1

Draft boundaries released for NT redistribution

Amongst many other redistributions, the Northern Territory is redrawing the boundaries of the 25 electorates for the territory’s Legislative Assembly.

The redistribution map was released yesterday. I’m working on my map of the new electorates, and should have it finished by Monday.

In short, the town of Alice Springs has lost one of its three seats to the Darwin area, with a new seat created in the Palmerston area on the fringe of Darwin.

Antony Green has produced a good summary of the boundary change proposal.

18

Federal redistribution update

The Australian Electoral Commission is currently undertaking federal redistributions in New South Wales (which is losing one seat), Western Australia (which is gaining one seat) and the ACT (which should see minor changes on the border between the two seats.

Since I last wrote about these redistributions, we have seen two rounds of submissions in New South Wales and Western Australia, with a variety of individuals and groups, including political parties, putting in ‘suggestions’ and then a second opportunity for individuals and groups to make ‘comments on suggestions’.

I’ll only briefly cover the ACT, where the process is at a slightly earlier stage. With only two divisions, and with the southern division of Canberra under quota and the northern division of Fraser over quota, you would expect a few suburbs at the southern edge of northern Canberra to be transferred, but the process is relatively simple. In fact, no political party bothered to put in any suggestions.

In the case of Western Australia, I’ll keep my summary simple, and refer to WA resident William Bowe’s summary at Poll Bludger.

In short, both major parties agree on creating a new division out of parts of Hasluck in south-eastern Perth. Labor recommends calling the division ‘Tonkin’, and the Liberal Party recommends ‘Court’, both using the names of deceased former WA premiers who belonged to those respective parties. The WA Greens  proposes naming the sixteenth division ‘Vallentine’ after former senator Jo Vallentine, who was elected for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, became an independent then helped form the WA Greens. Vallentine would be a strong candidate for a seat name, except for the fact that AEC guidelines recommend that divisions be named after deceased persons, and Vallentine is very much alive. These guidelines can be ignored, so the option is still a possibility.

I wanted to focus most of my writing on New South Wales, the largest state with the most complex electoral boundaries. I’ve waited until after the second round of submissions were released last week. In this post, I’ll run through some interesting points in the map where the parties have disagreed on their approach.

This blog post is quite lengthy, and runs through five key parts of the state, and what each of the parties has proposed. I will return to these three redistributions (along with the state redistribution in Western Australia and the Brisbane City Council ward redistribution) when the draft boundaries are released.

Read the rest of this entry »

9

NSW Nationals want smaller seats – how?

Last month, Nationals MLC Ben Franklin announced that he would seek a parliamentary inquiry into the size of the western NSW electorates of Barwon and Murray, which cover a majority of the New South Wales land mass. Today, according to a tweet from the party’s account, the NSW Nationals passed a motion calling for smaller electorates in regional NSW.

It’s true that these electorates are huge, and are a challenge to represent, but this simply reflects the low populations living in these areas. While there are some variations in electoral boundaries which could make Barwon at the least slightly smaller, any legislative changes would likely require increasing the population contained within seats in Sydney and along the coast, unless the Nationals are considering a proposal to increase the size of the Legislative Assembly.

The proposal also ignores the fact that the Nationals actually benefit from our electoral system. In 2015, the Nationals polled about the same as the Greens, but won 17 seats to the Greens’ 3, due to their vote being concentrated in particular parts of the state.

Franklin ignores all the other conditions that can make it harder to represent an electorate, such as having a large number of residents who don’t speak English, many residents with problems needing support from their local MP, such as public housing issues. It’s a lot easier to measure the landmass a seat covers, but it doesn’t mean it is the only problem faced by MPs in representing their electorate. Yet we don’t discuss weighting electoral power based on any other type of disadvantage – it’s one person, one vote.

There is a long and ugly history in Australia of electoral laws being used to increase the voting power of rural voters at the expense of urban voters – in effect MPs represented land, not just people. In New South Wales at a state level, and in most other jurisdictions, different quotas were set in rural and urban areas, meaning that there were much smaller numbers of voters in a rural seat than in an urban seat. Read the rest of this entry »

2

Ireland votes yes for marriage equality – results map

Ireland voted on Friday in a referendum on allowing same-sex marriage, and it passed overwhelmingly.

Since I have previously produced a Google map of Ireland’s parliamentary constituencies (download it here), I thought I would put together a quick map showing the shape of the vote by constituency.

The ‘no’ case won in only one constituency: Roscommon-South Leitrim.

The ‘yes’ case did particularly well in Dublin, winning over 70% in nine out of twelve constituencies. The worst ‘yes’ vote in Dublin was 66.4% in Dublin North-East.

20

Senate reform – questions that need answering

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece for the Guardian putting the case for reform to the system of Senate group voting tickets, in response to a number of pieces arguing against reform on the basis of who is for the reform, or who supposedly will be favoured.

