andrew Constance by an 8.2% margin. The seat is one that Labor would hope to win if they were on track to form government.

The Liberal vote is strongest at the southern end of Bega Valley council area, and weakest at the northern end of the same council. The Eurobodalla region falls somewhere in between.

The seat of Goulburn is the most marginal Liberal seat which wasn’t held by Labor prior to the 2011 landslide. Retiring minister Pru Goward has held the seat since it was created in 2007. Goward’s retirement will likely weaken the Liberal Party, who only hold the seat by a 6.6% margin. It is another seat which a uniform swing would see flip to Labor if they were on track for government.

Monaro is the most marginal seat in the region, held by Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro by a slim 2.5% margin. Monaro was won off Labor in 2011, and Barilaro slightly increased his margin in 2015. There is an expectation that Barilaro will hold his seat despite the pro-Labor shift, but in a seat this marginal that is a brave prediction.

Finally it’s worth mentioning Kiama. Gareth Ward won this seat in 2011 with a 19% swing. The seat had previously been held by Labor by a 12% margin. Ward slightly increased his margin in 2015, holding the seat by 8.7%. There is an expectation that he will hold on and strengthen his position but this area is one which was solidly Labor when they were last in power and if Labor does a bit better than expected it would be worth watching.

NSW 2019 – help the State Library collect election materials


This morning’s blog post focused on the how-to-votes being handed out on pre-poll. I’ve collected a bundle of how-to-votes, as well as some other leaflets and letters I’ve received in my local electorate of Parramatta. I’m sure I’m not the only person building up a little collection.

So what should we do with these materials when we’re done with them?

I’d recommend sending them to the State Library of New South Wales to add to their collection of election ephemera.

The State Library is collecting physical ephemera of the election, including printed materials. You can mail your materials to the address in the above tweet, and there’s more information in the above link. I’ve also been told that materials can be dropped off at the info desks in both State Library buildings if you are in the area and don’t want to deal with the postal system.

If readers collect the materials you receive in your mailbox, get handed on a street corner and receive at your local polling place, they can get a much more thorough collection for the archives.

NSW 2019 – early preference decisions


Today is the third of day of voting in the NSW state election, with pre-poll booths opening around the state.

I dropped in to the biggest pre-poll booth at Sydney Town Hall on Monday morning to collect all of the how-to-votes that were available, and grabbed a couple more this afternoon.

I’ve been running a lengthy Twitter thread posting all of these how-to-votes as pictures, supplemented by submissions from others and some stuff I found by contacting candidates directly.

You can follow that thread to see all of the how-to-votes in full, but I’m going to briefly summarise what I found.

NSW 2019 – the race for the upper house


The NSW Legislative Council race is looking likely be one of the most complex and difficult to predict since the current system was first used in 2003.

In addition to the major parties and four larger minor parties which currently hold seats in parliament, we have a number of high-profile challengers, and not enough seats to go around.

All of this comes on top of a political environment very different to when the Liberal/National coalition won 11 out of 21 seats in 2011, suggesting the current government will face a much less friendly upper house after this election, even if they do hold onto power.

This table shows the results of the last two elections in terms of seat counts.

