Nominations close in Brisbane City and Bundamba


Nominations closed for Queensland’s local government elections, as well as the Bundamba state by-election, on Wednesday. These elections will be held on March 28, along with the Currumbin by-election, whose nominations were declared earlier.

In this post I thought I might quickly run through who is running in Brisbane City and elsewhere.

Some thoughts on the single transferable vote


The single transferable vote (STV) is used widely in Australian elections, under a variety of names. Sometimes it’s called Hare-Clark, but it’s often just referred to as “proportional representation”, or PR. We know no other kind of PR in this country.

This method of voting has suffered a major setback with the Victorian parliament passing legislation to force single-member wards on most Victorian councils, after a process over two decades where independent reviews have considered the best electoral structure for each council, gradually replacing single-member wards with multi-member wards elected using STV.

I just wanted to remind people of the origins of this method of voting, and why it’s so vital to increasing political freedom and choice for the voter.

The “Hare” in Hare-Clark refers to Thomas Hare, who was a philosopher in the 19th century. While others had developed similar ideas at other times and places in the 19th century, his version of the single transferable vote is the one which evolved into the model used in Australia, Malta, Ireland and other places.

Hare first developed a concept of a single transferable vote in 1854 as a response to the system of local constituencies used to elect the House of Commons. He proposed that, instead of electing representatives for each local electorate, voters should be able to choose to come together with fellow voters from all over the country to effectively form their own constituency to vote for their preferred MP, rather than being restricted to choosing from those who runs in their own local electorate.

He proposed a quota of voters who would be sufficient to elect one MP, with the entire country voting as a single constituency.

2019 election – states swing in opposite directions


This post draws on analysis in my chapter in Morrison’s Miracle, a forthcoming book from ANU Press and Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia about the 2019 federal election.

The Coalition gained an overall swing towards them at the 2019 federal election but it wasn’t a consistent story across the country.

There were swings back towards Labor in wealthier areas while the Coalition gained ground in areas with lower income. This trend was seen in every state, and often manifested itself within individual electorates.

But today I wanted to focus on the swings at the state level. Labor gained a swing towards them in Victoria and the ACT, while the Coalition gained swings elsewhere. In most places the Coalition swing was small, but it was much larger in Queensland.

This is the latest chapter in a long-running trend whereby Queensland has become stronger for conservatives, New South Wales has drifted towards the national median, and Victoria has become a stronghold for progressives.

This chart shows how the three largest states’ two-party-preferred votes for Labor have changed relative to the rest of the country since 1958.

Back in the 1950s, the Coalition performed most strongly in Victoria while New South Wales was best for Labor. Queensland lay somewhere in between.

Queensland became much stronger for the Coalition in the 1970s and with a few exceptions has largely stayed there, although 2019 was the worst relative result for Labor over this 61-year period.

Victoria has gradually trended towards Labor, with Labor first overperforming there in 1980. Labor has done much better in Victoria compared to the rest of Australia since John Howard’s prime ministership, and the gap in 2019 was the second-biggest for Labor in Victoria on record (the biggest was in 2010).

Meanwhile New South Wales lies somewhere in the middle, with its last hurrah as a strongly pro-Labor state taking place in the early 1990s.

Thanks to Antony Green for the historical data I used for this analysis in my book chapter.

Will Victoria abandon proportional representation?


Victoria’s Legislative Council is today considering legislation which would significantly worsen Victorian council elections by changing the voting system.

The bill, amongst other reforms, would introduce a preference for councils to be elected by single-member wards. At the moment Victorian councils have a mixture of single-member wards and multi-member wards, and the decision about their structure, as well as the exact boundaries, is made by an independent body on a regular timetable.

Since the early 2000s there has been a consistent trend towards multi-member wards, which allows for the use of proportional representation.

I wrote about why this change was a bad one back in July, but I wanted to emphasise some particular points.

The Andrews government’s proposal claims that this change would “make councils more accountable” but nothing could be further from the truth.

On the contrary, single-member wards, along with the return of Labor to council elections as is planned in 2020, would likely result in some wards becoming solidly safe wards without any serious electoral competition. Multi-member wards, particularly those electing three or more, usually have at least one seat which is in play, and make elections far more competitive.

It is true that there is inconsistency in ward structures across the state, with proportional representation used in some councils but not others. But you could just as easily solve this problem by requiring a minimum ward size of three, and by requiring (as is the case in New South Wales) that all wards elect the same number of councillors.

Single-member electorates are also bad at the state and federal level, but some of the problems are mitigated in larger jurisdictions due to the balance of different areas voting in different ways. Labor wins most seats in western Sydney and the Liberals win most on the north shore.

But at a council level, that is often not the case. Usually only one major party is strong in each council. PR can help fix this, by ensuring that party needs to actually win a majority of votes (approximately) to win a majority of seats. It often encourages the election of independents and local parties which just compete in one or two councils in opposition to the major party who dominates the area.

But single-member wards instead lead to a major party lock, which discourages competition. We saw this viscerally in New South Wales with the old Botany Bay council, where Labor won all six single-member wards as well as the directly-elected mayor, and elections were often uncontested.

If you live in Victoria, I encourage you to call or email your local members of the upper house, particularly those in the Coalition or on the crossbench, to encourage them to not pass this legislation with this particular requirement. It’s good to see that the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Animal Justice are already opposing this move:

NSW council elections – estimated votes in new wards


I’ve previously posted about the new boundaries for wards in 18 NSW councils.

I have now finished redistributing the vote totals between wards in these councils – or at least those where partisan elections were conducted.

In this post I will run through which councils are included in the analysis and examples of wards with large changes (whereas some have experienced only very minor changed), and then post a table with all ward changes.

Johnston by-election live


8:24pm – We got a final batch of postal votes and it appears we’re done for tonight. Labor’s vote has dropped from 51% to just under 30%, while the CLP has dropped from 31.4% to just 16.3%. The Greens have narrowly outpolled the CLP, with the Territory Alliance in second place on 22.2%.

Preference distribution only slightly assisted the Territory Alliance, who gained 52.6% of preferences, but this still left Labor in the lead by 170 votes, which should be solid even after extra votes are included.

I’ll be clocking off now, but I’ll be back later this year with a guide to the NT election, due in August.

8:11pm – Labor won 52% of the two-candidate-preferred vote at Rapid Creek, which increased their lead over the Territory Alliance by 34 votes, to 156 votes, with one booth still outstanding.

8:03pm – It seems likely that Labor will hold on, but it’s worth remembering what a massive swing this is. Labor is looking at a primary vote swing of over 21%, while the CLP vote has dropped by over 15%.

7:56pm – The more interesting angle is if the Territory Alliance falls into third place behind the Greens or the CLP after preferences. The TA is on 22.2%, the Greens 17.2% and the CLP 16.2%. But it seems unlikely the CLP will push the Greens into second place, or give them the win if they do.

7:53pm – Labor is only leading by 122 votes, but that seems likely to be enough to hold on against TA, considering there’s just two more booths yet to report. At the Rapid Creek early voting centre, Labor leads TA by 80 votes before preferences, so it seems likely Labor will top the two-candidate-preferred count there. This then leaves just one more booth.

7:46pm – We now have the two-candidate-preferred count from Moil, where Labor outpolled TA by 21 votes.

7:36pm – We now have the primary vote result from Moil, Labor again topped the poll with just 26%, followed by TA on 22%, and then the Greens.

7:14pm – Polls closed just over 70 minutes ago in the Johnston by-election in the Darwin area, for the NT Legislative Assembly.

At the moment we have results from one of the two local booths in the seat – Millner. We are waiting for results from Moil as well as the Darwin mobile team, and the early voting centre in Rapid Creek. We have results from the early voting centres in Casuarina and Darwin.

Millner is more pro-Labor than Moil, as you can see in my pre-election guide.

Labor is currently leading with 31.9% of the primary vote, followed by the Territory Alliance on 23.1%, the Greens on 18.2% and the Country Liberal Party on 14.8%. The Territory Alliance is a conservative breakaway founded by former premier and CLP leader Terry Mills.

At the moment Labor is beating the TA on the two-candidate-preferred count on the two pre-poll centres reported so far, but we don’t know if they will actually come in the top two.