Today I want to write about a few points I didn’t get to cover in my post, and respond to stories about politicians (primarily in Labor and the Greens) expressing hesitation about supporting the reform seemingly due to concerns about the partisan impact on their parties, and the proposal of a (very bad) idea to keep group voting tickets but impose a minimum vote threshold of 4% for any candidate to be elected.

Antony Green has previously conducted an analysis of how the proposed system of above-the-line preferencing and optional preferential voting would likely change the make-up of the Senate, assuming no major change in voter behaviour. His predictions would have seen Labor and Coalition each hold two additional seats in the current Senate. The Greens would hold one less seat, with a number of other crossbenchers missing out. Nick Xenophon would have likely been joined by his #2 candidate under the proposed system.

It seems some people in Labor and the Greens seem to think that their respective party could be disadvantaged by these reforms. The problem with making predictions about how the system would work (as acknowledged by Antony Green) is that a change in system will change the behaviour of parties, candidates and voters. The changed system would likely result in fewer parties running, and over time this could see different voting blocks developing. A smaller ballot paper would likely have hurt the Liberal Democratic Party, who won in NSW on the back of substantial confusion over their name.

While it looks like the Coalition would have been the chief beneficiary of no group voting tickets in 2013, at other times the reforms would have more likely benefited Labor. This has been explained by Kevin Bonham.

Others have opposed these reforms because they have been pleased with the impact of Ricky Muir and others on the Senate crossbench. Like with any lottery, it’s possible for it to produce a positive result, but that doesn’t mean it is fair or that it can be predicted to produce another result you like in the future.

Ultimately, you need to make your judgement about Senate reform on its impact on the system as a whole, and whether it is fair, not whether it advantages your side, or politicians that you like. That may seem naive, but in the medium term it’s the only sensible approach to electoral reform.

We have seen the impact of short-term thinking in New South Wales and Queensland, where past Labor governments introduced optional preferential voting, in part to benefit from division between Liberal and National candidates (and Queensland Labor went further in benefiting from vote-splitting between the Coalition and One Nation in 1998, encouraging voters to ‘Just Vote 1′).

Since then, the Liberal and National parties have merged in Queensland and gotten better at avoiding three-cornered-contests in other states, and One Nation has disappeared, while the Greens now take a much larger part of the left vote, and those same ‘Just Vote 1′ messages first used by Peter Beattie were used by Campbell Newman for the opposite effect earlier this year.

In addition to us not being able to make any certain or long-term predictions about the partisan impact of a reform, there are deeper issues with the current Senate system, beyond which candidates might win.

The group voting ticket system, with full preferences and almost-complete control of those preferences by parties, tends to produce results where the exact order of elimination of candidates is critical to the result, and small changes in the order can produce dramatically different results. We saw this in Western Australia in 2013, when a gap of 14 votes (or was it 12 votes?) changing who won two Senate seats.

This problem hasn’t gone away, and if we continue down the current trend of increasing numbers of parties and candidates, it will continue to get worse. We may well see another very close contest at the next election, resulting in another recount and more pressure on the AEC to go above and beyond its normal responsibilities.

So this isn’t just about who wins and who loses, this is about having a democratic process which is understood, respected, and not seen as producing arbitrary results which have little to no relationship to the votes cast.

Finally, a number of media outlets have reported that some in the Greens including new leader Richard Di Natale are open to an alternative reform, which would keep the current system but exclude from election any candidate from a party that polled less than 4%.

This is a terrible idea, and would be worthy of the criticism that minor parties have directed at the reform process so far. It would be a bald-faced case of the major parties using their position to entrench their power at the expense of small parties, and would not fix the problem.

Preferences are not only abused by small parties – they can be abused by larger parties. In 1984, the major parties effectively used the new group voting ticket system to starve Peter Garrett (then of the Nuclear Disarmament Party) of preferences, and have often directed preferences away from the Greens.

A threshold system would be particularly bad for the Greens, who would still be vulnerable to losing Labor preferences.

Using thresholds would also completely fail to deal with the lack of transparency in the current system, and allow backroom deals to continue to be made, with results that are very hard to predict.

While the above-the-line voting system is unlikely to elect anyone with less than 4% of the vote, it keeps the option open, as down the track parties get better at encouraging their voters to mark preferences. It’s also completely out of keeping with the Australian system to impose an arbitrary threshold, where 4.1% makes you eligible to win and 3.9% means you can’t win.

2

UK election – counting day

8:27am – Polls have now closed in the UK election, and over the course of the day we will be getting results from each constituency.

I won’t be providing a constant thread of updates but will occasionally post updates through the day.

