Thursday, October 11, 2018

Council Voting - Please Be Careful!

I've already made this point in my Hobart guide but I thought I should make it prominently in a separate post to cover all councils.  Please feel very free to share and spread widely.

A scourge of Tasmanian council elections is the high rate of informal voting.  Informal votes are votes that are returned but cannot be counted as they are not valid votes.  The main reason the informal voting rate is high is that voters make mistakes and the rules concerning this are stupid.  The reason the rules are stupid is that governments have failed to fix them.  The previous Labor/Greens government ignored warnings that bringing in all-in all-out elections would cause a high informal voting rate under the current system. The current Liberal government has so far done nothing to fix it.  The Local Government Act needs to be reformed to provide savings provisions for voters who make honest mistakes.

When you get your ballot papers in the mail, the ballot paper for Councillors will have an instruction at the top saying "Number the boxes from 1 to [some number] in order of your choice".  At the bottom it says "Number at least [some other number] boxes to make your vote count".  The first number is the number of candidates, the second is the number to be elected.

What the instructions don't tell you is that if you make a mistake before you get to that second (minimum) number, your vote won't be counted - at all!

So for instance, Hobart is electing 12 councillors.  You can number up to 36 boxes but for your vote to count you need to at least number the boxes 1 to 12 once and once only.  If you include any of those numbers more than once, your vote is invalid and will not count at all.  If you skip any of those numbers, your vote is invalid and will not count at all.  So for instance, if you put two number 8s but no number 9 on a Hobart councillor paper, that's it, your vote will not be valid.  Even had you made just one of these two mistakes, your vote would not count.  I personally saw huge piles of ballot papers rejected for these sorts of reasons in 2014.  Especially, do not think "oh I really can't find 12 candidates, I'll just pick 11, surely that's good enough?"  It isn't. It's the same as posting in a blank ballot.

If you make a mistake involving doubling or omitting numbers after the minimum number, that's not such a big deal.  Don't let that put you off numbering as many boxes as you want to.  A mistake after the minimum number just means that if your vote gets to the point where you made the mistake (which depending on your preference ordering might not happen anyway) then at that point your vote will exhaust from the system.  It may be that much of your vote's value has been used up helping people get elected by that stage anyway.

It's especially easy to omit or double numbers if you like voting from the bottom up, which lots of us do.

One way to avoid these sorts of errors is to practice voting on a separate sheet of paper (or spreadsheet) first.  Once you have an order you can check it by listing the numbers from 1 to the number of candidates on another piece of paper, and going through your practice vote from the top, crossing off each number as it appears.  If you go to cross off a number and find you've already crossed it off, that probably means you've doubled up somewhere.  If a number doesn't get crossed off, look for that number and see if you've missed it.

If you make a mistake on your actual ballot paper, and you're using a pen, you can correct it by crossing the incorrect number out and writing the correct one.  (Pencil is much easier, since you can just erase it, and there's no reason not to use pencil.) But if you do this make sure it is very clear what your actual voting order is.

As to the question of numbering all of the boxes vs only some of them - assuming you have time to consider it -  I almost always number all of the boxes.  The important thing to remember if there are several candidates you don't like, is that how you rank the candidates at the bottom of the list will never help any of them beat candidates who you ranked higher - but it may help the candidate you see as the lesser evil defeat one you really can't stand.  If you have ranked a candidate 30th out of 36, your vote cannot reach them or help them until everyone you ranked 1 to 29 has been elected or eliminated.  However, it might then help them beat those you have ranked 31 to 36.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

2018 FIDE (World Chess Federations) Elections Updates

8:15 am Georgian time

Greetings from Batumi!  This is a post to cover the goings on regarding the FIDE election, which I first posted about nearly three months ago (2018 World Chess Federation elections).  I hope to post updates through the election today but they may or may not be delayed a little by duties in connection with it, or issues with running my computer off its wayward battery.

Since my previous article, the attempt to impose greater strictness surrounding the tempting of delegates has fallen by the wayside (because it lacked statutory authority), but still the election has been austere compared to the cash-splash of 2014, especially on the Makropoulos side.  Unlike in 2014, a delegate is not bombarded with pamphlets at meetings for days before the election and there are few posters to be seen.  The Makropoulos and Dvorkovich camps have stalls at the Olympiad venue (and the Makropoulos camp accuses a member of the Dvorkovich camp of some scruffy behaviour related to this) while the Short camp has no physical presence beyond its various members.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Poll Roundup: The Current Polls Aren't All That Meaningful

2PP Aggregate: 54.2 to Labor (-0.6 since last week) by 2016 election preferences
53.6 to Labor with One Nation preference adjustment 
Labor would win election "held now" with a large majority
(scores and text, but not graph, updated for Essential)

This week Newspoll, which has so far produced the worst readings for the Coalition since Malcolm Turnbull was replaced by Scott Morrison, came down two points on the two-party preferred vote from 56-44 to Labor to 54-46.  Taking into account the primary votes, the Coalition's gain was probably slightly greater.  Indeed this Newspoll had a slightly smaller gap (0.7 points) between the expected last-election preferences off the primaries and the published 2PP with Newspoll's adjustments of One Nation preferences than has usually been the case lately.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hobart City Council Elections Candidate Guide And Preview 2018

All candidates are directed to the note for candidates at the bottom of this page.

Introductory Waffle

With some rather expensive looking corflutes already cropping up in parts of the city, it's time to start my resource page for the 2018 Hobart City Council elections.  This guide (like my 2014 guide) includes a list of candidates who are running for the Council for the 2018-22 term.    The guide includes brief bio details and links, descriptions of candidates' past electoral form (where any) and an attempted assessment of prospects.  All sections will be updated regularly, but there will be lags of a few days at times between Sep 25 and Oct 7.

During the campaign period voters will get official statements by the candidates, with photos supplied by them.  The online version will include web links.  This piece was first published for the interest of those who don't want to wait for the candidate statements, but will stay up to present a less filtered view of candidate backgrounds.

Donations to cover even some of my time in writing this guide are very welcome - but not from candidates or their direct connections.  There's a PayPal button on the sidebar or you can email me for bank account details. Please only donate if you are sure you can afford to.

Note to all voters: please make sure your vote is valid.  Your vote for Councillor (Aldermen) must include the numbers 1 to 12 each once and once only.  If you skip or double any of these numbers, your vote won't count at all.  If you stop at 11, your vote won't count at all.  You can give further preferences beyond 12 if you wish and I strongly encourage doing this (a mistake beyond 12 will not make your vote informal).  If there are candidates you dislike then number all the boxes and put them at the bottom.  You will never help them beat candidates you have ranked higher by so doing.

A reader has prepared this simple voting order shuffler which also allows you to write notes about the candidates, in order to put them in your preferred order!

For some complex background to the voting patterns of existing councillors, see Hobart City Council Voting Patterns 2014-8. By way of a quick summary, while most councillors are technically independent, and even the party-endorsed candidates don't vote the same way as each other all the time, I've historically found that most councillors belong to two loose clusters of generally likeminded councillors.  I refer to these as the "greens" (who are typically The Greens) and the "blues" (who more often favour the interests of commerce and development when environmental conflicts arise).  Note that "blues" are not necessarily Liberals and sometimes have Labor connections.  However in the last term, those tendencies, while still there, have been weaker than they've ever been before.  Personality clashes on the blue side have continued, positions on both sides have moderated, while solidarity on the Green side has weakened to the point that for the first time in Hobart history a councillor first elected as a Green will run as an independent.  (On other Tasmanian councils this has been common.)

Alas I don't have time to do the same for every council.  I may post links to similar sites for other councils if they are sent to me. Please address any corrections or additions for such other council guides to the sites in question and not to me.  I cannot vouch for the bias or lack thereof, or the updating, of any such external links.

"Alderman" vs "Councillor"

The term "alderman" is equivalent to "councillor" in the case of Hobart City Council.  The term "alderman" is considered sexist and the current Council has supported switching to "councillor".   I have followed this by using "Councillor" throughout this guide.

Candidates for Lord Mayor and Deputy

The following are candidates for Lord Mayor and Deputy, all of whom are listed in the councillor guide.  A candidate cannot run for Mayor and Deputy, and the winner of each position needs to also be elected as a councillor to serve.

Lord Mayor (11 candidates)

Alexander, Darren
Briscoe, Jeff (incumbent councillor)
Christie, Ron (current Lord Mayor and incumbent councillor)
Denison, Tanya (incumbent councillor)
Dutta, Mike
Harvey, Bill (incumbent councillor)
Mallett, Robert
Reynolds, Anna (incumbent councillor)
Sexton, Peter (incumbent councillor)
Thomas, Damon (incumbent councillor)
Zucco, Marti (incumbent councillor)

Here is an accurate image of this year's mayoral field.

