Friday, August 16, 2013

Tasmanian Federal Candidates Announced And Ballot Draws

The Australian Electoral Commission has announced the Tasmanian candidates for the House of Representatives election.  As part of a record total of candidates nationwide, Tasmanians will choose between 35 candidates for the five House of Representative seats and 54 candidates for the Tasmanian Senate.  There are stats on overall candidate numbers around the nation from Antony Green here.

The Senate total of 54 candidates smashes the previous state record of 32 set in 1998.  Even historic double-dissolution elections (where major parties need to run six or seven candidates) have not produced anything like this.

The House of Representatives ballots will include ten candidates for Denison, seven for Franklin, six for Lyons, seven for Bass and five for Braddon.  A total of thirteen parties are "contesting" House of Reps seats in the state, though in most cases I use that term extremely loosely.  Labor, the Liberals, the Greens and the Palmer United Party are contesting all Tasmanian seats, the Rise Up Australia Party and Family First are contesting four and three respectively, and the rest are all lone entries.  A rumoured Katter's Australian Party run for Denison did not eventuate.  Only one Independent (not counting the so-called "Australian Independents", who are actually a party) is contesting the House of Assembly, and that is the Denison sitting member, Andrew Wilkie.  A single independent, Andrew Roberts, is contesting the Senate.

Using the fantastic resource that is Adam Carr's Election Archive, Psephos I have checked to see if the House of Reps numbers set any records.  As far as I can tell 35 is a new record for Tasmanian House of Reps candidate totals, beating 31 in 2007, and ten candidates in Denison is a Tasmanian record for a single seat, beating eight in Bass in 2001.  Similar records are probably being set nationwide because of the upsurge in small party registrations.

Ballot Order in the Reps: How Much Does It Matter?

Federal elections use a single, unrotated ballot.  This comes as a surprise to Tasmanian voters who are accustomed to having their Legislative Council and local council ballots rotated, and in House of Assembly elections to even having candidate orders rotated within party groups - so that not only do different candidates get a turn at the top, but also different candidates get a turn at being near other prominent candidates.

I've had a few queries about why Australia does not rotate ballot papers federally.  A part of it is the cost, for a relatively small benefit given that the donkey vote is so low, but it's hard to avoid suspecting that the real reason is that it would become more difficult for parties to get their voters to follow how-to-vote cards.  In Tasmanian rotated elections this is not a problem, because the handing out of such cards outside polling places is banned.

The announcement of the ballot draws in Tasmania produced some excited reporting of increased chances, such as this.  The Denison draw assists the Liberals and Andrew Wilkie and is about as bad as possible for Labor, who have drawn ninth out of ten.  Labor has drawn top in Franklin, and the Liberals in Lyons.  The Liberals have drawn well in Bass (being second behind a minor candidate) and Labor has done so in Braddon (second after the Greens). 

However, the advantage of a good ballot draw is often overestimated.  The printing of party names on ballot papers greatly reduces the donkey vote and other position effects.  One study estimated the advantage of top position in Australia to be about one percentage point of the total primary vote on average, but there are some comments by Charles Richardson here suggesting that the 2PP benefit is probably somewhat smaller.  I tend to agree with Richardson; browsing past HoR results I have encountered several cases in which the candidate who was top of the ballot paper polled well less than 1% - and that would include the votes they obtained in their own right as well as those they got by being top of the pile. 

Also, among the things that cause electorates to have unusually high pole-position advantages are (i) having a high percentage of non-English speaking voters (ii) having a high percentage of young voters.  I don't believe Tasmanian seats rank highly on either of those scores.

It's obviously better to draw top position, or a position that allows you to receive a good preference flow after top position is eliminated, than not.  However, unless it's very close, it's not a big deal.  Labor might have won Denison (final margin 1.2%) had they been top of the ballot instead of Wilkie last time, but I suspect they would have missed by a whisker.

Who Are All These People?

A number of parties are contesting the Tasmanian Senate for the very first time.  In addition to the three main parties there are another 20 listed groups and one independent.

The usual strategy for the micro-parties is that the left-wing micro-parties preference each other and then the Greens, then Labor, then Liberal while the right-wing micro-parties preference each other and then the Liberals, then Labor, then the Greens.  However this can be complicated by the ideological views of given micros overriding their self-interest, and by parties that don't occupy a clear position in the political spectrum.  It can also be complicated by direct deals between micros and major parties.

