Saturday, July 4, 2020

Eden-Monaro Late Live Comments And Post-Count

Eden-Monaro (ALP 0.85%) Labor has apparently won (at least barring further counting errors!) but with a small swing against it.    

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Some people are speculating about a recount.  A recount is automatic if the final margin lands at 100 votes or less, but that remains rather unlikely.  For margins above this, recount calls are typically rejected.

Monday 12:20 Adaminaby has been rectified (on rechecking Kotvojs won that booth by 96).  Another four little booths have also been rechecked.

Monday 11:40 The margin is currently showing as 835 but this is because the 2PP for the Adaminaby booth has been taken offline or mistakenly erased during rechecking (Kotvojs won this booth by 100).  

Monday 11:10: Margin down by seven on rechecking at Bredbo and Nimmitabel.  Booths requiring rechecking: 69 including nine substantial PPVCs.  

Monday 10:30: Labor's lead has increased by five votes to 742. I think this may be on counting of the small number of postals awaiting counting yesterday.

Monday 10:10:  The only news so far today is that the number of postals awaiting counting has increased to 360.  6790 (thousands of which will probably never arrive) remain unaccounted for.  Over the next few days we should keep an eye on which booths have and have not been rechecked.  At this stage the following booths have had updates today: Bowning, Central Tilba.  The following had updates on Sunday: Araluen, Thredbo, Tathra, Jerrabombera, Canberra South PPVC, Merimbula PPVC, Bodella, Queanbeyan West, Narooma PPVC, Queanbeyan Heights Central, Queanbeyan City Central, Jindabyne PPVC, BLV Eden Monaro PPVC (no votes).  The remaining booths have had no checking since Saturday and the nine PPVCs in this list could be fertile ground for further errors.  However these probably would not be as large as the ones found so far.  It is also worth tracking the total informal vote: it is currently 6038.  As votes are checked, the informal vote tends to rise.


5:40 Another batch of postals added - these broke 55-45 to Kotvojs taking the overall break on postals back to around where it was.  The live 2PP is now down to 50.4, a lead of 737.  There are in theory up to 7151 postals still remaining, and there will also be some provisionals and declaration prepolls that may aid Labor's cause by fifty votes or so.  Even assuming all the remaining postals arrive and are all accepted with 3% informal, Kotvojs would still need over 55%.  More likely she needs close to 60%.  

The counting errors pointing to a closer result now mean the Coalition has a slight edge on bragging rights.

5:15 And now a break for Labor, another 3000 postals are gone and they weakened compared with the first lot, breaking 52.5% to Kotvojs.  As concerns the result we can probably go back to sleep, but the live 2PP is down to 50.5% and it's unlikely to improve from here.  So it looks like a 2PP swing to the Coalition of a few tenths to half a point.

4:30  A big unknown in a contest that now has perhaps a flicker of life in it is how many postals are still to arrive.  6899 are unaccounted for, as well as 4751 received and awaiting processing.  If the 2019 return rate holds up, then around half of those will never arrive, which would leave Kotvojs needing about 56.7% 2CP on formal non-rejected postals - very unlikely given the weak break on the ones counted so far.  However, if, say, the raw non-returned number is the same as in 2019 (extremely unlikely) then the asking rate drops to about 55.5%, though even that is probably out of reach.  It's still very hard to see Kotvojs winning unless there is another counting error.  

3:35 Another error in the Merimbula PPVC booth cuts a further 310 off Labor's margin, and while they are still projecting to win I would think there is now some vaguely tangible if slender chance they might not, especially if any further errors are found.  

The error can be seen in this chart of preference flow by booth on the previous figures:

Merimbula PPVC doesn't look like such a big outlier visually because of the much larger Tanja outlier - Tanja is a tiny booth with a ridiculously high Green vote.  But it is.  The error has now been fixed.

2:00 Figures for the postals added by the AEC do show some degree of counting error as they were reported as 2464-2394 last night but have been posted as 2605-2231.  However, Labor is ahead by 1335.  Kristy McBain has tweeted that she is 1000 ahead with "only 4,000 left to go" based on 94K counted - suggesting that there are more votes not yet added - but I think the number to go may be somewhat larger.  It is still possible Labor's final margin could be very narrow, and fairly likely that there is a swing against Labor in 2PP terms.

10:30 Labor has done better than my projection expected on preferences at Narooma PPVC, mainly as a result of there being a very low Nationals vote there.  This puts Labor's lead at 1718, or notionally 1648 after the first batch of postals.  Meanwhile 190 postals have been rejected.

End-of-night wrap

It's been a long night but it looks like Labor has retained Eden-Monaro, with very little swing either way.  The news of a very weak break to the Liberals in the first 5000 postals has put the seat beyond realistic reach barring major counting errors, though there is still potential for the result to be very close.

The average swing to Oppositions in their own seats at by-elections contested by the government is 1.25%.  (Ignore all comparisons to the c. 4% average for all by-elections.) Labor should get a much smaller swing if they get any swing at all, but the high personal vote of outgoing ALP MP Mike Kelly is probably enough to explain that difference by itself.  All of the other things that could have influenced the outcome: bushfires, coronavirus, Coalition infighting, Labor scandals in two states - there is no evidence yet that any of them did.  It may well be that they did, but that they cancelled each other out.

The total primary vote recorded by left-ish candidates slightly exceeded that recorded by right-ish candidates, something true to much the same degree in 2019.  Fiona Kotvojs has been very successful indeed at concentrating the right-wing vote in her own pile, whereas Labor seems to have lost some primaries to the Shooter and left micros in the absence of Mike Kelly.  It's no surprise that a major party should experience a primary vote swing against in a field of 14 candidates.

Kotvojs has been less successful on preferences, but that doesn't (yet) mean that shifting preferences of any particular party's voters have made the difference.  It may just be that the number of votes cast for left-wing minor parties, and the very small vote for right-wing minors except the Nationals (I regard the Shooters as intermediate) has made the difference to the preference flows.  Anecdotally, however, the flow from the Nationals may have been weaker than the very high 87% last time, and that will be watched with interest when the final preference flows arrive in about four weeks' time.

The Greens' result is poor.  The swing against them is around 3%, most of it apparently going to left-wing micros.  The party competed more successfully against those micros at the 2019 Senate election in this seat, so it is possible that it also lost votes to Labor, perhaps because McBain appealed to some Green primary voters.

There is no adverse message about the national polls in this result.  There might have been some reason to suspect Newspoll was inaccurate if Labor won hugely or the Coalition won comfortably, but neither happened and the result is perfectly in line with historic relationships between polling and 2PP vote.

The uComms seat robopolls for various organisations have probably modestly overstated Labor's primary vote and slightly overstated the 2PP, but provided Labor wins it still seems they have done pretty well by seat poll standards, with all four tipping Labor for the win.  The Nationals internal polling, however, has turned out to be nonsense.

Provided Labor does win and it doesn't come down to, say, 200 votes, I see the result as saying very little about the condition of either major party.  As for the next general election, we saw Labor narrowly retain Braddon at a by-election then lose it at the general, so the Coalition would be hopeful of the same in this example.

Comments will follow over the next few days as the count continues.


1:00 Antony Green pretty much called this just after midnight and after running my own calculations I can't see how the Liberals can win this.  This is why.  Labor currently leads by 2020.  Off the two prepolls to report 2PPs I project them to drop 480 of that lead.  Another 70 is lost on the first 5K of postals.  That leaves 1470.  Let's assume Kotvojs does as well on the remaining postals as she did on all postals last time, though this is extremely unlikely given what we have seen from the first 5000.  In that case she gains at 0.143 votes per vote.  Ignoring provisional votes she then needs 10280 formal postals to win.  But allow for a few percent to be informal and this increases to, say, 10650.  There are at most 11840 remaining if all are returned and accepted, but that never happens as there are always voters who ask for postal votes but fail to vote or vote another way.  So even with a highly unlikely assumption there will just not be enough votes left to catch up.  It might still finish very close, but also given what we've seen on postals so far it might not.  [Edit: Jindabyne is in and the Liberals did a whole nine votes better than I projected there.]

12:15 A heap more numbers in with only Jindabyne and Narooma PPVCs still to report 2PP, so better than expected on that front.  Now Labor leads with 51.3% which the AEC projects to 50.67%.  I'll be doing some calculations to see if there is any hope of this being caught.  General consensus is there isn't. 