Deputy Lord Mayor (11 candidates)

Allardice, Robin
Behrakis, Simon
Bloomfield, Louise
Burnet, Helen (incumbent councillor)
Coats, Will
Merridew, Chris
Roffe, Richard
Sherlock, Zelinda
Stansfield, Philip
Taylor, Andy (Tubes)
Waldhoff, Martin

Incumbent Deputy Peter Sexton is running for Lord Mayor.

Declared Candidates for Councillor (36 for 12 vacancies)

The following are the candidates.   There are three vacancies, caused by Sue Hickey's resignation on moving to state parliament, and two retirements (see below).

I am trying to keep this section fairly neutral without it being totally boring. Some biases may sneak through (or be overcompensated for) but my main interest in this section is in providing a resource.  I should also note the ritual disclaimer that sometimes candidates get endorsed by my mother.

Each candidate's name, with a few exceptions where I haven't yet found a campaign page, is a link to what seems to be the main page or a campaign page or other web presence for that candidate.

Ticket/team webpages are listed in the Tickets/teams section below.

Alexander, Darren - IT entrepreneur (Autech Software and Beetle Black Media), Brand Tasmania and Business events board member, Launceston councillor and 2014 mayoral candidate now returned to Hobart. Other links: candidacy announcement, linkedin, press release

Allardice, Robin - accountant (profile), director of Bentley's Chartered Accountants Tasmania, involved with private school boards and foundations, self-professed "introvert". Other links: personal Facebook pagelinkedin

Behrakis, Simon - recent state Liberal candidate (Denison and Hobart), Eric Abetz staffer, parliamentary researcher, economist, assistant manager Salamanca Fresh, culture warrior.  Other links: linkedin, candidacy announcement, Twitter

Bloomfield, Louise - accountant, small business owner (Bloomfield & Associates), President of business networking groups, guest lecturer on business integrity, Porsche racer.  Other links: Twitter, Your Hobart page

Briscoe, Jeff  incumbent councillor, college teacher of maths, computing and chemistry (see student reviews here!), credit union director.  Other links:  TwitterlinkedinZoominfocandidacy announcement,

Burnet, Helen (Tasmanian Greens)  -  incumbent councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor, frequent Greens state candidate, Podiatrist at Royal Hobart Hospital, volunteer on range of non-profit boards.  Other links: Twitter

Christie, Ron - incumbent councillor, elected Deputy Lord Mayor at last two elections and promoted to Lord Mayor on Hickey's resignation, former radio and TV host, marketer and Eisteddfod president. Other links: Twitter (quiet lately), candidacy announcement

Coats, Will - advisor to Legislative Council Leader for the Government Leonie Hiscutt, former Young Liberal State President + life member Uni Liberal Club, information systems graduate, has worked in IT for Mystate and RACT, executive director of a hair style products company Other links: linkedin

Corr, Brian - President of Hobart Not Highrise (lobby group re building heights), Vice-President Newtown Community Association, former WA local councillor and ALP state candidate, plum endorsement

Denison, Tanyaincumbent councillor, business owner, first female CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation and mining engineer. 2013 federal Liberal candidate for Denison (including Hobart council area).  Preselected #3 for 2019 Liberal Senate ticket.  Other links: linkedin, candidacy announcement

Dutta, Mike - proprietor of Macquarie Street Foodstore cafe/restaurant, former teacher, lawyer and Minister of Religion. Other links: candidacy announcement (father of Sherlock)

Dut, Salpha - member of local South Sudanese community

Ewin, Holly (Tasmanian Greens) - florist, early childhood educator, student, activist (including recently on gender and reproductive rights issues), lives on a boat, Greens candidate for Franklin at state election

Frame, Nigel - State director + Senate candidate for Australian Conservatives, radiation therapist Royal Hobart Hospital for c. 25 years, studying ancient history/cosmology, state chess champion 2005, five times state lightning chess champion*.  Other links: Conservatives website, Facebook

Harvey, Bill (Tasmanian Greens) - incumbent councillor, English teacher, frequent Greens state candidate, formerly involved in Malaysian/Chinese business college and boutique wine delivery, director Hobart Cat Centre.   Other links: Facebook, Twitter, linkedin

Irwin, Fiona - university administrator, formerly worked in Labor and Liberal ministerial offices and State Government community services. Other links: linkedin

Mallett, Robert - "entrepreneur, small business owner, communication trainer and association manager" (The Front Man), former public servant, Small Business Council Executive Officer, 2014 state Liberal candidate for Denison

McCallum, Stephen (Labor) - Young Labor member, consultant, former electorate officer for Lisa Singh and United Voice administrator. Other links: linkedin

Merridew, Chris - former National Trust councillor, motor industry consultant (car sales Performance Automobiles), advocate for keeping Treasury Building in public hands (see recent op ed and coverage). Other links: Op ed re bus interchange and candidacy announcement

Ngor, Atak - recent media graduate, involvements in investment management and electricity retail startups, youth advisory committee member, SBS film and directing placements.  Other links: linkedin

Peelman, Ben - violin teacher and events promoter who has worked in several other businesses, advises me he has "worked in every field council operates in, except rubbish - and I'll get round to that too." Other links: main site page

Reynolds, Anna - incumbent councillor, former Greens Denison and Senate candidate, CEO for Multicultural Council of Tasmania, former Greens advisor and climate change organiser.   Other links: Twitter, linkedin, vimeo, Facebook

Roffe, Richard - Doctor, previously supported Ron Christie's push for purchase of Sydney monorail.  Other claims to fame include having a defibrillator stolen.  Other links: linkedin

Sexton, Peterincumbent councillor and current Deputy Lord Mayor (elected by Council on Christie's elevation), G.P., Cricket Australia medico, Clinical Associate Professor (UTAS), Honorary Consul (Estonia), former medical administrator  Other link: linkedin

Schofield, Cat - Director of Nursing, Mental Health Services.  Formerly Strategic Nurse Co-ordinator DPAC.  Other link: linkedin

Sherlock, Zelinda - recent State Labor candidate for Denison, teacher of English for refugee students, former lecturer, PhD candidate.  Other links: TwitterLHG page, coverage (daughter of Dutta)

Siena, Kasha - President of Salamanca Market Stallholders Association, market stallholder, "small business owner" with "long history of running a business", involved in tourism awards, family left Poland to escape communism in 1980s.

Stanaway, Glen - Regional Manager for Australian Sailing, has also worked as a draftsman and in software development.  Other links: linkedin

Stansfield, Philip - disability support worker, has worked as State Government lawyer and policy officer and also electorate officer and ministerial adviser (for David Crean), ALP member. Other links: Facebook, candidacy announcement

Tang, Yongbei - editor of Chinese News Tasmania, Multicultural Council of Tasmania treasurer, SBS correspondent, recently in debate about Greens comments on Chinese influence.  Other links: linkedin,Twitter, response to stacking claims

Taylor, Andy "Tubes" - Co-owner/director of Johnno's Home Made, quiz host, sports commentator and former CUB visitors centre manager.  Other links: Twitter, candidacy announcement

Taylor, Rebecca (Tasmanian Greens) - "Parent, athlete, social worker, and coach" (sporting involvements in roller derby) and former Council employee for 11 years.

Thomas, Damon - incumbent councillor, Lord Mayor 2011-2014, business consultant, Adjunct Professor (UTAS),  Korean consul. Formerly: Crown Solicitor, Ombudsman, CEO of Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Other links:  linkedinTwitter

Waldhoff, Martin - real estate consultant at Elders Brown + Banks, also tallow producer (see article) and former life sciences student, army reservist and small businessman in various fields.  Other links: Twitter, Your Hobart page

Vogel, Stefan - Glaciologist and Antarctic scientist, has worked "over the course of 34 years in the Manufacturing Industry, Tourism, Education, Leadership Training and Academia from Europe via Antarctica and the USA to Australia." Other links: linkedin

Zucco, Marti - veteran incumbent councillor, businessman, veteran restaurateur, frequent candidate for state and federal politics, one-man political popcorn generator. Other links: Twitter, Your Hobart page

Text is mine but thanks to my mother Pru Bonham for assistance with candidate-spotting.

Note that Denison's preselection to the #3 position on the Liberal Senate ticket does not preclude her from standing and indeed that following the precedent of the Steve Martin case she could potentially be a councillor (even Mayor) and Senator at the same time.  However she has stated she would resign from Council if elected to the Senate.

(* Frame is in fact my most frequently played opponent in long-time control rated games in Tasmanian chess - we have played 55 times, the last in 2012.  He has not been active in competition in recent years.)

