Sunday, July 21, 2024

Effective Vote Spreading: Labor's Hidden Hero At The 2022 Federal Election

This article is about two incorrect narratives about the 2022 election.  I commonly see false claims on social media that Labor only won the 2022 election - not just in majority but at all -because of Green and teal preferences.  These claims are made by certain right-wing posters, mostly of the silly and Trumpy variety, who seek to delegitimise the result because the primary vote winner didn't win the election and the winner's primary vote was unusually low.  But there is another narrative that is more mainstream, which is that while Labor's win was fair enough, the Coalition was hard done by in seat terms because of its seat losses to teal independents.  I show here that that narrative is not really true either, and that the real reason the Coalition's seat share was so bad compared to Labor's was that its vote was poorly distributed in the classic two-party seats.  Most of this article is very numbery so it's been graded Wonk Factor 3/5.

Of course, Greens voter preferences do greatly benefit Labor, and had Green voter preferences split 50-50 Labor would not have won ten seats that it did, and who knows who would have governed in that mess.  But Green preferences favouring Labor is simply part of the scenery, and some other parties' preferences assist the Coalition.  The Coalition only "leads" on primary votes because it is a coalition of two parties that, after decades of fighting each other in some states, choose to mostly work together instead of wasting resources competing everywhere.  Labor and the Greens could sort out their differences and make a similar arrangement if there was any strategic point in doing so, but in their case there currently isn't.  

As concerns teals (whether they won or not), while their 2PP preferences heavily favoured Labor, in most seats where they ran that did not help Labor since Labor failed to make the final two.  This included seven seats that teal independents won, and six where independents who were generally teal-adjacent made the final two but lost.  Yes there were some seats where such candidates were cut out and the contests finished as classic Labor vs Coalition contests, and yes teal preferences helped Labor in those.  But Labor mostly didn't win those anyway (Boothby is one they did win), and there is not a single one where Labor won but would have lost had the teal voters' preferences split 50-50.  In strategic terms the teals were a nuisance to the Coalition, forcing them to fight a second front and making criticisms that may have driven votes to Labor in other seats.  In terms of votes actually polled, however, all they did was take six seats from the Coalition in an election it had already lost outright.  Labor won 72 classic seats where it did not need an edge on their preferences, plus five seats where the Coalition was excluded in lopsided Labor vs Greens contests.

In terms of converting 2PP leads in non-classic seats (where someone who is not a major party candidate makes the final two) it's true that the Coalition lost nine of their 2PP wins to the crossbench (eight independents and Bob Katter) to Labor's seven (four Greens, Andrew Wilkie, Dai Le and Rebekha Sharkie).  But that's the same gap as 2019, when the Coalition lost four to Labor's two.  Also in those nine seats, the Coalition's average 2PP margin was only 5.2%, compared to 9.9% to Labor in Labor's seven.  Furthermore, in non-classic seats that the majors won, the Coalition's average 2PP margin in its won seats was 12%, but Labor's in its was 25.6%.

Ultimately the seat split in the 27 non-classic seats was actually unfavourable to Labor.  Off primaries in these seats of 33.0% Coalition, 22.3% Labor and 44.7% for others, the 2PP preference flow (67.6% to Labor) was so high that Labor won the 2PP in these seats 52.54-47.46.  This is not surprising as nine of the non-classic seats had very high Green votes and there were also a lot of inner-city teal seats where there were strong flows to Labor (partly off the back of apparent strategic voting) and not a lot of primary votes for One Nation or UAP.  Yet despite winning the 2PP in these seats overall, Labor only won five of them to the Coalition's six, while the crossbench won 16.  This left 124 classic seats and Labor needed to win 71 of them for a majority.

Given that Labor won the 2PP in the non-classic seats by slightly more than its overall 52.13%, Labor hence needed to win 57.3% of the classic seats off 52.04% of the 2PP vote.  That's far from impossible (because single-seat systems tend to magnify even small leads in a seat totals sense) but it's no sure thing either.  

