Women in parliament – still marginal

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the lack of representation of women in the Liberal Party, and it got me thinking about what sort of seats tend to be represented by women. Do they tend to hold safer seats, or more marginal seats? I recently noticed that most coalition women hold marginal seats, in the context of Jane Prentice and Ann Sudmalis facing preselection threats.

Firstly, I just looked at what sort of seats current federal MPs hold. For this graph, I divided seats into “safe” (margin over 12%), “reasonably safe” (margin 6-12%) and “marginal” (margin under 6%).

A majority of Labor MPs in marginal seats are women, and that proportion gradually drops in the safer categories. The Coalition likewise has more women representing marginal seats. Half of its women, but only a third of its men, represent a seat with a margin under 6%. We already know that Labor does much better than the coalition in terms of equal representation overall.

But it’s not all about those who were elected. I was curious about the candidates who ran in 2016.

Seat type # of seats ALP F % LNP F %
Safe coalition 33 36% 11%
Marginal Labor 31 45% 50%
Reasonably safe coalition 28 32% 13%
Marginal coalition 27 48% 31%
Reasonably safe Labor 15 40% 31%
Safe Labor 11 27% 27%
Crossbench 5 40% 17%

Interestingly, Labor runs less women in safe Coalition seats (people who are very unlikely to win a seat). The seats with the most women candidates for Labor are marginal seats, either held by Labor or the Coalition. Labor also has a high proportion in its reasonably safe Labor seats, but in its safest seats it ran a much lower proportion.

The Coalition shows a similar trend, although on a much lower baseline. Just under a third of candidates in marginal Coalition seats, and half of candidates in marginal Labor seats, were women, but about 12% of candidates in safe seats were women.

So both parties are usually happy to run women in seats where the election will be hotly contested, but are more likely to run men in safer seats.

So this suggests that the lack of women in parliament is not a symptom of voters preferring male candidates (otherwise we’d expect the opposite trend), but I reckon there’s better evidence out there.

Of the 55 seats where the margin was less than 6%, there were 20 where a man and a woman came in the top two. Of these races, women won 9 races and men won 11. The pattern is the same if you narrow your sample to seats decided by less than 3% – women won four and men won five races where the top two candidates were of different genders.

So this evidence suggests gender doesn’t make much of a difference in a close race (although you’d want a larger sample to be sure) and it doesn’t appear either major party is resistant to run women where the race is close enough for these personal characteristics to matter.

So why is the gender balance so different in safe and marginal seats? My last theory is that the problem is with incumbency: even if you run a lot of women for open seats, the predominantly male incumbent MPs will throw off the balance. And incumbents are more likely to be running in safer seats, since marginal seats change hands more often.

Party Seat type Incumbents F % Non-incumbents F %
Labor Marginal 40.9% 50.0%
Labor Safe 33.3% 50.0%
Coalition Marginal 37.0% 47.2%
Coalition Safe 12.2% 12.5%

Labor had a perfect 50/50 record amongst non-incumbents in their marginal seats and safe seats. But while they ran 36 non-incumbents in marginal seats, there were only two open Labor seats with margins of over 6%. The deficit in women’s representation in Labor lay entirely amongst the pre-2016 incumbents, particularly those in safe seats.

This explanation doesn’t hold up as much for the Coalition. While they are running a lot of women for marginal seats, some of which they would win (although non-incumbents in marginal seats don’t tend to win when you go backwards), they barely bothered in safer seats. And the only two women running for open safe seats were not running in super-safe seats. Nicolle Flint won Boothby (margin 7.1% before the election), and a Nationals woman ran for the safe Liberal seat of Pearce, so really shouldn’t count.

Overall I can conclude that Labor’s gender imbalance is entirely due to its longer-standing MPs, who tend to be in safer seats. Half of current sitting Labor MPs who were first elected in 2010 or later are women, while less than a third of those elected up to 2007 are women. This is a legacy that should work its way out of the system as they are succeeded, but may take some time since it can take a long time for incumbents in safe seats to move on.

The Liberal/National coalition does not have this excuse. Their newer MPs, elected in 2010 or more recently, are more balanced, but not by much (20% of 2010-2016 MPs are women, compared to 15% of the longer-serving MPs), and evidence from 2016 suggests that most safe seats, even when they are vacant, go to men.


More data – Tasmanian and SA state elections added

I’ve just added two more datasets to the Tally Room data repository.

These datasets cover the results of the recent Tasmanian and South Australian state elections, including candidate lists, booth lists, and voting figures at the booth and seat level:

The only thing I am missing is South Australian upper house voting figures at the booth level and at the electorate level. I’ll add those when I can track them down.

This means I now have datasets published for every state and territory election since 2013, although I am also yet to go back and add the two-candidate-preferred votes by booth for the 2017 Queensland state election.

I’m prioritising work on the podcast, but I will continue to publish more datasets when I get time, including the 2016 Brisbane City Council election results and some older Queensland figures.


