Thursday, January 24, 2019

Federal Seats That Have Never Had A Female Major Party Candidate

With probably less than four months to go before the 2019 federal election, the Liberal Party is still deciding on a candidate for the Tasmanian rural seat of Lyons (ALP 3.8%).  This is, in general terms in the history of this seat, not a good sign.  Lyons is infamously difficult for opposition candidates to campaign in because of the large number of small and scattered towns it contains and the premium some voters in the seat place on familiarity.  The incumbent, Labor's Brian Mitchell, was preselected almost two years before he won the seat.  His predecessor, the Liberals' Eric Hutchinson, took two goes to win it.  The lack of an early endorsement suggests the Liberals and/or their prospective candidates lack confidence about the prospects of recovering the seat.

A Liberal preselection is currently open for Lyons, with the result expected to be announced on February 2.  Tasmania's northern papers reported that first term Brighton councillor Jessica Whelan is being considered as a possible candidate.  If the Liberals do field Whelan, or any other female candidate, they will have made an unusual and overdue piece of history.  Never in the history of Lyons or its predecessor Wilmot, going back to the seat's creation in 1903, has either major party fielded a female candidate!  

This is although there have been six female state MPs representing Lyons, including the current state Labor leader, Rebecca White.  Another curiosity is that Lyons is partly named after Australia's first ever female MHR Dame Enid Lyons - who remains the only Tasmanian woman the conservative side of politics has ever sent to the House of Reps. (Labor has had five Tasmanian female MHRs so far.)

This made me wonder how many other federal divisions (excluding those created by very recent redistributions) have never had a female Labor or Coalition candidate.  It turns out that this is true for very few indeed, and probably very soon there will be no remaining seats for which this holds true.  In considering this I regard a division as the same if it was renamed without massive changes in extent, and also the same if it kept the existing name even through quite substantial boundary changes in the process.

Among Federation electorates the nearest approach is Eden-Monaro (NSW).  Eden-Monaro has almost always been a Labor-vs-Liberal seat and both these parties have always fielded male candidates in the seat.  However the National (formerly Country) Party has also intermittently contested the seat. In 1990 the Nationals fielded a female candidate, Gaye White, who polled 9.5%.  Still, no female candidate has ever made the two-candidate preferred count in this seat.  This is set to end this year as the Liberal Party has preselected Fiona Kotvojs.

The two next oldest boys club seats as far as I can tell were created at the 1948 expansion of the House from 74 to 121 seats.  Banks (NSW) in Sydney's south was Labor-held until being picked up by the Liberals' David Coleman in 2013.  Labor has endorsed its 2016 candidate to run again in this marginal seat, meaning that Banks will retain its all-male major party status if Coleman recontests (there are some rumours he might not.)

Watson (NSW) also in Sydney's south was created for the 1993 election following a reasonably minor redistribution of the electorate of St George (1948-1992).  I treat these as the same seat.  The seat was a swinging marginal until 1980 and has been Labor-held ever since, and is currently a very safe seat indeed (17.6%).  Over time, however, the seat has moved to the north-west, so that only a small part of the modern Watson was also part of St George.  The Liberal Party has yet to announce a candidate for Watson to my knowledge.

Beyond the four (or three) seats above, as far as I can tell every current Reps seat that is over 20 years old has had a female candidate for one major party or the other (let me know if I've missed any that haven't).  The next longest-standing seat without any female major party candidate history appears to be Flynn (Qld), first created in 2006 for the 2007 election.  However all the seats Flynn was created from parts of had been contested by a female major party candidate prior to the creation of Flynn.

At the other end of the scale, just over half the current electorates (80 by my count) have elected a female MHR at some stage (major party or otherwise).  Nine seats (Bass, Canberra, Canning, Capricornia, Chisholm, Kingston, Lindsay, Macquarie and Robertson) have each had three female MHRs through their history. However, the boundaries of Canberra, for instance, have jumped around a lot according to whether the ACT has two or three seats at a given time.  Of these nine, Canberra and Lindsay are highly likely to acquire their fourth female representatives at this election. Robertson is a marginal that will get a fourth if it falls (ditto Macquarie, but seats falling Labor to Liberal currently looks less likely) and Chisholm will get a fourth unless Julia Banks recontests and wins.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What Are The Prospects For A Labor-Green Senate Majority?

I've had a few questions recently about the chances of a Labor-Green Senate majority after the 2019 federal election.  This is on the assumption that, as is currently looking likely, Labor wins government in the House of Reps and does so by at least a modest margin.   My view at the moment is that while it is likely Labor and the Greens will make some combined seat gain in this situation, it is unlikely that they will manage a combined Senate majority.  My modelling on which this conclusion is based is below - a warning that it gets very technical in parts, most parts in fact; this article has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5.