The Democratic Labour Party at the last election preferenced Guy Barnett (Lib) 3rd, Helen Polley (ALP) 8th and then the two remaining Liberals.  While this was very consistent with the DLP's ideology, it is basically a preference to the Liberals since Polley was certain of election.

Updated Text: Senate Preference Flows:  The Senate preference flows have been released and can be viewed here.

In three-party terms, the following parties are preferencing the Liberals, then Labor, then the Greens (the usual pattern for a right micro): Country Alliance*, Liberal Democrats, Rise Up Australia, Liberal, Australian Christians, Democratic Labor Party, Smokers Rights, Family First, Stop The Greens.  (* CA preferences 3rd Liberal, then 3rd ALP, then other Liberals)

Katters Australian Party is preferencing Liberal-Green-Labor

The following parties are preferencing ALP-Liberal-Green: Shooters and Fishers, Australian Fishing and Lifestyle, No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics.  All these would have normally been expected to preference the Liberals and the last of these is very surprising.  Shooters and Fishers however have apparently done a deal with Labor since Labor preferences them third after the Greens.

The following parties are preferencing ALP-Green-Liberal: ALP, HEMP, Sex Party.   The original version of this article noted that the Sex Party formerly tended to preference the Greens instead of Labor but has sometimes not done so recently. This is mainly because some Greens support the so-called "Swedish model" of sex industry policing, in which paying for the services of a sex worker is criminalised (but sex workers themselves are not).  I do not know whether that has much to do with it this time; the relatively high preference to the Sex Party from the ALP could also be a factor.  I was slightly surprised the HEMP party didn't preference the Greens.

The following parties are displaying the traditional left-pooling behaviour (Green-ALP-Liberal): Greens, Pirate Party, Senator On-Line.

The following parties are preferencing Green-Liberal-ALP: Palmer United (!!??!), Australian Independents

The Australian Republicans did not submit a preference ordering, and the Stable Population Party (which I thought might have preferenced the Greens) submitted a triple ticket that splits its preferences equally between Labor, Liberal and Green.

For those who have not been involved in Senate group preferencing negotiations, this is how it works.  No matter how extreme, insane, or obnoxious party X is, parties Y and Z will attempt to strike a deal with it if it boosts their chances of election.  Should party Y succeed instead of party Z, party Z will immediately issue a press release slamming party Y for dealing with party X and pointing out with moral purity and outrage that they would never do such a thing.

I will be trying to work out the ramifications of these tickets for Senate preferencing chances, which is an insanely complex task with this many micro parties (several of which have an outside prospect of actually getting up), and will post comments at Prospects for the Tasmanian Senate once I have come up with something coherent. An initial impression is that the Greens have done badly out of this apart from the rogue PUP flow that could be a lifesaver if they are a bit short of a quota. The Greens may yet poll quota in their own right, in which case it will all be irrelevant.

=========================end of updated text=============================

I will not be attempting a full directory of all 89 Tasmanian candidates (so I can't tell you who all these people are; in many cases I don't know) and suggest people check the ABC Elections site for profile information.  However, a few names stand out as interesting in the lists:

* The party listed as Stop The Greens is the Outdoor Recreation Party.  There is some potential for this catchy party name in a state where anti-Green sentiment is strong to receive media publicity or controversy.  The party has won a seat in the NSW Upper House under a different guise and is worth keeping half an eye on to see if it gets any traction here.

* Independent Andrew Roberts describes himself as "True Green".  However his policies also include some rather nebulous family values references (and an ominous disclaimer that the right to just, ethical and moral treatment is subject to the condition "liberty but not licence"). I also found extensive advertising for him, lacking appropriate formal authorisation, on one of the nastier homophobic hate sites I have seen for a while.

* The lead Rise Up Australia candidate, Dr Philip Lamont, contested Braddon for the Liberals in the 2010 state election, though with little success, polling 1115 votes.  Rise Up Australia is a nationalist, anti-Islamist, anti-same-sex-marriage party founded by extremist preacher Danny Nalliah. (As an aside I find it symbolically unfortunate that the Liberals will be putting the Greens last in the House of Reps, below a party that may well be to the right of One Nation.)

