Map update – South Australia and Tasmanian upper house

I’ve recently completed two new maps for download and use: the (kind of) final boundaries for the 2018 South Australian state election, and draft boundaries for the Tasmanian upper house.

South Australia’s state redistribution was overshadowed by the federal election last year. A final set of boundaries was released late last year, with some significant changes to the draft boundaries in southern Adelaide, but these boundaries are stuck pending a lawsuit by the SA Labor Party. Both the first draft and final draft can be downloaded from the maps page, and the map is embedded here.

I’ve also completed the draft boundaries for the Tasmanian Legislative Council. The Tasmanian upper house consists of fifteen single-member electorates, but its members are elected in a very odd way: only 2-3 seats are elected each year, with members serving a six year term. Boundaries are redistributed roughly once a decade, with the sitting members assigned to finish their term representing a new seat.

There have been some major changes to the boundaries along the east coast of Tasmania. The three Launceston-area seats have remained largely the same, as have the four Hobart-area seats and the two rural seats to the west of Hobart. The west coast seat of Murchison has undergone minor changes.

The east coast seat of Apsley has been chopped up, while the seat of Rumney in the south-eastern corner of the state has been pulled in closer to Hobart, losing Sorell and the Tasman peninsula. A new seat of Prosser stretches halfway up the east coast from the Tasman peninsula to Swansea, while the remainder of Apsley has been moved into a new seat of McIntyre.

The seat of Western Tiers has been chopped up, with the north-western seats of Montgomery and Mersey expanding south and the south-western seat of Derwent expanding north. The remainder of Western Tiers has joined the remainder of Apsley as McIntyre, a strangely-shaped seat curving around Launceston, stretching from Cradle Mountain to Flinders Island.

I would expect the final boundaries for the Tasmanian upper house to be determined later this year, and the new boundaries will be used for the first time in 2018.


WA upper house preferences – Lib/Nat alliance cracks

Western Australia still uses the group voting ticket system for its Legislative Council – the system used for the Senate until 2013. Under this system, parties submit preference orders which are pre-filled for any voters who vote for that party above the line. These preferences were announced yesterday afternoon. I won’t bother to list every preference here, although William Bowe at Poll Bludger has the order of key parties.

The big story is One Nation’s deal with the Liberal Party. The deal apparently involves One Nation preferences for the Liberal Party in the lower house (helping them in races against Labor that will decide who forms government) in exchange for Liberal preferences to One Nation ahead of all the other contenders. Antony Green has written about the insights we can glean from how preferences flowed when One Nation first emerged in 1998.

Recent polling has suggested that One Nation is a serious contender for seats, regardless of preferences. The WA upper house is malapportioned in a way which gives significantly more seats to the regional areas where One Nation gains the bulk of their votes, and current polling puts them easily on track to win seats in the three non-metropolitan upper house regions. Liberal preferences could be a boost in those regions, and a Liberal surplus could also push One Nation over the line in the Perth area, particularly in East Metropolitan.

The right-wing vote in regional areas will be split four ways between Liberal, Nationals, One Nation and the Shooters, who currently hold two seats. In these areas, preferences between the two government parties have completely broken down. The Nationals have chosen to preference the Greens over the Liberal Party and One Nation, a decision which could help the Greens maintain their hold in Mining and Pastoral and regain a seat in the South West.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have also done well out of preferences. The Shooters have been the only successful right-wing minor party in WA since the first decline of One Nation in the mid 2000s, but their vote would be under serious threat from the revived One Nation. The Shooters are gaining preferences above any other serious contender from One Nation, the Nationals, the Liberal Democrats and the Australian Christians. The Liberal Party is also putting the Shooters second behind the lead One Nation candidate.

There is no similar fracturing on the left side of the contest – Labor and Greens preferences flow directly to each other ahead of any of their right-wing challenges.

It will be extremely difficult for the left to gain a majority in the WA upper house, due to the significant anti-urban bias. But the splitting of right-wing preferences could bring them slightly closer, and the presence of a large number of One Nation MLCs will make any right-wing upper house majority very unstable.


Nominations close for WA state election

Nominations closed yesterday for the Western Australian state election, to be held four weeks from today.

415 candidates have nominated for the lower house. Labor, Liberal and the Greens have each nominated a full team of 59 candidates. The Micro Business Party (no I hadn’t heard of them either) have nominated candidates in 46 seats, with the Australian Christians running in 45. One Nation have 35 candidates nominated.

There are 31 independents, and Julie Matheson’s party is running twenty candidates.

Interestingly the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers are running nineteen candidates. The Shooters have traditionally been an upper house-only party, although they broke that trend when they ran in (and won) the Orange state by-election in New South Wales last year.

There are on average seven candidates per seat. Only four candidates are running in the seat of Vasse, while ten candidates are running in Darling Range.