The main exit poll has predicted a result of:

  • Conservative – 316
  • Labour – 239
  • SNP – 58
  • Liberal Democrats – 10

If this poll is right, the Conservatives should be able to form a slim majority with the support of the Lib Dems, the DUP, or both. It also suggests an almost-complete SNP wipe-out in Scotland.

Stay with us as we find out whether this exit poll is correct.

10:32am – So far we’ve got ten seats reported, and none of them have changed hands. There’s lots of stories and rumours about seats that haven’t reported, and I won’t try and capture them all. It’s worth noting that most people watching the count in Thanet South expect UKIP leader Nigel Farage to lose his election bid.

1:05pm – So far we’ve had almost 200 seats called. Labour has lost 33 seats, mostly Scottish seats. The SNP has gained 35 seats. The Conservatives have gained four and lost one, while the Liberal Democrats have lost eight seats and only retained three. The Liberal Democrats have retained their seat of Orkney and Shetland, the only Scottish seat so far not to go to the SNP.

3:33pm – There’s now a lot of results in. In Scotland, the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour have each won one seat, and another is undecided. The rest have gone to the SNP, giving them nine times their previous number, and five times their record result.

At the moment, the Conservatives have gained a net 20 seats, which would put them roughly on track for the slimmest of majorities. It seems likely they will have a few more gains, and they’ll end up getting a slim majority.

2

UK election – the day before

Voters in the United Kingdom will be voting tomorrow (Thursday 7 May) to elect a new House of Commons – expected to be the second hung parliament in a row.

The first-past-the-post system used for the House of Commons, which in the past has been seen as providing stability and majority government, looks like it is failing to do that, but moreso makes it very hard to predict the result, since votes for minor parties (or even major parties) won’t translate neatly into seats.

The third major party in the UK, the Liberal Democrats, are expected to lose a large chunk of their seats. The party’s support dropped quickly after they formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, and has never recovered. The party won’t be wiped out, and there’s evidence that their individual MPs do better than the party’s support level would suggest, and in some places they should still benefit from tactical voting.

In the past, Labour has relied on winning a dominant share of the seats in Scotland as a path to a majority in the Commons, with the Liberal Democrats winning the second-largest number.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party has won a large number of seats in the Scottish Parliament ever since it was first elected, and formed government in 2007 and won an unprecedented majority under the proportional representation system in 2011. However they have traditionally done much more poorly in UK elections. Since the defeat of the independence referendum last year, support for the SNP has shot up, and it looks likely that they will win most seats in Scotland. This change has put the prospect of a Labour majority out of reach, and will likely make the SNP the kingmakers in the new Parliament.

The smaller UK-wide parties have also been doing well. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – a right-wing party opposed to immigration and the European Union, has shot up in the polls and won two by-elections triggered by Conservative MPs defecting to their party. The Green Party have been around for decades, but have been revitalised in the last few years, with a surge in membership and many former Liberal Democrats switching to them.

Both parties, however, are expected to suffer from their votes being distributed across the country, and are likely to win a very small number of seats.

In 2010, the hung parliament produced a logical outcome of Conservative and Liberal Democrat forming a neat coalition that commanded a solid majority of the Parliament. The outcome this time looks much more messy, with either side likely to fall just short of a majority, and relying on smaller parties to get legislation through. This could include the left-wing Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, or the various Northern Irish parties, nationalist and unionist.

The Guardian poll projection currently has Labour and the SNP four seats short of a majority, although it’s likely to be less when you exclude the Speaker and the Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take their seats. They would, however, have a majority if they included the other left-wing MPs from the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), but it would be very fragile and could fail.

I expect results to start flowing out late morning on Friday. I’ll have a post up for results discussion, but I might be limited in my availability to post results as they come in. You’re welcome to join me here.

7

NSW redistribution – updated figures

Last year, I wrote up an analysis of the prospects for the current redistribution of federal electorates in NSW.

In late April, the final population data, provided to well below the suburb level, was released. In addition to updated population figures as of the end of 2014, the data also includes estimates of the population in each area as of August 2019.

When drawing the electoral boundaries, the 2019 projections are actually more critical. The law requires all seats to fall within 10% of the average as of the current day (the 2014 data), but fall within only 3.5% of the average as of the end of the projection period (2019).

Last year, I explained how the region covering the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast was well under-quota, and I expected that the seat of Hunter would be broken up, effectively seeing western NSW lose half a seat and the Hunter lose half a seat.

However the latest data reveals that the proportion of the NSW population living in this northern part of the state is expected to decline even further. The four seats with the biggest drop in their quota between 2014 and 2019 are the four north coast seats of Cowper, Lyne, Page and Richmond. This doesn’t mean that these seats are shrinking – but they are growing well below the statewide average.

