Friday, July 20, 2018

Submission To Tasmanian Electoral Act Review

Initial submissions to the review of the Tasmanian Electoral Act close today.  The review was mainly prompted by issues raised (mostly during the state election, but also during previous state elections) concerning:

* authorisations for social media posts
* restrictions preventing naming candidates without their permission in certain kinds of material
* restrictions preventing newspaper coverage on election day
* lack of state-specific donation requirements
* issues with involvement of non-party actors in the electoral process (the call for submissions singles out unions, though in 2018 there was far more concern about gambling interests)

My submission as sent last night is uploaded here.  There is one typo that I may try to have corrected - the summary says Section 196 should be repealed when, as the text makes clear, I only propose repealing S 196 (1). (Whoops!)  I have given some issues a lot of thought over the years while others are just quick in-principle comments.  

While the state Liberal government does seem to have a fondness for "targeting" review processes to specific items of concern, I could not resist suggesting that any modernisation of the Act needs to address the much-too-high level of unintentional informal voting, as a result of the strict requirement that the numbers 1 to 5 each appear once only.  (Legislation is only part of the solution here given the high number of voters who invalidate their vote by trying to rank the candidates from 1 to n within each party column.)

It's timely to mention the issue of naming candidates without their consent.  In debate over the Braddon by-election and candidate Craig Garland's historic assault conviction (for which he received a suspended sentence and which definitely does not make him ineligible), it has been mentioned that Liberal candidate and former MP Brett Whiteley was also found guilty of breaking the law in 2002. That fact does rather pull the skids out from underneath Senator Eric Abetz's lawbreaker/lawmaker dichotomy that he seeks to apply to Craig Garland.  

Whiteley's offence, for which he pleaded guilty and was placed on a good behaviour bond without conviction, was to name a fellow Liberal candidate without their permission on a personal how-to-vote card that he circulated thousands of copies of, in which he tried to convince voters to rank the Liberals in a certain order.  

While there is an issue of whether those seeking public office should ever break the law at all (though partisans will always tend to excuse their own side's breaches) in my view the offence Whiteley pleaded guilty to shouldn't have been an offence at all.  If he wanted to tell people inclined to vote for him that he recommended putting candidates in a given order, why shouldn't he have been allowed to?  However, in any rush to abolish it in the name of free speech, we do need to be a bit careful.

My submission makes the point that other jurisdictions that do not have such laws often have detailed schemes of registration of how-to-vote cards that serve to deter the handing out of fake cards for a given party.  I suggest that if we are going to allow people to name candidates without their consent, we should ban material that misleads the elector concerning the authorship (not the same thing as authorisation!) or source of electoral material.  Current law bans material that misleads the elector in relation to the casting of their vote, but this tends to be interpreted very narrowly as pertaining to things like the formality of a vote, the date and times of voting, whether a person is allowed to vote or so on.  Its application to imposter material is unclear at best, and electoral authorities tend to interpret laws narrowly to avoid inserting themselves in the contest.

I may comment further when I have seen more submissions, but at this stage I am aware of one other submission, by Civil Liberties Australia.  Although CLA and I have somewhat different models we are broadly on the same page concerning the desirability of something approaching online real-time donation disclosure requirements, and with a much lower threshhold than at present.

Freedom Of Speech

Where I disagree with the CLA submission is in most of what it has to say about free speech.

Firstly I don't agree that the government needs to define free speech for the purposes of making "protecting freedom of speech" a governing principle.  The point of the principle in context is that some of the Tasmanian laws (for instance S 198(1)(b)(ii) concerning newspaper coverage on the day) restrict free speech in a way that has no intelligible modern purpose.

Secondly I don't agree that disclosure requirements impacting on donors and parties are fundamental to free speech or indeed have anything to do with it - which isn't to say they're unnecessary or undesirable.  My view is that free speech is fundamentally about whether speech is free (at least under the law); it is not about whether everyone knows everything that they would like to know.  The CLA submission leans on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights conception of freedom of expression, but the ICCPR's "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers [etc]" does not entail that one is entitled to receive information from anyone or anything else who doesn't want to give it to you. It says freedom to impart, not requirement to.  The piece that the CLA cites in support of its view on this refers to the right of access to information held by public bodies.  Subjecting private bodies that take part in a public process to the same requirement is a good idea, but speech isn't any less free without it. If anything, a little bit the opposite, but justifiably.