Labor overachieved in classic seats

In fact, Labor went into the election in already decent shape on paper in what turned out to be the 124 classic seats of 2022.  Since the Coalition still held the six 2022-non-classic seats it would lose to teals in 2022, the two it would lose to Greens and six it would hold against independents, it hadn't needed that many of the rest to win a narrow majority in 2019.  As a result of this, in these 124 seats the majors went into the 2022 election with a 62-62 notional split, despite the Coalition having an average 51.3% 2PP in them.  

The average 2PP swing in these seats in 2022 was 3.42%, just shy of the overall 2PP swing for the election.  By that swing as a uniform swing in these seats, Labor would have gained Bass, Chisholm, Boothby, Higgins, Braddon, Reid, Swan and Longman and missed a majority by one.  But in practice swings are not uniform, and as the last four were on margins only a whisker below the swing, Labor would have most likely not done that well.  In fact, Labor did better - it missed Bass, Braddon and Longman but won five seats higher up the tree: Robertson, Pearce, Hasluck, Bennelong and Tangney.  

Preferences helped in that Labor won seven classic-2PP seats from behind, but that was actually a low number by recent standards, and a reason for this is that the preference flow in the classic seats (59.6% to Labor) was actually quite modest.  Despite trailing on primaries 34.8-36.3 in the 124 classic seats, Labor actually led on primaries in 65 of these seats to the Coalition's 59.  Throw in the five seats where Labor easily beat the Greens and Fowler where they led on primaries but lost and Labor led on primaries in 71 seats overall compared to the Coalition's 73 (the other primary vote leaders were Wilkie, Haines, Steggall, Katter, Sharkie and two Greens).  That the Coalition would only barely if at all have governed in a parliament of primary vote winners shows how absurd it is to imagine the Coalition would have won under first past the post, where many Greens and Labor voters would have voted strategically and several seats would not have been won by the 2022 primary vote winner.  

There's a narrative that the Coalition got the harsh end of the stick in the non-classic seats by losing a bunch of safe seats to teals but as these figures show that's not really true.  In fact they won one more of the non-classic seats than Labor did despite losing the 2PP in them by more than the overall result.  The key here is that the seats that the Coalition lost to teals used to be safe 2PP seats but teals or no teals they're mostly not safe anymore, because of demographic realignment away from the right in affluent seats.  Five of the seats won by teals in 2022 became 2PP marginals in the process.  The two seats the Greens took from the LNP became Labor 2PP seats.  Warringah and Indi became Coalition 2PP marginals and Mayo became a Labor 2PP seat.  North Sydney very nearly flipped on 2PP (there appears to have been an uncorrected error such that the real 2PP should have been 50.4-49.6) and it may well have even been won by Labor had Kylea Tink not contested it.  At the end of the 2022 election there were only two seats the Coalition didn't occupy but where they won the 2PP by more than the marginal threshhold: Mackellar and Kennedy.  

Of the 124 classic seats, the median Labor 2PP was 1.63% above the mean, and this resulted partly from a pattern in which the 2PP swing to Labor was larger in Coalition seats and ALP marginals than in Labor's safe seats.  In part, this represents the general realignment where once very safe Labor seats are moving away from the party demographically, but it also raises the question of why the Coalition did even worse than the national 2PP predicts in the middle-ground seats.  

This graph shows what happened with the distribution in the classic seats.  It's simply an ordering of their ALP 2PPs from highest to lowest.

I've put a thin grey line over the top of most of the graph to show that the steps downwards are mostly pretty flat except that Labor is dropping off quite slowly in its 0-10% range (which means winning more seats).  At the far right of the graph there is a sharp dropoff where the Coalition wastes 2PP margin in its nine safest 2PP seats (Maranoa, Gippsland, Mallee, Parkes, Barker, New England, Farrer, Riverina and Lyne).  

