Archive for March, 2011


NSW 2011: Legislative Council

At the latest point in the count in the Legislative Council, the figures for the main contenders are:

  • Liberal/National – 10.66 quotas
  • Labor – 5.35
  • Greens – 2.42
  • Shooters and Fishers – 0.81
  • Christian Democrat – 0.68
  • Pauline Hanson – 0.41

This would produce a result of 19 Coalition, 14 Labor, 5 Greens, 2 Shooters and 2 Christian Democrats.

At the moment, the key contest is between third Greens candidate Jeremy Buckingham (currently on 0.42 quotas), sixth Labor candidate Andrew Ferguson (0.35) and Pauline Hanson (0.41). Buckingham is currently leading, but not by a great deal.

While in the past preferences haven’t made a difference, the ALP preferenced the Greens on all of their how-to-votes at this election. If Buckingham stays ahead of Ferguson, then his preferences could flow to him to such an extent that he ends up safely elected.

While there are right-wing parties, I doubt anywhere near as much of a flow will go to Hanson. The eleventh Coalition candidate and the Shooters and CDP candidates are all well below a quota, and any right-wing preferences will likely flow to those candidates and not flow on to Hanson.

The bigger issue would be if Ferguson could overtake Buckingham. While preferences may flow from the Greens to Labor, it would be much less strong.

Below the line votes are yet to be counted, and they should favour the Greens.


NSW 2011: seats in doubt

There are a number of seats that are in doubt after last night’s counting.

Balmain – Balmain is the most interesting seat of the election at the moment. At time of writing, the Liberal candidate James Falk leads on 32.3%, with sitting Labor MP Verity Firth on 30.7%, only 86 votes ahead of Greens candidate Jamie Parker. The current two-party preferred count has Firth leading over Falk with 51%. However, if Parker were to overtake Firth either on the primary vote count or on preferences from minor candidates such as Maire Sheehan, it would be an entirely different contest. Parker would be favoured to win, but it is hard to know.

East Hills – Sitting Labor MP Alan Ashton suffered a 14.1% two-party-preferred swing, which puts him two votes behind Liberal candidate Glenn Brookes.

Maroubra – Sitting Labor  MP Michael Daley is 1215 votes ahead of Liberal candidate Michael Feneley.

Monaro – Nationals candidate John Barilaro is 603 votes ahead of Labor MP Steve Whan.

Newcastle – Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate, who came close to winning in 2007, suffered a 12.6% swing and has come fourth in the seat. Liberal candidate Tim Owen is 674 votes ahead of Labor MP Jodi Mckay.

Oatley – Liberal candidate Mark Coure is 332 votes ahead of Labor MP Kevin Greene.

Swansea – Liberal candidate Garry Edwards is 491 votes ahead of Labor MP Robert Coombs.

Toongabbie – Labor MP and former premier Nathan Rees is 485 votes ahead of Liberal candidate Kirsty Lloyd.

Wollongong – Independent candidate Gordon Bradbery is 138 votes ahead of Labor MP Noreen Hay.


NSW 2011: general wrap-up

I’ll be writing a number of posts today about the result’s of yesterday’s NSW state election, covering the seats in doubt, the race in the Legislative Council, and the scale of the defeat for Labor.

As far as general trends are concerned, some things are clear.

Firstly, Labor was absolutely crushed statewide, as was predicted. For much of the last few months, the worst case scenario saw them fall below 20 seats and be wiped out everywhere except the central part of Sydney. That is exactly what has happened.

Labor has retracted to a core between Mount Druitt, Macquarie Fields, Kogarah and Auburn, with the exception of two seats in the east of Sydney, two in the Hunter and two in Wollongong.

In some areas, local trends appear to have protected strong local members. In Macquarie Fields, local Labor MP Andrew McDonald, generally renowned as a good local member, survived with a much smaller swing of under 10%, while in neighbouring Campbelltown, Labor lost the seat with a swing of over 20%.

The result was nothing to write home about. It certainly wasn’t a disaster. The Greens vote went up and currently they are the frontrunner in the race for the last seat in the Legislative Council, which would give them an extra MLC. They cracked 10% for the first time in both houses.

Yet the Greens didn’t get the large result they were looking at getting in polling before the last few weeks. Marrickville looks like staying in Labor hands, and Balmain is too close to call. There were local factors in these seats, particularly the impact of the Israeli boycott on the debate in Marrickville. Overall, however, there still wasn’t a great swing to the Greens. It does seem a bit rich, however, for any Labor supporters to be gloating about there being no huge swing to the Greens when the ALP has suffered their worst defeat in a century and the Greens have polled a record vote.

For independents, too, the result wasn’t great. Three independents lost to the Nationals, while three others retained their seats. While independent Gordon Bradbery is leading in Wollongong, all the other prospective independent challengers fell by the wayside. Independents running in Newcastle, Charlestown, Swansea and Blue Mountains were all tipped to win their seats, yet none of them came in the top two. Independents came second in Clarence, Upper Hunter and Wagga Wagga, but part of this is due to the complete collapse of the Labor vote.

Overall, the number of independents coming in the top two declined. Last time, there was 11 Coalition-independent races and six Labor-independent races. While there are still 11 races with the Coalition, there is only one race between Labor and independent, in Wollongong. This is partly due to the ALP falling into third place in seats like Lake Macquarie and Sydney, where the Liberals came second to strong independents.

The number of seats where the Greens came second increased substantially. While the number of Labor-Greens has fallen from two to one, the number of Coalition-Greens contests increased from two (North Shore and Vaucluse) to between 11 and 13.

This is mainly driven by the complete collapse of the Labor vote on the north shore. The Greens came second to the Liberal Party in all seats to the east of Lane Cove and Ku-ring-gai. This also happened in the far north coast of seats of Lismore and Ballina. The Greens may also come second in Oxley to the Nationals, and the Greens are currently competing with Labor for second place in Balmain.

Why the middling performance for independents and Greens? I think the main reason is that the campaign was completely dominated by the Coalition’s defeat of Labor. Voters were desperate to remove the Labor government, and for most the Coalition was the most clearcut way of getting rid of Labor.

Standing on a polling booth I was asked a number of times where the Greens were preferencing. Understanding of preferences is limited, and years of Labor-Greens preference deals and the agreement on a federal level does create an image of Labor and the Greens being in alliance. The bitter fighting between the parties and the lack of preference deals in this election doesn’t undo all that. I believe many voters didn’t vote Green because they thought it help Labor get re-elected.

In the end the Coalition’s campaign was just too strong, and swept away everything in its path, whether it was independents in the Hunter, the Greens in Balmain, or Labor in Western Sydney.

Finally, here are some maps.

2007 election results in New South Wales.

2011 election results in New South Wales.

2007 election results in Sydney.

2011 election results in Sydney.

2007 election results in the lower Hunter and Central Coast.

2011 election results in the lower Hunter and Central Coast.

2007 election results in the Illawarra region.

2011 election results in the Illawarra region.


NSW 2011: results

8:52 – Seats that Labor currently appears to have lost to the Coalition: Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Charlestown, Coogee, Drummoyne, Gosford, Heathcote, Londonderry, Maitland, Menai, Miranda, Mulgoa, Parramatta, Riverstone, Rockdale, Smithfield, Strathfield, The Entrance, Wollondilly and Wyong. The Nationals have gained Bathurst, but have fallen short in Cessnock and still fighting for Monaro.

8:13 – The swings are all over the place. In seats like Monaro and Wyong it is too close to call, despite smaller margins. Seats like Campbelltown appear to have fallen on far higher margins, while neighbouring Macquarie Fields is much closer, despite a much smaller ALP margin.

8:10 – Balmain is turning into the most interesting seat of the election. At the moment all three candidates are polling around 30%. The order of elimination will decide who wins, and this is complicated by a vote of 3% for Maire Sheehan, a left-leaning independent who preferenced Labor candidate Verity Firth. Her votes could determine who comes third. It doesn’t appear that James Falk (LIB) can win, but if he comes in the top two, the other person in the top two should win.

7:58 – The counts in Marrickville and Balmain are far too close to know what is going on.

7:52 – The Liberals are currently leading in Toongabbie.

7:50 – As far as seats on high margins that Labor was worried about, they are currently losing Campbelltown, winning Oatley, and leading in Blacktown.

7:20 – So far the ABC has called 55 seats for Coalition and 8 seats for Labor, which means the Coalition has won the election. In case there was any doubt.

7:13 – Random stat – with three booths in, the ALP is down 24.6% on primary votes in Menai.

7:09 – The seats that were expected to fall are clearly trending that way, including Menai, Wollondilly and Londonderry.

6:00 – Polls have just closed in the NSW state election. Results should begin to come in around 7pm. I will be driving back from a polling booth in the north-west of Sydney until around 6:45pm.


NSW election open thread

The people of New South Wales are going to the polls today in a state election. The Coalition is expected to win a massive majority, with the Labor Party facing one of their worst results in the party’s history.

Use this thread to discuss the election during the day. A new post will be opened at 6pm to discuss results.


NSW 2011: reckless predictions

With two days to go, it’s time to make some predictions.

Lots of predictions have been made, some on individual seat threads and others on general NSW threads, but I thought it was time to bring them all together and make a stab myself.

I expect to get plenty of seats wrong, and in some cases there are seats which were a flip of a coin, but I have made a prediction for all 93 races.

As a disclaimer, I should make it clear that I am not putting any weight behind these predictions. It is no guarantee of a result and is likely to be wrong in details. My information varies between seats, and in some cases my limited information has forced me to make an estimate that is not strongly informed. In many other seats, however, I have a much stronger understanding of the local campaign.

The overall prediction is for a result of 50 Liberal, 19 Nationals, 15 Labor, 2 Greens and 7 independents.

Read the rest of this entry »


Liberal Party happy for CDP to discriminate

It’s been reported today that the Liberal Party is preferencing Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party in the Legislative Council in 86 of 93 seats.

The seven seats where they are exhausting are Coogee, Sydney, Auburn, Bankstown, Granville, Lakemba and Liverpool.

There has been a theory that they avoided doing it in those seven seats due to the large gay communities in Coogee and Sydney and the large Muslim communities in the other five. Yet there are a large number of other seats in that category. The Liberals preferenced the CDP in the seats of Balmain and Marrickville. There are many other seats with large Muslim communities where the Liberals have preferenced the CDP.

I think it’s more likely these seats were decided by the CDP, not the Liberal Party.

At the 2007 state election, the CDP had a position that they would preference the Liberal Party except in seats where the Liberals ran a Muslim candidate. Despite this position, they preferenced Muslim candidate Ned Mannoun in Liverpool, but didn’t preference Christian candidate Philip Mansour in Canterbury. It seems the CDP refused to preference Liberals who they thought were Muslim. Not only were they bigoted, but weren’t competent enough to carry out that bigotry!

We haven’t yet seen CDP how-to-votes (and they are unlikely to hand out many preferences in these seven seats), but I’d be willing to bet that the CDP told the Liberal Party that they wouldn’t preference them in the seats where they were running gay candidates or candidates who they thought were Muslim.

In three of those five seats, the Liberal Party is running Muslim candidates. Ironically, the Liberal candidates in Auburn and Granville are not Muslim, but you can’t expect the Christian Democratic Party to know that.

It’s no surprise that the CDP would pursue such a bigoted position. Yet what does it say about the Liberal Party that they would do a deal with a party that would so openly discriminate against those of their candidates of whom they don’t approve?


Eva Cox’s bizarre take on preferencing

There has been a lot of talk about the possibilities of small right-wing parties holding the balance of power in the Legislative Council, and the effect this would have on NSW politics. I’ve already dealt with a lot of the fear and misinformation in my previous post, but it hasn’t stopped misleading information and scaremongering.

One of the worst pieces has come from prominent feminist activist Eva Cox, published in New Matilda today. Cox’s piece is very misleading about how the Legislative Council voting system, and says a number of things that are flat-out wrong.

Her most egregious mistake is her claim about below-the-line voting. Cox says that “Voting below the line is not a good tactic as only 10 per cent of votes are counted to estimate the distribution”. This is simply wrong. It suggests that below-the-line votes are reduced in value and therefore make someone’s vote worthless (or worth only 10%).

NSW elections do use sampling when distributing surplus votes. If the quota is 50 votes and a candidate polls sixty votes, then 10 of those 60 votes will be taken out as a sample and distributed, while the rest remain with the candidate. This is fair, as those votes have already been used to elect a candidate. Above-the-line votes are reduced in value just as much as below-the-line votes are.

Her main argument founders on another fallacy. I have already explained how upper house preferences will have no impact on the result in the Legislative Council. Cox said:

The Greens are relying on the past two election results when the parties most likely to win all of the 21 seats on offer managed quotas on their first preferences. Thus distribution of the preferences did not occur. However, this election will be different as Labor is expected to lose many seats and where they go may be crucial to the balance of power in this house.

This is not true. A number of seats were filled by candidates polling less than a quota, and preferences were distributed. The low flow of preferences, however, meant that these preferences had no impact on the result. There is no reason to believe that Labor losing seats makes the situation any different to 2007 or 2003. While the number of Labor seats will decline and the number of Coalition seats will increase, the final few seats will still be decided on less than a quota.

She also bizarrely claims that the system of optional preferential increases the chances of right-wing candidates like Pauline Hanson and the Christian Democratic Party winning seats.

The system of group ticket voting used for the Senate and, until 1999, for the NSW Legislative Council allows parties to do backroom deals which then directs all preferences from one party to another without voters every seeing them or having to write them out themselves. The new NSW system requires parties to show preferences on their how-to-vote, as is required in the lower house.

Under the ticket voting system, it is possible for political parties to shift their entire block of preferences to another candidate, which makes it possible for candidates with a small vote to leapfrog others and build up a vote until they win a seat. This system allowed Family First’s Steven Fielding to win in 2004 and the DLP’s candidate to win in Victoria in 2010, in both cases the candidate polling a very small number of votes. In the 1990s, it also allowed parties such as the Outdoor Recreation Party to win a seat in 1999 with only 0.21% of the primary vote.

In contrast, the current system punishes parties that split a small block of votes. In 2003, Pauline Hanson and One Nation both ran groups for the Legislative Council. Between them they polled almost 0.8 of a quota, which would have guaranteed the election of one candidate. But the separate tickets both failed to elect a candidate, with Hanson the last to be eliminated.

In 2011, we have Family First, the Christian Democratic Party, Pauline Hanson, the Outdoor Recreation Party, the Fishing Party and the Shooters and Fishers all standing. While the old system would have allowed them to ensure that no preferences would ‘leak’, the reality is that these parties will be competing for the same votes, and may split the vote such that the right will miss out on a seat they would otherwise win.

On the other hand, almost all of the progressive minor party vote is concentrated in the Greens, preventing any splitting of the vote. So, contrary to Cox’s inflammatory headline (“Will You Accidentally Vote For Hanson?”), the system makes it much harder for Hanson to sneak in and win.

Cox seems to think that the Greens could change this result by doing backroom preference deals with the ALP. She completely misunderstands why conservative control of the upper house is likely. It isn’t because Labor and the Greens aren’t swapping preferences. It is because the overall Labor-Greens vote is far too low. Approximately 44-45% of voters would need to vote for Labor or the Greens for the parties to hold half the seats in the Legislative Council. Most polls have had the parties collectively polling 40% or under.

The miniscule benefit from a preference swap would have little impact on the balance of power. If there is to be any chance, the only prospect comes from Greens voters convincing defecting Labor voters to come to the Greens rather than the Liberal Party. A preference deal with Labor is unlikely to convince people to come to the Greens instead of the Liberals.

Cox worries “that an extraordinary number of NSW voters do not seem to understand the NSW optional proportional voting system”, although her article makes it clear that she doesn’t understand it herself. At least that’s the charitable understanding. It seems convenient for a Labor supporter like Cox to be misleading voters into thinking that their below-the-line vote wouldn’t count, or to be spreading fear about the consequences of progressive voters not preferencing a Labor ticket headed by such progressive heroes as Eric Roozendaal and Greg Donnelly.


Final Labor candidates announced

I have recently been working on a project where I broke down the gender of all candidates from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. The Greens and the Coalition both finalised their list of candidates a few weeks ago, but it has been impossible to find a list of Labor candidates, and earlier in the week eight Labor candidates still had no profile, or even their name, on the ALP website.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday about the number of women standing for the three political forces who are standing statewide, using research I had done for the Women’s Electoral Lobby. At the time the ALP was eight candidates short of the full 93, and refused to provide a list to the journalist.

With nominations being posted gradually on the NSW Electoral Commission website, it has been possible to fill in the gaps and identify all 93 Labor candidates.

Overall, the ALP is running 66 men and 27 women, or 29%. The Coalition are running 73 men and 20 women, or 21.5%. The Greens are running 47 men and 46 women, or 49.5%. Interestingly, Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party list 85 candidates by name on their website. I couldn’t identify the gender of three of their candidates, but among the other 82, the party is running 54 men and 28 women, or 34.2%. This is more female candidates than either of the major parties.

Nominations close at midday today, followed by Legislative Assembly ballot draws at 2pm and the Legislative Council ballot draw at 3pm. Over this weekend I plan to make my final update to each seat profile, with the final list of candidates and a review of my political assessment that I made when I first wrote the guide.


NSW 2011: 17 days to go

It’s been a few days now since I posted on the front page about NSW politics, so I thought it was time to open a new thread for any general discussion of NSW politics.

Nominations are open this week, with candidate names gradually being posted on the electoral commission website.

In a piece of news this morning, former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has nominated for the NSW Legislative Council. While most of her political experience has been in Queensland, she nominated for the NSW upper house in 2003, polling strongly but not winning a seat.

She doesn’t seem to have much of a chance, but could take votes away from the Shooters and Fishers, the Christian Democratic Party and Family First. I’m sure there’ll be accusations that she is running simply to gain public funding. While that is possible in a federal election, it can’t happen in NSW. Funding is only available to pay for receipted electoral expenditure, and is only available if a candidate polls over 4%. Hanson won’t get over 4%.

In the last week we have seen a Galaxy poll which gave the Coalition 50% of the primary vote to 23% for Labor and 14% for the Greens. We have also seen a local poll in the Illawarra Mercury, predicting that the ALP would lose the seats of Heathcote, Keira and Kiama to the Liberal Party, and come close to losing Wollongong to independent candidate Gordon Bradbery.

Finally, I wanted to clear up some arguments in the comment threads about what is appropriate on this blog. I don’t have a clear comments policy because I haven’t needed one in the past. As far as I am concerned, people can talk about any aspect of NSW politics that they like. It doesn’t need to be dry analysis of the candidates and the numbers. It’s unrealistic to expect my commenters to act in that way, and it misses a key element of election campaigns. Elections are about politics, and political arguments are part of the campaign.

I will ask, however, that people try to stay relevant to the thread they are using. If you want to talk about general NSW politics, please use this thread (and other ones I will post in coming days). Comments on seat pages should be restricted to the campaign in that seat (or a handful of regional seats). I will start deleting comments that stray off-topic.