11:30 A big boost for Labor with the news that the first batch of postals has broken 2464-2394 to Kotvojs, a swing of 6.4% to Labor from the overall 2019 postals.  That greatly strengthens Labor's chance of holding the seat unless there is something odd going on.  

11:20 Nothing new while I did that at all.  I'll be continuing commentary but comments will be sparse over the next 40 minutes.

11:00 Soon I expect to be on with Ross Leedham over here:

10:40 Labor dropping back on projections as unfavourable PPVCs arrive, with one Queanbeyan booth still to come.  

10:25 Counting to stop at around 11 pm for OHS reasons.  AEC expecting all primaries in but many PPVCs will be missing 2PPs.  A report that 

10:20 The fizz is possibly going out of the prepolls with Labor doing well in Tumut on preferences despite primary vote swings.

10:05 Kotvojs bucked the trend of prepoll results matching the booth swings by doing OK on primary vote swing at Bega.  There are some prepolls to come in areas where Labor polled badly in the booths.   There are also some Canberra prepolls which I'd expect to be juicy for Labor.   

10:00 Labor has copped a bit of a whacking in Tumut and Yass PPVCs with both showing primary vote swings to Liberals, 4% in Yass and 6% in Tumut.  

9:45 Labor is up 6% in the Merimbula prepoll according to Antony Green but is also up in the Merimbula booths.  I have heard unofficially that in Yass prepoll the Liberals are doing well (where Labor did badly in the booths.)  Projections will bounce around as good and bad prepolls go in.  

9:26 Kristina Keneally suggests we will not get 2PPs for some of the prepolls tonight.  We'll see ....

9:20 A bad result for the Greens, back to their old ways of having their vote gouged by every random similar micro that comes along.  It does seem though from scrutineer gossip that Nats preferences are flowing weakly to Kotvojs which may be helping Labor.

9:15 Betting has Kotvojs in front.  Ross Leedham's projections have them well in the mix too but most projections have Labor ahead.  A huge unknown is how many postals are yet to arrive.  The proportion that are not returned may be higher than normal.  If this is still close at the end of the night we need to have a careful look at this.  

9:00 Not much going on at present, waiting for some prepolls.

8:30 I've done this graph of the share of ALP preferences by ALP primary vote.  In general Labor is getting more preferences where its primary vote is higher.  Two outliers, Tanja and Adaminaby (very strongly left and right respectively and both very small) have been removed.

This means that all else being equal, if Labor's primary declines, its preference share will too.  I haven't however compared this to 2019.  At the moment this chart doesn't ring alarm bells for Labor; it still projects that a uniform swing on primaries in the remaining votes would not cost them the seat.  

Ross Leedham has suggested a lot rests on just how many prepolls and postals are included.

Note that the informal vote is 6.54% currently, but it may very well go up in the counted booths with rechecking.  

8:20 William and the AEC are still both projecting below 51 while the ABC is projecting higher.  We're now waiting for prepolls to come in to see what they do on the 2PP.  In particular, will preference flows in the booths be more or less the same in the prepolls? 

8:10 7% 2PP to Coalition in Cobargo; who'd have thunk it?

8:00 William Bowe's projection has come back to 50.5 and the AEC's is on 50.7 so there is still quite a lot of life in this one though Labor are ahead.  Noteably the Labor primary is overall down to an extent that would cost them the seat if the overall preference flow was the same as in 2019 but this is evidently not so far the case.  This is probably mainly because the micro-party mix is different with a large number of left-wing outfits contesting.  I think we can call last place for Jason Potter of the Australian Federation Party at this point, but there's a vigorous fight for second-last.  This includes the Christian Democrats who have performed abysmally.

7:55 The ABC was showing very small booth swings but that is not correct.  Nonetheless overall the swing is small.  Note that the average swing in an Opposition by-election contested by the government is only 1.2% to the Opposition, not the 3.8% of all by-elections.    No prepoll booths are actually in with the AEC at 2PP level. 

7:45 Home now and just taking stock of the situation - have seen a tweet from Antony Green projecting Labor to 51.7% with 26.2% counted. William Bowe has 51.3%.  Obviously not callable yet.  Will be taking stock over the next 10 minutes.  

I will be posting some comments on the Eden-Monaro by-election tonight, but because of another commitment I do not expect to be online before about 8 pm.  Even if the by-election has by that stage been called (and I agree with it) there should still be something to discuss!  Once comments start they will appear here; refresh every ten minutes or so for updates.  This post will continue with updates through the postcount over following days, the volume of updates depending on whether the outcome remains in doubt.  In the meantime for those looking outside the obvious ABC, keep an eye on Poll Bludger and I believe Ross Leedham will be doing something.  Also check Tally RoomMy guide page for this by-election is here.

Note: I have redone comments to scroll to the top.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Newspoll: More Off-The-Scale Leader Ratings

Newspoll has returned with a second round of the very welcome State Premier approval ratings first seen in late April.  I thought a brief (by my standards) post about the current round of Newspolls was worth putting up overnight as the results are already sparking discussion in Tasmanian politics.

In each case I give the Premier's net rating, followed by the change from April, followed by the satisfied and dissatisfied split.

Gladys Berejiklian (NSW) is on +42 (-4) (68-26)
Daniel Andrews (Vic) is on +40 (-18) (67-27)
Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld) is on +24 (+8) (59-35)
Mark McGowan (WA) is on +79 (-4) (88-9)
Steven Marshall (SA) is on +52 (+5) (72-20)
Peter Gutwein (Tas) is on +82 (+9) (90-8)

And just for completeness, Scott Morrison (PM) is on +41 (+4) (68-27).

I noted in April that McGowan's satisfaction rating (or "approval rating") of 89% was then not only the highest in Newspoll history, but also the highest I could find in any scientific opinion poll in Australia ever.  (In calling a poll "scientific" I don't necessarily mean that it is accurate, I just mean that it tries to follow proper sampling and scaling procedures and isn't an unweighted opt-in.)  However records are made to be broken, and McGowan's 89% has been broken by Peter Gutwein who, in this sample, hits 90%.  McGowan, however, retains the record for the highest ever net satisfaction rating, with his 83% from last time one point ahead of Gutwein's 82%. 

Of course, with samples of only a few hundred voters per state, these ratings are more than a little bit rubbery, and the ratings of McGowan and Gutwein are not significantly different from each other.  The real margins of error on these ratings are likely to be larger than those quoted by Newspoll (see graphic) but it really doesn't matter whether a given Premier is on +70 or +80 at this point of time.  In contrast, state voting intention samples that were this small would be very unreliable for the purposes of predicting an election, and this is probably why only personal ratings have been sampled.

Andrews' Moderate Loss Of Support

Daniel Andrews is still a very popular Premier, but in this poll he drops from third to sixth in the list of leader ratings, dropping from a net rating of +58 to a less remarkable +40.  Prior to this poll I was especially interested in how much damage Andrews' rating would sustain and to what extent it might be caused by COVID-19 issues as opposed to the Adem Somyurek scandal that has deprived the Premier of three ministers.

The answer seems to be that it is all down to perceptions of Andrews' handling of COVID-19.  Newspoll has very usefully asked a separate question on this subject.  The following graph shows the relationship between Newspoll ratings for the leaders' handling of COVID-19 and their overall ratings, for the April and June polls combined.

The red dots are rating combinations for Andrews and the blue dots are for the other Premiers.  Andrews' April ratings fall exactly on the trendline; his June ratings are the biggest outlier from it.  That is, it appears that Andrews is actually polling much better personally than voter perceptions of his handling of COVID-19 imply - far from being damaged further by the Somyurek scandal, he's more likely being cut slack for his performance as Premier to date.  (This should be treated with a little caution as the only other ratings at that end of the COVID-19 handling axis are for Palaszczuk).

Early Tasmanian Election?

Speculation about an early Tasmanian election has been bubbling along at a low level among Tasmanian politics junkies in recent months, and started firing up immediately when news broke about Gutwein's record rating.  Tasmania is not due for an election until March 2022, and is the one remaining state without "fixed" terms.  The state Labor Opposition has adopted a confused series of positions over COVID-19 and the best strategy it seems to have come up with is to work out what the government is going to do next and then call for it before they do it.  At times, senior members have not seemed to have their ducks in a line in communicating the same messages about COVID-19 (especially on border closures) to the media.

Tasmania has not seen an unforced election as early as the one proposed since 1979 when Doug Lowe (ALP) went a year and a half early in search of a larger majority than the one-seat majority left to him by previous Premier Bill Neilson.  It worked - Lowe won in a relative landslide by Hare-Clark standards - but those were simpler days when major parties only had to beat the other major party.