Firstly, the current state of play, showing Senate seats that are up for grabs at a half-Senate election versus those that don't come up (barring a double dissolution) until 2022:

The main difference between the two sides on a national basis is that 12 of the current 19 crossbencher seats (6 of 9 Green and 6 of 10 others) are up for grabs this time around.  There were some mid-term changes in the above numbers:

* six-year-term holding SA Liberal Cory Bernardi ratted to the crossbench almost immediately on being re-elected
* three-year-term holding Lucy Gichuhi, a replacement for Family First Senator Bob Day after that party merged with Australian Conservatives, joined the Liberals
* Jacqui Lambie's six-year term became a three-year term for her replacement Steven Martin, giving the Liberals an undeserved bonus six-year term in Tasmania.  Martin then joined the Nationals giving the Coalition an extra three-year seat in Tasmania (albeit one expected to revert to the Liberals.)

Labor and the Greens have a combined 35 seats and need to gain four for a total of 39 and a Senate majority.  Since winning two seats in the ACT looks unrealistic (see more below) the most obvious pathway would be to gain at least one seat in NSW and SA, hold four seats in Tasmania, and achieve two other 4-2 splits against the Coalition (Victoria and somewhere else).


In this article I will frequently refer to the "default result".  The default result is what would have happened in 2016, based on the votes cast, had 2016 been a half-Senate election.  This result is known in most cases (with the odd wrinkle) from the Section 282 counts that are done to inform the Senate (so that the Senate can then ignore them) on exactly this point.  (See Majors Stitch Up Senate Term Lengths, Film At 11.)  Of course, had it been a half-Senate election parties could have strategised differently and achieved different vote shares, but the default result provides a good starting-place for considering what needs to change for Labor and the Greens to increase their seat share.

Section 282 recounts need to be treated with some cautions even as indicators of what would have happened at the last election had it been a half-Senate poll.  One of these is that in the larger states, significant numbers of votes were excluded from the Section 282 counts because they did not reach any of the 12 winning candidates.  This has the effect of making parties that poll quotas more competitive in the Section 282 counts than if these votes were not excluded.  I've adjusted for this in the modelled figures for competing parties that I give below.  I don't think anyone has previously looked at what would have happened in Section 282 recounts for which such votes were not excluded, but it looks like in one case it would actually have made a difference.  It's arguable whether the current Section 282 method is unfair (since in some ways it is closer to what might happen with a progressively recalculated quota, albeit crudely) but certainly it creates issues with using the Section 282 counts as a model of what would have happened last time.

In terms of polling, we have national Reps primary vote polling (such as aggregated in BludgerTrack) which suggests that for the Reps, we currently have about a 6% swing against the Coalition, about a 4% swing to Labor, a 5% swing to One Nation and a 3% swing away from Others excluding One Nation.  Concerning the major party swings, it's possible they could stay like this or even increase, but the lowside of a comfortable Labor-win scenario would be swings of about half this size.  The major party swings might be similar in both houses, or it's possible that fleeing Coalition voters might beef up the minor party vote rather than the Labor vote in the Senate.  Victoria recently was a pretty good example of the former.

If One Nation were to pick up a 5% swing in the Senate, they could be very competitive in many states, so I need to have a bit of a look at that before I go any further.  The trick with the apparent Reps swing to One Nation is that they only contested 15 seats in the House of Reps in 2016.  These seats were generally strong areas for the party, but even so they only polled 1.29% in the Reps nationwide compared to 4.28% in the Senate (where they were on the ballot in every state).

To get a handle on converting One Nation's current Reps polling to a possible Senate result for them I looked at the 2016 Reps vs Senate results for those seats they did contest.

Basically One Nation did slightly worse in the Senate than the Reps in most seats (slightly better in the Senate in Flynn, Longman and Leichhardt) and this relationship looks pretty linear.  Extrapolating it to seats where they polled poorly is rather risky, but the suggestion is that their current polled Reps vote translates to a Senate vote of something like 5.6%, a gain of 1.3%.  That's assuming it holds through to election day, which it might not.  Another possible factor that could dent it is competition from Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.  We should remember that Palmer's previous party was frequently polling zero by the end of the 2013-6 term, but the sort of voters UAP is targeting probably won't remember that.  In any case, at the moment I don't expect the One Nation Senate vote to go up by a lot.  Unlike the days when specific minor parties would often outpoll their Reps vote in the Senate even if they contested all the Reps seats, these days there are too many Senate-specific micro-parties competing for it.

My expectation here is slightly at odds with Senate polling for the Australia Institute.   After redistributing voters leaning to a party, the TAI Research Now polling (the report has some advanced modelling and is well worth a look, also see the autumn edition) has One Nation on about 8% of the national Senate vote.  Here I'm not sure whether even the naming of multiple other parties and provision of an Independent/Other option is enough to overcome the tendency of parties named in a poll to overperform in Senate polling.  While the TAI report is more bullish about One Nation's vote and seat chances than me, we agree on the broad picture of a Labor-Greens majority being unlikely.

A state-by-state roundup of my view of the prospects for Labor and Green gains and losses follows:

New South Wales

In NSW, Labor and the Greens are defending two seats, but the default result is three.  In the Section 282 recount, after the initial two quotas for each major and the elimination of all the minor candidates including the LDP, the Coalition has 14% of the original count to 10.7% for the Greens, 7.7% One Nation, 6.5% Labor.  Labor should increase, the Coalition should go down, One Nation should increase, while the Greens might go down in a state where they've had a lot of problems.

It's hard to see the Coalition getting eliminated first here, unless the national result is disastrous.  If One Nation go out, their preferences help both majors against the Greens (and in the current environment, probably the Coalition more than Labor).  Potentially, this could cause Labor to beat the Greens.  If either Labor or the Greens go out first, their preferences help each other.  If the Coalition do go out, their preferences don't do a lot, but help Labor more than One Nation and One Nation more than the Greens.

It's plausible here that if One Nation don't improve and there is a large swing against the Coalition, Labor and the Greens could both win here for a four-seat Labor-Green result.  But this doesn't seem to be likely unless the Coalition cop about a 6% swing with One Nation getting not very much, and it also depends on the Green vote not declining much.  This seems an outside chance, but currently a more than remote one.

In the event that One Nation is not the last non-Green minor party standing, similar comments apply to any other parties that might somehow get up to around 10% after preferences.  Indeed, if One Nation performs badly, this probably increases the chance of Labor and the Greens holding off the smaller parties and both winning.

Other smaller parties do not in general have One Nation's preference-getting ability, so if (say) the Shooters outlast One Nation in the count, it's still hard to see them winning.  The Liberal Democrats might in theory get a brilliant ballot draw and poll say 5-6% (a repeat of 2013's 9% seems unlikely with the use of logos) but the LDP crawl on preferences in these counts.  On the left one new name that may be worth keeping an eye on is Father Rod Bower, whose independent campaign might have significant appeal with inner-city left-liberals, soft Greens voters and so on.  That said I have so far been sceptical of whether Bower can get significant support across the full range of electorate types in NSW.

Verdict: one ALP/Green gain very likely, two gains unlikely but possible.


In Victoria, Labor and the Greens are defending three seats and the default result is also three.  In the Section 282 recount, after elimination of the smaller parties and two seats for each major, the Greens have 14.8% of the original count, Derryn Hinch Justice Party has 9.6%, the Coalition has 8.3% and Labor has 5.7%.  This gives the Greens a small surplus, then Labor is excluded and elects Derryn Hinch.  It is unknown whether Hinch will run again, and if he doesn't (or runs but his vote drops badly), his votes would benefit Labor, making a Labor gain alongside the Greens much more likely if there is a swing to Labor generally.

Assuming Hinch runs and matches his 2016 performance, a modest swing to Labor and a modest swing against the Coalition would put the Coalition out, in which case Hinch wins on Coalition preferences provided the Coalition put him on their card again.  However if there is a large swing to Labor on primaries, putting Labor way ahead of Hinch, even that wouldn't be enough.

Again, there's nothing currently to suggest other parties are in the mix in Victoria.

Verdict: ALP/Green gain very likely if Hinch doesn't run, but fairly unlikely if he does.


In Queensland, Labor and the Greens are defending three seats, which is also apparently the default result.  Hang on a minute, you might say, didn't the Queensland Section 282 recount give only two Labor seats and no Green ones?  This is where the obscure point I made at the top about the recounts being a defective model kicks in.  By my quick calculations if one includes all the formal 2016 votes then Larissa Waters would probably be a half-Senate winner (by just under 1000 votes, so somebody may want to check this, in case it's not actually true.)  The key point is, if she wouldn't have won, it would have at least been very close.  At a certain point, One Nation is just over quota based on the original count (15.1%) with the LNP on 11.1%, the Greens on 10.7% and Labor on 1.8%.  (In fact, based on the 2016 results, Labor's third candidate would be excluded as they did not reach two quotas on primaries - but it is worth noting where they would be in theory as a basis for estimating swings.)  Basically, Labor are too far behind to win a third seat even with a healthy swing to them.  However any increase in their primary shores up the Greens in their fight with the LNP.

In theory if One Nation poll badly they might fall below the LNP and get eliminated, but this doesn't look likely on these figures since the LNP will probably go backwards themselves.  (There's speculation competition from UAP/KAP/Fraser Anning might knock the One Nation vote down enough if votes for those parties exhaust, and another small factor is that Hanson herself won't be on the ballot.)  The other possibility is One Nation having a larger surplus that helps the LNP, but in this case the LNP will also have gone backwards too much for it to matter. In any case even if One Nation do drop below both the LNP and Greens this only locks in the Greens seat.  Again there doesn't seem to be much sign of anyone else getting in the mix.

Verdict: high chance of status quo.

Western Australia

In WA, Labor and the Greens are defending three seats and the default result is also three.  At the key point in the WA Section 282 recount, after the first two quotas for the majors the Coalition has over a third quota based on the original count (15.6%), the Greens have a quota (14.3%) and next come One Nation (7.6%) and Labor (3.0%).  I suppose one should entertain that maybe the Coalition vote might crash enough and One Nation go up enough for One Nation to take the Coalition seat, but that has no effect on the Labor/Green balance anyway.  I can't currently see how the Greens don't win and I can't see a way to get Labor close to three, or anyone else (such as WA Nationals) getting in the mix.

Verdict: very high chance of status quo.

South Australia

In South Australia, Labor and the Greens are defending one seat each, but the default result is two Labor and no Greens.  South Australia is a very tricky state to apply the sort of modelling I have been using above, because the former Nick Xenophon Team polled a pretty strong result with Xenophon on top of its ticket in 2016.  The default result is therefore two Liberal, two Labor and two Centre Alliance (the new name for NXT) but the extent to which the CA will hold up under a new name, with no Xenophon and no incumbents, must be questioned.

In the 2016 SA Section 282 recount, Labor just gets over two quotas, but if the full original count is used they fall very marginally short.  At a certain point based on the original count NXT have 9.5% of the original count after their first quota, the Greens 7.5%, the Liberals 5.29% and Bob Day 5.24%.  It doesn't matter which of the Liberals and Day (who is no longer a factor anyway) go out first since neither can win; in the end NXT beat the Greens by 5.5% in the S282 recount and a similar margin using full figures (SA is the least affected by the excluded-votes issue).

If both the Liberal and Centre Alliance (ex-NXT) votes drop and the Labor vote comes up, it becomes possible for the Greens to win the second CA seat instead.  If Labor do extremely well they could become a threat to the Greens' seat, but at the moment this looks very unlikely.

It is possible to overplay the extent to which the CA vote might collapse.  At the SA state election the SA-BEST vote (this is the state version of NXT/CA) was down only slightly on the NXT Senate vote from 2016, and on the state election figures SA-BEST would probably have just beaten the Greens to their second Senate seat on preferences.  The question is whether the brand support will also translate to the Centre Alliance enough to keep the CA in the hunt, especially when they may well only run 4-5 lower house candidates.

At this stage it's quite possible that after the initial quotas, no-one in SA will have even half a quota of primary support, and for this reason there's a chance of somebody unexpected winning if they can get 4-5%.  One Nation polled 3% there in 2016 and wouldn't need much more to sneak into the mix (though I don't see where they would get preferences from), Tim Storer might suddenly become a cult candidate, the Australian Conservatives might bang the rocks together (though based on the state election result, one doubts it) and so on.  Any win by an unexpected party would probably be at the Greens' expense if it happened.  If the Greens win, it should be at the expense of the CA.

I have seen some suggestions that the CA might collapse completely and not win anything.  For instance the current BludgerTrack state breakdowns have the CA on only 5.9% at Reps level.  There has been very little specific polling of the CA vote and there may be a familiarity issue with making voters realise it is the same thing as NXT/SAB.  For these reasons I am cautious about this suggestion at the moment.  If the CA vote does collapse to this extent then there is a theoretical possibility of two ALP-Greens gains in SA.

Verdict: medium chance of one ALP/Green gain


In Tasmania, Labor and the Greens are defending four seats.  The status quo is three.  They are defending four because Labor, for reasons best known only to itself, decided to give the Coalition a free seat by supporting the application of the last-election method to the revised results after Jacqui Lambie was disqualified.  Lambie polled a quota in her own right but this included a large and leaky below the line vote, and her successor Steve Martin (who has since joined the Nationals) was demoted to a three-year term.  The Liberals ended up with three six year terms from four seats won, while Labor got two six year terms from five seats, as a result of Labor's vote being more spread between its candidates (and in particular, the high vote for Lisa Singh.)

In the Tasmanian Section 282 recount, using the full original count and after the first two quotas each for the majors and the elimination of minor parties, the Greens have 13.2%, Jacqui Lambie 13.1%, Labor 8.7%, Liberal 6.1%.  Liberal preferences put Lambie over quota; in the Section 282 recount Lisa Singh then loses to the Greens by 2%, but on full figures it is more like 3%.  In Tasmania, it's risky to factor in assumptions about the national swing, because the Liberal campaign in 2016 in the state was seen as particularly bad - something that was more apparent in the poor flow of preferences from other parties than in the primary vote.  The Section 282 recount also understates the Liberals' position slightly, because it doesn't include those below-the-line votes for Richard Colbeck that did not stay within the Liberal ticket.  Then again had Colbeck not been demoted to a loseable position, he may not have got those votes in the first place.

Labor don't need to pick up all that much before they take the Greens' seat away (something that is somewhat more plausible than I realised before writing this article.) However Labor are coming off a very good result in the state in 2016, making further advancement more difficult, while the Green result must have been close to rock bottom.  The only way in which Labor might win three with the Greens also getting one is if Lambie's vote declines enough for her to fall behind both.   Currently this requires a nearly 4% change in the gap between Lambie and Labor at the point after Liberal preferences.

The other complication in Tasmania is the demotion of Senator Lisa Singh to fourth on the ticket (again). If Labor do well enough to be fighting with Lambie or the Greens, then the breakdown of their vote by candidate becomes very important.  In 2016 Singh polled 6.1% of the primary vote and reached the DD quota of 7.7% on below-the-line preferences.  A repeat performance would very probably mean that John Short (Labor #3) is again eliminated with Singh becoming the third candidate.  But if the below-the-line vote for Singh falls, Singh could be eliminated as a candidate, resulting in massive leakage that would probably sink Labor's chances.

Lambie's vote may be dented by competition from other populists such as UAP and independent Steve Mav, also perhaps by competition from Martin.  The above shows that she has a reasonable amount of slack if her voter appeal has basically remained intact.  Whether it has during her time back in the political wilderness after losing her seat to Section 44 issues remains to be seen.

The Liberals shouldn't be completely written off for a third seat either, for the reasons stated above, but even if they manage to get into the mix with Lambie, Labor and the Greens, I don't see where they get preferences from.

Verdict: fairly high chance of one ALP/Green loss


The possibility of Labor and the Greens taking the two ACT seats leaving the Liberals with none used to be often talked about in the pre-2016 Senate system, the idea being that if the Liberals were below quota and everyone else preferenced the Greens, the Liberals might never make quota.  It never quite happened like that (there was a near miss in 2013 that was foiled both by below-the-line votes and the Animal Justice Party preferencing the Liberals above the Greens - either factor would have foiled it alone) but in the new system it is much less realistic.

In 2016 Labor polled 37.9%, the Liberals 33.2%, the Greens 16.1%.  Exhaust is very low in the ACT so strong preference flows between parties are possible, but as with House of Reps flows they don't tend to be stronger than about 80-20.  So even if, say, Labor were to poll 43% and the Liberals a mere 25%, the Liberals would still have a few points in hand over the Greens.  Also the point about preference flows being strong applies to preferences from smaller right-wing parties (LDP, Christian Democrats) as well as smaller left-wing ones (AJP, Reason). So the flow from the remaining parties isn't likely to help the Greens enough for them to pick up the remaining points.

(Note: There was a poll in Aug 2018 that appeared to show the Greens in a winning position.  However it was a Greens-commissioned poll and the important trick is that it was only of the new electorate of Canberra (which is favourable to the Greens), not of the ACT as a whole.)

Verdict: ALP/Green gain very unlikely

Update: In comments Blair Trewin suggested the preference flows I had might be a bit weak given the nature of Canberra ALP voters.  I did have a play around with the 2016 ATL preference flows on David Barry's site before posting, but hadn't checked the BTL votes, and hadn't been all through the ATL flows either.  I have now checked this and the following are the approximate 2016 preference flows for Greens (#1 candidate) vs Liberal (#1 candidate) from each party.  Note 1: These are slight overestimates of the formal flows because my method does not take into account cases where expressed preferences for both parties are informal.  Note 2: There is a small error rate that could be caused by cases where a voter voted both above and below the line but with the parties in different orders.  Note 3: Breakdowns do not sum to 100 because some votes would not have reached either party.

Labor 74.4-20.1
Liberal Democrats 14.1-75.9
Secular 61.3-28.3
Rise Up Australia 21.2-56.5
Sustainable Aus 53.7-35.6
Animal Justice 65.3-25.4
Christian Democrats 14.5-78.3
Sex Party 60.7:28.6
Voteflux (ungrouped BTL only) 71.7:21.5
Mature Aus (ungrouped BTL only) 47.0:32.8

By comparison, Greens voters preferenced Labor over the Liberals 89.0-8.5.  Why is it so, when normally Green preference flows to Labor over Liberal and Labor preference flows to Green over Liberal in single seats are pretty much the same?  I suggest it is so because Labor voters followed how-to-vote cards much less in the Senate in 2016 than they usually do in single seats.

It is quite possible Labor preferences will flow more strongly to the Greens this time than last time.

Northern Territory

Nothing to see here.

Verdict: no change


For Labor and the Greens to gain the balance of power following a Labor win, virtually everything has to go right.  The only realistic scenario I can identify involves Labor beating Lambie in Tasmania, the Greens (or Labor) beating the Centre Alliance in South Australia, Hinch not running or Labor beating him in Victoria, and the Coalition crashing so badly in NSW that Labor get three and the Greens one there.  Barring a true landslide result (56-44 or more) in the Reps it's hard to see any of these as better than tossups at present, and some look decidedly less likely.

The median result for Labor and the Greens if there is a comfortable but not enormous victory is probably a gain of one or two seats.  A gain of one seat (assuming that the CA win a seat in South Australia, or two seats if they don't) would mean that legislation supported by the Greens and Centre Alliance would pass.  Weaker results might require help from other centre/all-over-the-place crossbenchers such as Hinch and Lambie.  It doesn't appear likely that Labor would routinely need help from more clearly right-wing crossbenchers, and at the moment it looks likely that there won't be many of those left (perhaps just two or maybe three One Nation and Bernardi) after this election anyway. 


This article does not claim to be an unequivocal prediction of the next election result - rather it is a conditional and provisional model.  The main condition on the model is firstly that Labor wins the election in the Lower House comfortably (though not necessarily massively).  The second is that there is no national breakout success by a party not currently on the polling radar.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Independents Seldom Replace Other Independents

This week's news that Cathy McGowan is stepping down from the seat of Indi at the 2019 election after two terms makes this seat an even more interesting contest to keep an eye on.  Following a preselection process, the Voices for Indi group has endorsed nurse, midwife and rural health researcher Helen Haines to be McGowan's successor as the next "Orange Independent" for the seat.

McGowan won Indi in 2013, defeating 12-year Liberal incumbent Sophie Mirabella in a seat the Coalition had held comfortably since 1931.  At the 2016 election the Liberals re-endorsed Mirabella, but McGowan's two-candidate preferred vote blew out from 50.25% to 54.83%.  The Liberals' re-endorsement of a contentious former MP meant that we never got to find out how much of McGowan's success was an anti-Mirabella vote and how much was a vote for a movement independent of the major parties and in reaction to major parties neglecting safe Coalition rural seats.  Clearly the latter factor - once mainly a NSW thing - is growing in Victoria (as witnessed by Suzanna Sheed's wins in Shepparton and Ali Cupper's win in Mildura) but the most closely Voices for Indi backed candidates failed to wrest Ovens Valley and (narrowly) Benambra from the Coalition at the recent state election.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018 Ehrlich Awards For Wrong Predictions

"Labor Senator Murray Watt says Barnaby Joyce shouldn't be Acting PM. Who the hell is Murray Watt? Barnaby will be Acting PM next week. Murray should worry about acting as a real Senator. Like see actual constituents & be relevant. At the moment its Watt by name, who by nature."

George Christensen kicks off this year's Ehrlich Awards for Wrong Predictions with the above piece of banter dated 15 February.  In fact, Barnaby Joyce took leave for the week following the comment, and was not Acting PM, and soon after stood down as Nationals leader and Deputy PM as well.  This one sets the tone for a year in which a common theme was Coalition MPs or sympathisers expecting that pretty much anything would go right for their side of politics.  I'd include more left-wing failed predictions for balance, but this year I just haven't seen that many.  Feel free to add more examples I have missed in comments.