Retiring Councillors

Phil Cocker (Greens) and Eva Ruzicka have retired from the Council.  Ruzicka was first elected 1999 and was elected Deputy Lord Mayor three times.  Cocker was first elected in 2005.  Retirements of one councillor from then green side and one from more or less the centre mean that the balance of Council could shift substantially if new left-leaning candidates are not elected.  However I suspect at least one will be.

Teams/Tickets (etc)

In last election's guide I expressed some bemusement at the appearance of Ron Christie's "Hobart's Home Team" grouping, a six-candidate ticket that eventually elected only Christie (though Mao Ding missed out by 3.6 votes), and that cluttered the ballot for Deputy Mayor to no useful effect.  Following this latest failed attempt to generate useful preference flows by running grouped candidates (something which has a long history of not working well outside the Greens), roll round 2018 and ... almost everyone is doing it!

Strictly speaking, although these groups are often called "tickets" they do not tend to recommend a regimented order of candidates and should really be considered as teams.  Of this year's batch the Liveable Hobart Group appears to be running the most like a party, with detailed announcements of policy promises.  Your Hobart also has a substantial list of policies but seems to be less formalised.  Elected Green candidates are not bound by party solidarity and fairly often do not vote together.

Candidates involved in groups at this year's election are:

Tasmanian Greens - Harvey, Burnet, Ewin, Taylor.

Liveable Hobart Group - Thomas, Allardice, Sherlock, Irwin, Siena.

Your Hobart - Zucco, Bloomfield, Waldhoff.

Also, the following candidates are campaigning together to some degree:

Briscoe/Stansfield - Briscoe (Lord Mayor) and Stansfield (Deputy) are announced running mates.

Mallett/Coats - Mallett has endorsed Coats. I am unsure if Behrakis is also involved.

Reynolds/Corr - Corr endorses Reynolds in at least one of her videos.

Also Dutta's posters are authorised by Sherlock, but Dutta is not a member of the Liveable Hobart Group.

We have also seen an (as far as I know) unprecedented decision by the Liberal Party to recommend certain candidates to its membership, although there are no candidates running as endorsed Liberals in the usual fashion.  That said it was sometimes clear in the past that the party supported some pre-existing ticket or other.  Those recommended are Denison, Mallett, Behrakis, Bloomfield, Coats, Merridew and Vogel, all of whom I assume to be party members (the Mercury also reports Waldhoff as a party member). It is unknown to me whether this is an ordered ranking.

Form Guide

This section includes a summary of past election performances (where any known) including histories of any known party or quasi-party involvements, and also assessments of past voting patterns.  This one is again in reverse alphabetical order.  Many new candidates have no previous known electoral form, but this section isn't about saying that more or less electoral form is good.  It is mainly for the purpose of saying how people have gone in the past for those interested in trying to guess how they'll go in the future.

Note that for the 2014 election the number of seats elected at a time was increased from (usually) six to twelve, resulting in large drops in the primary votes for several incumbent councillors.

Zucco, Marti - First elected to Council in 1992, Zucco's record is of always being re-elected comfortably without ever having polled quota and sometimes struggling to gather preferences.  Missed out for Deputy in 2011 when beaten by Ron Christie by six votes at key exclusion point; not competitive in other leadership tilts.  In 2014, elected fifth as a Councillor, but also finished only fifth for Deputy Mayor.  Independent candidate for Legislative Council a few times (best 25% in Newdegate 1993).  Unsuccessfully sought preselection for Liberal Party for 2010 state election, attempt squelched by pro-Elise Archer forces, quit party.  Palmer United Party candidate for Franklin 2013 federal election polling very respectable 6.1%.  Involved in dispute with Jacqui Lambie, quit party and ran as independent for Denison polling 788 votes (more than any Denison PUP candidate).  My assessments have consistently shown Zucco to be one of the most hardline pro-commerce ("blue") councillors on council.

Thomas, Damon -  First elected to Council in 2009 polling 8.7% of the councillor vote and finishing fourth after preferences.  Then won Lord Mayor at first attempt defeating Helen Burnet narrowly on preferences with 51.5% two-candidate preferred.  Defeated by Sue Hickey 52.5-47.5 in 2014; polled second on Councillor ballot with 16.3% (over two quotas).  My assessments have generally shown Thomas as a fairly moderate member of the pro-commerce ("blue") grouping on council.

Stansfield, Philip - Contested 2014 election, polled 432 votes (10th on primaries) but slipped to 16th after preferences.

Siena, Kasha - Contested 2014 election on Christie ticket, polled 64 primaries and was second excluded.

Sherlock, Zelinda - Labor candidate for Denison (2018 state election). Polled 1998 votes.

Sexton, Peter - First elected to Council in 1999 on a recount after John Freeman temporarily resigned.  Third elected in 2005 and 2009, each time with relatively modest primary votes (6.6% and 5.5%) but very high shares of preferences from other candidates.  This continued in 2014 when he polled a mere 384 primaries (equal sixteenth) but was elected 8th after preferences from other incumbents.  Competitive for Deputy Mayor in 2005 (beaten 46:54 by Eva Ruzicka) and 2009 (beaten by Helen Burnet by 77 votes.) Disappointing 18.6% (fourth) in field of four for Lord Mayor in 2011 and fourth for Deputy Mayor in 2014. Elevated to Deputy Mayor after Ron Christie became Lord Mayor as a result of a 6-5 vote of councillors.  My assessments have generally shown Sexton to be a moderate member of the pro-commerce ("blue") councillors grouping, but in the current term I've classified him as a blue-leaning centrist.

Roffe, Richard - Member of Christie ticket in 2014, polling 180 votes.

Reynolds, Anna - Drew the short straw as Greens candidate running against Andrew Wilkie in 2013 federal election.  This was always a hiding to nothing since Wilkie agrees with the Greens on many issues dear to their supporters, but would probably still have expected more than 7.9% . Polled an impressive 571 primaries for Council in 2014, unseating fellow Green Harvey. Also polled 1433 below the line votes as Greens #3 for Senate 2016.  Although elected as a Green, Reynolds has voted more like a green-leaning independent on Council, and has not voted with any other councillor more than 67% of the time on contested motions.

Peelman, Ben - Candidate in 2011, polled 145 votes and was second excluded.

Merridew, Chris - Has reportedly run for Council previously without success, I believe over 30 years ago.

Mallett, Robert - Liberal candidate for Denison 2014, polled 2080 votes.

Harvey, Bill - Elected to Council at the third attempt in 2007, polling over 600 primaries and performing strongly on preferences.  In 2011 (as lead candidate in that year's slate) the strongest-polling Green, getting more than half the Green ticket vote and being easily re-elected.  Shock defeat by fellow Green Reynolds in 2014, attributed in some circles to his moderate voting record.  Topped the Deputy Lord Mayor primary count in both 2011 and 2014 as the sole Green but beaten 46:54 and 45.1:54.9 by Christie after preferences each time.  Ran as a heavily promoted second candidate for the Greens in Denison at the 2013 state election, and seemed an outside chance to get elected based on some polling, but ultimately Green vote was not that high and he polled 1614 votes. I have consistently assessed Harvey as a lighter shade of green than Burnet and Cocker and in the current term this difference became more pronounced.

Ewin, Holly - Greens support candidate for Franklin at 2018 state election polling 909 votes.

Dutta, Michael - Dutta contested the 1996 election as a minor candidate on the Valentine/Bonham-led Hobart Community Team, polling 270 votes (1.5%). Much more competitive in 2014 when he polled 467 votes (ninth on primaries) but as with many non-incumbents did poorly on preferences and finished 17th.

Denison, Tanya -  Endorsed Federal Liberal candidate for Denison at 2013 federal election, in a race in which the Liberals were very late announcing a candidate after a previous candidate failed due diligence at the last moment (there was also speculation they were deliberately helping Andrew Wilkie to win.)  Polled third on primaries with 23.2%. Polled 408 primaries for Hobart 2014 and was elected 11th after outlasting Mao Ding at a critical point by 3.6 votes.  Denison has displayed a strongly "blue" voting pattern on council as would be expected.

Corr, Brian - Elected second in ward to Joondalup (WA) council in 2006.  Re-elected unopposed 2007 and overwhelmingly against one opponent in 2011.  Labor candidate for state seat of Kingsley (WA)  in 2013 but there was a 2PP swing of 10.2% to the Liberal incumbent in the seat (just a few points larger than average in the context of an overall 5.4% swing to the Barnett Government plus a sophomore surge for his opponent).

Christie, Ron - Elected to Council for a two-year term in 1999, defeated 2000, fifth elected in 2002. Almost defeated in 2007, surviving a fight with fellow incumbents Lyn Archer and Eric Hayes by nine votes after reportedly clearing his desk in the belief that he had lost.  In 2011 he created some surprise (and some embarrassment for this psephologist) when he polled much more strongly than before, being third elected as councillor and winning DLM over Zucco by six votes at the crucial exclusion. In 2014 ran at the head of a "Hobart's Home Team" ticket and retained his Deputy position easily. Polled a very weak councillor primary (just 455 votes) but was elected 4th on a strong flow of preferences from mayoral contenders Hickey and Thomas.  For a while Christie was one of the most hardline and at times even quirkily extreme members of the "blue" cluster of pro-commerce councillors. However from about 2012 his voting behaviour changed and he is now more moderate than, say, Denison and Zucco.

Burnet, Helen - Helen Burnet has a long history of strong electoral performance for the Greens. She came within about 200 votes of beating the party's endorsed ticket-leader to a seat at her first attempt in 2002, then was easily elected in 2005 with 14.6%, which rose to 19.2% in 2009.  After a competitive loss to Ruzicka for the Deputy Lord Mayor position in 2007, Burnet defeated Peter Sexton by 76 votes to win it in 2009, to date the Greens' only leadership position victory in Hobart.  Burnet ran for Lord Mayor in 2011 losing narrowly to Damon Thomas with 48.5% two-candidate preferred.  She also polled over 3000 primaries as #2 Denison Green candidate in the 2010 state election, but was narrowly excluded behind Andrew Wilkie in the cut-up (with Wilkie nearly winning on her preferences).  Burnet contested the Greens' process to replace retiring Senator Bob Brown, but they preselected Peter Whish-Wilson instead.  Preselected #2 on the Greens' 2013 Senate ticket behind Whish-Wilson but the Greens did not manage even one quota in their own right.  In 2014 Burnet was third elected with 12.4% (1.6 quotas) as a Councillor but was third for Lord Mayor.  Also again Denison Green support candidate at the 2018 state election but less successful than in 2010, as were the Greens in general. I have consistently assessed Burnet as one of the two greenest councillors alongside Cocker.

Briscoe, Jeff - Narrowly elected as councillor in 1994 and consistently increased his primary vote at every election from then until 2011 (when he topped the councillor poll with well over a quota.)  However in 2014 he polled only 502 councillor votes and was elected sixth. Ran for Lord Mayor three times unsuccessfully (polling in the 20-30% range each time, two of those against Rob Valentine) and was third on the   Briscoe was initially elected on a ticket linked to local residents' groups and progress associations but soon switched to the "blue" side of Council.  I've generally assessed him as a member of the "blue" cluster, though not very predictably and with a strong green tinge on certain issues such as the cable car. Briscoe contested the Legislative Council seat of Hobart for the Greens in 1994 (polling 23%) but a falling-out with the party over preselection order saw him quit the ticket and run as an independent for Denison (state) in 1996, polling 551 votes.  He later joined the Liberal Party and contested Franklin for it in 2002 polling just 787 votes.  He was a supporter of Sherlock's (ALP) campaign in 2018 and has been supported at this election by Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey (who ran with him in 2014) but I am unsure if he is associated with any party.

Behrakis, Simon - Liberal Candidate for Denison (state) in 2018, polling 2317 votes.  Then stood for Legislative Council seat of Hobart, finishing third with 19%.

Alexander, Darren - One of four mayoral candidates for Launceston in 2014, finished fourth with 15.2% and elected eighth out of 12 councillors with a councillor primary of 1100 (0.64 quotas).


1. Proposed Mount Wellington Cable Car: Previous cable car proposals were major features of the 1988 and 1994 elections, but the current proposal is much more detailed and high-profile.  However it is struggling to find a viable departure point after the Cascade Brewery declined it access to land and the Council recently in a 7-4 vote did likewise.  (Those voting not to allow the cable car to use any council land were Burnet, Cocker, Harvey, Reynolds, Briscoe, Ruzicka and Christie while in favour of at least allowing a flora and fauna survey of a proposed site prior to a decision were Zucco, Thomas, Sexton and Denison.)  The proponent hopes to have another go should the election greatly change the composition of Council (past elections where cable cars were a big deal didn't.)

My summary of (known to me) candidate positions on the cable car is HERE - (By clicking on the link you agree not to recirculate the list in any way or to link directly to it - all links should be to this article)   This will be updated frequently as more information appears.  Note that laws covering Council voting can cause Councillors to be barred from voting on issues if they appear to have prejudged them based on public comments.  However, the scope of this prohibition is vague.  For this reason some candidates are more reticent than others to openly support or oppose the proposed project, even in principle.

I have comprehensive coverage of polling on this issue going back several years and in a scientific capacity I recently covered some incorrect environmental claims being made about one proposed road site.  While the cable car is popular statewide, it is much less so in the Hobart area.  In my own suburb of South Hobart, opposition is massive, with No Cable Car signs on a substantial proportion of houses.

2. Leadership: The city has in past enjoyed long periods of stability under popular mayors such as Doone Kennedy and Rob Valentine. The last 5-6 years have been pretty messy and, ideological differences aside, Council has often presented to the public as a divided group of competing egos, an image somewhat at odds with the hard work councillors do on issues behind closed doors.  In Ron Christie's term the role of the Lord Mayor has become particularly contentious because of a number of outspoken mayoral statements on issues such as confronting art at the Dark Mofo festival, "mass tourism" and a proposal to co-name Hobart "nipaluna".  Both the content of these statements and whether or not they were made on behalf of the Council have been debated. In the leadup to the election, with almost everyone running for Mayor, the every-councillor-for-themselves vibe has grown stronger and it remains to be seen how the winner of this mayoral election will get the Council's public image back on track - if they can.

3. Building Heights: With the city's tourism boom (see below) have come some proposals for large hotels, especially from Fragrance Group.  I haven't been paying a great degree of attention to this one except for laughing when my old foes at the Confrontation Trust got sprung for indicating building size via dodgy mockups of Trump Tower, but I expect to see a fair bit of debate about this issue. Currently caps are proposed with a maximum of 60 metres, lower in several areas, but these caps have run into opposition both from councillors who think this is too high to those who don't support them at all.

4. Tourism and Housing Affordability: The issues of tourism and housing affordability are connected because increased tourism increases the market for Air BnB which appears to reduce rental availability.  The city therefore has both a tourism boom and an affordable housing shortage at the same time.  Christie in particular has sounded warnings about "mass tourism" but has struggled to establish a consistent position on the issue (and has run into a lot of flak from tourism advocates who suggest he is risking damaging the market when the focus should be on remedying downsides.)

5. Traffic: While Hobart is a small place compared to mainland cities, its geography, geology and environmental values have resulted in its traffic flows depending on a small number of major roads.  Severe traffic congestion has been increasingly common in recent years.

6. Alleged Chinese Influence: The candidacy of Yongbei Tang has been highly controversial with various attempts to link her candidacy to the Chinese Communist Party through, for instance, her recent roles on various Chinese diasporal groups (see here, here, etc).  This comes against a backdrop of recent concerns about Chinese involvement in Tasmanian politics, particularly by the parliamentary Greens and parts of the independent left off the back of Clive Hamilton's "Silent Invasion" book.  These concerns have been criticised as allegedly xenophobic, not only by the government and pro-China commentators but also by others such as Greg Barns, and as "racist speculation" by Greens council candidate Holly Ewin. On the other hand, ten unnamed persons stated to be members of the Tasmanian Chinese community have criticised Tang and compared her unfavourably with Chinese candidates from the last election.  In general the debate has been more heat than light, and apart from its crossings of partisan boundaries it's been difficult to distinguish from "debates" spawned by right-wing xenophobes.

7. Dark Mofo Funding - The winter music and arts festival Dark Mofo is a tourism success but pulls no punches with its exploration of contentious issues - last year the use of a bull carcass for an artistic performance, this year the presence of inverted crosses on the Hobart waterfront.  Christie came out against funding the festival, to fairly widespread condemnation, after receiving a large number of emails from religious campaigners. He has revived the issue to a similar response during the campaign.

Other issues may be added.

Campaigning Issues

This section deals with contentious aspects of campaigning.  It's notable that size restrictions on signage have been removed, resulting in billboard-size advertising for some candidates.

1. Alleged Roll Stacking (Again): Rinse and repeat as this issue was also on the list in 2014.  The allegation is that candidates are using the General Managers' Roll to sign up international students (especially Chinese) to vote for them.  This can be done because temporary residents who are not citizens can register to vote.  There were rumours that thousands of international students had been signed up but when the roll closed it turned out to contain 662 representatives of corporate bodies, 665 non-resident property owners and 589 non-citizens, suggesting that the issue had been a bit overblown.  Nonetheless the vagueness of rules and the fact that this process is under Council control continue to raise concerns.  Non-citizen voting is not the only issue here as double-voting for corporate representatives continues to be just as big a factor.  Moreover, there are questions around the rules there too based on a case reported by Monte Bovill on Twitter of a student society managing to register someone to vote by this method, which on the surface of it sounds absurd.