A record number of candidates are running in both houses, as documented by Antony Green. Antony’s data shows that the number of lower house candidates peaked at 375 candidates in 2005 (an average of 6.6 per seat).

The number of candidates in the upper house has also increased substantially, with twice as many groups as in 2013. This was partly caused by an increase in minor parties running full tickets across all six regions, including the Australian Christians, Daylight Saving Party, Family First, Fluoride Free Western Australia, Flux, Julie Matheson, the Liberal Democrats, the Micro Business Party and One Nation. It’s worth noting that Western Australia’s upper house still uses the group voting ticket system that was abolished last year for Senate elections, allowing for the type of preference harvesting once so critical to the Senate. Each group’s voting tickets will be published on Monday afternoon.

Candidate lists have been updated on all 59 lower house profiles and all six upper house regional profiles.


Guides to Manly and North Shore by-elections

By-elections are due to be held soon in the two New South Wales seats of Manly and North Shore. The two seats sit side-by-side on the north side of Sydney Harbour, and are both very safe Liberal seats.

The seat of Manly was held by Mike Baird from 2007 until 2017 , when he resigned from parliament after stepping down as Premier.

The seat of Manly was held by Jillian Skinner from 1994 until 2017. Skinner has served as a senior frontbencher since the 1990s, and served as deputy Liberal leader from 2007 to 2014. Skinner left the frontbench in January and announced her intention to step down at the time.

Both seats have similar dynamics. The Greens have come second in both seats at the last two election cycles, but they are over 20% away from unseating the Liberal Party. Both seats also have a history of independents winning, but that very much depends on who runs.

It seems likely that the Liberal Party will hold both seats, but the threat of an insurgent candidate appears to have been enough to force a backtrack on council amalgamations, so the Liberal Party may know more than the rest of us.

Read the guide to the Manly by-election.

Read the guide to the North Shore by-election.


Where does One Nation get its votes in WA?

The Western Australian state election, to be held in March, will be the first electoral test of One Nation since they won four seats in the Senate in last year’s federal election.

Since the party hasn’t been a significant factor in recent state elections, we can’t use past results to judge where they are likely to win seats. The only data we have is the booth results from the Senate ballot from the last federal election.

I’ve taken those results and distributed them into the state electorates used in the upcoming election.

One Nation polled 4% in the Senate in Western Australia. In comparison, the most recent state Newspoll has One Nation on 13%, and other polls have put the party at over 10%.

This map shows the vote for each state electorate:

Unsurprisingly, One Nation does better in regional areas. The ten best seats are all outside of Perth, and every seat outside of the metropolitan region saw a One Nation vote of over 4%.

This gives One Nation a significant advantage in the Legislative Council race, since votes in regional areas are worth a lot more.

Approximately three quarters of the state’s population lives in the urban area, and this population is divided into three upper house regions, represented by 18 MLCs. The remaining quarter is also represented by 18 MLCs. If their vote holds at its current levels, One Nation’s concentrated regional vote could give them a swag of seats.

This table shows the One Nation vote in each upper house region at the 2016 election, and what that vote would be if it was scaled up from 4% to 13%.

Region 2016 vote (4%) 2016 vote adjusted 13%
Agricultural 6.87% 22.33%
East Metropolitan 3.86% 12.55%
Mining and Pastoral 8.31% 27.01%
North Metropolitan 1.99% 6.47%
South Metropolitan 2.94% 9.56%
South West 6.51% 21.16%

This is an imperfect way to project support – Senate votes have limited value – but if true this would suggest that One Nation would easily win three Legislative Council seats, with a good shot at winning a seat in East Metropolitan region too.

This reflects the results of the 2001 election, when One Nation won a seat in each of the three non-metropolitan upper house regions. In Perth, One Nation polled best in the east and worst in the north, and that pattern was still true in the 2016 Senate vote.

As for the lower house, One Nation never won any seats in Western Australia at its previous peak in 2001, but did come in the top two in multiple seats, most of which were regional seats held by the Nationals.

Here is the list of the ten seats with the highest One Nation vote at the 2016 federal election:

Region Margin 2016 vote (4%) 2016 vote adjusted 13%
Kalgoorlie NAT 4.1% vs ALP 9.75% 31.69%
Pilbara NAT 11.5% vs LIB 9.39% 30.52%
North West Central NAT 9.6% vs LIB 8.71% 28.31%
Murray-Wellington LIB 12.0% 8.57% 27.85%
Collie-Preston LIB 3.0% 7.97% 25.90%
Moore NAT 5.9% vs LIB 7.37% 23.95%
Geraldton LIB 10.9% vs NAT 7.21% 23.43%
Bunbury LIB 11.8% 7.01% 22.78%
Mandurah ALP 7.7% 6.87% 22.33%
Central Wheatbelt NAT 8.8% vs LIB 6.77% 22.00%

If the One Nation vote is as high as recent polling has suggested, the party could poll well over 20% in a few key seats and could be a contender, depending on how preferences flow.