Friday, January 4, 2019

2018 Site Review

This post presents site data for 2018, which was the most successful year on this site so far.  The rate of unique pageviews was 22.5% higher than in the busiest previous year (2016).  Here's the activity graph for the year (the units are unique pageviews per week):

The first part of the year actually started similarly to 2014, with roughly similar levels of interest in the Tasmanian and South Australian state elections.  However this year had the bonus features of the Super Saturday and Wentworth by-elections, and there was also more interest than in 2014 in my coverage of both the Tasmanian local government elections and the Victorian state election (the big spike on the right).  Partly this was because I wasn't working on anything else at the time Victoria rolled around and was therefore able to put much more effort into analysis of the Victorian upper house especially.  It's pleasing that people supported these efforts with donations - while I'm in no danger of getting rich from them, it does mean I can put major effort into covering an election and feel that the pay is something like real work!

In 2018 I somehow released 114 articles, compared to a previous high of 88.  Given that I was working four days a week for much of the first two-thirds of the year, I am really not sure how this happened.  The major contributors to the tally were the Tasmanian state election (22), the Victorian election (15) and federal polling roundups (11). 

The cutting-room floor

Despite the number of pieces that were released, a larger than normal number didn't make it to the finish line, mostly for reasons of time, loss of interest or temper, or because I just didn't quite get them right.   Some of the ideas involved appeared in shorter form in other pieces, or might appear some time in the future.  Languishing in the drafts section at lengths varying from a sentence or two to more or less complete I had the following:

* a heavy-handed spoof of major party majority government pledges to be entitled "Exclusive: Greens Declare: We'll Govern In Minority Or Not At All" (I really wish I'd had time for this!)

* an article expressing exasperation that the Senate took only five minutes to rearrange the Tasmanian term lengths (absurdly distorting the will of the voters by giving the Liberals three full-term Senators from a bad 2016 result)

* a "making best use of your vote" type piece for the Tasmanian state election

* an expanded piece about the Greens threatening a no-confidence motion against the Liberals in the final week of the Tasmanian state election

* detailed analysis of the May Victorian Bus Association state ReachTEL

* another media notes page (when to call me, what to call me, etc)

* a piece comparing people who defend Bob Ellis and people who compare Donald Trump

* a statement clarifying that I now have no formal relationship with the University of Tasmania and that this site has never had any such relationship

* a post combining the above and the media notes page

* Tasmania's Green MPs Are Really Fuelling Xenophobia (July 15)

* What Freedom Of Speech Is Not.  I might still release this one someday.  People  on all sides of politics frequently claim all kinds of things to be free speech issues; most of them aren't. 

* Why I Don't Support Term Limits

* Push-Polling In Australia Is Pretty Much Extinct

Top of the pops

The following were the ten most popular articles of the year by number of unique pageviews:

1. Wentworth Live: Majority On The Line Again (Plus Post-Count)

The third most viewed article of this site's history (second by total pageviews), trailing only the 2014 Tasmanian state guide and the 2013 federal postcount page (which both would these days have been broken up into smaller pieces).  This article covered counting for the historic Wentworth by-election, which attracted great interest with the Liberal Party losing one of its Federation jewel seats to independent Kerryn Phelps.  Interest was further boosted by a late-night wobble where differences between on-the-day and pre-day voting caused the margin to close massively, and data transcription errors gave a largely false impression that the seat had been called prematurely.  This site published evidence (see graph below) that these transcription errors were likely to exist and that Phelps' position at the end of counting on election night was better than it appeared.

2. Victorian Upper House Live

A close second, and the fourth most viewed article of this site's history.  This article followed counting in the Victorian Legislative Council election, in which micro-parties won a ridiculous number of seats by preference harvesting, with an increase in below-the-line voting rates having relatively little impact on that outcome.  The modelling involved in following these contests was very difficult, but with a lot of help from readers we managed to project all 40 seats correctly (including three overturns of the ABC Calculator) by the time the buttons were pressed.

3. 2018 Hobart City Council Count (With Some Coverage Of Other Councils)

This article followed the 2018 Hobart Council count, which saw Green-turned-independent Anna Reynolds win the mayoralty by what turned out to be a more than decisive margin, while temporary Lord Mayor Ron Christie lost his council seat entirely, and four new Councillors were elected, with a great increase in the Council's ethnic diversity and Green-turned-independent cult-candidate Holly Ewin pulling off a surprise win too.  The article also covered other councils generally, and covered the scandalous rate of informal voting as a result of a lack of savings provisions and requirements to fill in too many boxes.

4. Hobart City Council Elections Candidate Guide And Preview 2018

Guide page for the above.

