Archive for December, 2009

Summer hiatus

Just as I did last year, I have ceased posting on the front page of the blog for the Christmas/New Year period. I find that few people read the blog during this period and it will give me a chance to work on more long-term projects. Consider this an open thread for a discussion of any issues during the hiatus.

During this period I will be trying to write as many seat profiles as possible for my guide to the Australian federal election. In the last six days I have written eight seat guides and I’m hoping to get a large number of profiles done during December and January. New profiles will be linked to in the box on the top right of the front page as well as on the election pendulum. I will also be posting updates to my Twitter page. These profiles should provide plenty to read for those of you interested and I encourage you to post comments in the meantime.

You may have also noticed that I have reverted to my old blog theme. Unfortunately the recent WordPress update seems to have wreaked havoc with the theme I have been using for the last month, meaning that it caused problems with comments on static pages. I will try and fix this problem during the summer hiatus.

I plan to resume regular blogging in mid-January. Until then, I hope you all have good holidays and enjoy yourselves and I will see you on the other side.

NSW Labor pummelled by the polls

The NSW Labor Party has again hit rock-bottom in a new state Newspoll out today in the Australian. The poll gives the ALP only 26% of the vote, which is their current record low from a poll last year following the removal of Morris Iemma. Another remarkable figure is the performance of the Greens, who have jumped 5 points to a record 17%. The Greens’ previous best in NSW was 15% in the first poll of this year and have consistently polled in the 13-14% range for most polls in the last two years. The Liberal-National coalition is on a dominant level of 44%, unsurprisingly.

The Australian reports that the two-party-preferred split is 59-41, although they sensibly bury this statistic in the ninth paragraph, as such a calculation has little bearing on results in a state like NSW with optional preferential voting and 30% of voters favouring a minor party or independent. In such circumstances pendulums lose some of their value in predicting the seat changes with such swings. As such, I’ve attempted to construct a seat calculator which attempts to change primary vote levels as a proportion of the swing. I’ve plugged the latest poll figures into this calculation and produced the following figures:

  • Liberal – 43
  • National – 16
  • Labor – 21
  • Independent – 8
  • Greens – 5

I must stress how broad and loose such a calculation is, but it gives us an idea of the scale of defeat Labor could suffer. I have assumed low levels of Greens preferences to the ALP and strong preference flows from independent candidates to the Coalition, meaning Labor pretty much doesn’t win any seats except where they lead on primary votes.

It’s also important to stress that this is a single poll and Labor is extremely likely to perform better than this, and I expect the Greens will return to lower, but still very high, levels, such as the 13-14% range they have occupied for most of this term. This isn’t a prediction, but it is a projection of how bad an election could be for the ALP on 26% of the vote. Think of it as a thought experiment. Like a pendulum, this assumes a uniform swing across the state and assumes that only independent candidates who ran last time will run again, which is obviously a flawed assumption. This assumption produces a result of four independents being elected in the Hunter, up from the current one.

Maps posted below the fold.

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UK electoral map finished

I have finally completed the UK electoral map for next year’s general election for the House of Commons.

I had previously completed maps for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and have now completed the map for Scotland. I have also updated the map of England to take account of by-election results and the change of Speaker.

Maps below the fold:

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Recall madness

The Sydney Morning Herald has today begun a campaign to have the state constitution changed to allow “recall elections”, where a petition of a large number of state voters would result in the Parliament being dissolved and a fresh election being called, regardless of how long is left in the current Parliament’s term.

They also carry an article from NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell pushing the proposal and a petition for a referendum at the next election to “reclaim your vote”, something completely bizarre and pointless, since such a referendum would not hasten the end of the current Labor government and O’Farrell has promised a referendum in his first term.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of including a recall provision in our constitution, but it is a hugely costly and ineffective way of achieving greater accountability from our state governments while the Herald and O’Farrell ignore far easier and more effective ways of holding bad governments to account.

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By-election wash

Election results on Saturday have largely been interpreted as some sort of endorsement of new Liberal leader Tony Abbott, yet looking at the figures the result is highly unremarkable for the Liberal Party.

Bradfield and Higgins are both incredibly safe seats for the Liberal Party. Bradfield is the second-safest Liberal seat in the country, and neither seat has ever gone to preferences. The Greens achieved a strong result in a right-wing heartland seat while running an explicitly left-wing campaign.

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Bradfield and Higgins results

8:32pm – There are reports tonight that police were called to Warrawee booth today following an incident where an abusive DLP worker assaulted a Greens volunteer, who he pushed over a fence. The worker had apparently been verbally aggressive to a number of other booth workers.

8:14pm – The best ever vote for the Greens in the House of Representatives before tonight was 28% in the Kooyong by-election in 1994, when Peter Singer ran after Andrew Peacock’s retirement. Hamilton is on track for over 34% tonight, the first time the Greens have cracked 30% in a federal lower house seat.

8:01pm – The Liberals are going to win both seats tonight, although there have been swings against them in both seats. In Bradfield the Greens are on 26% on primary vote, while they are on 35% in Higgins. The Greens are just below 40% on 2CP in Bradfield and 43% in Higgins.