This government, like Lowe's, would have some valid reasons to sneak off to an early election.  The Lower House is not entirely stable, though the Government hasn't lost a vote since ex-Labor independent Madeleine Ogilvie rejoined the house on a recount and promptly started voting mostly with the Liberals.  Under normal circumstances it will only lose votes if all of Labor, the Greens, Ogilvie and its own periodically renegade Speaker Sue Hickey vote together, something they are yet to do.  An early election might create clear air while the government grapples with COVID-19 economic challenges over the next few years, and would give the government a clear mandate to spend massively on state-building programs.   What it won't do is get rid of the Legislative Council where the left has a majority.

However, an early election would carry risk.  Voters sometimes punish governments that go early unnecessarily, and might prefer to just relax and not think about politics too much at the moment.  Majorities are so difficult to guarantee in Hare-Clark and a bad bounce of the ball might result in the government being suddenly out of office (as was Robin Gray's government despite polling 47% of the vote in 1989).  A sudden resurgence of COVID-19 as is occurring in Victoria could also be a disaster on the campaign trail, especially if the point was rammed home that voters were being exposed to unnecessary risks.

The government has the good fortune that on August 1 there is a Legislative Council election for the seat of Rosevears where it is running a candidate.  However LegCo elections are challenging to interpret at the best of times, and in this case the Liberal candidate is a household name who was widely expected to romp in anyway.  A very high vote indeed for Jo Palmer (an outright majority or nearly so) would be needed before one would take the election as a pointer to Gutwein's popularity converting to votes.  It will be interesting to see if any more Tasmanian polling comes out soon.

Federal Newspoll

This week's federal Newspoll saw very little change, with the 2PP unchanged at 51-49 to Coalition, Scott Morrison up four points on net satisfaction to a personal high of +41, Anthony Albanese down one to +2, and Morrison's lead on the skewed (to incumbents) Better PM metric up two to 32 points (58-26).  As my recent technical article notes, neither Better PM nor PM approval ratings seem to add any predictive value at election time, so they are better seen as figures that help explain voting intention, except for times like this when they don't.

Anyone looking for a signal of a national mood that might influence the Eden-Monaro by-election (in which pre-day voting is well underway) would have been sorely disappointed.  The main takeaway is that to this point nothing has dented the PM's approval in what seems to be a good time to be in government and a bad time to be in opposition at any level.

I am keeping an eye on the volatility (or lack thereof) of the new version of Newspoll since it commenced late last year.  The version running from 2015 to 2019 was especially "under-dispersed" (more prone to repeat similar values from poll to poll than would be expected for its sample size).  It is far too early to draw robust conclusions about the new version, but should the pattern of very little poll to poll 2PP change continue for long I will be exploring this issue in detail.

It's Time To Go, Simon ...

It is really past time for The Australian to find (or return to) someone who can write about polls in a mathematically informed fashion.  Simon Benson's output is embarrasing, it's just wrong for Australia.  In the latest howler, he claimed Scott Morrison was nearly twice as popular as Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland because his net rating was twice as high.  As William Bowe pointed out such a comparison would run into problems if the leaders had netsats hovering around zero.  Indeed if Morrison had a netsat of +5 and Palaszczuk's was -10, would Benson report that Morrison was minus half as popular as her?

The day before, he continued to compare Morrison's approval ratings to early-period Kevin Rudd's, while ignoring the methods change in late 2019 that has meant they are no longer comparable.  (Using positive satisfaction as the yardstick, Morrison is the most popular Premier over a two-month period since the early months of Rudd, but using the better yardstick of net satisfaction, Rudd was up there in early 2009 too.)

Really if the Oz can't do better than Benson it would be better off just publishing the figures and outsourcing the commentary to members of the blogging psephosphere.  Those of us with fewer  moral scruples than the others would do the same thing much better and probably more cheaply.  After all, we understand Newspoll because we don't own it.

PS: Morgan

There was also a Morgan poll but Morgan's data-reporting practices are so horrible I'm finding it difficult to regard them as useful data.  Twitter thread here.  

Thursday, June 25, 2020

White Goes First, Right Goes Beatup: The ABC Did Not Attempt To Cancel Chess

In recent days I've been involved in a media and social media flurry sparked by the ABC's decision to explore the subject of whether White moving first in a game of chess was in any way connected to race issues.  This claim was once most commonly seen as a spoof of anti-racism campaigns, but these days, a small number of people seem to be actually fearing chess might be symbolically racist.

I appeared on ABC radio and gave an interview that outlined that there is no evidence this is the case.  The host did not try to argue that there was, just mentioned that people on social media have held concerns about the issue.  The mere existence of that interview has triggered a massive backlash from right-wing culture warriors, which had already started before the interview aired.  The thing is, it is unclear that the enemy they're tilting at exists!  The ABC may be guilty of filling up its programs with offbeat fluff on the slender pretext of a few tweets, but that does not mean it was trying to have chess cancelled.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Legislative Council Voting Patterns 2016-2020

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 (except among caucusing party MLCs), the Council continues to have a clearly defined "left wing" consisting of the four Labor Party MLCs, and independents Mike Gaffney, Ruth Forrest, Kerry Finch, Rob Valentine and Meg Webb.

3. The two Liberal MLCs and independents Ivan Dean and Robert Armstrong belong to a similarly clearly defined "right" cluster.  Independents Tania Rattray and Rosemary Armitage do not belong to any cluster but currently side somewhat more with the right cluster than the left cluster.  

4. A possible left-to-right sort of the Council is Webb, Valentine, Forrest, the four Labor MLCs (Farrell, Lovell, Siejka and Willie in no particular order), Gaffney, Finch, Armitage, Rattray, the two Liberal MLCs (Hiscutt and Howlett in no particular order), Armstrong, Dean.  However Webb's placement is unreliable because of limited evidence.  

5. Going into the 2020 elections, the left holds an absolute majority in the Legislative Council, normally meaning that the government needs the support of Labor or at least two left independents to win votes.  This will remain the case, the question being the size of that majority.


There has been excellent news for election junkies and for Tasmanian democracy more generally, with the announcement that the 2020 Legislative Council elections for the divisions of Huon and Rosevears will be held on August 1.  These elections were originally scheduled for the start of May, then postponed til the end of May, then postponed to June, July or August and then the subject of legislation that could in theory have seen them held next year.  Fortunately COVID-19 has apparently been kickbooted (someone please tell me where I found that word) from the state as of June 12 and it is great to have these elections back on track.

My original guides for these seats can be found here:


and in the next few weeks I will decide whether to relaunch them or just keep rewriting them to clean up the mess as best I can.  Huon sees the first seat defence by conservative independent and former local mayor Robert Armstrong, while Rosevears is a vacancy caused by the retirement of three-term left-wing independent Kerry Finch.  The government has high hopes of improving its situation by winning Rosevears, where its candidate is a very high profile newsreader, Jo Palmer.  As this article shows, the government's current situation upstairs is difficult.  COVID-19 has seen a great reduction in contested votes and politics as normal, but they'll be back, quite probably very soon.

In most years as a curtain-raiser to the LegCo elections, I put out an article about voting behaviour in the chamber over the last four years.  Last year I did not do this because there had been very few contested votes since the previous year, and the first half of last year was insanely busy.  The most recent prior version was the 2018 version (which links back to earlier articles).  As of 2018 the chamber had eight left-wing MLCs (including four Labor), four right-wing MLCs (including one Liberal), two independents who were centrist to centre-right, and a President who was notionally fairly conservative but never voted.

Since 2018 we've seen one right-wing independent retire and be effectively replaced by a Liberal, and the incumbent President retire and be replaced by an independent who had run a left-wing campaign.  The latter setback for the Liberals was in theory offset by Labor's Craig Farrell taking over as President, but Farrell has in fact said he will use his casting vote along party lines if necessary.  (So far this has yet to be tested.)  So the question is, have changes in the voting behaviour of the existing MLCs helped the government with an upper chamber seemingly stacked against it?  The answer is, not that much.


I've continued to use the same methods as in the 2018 article, but a few comments are in order.  Firstly I've continued to treat the four Labor MLCs as one entity.  While, in theory, a conscience vote could arise where they might not all vote together, that so far hasn't happened.  I can also now treat the two Liberals the same way.  When there were previously two Liberals in the Council, at times they would vote differently, but this has yet to occur since Leonie Hiscutt was joined by Jane Howlett.