Thirdly if a desired definition of free speech must be derived for the purposes of the inquiry then we could do better than pitting the High Court implied freedom model against the ICCPR model just because they are both versions supported by a legal framework.  For instance, if the former model is unsatisfactory because it doesn't always apply to state electoral law, what about a standard of applying the High Court model as if it always applied to state law?  

Fourth, while the CLA submission finds the ICCPR model to be more accessibly formatted and presented, I find its actual content to be as nebulous and vague as anything out of our High Court.  States can use the law to restrict speech that is considered detrimental to "morals" - which, morality being highly subjective, can mean pretty much anything.  States can also use the law to restrict speech where necessary for respect of "reputations".  However, this says nothing about how much protection of reputation is too much, especially where laws created for this purpose affect more than just reputational damage.  Exactly such a law is Section 196 (1), which prevents people naming candidates (in certain forms of communication but not others).  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Poll Roundup: National Narrowing As Super Saturday Approaches

2PP Aggregate (2016 Preferences): 51.7% to ALP (-0.5 since last week, -1 in six weeks)
With One Nation preference adjustment 51.1% to ALP
Closest position since October 2016
Labor would probably still win election "held now" but it would be close

Even psephologists have trouble with counting to big numbers sometimes. Like two.  Normally I release a new post in this series every second Newspoll week, but two weeks ago on Newspoll Monday I had an inconvenient distraction.  By the time I'd got through that and a couple of days of work my mind was so much elsewhere that I had forgotten it was time for another Poll Roundup.

Anyway, another Newspoll week has come and gone and all the current streaks noted on my Newspoll records page have continued.  These streaks are: the Coalition for most 2PP losses in a row (now at 36), Malcolm Turnbull for most Better PM wins in a row (now 56), Bill Shorten for most negative netsats in a row for an Opposition Leader (now 69) and Malcolm Turnbull for the third-most negative netsats in a row for a PM (now 47, and he has overtaken Julia Gillard for second place for longest stay in negativeland by time.)

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Importance Of Keeping #politas On Topic

This is a piece concerning Twitter I've been meaning to write for some time, mainly so I can link to it and so others can link to it when explaining the concept of topicality to people determined to ignore it or else new to Twitter.

On Twitter, hashtags are used to to help people find material that is relevant to them.  If a person is interested in something, they can use TweetDeck or other programs to set up a search for all tweets with a particular hashtag (a # followed by the subject matter), and thereby "follow" that hashtag.

In Tasmania, the hashtag "#politas" is especially useful for this purpose. #politas stands for politics of Tasmania. The equivalents for other states and territories are:

#nswpol for NSW politics
#qldpol for Queensland politics
#wapol for WA politics
#ntpol for NT politics
#actpol for ACT politics

and a couple of tricky ones:

#saparli for SA politics 
#springst for Victorian politics

The correct hashtag for generic Australian political tweets is #auspol.  During election periods it is common to also see hashtags of the form #---votes emerge, eg #ausvotes, #tasvotes etc, sometimes with the year after them.  Some states have other political hashtags that are sometimes used - eg #lgtas for Tasmanian local government (council) politics and issues.

The #politas hashtag is mainly used to discuss Tasmanian politics - including state and local politics and also including Tasmanian federal politics.  On quiet days it might only see a few tweets, on very busy days it might see a hundred.  However one of the things that makes the hashtag work well is that a high percentage of tweets are on-topic.  

When people from other states use #politas to tweet about general federal political matters at a high volume, this is annoying to people who use the #politas hashtag.  They need to either wade through all the irrelevant tweets or else mute or block the offenders.  They may not actually wish to mute or block the offenders (I've even had to block people who were following me because they would not get the hint about keeping #politas spam-free).

Latitude is shown for people who are based in Tasmania who may use #politas to talk about federal issues, especially if they are politically active, because anything they have to say about pretty much anything is of interest to the local political scene. 

But anyone in the Tasmanian political scene who wants to know what a random tweeter in, say, Sydney thinks about Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull can see that on the #auspol hashtag if they wish.  

And while people tweeting their support for the Labor or Liberal parties onto the #politas hashtag from afar might think they are helping get the message out, the people who follow this hashtag are generally already politically active.  Spamming #politas with partisan cheerleading that is not relevant to Tasmanian politics is not likely to gain your side votes; it might even annoy people and cause them to vote for the other side.  

Where people are showing continuing disrespect for the desire of people interested in Tasmanian politics for a clean feed relevant to their own state I will often reply to them along the lines of the following:

Please use #politas for tweets relating to Tasmanian politics only.  The hashtag is used by people who follow Tas politics and having lots of general #auspol tweets on it makes it hard for them to follow.  Thanks for your consideration.

I try to ask nicely (it's worth being polite; some people just don't know it's a state-based hashtag) but I ask once only.  Those who continue to post off-topic material to #politas frequently after being asked to desist, whatever their politics, can expect that I will mute them, block them, and will in some cases report them to Twitter for spam.  Even if they are following me.  If the problem persists I may even set up a name-and-shame list on this page.

To those who are flooding #politas with general #auspol material: You wouldn't like it if I kept filling your letterbox up with advertising material of no interest to you.  Please show consideration for the interests of others and their desire to have a relevant feed.


Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 World Chess Federation Elections

The perfect politician?
This site mainly covers Australian elections, especially Tasmanian, but now and then I write about a curious area where two of my lives intersect, namely global chess politics. 

The world chess federation (FIDE) is gearing up for its 2018 presidential election, to be held in Batumi, Georgia (the country, not the state) in early October.  When I last picked up the story here, long-time incumbent, the somewhat eccentric Russian businessman and former Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was on his way to yet another landslide win in Norway in 2014.  While naive western media wrote up the contest with Garry Kasparov as likely to be a close-run thing, Ilyumzhinov won a frequently grubby contest much as expected and a little bit more, with 64% of the vote.  This more or less repeated other lopsided wins for him in 1996, 2006 and 2014.  

There were some sequels to the election, with Kasparov and Ignatius Leong being found guilty of a serious electoral breach (regarding an arrangement in which Kasparov agreed to pay Leong to deliver him votes) by the FIDE Ethics Commission and banned for two years.   However, a rival complaint against Ilyumzhinov was dismissed

Another sequel of note concerns Ilyumzhinov's promises to pay twenty million dollars into FIDE's bank account if re-elected, and establish an African chess foundation with Nigel Short at its head.  Neither of these things ever occurred.  These promises were excused by Ilyumzhinov's supporters at the time as theatrical "bullshit" in response to similar promises by Kasparov.  No evidence that Kasparov's promises were in fact "bullshit" has ever been presented, though they were certainly premised on something (him winning) that was never going to occur.

But finally after 23 years at the helm, Ilyumzhinov's reign is over, as he has not nominated for re-election.  After crushing all previous opponents, he has finally met his match in the unlikely shape of the US Department of Treasury.  In late 2015 Treasury designated him for allegedly "materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh, and Batoul Rida." Ilyumzhinov tried to have the sanction overturned, including attempting to fly to the US to sort matters out (he was refused permission to board) but nothing worked.

Within weeks of being designated, Ilyumzhinov effectively stood down from the regular business of the FIDE presidency until the sanctions could be overturned (which never happened), continuing as a figurehead president but with all effective power delegated to his deputy Georgios Makropoulos.

In 2017 conflicts developed between Ilyumzhinov and his former supporters headed by Makropoulos after Ilyumzhinov made verbal statements at a meeting that were widely taken as saying he was resigning. The President was also accused of using meeting time to pursue his difficulties with Agon, the commercial rights holder for the World Championships and the culprit for some of the worst event websites in chess history.  Ilyumzhinov however denied he was resigning, and the FIDE rules stated that resignations were only binding in writing.  Therefore Ilyumzhinov remained as President technically, although the image of him on the FIDE website was eventually removed.   Moreover, the FIDE President was reported to the FIDE Ethics Commission for spreading groundless conspiracy theories about the motivations of his former supporters and now opponents on the Presidential Board.  (Update: he's been banned.)

Matters became much more serious when FIDE's bank drew a line in the sand over FIDE's retention of Ilyumzhinov as President in view of the US sanctions issue.  FIDE was eventually forced to make alternative arrangements.

Rejecting various motions calling on him to resign, Ilyumzhinov showed many signs that he might contest re-election.  This brings me to the matter of tickets.  Each FIDE Presidential candidate runs on a ticket with five other candidates for the offices of Deputy President, General Secretary, Treasurer and two Vice-Presidents.  At least one ticket member must be female. The election is winner-take-all, though further Vice-Presidents are then appointed from the floor and by the winning President.

Ilyumzhinov's announced ticket consisted largely of nobodies in the chess world and included one person who was in fact a nobody in any world.  Yes, Ilyumzhinov's announced candidate for FIDE Treasurer, "Glen Stark" (picture at top of article) proved to be a fake candidate whose photo was a stock image.  (For those with too much time on their hands I can thoroughly recommend Googling the Glen Stark story.  It's extremely weird.)

Ilyumzhinov tried running for the presidency of the Russian Chess Federation but pulled out as he did not have the numbers.  Finally the end of a long, winding and very silly road arrived when the Russian Chess Federation overwhelmingly endorsed a different FIDE Presidential candidate (see below). With that Ilyumzhinov, having given the chess world one final dose of bizarre entertainment, threw in the towel.  

The comical end of the long-serving President's reign has led to widespread support for an eight-year term limit for future Presidents, especially as the previous long-serving President, Campomanes, also had a controversial exit.  I am generally opposed to term limits in politics (I am not even sure the Presidency of the United States really needs them) and I think this call is especially missing the point.  Controversial long-serving FIDE Presidents become such because Federations vote for them.  Ilyumzhinov was always controversial.  He didn't become a problem because he had been there too long.  He became a problem because an accident that had always been waiting to happen finally did.  Take a look at almost all the arguments for why US Presidents should be term-limited, and I give you how Trump carries on after less than two years in the job.

Candidates For The Post-Kirsan Era

For the time being there is a three-way contest, and this is something FIDE hasn't seen for President under its current electoral rules, so if it stays that way it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

The current "establishment" candidate is the Deputy President, and effective acting President since Ilyumzhinov's troubles began, Georgios Makropoulos.  Makropoulos, known widely in the FIDE world as "Makro", is a Greek International Master and seven-times Greek Champion.  As is fairly common for chess officials, he is no longer active as a player in major tournaments, with his last FIDE-rated game being played in 2009.  Makropoulos is or was a newspaper journalist in Athens by profession and is currently chairman of FIDE's recently formed Commission of Chess Journalists.

As Deputy President, Makropoulos has been the chairman of the business part of many of the General Assembly meetings I have attended.  In my observation, Makropoulos is a forceful, no-nonsense chairman who has a well developed ability to read the room and determine just how much pointless grandstanding needs to be allowed before an issue can be knocked on the head.  At this point he will frequently announce a proposed resolution and say something like "This is my proposal.  Any objections?"  The result in most cases is silence.  It's actually quite interesting to observe.

The establishment forces (those core FIDE officials who supported Ilyumzhinov against his string of challengers but have now been forced to ditch him) have had some difficulties settling on a preferred Presidential candidate who was willing to run.  The popular Asian Chess Federation President, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, was rumoured to be the likely candidate but didn't run.  Makropoulos seems to have stepped forward because nobody else satisfactory could be found and intends to serve only one four-year term if elected.

The Makropoulos ticket is called "FIDE Forward". (As with Julia Gillard's "moving forward" from the 2010 Australian election, the word "forward" also seems to imply a moving away from the past.) On the whole, FIDE Forward is running on a unitarian program of fiscal consolidation and avoidance of (further) controversy in order to restore the reputation of FIDE.  Makropolous has put forward some proposals for change including an end to proxy voting in FIDE elections (a proposal also supported by Nigel Short).     The argument for Makropoulos will be that he will be a steady hand who, with his supporters, has saved FIDE from being completely run into the ground (not only in reputation terms but also financially, with a severe squeeze a few years ago attributed to wasteful spending, that has since been resolved).  The argument against pretty much any of the senior incumbents is that had Ilyumzhinov not been propped up for so long despite being an obvious liability and reputation risk, FIDE would not have needed saving.

The "anti-establishment" challenger is Grandmaster Nigel Short.  Short is a former World Championship challenger (defeated by Garry Kasparov in 1993) and an evergreen tournament veteran who is now the oldest player in the world's top 100 by three years.  He's also seen plenty of passport stamps in his time as a travelling chess player, having visited about as many countries as the Queen.  Short is an accomplished and amusing commentator on live internet broadcasts, an often outspoken writer and not averse to a spot of light trolling now and then.  In 2015 he attracted a large social media backlash (mostly from people who didn't read the article) after wading into a heated nature-nurture debate by arguing that the massive imbalance between male and female participation rates in top-level chess resulted from differences in brain physiology.  (For anyone interested in the detail of that debate for its own sake, Australian GM David Smerdon had some good posts on all this. I'm personally somewhat on the nurture side actually, but I think we need a lot more trials of the Polgar experiment to really know.)

Short's address to federations pushes some similar ideas to, but has a more energetic feeling than, the programs argued for by previous challengers Karpov and Kasparov.  In particular, Short wants FIDE to turn its financial model inside out, start attracting better sponsors and to stop raising so much revenue from "taxing" players, arbiters, trainers, organisers and federations.  As one of the officials who handles a lot of Australia's transactions at FIDE level I can vouch for some of the issues that the profusion of FIDE fees can cause.  I quite often email chess players to tell them that if they want to change their FIDE federation listing that will be 250 Euro (if they're lucky) - explained by one senior official as a price signal to discourage players from creating work for FIDE by having their federation listed accurately.  Most put up grumpily with being listed under the "wrong" federation rather than pay.

The third and somewhat mysterious candidate is Arkady Vladimirovich Dvorkovich. Dvorkovich is a very experienced Russian politician, Deputy Prime Minister under Medvedev from 2012-2018, and also recently chairman of the soccer World Cup organising committee.  He is also an economist and billionaire.  The candidate's father was a dedicated arbiter, and Dvorkovich is a former Russian Chess Federation President (2010-2014).  Dvorkovich is widely viewed as the "Kremlin candidate" and his endorsement by the Russian chess federation was widely seen as intended to force Ilyumzhinov out of the race, but it is unclear what more is intended beyond that.  Information in English on Dvorkovich's intentions is, at this stage, somewhat elusive, but here's one translation of his comments at a press conference. If he's not all that serious about winning and just wants to use his bid to develop chess, is this a foot in the door for an expected vacancy in 2022?  As yet we don't know.

No particular controversies are known to be attached to Dvorkovich.  However, in January 2018 the US released a list of potential sanctions targets (basically, people who are Russian politicians or are very rich Russians, of which Dvorkovich is obviously both.)  That seemed to be a shot across the bows though, so I don't know if there's a risk of a repeat of the Makropoulos situation.

OMG Actual Electoral Ethics!

As I finally get this article nearly finished comes a remarkable development with FIDE issuing a decree against the kind of behaviour that has been par, bogey and double bogey for the course by all sides in recent previous elections.  A remarkably strict declaration on "anti-corruption" measures targets the sort of stuff I mentioned in my previous article: the flying of delegates here and there for meetings, the strange letters from embassies to chess federations (sometimes bearing offers of lunch), hopefully even the giveaway pens inscribed with the names of candidates for office and so on.  It's a relief to look forward to all the free space in my rubbish bin at the end of the Congress, but I'm not sure this overdue culture change has been entirely thought out:

No Federation Presidents, delegates or officials in FIDE of any national chess federation should accept any gifts, subsidy, inducements, financial or otherwise, or accept any hospitality from a Presidential or Continental electoral candidate, member, adviser or supporter of a Presidential ticket or electoral candidate. All Presidents, officials, delegates or candidates should immediately report any such offer to the Electoral Integrity Committee. 

Officials include but are not limited to: 

• Officers or any person with influence over the decision or voting processes of FIDE or any national chess federation/s including but not limited to Presidents or Delegates of such federations. 
• Candidates for election to any FIDE or Continental positions 
• Employees, administrators, managers, employed by FIDE or national chess federations 

So I guess that means the tickets won't be throwing any parties for their supporters in Batumi, because that's "hospitality", and as it's written even buying a coffee for a delegate could be a prohibited gift.  (Electoral jurisdictions that have policed this stuff for more than five minutes tend to have a codified value floor, about the cost of a coffee or beer, below which a gift cannot be considered as a bribe.) There's also the question of what constitutes an "adviser or supporter" - does a delegate whose federation has publicly declared support become a "supporter" for the purposes of this rule?  If I chat with Nigel Short about the above restriction on Twitter, does that make me an "adviser"?

Another sign of a sea change was the rapid dumping by the FIDE Forward ticket of Aguinaldo Jaime, one of Ilyumzhinov's 2014 Vice-Presidential candidates. Jaime was on the Makropoulos ticket until Short raised corruption allegations from a US Senate report (old stuff that has been online since at least 2010!).  Almost immediately Jaime had to withdraw for personal reasons.


The first available (though not necessarily reliable) data on support from particular candidates came from the release of the list of countries nominating each ticket.  A ticket requires a minimum of five nominators but tickets are often keen to show off their strength by being supported by more.  The process of declaring support in this way is public, and countries can also publicly declare their support in other ways, but the actual voting is done by delegates in a secret ballot.  So there is no guarantee a country will vote the way it says it will.  Nonetheless, lopsided nomination tallies have tended in the past to lead to lopsided elections.

The Makropoulos ticket was submitted with a massive 64 nominations (they say they had a few more, but ran out of room to list them) to 13 (notably including France) for Dvorkovich and six for Short.  This is an even more lopsided balance than the 52-20 rollcall in 2014.  With many federations yet to show their hands there's still a long way to go but if this really stays a three-way contest and if all these federations do vote for Makropoulos then he only needs a handful more to fall his way to win in the first round, which he has been openly predicting will happen.  Some churn between nominations is also of interest - while most of the federations nominating Short didn't nominate anyone in the opening announcement last time, three of those that nominated Kasparov have declared for other tickets.

There are two lines of "it's not that simple" theory that I have seen around the traps.  The first, and I am unsure if its factual premise is even correct, is that the nominations might have been mostly collected prior to Ilyumzhinov's withdrawal and Dvorkovich's entry, and that while none of the federations nominating Makropoulos are remotely likely to vote for Short, they might yet be open to voting for Dvorkovich, especially if his bid is well-resourced.

The other is that there is some sort of plan for the two non-Short tickets to merge with Dvorkovich becoming some kind of shiny new Ilyumzhinov.  The problem with this theory so far is that it is not clear why this would not have been organised in advance if it was ever going to happen at all. 

For all the talk of last-minute dramas and deals, exotic ticket splicing, balances of power and other such scenarios my early suspicion is that the election itself is shaping up to be another fizzer, which is why I'm writing now while it's still interesting!  If it does go to a three-way contest, then the FIDE Electoral Regulations come into play:

3.7 For all elections a majority of the votes cast, not counting abstentions, shall be required. If there is a tie, the voting is repeated until the tie is broken. 
If three or more persons are nominated for the same offices or office, the candidates that receive 50% plus one of the votes cast, are elected on the first ballot. Thereafter, the candidates receiving most votes on the second ballot are elected to the vacant number of offices. If there is a tie, the voting is repeated until the tie is broken. 

One would think that the candidate in third place drops out after the first round (if there is no outright majority) but the regulations don't explicitly require them to.  Oh for those still pushing ticket-merge theories, here's the regulation on that sort of thing:

1.7 In case one member of a Presidential ticket becomes incapable to run for the election (death, illness or similar serious reasons), he/she can be replaced on the Presidential ticket within 20 days after the unexpected event, but at the latest until the day before the election. All other conditions concerning the nominations are applicable. In case of doubt, the ELE shall make a decision.

The ELE is the Electoral Commission (itself a fairly recent development) and consists of a chair (of the Constitutional Commission) elected by the General Assembly of federations and one member elected by each of the four Continents.  The "scrutineers" (effectively the election vote-counters; what this site knows as "scrutineers" are in FIDE parlance called "observers") are also elected by the General Assembly. And here is an aspect of Short's platform that I personally support: FIDE should ideally find some way for all of its electoral organs to be independent. It is the only way, especially when so many FIDE regulations are so imprecisely written.


Disclaimer: This article represents my own views only and not those of the Australian Chess Federation, any other chess organisation or any candidate or election ticket. The ACF has not as yet made any decision regarding who (if anyone) to support, and nor have I. 

