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 immediately refused entry and sent home) 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.

Admin note: apologies for delays in comment clearing as I am not currently receiving notification emails for comments - this is a global Blogger issue which will hopefully be fixed soon. Also I have had a report that at least one reader can see the old Not-A-Polls but not the new ones.  If anyone else is getting exactly this problem please report it at , preferably with browser detail + whether you are using a mobile phone.


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:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Poll Roundup: Unwanted Records On Both Sides

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to Labor (last-election preferences) 
51.8 with One Nation adjustment 
Coalition has improved 1.2 points in last eight weeks and now in best position since late 2016
However Labor would still almost certainly win election "held now"

It's been a little while since the last federal poll roundup (highlighting the major issue of Newspoll preferencing changes); I meant to do one in Budget week but was simply too busy with other things.  In the last five weeks the Turnbull government has kept the modest improvements in national polling that it made during April, but there has not been clear evidence of anything more.  Despite a lot of media excitement about the possibility of a quick election off the back of some possible success in the Super Saturday by-elections on July 28, we are so far not seeing anything in aggregated polling to get so excited about.

The recent national polls have been:

* Two Newspolls with headline figures of 51-49 then 52-48 to Labor.  As the previous article notes there has now been official confirmation that Newspoll is using a preference distribution for One Nation that is derived from recent state elections.  My aggregate's headline figure uses last-election preferences, and on that basis I aggregated these at 52.1 and 52.9 to Labor respectively.  The 51-49, as with the previous 51-49, was off primaries that would have normally come out to 52.4 by last-election preferences, but the fact that the published 2PP was 51 again suggested something a bit closer.  (An alternative view is that Newspoll might have changed methods twice, but we can't conclude that reliably off just two polls if so.  Also, this week's difference between the two methods was "only" 0.9).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2018 Braddon By-Election

BRADDON (Tas, ALP 2.2%) 
By-election July 28
Justine Keay (ALP) vs Brett Whiteley (Lib), minor party candidates to be declared
Cause of by-election: Resignation caused by Section 44 ineligibility
Outlook: Unclear as evidence goes both ways - historic patterns suggest Labor should retain easily, but seat polling is strong for Whiteley. On balance I suspect Labor will retain, but may change this view as more polling arrives.

With the far-off date for the Super Saturday by-elections now announced, I've decided that's reason enough to put up a guide post for the Braddon contest.  This article will be updated up til polling day with I may do similar posts for some of the other seats, but if so that will probably be only after credible polling is conducted.  (And no, a ReachTEL seat poll of Longman asking people how they would vote in a federal election rather than a by-election isn't what I had in mind here.)

At the moment many people are talking about the by-election date and whether this is some kind of political stitch-up to harm Labor or whether it is all Labor's fault because its ineligible MPs did not resign or at least arrange to be referred sooner.  By the by-election day the parties won't still be talking about that, at least not if they have the slightest sense.

We still don't know for certain that the by-elections are on, since in theory the Government could now go to an early general election in August or early September without needing to run a conspicuously long campaign for it.  In this case the by-elections would be cancelled.  I don't think this is likely at all, but at least cancelling the by-elections would now give the Coalition some kind of plausible argument for going early should political circumstances favour it in the next two months.

The electorate

Note: The by-election will be fought on the old boundaries. Labor won in 2016 with a 52.2:47.8 margin.  Many sources are still giving the post-redistribution margin of 1.6%.

Braddon is a regional/rural seat covering north-western and western Tasmania as well as King Island.  It includes the small regional cities of Devonport and Burnie and the large town of Ulverstone, the rural north-west (Smithton, Wynyard) and the west coast mining and tourism towns (Queenstown, Zeehan, Strahan).  The latter were added in the 2007 redistribution, to Labor's benefit.

Braddon was Liberal-held from 1975 to 1998 (for longer histories see Poll Bludger and Tally Room).  Since then it has been a swinging marginal seat, not far behind its volatile neighbour Bass.  Braddon has changed parties at five of the last seven federal elections, but Labor has had the better of it in that time winning five times to the Liberals' two.  Both the Liberal wins in that time, in 2004 and 2013, were linked to backlashes against Labor over forestry issues (Mark Latham's too-green forests policy and Styx trip with Bob Brown in 2004 and the state Labor-Green government's "peace deal" in 2013). 

Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, Braddon was very socially conservative but it has changed greatly in the last 20 years.  However, it remains economically vulnerable with very low school completion rates and median incomes, as noted in the Poll Bludger preview. 

Burnie and the west coast tend to vote strongly Labor, while the Liberal vote is strong in the far north-west and in the rural settlements surrounding the coastal cities and towns.


Justine Keay was elected for the first time in 2016.  She had previously stood as a minor Labor candidate in the 2014 state election, and had been a Devonport councillor and an electorate officer.

Keay is much more educated than the average Braddon resident, with a degree collection in geography and history, environmental management (x2) and psychology. In other respects she ticks boxes for empathy with Braddon's battlers (seventh-generation Tasmanian, had to move interstate for work, former checkout operator and Newstart recipient, etc).  Keay was targeted over her comments about asylum seeker policy in one interview in the 2016 campaign, an attack which in the end had no effect whatsoever (perhaps because of Braddon's very low level of ethnic diversity.)   As an MP Keay has portrayed herself as a folksy fighter for locals and the disadvantaged.

Keay had to resign her council seat to contest the 2016 election, a big risk as the seat appeared winnable but difficult.  It turned out that Labor's legal advice was wrong both on the question of whether councillors could be federal MPs, and on when a candidate had to finish renouncing their citizenship.  Keay was the first of the five known slow-renouncers to come under scrutiny (we were talking about this here in August, and well done to commenter Dave O who correctly predicted the outcome).   She said that she held on to her inherited UK dual citizenship so long because it was a remaining connection with her late father. She has maintained that she was a victim of a change in the interpretation of Section 44 after following the best possible legal advice, though I would call it more a clarification by the court and say that Labor's advice was blind to an always obvious risk.  Keay's interview with commercial radio presenter Brian Carlton - a longtime Keay sceptic on the matter - has been reported elsewhere as "torrid" but to my ears at least there was plenty of stirring back and forth in that one.

Main Challenger

The Liberal challenger is former one-term MP Brett Whiteley (who doesn't seem as off and running with the online presence bit as Keay just yet).  Whiteley was also a state MP for Braddon from 2002 to 2010, unseated (and outspent) after two terms by a within-party challenge from businessman Adam Brooks.  As a state MP Whiteley was regarded as a hard-right firebrand. This aspect was less conspicuous during his federal tenure, though he did at one stage call for drug-testing of welfare recipients.  Since his defeat, Whiteley has worked as an advisor to Angus Taylor.

In the leadup to the 2016 election Whiteley had rather average personal ratings in polling, and he was not able to turn the personal vote advantage of replacing a long-term Labor incumbent to his benefit.  Reports I receive of Whiteley vary - he clearly has a deep passion for political life, but people not fully on his side of the fence sometimes tell me that they found him abrasive or dislikeable in person.  In the 2016 campaign Whiteley was the target of a bizarre sign vandalism episode with an unknown "artist" superimposing bondage masks on his pictures and changing his name to "GIMP".  It will be interesting to see if this recurs.

Other Challengers

The Greens candidate is Jarrod Edwards (announcement), an Indigenous land management supervisor with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.  Edwards, a new candidate, is a fairly prominent local spokesman on Aboriginal heritage issues including damage to West Coast middens.  The Greens polled extremely poorly at the state election in this seat getting only 3.6% but have decided to have a go anyway (maintaining their record of contesting every federal by-election since Warringah 1994).  The party polled 6.7% in the seat at the last federal election.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate is Brett Neal, a third-generation farmer from Yolla.  Neal polled 459 votes at the state election for this seat, at which the party polled 2.54% in Braddon.  Probably the Shooters vote was on the low side at the state election because of competition from the Lambie Network.

An interesting prospect is fisherman Craig Garland (announcement, Facebook).  Garland, a self-styled anti-politician, ran a homespun campaign around seal relocation and salmon farming issues in the state campaign, polling nearly 2000 votes at trivial expense and outlasting the Greens in the cutup.  The vote for Garland was very concentrated in the coastal booths in the far north-west.  Garland supports a moratorium on salmon farming expansion and has also said he supports more protection for the Tarkine (which might not help him much here, except to take votes from the Greens.)

Joshua Boag (a very Tasmanian name, that) is the Liberal Democrat candidate and also ran in 2016 polling 2.1%.  Boag is a qualified sheetmetal fabricator, gun owner, deer hunter and modified car buff.

Donna Gibbons is a food store owner (a Burnie Asian/Indian grocery called Asian Flavours) and former nurse running as an independent on an anti-major-parties platform, arguing that many people are struggling and politics is letting them down.

The Australian People's Party is contesting the by-election but its candidate Bruno Strangio is from Victoria.  The APP, registered in 2017 after being formed a few years earlier, is an obscure populist and economically protectionist/nationalist (policies here) party that supports cuts to immigration.  It scored 0.58% in the Batman by-election. Strangio is the leader of the party.

Other Possible Contenders

By-elections frequently attract large fields of eccentric no-hopers, in part because candidates do not need to live in the seat to contest it.  Hopefully this will be less of an issue here because of the number of by-elections around the country at the same time.

The Jacqui Lambie Network and Pauline Hanson's One Nation have announced they are not contesting.

The Recreational Fishers Party polled strongly in 2016, but this turns out to have been just a none-of-the-above type vote as the party sank without a trace in the Senate count.  The party has since been deregistered (and ditto for the failed Renewable Energy preference-harvester attempt).


Keay is likely to campaign heavily on health, education, employment and regional services and to continue with the federal election theme of a Turnbull Liberal government being the wrong fit for low-income Tasmania.  Populist attacks on tax cuts for the rich are staple fare for Keay backers but social service quality and funding is more than a token issue in Braddon, and this was one of the reasons why the Liberals lost the seat in the first place.

Whiteley has so far flagged that he will try to run on his ability to deliver the bacon for his electorate.  He has aimed to highlight concrete achievements during his previous term as a government MP, while various Liberal proxies (eg Senator Eric Abetz) have waded in with attacks on Keay as having achieved nothing concrete in Opposition and being prone to waffle about what she has done.  The Keay campaign has been quick to adjust to this attack and ward it off with specific examples, but the Liberals have continued pressing the point that Keay cannot deliver Labor campaign promises because she is not in government.