In comparison, this is what the graph looked like after Labor's last majority in 2007:

In this case, there is a similar but less pronounced tail of lopsided seats on the Coalition side but there is also one on the Labor side, and Labor slightly underachieves in its own 0-10% range.  This would hurt it in 2010 where the 2PP in classic seats was 50.02 to Labor but the Coalition won two more classic seats than Labor did, although Labor should have had an advantage based on personal votes.  Four of the lopsided Labor seats shown here have since become Labor vs Greens seats, but most of the rest are the Watson/Chifley/Calwell/Scullin type outer suburban seats that are now transitioning away from Labor (and in some of which Labor faces potential Muslim voter problems at the upcoming elections).  Since 2007, Labor's spreading of its two-party vote in the seats it wins has become more efficient and the Coalition's has become less.  A more extreme version of this pattern was seen in the 2022 Victorian state election.  

The story of the election then is that Labor was clearly preferred by voters to the Coalition both in the non-classic and the classic seats.  It was actually in the classic seats, not the non-classics, where Labor did well and the Coalition badly in turning 2PP vote share into seats.  

No, Labor was not fished out of the slop of a probable loss, nor even helped as much as in the past, by the Greens and teals.  No, they were not lucky to get a majority (beyond that we don't have proportional representation which would have made them have to work with other parties).  No, the Coalition wasn't ripped off in seat tally terms by the teals.  No, the Coalition would not have won under the discriminatory crud that is first past the post.  No, lopsided seat shares for modestly performing inches-left-of-centre parties would not go away if we got rid of preferences (as we have just seen in the UK where Labour won 63% of seats off 33.7% of the primary vote compared to Australian Labor's 51% off 32.6%!)  

The fact is that the Coalition was soundly beaten everywhere in a way that suggests that it failed to distribute what 2PP vote it got efficiently in the classic bread and butter 2PP seats.  Padded by a handful of lopsided rural seats, the close-ish 2PP from the 2022 election flatters a Coalition performance that was otherwise about as bad in classic seats as in 2007.   This failure looks like it will be baked into the startline for the next election: by my numbers if the draft redistribution goes through largely unamended then the Coalition will need about 51.3% 2PP just to equalise the seat tally.    Perhaps the next election pattern will be radically different, perhaps not, but there is no ground for righties whinging about the 2022 election.  Their side lost comprehensively, and they should get over it and focus on why it happened.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Payman Suspension

Party-hopping is becoming a pretty common occurrence in Australian federal politics.  The last time the Reps managed to complete a term without anyone quitting or being kicked out of their party in either house was way back in 1983-4, and that was a term with more than a year lopped off it by an early election.  Since then there's been an average of three defections/expulsions per term, with the last four terms scoring four, eight, four and so far five, and the five seems about to be six.

Genuinely interesting policy defections aren't abundant among the 42 I found in the last 40 years.  This roughly annual event seems to most often happen as a result of internal tensions, especially in minor parties.  Deselection and/or misbehaviour are also common triggers.  There was a Voice policy dimension to the recent departures of Andrew Gee from the Nationals and Lidia Thorpe from the Greens, but both were isolated cases that did not turn into broader breakaway movements from the party.  We now have at least the prospect (it could well happen tomorrow) that WA Senator Fatima Payman will leave the ALP, which will be a first case for the Australian federal party of an issue that has plagued its UK counterpart for years - losing or deciding to lose MPs for their positions re the Middle East.

If Payman leaves the party this will be the first defection from the Government in this term.  For comparison the Hawke/Keating government lost by my count just two MPs in 13 years, the first of them coming after ten years being Keith Wright who was kicked out after recontesting as an independent after being disendorsed.  The Howard government had three defections even not counting Pauline Hanson in its first term, another in its third and an internal party-switch in its fourth.  The Rudd/Gillard government's only casualty was Craig Thomson, while the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government had six in nine years (Jensen, Bernardi, Banks, Kelly, McMahon and tokenly Christensen).  