Federal election guides – they keep coming

I’ve been continuing to post a seat guide every day recently, with fifteen more posted since I last posted on the front page. They tend to be safer Liberal seats, but there are still some interesting conversations:

For those of you who are particularly interested in electoral redistributions, you might find the comments under the Hume seat guide interesting. Hume has an odd shape, with the seat bisected by parts of the Southern Highlands which are in the seat of Whitlam. There’s been a bunch of suggestions about how changes to seats in the Illawarra and the south-east could result in Hume getting tidied up.

Finally, this is another reminder that I’m running a donation drive to fund the new podcast. My goal was for eighteen new patrons. I’m now at six. I promise if we can hit this target this week I’ll stop bugging you about donating for a while. You can donate via Patreon.


Let’s do a podcast!

I’ve wanted to do a podcast for a while, but haven’t been in a position to spend the time to do it properly. I think I’m pretty much there now, but I’m looking for some help with it.

I have a plan to launch a podcast in June, which should hopefully give us at least two episodes before the by-elections on July 28. It will start out slow, and may not be the most professionally produced podcast at first, but I’d like to work out the technology and spend the time to turn it into something really good. Hopefully it would be running smoothly for the big three elections due later this year.

I currently have 52 donors giving a small amount of money every month to support this website. This has been great. It’s allowed me to take some time off from my day job to work on this website, and because of that the core business of the website is well under control.

I now want to buy some equipment so I can try and start this podcast properly, as something which is easy to listen to (although I’m sure there’ll be some bumps along the road), and that’s going to cost some money.

So I’m looking to increase my Patreon donors to 70. This would provide me with funding to buy equipment, and put me in a good position to spend both running the website and the podcast as we head into the busiest time for elections in many years.

If you aren’t already a donor, please take a look at my Patreon page and consider signing up. It would be very much appreciated.

I’m hoping to reach the goal of 70 donors by the end of May. If we can get there, I would like to post the first episode in June, and then aim for a fortnightly schedule throughout the upcoming election periods.


New datasets – NSW councils and Tasmanian upper house

I’ve got a couple of new datasets now up on the website for you to use.

I’ve now published the complete dataset from the 2017 NSW council election, including the list of candidates, the list of booths (including latitude/longitude) and the voting figures at the ward level and at the polling place level. I’ve also included mayoral results at the council and polling place level.

I’ve also expanded the Tasmanian Legislative Council dataset to cover the 2017 and 2018 elections (including last year’s Pembroke by-election). This dataset now covers twelve years of elections, including candidate and booth lists, and vote data at the booth level.

You can check out the whole data repository here.


NSW government moves to end random sampling in council elections

Last year I testified before the NSW state Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) about the issue of random sampling in NSW local government elections. You can read my submission, the transcript of the hearing, and the committee’s report.

TLDR: The random sampling system used to conduct NSW council elections is broken. The state government has accepted some great recommendations from the state JSCEM to fix this problem, and make some other improvements to instil more faith in our electronic counting systems, at least in NSW.

Read the rest of this entry »


The latest seat guides

I’ve been keeping up a regular schedule of seats for the three election guides which are gradually being posted now.

For the federal election, all of these seats have been published since last time I posted about them:

I’ve also published a guide to the Victorian state seat of Bass, and today I posted a guide to the NSW Legislative Council.

Bass, Lingiari and the NSW upper house were all requests from donors. If you’d like to prioritise a seat, you can do so if you donate $5 per month via Patreon.


Five (5!) federal by-elections on their way with latest s44 blow

The High Court this morning ruled that Senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to sit in the Senate, making her the 13th federal politician to be undone by section 44 of the constitution in this current parliamentary term. The Court clarified that, while there is room for a person with dual citizenship to be eligible to sit in the parliament if they have taken ‘reasonable steps’, that is only excusable if it is not possible for them to renounce their citizenship. And delays are not enough to invoke that exception.

So Gallagher is out, because her British citizenship was not renounced in time. It also meant that it was no longer tenable for four lower house MPs to stay in parliament.

Labor MPs Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, along with Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, all resigned from parliament this afternoon, triggering by-elections in four different states. This is in addition to the Perth by-election, called following Labor MP Tim Hammond’s retirement last week. Presumably all five will be held on the same date.

Four of these five seats are held by Labor. It will be up to the government as to which seats they contest. Presumably they will contest some and avoid others. The Greens may also have ambitions in Perth or Fremantle, but both are probably out of reach.

I’ve now posted the seat guides for all five races. In Braddon, Longman and Perth, where I had already posted guides for the general election, those pages have now become by-election guides, including all of the pre-existing comments. The comments are now open:

This will be a busy period, just when we were expecting some quiet time before three big elections coming up at the end of this year and early next year, so if you’d like to support this website’s work please consider signing up as a patron.


Darling Range by-election coming up

I discovered last night that a by-election is pending for the WA state seat of Darling Range.