Instead of weighting the figures by agreement with different Labor or Liberal MLCs, which would create a bias towards recent data, I've simply extracted a "Labor" position from Josh Willie's votes, or where Willie was absent, Craig Farrell's.  For the Liberal side I've used Leonie Hiscutt's votes since Hiscutt has not missed any division attended by Howlett.

I again use only the last four years of data and I only use recorded divisions with at least two votes (including pairs for absence) on either side. Where an issue generates multiple divisions on the same day, I ignore any of the divisions that are repeats of the earlier ones.  Where an issue generates identical divisions across different days, I count both.  However, in this term, there was one issue (marriage law amendments relating to transgender issues) that accounted for 12 of the 88 contested divisions, including six different division patterns on the one day.  All these different patterns had the government plus Ivan Dean on one side and Labor plus all the left indies who were present on the other.  The differences between the votes came from various combinations of Robert Armstrong, Rosemary Armitage and Tania Rattray, and also from absences.

I've added 36 contested divisions since the last report.  Of these, the marriage law amendments issue was the only one to generate more than two votes.  The rest were quite eclectic and did not include a lot of obvious partisan culture-war issues.  I do not treat substantive and procedural issues separately as there are relatively few purely procedural votes and I believe that frequently the reasons for procedural motions are political anyway.

Agreement matrix and left-right sort

This chart shows how often the Legislative Councillors agree with each other on contested votes.  For instance, the chart shows that Forrest and Rattray currently agree 46% of the time.  As usual I've highlighted agreement scores over three-quarters in red and dark blue, and scores close to that mark are highlighted in orange and pale blue.  Given that I've removed all the 100% agreement scores for party MPs with their own party, the highest remaining agreement scores are 85% for Forrest/Webb, 85% for Armstrong/Dean, 82% for Forrest/Labor and 81% for Gaffney/Finch.  The lowest are 13% for Webb/Armstrong, 18% for Valentine/Armstrong, 19% for Webb/Liberal and 20% for Gaffney/Dean.  However, Meg Webb has only attended 16 contested votes, 4 of which were on the same issue, so there is not really that much data for her yet and these results may be unreliable.  (Indeed Armstrong was absent on a vote where Webb sided with Dean and Rattray, so might well have voted with her on that had he been present.)

The "score" figure is an indicator of how strongly each MLC falls on one side of the left-right divide or the other, red/orange for left and light/dark blue for right.  The score figure is the average agreement with whichever cluster the member agrees with most (counting Labor and Liberal each as one) divided by the average agreement for the other.  The higher, the stronger the pattern. 

(Note and see comments: "strongly" doesn't mean extreme; it just means there is clear evidence that an MLC is very much on one side rather than the other of this chamber, which seems to run from slightly to the left of Labor to slightly to the right of the Liberals, with no far-left or far-right elements.)

The matrix shows two obvious clusters.  The left cluster consists of Labor and five independents - most pairs from this group agree with each other on more than 75% of contested divisions, and the rest are close.  The right cluster consists of the Liberals, Dean and Armstrong.  Armitage doesn't have a strong tendency to agree or disagree with anyone, and Rattray's highest agreement score is 72% with Armstrong.  Both Armitage and Rattray in the last four years have voted substantially more often with the right cluster than the left cluster, which hasn't always been the case in the past.

As noted above there really isn't enough data to place Webb reliably yet so her ranking to the left of Valentine and Forrest should be treated with a lot of caution.  Nonetheless I expected that Webb's voting pattern would be similar to Forrest.  Gaffney and Finch, while clearly part of the left cluster, are more likely to agree with the conservatives than the other seven left MLCs are.  On the right side, both Armstrong and Dean place slightly to the right of the Liberal Party.

In the past I have posted a 2D principal components analysis graph of the above but this time I made it then decided that it didn't actually say anything, so sorry for those looking for some image content, but I haven't posted it.  The left-right axis explains a massive 82% of the variation in voting patterns.  The second axis just picks up the most unaligned voter it can find (Armitage).   Possibly voting agreement percentages wouldn't show it anyway, but there's no evidence of there being a particular kind of commonly-occurring issue that breaks the left-right stereotypes in a particular way,  Rather there are a lot of different issues that do so, each in their own individual way.

The presence of nine left-wing MLCs means that the government doesn't get its way on contentious matters very often.  Since Labor won its fourth seat the government has prevailed on just 13 out of 42 contested divisions.  Even after removing the marriage law amendments, it is still only striking at 43%.  The Labor block of four makes Labor very powerful in the Council, because cases of the government prevailing with Labor voting against it are so rare.  Since Labor won its fourth seat the government has won divisions with Labor on the other side just four times:

* A division on sentencing in 2017, supported by all the independents then in the Council except Valentine and Forrest.
* A vote on bikie insignia in 2018, supported by all the independents then in the Council except Gaffney and Valentine.
* A vote on a work cover amendment in 2019, supported by the right independents and Gaffney with Forrest absent
* A vote on a burial and cremation bill in 2019, supported by the right independents and Finch and Webb.

Slim pickings indeed, but the good news for the government is that, unlike the independents, Labor can sometimes be wedged into supporting things.

Because the left holds nine seats in total, even a government win in Rosevears and an Armstrong retain in Huon would still leave the left with an 8-7 majority.  However that would improve the government's prospects, because it would give it seven votes on the floor whenever it had the support of all the right-wing and centre-right independents.  That would then enable it to win votes if just one left independent voted with it, or even if one of the left MLCs was absent and not paired.  In the latter scenario, the government would win 7-6 on the floor, and President Farrell's potential willingness to vote against it would be irrelevant as the casting vote is used only to break ties, not to create them.  While the current elections are significant in terms of how difficult working with the Council is for the current government, they will not change the fact that it is difficult.

There is one more Legislative Council session before the election and I may update this analysis after it if anything changes.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Unpopular State Premiers Still Have Dire Historic Fates

It's been over a month since I posted a new article on this page, though updates to previous articles have continued, especially Eden-Monaro.  I have some vague idea where that time went (a number of distractions from psephology lately) but there hasn't been a huge amount going on lately and I tend not to write just for the sake of having something up.  There will always be something new here eventually!

This article is another piece where I update a previously published article from some time ago and see whether the pattern described in it is still holding up.  Today's target for an update is Unpopular State Premiers Have Dire Historic Fates, from 2013.  This article was inspired by a bad Newspoll for then Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett.  Barnett had been re-elected with a 57.3% 2PP nine months earlier so it probably seemed adventurous to see a single Newspoll still showing his government in a narrow lead as the first of the circling vultures.  But it was - Barnett survived a leadership challenge in 2016 but was dumped by the voters in 2017 with an enormous 12.8% swing.

He wasn't alone.  Since I released the original article, Campbell Newman was dumped by voters with a massive swing, as was Lara Giddings. Jay Weatherill also lost (albeit with a 2PP swing to him) and Mike Baird, who had been very popular in his first term, became somewhat unpopular in his second and resigned.  The four election defeats for unpopular Premiers helped beef up the evidence that it is the voters, and not just the parties, who tend to show them the door.  In the same time, Premiers who had not polled such bad ratings in their terms were re-elected twice in NSW and once each in Queensland, SA, Victoria and Tasmania, with Victoria's Dennis Napthine (worst netsat -4) the sole casualty to not poll a bad rating.  The chart below (click for larger clearer version) shows the fates of every state Premier who has polled a netsat worse than -10 in Newspoll history (which starts in 1985).  Premiers are sorted by the worst netsat they polled during the term.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Eden-Monaro By-Election 2020: How Loseable Is It?

By-election July 4th
Cause of by-election: resignation (citing health reasons) of Mike Kelly (ALP)
Outlook: It's a weird one, and so anything could happen.  For what it's worth, historical patterns slightly favour Labor.

Welcome to my pre-analysis page for the Eden-Monaro by-election.  I expect to have a live page on election night, but starting late (say 8 pm) because of a clash with something else.

There are two main narratives about this by-election as the parties compete for the role of underdog and try to manage expectations in advance.  The first is that the loss of an opposition seat to an incumbent government in a federal by-election is literally a once in a century event (it happened for the only time in 1920) and that therefore a government win is unrealistic.  The second is that the seat's marginal nature combined with the high personal vote of outgoing ALP incumbent Mike Kelly makes the seat extremely difficult to defend in the current environment.  I argue here that both these narratives are wrong.   The by-election is much more loseable than the "100 years" history suggests, but all of the arguments as to why it could be lost have at times been overplayed.

If you want a go at picking the outcome yourself, there's a Not-A-Poll in the sidebar, running until polls close.  (As of 4 pm 4 July, the average forecast on this site was 50.89% to Labor, ie zero swing, with one voter predicting a non-major party winner. This site's reader base skews fairly heavily to the left.)


The by-election timing was delayed slightly by the need to obtain advice from the AEC, which took a fortnight, pushing the date back to mid to late June.  The date subsequently landed at the start of the July to August window I was expecting, being earlier than it might have been perhaps because of encouraging progress in the containment of COVID-19.

There was no requirement to hold the by-election at any specific time; it was a matter of balancing risks against the negatives of having the seat vacant.  Those negatives were somewhat reduced for the time being by the limited nature of current parliamentary business.  See Antony Green for extensive discussion of management of the by-election.


Eden-Monaro surrounds the ACT in far south-eastern NSW.  It was long famous as Australia's champion bellwether seat, going with the party that won government at fifteen elections in a row from 1972 to 2013.  This streak was snapped when Mike Kelly recaptured the seat from one-term incumbent Peter Hendy in 2016 and the mantle has now passed to Robertson (on a streak of 14 elections starting from 1983).

Eden-Monaro has never been won by the National Party or its precursor the Country Party.  The Country Party came close in 1972 (lost by 503 votes with 49.5% 2PP) and even closer in 1974 (146 votes, 49.87% 2PP).  In both these cases the flow of preferences from the Liberal Party was very strong (95% and 97.4% respectively) but the fact that not absolutely every Liberal voter preferenced the Nationals saved Labor (this also happened with National to Liberal preferences in 2019, though the Liberals would have needed all bar a few dozen to win.)

The main overlapping state seats are Bega (held by the Liberals' Andrew Constance) and Monaro (held by the Nationals state leader John Barilaro).  Bega has been held by the Liberal Party solidly though at times fairly narrowly since its re-creation in 1988, while Monaro has been held by the Nationals throughout this time except for two Labor wins in 2003 and 2007.  There was a large swing to the Nationals in previously marginal Monaro at the 2019 NSW election, clearly off the back of Barilaro's profile as leader and against the backdrop of a good election for his party in the near-coastal regionals.

Opposition By-Elections Generally

In recent years governments have normally not contested Opposition seat by-elections.  The Howard government from 1996 to 2007 never contested any.  The Rudd government took a swing at Gippsland in 2008, probably hoping to translate Kevin Rudd's popularity into at least some embarrassment for the Opposition, but it backfired with a 6.1% swing to the Nationals' Darren Chester.  The Abbott government took a more realistic shot at Rudd's own seat of Griffith in 2014 and picked up a 1.25% swing off the loss of Rudd's personal vote.  (Such a swing would win Eden-Monaro, but Rudd was an ex-Prime Minister, after all.) The then Turnbull government contested two of Labor's four vacancies in the 2018 Super Saturday by-elections, but ALP incumbents Justine Keay (Braddon) and Susan Lamb (Longman) won with 2PP swings to them of 0.1% and 3.7% respectively.  Labor was bolstered by unimpressive government candidates (especially in Longman) and a government campaign blunder (picking a fight with a local independent) in Braddon.  Both ALP incumbents went on to lose in the 2019 general election.

Prior to these four cases, the last time a government contested a by-election was Groom 1988.  Labor may have had some hopes of exploiting Coalition disunity following the demise of Joh Bjelke-Petersen but ended up running third in a three-cornered contest (and would probably have had a 2PP swing against them anyway).

The long-term average two-party swing in Opposition by-elections that are contested by the government of the day has been 1.25% to the Opposition, excluding Groom 1988 mentioned above.  (Peter Brent has 0.9% but this includes some non-Coalition proto-Nationals.)  This is less than the average swing for all by-elections contested by both Government and Opposition, which has run at around 4% since WW2. The reasons for this difference include:

* In an Opposition seat by-election, the Opposition is usually losing the personal vote of an MP who has resigned or died (Braddon and Longman in 2018 being exceptions to this).

* Governments have increasingly cherry-picked which Opposition by-elections to contest and have typically avoided running those in which embarrassing swings against them appear likely to occur.

* When Opposition MPs throw in the towel soon after losing an election, the government may benefit from honeymoon effects, desire to stabilise the parliament following a close result, or voter contempt for the sitting MP's decision to quit.  There have been cases of Oppositions losing by-elections to Governments in this situation at state level, notably the Victorian examples of Benalla 1999 and Burwood 2000.

While the one case of a Government winning an Opposition seat at a federal by-election (Kalgoorlie 1920 following the expulsion of Hugh Mahon) provides a historical strike rate of only a few percent, that history is misleading because few of the seats contested were super-marginal.  Swings exceeding 1% to the Government of the day have happened in seven out of 25 Opposition seat by-elections.

Mike Kelly's Personal Vote (and its implications ...)

Warning: this section is a bit number-heavy, rising in places to 3/5 on the Wonk Factor scale.

Mike Kelly, decorated Army colonel, PhD scholar and barrister, was the member for Eden-Monaro from 2007 to 2013 and again from 2016 until his retirement, making him a 10-year incumbent.  Kelly was clearly a popular MP and has been praised on all sides of politics following his decision to step down because of health issues stemming from his military service in some of the hotter places on Earth.  But can we put any numbers on just how popular he is?

Looking at graphs comparing Eden-Monaro with NSW as a whole (see Antony Green again) it's notable that the seat was running close to the state average until Kelly's first defence of the seat in 2010.  With Kelly as a candidate who had served as the seat's MP from 2010 onwards, the seat then ran 5.4, 3.8, 3.4 and 2.7 points above the state's average for Labor, in spite of redistributions following the 2007 and 2013 elections knocking 1.1% and 2.7% off Labor's position.  With these factors considered Labor ran 4.9% to 6.5% above their previous relative standing with Kelly as an established or former incumbent, but this is coming off a baseline that includes Liberal Gary Nairn's personal vote as an 11-year incumbent.

One term 2013-6 incumbent Peter Hendy did not appear to generate any personal vote, unlike the normal pattern of new MPs gaining through double sophomore effect.  As an aside, this wasn't because the Turnbull government's campaign played badly in Eden-Monaro, if anything slightly the opposite.  (The swing to the Coalition in Eden-Monaro in the Senate in 2016 was three points higher than the NSW average despite the Reps swings being the same, though about 1.4 points of this is explained by a high rate of Liberal Democrat confusion in the Senate in the seat in 2013).

Estimating personal votes for incumbent MPs, beyond that they usually exist, is very tricky.  One method is to subtract the relevant party's Senate vote from their House vote, on the grounds that the more voters vote for the party in the House but not the Senate, the higher the incumbent's personal vote probably is.  On this measure Kelly does extremely well, polling 10.52 points above Labor's Senate vote in Eden-Monaro, putting him fifth of all the Labor MPs in NSW.  But Labor did 4.74 points better in the Reps than in the Senate in NSW as a whole, so Kelly is 5.78 points above Labor's statewide average.  A 2PP edge of nearly six points sounds enormous (enough to put Labor underwater after accounting for the existing margin and the normal anti-government factor) but it also happens that the Coalition in Eden-Monaro did 5.11 points better in the Reps than the Senate in this seat.  That compares to a statewide difference of 3.99 points.  So it is not as if Kelly is taking such a large share of the 5.78 points in performance above Labor's state average from the Coalition; rather he is taking some from the Coalition and some from minor parties.

That said, the Coalition are advantaged in this comparison by Eden-Monaro being a three-cornered contest, and once three-cornered contests are adjusted for at both state and local levels, Labor's advantage over the Coalition on Reps performance relative to Senate performance lands at 6.26 points.  In other words, a 2PP swing advantage of 3.13%.

(There are reasons why both sides would, all else being equal, have done well on the Reps minus Senate indicator in Eden-Monaro.  The seat had no One Nation Reps candidate and no prominent independents, both candidate types which drag down the minor parties in several other NSW seats.  While it may seem independents mainly drag down the Coalition vote, there is very strong evidence from comparing Reps and Senate votes that in the rural seats of Cowper and Farrer it was mainly Labor voters who went over to independents Cowper and Mack.  Eden-Monaro also has a fairly high Shooters and Fishers vote.)

Another, simpler way of calculating candidate effects between the major parties in the Reps is to subtract the Senate 2PP from the Reps 2PP.  (I've just used the #1 candidate for each major party ticket to calculate the 2PP.)  In cases where there is a bad candidate for one of the parties, this method doesn't say whether the difference was caused by one party's candidate being good, the other party's being bad, or some combination of both.  It is also a rough measure because voters for particular Senate parties might preference one major over another but be less likely to distribute their Senate preferences.  Anyway, the 2019 Senate 2PPs in Eden-Monaro and NSW statewide were virtually identical (52.78 to Coalition vs 52.8).  However the Reps 2PP in Eden-Monaro was 49.15% for Coalition, compared to a statewide 51.8%.  On this comparison, Labor's performance through Mike Kelly comes out 2.63% better as a 2PP swing (or double that on 2PP margin).

But Senate vs Reps personal vote comparisons have one obvious flaw however they are done - they don't say to what extent a popular local member lifts both the party's Senate primary vote and its Reps vote.  Maybe the lift is minor, but it probably exists.  Given all the evidence, I think Antony Green's estimate of Kelly's personal vote at three to four points is likely to be on the money.

(William Bowe has also looked at personal votes by measuring differences from a vote share projected off demographic factors that influenced a specific election, but that method works less well in regional NSW).

So Labor is losing 3-4 points of personal vote, is that fatal?  Well, no, not by itself.  The average swing in Opposition by-elections is 1.2% to the Opposition, but that includes many vacating MPs who took large personal votes with them, former PMs Rudd and Fraser among them.  The best baseline for deducting Kelly's personal vote from is the typical swing from all by-elections, and this only cancels out that swing or nearly so.

So before we consider special factors, Labor seems slightly ahead.

Special Factors

The following are some special factors that may influence the election result:

* Candidates:

Labor have aimed for authenticity and crisis experience (and initially to cover off against Constance) with their selection of Kristy McBain, the first-term Bega Valley Mayor and second-term councillor who also became suddenly prominent leading local responses to the bushfire crisis, starting immediate speculation of a bigger career.  McBain, a lawyer and lapsed-then-recently-rejoined ALP member, does not come across like a career politician either, though she is being quick to stress that she has the experience to do the job.  Labor have been embarrassing various Coalition figures by quoting their praise of McBain from before she was a Labor candidate.

After a messy pre-preselection stoush involving John Barilaro, Andrew Constance and others the Liberals have gone for their 2019 candidate Fiona Kotvojs, who was the first female two-party-preferred candidate ever picked for this seat.  Kotvojs is a well-credentialled candidate with a PhD in education, experience in farming and charity (Oxfam) and as a voluntary counsellor, Army Reservist and fire service volunteer.  Kotvojs' past comments on climate change have come under some attack from the online left but these attacks are overblown, painting Kotvojs as a denialist for any remark seen as downplaying the threat (even in an area where Kotvojs has academic expertise).  Late in the campaign, Kotvojs' social issue views have also been challenged and it has also been suggested that she places cutting "green tape" above bushfire safety.

With Constance out, candidate factors are likely to favour Labor unless McBain has any political skeletons in the closet.  (The closet these days is usually Facebook; alleged goldfish neglect does not qualify).  The swing in Eden-Monaro in 2019 was not greatly different to the national average, so provides little evidence either way about Kotvojs' appeal, especially since Hendy was regarded as a dud incumbent.

Comments regarding Andrew Constance's possible appeal are no longer relevant and have been removed.  Constance was initially a confirmed candidate for preselection then withdrew the day after.  Some views of his likely vote-pulling appeal were probably overblown.

* The bushfires: Eden-Monaro was very severely impacted by the bushfires, which destroyed nearly 1000 properties in Constance's Bega electorate alone and caused severe smoke pollution even in areas not directly threatened by the fires.  The electorate was ground zero for the backlash against the Prime Minister's handling of the fires, including the infamous Cobargo incident in which PM Morrison was heckled by locals, some of whom were a few months ahead of their time in their desire to avoid shaking hands.  To what extent locals who would normally vote for the Coalition might still feel angry or abandoned could be a major factor here. In the final days there has been some public criticism of Kotvojs over very recent views that fuel load is the only significant factor in bushfire control.

* Coronavirus:  Of course economic recovery issues connected with the COVID-19 shutdowns are bound to be prominent in the campaign. A common theme has been that the COVID-19 crisis will give the government a massive lift in the by-election.  For sure, there is a reasonable historic relationship between government polling at the time of a by-election and swings at that by-election.  However, the by-election is still months away and a lot can change in terms of the government's standing at the time.  The other problem is that, as that relationship goes, there isn't much evidence even now that COVID-19 is shifting federal voting intentions.  Rather it so far seems to be mainly just boosting the Prime Minister's own ratings.  This is a little surprising, given that Australia has seen remarkably good results in containing COVID-19 thus far without needing to lock down as severely as some countries.  It is worth noting (see Tally Room) that there isn't much evidence of the disease in this electorate to this stage.

Peter van Onselen in The Australian has claimed that the previous case of a by-election win from a sitting government was pandemic-related and occurred "during the 1919 global pandemic".  This is false; Hugh Mahon lost in December 1920 after being expelled from the House for "seditious and disloyal utterances" against the British Empire over Ireland.  Not only was the pandemic over by that point, but it was also pretty much over in December 1919 when Mahon had recaptured his seat at the general election with a 3.4% swing to him.  (Overall there would have been a small 2PP swing against the Hughes government in 1919 had preferences existed in 1917, but this is meaningless as 1917 was a wartime election.)

(Van Onselen also claims that it would be unusual if such a popular PM as Morrison failed to win a by-election, but very popular PMs have failed to win Opposition by-elections before, even with close margins.  Labor in Hawke's first term contested five of them (vacated by heavy hitters Fraser, Snedden, Killen, Anthony and Street) for four swings against and a 0.1% swing in favour.

Something I don't expect to now be a factor is the three-cornered contest.  The Nationals running without Barilaro they will probably just poll a similar vote of several percent to last time with some of it leaking to Labor (in 2019 nearly 13% of Nationals preferences went to Labor).  That is not to say that a token Nationals candidate would be damaging.  Probably the votes they would leak to Labor would be voters who personally knew the National candidate, or idiosyncratic voters who would have preferenced Labor above the Liberals anyway.  The spoiler effect might look compelling if Labor again wins off this "leakage" but that wouldn't mean it was actually the cause.  The one risk factor here is if there is an upsurge in Nats voters preferencing against the Liberals for tactical reasons (keeping the seat clear for a run by Barilaro at the next election).  I doubt there's much in this though.

Forestry, which was a major issue in parts of this electorate in 2004, is likely to also continue to feature in this campaign.

I'd expect the Coalition chaos involving Barilaro and Constance, and the wider National Party infighting to have blown over in the minds of most voters by election day.  That said, some Nats are determined to destabilise Barilaro, presumably in the hope of causing a loss that can be pinned on him and destroying his leadership.

As for the Labor chaos at state level in Victoria, which has also had some ripples at federal level, plus the NSW state-level issue with Moselmane, I'd be surprised if Eden-Monaro voters saw either as a major issue, but it seems to at times have driven narrowing in betting for the seat.  The recent Newspoll suggests no impact of these issues on federal voting intention at all, but Newspoll often lacked natural volatility in the previous term.

The funding of the ABC is a late-breaking issue.  Labor believes it is on a winner here because polls show strong public support for the ABC and the seat has recently experienced its importance in emergency broadcasting.  The natural counter-attack will be that it is protecting inner-city jobs.

There have been a couple of unusual happenings during the campaign.  Firstly loopy and defamatory email attacks on the Labor candidate, including serious violations of the Electoral Act S 329 (such as falsely saying votes for Labor will be informal).  The Australian Federal Police have made an arrest over the matter.  Secondly a blooper in which a Labor ad talked about being "a local voice for Wagga Wagga" (the city's well outside the electorate, the council area abuts it.)  Apparently meant to say Tumut.


There have been various internal polling rumours that don't deserve that much attention.  A Nationals poll of a matchup between John Barilaro and Jim Molan was said to show Barilaro beating Molan on primaries then winning 52-48, which in view of the accuracy issues with seat polls lately would mean little even with Molan as the candidate.  It would not even show that Barilaro would beat a generic Liberal, as Molan has a cult following but would also have significant negatives in a within Coalition contest among moderate and possibly younger Liberal voters.  The Liberals were said to have polling by Crosby-Textor showing Constance beating Barilaro and McBain but no credible numbers or further details have been published.  Mutterings about a result in excess of 60-40 to journalists need not detain us here.

In mid-May an Australia Institute uComms robopoll was reported with a last-election 2PP of 51.1 to Labor off primaries that according to William Bowe came out as "Labor 39.8%, Liberal 34.3%, Nationals 7.3%, Greens 6.7% and One Nation 6.5%" after exclusion of what this pollster calls "undecided".  Seat polling is often very inaccurate for many reasons.  The poll found coronavirus and bushfire recovery to be taking a back seat as nominated issues to the economy, though concern about the economy may well be dominated by coronavirus-related impacts.  Other findings are bound to include the usual skewed waffle in TAI's issue questions.

On 25 May a further uComms robopoll commissioned by GetUp! was reported by the Guardian, supposedly showing agreement with a claim that the government was not doing enough about climate change.  Until full details of this poll have been published including all wording of all preambles and questions in the order asked I am not taking it seriously.

On 12 June Sky News reported an internal poll with a sample size of 600 said to show Kotvojs at 38%, McBain at 31%.  Nationals were on 6% and Greens on 6%, One Nation 3% (not running), Shooters 5%, Undecided 11%; on these numbers Kotvojs would win.  However, there seems to be no allowance for others, who while generally a waste of ballot paper would poll something.  No information on the pollster or dates is available.  It seems this is probably not a Liberal poll but it is unclear whose it is.  Parties sometimes release gloomy polls for the purposes of expectation management so this should be treated with caution.

On 18 June The Australian reported commissioned polls for The Australia Institute and Australian Forest Products Association, the former of which Simon Benson in his usual fashion spuriously described as "official". Both polls were by uComms.  The 2PPs were 52-48 to Labor (AFPA) (preference method not stated) and 53-47 to Labor (TAI) (last-election).

Primaries for the TAI poll with "undecided" redistributed (the way pollsters should report headline figures to avoid confusion) are:

ALP 39.0 (-0.2 compared to 2019 election) LIB 32.1 (-4.9) Nat 7.0 (-) Green 9.0 (+0.2) SFF 6.7 (+6.7) others 6.2 (-1.9).   Respondent preferences were 54-46 to Labor.  On these primaries, Labor would win easily, and the preferences of the Shooters would be irrelevant (their voters tend not to follow cards strongly anyway) so the idea that the Shooters hold the key to the by-election as claimed by the Australian is rubbish.  

Available primaries for the AFPA poll include Nats 6.7%, Greens 6.3%, Shooters 3.6%. 

(Thanks to readers who assisted me with paywall issues with reporting of these poll results.)

On 29 June the Nats gave the Australian selected details of another internal by an unnamed pollster conducted 25 June that they said showed figures of Liberal 34.3 Labor 29.3 National 11.5 Green 8.7 Shooters 4.6.  That leaves 11.6% unaccounted for, which surely includes several percent of undecided.  Kotvojs would win 54-46ish on these figures but released internal polling tends to favour its sponsor.  The sample size was 630.  The story also reported an earlier Nats internal taken 12 June with the majors at 36 apiece, Greens and Shooters 7, Nats 6 and 8% unaccounted for, on which numbers the seat would be very close.

On 3 July another TAI uComms was reported with a 2PP of 52-48 to Labor off primaries of ALP 39.3 Lib 38.3 Greens 7.5 Nats 5.2 Shooters 4.8 leaving 4.9 for nine others (after redistributing undecided).  The poll included questions about ABC funding which were completely worthless because they were preceded by a question reminding readers of the ABC's role in the bushfires coverage.  Based on last-election preferences the 2PP would be 50-50 according to William Bowe.

Ballot Draw

The ballot draw has favoured Labor by placing McBain above Kotvojs.  However, this was factored in to the 2019 result so is irrelevant in swing terms.  There may, however, be a special disadvantage in being placed last on the ballot (Peter Brent has recently found this has been as much as 2% to a candidate's primary vote).  The donkey vote advantage of being placed first is much less than 1% for most electorates.  The overall advantage of being above the other major party is about 0.5% 2PP, or 1% to the margin.


Betting is not reliably predictive but it is amusing to keep an eye on.  At a certain site that is in the doghouse for paying out early on the 2019 election and therefore is not being named on here at the moment, the Coalition was a narrow favourite as I started this article and has now come down to 1.55 vs 2.55.

Update 6 May: Following Constance's withdrawal odds were 1.80 vs 2.10, but I expect McBain to now become favourite.  (Further update: by the end of the night that was true, McBain 1.85 vs 2.10.)

7 May: McBain 1.65/2.20

12 May: 1.60/2.25

16 May: 1.70/2.25

24 May: 1.60/2.30

1 June: 1.51/2.55, ie an implied 63% chance of a Labor win.

8 June: 1.60/3.25/5.00.  (5.00 = Nationals.) Hard to really see the logic of the Nats running doing so much damage to the Liberals' odds.

11 June: 1.61/2.75/7.50

16 June: 1.70/2.65/7.50

17 June: 1.80/2.20/11.00

1 July: 1.60/2.25/12.00

5 pm 1 July: 1.70/2.10/15.00

1 am 3 July: 1.60/2.30 and who cares about the Nats odds anymore.

4:30 Election Day: 1.55/2.40, an implied 61% chance Labor wins. 

Other Candidates

Aside from the question of whether or not the Nationals run, other candidates are likely to just be making up the numbers, but there are far too many of them and they will probably drive up the informal rate, will certainly slow the count, and may inspire dimwitted media articles pretending that their how to vote card preferencing decisions matter (very few voters follow minor or micro-party how-to-votes).  I support Antony Green's call to remove central nomination for by-elections and require 100 local nominators as proof of support.

The Greens have preselected Bega Valley Shire councillor Cathy Griff.

The Nationals have preselected Quenbeyan-Palorang councillor Trevor Hicks.

Other declared intending candidates include:

Joy Angel of "Sustainable Australia", a micro-party that appears to be environmental (a la the Greens), but also argues for immigration restrictions.  While it does so mainly on ostensibly environmental grounds, it can do so in a rather dog-whistly and alarmist manner, causing many on the left to regard it as xenophobic.  Angel ran in the ACT at the 2019 election.

Michael Balderstone (HEMP). Balderstone is from Nimbin, way outside the electorate.

Riccardo Bosi, a former candidate for Cory Bernardi's failed Australian Conservatives, now an independent candidate representing the unregistered Australia One party, a right-wing conspiracy theory outfit that believes a cartel of "China, Islam, globalists, socialists and transnational corporations" are seeking to control Australia.  Number of actual members, if plural, uncertain.  Bosi also has a business leadership website

Serial candidate James Jansson of the so-called Science Party, which is considered unworthy of the name on these pages for its unscientific opposition to Senate reform (see comments here)

James Holgate, an independent who also ran in 2019 polling 1.9%.  An interview with him from then can be seen here.  My general impression is that Holgate is left-wing (eg in one comment he said he was strongly pro same-sex marriage and also said he was opposed to Adani).  However Australia's number 1 micro-party mini-reviewer AndrĂ© Brett says Holgate is also a "sustainable population" type and his second HTV preference going to Angel would appear to bear this out.

Dean McCrae (Liberal Democrats), who has attracted some attention with a call to defund the World Health Organisation.

Karen Porter, an independent running on behalf of an unregistered party called the New Liberals, in fact an anti-Liberal small-l liberal/populist outfit.  It will be interesting to see whether this party succeeds in being registered under this name when the time comes as the Liberal Party are highly likely to challenge the name and might have some prospects of successfully arguing that it implies a connection with the Liberal Party.  There has been some reaction online (including from me) to the party's decision to preference the Christian Democrats third on its how to vote card (apparently because they are impressed with the CDP candidate's take on environmental matters).

Jason Potter of the Australian Federation Party, formerly the Country Alliance and Australian Country Party, essentially a wannabe alternative version of the Nationals.

Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), a local councillor who lives just outside the electorate.  Last year he was involved in a code of conduct incident.

Narelle Storey of the so-called Christian so-called Democrats, Fred Nile's religious morality party that has performed poorly in recent elections.

Andrew Thaler, a serial independent who ran for this seat in 2013 and 2016 polling just over 1% each time, has also run for NSW state parliament and has a colourful internet history

(Andrew Thaler did not nominate.)

See also

Poll Bludger guide
Tally Room guide

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Rosevears And Huon Not Live

In some alternative universe, the polls will close about four hours from now ...