The whole issue of GM rolls needs serious review - but the time to review electoral issues (which in this case would require making noise to attract attention from the state government) is during the quiet times between elections, not the noisy time in the leadup when everything is politicised and it is too late for legislative changes anyway.

There has been some support for compulsory voting as a remedy to this issue.  If the GM roll is a problem then it remains one that should be addressed even if it is diluted by increasing the voter pool, so I suspect this is just an argument of convenience for those who want to introduce compulsory voting anyway.

2. Donation Disclosure (Again): Encouraging candidates to voluntarily disclose donations they had received was a fairly big deal in 2014 but this year not so much.  However, there is a new rule that requires sitting councillors (note: not all candidates) to disclose donations exceeding $50 value within 14 days.  On 13 Oct, Reynolds wrote a Facebook page alleging she was "the only Hobart Alderman/Councillor" following the rules, on the grounds that "Given the amount of billboards and advertising around, it's hard to believe that nobody else has received any donations."  The issue also received publicity on ABC TV news.  Reynolds' post promoted various angry responses from other candidates, especially Zucco, including claims by some incumbents that they were paying for their own ads, and also some comments suggesting some donations might have been received that were still inside the 14-day window.


For the first time ever a poll of the Hobart Lord Mayor race has been released.  The poll was conducted by EMRS and I understand it to originate from the tourism industry (my source for this claim is outside that industry).  The poll should be treated with extreme caution for the following reasons:

* the apparently implausibly high rate of voters not intending not to vote.   It appears that there were 2680 connected calls with only 20% (548) of those intending to vote, however this seems to have included a high refusal rate (respondents who hung up more or less immediately when called).  In any case, those willing to respond to the survey appear to be unrepresentative of all eventual voters, given that 51.7% voted in 2014, and that never changes much from year to year.
* of those intending to vote, 42% are undecided, meaning that these voters could break differently to those who have an intention.
* the effective sample size of just over 300 voters with an intention is trivially small.
* difficulties with seat polling in Australia recently suggest that a sample of 300 may as well be a sample of 50.
* there is little previous experience to compare such results against, though I have heard one was also done for Glenorchy at a previous election with some success.
* Australian pollsters are generally inexperienced at polling voluntary vote elections, and their results in polling the same-sex marriage "survey" were pretty ordinary.

I have seen a slightly more detailed version of the results of the primary vote question.  Of those intending to vote and able to name a candidate, 26% named Reynolds, 14% Thomas, 13% Harvey, 11% Zucco, 10% Briscoe, 8% Christie, 6% Mallett, 4% Dutta, 3% Sexton, 3% Denison and 2% Alexander.  The version I've seen also shows the age breakdown for the 18-34 group, which shows that intending voters in this bracket are less likely (22/52 cf 297/496 for rest of sample) to know who they are voting for; young voters who do have a view skewed heavily to the left candidates.  What I've seen also suggests no age weighting was applied at least to that group, a tricky issue given that voting rates vary sharply by age; I would have weighted by past voting rates for age groups.

A further report says the most commonly cited issues (voters can cite more than one) among intending voters were:

* 43% cable car (22% against, 11% for, 10% neutral)
* 25% traffic congestion/roadworks
* 18% development / planning
* 15% leadership
* 14% controlling building heights

Prospects: Lord Mayor

I like to have a go at crystal-ball gazing for these elections, but there are always surprises.  Do not treat the following as reliable!  There's a Not-A-Poll in the sidebar if you want to offer your own view on the mayoralty.

A mayoral race with so many candidates (and optional preferential voting for Lord Mayor) is messy to predict. As the campaign progresses we may get a better idea of who's making an effort and who isn't, and of those who are making an effort, who is making a good one.

The obvious starting point is that the councillor-level support for Thomas in 2014 was much stronger than for any of his rivals.  This looks to have been partly because of the degree of focus on the mayoral race.  None of his rivals this time contested the mayoralty last time, and many of their primary votes appeared to suffer from not doing so.  However Thomas did secure almost five times as many primaries as the best of his incumbent challengers, and I doubt that him being Mayor at the time alone explains that.  He also outpolled Briscoe and Sexton for Lord Mayor in 2011.  Unless voters turn away from him or towards someone else specific in droves, he would seem to have the profile to possibly get his old job back.

On the left, Harvey and Reynolds are likely to secure high primaries but Harvey especially will struggle on preferences (as he did in the past Deputy counts).  Given that Harvey couldn't win Deputy and lost his Councillor seat last time, and with the competition from Reynolds, I don't see him winning Lord Mayor, although I expect he will poll one of the higher primary votes.  Greens-turned-independents often do well in council elections, and the federal MP for the seat containing Hobart, Andrew Wilkie, is one such.  It appears that Reynolds, who campaigned vigorously in the early stages and has nabbed several former Greens sign sites, is the real left contender.   I think the large, mostly male field also advantages Reynolds.  Dutta also has at least some left-wing positions but didn't get elected as a councillor last time.

Christie won Deputy Lord Mayor handily last time and has the added profile of being Lord Mayor, but has also faced widespread ridicule in the role.  He may have more sympathy than is obvious from media bubbles both mainstream and social, but I suspect he has burned off too many stakeholders to win.  (Yes, "silent-majority" religious types will like his stance on Dark Mofo, but Hobart doesn't have all that many of those.)

Sexton, Briscoe and Zucco have only made up the numbers in their recent leadership tilts except for Zucco's near miss for Deputy in 2011.  Zucco may poll a decent primary vote compared to others though.  Briscoe does have the assistance of the cable car debate for preferences if he can get over both Harvey and Reynolds but I don't think he will do that.

Denison has a higher profile as a result of the Senate preselection but was not very high profile before that, and is not even near being Sue Hickey, who won the mayoralty narrowly last time.  The prospect of Denison resigning the position if elected to the Senate may also count against her mayoral bid.

Of the non-incumbents, Mallett seemed like a dark horse because of his existing profile and business links, but my early doubts about his effort level have been reinforced by not having a candidate statement included.  Alexander didn't have much impact as a mayoral candidate in Launceston and has only recently relocated.  Dutta was not elected as a councillor last time.  So I see little chance of a Mayor being elected from off council, frustrations with the current council notwithstanding.

The most likely scenario for the count in my view is that one candidate from the left (probably Reynolds) makes the final two.  If that candidate can lead on primaries then the question is how large their lead is and whether they can hold off the snowballing of preferences between conservative candidates.  Optional preferencing gives the left candidates better chances than if preferencing was compulsory, and if none of the "blues" can get a decent primary vote (as in the poll) then it may be a case of too many cooks spoiling their broth.  My tip for the final two is Thomas vs Reynolds but this could easily be incorrect.

Prospects: Deputy Mayor

Almost every continuing incumbent has run for Mayor at least in order to try to shore up their councillor seat, leaving Burnet as the only incumbent to run for Deputy.  Burnet has won the position in the past but the Greens brand is struggling, so despite her very strong electoral record it's no certainty she will win it again, though I think she's a serious chance.  At this early stage, Sherlock and Behrakis are the most obvious threats based on their state election profiles and visible evidence of campaigning but we'll see how they go converting that to Council votes.  In a possible contest between Burnet, Sherlock and Behrakis, Sherlock will do well on preferences from whoever is excluded if she makes the final two.

In the event that Burnet doesn't win, it will be interesting to see whether whoever beats her actually manages to secure the position by winning their councillor seat, as most of the candidates are no certainties to get across the line, especially with so many councillor candidates running for Mayor.

Prospects: Councillor

We have 9 incumbents contesting 12 positions.  Historically this is good odds for all the incumbents being returned but given the level of competition on the "blue" side this is far from a certainty. Two I don't have any doubt about because they easily got quota last time are Thomas and Burnet.

Based on regression from the results last time the sort of vote needed for a 50-50 chance of winning was just under 400 votes for an incumbent and about 520 votes for an off-Council candidate.  Sue Hickey scored nearly 20% of the vote last time and isn't a candidate this time.  If her voters switch to whoever they put 2 last time then the base for many of the non-green incumbents rises to about 700-950 votes, very probably enough to win.  However I believe the off-Council competition on the "blue" side in particular is much stronger this time than last time, so I am not sure the incumbents will get all these Hickey votes back.

Endorsed Greens won three seats last time, which became four on countback after Suzy Cooper resigned.  With Cocker apparently not standing and Reynolds running as an indie I give the endorsed Greens little chance of winning three again.  We'll need to keep an eye on the campaign to see if either of the new Greens candidates might pose any threat to Harvey.

Reynolds' Councillor vote is difficult to predict but I think the scale of her mayoral attempt and the general tendency of greens-turned-indies to do well will stand her in good stead and that she will significantly and probably greatly increase her vote compared to 2014.

On to the non-Green side.  In order of election last time they were Thomas, daylight second, Christie, Zucco, Briscoe, Sexton and Denison.  All these are running for Lord Mayor but with 11 candidates running for Lord Mayor that probably won't be the boost it was last time. Denison scraped in at her first attempt but has had more time to build a profile based on Council issues, and I doubt her party will allow their #3 Senate pick to lose her council seat, so I expect her to be returned.  Of the rest Christie's fate is hard to predict because he has been high-profile but has had terrible press, so I could credit anything from being one of the first few in to losing altogether (as usual in such cases I'll plump for something in the middle).  Zucco and Briscoe should both be returned (with slightly more of a question over the latter because he lost more of his vote in 2014, but he has been very high-profile over the cable car). Sexton seems more marginal because of his modest performance last time and a relative lack of profile through the term until recently.

Of the off-Council candidates I can't identify any sure-fire winners, but a large number are decent chances.  At least three of them must win to fill the expected vacancies but I wouldn't be surprised to see four.  Mallett, Sherlock and Behrakis all have profile as past state major party candidates (as well as other connections) to be serious contenders.  As noted above I am unsure about Mallett's effort level.  Some others who could be in the mix based on past performance or ability to stand out (plus in cases endorsements, though it's unclear how much difference endorsements make) include Dutta, Stansfield, Bloomfield and Corr.  A Chinese-background candidate very nearly won last time and Tang is a more prominent candidate than him so should be given a chance too.  Alexander is an unknown quantity in Hobart but effectively disrupted politics as usual in Launceston.  Thomas could poll a high enough councillor vote to drag any of his running mates in with him assuming even a modest level of preferencing within his ticket, though I suspect that even if Thomas's vote is huge a lot of it will still flow to incumbents rather than his team.  The LHG grouping is very prominent in early signage displays (as is Behrakis.) Labor previously failed to get into HCC with an endorsed candidate but obtained large swings in inner-city Hobart at the recent state election so I will be interested to see how McCallum goes.   Coats is making a significant effort (not always a predictor of any level of success).  Taylor is an offbeat candidate with a large social media following.  And so on.

Note For Candidates

Most candidates are sensible but there are always a few who seem to think that because I am voluntarily covering the election they are running in that makes me their slave.  Almost as annoying are those who think that if they fail to put information somewhere where I'd find it, that's my fault.  

Any candidate may contact me once to have their main link changed (this is the link that the candidate's name goes to, if I can find one) and/or links added, or to supply extra bio information (which I will use or not use at my discretion, and I will not include your whole CV or go beyond a few lines per candidate).  Requests that blame me for not unearthing information, or are in any way disrespectful or threatening will result in that candidate getting no links at all!  Feel free to whinge about alleged bias (etc) in comments though.

Anyone may of course advise me of any clear factual errors or clearly misleading content and I will fix these, but please do not stretch the concept of factual error to include differences of opinion or interpretation.  

Any comments about this guide that I become aware of by any means including indirect hearsay are on the public record, especially if stated otherwise.  In the past there have not only been threats but also blatant attempts to "get at" my coverage by commenting about it to people likely to pass comments on to me, and this sort of thing will not be tolerated.  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wentworth By-Election: Prospects And Polls

WENTWORTH (Lib vs ALP, 17.8%)
Cause of vacancy: Resignation of Malcolm Turnbull

A by-election for Wentworth has been set down for Saturday 20 October following the resignation from parliament of the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.  This post will give an assessment of how this by-election stands in history and will also comment critically on polling. As I start it on 14 Sep I won't be brave enough to predict the winner yet, but I may do so later [edit: as of the final week I am not liking the Liberals' chances of holding off Phelps at all].  This post will be updated with new polls and changed assessments through to polling day.

By-elections often produce big swings against governments, but surely 17.8% is safe?  After all, there has only been one larger swing in federal by-election history (20.1% in Wakefield, 1938).  In fact there are at least two reasons not to take the seat's safety for granted.  These are the historic circumstances of the by-election and the prospect of losing the seat to an independent.  While I've seen some spinning suggesting that a double-digit swing should be viewed as a shocker for the Liberal Party even if they don't lose the seat, I think the circumstances are so unusual that they'd take a win by any margin now.


Wentworth (see Poll Bludger preview) is a Federation seat and as such stands alongside Kooyong with a nearly spotless record of Liberal victory.  It has been won by the endorsed (or an endorsed) Liberal-or-precursor candidate every time but one, the exception being 1929.  Incumbent Walter Marks was one of the rebels who voted with Billy Hughes to bring down the Bruce government.  Marks was not endorsed for his troubles, but beat the endorsed candidate anyway.  The seat was so safe for the conservative side that in 1931 both candidates were endorsed by the United Australia Party, and Marks was defeated by the other UAP candidate. No current federal seat created before 1949 has a completely perfect record of being always won by the endorsed Liberal-or-precursor candidate, though Barker (1903) has always been won by a conservative party of some kind.

Wentworth hasn't always been super-safe.  It almost fell in the 1943 Curtin landslide, and in 1993 then Opposition Leader John Hewson had an unconvincing 55.5% 2PP result.  In 2007 Turnbull (who had wrested the seat from Peter King prior to the 2004 election) was held to 53.9% 2PP.  Overall it was inside 60-40 at every general election between 1984 and 2007.  Margins blew out from 2010 with Turnbull's status as former Opposition Leader and then Prime Minister.

Standard By-Election Swings

As noted in my Canning preview the average 2PP by-election swing against a government in a vacated government seat is 6.3% (with a lot of variation), and it doesn't matter whether the vacancy is caused by a death or a resignation.  This figure ignores the recent Section 44 by-elections where the incumbent recontested.

However, swings are larger when the government is polling poorly on a national basis, and on current polling a swing of 8-9% would be par for the course, all else excepted.  The government's polling may moderate between now and the by-election still five weeks away, so that may change by a point or two.  However it changes, even after considering the usual pattern of by-election swings, the seat would still be rather safe.

Turnbull's Personal Vote

A big question in this by-election is how much personal vote does Malcolm Turnbull take with him.

Personal votes are normally assessed by subtracting Senate votes from House votes and comparing these with results from other sitting members.  Peter Brent has done a lot of work of this kind and now we have a new deluxe treatment from Simon Jackman. Jackman finds that the difference between House and Senate vote for Turnbull is slightly larger than the NSW average (by a point).  He also finds that apparent personal vote declines by about half a point for each increase in the number of candidates (Wentworth had slightly more than normal.)

Looking at the list of seats with the highest personal vote, I think there is a systematic issue with this method of assessing personal vote.  The supposed highest personal votes are in rural seats.  It's well known that rural MPs tend to have higher personal votes and stronger effects on retirement, but there's more to it than that.  In rural seats there are very high Senate votes for One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and these parties did not contest rural Reps seats much in 2016, but there are no similar parties that do so well in Wentworth.  So I prefer Peter Brent's method that includes adjustment for rural vs non-rural seats and found Turnbull to have the highest personal vote of all MPs in 2013.  However in 2016 this had dropped to a merely above average result, because the Coalition Senate primary increased by 11 points in Wentworth but Turnbull's own primary went slightly down.

In two-party terms the ABC's graph shows a huge leap in Wentworth 2PP results for the Coalition relative to the state average for the last three elections.  However this could also be attributed to Labor decisions to focus resources on more winnable seats.

It's difficult to decide how much should be added to the expected 2PP swing based on the loss of Turnbull's personal vote.  Any estimate from hardly anything to perhaps even double figures could be justified by reference to some item of data.  If we go somewhere in the middle and say five points or so, even that makes the 2PP vote close and a potential two-candidate count against an independent difficult.

The Circumstances, and Wentworth as potential indie territory

I think that treating this by-election as a routine retirement of a popular MP is misleading.  It is very unusual to have a sitting PM rolled by their own party in circumstances that have been impossible for the public to make sense of.  The prospect of voters venting against the ex-PM's party on account of the rolling of their own local member must be a strong one, even with Malcolm Turnbull stating he will support preselected candidate Dave Sharma.

There is really only one federal precedent of any kind for this contest.  In 1992 Bob Hawke was removed as Prime Minister by his party and his seat of Wills (which had previously always been won comfortably by Labor) was won in the by-election by popular local football coach, the independent Phil Cleary.  The "false swing" from Labor's 1990 Wills result to their result against Cleary was 23.6%. However, Hawke's rolling was much more justifiable to the public - he had obviously passed his use-by date and Labor polling had repeatedly collapsed to disastrous levels.  Probably, Cleary was a much more charismatic figure than anyone likely to run against Sharma, but this shows the sort of danger that independents pose - especially as Labor was actually coming off a low base in Wills following a swing against Hawke in 1990.

Wentworth also has a lot of the characteristics that make it a potential independent win in these circumstances.  In 2016 Labor polled 17.8% and the Greens 14.9%.  Provided the Liberal primary is knocked down to anything below about 46%, these Labor and Green primaries make excellent stepladders for an indie to win from third or perhaps even fourth on primaries.  Both Labor and Green primaries will flow strongly to independents.

Candidate Factors

The Liberal Party made a mess of its preselection for the seat, with PM Morrison raising expectations that a woman should be preselected, but failing to push this strongly far enough in advance.  Had there been a clear and open party policy of preferring a female candidate, a stronger field of candidates might have applied - as it was the initially favoured female candidate Katherine O'Regan was criticised as not notable enough for such a blue-ribbon seat (it turns out she is also a former Labor member.)  The preselected candidate David Sharma has strong credentials, is a diversity candidate on account of his Indian heritage, and is a former Ambassador to Israel running in a seat with an even higher Jewish-voter percentage than Macnamara (Melbourne Ports).  He is also backed by Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard.  However there may be some disappointment that a male candidate has won preselection, and it is also perhaps significant that Sharma doesn't live in the electorate.

The by-election will attract a large field, with nine candidates already confirmed.  The most speculated about independent (edit: now confirmed) is Kerryn Phelps AM. Phelps is a former Australian Medical Association President, a medical professor and a former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney.  She is also a convert to Judaism.  She has been recently prominently involved in LGBTI issues including same-sex marriage, and also in debate about My Health Record.  Phelps has a Twitter following of over 20,000 and has recently retweeted quite a bit of left-wing and independent material criticising the Liberals.  I also cannot resist mentioning that her complementary medicine involvements won her the 2008 Bent Spoon award from the Australian Skeptics!   Phelps, a self-described centrist, was a member of the Clover Moore team on Sydney Council, but fell out with Moore, with each side blaming the other.

It's not impossible in such extreme circumstances that the 2PP swing would even be large enough for Labor's Tim Murray to win the 2PP.  However, as we saw with the Wagga Wagga state by-election, winning the 2PP does not guarantee a Labor victory.  Deserting Liberal voters will probably be more attracted to an independent if there is one with sufficient profile.  Phelps, if she runs, would seem to be a major threat who will not be easily countered.  On the other hand, Murray, an economist (background here) has received some very interesting endorsements.

Would Defeat Cause An Election?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (it still feels odd writing that) has ruled out an immediate election if Wentworth is lost.  Defeat in Wentworth would leave the Coalition on 74 seats plus "government crossbencher" Kevin Hogan, with 75 seats for Labor plus the unambiguous crossbench.  With Bob Katter and Cathy McGowan as well as Hogan giving Morrison confidence it's highly unlikely a move to bring down the government would have the numbers without someone crossing the floor or going AWOL.  Even if the votes for a no-confidence motion did somehow reach 75-74 on the floor this might be resolved (if detected in advance) by the old party trick of the Speaker resigning.  There would never be the numbers to suspend standing orders to bring on a vote without notice.

The more interesting question is whether the government, if it lost Wentworth, would struggle to get bills through the Parliament, since it would need at least one crossbench vote apart from Hogan's to do so.  It was the temporary loss of numbers that caused the government to cave in over the banking royal commission last year.  However the government is in such a poor shape to fight an election at the moment that it would be better off carrying on in a semi-impotent state than going to the polls right away.

Wentworth Polls

Wentworth being such a rich seat, we have even had the novelty of seeing preselection candidates trot out their own commissioned polling, but the polling that's been seen so far is mostly silly. Aside from the general issues with seat polling and the specific issues with the polls below, it's also notable that the recent Super Saturday seat polls badly underestimated the vote for tailenders in large fields.

1. TAI ReachTEL: The Australia Institute released a commissioned poll with a 50-50 2PP in a headline question without naming parties.  The poll usefully showed that naming candidates makes a big difference - when Alex Greenwich and Kerryn Phelps were named as independent candidates alongside a mix that included Sharma, the combined Independent/Other vote rose from 7.3% (undecided redistributed) to over 36%.  However this is not comparing like with like as the headline question concerned a general election while the second question specified a by-election.  I'm also slightly concerned that highlighting "Your local MP, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is resigning" could have skewed the results compared to just asking which of the following candidates the voter would vote for in the by-election.  Also, Greenwich is not actually running, so it is difficult to use the figures to assess the prospects for an independent win, beyond that they exist.  Yet another reservation is that the poll called the Liberal candidate "David Sharma" when he uses the less formal "Dave Sharma" (which is also closer to his birth name anyway.) Finally, any polling of Sharma would be standing-start polling before he has had the chance to use the campaign to build profile.  He would need to build a lot from these figures to survive on preferences.

2. Bragg poll (pollster unknown): Preselection contender Andrew Bragg (who later withdrew) issued polling from an unknown pollster with a sample size of 1000 and primary votes of Liberal 39 Labor 25 Phelps 20 leaving 16 for Greens and others, but the Liberal primary said to increase to 43 if the Liberal candidate was female.  This was widely seen as justifying his decision to withdraw given he is said to be interested in a Senate spot.  There is too little detail on this polling to comment at length but on those primaries Phelps would be a chance to win from third place, depending on the split of Green preferences between her and Labor. If Phelps didn't make the final two, the Liberals might just hang on in this scenario, depending on Phelps' preferences.

3. King Sexton poll: Preselection contender Peter King (who finished third) produced a uniquely weird poll by Sexton Marketing, a sometime past commissioned pollster for Liberal internals and social conservatives.  King's poll, with an inadequate sample size of 400 (this is effectively about 70 by seat poll standards!) had a 47-53 2PP result if King wasn't the candidate and a 50-50 result if he was.  The weirdest thing about this poll is that choosing King as the candidate supposedly caused the Others (this excludes Independent) vote to increase from a ludicrously low 1% to 10%.  The increase would be entirely from female voters, which would make sense if one assumed that they didn't want a male Liberal candidate.  Except that the big drop in female votes in that scenario came not from King but from Labor!  So one has to imagine that there would be a big bunch of female Labor voters who would flock to Peter King but an equally big bunch of female Liberal voters who would flock from him specifically to Others, while male voters displayed little gender effect.  It's much easier to imagine this is just a silly poll.

4. Getup! ReachTEL: The GetUp! ReachTEL was taken September 17, before Kerryn Phelps' announcement that she would preference the Liberals.  The poll has a 52-48 2PP to Sharma but this should be ignored as on those numbers the real opponent is Phelps, who would win easily on those numbers.  The primaries as calculated by @GhostWhoVotes after reallocating leaning voters are "LIB 39.3 (-23.0 since election) Phelps IND 22.5 (+22.5) ALP 17.4 (-0.3) GRN 12.6 (-2.3) Heath IND 4.4 (+4.4) Other 3.9 (-1.2)." I strongly suspect the vote for Other will be higher. More on this poll later maybe as time permits.

5. Licia Heath uComms: A uComms poll conducted using ReachTEL's platform and commissioned by Clover Moore backed independent Licia Heath claims a 51-49 2PP result but presumably that's Liberal vs Labor.  This is off primaries of Liberal 40.6 Labor 19.5 Phelps 16.9 Heath 9.4 Greens 6.2 Others an absurdly low 1.8 "Undecided" (soft voters) 5.6.  After redistributing the undecided this poll is more bullish for the majors than other offerings.  The poll also includes a more likely/less likely question concerning Phelps' decision to preference the Liberals but this style of polling is predictively useless and should be ignored. On these numbers it would be challenging for Phelps to get up from third because of the preference flow required but the possibility should be considered rather than just reporting a 51-49 2PP as indicating anything after the sorts of seat poll failures we have seen lately.  The poll does raise the question of whether the Liberals are benefiting, as Tony Abbott did in Warringah, from being up against a circus of opponents fighting against each other.

Spurious Push-Poll Allegations: On October 13 (took their time!) Phelps campaign sources alleged this poll was a "push-poll".  However their case reduces to that a subject thought the poll was a push-poll because it asked if various factors might change their vote, and that a Phelps campaign strategist said "If that's not push polling, I do not know what is".  This does not make the poll a push-poll at all.  Push-polls involve the use of very large "sample" sizes to convey information under the guise of conducting a poll, and the information is then thrown away.  This poll used a typical sample size and gathered voting intention data that were published - albeit incompletely.  That the poll also conducted some scientifically invalid message-testing nonsense which was then reported in a way damaging to Phelps is, alas, not unusual.  The poll also reports someone who lived outside the electorate being polled, but this has been a common issue with ReachTEL seat polls, and it is as yet unclear whether it occurs to a significant enough extent to affect results.

The big question about this poll is: in what order were the questions asked.  The poll showed the Heath vote much higher than any other poll has, and was commissioned by Heath.  We need to know for sure that voting intention was the first question asked as if it was not, the other questions may well have contaminated it.  Ideally the full wording of all questions asked in the order asked should be published and the media (in this case the Guardian) should refuse to report on these polls unless this is done.

6. Refugee Council ReachTEL: This ReachTEL has a 53-47 2CP to Phelps if she makes the final two, but a 50-50 2PP Liberal vs Labor.  This is off primaries that, after redistributing undecided, William Bowe has at Sharma  (Lib) 39.9%, Murray (ALP) 25.0%, Phelps 17.3%, Greens 9.1%, Heath 3.6% leaving 5.1 for others.  On those numbers, Phelps would not overtake Murray so it would be a Liberal-Labor contest.

7. Voter Choice (12 Oct): A Voter Choice poll was reported by The Australian with Phelps ahead 55.4-44.6 but oddly Murray ahead by even more (55.7 - in the event of him making the final two).  Voter Choice is a relatively new and at this stage very experimental opt-in panel-type pollster.  The full report on the Voter Choice website displays some impressive detail (including a mock preference distribution based on a respondent ballot of the main contenders) but also some significant red flags.  Especially the pollster's candid admission that she didn't like the results (for what reason?) so she added some extra re-weightings post hoc:

"So I started with the usual weighting by age, gender and 2016 vote. Numbers still looked wrong. Added weighting by suburb – remarkable difference… but still not quite there. [..] I’ve never considered using the volatility score as a weight before, but I tried it – and those numbers I liked – so that is what I’m presenting here."

Firstly, this means is that what's being reported isn't a method the pollster has tested against previous election data, but rather an untested hypothesis about what might work.  Secondly "by adding volatility as a weight, it discounts those who may change their vote to, say, half of someone that has completely committed to who they are going to vote for. "  There are very good reasons to be very cautious about doing this - voters for certain parties (especially Labor) are more likely to report they are iffy about their votes than others.  (Weighting by past vote is also risky because voters will sometimes misreport it).  The opt-in nature (a la Vote Compass) also requires care - probably no amount of weighting can entirely undo risks with such methods.

The poll's preference distributions have Phelps almost caught by Murray off Green and Heath preferences, but that is based on a preference flow (94% Greens to Labor vs Phelps and Liberal combined) that is certainly nonsense.  Overall the poll finds Phelps getting 84% of preferences vs Sharma, which might just be believable, but Murray getting 87%, which isn't.

8. Liberal Internal: Internal polls are unreliable since parties tend to strategically release them when it suits their purposes to do so, and not otherwise.  In this case, probably in the interests of expectation management while maintaining some hope of victory, the Liberals are (13 Oct) claiming to be a fraction of a point behind Phelps, who is now "likely" in their view to finish second. 

9. Liberal Internal (17 Oct): The Australian reported a "leaked" (which usually but not always means it was deliberately given to the press by the party) internal poll in which the party is 45-55 behind Phelps.  Primary vote details are confined to:

"It is understood that the latest polling had Mr Sharma polling in the mid-30s on primary votes and Dr Phelps well into the 20s, clearly ahead of Labor."

 A curiously high 75% are supposed to believe the seat will be held by the Liberals.  The unnamed source said the party was being "killed by the expectation" that they would hold the seat, implying that they were struggling to hold off protest voters who wanted to send a message without affecting the result.

10. Greenpeace ReachTEL: The Guardian reports a Greenpeace ReachTEL on Monday that had the Liberal primary in meltdown on 32.7 from Phelps 25.8 Murray 21.6 Wy Kanak 9.1 Heath 5.6 Undecided 2 leaving a manifestly inadequate 3.2 for the rest.  The poll also asked voters to self-report their 2016 vote, which matched the Liberal primary (I am sceptical when I see this because voters do not always accurately self-report).  If these numbers were accurate Murray would have some chance of getting into second and winning on preferences, because he would need only 62% of preferences, which is quite achievable.  However there has since been some move towards supporting Phelps based on strategic considerations.  Again, this poll is commissioned and the sample size is not large, so treat with some caution, but it would have to be a long way wrong for the Liberals to win.  No 2PP was published with the poll initially but William Bowe reports Phelps would win by a ridiculous 62.4-37.6 after preferences.


The Australian's article on internal polling (item 9 above) also says Phelps has been accused of failing to authorise social media messages as now required by the Electoral Act.  However the requirements are weak and it may be that having her name and city in her profile, which she does through the mention that she is a "City of Sydney" councillor, is sufficient.  It is not clear that any specific form of words such as "authorised by" is required so long as correct "authorisation particulars" are included.

If a strict "authorised by" formula is required then on the same basis, several other candidates including: Murray, Wy Kanak, Vithoulkas etc would also be in strife just based on Twitter alone.  But I see no evidence this is the case.  Wy Kanak might have an issue anyway as his Twitter profile doesn't contain authorisation particulars but it does contain a link to his Facebook page (that might be enough, though not on a literal reading of the link above.)


Betting odds are not reliably predictive but it's worth keeping an eye on this to see how much it jumps around.  As of 14 Sep, Sportsbet Liberal 1.65 Labor 3.00 Independent 5.00 Greens 24.00 and ignore the rest.  Ladbrokes similar. The market would be pricing in that Phelps has not yet confirmed she will stand, so if she does there may be some movement there.

As of 17 Sep, Sportsbet odds with candidates listed have Sharma 1.60 Phelps 2.40 Murray 7.00 Vithoulkas (IND) 14.00, Wy Kanak (Green) 18.00 Heath (IND) 31.00 (etc).  IND briefly blew out to 6.00 before these went up.  Betting odds are not reliably predictive.

As of 21 Sep, Sharma 1.45 Phelps 2.65

As of 2 Oct, Sharma 1.33 Phelps 3.50 Murray 7.50 Gunning (Liberal Democrat) 12.00 Vithoulkas 16 Wy Kanak 21 Heath 31 etc.

As of 15 Oct, Sharma 1.80 Phelps 2.40 Murray 8, Heath 16, Wy Kanak 21, Gunning 31 (etc).

As of 16 Oct, a further plunge: Sharma 1.88 Phelps 1.92 Murray 12, Heath 16, Wy Kanak 21, Gunning 31 (etc)

As of 17 Oct, it has flipped: Phelps 1.88 Sharma 1.92 etc.  And within hours, Phelps 1.75 Sharma 2.00 and the rest are all blowing out.  At 2 pm 1.65-2.15.

18 Oct Phelps 1.55 Sharma 2.40 Murray 14.  There's been a fair amount of comment on pseph websites suggesting that Murray's chances are better than that but so far the betting hasn't been reflecting it.

Phelps Preferences Sharma

On 21 Sep, Kerryn Phelps announced she will preference the Liberal Party on her how-to-vote cards.  This only makes a difference in terms of the mechanics of the count if Phelps is eliminated.  If Phelps makes the final two her preferences won't be distributed.

In terms of perceptions though, this is firstly aimed at discouraging Liberal voters from seeing Phelps as a Labor/Green stooge candidate.  Secondly it helps create a perception that Labor cannot win the seat (though whether those voting for Phelps would actually follow her card is another matter).  This perception can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If Labor want to force the Liberals to waste resources defending the seat (and possibly fail in the process) their best strategy is to not run too hard and preference Phelps.  Liberal supporters may have an incentive to strategically vote Labor in order to try to keep Phelps out of the top two, but relatively few voters vote like this.

Feedback on the move has been very mixed with some political observers saying it is very smart and others saying it will drive potential Phelps voters back to Labor and makes Phelps look like just another politician. My observation is that while I understand the strategy, voters like authenticity and this doesn't look like it - especially not when she encouraged voters to put the Liberals last last week and continually attacks the Government on Twitter.

It will be worth keeping an eye on any preferencing moves from fellow independent Licia Heath, who is backed by Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich. (Update: Heath is running an open ticket.)

The Greens are preferencing Labor, for which they were slammed by Joe Hilderbrand.  However relatively few Greens voters (rarely more than 5%) follow the party's how-to-vote card religiously, so this decision is only likely to make a difference if the margin between Labor and Phelps at the crunch point is very close (within 1 point or so).  At least some Greens voters will preference Phelps ahead of Labor no matter what the card says.