7:21pm – Nothing interesting happening here so I’ll head to the Greens party at te Pymble Hotel and will be offline for a few minutes.

7:15pm – Second booth is in for Bradfield: Chatswood North. The Greens are now above 20%.

7:12pm – First two booths in Higgins have come in. In Toorak West the Liberal vote dropped 24%. While the Libs did much better in Kooyong Park, Hamilton is still above 30% primary. Strong, but not enough to win.

6:59pm – Now I’m updating on my iPhone due to slow computer. Reports say that Greens not far behind Libs at Ferndale, informals coming third again.

6:52pm – First booth in is Lady Davidson Hospital in Turramurra. It’s extremely strong for the Liberals, with over 70% of the primary vote. Best minor candidates were the Sex Party and Climate Sceptics, who each polled 6 votes.

6:51pm – By the way, I am using incredibly slow 2G internet on my computer as it stands, so while I’m scrutineering I may be behind on any results.

6:47pm – I’m scrutineering at Cromehurst Special School in Lindfield. They have started by sorting ballots by first preference, but they are not checking whether each ballot has managed to get all 22 boxes numbered consecutively, which will be time consuming. I have already noticed a vote for Susie Gemmell (GRN) which will be informal because it is missing a 17th preference. Compulsory preferential voting is madness.

As it stands Fletcher is well in front, with Gemmell clearly second followed by the Sex Party and the CDP candidate at the top of the ballot. Informal votes is outstripping all but Fletcher and Gemmell, although of course this only includes clearly informal votes (such as blank votes).

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in Bradfield and Higgins. It should take a little while longer to get results in Bradfield than in Higgins due to the large field of candidates. I’ll be scrutineering in Lindfield while trying to keep up with results.

By-election day

Voters will soon go to the polls in Bradfield, in northern Sydney, and Higgins, in eastern Melbourne, to elect new members of Parliament to succeed former Liberal MPs Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello.

I will be at Cromehurst Special School in Lindfield today, and mostly I will probably be covering it on my Twitter account, although if there is news I may update it on this blog post.

Paul Fletcher leaving Westfield Hornsby - and taking his signs with him - very shortly after arriving Thursday evening.

Paul Fletcher leaving Westfield Hornsby – and taking his signs with him – very shortly after arriving Thursday evening.

I will be covering tonight’s results as well, originally while scrutineering  at Cromehurst, since I figure you won’t get solid results for a while and I’m fascinated to see how high the informal vote goes with such a large field.

While these two seats are both blue-ribbon Liberal seats, recent events and strong Greens campaigns should give the Greens a strong showing. Indeed, when I was in Hornsby on Thursday evening, Liberal candidate Paul Fletcher packed up and left his stall quickly after arriving, not long after Greens candidate Susie Gemmell tweeted that she was on her way. The sense from locals is that, while the seat is extremely Liberal and they are very strong frontrunners, Fletcher has little campaigning skills and the party has been hurt by recent internal divisions.

The Bradfield Nine

So I visited the seat of Bradfield yesterday, covering the Hornsby prepoll centre for a few hours in the afternoon for the Greens’ candidate, Sueie Gemmell.

The booth was quiet, however the one interesting element came when we had one of the nine Christian Democratic candidates during the afternoon. Apparently the party has divided the seat’s polling booths between the nine candidates. Each candidate has their own how-to-vote card which puts themselves first then goes to all the other CDP candidates through a donkey vote. Then the the vote goes to the DLP, Bill Koutalianos, One Nation, Simon Kelly, Philip Dowling, Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, Brian Buckley, Liberal Democrats, Peter Hanrahan, CCC, the Liberals, the Greens and the Sex Party last.

Apparently the CDP has run nine candidates in order to grab attention and to bring attention to the Emissions Trading Scheme. Reading the back of Darryl Allen’s how-to-vote, four of his eight policy points relate to the environment, a fascinating focus for a party that has traditionally focused on social conservative issues and anti-Muslim policies.

Looking at the CDP how-to-vote, it will be quite difficult for voters to follow the HTV correctly, compared to the Liberal and Greens how-to-votes. It is probably safe to assume that there will be a large donkey vote for CDP candidate James Whitehall, probably enough for him to cross the 4% threshold and gain public funding. There will be some flow of preferences to him from other CDP candidates although in all likelihood preferences will flow all over the place.

If James Whitehall manages to outpoll all of the other ‘also-rans’ to come third, it will be interesting to see how much of his preferences then flow on to Susie Gemmell of the Greens, who managed to draw a ballot position higher than Paul Fletcher of the Liberal Party. It will be fascinating to follow the flows of preferences on election night.

While the CDP may well gain public funding through their strategy, it does not seem to be something that can result in any success for their positions or positive attention for the party, and indeed probably won’t help Fletcher retain the seat. While the Greens are unlikely to win the seat, the CDP’s strategy will fragment the conservative vote and increase the donkey vote, improving the Greens’ result. Indeed, Darryl Allen admitted to me that he originally thought the strategy was a bad idea, which is a fascinating insight into the internal workings of a party where a small elite makes all the decisions, no matter how crazy.

A copy of the how-to-vote below the fold.

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