In the normal scheme of things, today would have been the day for the Rosevears and Huon Legislative Council elections.  I think it is worth a quick post to reflect on that fact and to summarise where things are with the postponement of these elections, which I have also been covering in an article that is now well down the list.

The elections were postponed because of risks associated with the current coronavirus outbreak.  Indeed in recent weeks Tasmania has had the nation's proportionally most severe outbreak of COVID-19, but it has been almost entirely confined to the north-western health system and close contacts of individuals within it.  A very small number of cases within that outbreak have been diagnosed in the North and South rather than the North-West, but beyond that the South has had only two cases in the last month (for one of which on 6 April, no detail ever appeared to my knowledge) and the North has not had any.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Newspoll: Record Premier Ratings And A Very Strange Federal Poll

This week Newspoll polled state Premier approval ratings, but not voting intentions (perhaps because samples by state would have been too small for voting intention sampling).  It was to be expected that several state Premiers would have very high approval ratings given their handling of the coronavirus crisis, but perhaps not that the figures would be quite so spectacular:

Prev = previous poll.  *= As opposition leader.  #=YouGov poll not branded as Newspoll.
As high as Scott Morrison's current net rating of +40 is (more on that later), all the Premiers except Palaszczuk have beaten it.  None of them were coming off a particularly high base, though the most recent polling for Victoria and WA is ancient.  For Tasmania this is the first Newspoll of Premier satisfaction since the 2014 state election.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why Better Prime Minister/Premier Scores Are Still Rubbish

Advance Summary

The "better Prime Minister" or "better Premier" score in Newspoll polling is a frequent subject of media focus.  This article explores the history of Newspoll preferred leader scores at state and federal elections and during terms and finds that:

* Better Leader scores are skewed indicators that favour incumbents by around 14-17 points at both state and federal level.

* Better Leader scores add no useful predictive information to that provided by a regression based on polled voting intention.

* If anything, Prime Ministers with high Better Prime Minister leads may be more likely to underperform their polled voting intention, but this is already captured in the relationship between polled voting intention and actual results.

* At state level, leading as Better Premier is a worse predictor of election wins or losses than leading on two-party preferred and having a positive net satisfaction rating.  This is because Better Premier is a weaker predictor of vote share than polled 2PP and is also more skewed as a predictor of election outcomes than either.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Morrison Breaks Two Newspoll Records Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The Newspoll just released deserves a special post in the absence of other polling, because of a couple of historic bounces for incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison.  It should be stated from the outset that these records have fallen partly because Morrison was coming off a low base.

To give the numbers first, the government now leads 51-49 two-party preferred, a gain of two points from three weeks ago.  The primaries are Coalition 42 (+2) Labor 34 (-2) Greens 13 (+1) One Nation 5 (+1) Others 6 (-2).  (I have a concern that the new Newspoll methods may be overestimating the Greens' vote by naming only them and the majors on the initial screen).  Scott Morrison leads Anthony Albanese 53-29 as "better Prime Minister", up from 42-38 last time, noting that Better PM is an indicator that tends to skew to incumbent PMs all else being equal (so 42-38 was actually a bad result for Morrison).  Morrison has a net satisfaction rating of +26 (61 satisfied 35 dissatisfied), up 38 points from -12 (41-53) last time.  Albanese has a net satisfaction rating of +9 (45-36), up 9 points.

What is notable overall here is that the government has only registered a modest bounce on voting intention but perceptions of Morrison's leadership have been changed dramatically by the crisis. This is indicative of a bipartisan mood where many voters are willing to say that although they support an opposition party, the government leader is doing a good job with this crisis.  (One can hear similar from Victorian Liberal voters regarding Daniel Andrews.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Huon

This election will be held on August 1.

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Welcome to my page for the 2020 Legislative Council elections for the seat of Huon.  My Rosevears page is already up and an article on Legislative Council voting patterns is probably not far away, and will be linked here when it is written.

The election was originally slated for Saturday May 2, but was postponed to Saturday May 30 to allow more time for the TEC to prepare for a campaign with a high rate of postal and early voting. However the government then announced an indefinite deferral with an intention to hold the elections by August 25, pursuant to section 13(1) of the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (see and section 5 of the Public Health Act.  As the COVID situation eased, August 1 was announced as the date.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Queensland: Bundamba and Currumbin By-Election Counts


BUNDAMBA: McCallum (ALP) retain
CURRUMBIN: Gerber (LNP) retain

Friday: With both seats decided I am paying little attention to the counts but note that the error mentioned below is now corrected.

Tuesday night: As Antony has noted, the preference figures that have gone up for Bundamba appear to have transposed the flow of Greens preferences making them flow 2:1 to One Nation instead of a more logical 2:1 to Labor, so McCallum will get more like 59% than the 54.9% he's currently credited with.

Tuesday 4:50:  Antony Green has reported that the LNP are around 500 votes ahead with not enough left to overturn.  These numbers are still not showing on the ECQ website.  Labor has conceded and the LNP has claimed Currumbin.  There will be a swing against it which may be close to 2% but is to be determined.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

King Of Nothing For A Day: Did Terry Mills Return As NT Opposition Leader?

Brief answer: Perhaps!

Of all the things going on in the world at present probably the least important of all is the position of NT Opposition Leader (unless, perhaps, a new conservative force starts winning NT elections and then winning federal seats).  But we all need some laughs, and so long as one doesn't think at all about whether NT politicians could have found something more constructive to do with their time right now than this, this is a rather funny story.  Not as funny as the time Willem Westra van Holthe held a late night presser to announce he was "Chief Minister apparent" only for it to turn out that he wasn't (Adam Giles who he thought he had deposed as leader threatened to bring down the government and as a result Giles was restored to the CLP leadership.)  But still, not bad.

The remains of Giles' government were slaughtered at the 2016 Territory election leaving the CLP with only two seats compared to 18 for Labor and five for a range of independents (some of them ex-CLP).  One of the independents was former Chief Minister Terry Mills, who had earlier been rolled by Giles while Mills was out of the country, just seven months after Mills had led the CLP to majority government.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus And Australian Politicians And Elections

Just a post to comment on some aspects of interest regarding the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on Australian politicians and elections.  (Note added April: this article is being updated continually but no further politicians have been diagnosed for a while.)


In the last week three federal Coalition MPs (Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Senator Susan McDonald and Senator Andrew Bragg) have tested positive to COVID-19.  Dutton is believed to have caught the disease in the USA, Bragg at a wedding in Australia and McDonald via unknown community transmission.  No state politicians have been reported as testing positive, but that's surely just a matter of time.

Politicians represent a tiny percentage of the world population, yet there have been many cases of them testing positive, a fact already attracting much attention.

A rough and doubtless incomplete tally of politicians who have tested positive, culled mostly from this Wikipedia page, accepting their description of "politician" status blindly but excluding those who I could quickly and clearly see were only former politicians, is as follows:

The table shows that countries that have politicians who have tested positive usually have more than one.  Of the 13 countries with more than one known infected politician, Australia has the fourth lowest ratio of total cases to political cases, currently above only Brazil, Romania and Iran.  Some countries with high coronavirus counts have none so far (such as South Korea and Switzerland) while China has relatively few.

Monday, March 16, 2020

EMRS: Liberals Still Ahead Under Gutwein

EMRS March 2020: Liberal 43 Labor 34 Greens 12 Others 11
Interpretation scores not used because of change in EMRS methods
Result "if election held last week" on these raw numbers 13-10-2 (no change), next most likely 13-9-3
Better Premier White 41 leads Gutwein 39 - similar situation to White vs Hodgman

A new EMRS poll of Tasmanian voting intention has been released via the unusual avenue of a FontPR podcast.  (Recommended listening for a lot of new insights into how EMRS operates). This is the first EMRS poll to be publicly released since the July 2019 poll, but in the meantime there were two other polls that were not previously released, in November (very early November - pollster was reported in the field on 31 Oct) and unusually December.  These have now also been released (full report of last three polls here.)  It is unfortunate the earlier polls were not released at the time as they would have usefully informed discussion about the retirement of Premier Hodgman.

The podcast reveals that EMRS have made significant methods changes in recent months, including ensuring at least 35% mobile coverage in their phone polls and making changes to weighting (though this does include the rather risky inclusion of past vote - a partial cause of the 2019 polling failure, but perhaps more justified in Tasmania where it is harder to be confident a sample is even close to representative.)  Based on the late-2019 polls together with this one it looks like this has fixed the pollster's long-standing problem of severely overestimating the Green vote, and at times the Others vote as well.