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

"Freedom Parties" Did Not Cost One Nation A WA Senate Seat

Sometimes I find items of interest in the oddest ways.  Today I was searching for tweets about WA Labor (as of 3:45 pm) Senator Fatima Payman in connection with her possible stance on a Greens motion that the Senate consider recognition of Palestine to be a matter of urgency.  I found this tweet by Mark Rowley, to which he links a video in which he tells Pauline Hanson how One Nation was diddled out of a 6th Senate seat by "freedom friendly" micro-parties, hence blaming them for the election of Payman.  

I thought this was an interesting thing to look into.  I find that minor right wing media is often a hotbed for incorrect claims about the electoral system and election results and this case is no different.  

Payman won the 6th Western Australian Senate seat over Filing by a margin of 23490 votes.  Rowley's video singles out three particular micro-parties, the Great Australian Party (led by former One Nation Senator Rod Culleton, who was disqualified from the Senate in 2017), the so-called "Informed Medical Options Party" (IMOP) and the Australian Federation Party.   These parties between them polled 27791 primary votes.  Rowley says that if these parties had voted for "the likes of One Nation" (are there any likes besides One Nation itself?) the party "would have been looking at a 6th Senate position".

Monday, June 17, 2024

Ralph Babet Was Elected Fair And Square. I Know It's Hard But Try To Deal With It

For the avoidance of any doubt at all, I'll start with my view of the subject of this article.  Most of what I see of United Australia Party Senator Ralph Babet is his social media output, and it is awful.  He delivers dumbed-down denser-than-even-Sky-News versions of what were in general stupid ideas to begin with (MAGA nonsense, supposed conspiracies against Christians and western culture, whining about "wokeness", gender, sexuality and multiculturalism, and baiting people who would rather at least try not to get COVID).  Babet is perhaps our purest yet elected example of what happens when you spend way too long inhaling what Christopher Hitchens called "the exhaust fumes of democracy", and then attempt to breathe them out. His Senate career so far has been even cringier than very early Jacqui Lambie.  As with Bob Katter, the concussed-sounding nuttiness of Babet's output frequently leads to debates about whether he's just harmlessly insane or whether some of what he's saying might dangerously affect a few impressionable chaps out there.  Think you can tell I'm not a fan.  

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Draft Boundaries Would Not Put Labor On The Edge Of Minority

The current round of draft redistributions is complete with the release of the NSW proposal today, following the Victorian and WA proposals two weeks ago.  While the Victorian redistribution led to an outbreak of unsound psephology with false claims that the Kooyong redistribution greatly favoured the Liberal Party (I wrote about this for Crikey), the NSW washup has been pretty sensible, for the first day at least.  One thing I have seen that seems hard to credit is the idea that Kylea Tink, whose seat is proposed to be abolished, would win the now even more marginal Bennelong off two major parties fighting tooth and nail for it.  This is a general article about the impact of the draft changes.  A note that I am not a primary source for redistribution margin estimates, and am here largely relying on the work of Ben Raue, William Bowe and Antony Green for those.

The Victorian draft proposes that part of the boundary of Kooyong expands to take in part of Higgins.  The key issue in the shortlived Frydenberg-comeback debacle was that there's no obvious way to project how an independent would have done if their seat is expanded into an area they didn't previously run in.  One can use the 2022 preference flows from the present Kooyong to distribute votes for Labor and the Greens et al between the Liberals and Monique Ryan (IND) as if Ryan had been running in the new bits, but that means assigning Ryan a primary vote of zero in the new part.  It's saying that voters who would vote 1 Ryan 2 Liberal, for instance, don't exist in the new bit, but we know they do exist in the old bit, or she would not have won the seat.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

EMRS: The Election Chaos Hasn't Moved The Dial

EMRS Tas(state) LIB 35 (-1.7 since election) ALP 28 (-1) Greens 15 (+1.1) JLN 7 (+0.3) IND 12 (+2.4 but probably overstated) others 3 (-1.1)
Seat estimate for these primaries unchanged from election (14-10-5-3-3-0)
Better Premier Rockliff leads Winter 40-32 (lead up 5) but new leaders usually underperform on this score

The 2024 Tasmanian election had a remarkable outcome, one which polls in broad terms saw coming.  The Rockliff Liberal government was sent deep into minority while the Labor opposition gained only two of the ten expansion seats and was outnumbered by the crossbench.  Following this, Labor controversially decided not to attempt to form government, with leader Rebecca White resigning and being replaced unopposed by Dean Winter, who soon announced that Labor now supported the proposed Macquarie Point AFL stadium.  

The Liberals formed a controversial (but not for them) arrangement with the Jacqui Lambie Network, who attracted criticism for giving away too much without any need to do so, and over secrecy surrounding the minor party's internal structures.  Later the Liberals formed a more standard confidence and supply agreement with independent David O'Byrne, and released something that they claimed to be the same with independent Kristie Johnston.  (On my reading Johnston has guaranteed supply but has said all confidence matters would be considered on their merits, and has outlined an approach to confidence questions including commitment to pre-discussion.  In any case the Liberals don't strictly need Johnston's vote.)  The Parliament resumed with the unusual touch of an Opposition Speaker, the first since the 1950s.  

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Budget Week Rolling Poll Roundup

2PP Aggregate 51.2-48.8 to ALP (last election preferences)
Pre-Budget aggregate was 51.0-49.0 
(Topline number for this article frozen as of 28 May, Budget week now being well and truly over.)

Note: False claims have been published by The Australian, Sky News and others about Newspoll, see the Newspoll section below.  

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Why Does Suspending Standing Orders In The Tasmanian Assembly Require A Two-Thirds Majority?

UPDATE:  Following this article - and I have been told this article had some influence - the House on 14 May suspended Standing Orders 358 and 359 for the current Session, replacing them with this: 

"358 Suspension of Standing Orders

Any Standing Orders or Orders of the House, except Standing Order No. 94, may be
suspended on a Motion duly made on Notice or without Notice, provided that such
Motion has the concurrence of a majority of the Members present."

This is not necessarily a permanent change.  


One thing that I have noticed in Tasmania's parliamentary debates that I find strange is that suspending standing orders without notice requires a two-thirds majority.  In the Standing and Sessional Orders from the previous term this appears as item 358:

"358 Standing Orders not suspended without Notice.

In cases of urgent necessity any Standing Order or Orders of the House, except Standing Order No. 94, may be suspended on a Motion duly made without Notice, provided that such Motion has the concurrence of a two-thirds majority of the Members present.

359 Motion for suspension carried by majority. 

When a Motion for the suspension of any Standing Order or Orders appears on the Notice Paper, such Motion may be carried by a majority of the Members present."

(Standing Order 94, for anyone wondering, is the procedure for rescinding previous votes, which requires three days notice and, if the decision is less than a year old, support of an absolute majority).  

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Legislative Council 2024: Elwick, Hobart and Prosser Live

Elwick: Thomas (IND) has won c. 53.3-46.7 after preferences

Hobart: CALLED 9:01 pm Cassy O'Connor (GRN) wins (final margin was 59.7-40.3)

Prosser: Kerry Vincent (Lib) has won c. 52.9-47.1 after preferences

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Live comments (scrolls to top)

All numbers posted here are unofficial.  Check the TEC site for current figures.  Comments will appear here once counting starts - refresh every 10 mins or so for updates.  Note that Green in Prosser is Bryan Green the Labor candidate not the Greens.


Final Wrapup And The Road Ahead

It's all over bar a trivial number of votes to be added in the next week and these are the party standings in the new Legislative Council with the seat changes compared to the start of the year: