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: Historic patterns suggest Labor should retain, though seat polling has been very close and at times strong for Whiteley.

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.

The electorate

Note: The by-election will be fought on the old boundaries. Labor won in 2016 with a 52.2:47.8 margin.

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) and both occurred in years when the Liberals did very well nationally.

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.

Incumbent

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". So far it seems this hasn't returned.

On 21 July The Mercury's Nick Clark noted that Whiteley cannot vote for himself as he does not live in the electorate.

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 who has stated that he frequently doesn't vote in federal elections, ran a homespun campaign around seal relocation, squid overfishing 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.)  Garland's past is controversial (see campaign section.)

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 (Facebook)  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.  The ABC has reported that Strangio appears to be ineligible.

Other Possible Contenders

The Jacqui Lambie Network and Pauline Hanson's One Nation announced at an early stage that they would not be 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).

Campaign

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 (and especially so here as Whiteley is a former banker) 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 is running 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.

The Liberals are also running strongly on the improved condition of the local economy but the state of the economy and the extent to which improvement is flowing on to residents is disputed.

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 and competition from Craig Garland will not help them.

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.

On 19 July The Australian broke that Garland had a conviction for assault in Victoria in 1994, which he is reported as saying involved an off-duty police officer.  Further details have emerged with Garland defending his behaviour for which he received a three-month suspended sentence.  This does not make him ineligible to be elected as Section 44 restrictions only apply while someone is under sentence or subject to be sentenced, and not to old convictions.

An offbeat issue late in the campaign is local BBQ smoke regulations.  Whiteley has been campaigning on this issue, which is likely to be popular although it is from a different level of government.

Labor has been reported as outspending the Liberals in its attempt to hold this seat, and Bill Shorten has been a very frequent flier into it.

Preferences

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.  Garland's Facebook page has a contradictory video which tells voters to put the major parties last but shows a ballot being numbered with Keay 4th out of 8.  The Liberals have been attacking Garland alleging that he is more Green than radical former serial Greens candidate Scott Jordan.  ABC Mornings has reported the Shooters' Brett Neal as saying they are putting the Greens and Labor last. Strangio is preferencing Labor ahead of the Liberals.

Polling

Major Polls

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.)

A third ReachTEL from the Australian Forest Products Association taken on 19 July had Labor leading 52:48.  Released primaries were Liberal 40.9 Labor 34.4 Garland 8.9 (before revelations of his assault conviction) Greens 6.7 (seems a bit high).  "Undecided" (not included in these tallies) was 4.6% with 22% leaning Labor and 11% leaning Liberal, which leaves a hell of a lot leaning to someone else.  Labor had 67.9% of preferences (very slightly higher than 2016).  It is difficult to see how the 2PP could be that high off this data - I get 51-49 to Labor.

A YouGov Galaxy with a small sample size of 504 and taken 17-19 July had a 50:50 2PP off primaries of Liberal 44 Labor 40 Garland 7 Greens 4 Others 5.  However when given a hypothetical in which Anthony Albanese led Labor, this changed to 53-47 to Labor.  Justine Keay had a net satisfaction rating of +11 (49-38) for her performance when she was MP for the seat.

A Newspoll released on election day had a 51-49 to Labor 2PP off primaries of Liberal 43 Labor 40 Garland 8 Greens 5 Others 4.  It had a hypothetical 55-45 win if Anthony Albanese led Labor.

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.

Internal polling is of course even worse.

Other Poll Reports

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 was 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)".

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 MediaReach polling in which Bill Shorten was claimed to have a remarkably dire -45 netsat in one poll, and nearly as bad results in aggregated sampling.  However they did not release ratings for the candidates, the sample size, or the voting intention results.  With one week to go another selective MediaReach release (falsely described as "leaked") claimed that Justine Keay's net favourability had crashed from -5 to -11.5 (26.34-37.91), but this was contradicted immediately by Galaxy's much better result for her.

On Tuesday of campaign week, Jennifer Bechwati (Seven) reported that the Liberals said their internals showed them ahead "for the first time" (hmmm) 51-49 while Labor claimed to have favourability scores (= positive approval) of 47 for Keay and 37 for Whiteley, which doesn't surprise me greatly.  Further detail of the Liberal polling emerged in The Australian (it seems the Liberals like using said paper as a fence for their internals and dirt about opponents) where they had Whiteley on a 2PP of 51.07% (yep, 2 decimals) and said their attacks had brought Garland's vote down from 9% to below 5.  This is presumably a strategic release to prevent open tactical division about the wisdom of their attacks on Garland.  The party also said Whiteley had been behind for "most" of the campaign.

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.

The Greens have released an Essential poll showing 49-40 support for "a Tarkine national park" within Braddon, but this is a rather useless result as the respondent is not asked how much of the Tarkine should be included.  The AFPA poll had a 70-30 split (evidently a forced choice, which is a bad idea for issues polling) on whether the voter was more likely to support a party that supported "North-West Tasmania’s forest industries".)  Voters also very strongly agreed (76.6%) that "timber production and timber processing are important to the local economy in North-West Tasmania".  They very strongly agreed (85.5%) that "Australia should have its own native forest timber industry for appearance grade timber, producing products like; floorboards, outdoor decks, staircases & furniture" but that question had a skewing preamble and should be ignored.

Betting

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%.

As of 17 July, Sportsbet has flipped (this apparently happened on 10 July) and has Whiteley ahead 1.66/2.10, (bookie) has Whiteley ahead 1.70/2.00 but Ladbrokes still has Labor up 1.55/2.10.  This is a large arbitrage and will presumably be fixed soon. (Edit: Yes, it is, now 1.66/1.90 to Whiteley).  So markets now have Labor's chance down to 44% to 47%.

And as of 21 July, back to approaching evens again with Sportsbet 1.85 Liberal 1.90 Labor.  Following that night's ReachTEL, Labor took the lead again (to 1.78/2.00.)

As of 23 July all sources have Labor favourite.  Sportsbet 1.70/2.10 Ladbrokes 1.67/2.10 (bookie) 1.67/2.15.  A tight cluster around a 55-56% perceived chance.

As of election eve, 27 July, Labor had firmed to: Sportsbet 1.55/2.40, Ladbrokes 1.67/2.10, (bookie) 1.60/2.25.  An implied 55-61% chance.

I have not at any stage seen Garland closer than $10.

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!  There are a very large number of arguments that can be made as to why one candidate or the other will win, but all of them are individually weak.  So it's basically a lot of words to say "don't know" but overall I think slightly more of the objective evidence favours Labor.

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 more likely, 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.  Especially, an effective-looking attack ad has pointed to an article in November 2017 where University of Tasmania constitutional law expert Brendan Gogarty said Keay was ineligible.

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 significant vote is probably Garland, who has a degree of local cult appeal and could improve on his state vote and score several percent (perhaps even despite the late-breaking assault revelations).  Garland's preferences are likely to help Labor and could have a significant impact on the contest.

Summary

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%)
* 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
* Most recent poll 52-48 to Labor (but seat polls are very unreliable)

Modelling arguments for Whiteley win:

* Earlier ReachTEL seat polls 54-46 and 50.5-49.5 to LNP (but seat polls are very unreliable)
* 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? (might be worth a few points if causal factors don't still apply)
* Whiteley is a recontesting previous incumbent, reducing personal vote gain for Keay
* Donkey vote (probably worth not more than 0.5% in this electorate)

5 comments:

  1. Am I right in saying that since 1998, the Liberals have only won seats federally in Tasmania when the Liberals do very well nationally. In 2004 the Liberals won both Braddon and Bass, while in 2013 they won Braddon, Bass and Lyons. I am predicting Labor will retain Braddon at the by-election.

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    1. Yes. The last time the Liberals won any seat in Tasmania federally while losing the national 2PP was 1993, and even then they retained only Braddon while losing all of Bass, Franklin and Lyons to Labor. In the 1980s the party performed well in Tasmania whatever its result federally, largely on account of federal Labor intervention against Tasmania over the proposed Franklin Dam.

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  2. Thanks for the reply, I found out recently Labor has won the majority of the two-party preferred vote in Tasmania since 1993. That is better than my home state of Victoria (only been in Tasmania since October 2017). Because at the 2003 federal election the Coalition won the majority of the two-party preferred vote there.
    I am used to the Victorian (from Victoria and only moved to Hobart in 2007) state and federal results not being terrible divergent. To give an example the federal seats of Bendigo and Ballarat marginal which is like what the state seats inside them are. In my opinion Braddon and Bass strongly resemble Bendigo and Ballarat.
    I believe Braddon will retained by the Labor reasonably easy. One Tasmania Liberal party member I was talking to, who is not a fan of you was of the opinion will be too close to call. Longman, I predict will be close because Labor only there in 2016 due to very favorable preference distribution.

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  3. Do pollsters use the names of the party candidates when they conduct their bi-election polls or do they just read out the choice of Labor, Liberal and Greens + Independent?

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    1. It varies. I think most of the Braddon ones have used candidate names but there have been some, including the most recent Perth and Fremantle ones, that have failed to do so.

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