5. 2018 Victorian Lower House Postcount: Summary And Classic Seats

Post-counting page for classic-2PP (Labor vs Coalition) seats at the 2018 Victorian state election.  There were a large number of these that were close, with one going to a recount and some others showing wild swings in post-counting based on differences between on-the-day and booth voting.  As with Queensland in 2017 these posts seem to be especially popular when official information isn't adequate.

6. 2018 Tasmania Postcount: Franklin

This post followed the postcount for the Tasmanian state seat of Franklin, where Green incumbent Rosalie Woodruff eventually defeated Liberal incumbent Nic Street by just 226 votes.  Early on it appeared that Street was better placed, but eventually Woodruff prevailed as a result of a change in the behaviour of votes coming from Labor compared to previous elections.

7. 2018 Tasmanian State Election Guide: Main Page

Unlike in 2014, I did separate guide pages for each electorate, but the main guide page still made the top ten without them.  As expected the Hodgman Liberal government retained office with a reduced majority.

8. 2018 Victorian Postcount: Greens Vs Labor (Prahran, Brunswick, Melbourne)

This covered the three close Greens vs Labor seats in the Victorian state election.  The most interesting was Prahran, though it was only a two-way fight to make the final two, rather than a close three-party fight as in 2014.  Ultimately incumbent Sam Hibbins (Greens) prevailed, winning from third on primaries for the second election in a row.  The Greens also picked up the vacant seat of Brunswick, and retained Melbourne but with an unflattering margin.

9. 2018 Tasmania Postcount: Bass

This covered the close postcount race between Jennifer Houston (ALP) and incumbent Andrea Dawkins (Green) for the final seat in Bass.  The postcount featured a very close three-way tipping point between Labor, Green and Liberal candidates.  Always the favourite, Houston survived that tipping point by 275 votes and won on Liberal preferences.

10. Legislative Council 2018: Prosser

Preview page for the Tasmanian Legislative Council race for the new seat of Prosser, ultimately won by the Liberals' Jane Howlett in one of the largest fields on record.

Some other stats

The ten biggest days of the year were Oct 21 (day after Wentworth), Nov 25 (day after Victoria), March 14 (Tas postcount), Mar 4 (day after Tas), Nov 26 (Vic postcount), Mar 3 (Tas election day), Oct 30, Oct 31 (Tasmanian councils), Mar 13 (Tas postcount) and Nov 27 (Vic postcount).

The most popular pieces written in any previous year were How Often Are Federal Newspolls Released?, Why Preferred Prime Minister/Premier Scores Are Rubbish, Polling On The Mt Wellington Cable Car Proposal (because of updates), the bio page and the federal aggregate methods page.

The ten most clicked tags were Tasmania, Legislative Council, post-counting, silly greens, South Australia, 2016 federal, pseph, Hare-Clark, EMRS and Greens.

In the visiting countries stats there is a very high bounce rate for one country, France.  After adjusting for this the top ten countries were Australia, USA, UK, NZ, Canada, France (re-entry), India (+2 places), Japan (-1), Singapore (-1) and Germany (-4).  132 "Google countries" visited in 2014 and in total 171 have now visited.  As this is lower than the 2017 total, Google must have changed some of the country units.  First-ever visits were recorded from Naura, St Lucia, Botswana, Liberia and Gabon.

The top ten cities were Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Launceston (+4), Brisbane (-1), Adelaide (+1), Canberra (-2), Perth (-2), Devonport (re-entry) and London (-1).   This all makes sense; lots of places had elections and some places didn't.

Among the quirkier search terms to find their way here were:

2008: Prof Kerryn Phelps bent spoon 

fallout from the batman by-election

gay par tas line

paul simon curtains

thylacine wa

voting legalative council only nomber 1square and 0 In all other squares

who was prosser tas

The top hit sources for the year were Google, Twitter, Facebook (+1). pollbludger (+3), Tally Room (-2), Bing, Tasmanian Times (-2), Reddit (re-entry), duckduckgo (new entry), Chesschat (-1).  duckduckgo is a search engine.  If I ignore search engines, the next three are Wikipedia, The Conversation and the Something Awful forums. 

Thanks once again for all the support through an especially crazy year in Australian electoral politics, especially from those who have donated $$$.

Orders of the year

In 2019 there will be a federal election and a NSW state election. There will also be Tasmanian Legislative Council elections for the divisions of Montgomery (Liberal-held), Pembroke (Labor-held) and Nelson (vacancy in conservative-leaning seat).  It may be that the first half of the year is very busy in this game and the second half is very quiet - we'll see if it stays like that!