When you add up all of the seats in northern NSW, including New England, the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast, this entire region (which currently has 12 seats) only has enough population in 2019 for 11.09 quotas. This means that, after transferring a small part of either Hunter or New England to a seat further west, this entire area would be under quota by a whole seat’s worth of population, which means a seat somewhere in the area. I expect this seat to most likely be Lyne, which is at risk of being pushed so far south by its neighbours to the north that it loses its main centre of Port Macquarie.

At the other end of the spectrum, the inner-city seats of Wentworth and Sydney will continue to outpace the statewide population growth, and by 2019 between them they will be 0.18 quotas over the target. This fast growth should pull Grayndler to the east. The marginal seat of Reid is also almost 0.07 quotas over the target, and will likely be pulled east by the inner-city growth, substantially changing the make-up of the seat in ways I don’t yet understand.

The deadline for submissions is May 22, and I’d expect to see the draft boundaries from the Electoral Commission some time in July.

There are also currently redistributions pending for federal boundaries in the ACT and Western Australia. While ACT should be relatively simple, in WA they are gaining a 16th seat so there will be substantial change there too, but I haven’t been following it as closely. We’re also undergoing a state electorate redistribution in Western Australia, and we’ve already seen draft boundaries released for the new ACT Legislative Assembly electorates. When the drafts are released I will produce maps for each of these redistributions.

One other thing: What happens if a double dissolution is called before the redistribution is concluded? If a state is undergoing a redistribution but is not changing its number of seats, nothing happens. That’s the case in the ACT, and would have been last time in Victoria and South Australia.

But if a state is increasing its number of seats (as in WA) or reducing its number of seats (as in NSW), a ‘mini-redistribution’ is conducted, which will ensure each state has the right number of seats, but will also result in disproportionate seat sizes.

In New South Wales, the two contiguous seats with the lowest enrolment, which I believe are Shortland and Newcastle in the Hunter region, would be merged. Correction: Shane Easson in comments points out that the two smallest seats are actually Farrer and Riverina, which are both Nationals seats.

In Western Australia, the two contiguous seats with the highest enrolment, which I believe are Canning and Pearce on the fringe of Perth, will be split into three seats.

Since Newcastle and Shortland are both safe Labor seats and Canning and Pearce are both safe Liberal seats, this would have a net +2 effect for the Coalition without a vote being cast.

0

Tasmanian LC 2015 – results wrap-up

Voters on Saturday voted in three out of fifteen Tasmanian Legislative Council electorates, and in all three they re-elected their incumbent MLCs.

In the north-eastern seat of Windermere, conservative independent Ivan Dean saw off three centre-left rivals, including endorsed Labor and Greens candidates.

In the north-western seat of Mersey and in the southern seat of Derwent, centre-left independent Mike Gaffney and Labor’s Craig Farrell respectively held onto their seats against limited conservative opposition.

This post contains booth maps showing the results in each seat, as well as a breakdown of the results between each part of the three seats. As always, I broke down the booths in each seat by sub-area prior to the election, and I’ve used the same breakdowns for this analysis.

I’ll run through the booth breakdown for each seat, and then at the end will follow up with the booth maps, all below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

2

Tasmanian Legislative Council election results

7:38pm – Most booths have now reported in all three seats, and in Derwent and Mersey the result seems pretty clear. In Windermere, Ivan Dean is sitting on 43.9%, ahead of Labor’s Houston on 28.7%. That’s probably enough for Dean to win.

6:53pm – I haven’t had time to prepare a projection model based on previous results, but William Bowe at Poll Bludger has, and he’s predicting victory for all three incumbents. That sounds about right.

6:48pm – In Windermere, right-leaning incumbent Ivan Dean is facing opposition from three opponents, including those from Labor and the Greens. This makes it harder to predict what will happen, as there is no two-candidate-preferred count in Tasmanian Legislative Council elections.

At the moment, four small booths with 1200 votes have been counted, and Dean is on 53% of the primary vote. You’d expect that he would need to be not too far ahead of his main rival (likely to be Labor’s Jennifer Houston) to allow her to win the seat on primary votes, but it’s not surprising he is doing well on small booths – if Labor is to win it would be on big urban booths in Launceston. Results, Tally Room guide.

6:44pm – In Mersey, incumbent left-leaning independent Mike Gaffney is also leading comfortably, on 74.3% of the vote. Only small booths have reported – less than 2000 votes compared to over 18,000 in 2009. Results, Tally Room guide.

6:41pm – In Derwent, Labor MLC Craig Farrell looks set to be comfortably re-elected. About half the booths (but only about 1/7 of the vote) have reported, and he’s sitting on 64% in a two-horse race. ResultsTally Room guide.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in three elections to the Tasmanian Legislative Council, in Derwent, Mersey and Windermere.

I won’t necessarily be providing booth-by-booth commentary as the results flow in over the next few hours, but I will return later tonight or tomorrow with a results post. In the meantime, feel free to post any comments about the results here. If I have any thoughts in the meantime I will post them as updates.