Read the guide to the 2017 WA state election

Voters in Western Australia go to the polls on March 11 for their state election.

I have published a complete guide to all of the races in that election: all 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly, and the 36 seats to be elected to represent six regions in the Legislative Council.

The Liberal-National government is running for a third term in power, but has a fight on its hands, with recent polls putting Labor in the lead.

Labor needs to gain ten seats to win a majority in the lower house, and current polls suggest this outcome is likely.

This election will be the first test of the revived One Nation party since their surprise victories in last year’s federal election. They could well be a threat in regional seats, and have a good chance at winning seats in the upper house, which is heavily slanted towards representing rural areas.

Each seat guide includes a list of candidates (which will be occasionally updated until nominations close next week), descriptions of the seat’s geography, a short history section, the results of the last election, including breakdowns of those results into subdivisions, and maps showing those results. As always, there is a comment section on each seat guide.

Read the Tally Room guide to the WA state election here.

Read the rest of this entry »


NSW council mergers hit a wall – and may go backwards

After multiple years of making plans and implementing them, the NSW government is now on the verge of announcing something which should have come much sooner. For councils that have already been amalgamated, there will be plebiscites where voters will be asked to decide on whether the amalgamation should be wound back and the former councils restored. In addition, all of those amalgamations which have yet to be implemented appear likely to be cancelled. That means no amalgamations for the eastern suburbs of Sydney, the north shore, Newcastle or Wollongong, along with a scattering of other council areas.

This decision leaves the NSW government’s amalgamation plans in a complete mess. Councils that were facing mergers have been divided into two classes based on whether lawsuits were launched by those councils delaying the amalgamations. Regardless of their merits, amalgamations won’t go ahead where they haven’t yet been implemented, meaning in some cases we will see tiny councils like Hunters Hill and Burwood surviving alongside much larger neighbours.

I’ve made no secret that I am supportive of some enlarging of councils in the eastern half of Sydney, although many of the proposed amalgamations were unnecessary or unwise, but it was always problematic to implement the decision without a democratic mandate. It’s not surprising that elected councils would oppose amalgamation: I don’t think it should be necessary for the council to support a proposal. But a proposal agreed to by the state government should go to a plebiscite of the people in that community before being implemented.

I suspect quite a few of the mergers would have been successful if plebiscites had been held, at least in Sydney. Now we face the possibility that unwise mergers will be undone after a lengthy period of pain and after the spending of large amounts of money on the amalgamations.

We have recent experience of multiple local councils in Queensland de-merging following overwhelming plebiscite results, but all of these cases were in regional areas. I do expect that most of the regional council mergers will be undone by plebiscites, although some may survive.

We have no real sense of how plebiscites will go in Sydney, or how unpopular the amalgamations have been. There are some that on their face merge councils that are already quite large (Canterbury-Bankstown, Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai) or combine areas with no common interest (Bayside council) but I suspect that a lot of local voters are happy with the new councils in Parramatta, Inner West and Georges River, to take some examples. We will never find out if voters in the eastern suburbs or north shore would have supported amalgamating their councils – such a plebiscite could have decided the issue and saved a lot of political pain a few years ago.

The results of the plebiscite could end up being messy. What if Ashfield votes to stay in the Inner West but Marrickville votes to leave? Things will be particularly messy in the Parramatta-Cumberland area, where pieces of each council were broken up. I live in Parramatta and the new council is not much larger than the old council: it just covers different areas.

What if the voters in the heartland of Parramatta vote to reject the amalgamations, but the new additions from the Hills, Hornsby and Auburn councils vote to stay? What if Granville votes to return to Parramatta council, but the former Holroyd and Auburn councils (which don’t share a border) want to stay as Cumberland?

Whatever happens, this should produce some interesting electoral contests. Up until now, the campaign against council amalgamations was focused on the forced nature of the mergers. Will there now be room to debate the merits of particular council sizes and boundaries in the context of a fair democratic fight?


SA Labor banning above-the-line preferences in upper house

The South Australian Labor government has released legislation to reform the voting system used for the South Australian upper house. Like the federal and NSW upper houses before it, the legislation aims to eliminate the flawed and opaque group voting ticket system, but it comes up with a strange model which would have some odd outcomes.

I won’t spend a lot of time analysing the proposal in detail, for that check out the work by Kevin Bonham and Henry Schlechta.

In this piece I want to explore the theoretical problems with the SA Labor government’s proposed bill, and some alternatives, as well as raising some frustrating hypocrisy left over from this year’s Senate reform debate.

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NSW council elections – turnout drops statewide

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-51-27-pmIt’s taken some time to pull together the data, but I’ve now got a complete set of booth-level data from the 2012 and 2016 local council elections.