I’ll be reporting back regularly as we get the rest of the results, then we can discuss possible preference flows.

Brisbane City 2020 – candidate update


I published my Brisbane City Council election guide at the end of 2019 and have been focused on other work since then, but I’ve returned to the topic to do an update of the candidates who are running, which I have published for you to view.

Nominations close next Wednesday, March 4, and so far I have identified 61 council candidates and three for Lord Mayor.

This includes 23 Labor candidates, 22 LNP candidates and 13 Greens candidates, as well as three independents. I would expect all three parties to run a full slate of 26 candidates.

Those independents include sitting independent councillor Nicole Johnston, as well as sitting councillor Kate Richards, who won her Pullenvale ward as an LNP candidate in 2016. Richards was referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission by her former party in December, and was dumped as the party’s candidate at the same time.

At the moment I am missing Labor candidates in Chandler, Pullenvale and Walter Taylor. These three wards are amongst the five safest LNP wards in the city, and in two cases the ALP candidate failed to poll in the top two in 2016.

I am missing LNP candidates in the Forest Lake, Moorooka, Morningside and Tennyson wards: all held by Labor or independent councillors.

All three parties are close to gender parity with their candidates. The LNP is running twelve women and ten men, while Labor is running eleven women and twelve men. The Greens are running seven women and six men.

You can view the dataset here. I will make one final update following the close of nominations next week. I have included the website links for each candidate in the spreadsheet. I will make no further updates of links after my post-close-of-nominations update, so if there is a better link please let me know soon. I will only post pages which are specifically for that one candidate, and will prefer your own website over a Facebook page.

Bundamba by-election scheduled for March 28


Another election in Queensland has been scheduled for the final weekend in March, with a second state by-election announced for that date.

March 28 is already the election date for council elections across Queensland, including the Brisbane City megacouncil. It was also announced as the election date for the by-election for the marginal LNP seat of Currumbin at the southern end of the Gold Coast after Jann Stuckey announced her retirement last month.

The sudden retirement of longstanding Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller in her Ipswich-area electorate of Bundamba last Thursday triggered a quick scheduling of her by-election to be held on the same date.

This is a tight timeframe – nominations closed in Currumbin almost two weeks ago, yet the two by-elections will be held on the same date.

I have now published my guide to Bundamba.

The seat is held by Labor by a margin of over 20%, and it seems most likely they will win again. But this is a good area for One Nation, who declined to run here in 2017. They are running this time and could do quite well. I wouldn’t rule out an upset.

In other news I’ve also updated my Currumbin guide with the list of the four candidates running in that by-election.

2019 election – major party domination weakens further


This post draws on analysis in my chapter in Morrison’s Miracle, a forthcoming book from ANU Press and Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia about the 2019 federal election.

Most seats in the House of Representatives at the 2019 election were still won by one of the major parties, but below the surface the position of the major parties doesn’t look so dominant.

The major parties polled just 74.8% of the formal vote in the House of Representatives, the lowest figure at any recent election. This was down from 76.8% at the 2016 election, which was already one of the lowest figures.

Most House of Representatives contests have traditionally been races between a Labor candidate and a Coalition candidate, but at a certain point that doesn’t hold up when the major party vote keeps dropping.

2019 election – winning on the early vote


This post draws on analysis in my chapter in Morrison’s Miracle, a forthcoming book from ANU Press and Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia about the 2019 federal election.

One of the most significant ways in which our voting system is changing over time is the rise in voting early.

This is happening in all sorts of elections: federal, state and local. The trend is stronger in some jurisdictions than others, but no-one can hold back the tide.

Almost 33% of votes were cast as early pre-poll votes in 2019. This figure rises to about 41% once you include postal votes, which must have been cast before election day.

This growing trend means that the early vote is more important than ever, and is absolutely critical to the election result.

I don’t think enough attention was paid to the gap between the two-party-preferred vote on election day as opposed to the early vote.

Labor has always done relatively better on election day compared to the early vote, but the gap was bigger than it has been at any election since 2001, when over 90% of votes were cast on the day. That gap was 5.3% in 2019.