Warning: All feedback arising from this article will be taken to be on the public record, especially if stated otherwise.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Worst Opposition Leader Of The Last 45 Years: Round 2

Last month I started a new multi-month Not-A-Poll series to give readers a chance to vote for the Worst Opposition Leader of the Last 45 YearsThe groundrules are here.  I split the contenders into two groups - those who never or had not yet become Prime Minister, and those who at some stage had been Prime Minister (whether before or after they were Opposition Leader.)

The results of Round 1 are in.

Firstly in Group 1 we now go to a cage match between Mark Latham and Alexander Downer. These two always dominated the voting.  At some stages, Brendan Nelson was also above the thresholds for making it into the runoff but he finished up four votes short of the 8% primary vote threshold and nine votes shy of the electability threshold.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Is Seat Polling Utterly Useless?

Advance Summary

1. Seat polls have received bad publicity because of poor results at the 2013 and 2016 federal elections, and in some other recent elections such as the WA Darling Range state by-election.

2. Because it is clear that seat polls are not very accurate, it is common for posters on social media to dismiss them out of hand as useless or so misleading as to be worse than useless.

3. Indeed, seat polls at the 2016 federal election shows they were so inaccurate that they had greater average 2PP errors than simple models based on uniform swing and national polling.

4. However, in 2016 hybrid models combining seat polling and uniform swing would have been more accurate than either seat polling or a uniform swing model alone.

5. The correct use of publicly available seat polling seems to be not to ignore it entirely, but rather to aggregate it with other sources of information including national modelling.

6. Seat polling should be most useful for races that are difficult to predict by normal means, but seat polls may be unusually inaccurate in those races too.

7. The biggest problem with seat polling is the reporting that treats unreliable seat polls as definitive verdicts that one side or the other is "winning".  In fact they are weak indicators and need to be reported in the context of other evidence.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tas Councils: Is The Deputy Election System Dudding Us?

This article is not so much brought to you as provoked by Hobart's Lord Mayor Ron Christie, who today caved in to a campaign from sectors (by no means all) of the Tasmanian and interstate religious right.  Following an outcry about upside-down red crosses on the Hobart waterfront, Christie criticised the Dark Mofo music and art festival, suggesting it was no longer "family friendly" (was it ever?) and that the Council may cease funding this very successful visitor drawcard.  It doesn't appear Christie necessarily speaks for the Council on this matter, and certainly nor did he when he became remarkably keen on a proposal for co-naming Hobart "nipaluna" (a stance rather at odds with his opportunistic criticism of Mike Parr's three-day burial performance by the way, given the intended meanings of that artwork).  The Ron Christie I knew a little in the early 2000s was quite the zany freethinker and I suspect would have loved Dark Mofo to bits.  I can only wonder what has occurred!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Federal Newspoll Records Page

Introduction (June 2018)

This weekend, the Coalition government under PM Malcolm Turnbull trailed on two-party preferred vote for a 34th consecutive Newspoll, an all-time outright record.

As there has been so much interest in federal Newspoll records this year I thought I would start a Newspoll records page, a resource page which I will update and expand as time permits.  Some of the material has previously been published on the Newspoll Wikipedia page, which I fixed up after finding it contained a large number of errors caused by confusion between satisfaction scores and Better Prime Minister.

Suggestions for new categories are welcome, as are corrections.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Worst Opposition Leader Of The Past 45 Years: Round 1

For comments on the Braddon poll see Braddon guide.

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Following on from a long-running Not-A-Poll series in which Gough Whitlam was this site's pick for the best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years, Worst Prime Minister only needed a single round for the knockout.

The left-wing skew of this site's reader-base was again apparent, but the result leaves little room for doubt that Tony Abbott would have won the thing anyway.  He finished almost fifty points ahead of John Howard, a result that barely moved through the time the Not-A-Poll was running. Even with the left-wing skew, Howard's second place might be surprising to those who are accustomed to seeing him rate highly but there is an argument for it out there.  Kevin Rudd eventually managed to beat Julia Gillard among the ALP contenders, while the very miserly totals for Paul Keating and Bob Hawke are interesting.  Keating was reviled as PM during his tenure (not only by the right but by a fair slab of the left as well) but nobody much hates him anymore.

Worst Opposition Leader

I'm now starting a Worst Opposition Leader series that will run for an unknown number of months.  The rules are: