Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Huon

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

The election was originally slated for Saturday May 2 but has been postponed to Saturday May 30 to allow more time for the TEC to prepare for a campaign with a high rate of postal and early voting.  Nominations will close on April 23 and be announced on April 24.  There will be five weeks of early voting.  I strongly encourage voters to vote by post if eligible to do so (TEC will mail out information).  For the purposes of this article I assume the election will go ahead - in theory it's still possible for Parliament to be brought back early to postpone it, but that seems highly unlikely given that the Government already had every chance to go down that route and didn't do so.


This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.  I may also visit this electorate during the campaign.  Other relevant pieces will be linked here.

Seat Profile

Huon (see map) includes the Huon Valley, the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Bruny Island, part of Blackmans Bay and Huntingfield.  Although it elected a Labor MLC in the 1940s, in recent decades occupants have been conservative and often had Liberal Party connections.  Former Premier Will Hodgman's father, Michael Hodgman, won the seat at age 25, and held it before contesting federal parliament for the Liberal Party.  On Michael Hodgman's resignation to contest a federal seat, his younger brother Peter held the seat before switching to the House of Assembly seat of Franklin, also as a Liberal. More recently Paul Harriss won the seat as an independent in 1998, shortly after missing out as an endorsed Liberal for the House of Assembly.  After three terms in the seat (in which time no-one came close to unseating him) Harriss too switched to the Lower House, unseating David O'Byrne and securing a third seat for the party in Franklin.   Peter Hodgman tried to win his old seat back for the party in 2014, but was defeated by Robert Armstrong (see below).

Huon is one of the greener Legislative Council electorates.  The Channel area including Bruny Island has a huge Green vote at Lower House elections, including some booths where the Greens tend to outpoll Labor and one (Woodbridge) where they outpolled the Liberals even in their bad 2018 result.  However, the old timber towns to the west (Huonville, Geeveston etc) record Green votes that are not far above the state average.  The Blackmans Bay area, the only urban area in the division, is fairly socially conservative.  In 2018 Huon voters voted 48.1% Liberal, 27.5% Labor, 21.2% Green at booths within the electorate, but at two large Blackmans Bay booths just outside the electorate the results were 50% Liberal 33.5% Labor, 14.6% Green.  The few remaining votes were for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

However, Huon is not a right-wing electorate at federal elections; it votes strongly Labor on a 2PP basis, as does the rest of Franklin generally.

Incumbent

Robert Armstrong (Independent) is the first-term incumbent.  Prior to winning Huon in 2014 he had been Mayor of Huon Valley for 13 years, always being re-elected easily.  He had a background in real estate and had also run a takeaway/cafe in Cygnet for many years.  My assessments of Armstrong's voting patterns (see 2014-2018 example here) have always found that Armstrong is a conservative independent who usually votes with the Liberal Party.  While I haven't crunched all the numbers yet, I can say that the 2016-20 update will find that this hasn't changed.  Not only has Armstrong usually voted with the Government but there are very few cases of his vote having decided a matter against it. When he votes against the Government, it is generally on issues where it either easily has the numbers or is nowhere near having them.

In 2014 Armstrong polled second behind Peter Hodgman with 20.4% of the primary vote to Hodgman's 26.1%, in an election with a high degree of "favourite son" voting for local candidates at particular booths.  Armstrong at one stage dropped to third in the distribution of preferences, but a huge preference flow from fellow Huonville independent Jimmy Bell propelled him to the lead and he went on to beat Hodgman easily with 56.9% of the candidate vote.  A noteable aspect of Armstrong's campaign is that he was able to win in this rather low-tech electorate by old-fashioned campaign methods of shoe leather and name recognition.  He had no campaign web presence at all.

Political positionings aside I am unaware of Armstrong attracting controversy or going significantly off brand at any stage of the last six years.  I would say that he has been rather low-profile in terms of statewide news, but Huon is a very locally-focused electorate.  Armstrong lives within the electorate.

Declared Challengers (5)

Publicly declared challengers are listed in order of announcement of candidacy, but I think it's especially important in this case to note that a declared candidate is not a confirmed candidate until nominations close. All candidates live in the electorate unless noted otherwise.

(Note: candidates may contact me once only to request a change to the link their name goes to, or additional links which will be added, or not, at my discretion.  No other changes will be made on request except to correct clear factual errors.  Candidates are welcome to comment in the comment section. Differences in the length of different candidate sections reflect differences in electoral track record and available/(in my view) interesting material, and not my preferences (if any). Unusually, none of the declared challengers thus far have any prior electoral form that I could find.  )

Pat Caruana (Greens) (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube,candidacy announcement) is a staffer for Greens Senator Nick McKim and previously an Examiner and AAP journalist.  Caruana launched his campaign way back in December 2019 when climate change was a major issue as the 2019-20 Australian bushfire crisis (remember that?) ramped up.  Caruana is a fairly well known political social media personality and his tweet announcing he was running garnered over 800 likes.  In 2017 he was involved in a Christmas stunt in which the party trolled Eric Abetz.  Caruana does not live in the electorate but intends to move there if elected.  The Greens last endorsed a candidate for Huon in 2008 (polling 38% in a two-horse race) though former Green Liz Smith ran as an independent in 2014 and almost made the final two.

Garrick Cameron (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) is a really prominent social media personality - his Lord of the Lettuce page has well over 100,000 followers.  He even has an online shop.  A Mercury article says "you might write him off as a coal-rolling redneck who gets off on black-clouding protesting greenies" but "what emerges along with his chronically foul-mouthed language is a quick-thinking larrikin who is riled about industrial-scale food waste."  Particularly, food waste by supermarkets that impose strict aesthetic restrictions on food sizes and shapes.  Cameron frequently pops up in the media for something unusual, whether it is noticing a dead wallaby with a road line painted over it or accepting a $57 parking fine but asking for a $3.50 refund.  He is a hunter.

Dean Harriss (Independent) (candidacy announcement) is a Huonville builder and the son of former MLC Paul Harriss (who held the seat from 1996 to 2014).  He is also a third-generation A-grade cricketer.  At this stage I have little information on Harriss beyond his candidacy announcement in the Mercury, which talked about issues including affordable housing, "red tape" affecting housing developments, traffic (again, what a different planet 2019 was), and the future of the aquaculture and forestry industries.

Bastian Seidel (Labor) (websiteTwitter, Instagram, candidacy announcement,  RACGP page) is much easier to find information about (feel free to Google if that wasn't enough links).  Seidel is a Huonville and Cygnet GP and health advocate who is the Tasmanian spokesman (and former national President) of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.  Seidel was a high-profile speaker very often quoted in media on a range of issues related to rural health and Tasmania's health system even before the coronavirus appeared.  He is the first candidate Labor has endorsed in Huon since Fran Bladel tried to unseat Paul Harriss in 2002 (Harris won easily).  Little is known to me about where Seidel fits into the Labor fabric but The Mercury noted that "Dr Seidel has been an outspoken critic of policies such as mandatory detention of asylum seekers." As of March 15 Seidel's Facebook page said he had stopped face-to-face campaigning to focus on "coordinating the local and regional response to the pandemic and supporting our clinicians and administrative staff to keep our patients and our community safe."

Debbie Armstrong (Independent) (candidacy announcement, article) is a Huonville hairdresser and business owner.  Continuing the family theme in this electorate, Debbie Armstrong is Robert Armstrong's great-niece (I had to look up what that meant.) Issues canvassed by Debbie Armstrong in her candidacy announcement included "infrastructure, planning laws and access to services for children with disability" as well as better health and education services.  Armstrong has now and then appeared in the news commenting on Huon Valley council issues (example).  Facebook posts sympathetic to medical cannabis reform and dying with dignity among other comments suggest to me that Armstrong if elected would be more in the Ruth Forrest mould than her great-uncle's.

Not Running

The Liberal Party doesn't run against incumbents who don't annoy it.  (That's not to say it always officially runs even if they do.)

Issues

I may post a fuller list of possible campaign issues as the campaign develops.  I feel that issues that were being raised in January are probably not now very relevant but may be raised again should the coronavirus situation stabilise.  In asserting that something is a campaign issue I do not necessarily suggest it will move votes, just that it will be talked about on the campaign trail.  Some possible issues include:

* Coronavirus and health system generally: The coronavirus issue is of course swamping everything else at the moment but Huon is unusual because it has a doctor who is a declared candidate.  In mid-March Seidel was criticising "sluggish and inconsistent response to the pandemic" and calling for actions like school closures to occur earlier than they did.  Labor has stressed that the health system was in a strained condition even before the attack of COVID-19, and has also called for free flu vaccinations.

Incumbent Robert Armstrong has said:
" it is my opinion we need to be guided by the Government, both State and Federal, and their health advisers who have the necessary expertise. Public opinions from others can cause confusion and inconsistent responses to this horrible situation."

Robert Armstrong can run on his experience as a legislator passing bills on the matter, while Debbie Armstrong has direct experience of the impact on small business as a hairdresser.  It will be much easier for some candidates to get noticed on the issue than others.

* Independence vs party endorsement: Party representation in the Upper House is at an all-time high (six seats out of fifteen) and both Huon and Rosevears have the potential to increase it further.  The usual lines will be run - that independence is desirable in a house of review, but that being a party MP enables one to have a direct say in party policy for both houses through a party caucus.  We might also see references to Armstrong's voting record and suggestions that he is too close to the Liberal Party, but in the past I have seen little of this, and voting-record based attacks don't tend to work in these campaigns anyway.

* Infrastructure and industry: Various infrastructure issues have been raised by candidates including building affordable housing on the electorate's northern outskirts, and also the Bruny Island ferry.  Possibly economic-stimulus and recovery proposals related to the damage inflicted by the coronavirus will come to the fore.  The area's forest industry was hit hard by the 2018-9 bushfire.

* Aquaculture:  Salmon farming issues were prominent in the area, including in Huon Council politics, prior to the coronavirus wiping everything else off the front pages.  The Legislative Council is currently holding an inquiry into the finfish farming industry, which has come under heavy attack from prominent Huon Aquaculture CEO Frances Bender.

Campaign

In a rather old-fashioned electorate, this will be a campaign style that has never been seen before.  The election is two months away but candidates cannot really campaign in person (several suspended doorknocking by mid-March).  Corflutes can be erected, but fewer and fewer people will be travelling and see them.  Letterboxing and doorknocking by campaigners (including Labor's street team operations) won't be possible.  Candidates will have been doing some of these things already, but two months to polling day is a long time without a chance to reinforce messages.  This leaves as the major means of campaigning for the next two months:

* advertising in the post
* telephone calls
* advertising on TV and radio - both of which might be unusually effective now
* advertising on the internet or by email
* posting on social media
* making the news (an area in which Siedel has a great advantage)

Labor called for the elections to be suspended for a year, but the government agreed only to delay them by four weeks to give the TEC more time to prepare for an election at which postal voting and prepolling were stressed.  Anything more would have required amendments to the Constitution Act to pass both houses (see my coronavirus and politics article for more discussion).  Turnout is low in these elections at the best of times and despite voting being "compulsory" it will be a challenge for the TEC to match the 82.7% average turnout for LegCo elections in this cycle.

Over time I will add comments about campaigning as it develops.  Because I cannot be in the electorate, I welcome information from those on the ground about who seems to be making the most effort over coming months.

Implications

The Legislative Council is currently dominated by the left, in the form of four Labor MLCs and five left-wing independents (one of whom retires at these elections).  There are also two Liberal MLCs, two conservative independents and two centre to centre-right independents.  This means the Government usually needs two of the left-wing independents to support it on matters opposed by Labor.

Unlike the Rosevears election where the government could well gain a seat from the left, in Huon the government isn't standing.   At the moment left-right politics is pretty irrelevant and it may be so for some time to come, but some day things might get back to vaguely normal and Legislative Councillors have long terms.  The government's best outcome is probably the incumbent being re-elected, though Harriss might also be acceptable should he win, and Cameron would have some common ground.  A win for Siedel however would see Labor at an equal all-time high of five MLCs and would further increase the government's currently severe difficulties in passing contentious legislation, as well as giving Labor's health campaigns a massive boost.  (At present with four Labor and five left-wing independent MLCs, the government usually needs two of the five to support it or one to support it and another to be away).

Prospects

The default assumption in these things is that the incumbent wins.  In the current cycle incumbents have won 10 and lost 2, and this is very much in line with the historic average.  The two incumbents who have lost in this cycle, Tony Mulder and Adriana Taylor, had both been controversial for strange comments on various issues. There was also a perception Taylor had lost touch with her base.  The retaining incumbents won easily, except for Rosemary Armitage who had a close contest with high-profile nursing campaigner Neroli Ellis.

There are some reasons to be cautious though:

1. The nature of the campaign is unprecedented.  It will suit some candidates more than others.  This makes the outcome less predictable.  It is hard to know what Tasmania will be like in 1-2 months and what might then be on voters' minds.  On the other hand, crises are often good for incumbents.

2. Super-mayors who get elected to the LegCo sometimes find that their profile is reduced after six years on the red couches.  This has been cited as a factor in the defeat of Taylor, though I'm not completely buying it given that others (eg Valentine, Gaffney) have been re-elected comfortably.

3. Labor couldn't have picked a more topical time to have a prominent doctor as a candidate.  Seidel already has a large advantage in media coverage.  This might not be so clearly positive (some voters might prefer not to elect a doctor right now in case they were needed elsewhere) but it at least makes the race harder to pick.

4. Labor is on a roll in contests in the south, having gained three seats there in the current cycle.  Based on state election voting this is harder for it than those though (I am not sure how relevant the federal pattern is).

At this stage it would be premature to assume that all the declared candidates will run, or that no new candidates will emerge.  If the field stays as it is, then notwithstanding the area's high Green vote and the potential of others to poll something significant, I see Labor as the incumbent's most serious opposition.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Queensland: Bundamba and Currumbin By-Election Counts

Updates

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

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

Tuesday 1:40: There's nothing happening here, what it is aint exactly clear ... no change on yesterday's figures for Currumbin.

Monday 11:50: The "unofficial indicative count" of 2PP (hmm, I thought they were going to start the official count yesterday) has commenced and is currently showing Gerber ahead with 51.2%, however that is off only 17.9% counted.  We don't know where these votes are from, though it may be they're nearly all the booth votes.  As more votes are added this indicative count may be bouncy depending on the order in which parcels are added, so if Campradt moves ahead in this count at some stage nothing should be read into that until the numbers settle down.

Monday 9:30: William Bowe now has a full booth breakdown which shows that all that is left to count here are out-of-electorate prepolls and absents, remaining postals, and presumably a few provisionals.  Interestingly the pattern here shows little difference between on-the-day voting and prepolls,  Here is a table with 2PP estimates based on the flows posted by Antony Green:


(Other is probably mostly telephone voting.) There doesn't seem to be serious doubt here that Gerber has won.  ABC estimates 51.2% and late postals should assist Gerber (though not as strongly as the early postals), but I'm still waiting til we see some real 2PP numbers to be sure.  There might not be any swing though I think there will be a small or perhaps very small swing to Labor.  The LNP would be nervous about the seat at the main election based on this.

Sunday overnight: Antony Green has reported weak scrutineering preference flows to Labor from the Greens (only 71%), further suggesting that Gerber should win Currumbin, albeit probably with a small swing to Labor.  Meanwhile the Premier has criticised the ECQ's failures with result reporting at this election, but it would be interesting to know how well the ECQ is funded by government and whether that had much to do with it.  The ECQ's performance at the 2017 election was also less than ideal.

Sunday 9:10 William Bowe has now posted booth figures for most of the votes counted so far.

Sunday 5:00 A very slight update with a further fraction of a percent added and Gerber's lead up by 0.04%.  XML still badly incomplete.

Sunday 3:10 A sudden jump to 68% counted.  Gerber 43.87, Campradt 38.62, Spain 10.63, Bettany 6.88.  So Gerber is up 1.6 points on before while Campradt is down 0.7 and Spain is down 1.1.  On this basis if the ABC's preference flows are accurate then Gerber is probably slightly in front already.  The XML file includes votes for various on-day booths and prepolls but no postals, but it is missing about 9000 of the nearly 22000 ballots already counted, and I expect these would include some postal votes to hand so far.  Votes still to come would at least include postals not received yet, and I would expect them to also include out-of-division prepolls and absents (assuming absents were taken).

Of note is a high informal rate in both counts - Currumbin 7.6%, Bundamba 10.8%.  In 2017 informal rates for these divisions were 4.65% and 8.24%.  Probably these gaps will narow as more postals are counted (they tend to have low informal rates), and perhaps on ballot checking.  In the event the informal rates remaining significantly above 2017 there are two possible issues here: firstly a protest vote against the elections being held at all, secondly confusion between the compulsory-preferences by-election and the optional-preferences council elections on the same day.  Detailed study of the ballot papers might be needed to determine which (or perhaps looking at informality changes for the council votes would shed some light on the protest vote possibility.)

Sunday 2:05 Still nothing.  I did set a low bar for the progress of this count at "better than Iowa" but that may have been unduly optimistic.

Sunday 11:30 Nothing has happened on the ECQ website in the last three hours except that the Bundamba count has advanced slightly.  I am keeping an eye out for any useful information through other channels but haven't seen any.

Sunday 8:30 More figures have been posted overnight.  In Bundamba with 56% counted McCallum continues to lead on 42.88% from Bell (One Nation) 27.8%, Shearman (LNP) 15.92% and Mutton (Green) 13.4%.  Bearing in mind that the final count will probably only reach 80% counted, not too much will change from here - the parties will finish in that order and McCallum will have no trouble winning.

In Currumbin, with 37.11% counted Gerber (LNP) has 42.28%, Campradt (Labor) has 39.36%, Spain (Green) has 11.73%, Bettany (One Nation) has 6.62%.  Campradt would very likely win if it stayed like that - the ABC estimates 51.1% 2PP - but the problem is not knowing how representative those numbers might be.  The current figures must be a mix of on the day and pre-day votes, but there is no breakdown available.  Presumably on-the-day votes are overrepresented. If postals were also overrepresented, the count could be fairly representative overall, but if the current count is mostly a mix of on-the-day votes and prepolls, and all or nearly all the on-the-day votes are in, then I would expect Gerber to win.  Also given the lack of details it is hard to be sure there are no further errors as were seen early in the count.  This one will take a while ...

Saturday 10:10 I'm calling stumps on this one for Saturday night and will resume tomorrow once there are more figures or other significant news up.

9:39 The ECQ has acknowledged that its computer system has failed: "We're having  technical issues displaying results online. We are are working on the issue."  Not sure we will see more tonight with the unofficial count expected to end around 10, it might be a case of come back tomorrow.

9:24 Antony again: "From a hand-scribbled A4 sheet, it seems the LNP leads Currumbin 3200-3167 from 10 counting centres, but 12,000 pre-polls to be counted and then the LNP leaning postals after that. That looks like a swing to Labor, but unreliable given how few votes were cast on the day." I'm unsure if he means 2PP or primaries; even if these are primaries the LNP would still be competitive once its likely edge on prepolls and postals was factored in.

9:20 There is another website issue with the Brisbane City Council mayoral count where it seems that votes for the Greens have now been miscredited to the candidate below them, curiously changing their percentage of the "vote" but not his,

9:10 Antony Green: "I hear there are lots of results being counted and phoned through, but when it comes to letting the world know them, it's a case of "Computer says no". Technical problems."

9:00 Still nothing.  A fair amount of progress in the local government counts though.

8:30 Nothing to see in either seat for quite a while now.  It is unfortunate that we have an online count crashed on a night when no scrutineers are allowed to watch the booth counts, since otherwise I would expect scrutineering reports to filter through and fill the vacuum.

8:16 The only good news for the LNP in Bundamba is they seem to have avoided coming last.

7:51 Still waiting for Currumbin to be restored to consciousness - it's been taken out of the XML file.  The swing in the Currumbin booth, if correct, was about 13 points off LNP and 10 to Labor.  Note that the ABC website's preferences for Currumbin are estimates, not real numbers (and we don't know if the primaries are real numbers either.)

7:35 Bundamba is clearly Labor vs One Nation. We now have the Bundamba Early centre in and in this McCallum (Labor) leads 42.0-30.3.  That is a very strong sign for McCallum.

7:30 There appear to be nine booths in in Bundamba and I can only match five of them based on booth names but those I can match seem to be representative.  So McCallum seems to have a strong lead (now 41.9-28.2) in on-the-day votes.  With the issues I mention below in Currumbin I would read nothing into the numbers there as there may be serious issues with them.

7:21 In the XML file there's an issue with the Palm Beach South booth in Currumbin which is showing votes only for Gerber (LNP).  In the Coolangatta booth she leads 48.4-34.1 (very little swing) while in the Currumbin booth it's 32.7-50.3, a very large swing to Labor in that booth if accurate.

7:16 Now Currumbin with 3.5% counted has the LNP candidate on close to 50%, which is a good start unless they come from somewhere very unrepresentative.

7:15: All coming in a rush, the XML shows that a large number of booths are now included in the total so what we are seeing now is probably a pretty fair idea of where the on-the-day vote finishes up.

7:10 The XML feed is yet to show where these Bundamba numbers (Labor now 41.6%, ON 26.2%, Green 16.3, LNP 15.8%) are from.

7:06 First figures from Bundamba, with Labor well ahead, just finding out where these are from.

6:50 First figures expected soon, "from around 7pm".

6:40 While we're waiting, a note about the ECQ's "unofficial" vs "official" count lingo.  This has resulted in some comments to the effect that the unofficial results are not worth covering, but this is just a normal election-night check count process, albeit one that might be more error-prone than usual without scrutineers there to catch out mistakes.

6:05 (Qld time) Results pages are up here: Bundamba, Currumbin.  Nothing to see yet however.

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Intro

I've put up a page here for count updates on the Bundamba and Currumbin state by-elections in Queensland, both of which (controversially) had their nominal polling day today.  Bundamba (21.6%) is a nominally ultra-safe Labor seat where One Nation might be a threat, while Currumbin (3.3%) is an LNP marginal.  Both have been vacated by long-term and somewhat maverick incumbents who are estranged from their respective parties.  I don't intend covering the Queensland council elections as well - for which see Tally Room , Poll Bludger and Antony Green - but I may add the odd comment about them.  I earlier posted some background here.  If anything, events since that piece was written have probably lowered the stakes for the LNP in Currumbin, since a loss to the government could now be explained away as a rally round the flag in a time of crisis (whether that was actually the case or not).  Sportsbet has the LNP at 1.50 to retain Currumbin to Labor's 2.50.

These by-elections are of interest especially because of the impact of the current coronavirus on everything to do with them - political messaging, when and how people vote, how the count proceeds, and how bad the turnout is in a nominally compulsory election.  Huge numbers of voters have already taken advantage of postal voting and early voting.  It is to be expected that elderly voters in particular will not be voting much on the day - as a result on-the-day votes from booths could be unusually unrepresentative.  Estimates I've seen suggest about 18-25% will vote on the day, with most voters prepolling.

I don't know how slowly the count will proceed but I'd expect the booth counting tonight (which I understand will go ahead, albeit without scrutineers) to be at least slightly slower than normal. However the ECQ does say that preliminary counting of on-the-day booth votes, prepolls and postals will all occur from tonight and will be posted.  With large prepoll booths we will just have to see how that goes.  There will also be preference counts.  Post-counting is also likely to be slow based on an ECQ directive re scrutineering.  I'm not expecting these counts to be an Iowa-level debacle, but don't expect too much to happen too quickly.

There have been anecdotal reports of voters not receiving requested postal votes and speculation that this could result in a challenge to any micro-close or even vanilla-close result.  I'd actually be surprised if anyone bringing a challenge managed to get it decided before parliament rises for the election in October, but we'll see.

I'll be posting tonight as results come in but will be slow on anything that happens in the first half hour because I'll be getting dinner.  I'll then follow the counts in coming days to the extent that the results may still be in doubt or otherwise of interest.  Assessments are all provisional until a seat is CALLED, an action that may be taken with even more than my usual level of reluctance.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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

Brief answer: Perhaps!

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

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus And Australian Politicians And Elections

Just a post to comment on some aspects of interest regarding the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on Australian politicians and elections.

Politicians

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

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

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


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

Monday, March 16, 2020

EMRS: Liberals Still Ahead Under Gutwein

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

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

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

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Rosevears

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I've decided to release my Rosevears page for the 2020 Legislative Council elections a little early.  As with Nelson last year, the incumbent is retiring, so I don't have to wait for the March sittings to analyse his voting patterns.  (An article on Legislative Council voting patterns will follow after the March sittings are over, and a Huon guide is now up.)

The election was originally slated for Saturday May 2 but has been postponed to Saturday May 30 to allow more time for the TEC to prepare for a campaign with a high rate of postal and early voting.  Nominations will close on April 23 and be announced on April 24.  There will be five weeks of early voting. I strongly encourage voters to vote by post if eligible to do so (TEC will mail out information). 

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.  I was expecting to visit the electorate during the campaign but won't now be doing so for obvious reasons. Other relevant pieces will be linked here.

Seat Profile

Rosevears (see map) is situated on the west Tamar in northern Tasmania. It includes much of western and central Launceston and the towns of Beaconsfield, Legana, Exeter and Beauty Point.  Industries outside the urban area include tourism, mining and vineyards.

Rosevears was created as a new division out of parts of various pre-existing divisions in the 1999 redistribution.  Sitting MLC Ray Bailey was allocated to the division when it was formed but retired in 2002.  Prominent former radio announcer Kerry Finch has held the seat ever since.  The seat is mostly an expanded version of the former division of Cornwall, which always returned independents except for electing one Liberal between 1942 and 1951.  One of the independents, Mac Le Fevre (member from 1978-1984) was a former Labor lower house MP.  

At the 2018 state election the Liberal Party polled 58.2% in Rosevears booths, Labor 25%, the Greens 11.2% and the populist Jacqui Lambie Network 4.2%.  Labor gained 6.5 points while the Greens dropped five, and the Liberal vote was little changed. The Liberal vote ranged from the high 40s to the mid 60s and was strongest at the bible belt Legana booth and the outer suburban areas of Prospect, Riverside and Summerhill.  The Greens had been polling well in some of the small-town rural booths along the West Tamar during the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill debacle but support for them there has now subsided.  They did not beat Labor at any Rosevears booth in 2018 but came very close in Trevallyn (24.4%) and also topped 20 in the central Launceston booths and West Launceston.  Labor's best booth was the mining town of Beaconsfield (32.8%).  

Retiring Incumbent

Kerry Finch is retiring after three terms.  A former high-profile radio and TV announcer, Finch won the seat in 2002, polling a 27.2% primary in a field of nine and defeating Rick Shegog on preferences with a final margin of 53.2%:46.8%.  In 2008 Finch attracted only one low-profile opponent, Colin O'Brien, and won easily with 72.7% of the vote. In 2014 the Liberals tried to convert the honeymoon effect from their state election win into Legislative Council seats (as Labor had done under Jim Bacon).  Despite a feisty negative campaign against the incumbent in which the Liberals alleged he was a closet Green, Finch easily defeated the Liberals' Don Morris, polling 60.3%.  

My assessments of Legislative Council voting patterns (most recently here) have always placed Finch on the left, but as slightly more moderate than the other left-wing MLCs.  However, Finch does not mince his words in parliament on issues he feels strongly about, particularly social issues.  It is also notable that shortly after being re-elected in 2014 Finch experienced a minor heart attack but has nonetheless completed a successful term in parliament.  

Finch has expressed a hope that he will be followed by another independent.

Candidates (6)

The following candidates, in order of announcement, have so far announced their intention to contest.  All candidates live in the electorate unless noted otherwise.  This is only the second Legislative Council contest (after the 2017 Pembroke by-election) where all of Liberal, Labor and Greens have endorsed candidates.  

(Note: candidates may contact me once only to request a change to the link their name goes to, or additional links which will be added, or not, at my discretion.  No other changes will be made on request except to correct clear factual errors.  Candidates are welcome to comment in the comment section. Differences in the length of different candidate sections reflect differences in electoral track record and available/(in my view) interesting material.)

Janie Finlay (Independent) (Facebook, Twitter, linkedincandidacy announcement) is a former Launceston Mayor (2002-5) and long-serving Launceston Councillor (2000-2007, 2014-present).  Finlay was the youngest female Mayor in Australia when elected unopposed in 2002 but in 2005 was narrowly defeated (50.9:49.1) by Ivan Dean on preferences from other male councillors despite having a 10% primary vote lead.  In 2018 Finlay was involved in another close mayoral contest, this time defeated by 11-year incumbent Albert Van Zetten (51.8:48.2).  

Finlay has a small business background including real estate, cafes and boutique furniture design, and is Communications Director at an online game testing company.  Finlay's campaign material in general stresses a local and regional focus and the independence of the Upper House rather than ideas obviously associated with either wing of politics. It is not easy to get any impression of how Finlay might vote based on Launceston Council voting, which is mostly consensus-based with a couple of fairly frequent dissenters.  Finlay has no past party involvements I am aware of, but has been approached by parties to run in other elections.

Jess Greene (Labor) (Twitter, candidacy announcement) is an organiser with the Community and Public Sector Union, Secretary of Playgroup Tasmania and a voluntary board member of the Child Health Association of Tasmania and Laurel House (a sexual assault support service).  Greene contested West Tamar Council in 2018 but missed the final seat by just 66 votes.  Greene is a regular and respected presence on political social media.  She is the first Labor candidate to ever be endorsed for Rosevears; I am unsure if any Labor candidate was ever endorsed for Cornwall.

Jack Davenport (Greens) (Facebook, candidacy announcement, linkedin) is a social worker and Principal Analyst for Children and Youth Services. He has previous social work experience, mainly in child protection, in the UK, South Australia and Western Australia.  He is also a freelance writer and photographer and was a councillor on Preston City Council, UK, from 2004 to 2010.  The Greens have not endorsed a candidate for Rosevears before, though former Bass Greens MHA Lance Armstrong contested Cornwall in 1998, polling 18%.

Vivienne Gale (Independent) (candidacy announcement) owns a self-storage business and is also a carer for her husband and a master of laws student, having previous tertiary qualifications including B. Comp., MBA, Grad. Dip. Psych (all from Monash).  Gale is on the committee of the QVMAG Arts Foundation and Festivale.  Gale previously contested the seat of Mersey in 2015 (see guide) where she was the sole challenger to independent incumbent Mike Gaffney.  Gale's 2015 campaign included support for the forest industry and opposition to state-based same-sex marriage and other "trendy left" issues, as well as attacks on Gaffney's voting record.  Despite a vigorous campaign Gale was hampered by lack of profile and connection to the electorate and Gaffney won very easily indeed with 75.3%.  In this case, Gale lives only marginally outside the electorate.  

David Fry (Independent) (Facebook, linkedincandidacy announcement) is a Cricket Tasmania Regional Administrator with experience in small business (including as manager of a plumbing business) and in the finance industry.  Fry is also a Justice of the Peace (a person empowered to witness important documents.) Fry was a Liberal candidate for Bass at six state elections in a row from 1989 to 2006, but ceased to be a party member some years ago.  He gradually built his vote and in 2000 he was elected to the House mid-term on Frank Madill's recount. At the 2002 election he polled over 4000 votes but was defeated in a within-party contest by now Premier Peter Gutwein.

Fry's candidacy continues a recent trend of former state MPs popping up in LegCo elections, following Doug Parkinson, John The Duke Of Avram and Ron Cornish among blasts from the past in the last few years.

Fry's current views are unknown to me and his campaign material online steers clear of anything divisive. In the distant past he was a religious ultraconservative who campaigned against gay law reform, including through the popup lobby group "For A Caring Tasmania".    In 1992-3 this group (known to have had at least two members, an unusually large number for such groups) sought government funding with the aim of advising same-sex-attracted people of their "true heterosexuality", and suggested that $100,000 be diverted from the AIDS Council's budget to such forms of "counselling" (it is unclear to me whether this was a single proposal or two separate proposals).  In 2003 Fry, alongside a young Michael Ferguson, was involved in the "Tasmanian Family Institute" which sought to oppose adoption by same-sex couples using such persuasive and scientific means as content analysis of submissions by people who also opposed it 

Jo Palmer (Liberal) (TwitterInstagram, candidacy announcement) is a household name as a former Seven Tasmania newsreader and journalist with 18 years' experience reading northern Tasmania's news.  Palmer also holds various ambassador roles in children's charities and is a former Tasmanian of the Year for charity work.  Palmer's newsreading career has been uncontentious and it has been difficult to get much idea where she might fit into the social issues spectrum of the party.  Although having no prior political experience that I'm aware of, Palmer is a natural at conveying an enthusiasm for getting into politics that would appeal to an ordinary voter while not actually saying anything contentious in the process.   

In the celebrity trivia department I note that Jo Palmer is a former Miss Tasmania and Miss Australia 1993, that she is Lyons Labor MHA Jen Butler's sister-in-law and that she is the parent of a Dancing With The Stars house dancer.

Possibly Running

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers called for expressions of interest from possible candidates on January 15 but have not yet endorsed a candidate.

Not Running

Former Lyons Liberal MHA Rene Hidding formed an exploratory committee, as they say in the US, on 23 Oct 2019.  His announcement was followed the day after by Finlay announcing she was definitely running.  On 4 Nov Rene Hidding suspended his campaign.

Issues

Some issues that have featured or may feature in the campaign are as follows.  Whether they are all actually issues that will affect people's voting intentions to the slightest degree is another matter, but they are subjects candidates could make noise about:

* Independents vs party representation: Voters have been more willing to elect party representatives to upper house seats in recent years with the number of endorsed party members in the Legislative Council now standing at an all-time high of six (four Labor, two Liberal) compared to nine independents.  The standard argument for independents is that independents can review legislation with a free hand while party operatives are rubber stamps.  The standard argument for party members is that they can have a direct influence on party policy, and in the case of a government member, ensure the government's mandate is respected.

* Coronavirus: Coronavirus is swamping everything in political life at the moment though I am yet to see it emerge as a point of contention between candidates.

More will be added as I study the campaign further.

Campaign

I will be posting comments on the campaign for Rosevears as it develops.  The advance organisation of several candidates is noted, with Finlay announcing she was running more than six months before the election and others having announced between three and five months out.  To this stage there has been little engagement between candidates, beyond comments by Finlay supporting an independent upper house after Palmer's endorsement.  Davenport also optimistically suggested voters might be more interested in the policies of candidates than in "what they have done before".

In response to the coronavirus situation, Labor and Green candidates have suspended face-to-face campaigning in this electorate and also Huon.  Palmer has also suspended doorknocking, and Finlay has shifted her campaign to be "more active in the digital space".

Implications

A Palmer victory in this seat combined with a hold by staunchly conservative independent Robert Armstrong in Huon would improve the Government's position in the Legislative Council from a current balance of 4 right, 2 centre/centre-right and 9 left to a new balance of 5 right, 2 centre/centre-right and 8 left.  The left would still have a majority, and potentially a working one in view of President Craig Farrell (ALP)'s stated willingness to use his casting vote along party lines.  However it would reduce the number of left independents the government needed on side on a given issue from two to one.  A Finlay win would cause less change to the existing picture.

The by-election is the first leadership test for new Premier Peter Gutwein.  The seat is mostly in his home electorate and his party is advantaged by the profile of its candidate and the electorate being much friendlier to the Liberal Party than other parties.  It may not be as simple as that but a clear win for Palmer on the night will be seen as a seamless transfer to the new Premier, while a loss will mean questions are asked.

Prospects

Jo Palmer is widely expected to win.

Rosevears is a strongly Liberal electorate at state elections. However, it has been very open to electing independents, including left-wing independents, to the Legislative Council, and has already once rejected the "government mandate" argument for electing a Liberal member.  That said, Jo Palmer is such a high-profile and popular candidate that many observers declared it "game over" as soon as she was selected.  Richard Herr took a contrary view, pointing out that other prominent newsreaders had also run for parliament and failed.  None of those newsreaders quite had Palmer's profile. Also, John Remess who Herr gives as an example was running at the 1998 seat-reduction election against a very strong slate of Liberal incumbents.

Finlay ticks many boxes as the sort of local-government based candidate who is often elected to such seats (a la former fellow councillor Rosemary Armitage in neighbouring Launceston) and could easily be seen as a good successor to Finch by voters receptive to his call to elect another independent. But we should be cautious about assuming that most voters voting for Finch agreed with his politics, as opposed to voting for the famous name they trusted.  In this case the more famous name is Palmer's, and she ticks the same box that got Finch in in the first place.  All the same I do see Finlay as Palmer's major opposition here and as a strong enough candidate that a Liberal victory shouldn't be called as certain in advance.

The pattern since 2014 has been that Liberal LegCo candidates usually get just over half the previous state election vote on primaries. However there was one exception, with incumbent Leonie Hiscutt holding 80% of the state election vote in Montgomery.  It's possible Palmer will do something like that and win easily.  If she can hold even two-thirds of the state election vote (approaching 40% primary) then that would be enough as she could expect a strong flow from Fry, who will probably poll a non-trivial vote.

What about Fry?  A conservative independent beat the Liberal candidate in Huon in 2014, but Robert Armstrong was a mayor competing with a long-retired politician - and even so, Armstrong only just made the final two.  In this case Fry is the lower-profile candidate, and lefties may not be so willing to preference him above the Liberals even if he somehow makes the final two.  Fry should probably do better than Ron Cornish though, because of his stronger connection to the electorate (Cornish polled 7.4% in Pembroke).

With Finlay in the field I see no reason why the left parties could win Rosevears and I don't expect either to match their state election primary vote.  Even second place against Palmer and Finlay would be a strong result for Labor here, but that would be most likely in a scenario where Palmer wins easily.

Rally-round-the-flag polling has been seen almost everywhere in the western world suggesting that voters are flocking to incumbent governments in their uncertainty about coronavirus and desire for strong leadership against it.  This could well play to Palmer's advantage.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Unintended Informal Voting In Tasmanian State Elections

Advance Summary

1. In Tasmanian state elections for the House of Assembly, any vote that fails to have the numbers 1-5 each once and once only is ruled informal and does not count.

2. A Bill to expand the Tasmanian House of Assembly would result in this being changed to 1-7. This would be likely to increase the rate at which voters voted informally by mistake.

3. The current rules very slightly advantage the Greens over other parties, especially Labor and most fourth parties and independents.  However, this hasn't decided any contest for a seat between parties in the last 30 years.

4. It is plausible that requiring voters to fill seven boxes without error would further increase the advantage for some parties over others, however the evidence on this is insufficient.

5. Unintended informal votes where a voter mistakenly omits or doubles numbers could be included in the count using a savings provision system already used in the ACT.

6. The view that the ACT system causes massive exhaust rates compared to Tasmania is based on a misunderstanding of the ACT computer counting system, which continues to distribute votes, creating spurious exhaust, after contests are actually over.

7. The ACT system may even help address exhaust issues partly by discouraging minor parties from needlessly running full slates of candidates.

8. Including more votes makes elections more inclusive!  We should do it. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

It's a Joyce Joke: Barnaby's Senate Mutilation Madness

This article includes ideas for one I was working on last year but didn't get around to finishing off then.  I've been provoked to now do so by the news (tweeted by the AFR's Tom McIlroy) that Barnaby Joyce will on 24 Feb "present" a Bill to "amend the Representation Act 1983 - proposing six regions per state and two senators per region".  The exact form of the Bill has not been seen, and perhaps the proposal has been shorn of its more patently offensive and wrong aspects prior to tabling, so for the time being I comment on the history of Joyce's 2019 comments on this issue.  [EDIT: Nope, it's got even worse, see updates at the bottom.] The article should also cover ground that is useful if Joyce has modified his proposal.  I will add more comments when I have seen the actual Bill, which I assume will go nowhere.

General Background and non-malapportioned version

The concept of Senate districts is an old chestnut that takes its inspiration from Section 7 of the Constitution.  The Constitution only says the people of each state vote as a single electorate until the Parliament otherwise provides, which in theory allows the Parliament to come up with some other arrangement without needing to change the Constitution.  Furthermore, the Constitution explicitly canvassed that Queensland could be split into Senate divisions by its state parliament, until the Commonwealth parliament decided otherwise.  

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Queensland 2020: Currumbin By-Election and YouGov Poll

(Now added: Bundamba, scroll down)
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Queensland is heading for at least one unexpectedly interesting by-election early in another state election year.  Also, a new YouGov poll has come out that has been the subject of incorrect reporting concerning the Premier's unpopularity.  I thought it would be useful to have a post up covering these two issues in detail.

Currumbin (LNP, 3.3%)
By-election March 28

Currumbin is in Queensland's far south-eastern corner and includes the border town of Coolangatta (now a Gold Coast suburb) and surrounding southern Gold Coast suburbs and rural hinterland to the west of them.  It has been held by the retiring member, Jann Stuckey, since 2004, but before that was held by Labor's Merri Rose for 12 years.  From 1992 (when Rose first ran) until 2001 the seat was more Labor-friendly than the state average, but this ended with Rose's fall from grace and Cabinet in 2004 and since then it has reverted to being slightly LNP-leaning compared to the state average.  It is possible, as the departing incumbent Jann Stuckey suggests, that Currumbin is an electorate where perceptions of the candidate matter more than elsewhere.