Party Won 2011 Won 2015
Liberal/Nationals 11 9
Labor 5 7
Greens 3 2
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1 1
Christian Democratic Party 1 1
Animal Justice Party 0 1
    These results left the the government just two votes short of a majority, and they’ve largely been able to govern just with the support of the Christian Democratic Party (led by Fred Nile).
    The Shooters party, who had previously been crucial to the government’s legislation, have drifted away from the government and become very critical in the last term.
    Recent polling has put the government around 36-39% of the primary vote in terms of the lower house race. It’s hard to see them doing better in the upper house. This result would likely give them eight seats in the upper house, which would see the coalition lose three seats, and need five votes to pass legislation.
    Labor’s primary vote is around the same position. If they were to win eight seats, that would be an increase of three seats but would still leave them seven votes short of a majority. In comparison, the last four terms of government have seen governments needing no more than four extra votes. This reflects an overall increase in the share of the vote taken up by minor parties, which has clear knock-on effects in a proportional house.
    So let’s take a look at these other parties.
    The Greens remain the biggest party, but recently lost one of their MLCs when Jeremy Buckingham resigned from the party.
    The Greens are defending three seats, but will likely only win two. Sitting MLC David Shoebridge is heading up the ticket following his victory over Jeremy Buckingham in a party preselection. New candidate Abigail Boyd should win the second seat, while sitting MLC Dawn Walker looks likely to lose from third place.
    The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have consistently won a seat at every election since 2003. Since the last election they have performed strongly in western NSW by-elections and appear to be in a stronger position. They recently dumped their incumbent MLC Robert Brown in favour of Mark Banasiak.
    Beyond these three seats, it’s hard to predict what will happen. There is a contest both on the left and the right.
    On the right, former federal Labor leader Mark Latham is heading up Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, and it seems very likely he will pick up enough of the vote to win.
    In addition to the Shooters and One Nation, other right-wing minor party candidates with a chance of winning include Christian Democrat MLC Paul Green (an ally of Fred Nile) and recently-resigned Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm.
    Fred Nile’s party has won a seat in the upper house at every election since 1981, but lost ground at the 2011 and 2015 elections. It seems quite plausible that increased competition on the right could see them squeezed out in 2019. Leyonhjelm won’t benefit from voter confusion with the Liberal Party, which has helped his party in the past, as he drew a low-ranking position on the ballot, and doesn’t have as high a profile as the Shooters or One Nation.
    On the left, ex-Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham is heading up an independent ticket. While he has some profile, he will be running without a party name (or even his own name) above the line, and it doesn’t appear that he has much of a campaign infrastructure. There were early claims that he would be running candidates in the lower house, but this did not eventuate.
    The Animal Justice Party, Sustainable Australia and Keep Sydney Open are all running a large number of candidates in the lower house which could suggest a stronger campaign. Animal Justice in particular won their first parliamentary seat in 2015 (and have subsequently won a seat in Victoria) so are worth watching.
    If each major party were to win eight seats, that leaves five seats for the remaining parties. Possibly six or seven if the major parties perform worse.
    Assuming the Greens hold two and the Shooters hold one, this leaves 2-4 seats for the other parties competing. On the right there will likely be a tight contest. I can’t see Latham, Leyonhjelm and Paul Green all winning seats.
    Finally, preferences may well be crucial to the outcome. At the first two elections under our current voting system (2003 and 2007) preferences played no role in deciding the result – the candidates leading for the final seats ended up winning in every case.
    At the last two elections we have had a candidate miss out despite a stronger primary vote. Pauline Hanson (running as an independent) was overtaken by Jeremy Buckingham and the Nationals’ Sarah Mitchell for the final two seats in 2011, and No Land Tax’s Peter Jones was overtaken by Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party in 2015.
    At the 2015 election, 83% of voters simply marked a ‘1’ above the line. 15.3% of voters marked multiple preferences above the line, and the remaining 1.7% voted below the line.
    There was some variation in preferencing: minor party voters were more likely to mark preferences. The Greens in particular encouraged preferences on their how-to-vote and a large proportion of Greens votes flowed to Animal Justice when the third Green was eliminated. This trend could mean that preferences will be crucial in deciding which minor party candidates end up on top.
    It will also be worth watching to see if the new Senate voting system has an effect. While the formality rules are similar for Senate and Legislative Council elections, the federal system requires the ballot to encourage voters to number six boxes. This requirement was backed in with an advertising campaign and instructions to voters from polling clerks. This resulted in a very high proportion of voters marking six boxes above the line. If some of these people continue this practice at the state election it could see a big increase in the amount of preferences flowing.

Check out my guide to the Legislative Council for more background on this contest.

Also if you are looking to vote below-the-line, my friend Tom Clement at Geeklections has built a new tool to help you build a how-to-vote. Basically you can rank the parties you like, and it then orders those candidates in reverse order (to maximise the value of your vote by preventing it being used up in quotas unnecessarily). I personally will just be voting above the line, but if you’re into this check it out.