The most interesting stat from the elections is that turnout dropped across almost all councils which held elections in September 2016, with turnout dropping the most in metropolitan NSW.

For the purpose of analysis, I have analysed 76 councils which held contested elections in both 2012 and 2016, plus Tweed council, which held a delayed election at the end of October. I excluded the results in Cobar, Leeton, Narrandera and Warren councils, as well as certain wards of Greater Hume and Lockhart, all of which held uncontested elections in 2012, thus making it impossible to make a comparison of voting data.

Out of those 76 councils, turnout dropped in 74. Turnout increased in Balranald council, in the far south-west, and in the City of Sydney. The increase was small in both cases.

It turns out that turnout dropped in 75 out of 76 councils – unfortunately I made an error in calculating the total turnout in the City of Sydney, as there was a big change between the full enrolment and the numbers in a similar dataset. Balranald is the only council which increased turnout.

Turnout increased by 5.6% in Tweed when the election was held at the end of October, almost two months after the rest of the election was held.

The drop in turnout was significantly worse in metropolitan NSW (including the Sydney region and the lower Hunter). Those metropolitan councils make up 58% of those enrolled to vote in the recent elections. While turnout dropped by 2.4% in regional areas, the drop was well over 4% in metropolitan councils.

Party Formal Informal Enrolment Turnout (%) Turnout change
Metro 1,027,275 74,776 1,409,743 79.46 -4.35
Regional 741,698 52,610 989,071 80.32 -2.43

This map shows turnout for each council, and shows a more nuanced picture. Turnout was particularly poor in western NSW, dropping by over 8% in Wedding and over 11% in Bourke. Turnout also dropped by over 9% in the City of Sydney, almost 8% in the City of Blacktown and by 6.5% in Liverpool.

So why did turnout drop? I can think of two possibilities. Firstly, the election was held within months of a federal election, whereas no election had been held closer than 18 months before the 2012 council election. This could explain why Tweed, which was delayed by more than a month, had a higher turnout.

I find it more plausible that turnout was hit by confusion due to only some councils holding elections. Particularly if you live in Sydney or the lower Hunter, communities, media markets and social networks stretch over numerous councils. Friends and colleagues would not have had elections, breeding confusion about whether any individual voter was required to vote. I heard this confusion myself from family members in Campbelltown and Blacktown councils.

This would explain why turnout dropped more severely in councils in western Sydney than in regional areas, where communities fit more neatly within council boundaries.

I’ve used the same dataset to calculate the vote and seat numbers for each party. Since most non-metropolitan councils are dominated by independents, I’ve split the vote up to give a better picture of the partisan split in the metropolitan half of the state where parties are much more prominent.

Read the rest of this entry »


Council mergers string out NSW elections for four more years

The NSW state government has written to councils laying out the timetable for council elections for those councils which have not yet been amalgamated. This timetable could well see council elections held in every one of the next four years, with the possibility of some new councils not facing election until the next regular council election in 2020.

There are eleven new councils which have been proposed but have not yet been implemented, mostly because of pending court cases. This is in addition to twenty new councils which have already been proclaimed.

The proclaimed councils will have their elections held in September 2017, and the NSW Electoral Commission will be planning to hold elections in September 2017 for those unmerged councils if their mergers haven’t been implemented before the 2017 election.

But for those councils which are amalgamated any later than this month, their election will be postponed until March 2018 or September 2019. The government has even flagged the possibility of elections being postponed until September 2020, when most council elections are due.

Thanks to this announcement and the ongoing legal conflicts, it now appears likely that the newly-created councils will face their first elections gradually over the course of multiple years.

In other council amalgamation news, I had missed the state government’s amalgamation of Rockdale and Botany Bay councils into Bayside council in September. I believe it’s the only council to be amalgamated since the first wave of amalgamations earlier this year.

It’s also quite possibly the most outrageous of all of the new councils.

The two old councils are on either side of Sydney airport, and have very little in the way of community of interest or transport corridors. The absurdity of the boundaries become more obvious when you look at the new ward boundaries. The new Mascot ward stretches across the airport, covering the suburb of Mascot along with the suburbs of Arncliffe, Turella and Wolli Creek.

The Bexley ward also has ridiculous boundaries. The pre-existing boundary between the old Kogarah and Rockdale councils wasn’t the most logical boundary, and it would’ve made sense to erase it by merging Rockdale, Kogarah and Hurstville into a single St George council. But instead that boundary has been kept while inexplicably creating a council which crosses the airport, and it produces a very messed-up ward on that boundary.

In other news, two of the newly-merged councils have already changed their names. Western Plains has reverted to be Dubbo, and the merged Gundagai council has been renamed Cootamundra-Gundagai.

The relevant maps on the maps page have been updated to include the new Bayside wards and these updated council names.