Labor candidate Barry Urban won the seat in 2017 with a massive 18.9% swing. He subsequently quit the party after he was exposed wearing a medal (for police service overseas) which he had not been awarded. He is expected to resign from parliament as early as today.

Read the guide

The guide is now up, and I’ll update it with candidate information when that comes. Remarkably, it appears that Labor, despite holding the seat, plans to abandon the seat to the Liberal Party.

If you wish to comment, please do so on the guide, where the conversation has already started.


Tasmanian Legislative Council live

10:33 – If you found this liveblog helpful, why not consider chipping in with a regular donation?

9:37 – And finally, here is a similar map for Hobart, showing the primary vote for Valentine and Griggs. Valentine did better in the north of the seat, and Griggs in the south.

9:13 – Here is the map showing the primary votes by booth for the three leading candidates. The Liberal vote is shown by default, but you can toggle.

9:06 – It’s worth noting that Sorell and Brighton were Labor’s best areas at the recent lower house election. Mav’s vote in that area has presumably done serious damage to the Labor vote, but it could suggest that his preferences would favour Labor if he doesn’t make it to the top two.

8:47 – This table shows another perspective on the vote distribution. I split up ordinary election-day votes into the six LGAs. While Mav is currently coming third, he won a plurality of votes in the two most populous LGAs at the southern end of the electorate, and won by quite a bit in Sorell, which is the most populous part of the electorate by some distance.

But Mav came a distant third (or possibly fourth) in the other four council areas, with no area polling more than 13.3%. This explains why Mav’s vote caught up late in the night. He did much better in the bigger, more urban booths.

LGA LIB % ALP % Mav % Formal votes
Sorell 19.2 23.0 27.8 4867
Brighton 28.2 22.6 29.5 2681
Southern Midlands 30.6 19.6 13.3 2542
Glamorgan/Spring Bay 31.6 20.8 11.2 2061
Tasman 18.3 21.6 9.6 906
Northern Midlands 31.0 28.7 11.2 868
Other votes 27.4 20.8 17.8 4380

8:43 – This map shows which of the three leading candidates won each booth. Howlett (Liberal) won most booths in the centre and north of the seat. Labor pretty much only won booths on the Tasman and Fleurieu peninsulas, while Mav won a series of booths closer to Hobart.

8:22 – There isn’t much more to report, but I’m putting together some maps of the Prosser election results.

8:02 – The gap between the top three in Prosser is now only 5.7%, so all three candidates are in with a shot. It appears likely that, in a race between Labor and Liberal, Mav and Mulder’s preferences will both shore up the Liberal lead. But who knows what will happen if Mav can get ahead of Labor. It’s hard to see Labor winning.

7:46 – Steve Mav has been surging in support in the last few booths. He was at 18% a little while ago, and now he’s on 20.2%. This is just behind Labor on 21.7% and the Liberal on 25.6%. He’s well and truly in the contest.

7:37 – Only four ordinary booths are yet to report in Prosser, and the gap between Liberal and Labor has narrowed to just over 6%. But Steve Mav is also narrowing the gap. He’s now polling over 15%.

7:22 – Valentine leads 43.4% to Griggs on 27.6% in Hobart. It looks very likely he’ll win. Kevin Bonham (who is running a model) has projected that he will win.

7:20 – Quite a lot more counting has been finished. In Prosser, 19 out of 27 booths have reported, with Howlett (LIB) on 27.65% and Lambert (ALP) on 20.73%.

7:06 – Six booths have reported in Hobart, with another nine to come. Valentine has fallen back to 44.2%, with Griggs on 26.6%.

7:03 – Fourteen booths have reported in Prosser, with another fourteen to go. The pattern is similar, with Liberal candidate Howlett leading on 29.5%, followed by Labor candidate Lambert on 19.4%, then Mav on 12.3%, then Mulder on 10.1%.

6:53 – We have three booths in Hobart, and incumbent MLC Rob Valentine is leading with 46.1% of the primary vote, followed by independent candidate Richard Griggs on 28.4%. Those numbers look very good for Valentine.

6:46 – With seven booths in, Labor has jumped slightly while the Liberal candidate has dropped. Independent Steve Mav is third on 10.6% – I must have missed him in the first count.

6:41 – We now have five small booths in from Prosser (none from Hobart), for a total of 951 formal votes. There are 13 candidates in Prosser, so we can’t expect a clean result on primary votes. Liberal candidate Jane Howlett leads with 33.4%, followed by Labor candidate Janet Lambert on 20%, former independent MLC Tony Mulder on 8.6% and Shooters candidate Lorraine Bennett on 8.1%.

6:00 – Polls have just closed in two Tasmanian Legislative Council electorates. The Tasmanian upper house faces annual elections, with two or three out of fifteen electorates voting each year. The whole chamber is renewed every six years. This year the inner city seat of Hobart and the new south-eastern seat of Prosser are up for election.