Tasmania's share of the GST distribution is breaking as a potential major issue in early July, with estimates by economist Saul Eslake suggesting Tasmania could be up to

The Greens greatly struggled for any kind of policy oxygen at all in Braddon at the state election and the plight of endangered subspecies of cute fluffy birds on King Island might not provide them with any this time either, but it will be interesting to see if Peter Whish-Wilson has any success in drawing policy commitments on the issue from the majors.  It will also be interesting to see if the choice of a new candidate refreshes their appeal at all given that the party has been prone to preselect serial candidates in the past.  However Braddon remains very difficult territory for the party.

The by-elections in general are being marketed as a test of the federal government's policy of tax cuts for large businesses. Attention on this will increase following Bass MP Ross Hart's interview with Brian Carlton which fuelled mumblings (mostly from the right) about Labor's leadership.

Vandalism of Edwards' car, in what he claims to be a targeted attack, has been reported.  Unfortunately there is such a long record of incidents of this type targeting Green candidates in this electorate that it seems to be a rite of passage for anyone running prominently for the Greens in this very anti-Green seat.

On 10 July The Australian reported rank-and-file dissent among Liberal supporters over the manner of Whiteley's preselection. Henry Zwartz (ABC) tweeted "Two senior Tasmanian Liberal sources say there are “so few” @brettwhiteley60 signs out in public because grassroots members refused to help his campaign put them up in protest". Plastering the north-west coast with corflutes did Whiteley no good at all in 2016 but the negative publicity surrounding this dissent could be more damaging.


Minor party preferences have relatively little impact as minor parties tend to struggle to get enough volunteers for booth handouts, and their supporters are often independent-minded anyway.  For what it's worth, the Shooters and Craig Garland have independently announced they will cross-preference, and Garland has also said he will preference the Greens ahead of Labor with the Liberals last.  The Liberals have been attacking Garland alleging that he is more Green than radical former Greens candidate Scott Jordan.


A Sky News ReachTEL taken around 2 June had the Liberals ahead 54-46 based on a respondent-allocated preference distribution.  Primary votes with "undecided" redistributed came out to Liberal 48.2 Labor 34.5 Green 6.6 Ind 7.2 Other 3.5.  This would also come out to 54-46 by last-election preferences for this specific seat. The question wording did refer specifically to a by-election but I do not know if it named candidates. The primary votes are very strong for the Liberals so it will be interesting to see what other polling emerges (if any). ReachTEL federal polling in Tasmania has a history of overestimating the Liberal vote and underestimating the Labor vote, but the final ReachTEL in this particular electorate was quite accurate at the 2016 election if previous-election preferences were used. (This is unlike the adjacent electorate of Bass where all polls, whether by ReachTEL or Newspoll/Galaxy, were terrible.) Also the final ReachTEL was quite accurate at the 2018 state election.

An Australia Institute ReachTEL taken on 6 July showed the following primaries: Liberal 42.9 Labor 36.3 Garland 8 Greens 4.4 Shooters 1.7 APP 0.4 (Gibbons and LDP not included) "Undecided" 6.2.  With undecided redistributed proportionally, Liberal 45.7 Labor 38.7 Garland 8.5 Greens 4.7 SFF 1.8 APP 0.4.  The 2PP was not polled; my estimate is 50.5% to Whiteley but a lot depends on the preferences of Garland. (I have treated his preferences as the same as the pro-ALP Recreational Fishers.)

The Liberal Party was spruiking a commissioned MediaReach federal poll taken 11-12 April which supposedly showed them with a 53-20 primary vote lead in Braddon, or about a 14% two-party swing.  However the sample size of this poll was only 756 statewide, meaning c. 150 per electorate, which is meaningless given the issues in seat polls we have seen in recent years.  (I also have other concerns about that poll including an implausibly low Wilkie vote in Denison and an implausibly high vote for the Greens in Braddon, as well as the usual concern that the full wording of all questions asked has not been released).

There have been various reports that internal polling as of early June is vaguely similar to the Sky ReachTEL although none of these have given figures or mentioned a named source.

The Sky ReachTEL was criticised in some quarters because of showing high support for company tax cuts, which was considered atypical of a low-income electorate.  However the poll does not seem to have asked specifically about tax cuts for high-turnover companies.  Also, Braddon is different to low-income city electorates.  It has a long history of being very pro-development and desperate for jobs.  The poll also showed strong opposition to allowing refugees on Nauru and Manus Island to settle in Australia.  I have not been able to find comparable polling from this electorate in the past.

The TAI ReachTEL found most Braddon voters did not support tax cuts for high-turnover companies (37.4% support cf 36.9% for keep the same and 20.4% for increase), but the question design was suboptimal because it stressed that "(smaller businesses have already received a tax cut)".

Seat polling in Australia has been unreliable at both the last two federal elections and should be treated with great caution. It shouldn't be dismissed as evidence entirely (see separate article Is Seat Polling Utterly Useless?), but individual seat polls shouldn't be weighted very highly either.  A review of the 2016 federal election seat polling by Simon Jackman and Luke Mansillo found that seat polls had the average errors of samples one-sixth their actual sample size, which means, for instance, that the Braddon 54-46 ReachTEL should be treated as having a margin of error of about 6% on the 2PP, and up to 8% on the major party primaries.  Even when multiple polls of the same seat had similar results, that result was sometimes wildly wrong.  At the 2013 election, seat polling skewed massively to the Coalition. Changes in national polling may well be more significant.

A poll regarding Newstart rates for the Greens was reported but inadequate details are available.  It is attributed to an "Environmental Research Council", of which I have never heard, and no details of the questions asked are so far available.  It should therefore be ignored.

Another Greens poll described as an Essential phone poll (though I am yet to verify it was Essential rather than ReachTEL) has been reported but again, reported details are inadequate.  The poll concerned marijuana decriminalisation but there is no information on question wordings.

With three weeks to go, the Liberals selectively released internal polling in which Bill Shorten was claimed to have a remarkably dire -45 netsat.  However they did not release ratings for the candidates, the sample size, the identity of the pollster or who was in front.

The Tasmanian breakdown in the national aggregate of three months of Ipsos polling had Labor ahead 51-49 across Tasmania but this would be off a minuscule sample size of about 100 and Tasmanian sample pools in national polls are often wayward anyway.  If this result were accurate, Labor would probably be slightly behind in Braddon.


Election betting is not reliably predictive, and this was recently shown in Tasmania with the Hodgman state government being returned with a majority, easily, despite this having been at odds at one stage as long as $15.

When this article was written all bookmakers had Labor around the same mark (eg Sportsbet and (bookie) 1.40, Ladbrokes 1.44) but varied greatly in their generosity level on the Liberals' chances ((bookie) 2.80 Sportsbet 2.40 Ladbrokes 2.00).  These could be converted to between a 58% and 67% implied expected chance of a Labor win.

Following the 54-46 ReachTEL, Sportsbet was soon at 1.32/2.65 and (bookie) 1.55/2.35.  As of 5 June, Sportsbet had closed to 1.50/2.15 (an implied 59% Labor chance).

As of 17 June, Sportsbet 1.66/1.90 (bookie) 1.55/2.35 Ladbrokes 1.60/2.00, so the range of implied chances is 53% to 60% - the markets are very unsure about this!

As of 25 June, it was reported that Sportsbet had gone back to 1.33/3.00, but this was quickly corrected to 1.42/2.40 (edit: and then on 27/6 to 1.50/2.20).  (bookie) still has 1.55/2.35 (edit: now 1.42/2.70) and Ladbrokes 1.60/2.00.  The range of implied Labor chances is now 55% to 66%.

Note: References to the name of one bookie have been removed above and replaced with "(bookie)" because their SEO person hassled me asking me to link to their site.

Prospects: Will The State Election Be Repeated?

A much longer and wonkier "prospects" section than normal here, for reasons that will soon be apparent!

As noted in my previous overview of the by-elections, governments virtually never win by-elections in Opposition held seats.  The average pattern in such seats is for a small swing to the Opposition, but there is a lot of variation, meaning that in the case of a close seat a Government win is possible, despite the history of this generally not happening.  However, add in the fact that Keay is recontesting (not the case in nearly all previous such by-elections) and that the federal government is still struggling in polling, and one might on average expect a swing of, say, 3-4 points to Labor.  That is, however, "all else being equal", so what are the reasons why it might not be?

The main argument being made for a Liberal victory is the theory of a rub-off effect from the recent state election triumph of the Hodgman Liberal government.  In Braddon, the Liberals recorded a 56.1% primary to just 27.3% for Labor, which if repeated would translate to about a 62-38 2PP pasting.  However, majority government was at stake in the state election, which it won't be at the by-election.  The by-election is also unlikely to see a repeat of the cashed-up campaigns from gambling interests against Labor and the Greens.  And also, Tasmanians have a long history of often sharp divergences between state and federal voting intention.  For instance, the 2013 federal election saw Labor narrowly win the 2PP in the state (despite lucking out on the seat distribution) but just six months later Labor were thrashed in the state election.  Then Labor picked up a 6% swing at the 2016 federal election, then they were thumped again in the state election earlier this year.

I've been very interested in trying to test this idea of a rub-off effect between state and federal elections (in either direction) in general.  Unfortunately it's difficult to test in the case of state elections rubbing off on federal by-elections, because there are so few federal by-elections contested by both parties these days.  So the best I can do is look at the link between state and federal general elections and just note that a by-election should offer improved prospects for an Opposition.

For Tasmania for the last fifty years, I've found that there does appear to be a weak relationship between performance at general elections of either kind and the election of the other kind that follows it (whether closely or otherwise).  After translating the Tasmanian state elections to estimated 2PPs if voters all gave preferences (which they don't, but we need some basis to compare the two election types fairly) it looks like this:

This relationship firstly explains only 10% of the variation in results of following elections, and secondly isn't actually statistically significant by itself.  Thirdly, the slope of the line is rather shallow.  From what I've seen looking at other states, it seems that it is significant on a national basis, but I still have to reconfigure some of the other-state data to 2PP estimates that take account of preference flows from the Greens (my original attempt used differences in major party primary votes).

In any case,  we can't say that a good performance in a state election causes a party to do well in the next federal election, or vice versa.  Historically there have been runs in Tasmania of the Labor Party doing badly at both levels or well at both levels at the same time.  An example of the former was the 1980s, where the state Liberal Party had electoral success based on undivided support for the Franklin Dam project, which divided the ALP.  The Liberals also polled strongly in the state at federal elections at this time as federal Labor was seen as interfering in Tasmania's state rights.  In the 2000s there was a different pattern in which Labor did generally well at both state and federal levels (despite the loss of two federal seats in 2004).

In recent times we have seen mixed-up results,  so whether the pattern applies at the moment is debatable.  Even if it did, the predicted Labor 2PP score in Braddon in the next federal election would be about 47, but this is a by-election. After throwing in the expected advantage to the Opposition (a few points given that the incumbent is recontesting) this pattern still doesn't predict a Liberal victory.

The rub-off effect theory also importantly maintains that the state result is more likely to rub off on the by-election because the by-election is so soon after the state election.  The delaying of the by-election has taken some of the oomph out of this argument, but how much oomph was present to begin with?  If this claim was predictive at all we would expect that the "swings" from a state election to a federal election (or perhaps vice versa) would be smaller if the gap between the two was shorter. And this is what we have seen in Tasmania in the past:

Even off such a small number of data points this is a very significant relationship: it looks like state election voting tends to contaminate federal election voting in Tasmania if a federal election follows less than a year after a state one.  (The average swing from state election to state election in Tasmania is about six points, the highest of any Australian state.)

However, when I looked at other states I found that, oddly, NSW and WA both showed a similarly strong historic relationship while Victoria, SA and Queensland all showed none at all.  A good example of why Victoria doesn't was the strong performance of the Keating government shortly after Victorians elected the Kennett government, and clearly in reaction to the agenda of the latter.  Furthermore no state showed this relationship in the reverse direction (state election results tending to be more like federal results in that state if the state election followed soon after the federal election.)  So, hmmm ... state election rub-off might help Whiteley, but it might not, and it's impossible to really say how much it will help him if it does.  It's a reason not to be too confident re Labor's chances, but it's too messy to read too much into.

Prospects: Other Issues

One other argument being made by upbeat Liberals regarding this seat is the rate of employment and economic growth in Braddon.  However this is exactly the same reason Whiteley was supposed to hold his seat in 2016, but he still lost.  A more likely reason for a rebound would be that the 2016 Liberal results in Tasmania generally were poor.  This might be attributed to the innovation-based campaign the Government ran being received poorly in the regions, and also to anxiety over health and other services.

As for the issue of Justine Keay herself having caused this by-election by having to resign, there is no evidence from the three previous such by-elections that this actually does any harm (if anything, possibly the contrary, though the evidence there is messy too).  However the Liberals believe this one is different because of the amount of time for which Keay continued to hold on to the seat while her legal position was dubious, instead of acquiescing to a much earlier referral.  I suspect voters will be more concerned about the issues than Keay's actions come election day (or at least that views on it will break in a partisan fashion.)  However there has been no specific polling on this issue.

One further factor that may assist Whiteley is government infrastructure spending in the area arising from the 2018 Budget.  Whether this has done enough to convince voters the Turnbull government is taking the region seriously remains to be seen.

Graham Richardson in The Australian 25/6 has said that Labor insiders "believe they have no hope" in Braddon.  (This was also what Labor insiders were reported as saying about Batman, which the party won convincingly.)

Despite high votes for Palmer United and Jacqui Lambie in recent elections, Braddon is an extremely difficult seat for a contender outside the major parties to be competitive in.  The low primary vote for the Greens is one reason for this, and another is that the major party primaries tend to be close together.  The non-major candidate with the most potential to poll a signficant vote is probably Garland, who has a degree of local cult appeal and could improve on his state vote and score several percent.


Modelling arguments for Keay win:

* Existing margin 2.2%
* Opposition-seat by-elections on average favour opposition (average swing +1.1%, but with high standard deviation)
* Federal government is polling poorly nationally (expected benefit c. +1.4%)
* Keay is a recontesting first-term incumbent, whereas by-elections for Opposition seats typically involve the loss of a longer-term incumbent's personal vote

Modelling arguments for Whiteley win:

* ReachTEL seat poll 54-46 to LNP (effective margin of error estimated at about 6%)
* Possible state election rub-off (estimated benefit if real c. 3 points, but unclear if this is reliable)
* 2016 federal campaign was unusually bad - faulty baseline?
* Whiteley is a recontesting previous incumbent, reducing personal vote gain for Keay
* Donkey vote (probably worth not more than 0.5% in this electorate)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cable car catch-up

Not everyone notices when I post links to updates on the sidebar, so for those who read from the top, just a very quick note that I have updated my old article on polling on the proposed kunanyi/Mt Wellington Cable Car following the release of two new polls by groups opposed to the project.

I thought I'd highlight this with a note at the top because I'm actually mildly annoyed about it.  Up til now it has only been the prospective developers of the cable car through time who have engaged in the usual silly commissioned-poll games involving misleading polls with biased preambles.

Now it's both sides.

If you respect the mountain, you should also respect the facts.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

EMRS: No Real Change Since Election

EMRS: Liberal 47 (-3.2 from election), Labor 30 (-2.8), Green 14 (+3.7) Ind/Other 8 (+1.2)
Interpretation: Liberal 49.5 (-0.7) Labor 31.5 (-1.3) Green 11 (+0.7) Ind/Other 8
Outcome if election "held now" based on this poll: Liberal majority government (c. 13-9-3)
However it is unlikely in practice Greens would be in a position to regain Bass so quickly.
Poll provides no evidence that any party's support has changed.

The December 2017 EMRS poll, taken three months out from the 2018 state election, proved to be completely unpredictive of the outcome.  It had a 17% swing against the Government (the actual swing in the end was 1%), a 3.2% swing to the Greens (the actual swing was 3.5% against) and an 8% vote for the Jacqui Lambie Network (who in the end got 3.2).  If a poll taken three months out is predictively worse than useless, what can we say of one taken two months into an expected four-year term?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Expected "Super Saturday" By-Elections

Today's four resignations from the House of Representatives following the Section 44 disqualification of Labor Senator Katy Gallagher is expected to trigger a day of at least five by-elections, or at least a cluster of by-elections close to each other.  The following seats are affected:

Braddon, TAS (ALP, 2.2%)
Fremantle, WA (ALP, 7.5%)
Longman, QLD (ALP, 0.8%)
Mayo, SA (Centre Alliance vs Lib, 5.0%; Lib vs ALP 5.4%)
Perth, WA (ALP, 3.3%) 

See The Tally Room for detailed histories of these seats.  Also see the Poll Bludger thread for Perth.  All seats will be contested on the old boundaries, irrespective of redistributions.

It's possible that given the strictness of the High Court's ruling, other MPs may come under pressure to resign or be referred to the High Court (note: as of Friday the media are suddenly all over the Anne Aly story, which has been known via Jeremy Gans' Twitter comments for months), though the Coalition may not be in any great hurry to hunt down any more and invite more scrutiny of its own remaining unclear cases.  The by-elections are not just a nuisance for Labor, but also for the Coalition, which must either throw resources into contesting them seriously or else chicken out and leave voters wondering what all the fuss was about.

Australia has never had a day with five federal by-elections before, so it would be quite a novelty.  Three were held on the same day in 1981 and 1984.  In 1994 four were held across three weekends following a cluster of resignations, but the resignations came on different days.  At state level, NSW has often held multiple by-elections on the same day.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Hobart and Prosser Live And Postcount

Hobart: CALLED (7:15) Rob Valentine (IND) retain
Prosser: Howlett (Lib) defeated Lambert (ALP) by 887 votes after exclusion of Mav (IND).

Welcome to my live coverage thread for the 2018 Legislative Council elections for Hobart and Prosser.  After the craziest week in the Lower House in decades, we now come to the voting for two Legislative Council seats - Hobart, where Rob Valentine faces his first defence and Prosser, a new seat created by a redistribution.  The left currently has the numbers in the Legislative Council, care of four Labor MLCs and four left-wing independents, and that's not changing unless the Liberals can pull off a big upset in Hobart.  Indeed, should Prosser go badly for them, the balance will become even worse for the Hodgman government.  By the way, should a party-endorsed candidate win either seat then the party representation will reach a new all-time high (see the chart at Poll Bludger to see how the parties ebbed and flowed in the last several years.)

Comments will follow below the dotted line, scrolling from the earliest upwards. All the seats will be covered together.  I'm leaving this bit of text at the top to try to prevent colours from the heading running into the main text.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mayhem On Day 1 As Hickey Nicks The Chair!

(NOTE: My very old 25 vs 35 seats article has been updated.)

The opening of the Tasmanian parliament on May the 1st was meant to be a routine affair.  After the election of the new Speaker we were expecting to start off with the ritual parliamentary theatre of a Greens no-confidence motion over the Liberals' failure to disclose any pokies-related donations prior to their re-election in March.  It seems to be the Greens' lot in life lately to have their thunder stolen but in this case they won't mind.  Former Hobart Lord Mayor Sue Hickey has decided that starting her parliamentary career on the backbench was not acceptable, and she's nabbed the Speakership instead.  

That part is by no means unprecedented.  In 1992, Ray Groom's Liberals won 19 of the then 35 seats and they nominated the flamboyant Michael Hodgman (Will's father) as Speaker.  However, Liberal Graeme Page and a colleague voted for Page and Page was elected Speaker with Labor and Green support, 18 votes to 17.  Previous Labor Speaker Michael Polley is generally credited with hatching the plot.  In this case there had been some speculation that the former Liberal Speaker Mark Shelton could do the same thing (if he wanted) but the Greens poured cold water on it.  While I did tweet that this year it would only take one renegade Liberal to repeat the dose, that tweet was better classified as a bit of stirring at Hidding's expense than a serious prediction.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Worst PM Of The Last 45 Years

It's a little bit later than I intended but I've now found time to kick off the Worst PM Not-A-Poll as a sequel to the Best PM series that I ran for several months.  Voting in the sidebar, below the Prosser Not-A-Poll.  The first round will run until the end of May.  The rules are:

* this is intended as a shorter exercise than Best PM, so if there is not an outright majority in round 1 there will be a runoff between the top two only.

* in the case of a tie to get into the runoff, the PM who left office first will progress to the runoff.

* in the case of a tie in the runoff, the PM who received the most votes in round 1 will be deemed Worst PM.  If the two tied in round 1 as well they will be deemed equal worst.

* in the event of obvious or highly likely stacking by a single person I will deduct votes and declare changed results as I deem necessary - any changes will be logged as soon as I decide them.

* Gough Whitlam is not included as he won immunity by winning the Best PM Not-A-Poll series.

I do ask that people vote honestly.  It's common for supporters of political parties to automatically demonise the current PM while their party is in opposition, or the most recent PMs of the other side while their party is in government.  That said, you might honestly think the person that line of attack implies is the worst, and if that's the case, go for it.  (And no, this site doesn't make or break careers at federal level at least, so please don't vote for anyone on that basis.)

Worst PM will be followed by Worst Opposition Leader.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Poll Roundup: What Is Going On With Newspoll Preferences?

2PP Aggregate (Last-election preferences): 52.4 to Labor (-0.4 since last week,  -1.2 points in five weeks)
With One Nation adjustment, 51.8 to Labor 
Closest position since May last year
Labor would very probably win election held "right now", but would probably have a small to moderate majority

[Updated on 26 April at bottom of post]


Normally I issue Poll Roundups every second Newspoll. Since the last one there's been the slight distraction of the Coalition's 30th consecutive 2PP Newspoll loss. This week's Newspoll was number 31 in a row, just two shy of equalling the longest losing streak held by Labor under Julia Gillard, but it was more significant for the discussion it has sparked about (i) Newspoll's preferencing methods (ii) the prospect of a Coalition recovery.  So firstly, a detailed discussion of the preferencing issue, and then a slightly shorter discussion of where things now stand in federal polling.

Newspoll as a brand name linked to a standard set of questions has a 33-year history in Australia.  However, in 2015 the company previously doing Newspoll for the Australian was wound up.  The Australian retained control over the brand, but its operation was contracted out to Galaxy Research (which in turn was recently acquired by YouGov).  While the questions didn't change when Galaxy took over, the methods did, with a mixture of robopolling and online polling replacing the old Newspoll's landline-only live phone polling, and an increase in average sample size.

Friday, April 20, 2018

How Could The Tasmanian Legislative Council Be Reformed?

In the leadup to Legislative Council elections for Prosser and Hobart, the fact that the current Legislative Council has a left-wing majority that seems likely to make life difficult for the re-elected Hodgman Liberal Government has been receiving some attention.  Since the balance of power in the LegCo is not likely to move much to the right this year at least, this raises the age-old questions of whether it is too easy for the Legislative Council to obstruct an elected Government, and if so what might be done to change it.

As I mention this is a very old debate, but the novelty in the present situation is having a left-wing LegCo overseeing a right wing government. Up until the late 1990s, malapportionment meant the other way round was much more common.  Discussion quickly turns to the unusual features of Tasmania's upper house system.  The system was designed to check perceived short-term democratic excesses and members are elected on a rotational basis with two or three of the fifteen seats coming up for their scheduled election every year.  There is no mechanism for a government that finds its legislation or even its budgets blocked to force the Legislative Council to an election, and the Legislative Council can never be dissolved all at the same time.  This makes it extremely powerful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Disassociation From Tasmanian Times

Until yesterday there was an image link to this website in the sidebar of Tasmanian Times (which I ceased writing for in 2012).  Such as it was (I'm no graphic designer!), it looked like this:

However I have now decided to disassociate this site from Tasmanian Times to the maximum extent possible.

The nature of this decision is as follows:

1. It is no longer possible to reach this site via the sidebar on TT as the link has been removed at my request.

2. I have asked the TT editor to cease promoting and linking to my site on TT.

3. Barring a major improvement in TT moderation or other satisfactory solution, I will not post any more comments to TT in the future at all.  (Since leaving the site as a writer in 2012 I have only commented there rarely anyway.)

4. All future links to TT that I may post here in the course of my coverage or debate will be to a Wayback Machine version of the content only.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Newspoll Number 30: Rolling Comments

"The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott's leadership"

Normally I am now doing federal polling roundups every second Newspoll (here's the latest) but the event that is very likely to happen demands its own thread.  In polling history, this is something very novel - a Prime Minister who seems about to meet the same standard of polling failure that he used as a justification for removing his opponent.  Judge for yourself from the link above how central a justification it was, but I reckon it was more than an aside.

Once we have the Newspoll result I will update this article and there are likely to be comments on various claims that are made as a result.  One remarkably silly false claim circulating on social media is that Abbott's 30 Newspolls plus Turnbull's 30 Newspolls will equal 60 consecutive Newspoll losses.  Turnbull did not start losing every poll immediately; his losing streak commenced 21 polls in.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poll Roundup: Number 29

2PP Aggregate: 53.3 to ALP (-0.3 since last week)
Labor would easily win election "held now"

This week's federal polling coverage was dominated by Malcolm Turnbull slipping another Newspoll closer to the dreaded number 30.  Although there may be minor signs of improvement, it would be highly surprising to see the Coalition's 2PP jump to 50% in two or three weeks' time.

Since the last poll roundup, we've had two Newspolls (both 53-47 for Labor), three Essentials (53-54-52 for Labor), and two ReachTELs, one in late February and one today.  The ReachTEL was 54-46 by respondent preferences, but I estimated 55.5-44.5 by last-election preferences, which made it the single worst poll of this government's term in my aggregate (though not by much).  The March ReachTEL was also 54-46 but in this case I got 54.2-45.8 as a last-election estimate.  Oh and there's also, to my great surprise, been a Morgan, and that gets a section of its own below.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Prosser

As noted in my Hobart preview, I'm getting busy early on my Legislative Council previews as there are quite a few declared candidates already.  There is one preview thread for each seat and I may have other threads should campaign issues warrant them.  I expect to have live comments on the evening of Saturday 5th May.  For more on Legislative Council voting patterns see my 2014-8 voting patterns thread.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

Seat Profile

Prosser is a fairly large rural and satellite-town seat in the midlands, east and south-east of Tasmania (see map).  Its largest population centres are Brighton, Dodges Ferry and Sorell (all in the south) and other significant centres include Bagdad, Bicheno, Campbell Town, Swansea, Triabunna, Nubeena and Oatlands.  Industries include farming, fishing and what remains of forestry, but around Sorell there has been a rapid increase in young commuting families.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Hobart

I'm getting in a bit earlier than usual with the Legislative Council guides this year as there are quite a few declared candidates already.  I will have one preview thread for each seat and I expect to have live comments on Saturday 5th May.  There may also be other threads if any campaign issue warrants them.  For more on Legislative Council voting patterns see my 2014-8 voting patterns article.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

Seat Profile

As its name suggests Hobart is mostly inner-city Hobart.  It falls entirely within the state electorate just contested under the name Denison (henceforth to be Clark at both state and federal levels.)  It includes most of the Hobart City Council area with the exceptions of the relatively wealthy Sandy Bay and Mt Nelson areas in the south, and some parts of the far north of New Town and Lenah Valley.  At the recent redistribution Hobart lost the latter areas to Elwick, but gained Tolmans Hill, Ridgeway, Fern Tree and a small part of Dynnyrne from Nelson.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Legislative Council Voting Patterns 2014-8

Advance summary:

1. This article presents a revised analysis of voting patterns in the Legislative Council (the upper house of Tasmanian Parliament) based on contested divisions involving the current MLCs in the last four years.

2. Although there is a degree of independence in all Legislative Council voting, the Council continues to have a fairly clearly defined "left wing" consisting of the four Labor Party MLCs, and independents Mike Gaffney, Ruth Forrest, Kerry Finch and Rob Valentine.

3. Excepting Rosemary Armitage and Tania Rattray (and Jim Wilkinson, who does not vote) the remaining MLCs (independents Ivan Dean, Robert Armstrong, Greg Hall, and Liberal Leonie Hiscutt) can all be clearly placed in a strongly-defined right-wing cluster.

4. A possible left-to-right sort of the Council is Forrest, Valentine, the four Labor MLCs (Farrell, Lovell, Siejka and Willie in no particular order), Gaffney, Finch, Armitage, Rattray, Hall, Armstrong, Hiscutt (Liberal), Dean.  However some of the exact positions in this list are debatable.

5. Going into the 2018 elections, the left holds an absolute majority in the current Legislative Council, although the fact that four of the left MLCs are independents means it will not necessarily be realised on every specific issue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Batman Bits And Pieces

There are a few points of interest I thought were worth commenting on quickly following Labor's drubbing of the Greens in the Batman by-election.

The 34% swing that wasn't

It has been widely reported that the Northcote West booth swung to Labor by 34 points.  This is incorrect; the actual two-party swing in that booth was 9%, which was still one of the largest in the electorate.  It was quite obvious based on the primary votes that the AEC had accidentally transposed the Labor and Green 2PP figures during data entry.  This kind of thing happens now and then and it is best to check cases where one booth says something off the scale before commenting further.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tasmania 2018: How Woodruff Won Franklin

It's been a hideous few weeks for the Greens - they lost votes and a seat in Tasmania, were thumped in the Batman by-election and were remarkably anonymous in South Australia.  The party is now facing serious internal recriminations over these poor results.

However there was one rather nifty save amid all this, and before I move on to the other house of the Tasmanian parliament (there are two Upper House seat contests coming up in May) I want to post the instructive Hare-Clark details of how Rosalie Woodruff (Green) managed to retain her seat in a very close contest with Nic Street (Liberal).  This article is naturally rather mathsy and has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 South Australia Election Wrapup And Postcount

(Mawson was in doubt but retained by Labor) 
Expected Legislative Council result 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 SA-BEST, 1 Green

This thread will provide some general comments on the South Australian election and will also follow the post-counting in the few seats in doubt.  The post-counting comments will not be updated all that regularly as I took three days off work to follow the Tasmanian post-count and should probably get back to earning some money.  I'll try to check every day or so to see if there's anything worth noting.

The Liberal Opposition led by Steven Marshall has won the election, and is more or less certain to have an outright majority.  If it did fall short in a seat somewhere because of some freakish postcount result, Troy Bell could be counted on for support.

This is only the seventh case since 1969 of an Opposition winning an election while the same party is in power federally; for the previous six see here.  On the other hand, it confirms two other historic patterns: that governments no longer seem to go on forever (it is now 32 years since any state or federal government older than 16 years was returned) and that unpopular state premiers don't get re-elected.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018 South Australian Election Night Live


From base of notional 25-19-3 seat distribution:
Apparent Liberal gain: King
Possible Labor gain: Mawson (in some doubt)
In doubt: Adelaide (Lib ahead), Newland (Lib ahead)
Outcome: Liberals have won, almost certainly in majority, most likely result 25-19-3 or 26-18-3.

Note: I will try to clear comments tonight but don't expect replies

Updates (Refresh for latest)

11:42: The ABC has turned off the projection, meaning that some seats that were projected as easy wins have dropped back into in-doubt status.  Of these Adelaide is the closest with a current real margin of just 67 votes.  Here in 2014, booth votes went 51.6% to Liberal but declaration votes went 54.5% to Liberal.  So while the seat can be projected to about 51-49 we have to wait and see if the pattern repeats.  Some doubt can also be entertained about Newland, where we have a 50.9-49.1 margin on booth votes, but in 2014, declaration votes were overall weaker for the Liberals than booth votes, and this time there will be a greater proportion of declaration votes that are prepolls.  Note that in each of these cases I am not necessarily matching exactly the same voting areas, which creates some further issues.