New South Wales 2011 Archive

Balmain 2011 – the maps

The Tally Room has gone quiet for most of May. I have been working on other projects, including improving my maps and getting ready for upcoming elections. I’m planning on only blogging sporadically for at least the next month. In the meantime I have also been occasionally writing for New Matilda, and I plan to continue to do that.

I have been planning for a while to do some analysis of the NSW seat of Balmain at the recent state election. While I’m sure I’m biased as a local resident and a Greens member, I think it’s fair to say it was the most interesting race in the state election. It was the only seat where the candidate leading on primary votes didn’t win. The sitting Labor minister fell into third place, and Labor preferences elected the Green over a Liberal candidate who had benefited from a huge swing. It was also a very close three-cornered contest of a nature that is very rarely seen.

I have done the same mapping exercise I did for each seat before the election. I divided the seat into the four areas of Balmain, Leichhardt, Glebe and Haberfield.

 

Area GRN % LIB % ALP % % of votes
Leichhardt 31.4 30.2 31.5 30.3
Balmain 32.1 34.2 27.2 22.2
Glebe 31.4 25.9 35.8 13.7
Haberfield 19.3 47.2 28.0 7.7
Other votes 31.7 33.1 28.7 26.2

Polling booths in Balmain at the 2011 state election. Balmain in blue, Leichhardt in green, Glebe in orange, Haberfield in yellow.

It’s a story of four different races. In Glebe, Verity Firth maintained a clear lead over the Greens, with the Liberals trailing behind. The Liberal Party’s James Falk gained a 9.5% swing in Glebe, winning 2% off the Greens and 7% off Firth.

In Balmain, Firth was relegated to a clear third behind Falk and Greens candidate Jamie Parker. The Greens gained a 1.95% swing, their best in the seat, with Labor losing 6.4% and the Liberal Party gaining 6.8%.

In Leichhardt, the three parties were closest to a three-way tie, with Firth narrowly outpolling the Greens’ Parker. The Labor Party went backwards by 9.8%, with positive swings of 1.5% to the Greens and 8.6% to the Liberal Party.

The race in Haberfield more resembled those in the rest of the state. The Greens’ Parker was a distant third, with Falk almost winning a majority, with 47% of the vote. This was a swing of 15.5% to the Liberal and 15.7% away from Labor. The Greens vote stayed still, with a swing towards Parker of 0.08%.

The Greens’ highest vote was 35.1% at Forest Lodge PS, with the lowest being 17.8% at St Oswalds in Haberfield. The best swings to the Greens were all around 4.5% at Nicholson St PS in Balmain, Rozelle PS and Kegworth PS in Leichhardt. The worst swings were at the northern Glebe booths of St Scholastica’s and Sydney Secondary College Blackwattle Bay, with swings of -8.7% and -6.2% respectively.

Verity Firth’s best vote was 38.3% at St John’s Glebe. Her worst was 22.6% at Sydney Secondary College Balmain. She suffered a swing of 18.2% at St Oswalds Haberfield. Firth gained a positive swing at only one booth, gaining 0.8% at St Scholastica’s Glebe.

James Falk’s vote varied from 51.2% at Dobroyd Point PS Haberfield to 22.1% at St John’s Glebe. Falk’s biggest swing was 17.8% at St Oswald’s, with his smallest swing being 5.5% at Rozelle Public School.

Top-polling party at each booth in Balmain at the 2011 state election.

There are a few trends we can identify here. Firstly, the Liberal swing was very large everywhere, while swings to the Greens were very small. Glebe is Verity Firth’s heartland. It is in the City of Sydney, where Firth was previously a councillor, and she lives in the suburb and had her electorate office there. It is the only area she won decisively. It was also the one area where the Greens vote went backwards, with the Greens losing 2%. It does suggest that the Greens struggled against Firth’s personal vote in the area.

In the Leichhardt Council area, which makes up a majority of the seat, the Greens did better than in the rest. Some commentators suggested that Jamie Parker had alienated Leichhardt residents as Mayor and this explained why the Greens swing was so small. If you divide the seat in half, you see that the Greens gained a 1.7% swing in Leichhardt LGA but suffered a 1.1% swing against in the rest of the seat. It does suggest that the Greens domination of Leichhardt Council was not a large factor in explaining why the swing to the Greens was so small.

You can see the impact of losing Verity Firth’s personal vote by looking at the Legislative Council vote. Unfortunately the NSWEC has not provided a breakdown of the final count by booth. The initial figures on election night, however, have been broken down by booth. These figures unfortunately don’t include below-the-line votes, so probably underestimate the Green vote.

Top-polling party in the Legislative Council vote at each booth in Balmain at the 2011 state election.

You can see that in the Legislative Council, Labor disappears from the map entirely. The Greens take most of those booths in Firth’s Glebe heartland, as well as many of the booths in Leichhardt. The Liberal Party dominated Balmain even more so, topping the poll in one booth that the Greens topped in the Assembly.

Below the fold I have posted six more maps showing the booth results for each party and the swings for those same parties.

Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking down the Legislative Council vote by seat

After analysing the overall preference flow of the Legislative Council count last week, I have moved on to taking a look at the results in each electorate. When analysing electorate results, most energy is expended looking at the Legislative Assembly vote, but the Legislative Council vote is fascinating as it isolates many factors in individual seats, such as candidate quality and ballot paper position. Every voter in the state gets the same ballot paper and vote for the same parties.

Most patterns in the Legislative Council vote mirrors those seen in the Legislative Assembly, but there are some fascinating elements.

The Coalition topped the poll in the upper house in 80 of 93 districts. In comparison, the Coalition won the most primary votes in 70 lower house races, winning 69 of those seats, and only being overtaken on preferences in Balmain.

The ALP overtook the Coalition in twelve of their strongest seats: Auburn, Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta, Cessnock, Fairfield, Keira, Lakemba, Liverpool, Mount Druitt, Shellharbour and Wollongong. The Coalition managed to overtake Labor in the upper house vote in the seats of Canterbury, Heffron, Kogarah, Macquarie Fields, Maroubra, Toongabbie and Wallsend. The Coalition also won the upper house vote in the independent-held seats of Sydney, Lake Macquarie and Northern Tablelands, and in the Greens-held seat of Balmain.

In the seat of Marrickville, the Coalition came third, with the Greens coming first. While the ALP’s Carmel Tebbutt outpolled Fiona Byrne by 2.23% in the lower house, the Greens beat Labor by 8.28% in the upper house, with the Coalition trailing behind.

In Balmain, the Greens outpolled Labor by only 0.56% in the lower house, allowing them to overtake the Liberal Party on preferences. In the upper house, the gap was more than 10%.

Party LA vote LC vote
Liberal 32.56% 34.46%
Greens 30.72% 32.87%
Labor 30.16% 22.32%
Others 6.56% 10.36%

This result certainly indicates that, in the most interesting and complicated race in the state, the personal vote for local Labor MP Verity Firth played a large role in blunting the swing and bringing her close to winning. In the neighbouring seat of Marrickville, the Labor vote was 8.16% lower in the upper house, a similar figure to that in Balmain, indicating that Labor held on in Marrickville largely due to the sitting member.

I broadened this analysis to see if this trend appeared in other seats. The ALP polled more votes in the lower house in 63 of 93 seats. The difference was more than 5% in 25 seats, and in twelve seats the lower house vote was at least 7% higher than in the upper house. All twelve of these seats had a sitting Labor MP running for re-election. In seven of them the ALP retained the seat, while in the other five the Labor Party lost the seat. It does indicate that in some contests a strong local MP managed to hold back the tide. This analysis has previously been demonstrated elsewhere when looking at differential swings. This suggests that the anti-Labor tide was just as strong in these seats, but were held back by local Labor MPs who campaigned virtually as independents.

Seat Labor candidate LA vote LC vote Difference Result
Oatley Kevin Greene 42.13% 29.89% 12.24% Lost
Canterbury Linda Burney 47.18% 35.20% 11.98% Held
Monaro Steve Whan 40.96% 29.06% 11.90% Lost
Maroubra Michael Daley 44.34% 33.04% 11.30% Held
Kogarah Cherie Burton 44.21% 34.75% 9.46% Held
Liverpool Paul Lynch 51.43% 42.35% 9.08% Held
Heffron Kristina Keneally 41.23% 32.57% 8.66% Held
Wyong David Harris 40.06% 31.47% 8.59% Lost
Toongabbie Nathan Rees 41.19% 32.86% 8.33% Held
Marrickville Carmel Tebbutt 38.11% 29.95% 8.16% Held
East Hills Alan Ashton 40.84% 32.95% 7.89% Lost
Balmain Verity Firth 30.16% 22.32% 7.84% Lost

It’s also worth noting that the upper house vote in Balmain is much lower than the other seats on this list. With a vote of 22%, it was the eighth-worst vote in seats previously held by Labor. The seven seats with with lower upper house votes than Balmain (as low as 19.1% in Menai) all tended to have roughly similar lower house votes, indicating they were some of the seats most heavily hit by the anti-Labor swing. These include Menai, Coogee, Miranda, Heathcote, Blue Mountains, Drummoyne and Riverstone. This seems to indicate that Firth turned what would have been a massive defeat in Balmain into a narrow loss due to her personal vote and effective campaign.

Apart from shining light on the effect of a personal vote on the Labor vote in each seat, the upper house figures include some other interesting statistics.

The Greens overtook Labor in sixteen seats, many of which were the same seats that the Greens overtook Labor in the lower house. This includes Marrickville, and fifteen seats where Labor came third and the Coalition came first.

The Greens were overtaken by other minor parties in 15 seats. In twelve seats they were overtaken by the Shooters and Fishers. In one of these twelve, Barwon, the Greens came fifth behind the Shooters and Fishers and Pauline Hanson. In the seats of Mount Druitt and Blacktown the Christian Democratic Party came third, and in John Hatton’s old seat of South Coast the former independent MP came third with 10.89%.

I was interested in investigating where the increased vote for the Shooters and Fishers came from, geographically. In 2007, the Shooters Party (without the Fishers) polled 2.8% statewide, while the Christian Democratic Party polled 4.4%. This time around the Shooters and Fishers increased their vote to 3.7% while the CDP vote fell to 3.1%. The CDP decline is easily explained by the 1.5% vote for Family First, headed up by former CDP MP Gordon Moyes. Why did the Shooters and Fishers vote increase?

My original hypothesis was that the vote was due to the party taking on the issue of fishing. The fishing issue had become a major political issue on the north and south coasts at the 2010 federal election and the recent state election. When you break down the vote for the Shooters and Fishers, however, you find that most of their vote is concentrated in the inland country areas.

I divided the state between the metropolitan areas including Sydney and areas as far north as Newcastle and as far south as Shellharbour. I then divided the remainder between 12 coastal seats and 17 inland seats. Averaging out the votes in each of these seats in 2007 and 2011 produced the following figures:

Region Shooters 2007 Shooters 2011 Swing Fishing Party 2011
Coastal 3.69% 4.84% 1.14% 2.08%
Inland 5.84% 8.32% 2.48% 1.88%
Metropolitan 1.80% 2.28% 0.48% 1.04%

While the Shooters did gain a swing in coastal areas affected by the fishing debate, the swing was much bigger in inland areas. The biggest swings were in Murray-Darling (5.93%), Murrumbidgee (5.06%) and Albury (4.12%). As a comparison, the Fishing Party (which did not welcome the Shooters Party changing its name) polled more strongly on the coastal strip, but not by a substantial margin.

NSW 2011: analysing the Legislative Council result

I blogged earlier tonight on what the actual result was in the Legislative Council. Now I want to turn to analysing that result and how that reflects on the campaign and coverage of the result.

In the end the result of my projection was accurate, even if the exact margin wasn’t so accurate. The problem was that my calculator needed to make an assumption about the number of formal below-the-line votes, which it did by looking at the proportion of above-the-line votes that were counted. Through most of the count it assumed that the final number of BTL votes would be between 60,000 and 80,000 votes, but the final figure ended up being over 91,000. It appears that a lot BTL votes were left until the end of the process to be data-entered, which makes sense as they take much longer to process than ATL votes. So while I had Hanson’s percentage of BTL votes about spot-on, the much larger total number of BTL votes meant that I had underestimated her final primary vote lead by about 9,000 votes.

If I had known that Hanson would end up leading by 15,000 votes I would have been far less confident in my belief that she would lose, which would have been reasonable considering how close the final figures were. All the same, it still remained far too early to call the result yesterday, as some media outlets did.

In addition, for reasons that I have yet to understand, there are more ATL votes in the final count than there were in the original count posted on the website. The Coalition had 5,000 more votes, the CDP almost 5,000, Labor almost 4,000, the Greens 2,000 and Hanson 4,000. Thus the overall percentages were different, whereas my calculator assumed that these two figures would eventually coalesce.

In the end, the key preferences deciding the result certainly weren’t the Greens (despite the shrieking of David Penberthy and Labor figures), nor were they Labor preferences. It is true that the Greens and Coalition needed every set of preferences they got, but the decisive preferences came from John Hatton and Gordon Moyes. After all of Labor’s talk about preferencing the Greens and the need to keep out Hanson, only 9.4% of Labor votes at the key point went to the Greens. It’s hardly particularly impressive, and may have been just as high if the party hadn’t made a big song-and-dance about the issue. Maybe it would have been higher if the party had actually preferenced the Greens in all seats, as they said they did. Luckily it was just enough to win.

This points to how difficult it is to know how these things will play out. It remains the case, as it was before the election, that preferences won’t make a difference in the Legislative Council unless the primary vote count is extremely close. Some of us may have been flippant in dismissing the possibility of this close race happening, but you have to admit that this contest was extremely close, and that very few preferences did actually flow. Of the eleven groups that had their preferences distributed, the exhaustion rate was on average 78%, ranging from 67% for Socialist Alliance to 85% for the ALP. It was a perfect storm. I still believe that Greens preferencing Labor would have been counterproductive and resulted in neither Labor or Greens winning one of those last seats, but it is true that the scenario Labor painted could have come true, and one bearing some relationship to it did. Yet despite all of Labor’s talk about needing to swap preferences, 85% of Labor voters did not give a preference.

Most of the media commentary about which candidates were going to be in the final contest was inaccurate. Following election day the media talked about a race between Buckingham, Ferguson and Hanson, even as Ferguson’s chances slipped away. In the end Ferguson came 27th, being excluded before the No Parking Meters Party. Meanwhile the media (myself included) largely ignored the danger to the Coalition’s eleventh seat, and missed the key role Family First would play in pushing the Greens and Nationals ahead of Hanson.

It is quite disappointing how often mainstream journalists seem to show a serious lack of understanding of Australia’s electoral system. Regularly during the campaign journalists ran with stories that would have been non-stories if the journalist understood the electoral system. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story about Pauline Hanson claiming a huge amount of public funding from running, despite the fact that she had little chance of polling 4%, and if she did she would have certainly been elected, providing far more access to public funds through a parliamentary office and expenses for eight years.

The Herald also ran a story about the Greens denying preferences to the ALP in Marrickville with no understanding of the fact that, as a race between Labor and the Greens, preferences from the Greens would have no impact on the result in Marrickville.

The Australian Associated Press ran a story on April 3, when it was clear that Labor was not going to win, swallowing Anthony Albanese’s highly dubious claim that the Greens not preferencing Labor would result in Hanson getting elected. David Penberthy went further on The Punch, but I think it’s more likely that his claim was malicious, rather than due to a lack of understanding, considering his outright refusal to reconsider his statement when the facts were presented to him clearly.

Just yesterday the ABC and AAP both reported that Hanson basically had the Legislative Council seat in the bag. They quoted Antony Green’s factual statement that Hanson was leading by 6,000 primary votes, and then spun that into a story saying Hanson would win, despite the evidence from the 2003 election, confirmed today, suggesting that the Greens could easily overtake a 6,000 vote lead. The ABC is usually better in covering electoral matters, and it’s a little bit scary that they can drop the ball this badly when Antony Green leaves the country for a few days.

Most of the time these stories come from journalists who usually show a strong understanding of politics in New South Wales, but sometimes it doesn’t extend to understanding the electoral system. I’m not talking about young journalists who don’t understand policy, as was an issue during the federal election. Often you need to conduct your own research to know the consequences of preference flows, or to know whether a particular outcome is possible or probable. I worry that the modern political journalist has little time to test these outcomes and do this research, and it often can fall by the wayside, buying the line of a politician who has an agenda to push (like Luke Foley or Anthony Albanese). Maybe major media outlets need to invest in someone like Antony Green who understands the process and can follow the count and give proper advice to political journalists. No, I’m not volunteering, although journalists can always call me to talk about these things.

It is important to Australian politics that journalists actually understand how elections work, and what way a result is likely to go. Often we can’t say for certain which way a result will go, today’s result was a perfect example of that. But understanding preference flows and where candidates stand in the count can allow you to understand how likely particular outcomes are. It can have a significant impact on the narrative of Australian politics when the media gets a story wrong. Just look at the reaction to yesterday’s stories saying Hanson was on track to win in the Legislative Council. Of course she had a chance, and came very close, but in the end it was far early to call it, and it turned out to be wrong.

Pauline Hanson, in her press conference this morning, criticised the electoral system and claimed she would have won under a system that made it easier for people to vote for her. It may surprise you, but I agree with her. I believe that Hanson received the largest below-the-line vote of any candidate because many voters would have been confused and not realised that they could vote for her above-the-line. Her above-the-line box was only marked with the words “Group J”, which have no meaning for any voter. In contrast, every other group except John Hatton got their party name above the line. Below-the-line votes for Hanson needed to have at least 15 squares numbered formally. Any “Just Vote 1″ votes for Hanson below the line would have been counted as informal. A survey of votes when I was scrutineering at the counting centre indicated that many informal votes were attempts to vote for Hanson. She would have likely been elected if those attempts to vote for her had been counted.

Hanson is not the best ambassador for electoral reform, but there are serious problems with how we conduct Legislative Council ballots that make it hard for voters to understand. As a first step, it should be at least possible for independent groups that have met the high bar to appear on the ballot to have “John Hatton independents” or “Pauline Hanson independents” appear above the line in the place of a party name. Independents running for the Legislative Assembly are as easy to find on the ballot as party candidates, the same should be true in the Legislative Council.

I would go further, and abolish the need to number all 15 squares below-the-line. This would also allow parties to run far less than 15 candidates, which would make the ballot paper much simpler and avoid having such huge numbers of candidates, the vast majority of whom never came close to being elected, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to be. If you wanted to go further, you could abolish below-the-line voting entirely. Below-the-line voting made no difference at this election. You might say “but Hanson wouldn’t have won on above-the-line votes”, but those votes would have probably been cast above-the-line if it was clear who they were voting for. It remains the case that a candidate further down a party ticket has never won a seat on a surge of below-the-line votes.

Instead, we could have a system where each party has one box, and you can only number preferences for parties as a whole, and preferences would then flow the way above-the-line preferences flow now. In the process you would make the process much simpler and much easier for people to vote. It would also make the counting process much quicker, without having a real effect on people’s ability to exercise choice. Despite the theoretical possibility of voting for an individual candidate against the party’s wishes, it currently doesn’t have any real effect on the count, and significantly confuses and complicates the voting process for many voters.

NSW 2011: unpacking the Legislative Council count

This is the first of two blog posts I will write tonight on the Legislative Council result. The second will focus on the spin and analysis around the count.

Today’s result in the legislative Council count couldn’t have been any closer. The final two seats went to the Greens’ Jeremy Buckingham and the Nationals’ Sarah Johnston by the smallest of margins, edging out independent Pauline Hanson, despite Hanson’s substantial lead on primary votes.

The count began by electing seventeen candidates from the parties that had polled over a quota: 10 Coalition candidates, 5 Labor candidates and 2 Greens candidates. Following this, 278 candidates who were either ungrouped or a candidate in an unwinnable position were excluded without a significant shift in the count.

After count 296, only one candidate remained from each of the 16 groups with candidates above the line. The key preference distributions that decided the result happened after that point.

The following chart shows the vote for the three candidates in the race for the final two seat. It ignores the CDP’s Paul Green and the Shooters and Fishers’ Robert Brown, who had not polled a quota but were polling well above Hanson, Buckingham and Johnston.

Votes at counts 296-308 for key candidates Jeremy Buckingham (green), Sarah Johnston (blue), Pauline Hanson (purple), showing the count as the last candidate of each party is excluded.

At count 296, Hanson was 9720 votes ahead of Johnston, and 16592 votes ahead of Buckingham. At every point of the count Buckingham and Johnston gained more preferences than Hanson, with a few candidates playing a key role.

The Greens gained boosts from the exclusion of Socialist Alliance candidate Peter Boyle (1609 vote net gain on Hanson), Democrats’ Arthur Chesterfield-Evans (3074 votes) the ALP’s Andrew Ferguson (3580) and independent John Hatton (3983). Johnston particularly gained votes from the Democrats, No Parking Meters and the Fishing Party, but were gaining votes slower than Hanson.

When John Hatton was excluded, Buckingham overtook Johnston. When Gordon Moyes of Family First was the only candidate remaining, the vote was:

  • Hanson – 102,466 votes
  • Buckingham – 102,276
  • Johnston – 101,183
  • Moyes – 64,738

While a vast majority of Moyes’ votes exhausted (52,101 votes) and over 4000 went to the Christian Democratic Party, Moyes’ preferences allowed both Buckingham and Johnston to jump over Hanson, leaving the final figures:

  • Buckingham – 105,472
  • Johnston – 104,341
  • Hanson – 103,035

At this point Hanson was excluded, leaving four candidates for the four remaining seats.

Attached is the table of the preference distribution, beginning with the exclusion of “Restore the Workers’ Rights Party”.

Candidate Party RWR ORP DEM ALP NPM HATT FP FF
Brown SFP 151,878 153,106 153,355 153,576 154,886 155,309 164,719 166,112
Green CDP 127,682 127,953 128,234 128,482 128,997 130,322 130,483 134,804
Buckingham GRN 84,996 85,648 88,960 92,698 95,188 101,454 102,276 105,472
Johnston NAT 90,215 91,213 92,542 93,374 96,570 99,838 101,183 104,341
Hanson IND 99,172 99,290 99,528 99,686 99,916 102,199 102,466 103,035
Moyes FF 60,729 61,227 61,521 61,924 63,458 64,267 64,738
Smith FP 55,228 56,374 56,723 56,968 58,751 59,150
Hatton IND 53,415 53,631 54,165 54,428 55,276
Matthews NPM 50,544 51,931 52,234 52,602
Ferguson ALP 41,444 41,926 43,358
Chesterfield-Evans DEM 35,140 35,271
Leyonhjelm ORP 31,818

Why do parties hand out how-to-votes?

On the afternoon of the election I had a discussion on Twitter about why parties hand out how-to-vote cards and the significance of their preference decisions. I thought people might find it interesting to have the perspective of someone who has handed out thousands of how-to-votes (HTVs) for a political party on why they are so prevalent.

The primary reason for this practice has little to do with political parties wanting their voters to follow their preference instructions, beyond voting for their party.

The primary reasons for HTVs is historical, and related to party exposure. Election campaigns in the United States and the United Kingdom do not focus on handing out pieces of paper to voters on election day, instead focusing on get-out-the-vote efforts. There are efforts made to put up signs and have a presence at polling booths, but the primary aim of the campaign is not to hand a particular new piece of election material to voters as they come to vote. Even in Ireland, the country closest to Australia using a system of preference voting, I don’t believe they hand out how-to-votes.

It was previously the case that it could be quite difficult to fill out a ballot paper without the help of your political party. For much of the twentieth century, all mainland state and federal elections were held using compulsory preferential voting, and with no identification of a candidate’s political party on the ballot. Voters for a major party would need to number every box, and may not be able to identify little-known candidates for such parties as the Communist Party. A how-to-vote would allow voters to number every box, even if they had no idea about a number of the candidates.

This is less of an imperative now. In state elections in New South Wales and Queensland, optional preferential voting means that voters can cast a formal vote without numbering many boxes. In most electorates the major parties advise voters to “just vote 1″. In other states, and in federal elections, party labels on the ballot paper make it easier for voters to number every box. Ballot papers also make it clear when voters need to number every box. Of course, many voters may lack the confidence or intelligence to work this out for themselves, but it remains the case that it is much easier to vote.

The main reason why political parties focus on handing out how-to-vote cards is exposure. It is the last opportunity to have contact with voters, and everyone else does it. It becomes a kind of arms race, with parties in marginal seats focusing on trying to have more workers than the other party, even if they are not all necessary to reach every voter. While it wouldn’t have a serious impact on elections if no party were to hand out cards, it would likely be detrimental for a political party if they stopped doing it unilaterally.

I’m sure it is true that a secondary reason for handing out HTVs is to ensure all of your voters do cast a formal vote. This would particularly be an issue in areas with low literacy rates or language diversity, where many voters may not be fluent in English. A how-to-vote can allow them to copy out their vote without understanding the instructions and can also help with confusion in states where the rules vary between federal and state elections.

If a party is one of the top two polling parties in a district, their preferences will not be distributed under any circumstances. Except for rare three-cornered contests such as Balmain, it is usually clear who will come in the top two well in advance, so the major parties know their preferences won’t be counted.

In some cases, preference decisions are part of a deal with another party. A party might swap preferences between a district where they won’t win and a district where they could win, or for preferences in the upper house. Even if preference decisions are made based on principle, they are usually not the primary motivation for handing out HTVs.

Discussions on preferences often dominate airtime for smaller parties, and in some places can be the only media a small party can receive. Rather than being an opportunity to influence politics, it can often prove a distraction, preventing the party from discussing policy issues that may have motivated them to run in the first place.

Labor and the Punch lie about Greens and Hanson

Plenty of people have already taken News Ltd hack David Penberthy to task for his lie that the Greens preferenced Pauline Hanson in the Legislative Council over the Labor Party. It’s a pretty easily disproved claim, considering the Greens did not give any preference to any other party in the Legislative Council, and it was made clear on all the party’s how-to-votes.

Penberthy is a habitual, professional liar, as seen further down in the same piece where he repeats his vicious slur that Marrickville council’s policy was a modern version of “Kristalnacht”. He also lied about what the policy means, claiming that it would mean all Israeli goods would be banned from the Marrickville council area. The council’s decision was clearly only directed at goods and services purchased by the council itself, not by the community.

Anyway, let’s get back to Pauline Hanson. Since last Saturday Labor MP Luke Foley has repeatedly attacked the Greens and claimed that the party had helped Pauline Hanson by not preferencing the Labor Party.

In reality, the Greens didn’t “resurrect” Pauline Hanson’s political career, the 2% of NSW voters who voted for her did. So far not a single Greens preference has played a role in deciding whether Hanson is elected, and it appears that will continue to be the case. The same can’t be said for Labor preferences.

All through this period the Greens made their position clear: the Labor Party’s record had made it impossible to support, and it was believed that preferencing Labor would actually reduce the Greens vote such as it would elect more right-wing candidates.

Foley’s entire position is based on the claim during the campaign and since that the Labor Party preferenced the Greens in the upper house while the Greens did not reciprocate. But is that true?

It doesn’t appear to be so. On all Labor how-to-votes seen before election day, the ALP did preference the Greens in the upper house, even if the language was confusing and the words ‘The Greens’ were illegible.

After substantial research, it has been found that, in at least 35 electorates, the election-day how-to-vote changed its advice, dropping a second preference for the Greens. Here’s one I found online. In only twelve seats has there been confirmation that the ALP did do what they said they would do. I don’t know what they did in the other 46, but the trend suggests that the ALP went back on their public statements in about three quarters of seats.

Did the ALP really care about stopping Pauline Hanson from getting into the Legislative Council? Or was it just a convenient tactic to attack the Greens for not propping up the hated government?

As it stands now, the Labor Party’s preferences may matter, whereas the Greens preferences will not. The Greens are running just ahead of Pauline Hanson on the above-the-line count, and Hanson’s very strong below-the-line performance suggests she will outpoll the Greens by less than 4000 votes on the final primary vote.

The Labor Party’s sixth candidate, Andrew Ferguson, is expected to fall behind the Fishing Party, Family First, John Hatton and No Parking Meters. His preferences could decide this race. The question now is whether Labor preferences will flow strongly enough to the Greens to stop Pauline Hanson getting in.

All along the Greens argued that preferences could only have an impact in a narrow circumstance, and that a decision to preference Labor would drive Greens voters to the Coalition. Labor’s argument was that it was “unprincipled” to not preference the other party in order to stop Pauline Hanson. Not only did Labor not preference the Greens, but they lied about it and tried to hide it, while continuing to bash the Greens.

I believe that enough Labor preferences will flow to the Greens to stop Pauline Hanson, but you have to ask what “principles” are left with Labor and Luke Foley when they cry so much about the dangers of Pauline Hanson then hand out how-to-votes that say “Just Vote 1″.

According to the logic of Luke Foley, the Labor Party, after crying foul for weeks about the Greens not preferencing them, put up their hands and said “we don’t care who wins”, and then they lied about it. So who is “rotten and unprincipled”?

Also: when I was scrutineering yesterday, the ALP scrutineers were focusing on knocking out Greens votes, even as it became clear that the ALP couldn’t win. The only effect of this is to make it easier for Hanson to win. So principled!

NSW 2011: Legislative Council count moves forward

A lot of information has fed into the count for the Legislative Council, bringing us much closer to a conclusion.

Nearly all above-the-line votes have now been counted at local electoral offices. With 11 seats going to the Liberal-National coalition, 5 to the Labor Party, 2 to the Greens and one each to the Shooters and Fishers and the Christian Democratic Party.

Summary – the Greens’ Buckingham currently leads Pauline Hanson by 6482 on above-the-line votes, but Hanson’s strong below-the-line vote should put her about 3400 votes ahead on the final primary vote. Such a small margin should be closed by stronger preferences to the Greens.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.