* Country Alliance  lead candidate Cheryl Arnol is a Glamorgan-Spring Bay councillor who almost won the mayoralty in 2007, losing to Bertrand Cadart after numerous rechecks by two votes.

* Second Senator Online candidate Sven Wiener is a serial candidate and former pulp mill opponent in the Launceston area.  A gift that keeps on giving, Wiener was involved in a farcically failed attempt to register a state political party to be called the Ethics and Sustainability Party, and also featured recently in a bizarre court case involving an allegedly illegal turtle.

* Leading Stable Population Party candidate Todd Dudley is a well known environmental activist and naturalist who is currently involved in a campaign against the building of a viewing platform at Binalong Bay.

* Palmer United Party has attracted some experienced House of Reps candidates.  Franklin candidate Marti Zucco has been a Hobart City Council alderman for over 20 years,  missing the deputy mayoralty by a handful of votes in 2011.  Braddon candidate Kevin Morgan contested Montgomery in the Legislative Council this year, finishing a distant third. 

It is not required to be a state resident to run for the Senate and quite a few Tasmanian candidates for obscure Senate parties will probably not be.

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom - But Do Not Over-water Them

Antony Green (here) has pointed to the problems caused by micro-party proliferation.  Massive micro-party registration numbers not only lead to massive ballot papers (video) but also increase the chance of obscure parties winning through backroom preference deals despite having negligible public support.

I'm a big fan of party diversity, especially having experienced a Tasmanian state system that often struggles to generate alternatives to Labor, Liberal and Green.  I like the idea that a party can, with relatively little expense or difficulty, form, and put its ideas out to the electorate and see if it is able to obtain support and build a following over subsequent elections.  I don't support high barriers to entry.

What I'm not a fan of is the above-the-line preferencing rort that allows parties to direct the preferences of voters who will not bother to find out what they are actually voting for, and thereby provides micro-parties with an incentive to run when they might otherwise not bother wasting their deposits.  I'd like to see the registration requirements kept as they are, but the above-the-line just-vote-1 party-ticket system to be axed starting from the next election.  I'd prefer instead to have either optional or semi-optional preferential voting, with the voter able to preference either parties or individual candidates without being required to fill all squares.  (In an optional system, they could just vote 1 and stop, but in a semi-optional system, they would be required to pick a certain number of parties or candidates.)

I am not quite sure what it will take to provoke reform on this issue, but the election to the Senate of several completely random and obscure parties at a single election might do it.  Unfortunately, I suspect that the reform decision taken will be to keep the current above-the-line system while increasing burdens to register for small parties. 


  1. If above-the-line is scrapped in favour of optional preferential, could the increase in exhausted ballots hurt minor parties, too?

    I dislike above-the-line voting for the same reason you do, and also because it allows the top one or two ballot positions of the larger parties to be treated as safe seats. Safe seats exist in the lower house as well, but those MPs still need to engage with their electorate, they cannot hide behind the "Vote 1 (party)" option as some lower-profile Senate candidates can.

    That may be another reason the major parties would resist change. Perhaps they'd be more open to a change that keeps above-the-line voting, such as a requirement to number all boxes above-the-line, too (leaving each party/group to decide preference flow only within their group).

  2. I just re-read your second-last paragraph, I missed that you'd already made the suggestion of preferential above-the-line.

  3. My somewhat illformed thoughts on the proliferation issue is that mini parties are ok, micro not so much, especially for the senate.

    A requirement for a party to achieve a minimum proportion of eligible voters (say 1 in 2000) as members, within the state they are nominating for in order to appear on the senate ballot is not an unreasonable requirement, and basically eliminates time wasters. Several of the minor parties noted above may well choose to join forces without much loss of diversity, and thus meet the nomination requirements.

    I too dislike the idea of raising the cost of admission.

  4. It will be interesting to see how this rolls up. A lot depends on how much ends up in the 'Other' columns.

    Lowest average preferences go to AIP, but I suspect a low primary may cruel them. Second lowest is FF.

    An interesting outcome is clumping Lib, Lab, and Grn together as the 'majors' and finding the minimum preference from each other party. Comparing this to FF, DLP, SNF and KAP, only the Pirates (to GRN) and the HEMP smokers (to ALP) leak to the 'majors' in all cases.

    For FF, only CTA (to LIB) and SEX (to ALP) also leak. For DLP, only the PUPs (to GRN) and SEX leak. About half leak for the Shooters & Fishers, and a third for Katter's mob. Unless my guesses of relative proportion are out by a good margin (and they could be), we'll see FF emerge as 'Other'.

    Assuming that the Libs have 2 locked away and Labor has as well, that leaves 3 quota distributed between Lib, Lab, Green and FF.

    The Greens will only get Pirate Party votes flowing early in the count, plus whatever below the line leakage comes there way.

    Labor will pick up Hemp early and Sex Party votes a little later.

    Libs will pick up Country Alliance early.

    Everything else will accumulate with FF until / unless one of the four majors drops out or reaches quota.

    So.. Lib 2, Lab 2, (Lib or FF) 1 (Lab or Grn) 1 assuming 4.0 > [Lab + Grn + Hemp + PP + Sex] > 3.0.

    1. Nice work; the Tas Senate micro possibility thing is extremely difficult to model this year.

      FF do have a good run assuming they get a decent primary vote. I've taken the most serious right-micro chances as being PUP, KAP, DLP, S+F and FF, though there are also some unknown quantities like Smokers Rights, Country Alliance and Stop The Greens. I include the DLP as they polled about half a % last time but are probably better resourced now and certainly making more noise.

      Anyway of those five, FF gets by my count preferences from five micros with the chance of also getting Lib preferences should the Libs be just over 3Q (but not too far over). If they're ahead of PUP and KAP they get both of those too. Problem with the Liberal surplus idea is that that entails them vying for the 4th right seat and that requires ALP+Green<3Q which looks very unlikely at the moment.

      S+F get three micros and the DLP also get three while PUP and KAP don't get much at all. S+F pool to the DLP but I don't think the DLP will beat them. The DLP themselves pool to KAP and then S+F.

      The big thing for S+F is the possibility of Labor preferences but that's in a 2 ALP 1 Green scenario where they're fighting with the Libs. Seems to require assuming a really large Others vote.

      The FF snowball preference scenario is really quite plausible - pool just about every right micro to over half a quota and then jump the last Lib on Labor prefs, ie 2-2-1-1.

    2. I wasn't sure how to model the thing quickly so just allocated percentages to each party and did a distribution at the party level based on the tickets.

      I made the basic assumption that the three majors had ~ half a quota left over to take them out of consideration.

      I have no real feel of how well KAP and PUP are going to do, which makes it all a bit dicey. I expect that Katter will do better as he has made more effort personally.

      I may get around to doing a monte carlo with this, but that requires more time to set up.

      But yes, it all depends on how much is left in the kitty when the full quotas are excluded. If its 2.9 2.9 0.9 0.3 then we probably end up 3-3. If it is 2.5 2.5 0.8 1.2 then 2-2-1-1 becomes more likely.

      With the higher number of alternatives and the general dissatisfaction with all major parties, an unusually high 'other' vote wouldn't surprise me at all.

  5. Why do we have to vote for ALL the candidates if we vote BELOW the LINE ?
    Why not have a percentage say 50% of total number.
    I think I could find 27 I wouldn't mind giving a number to - but having to put a number to each of them ?? Strewth the chances of wasting my vote by missing out a number ...........
    But NO WAY can I vote above the line cos none of them reflect the way I want to order the parties.

    1. Unfortunately this is the way the law is, and has been since the mid-1980s. Attempts by sensible people to convince politicians to change it have failed. However:

      (i) If you miss, or double, a number in the sequence (other than 1), your vote is not entirely wasted. Rather, what happens is that your vote works until it gets to the point where you made the error, and at that point it exhausts, meaning that it does not pass on any further. You are allowed to make 3 mistakes of this kind before your vote becomes informal. But if you leave a large number of boxes blank, your vote will not count. (You can leave up to the last five boxes blank in Tasmania if you haven't made any other mistakes.)

      (ii) There is also a useful trick called the "saving provision". If you are not sure your vote below the line vote is valid, vote 1 above the line for your preferred party as well. Your below the line vote takes priority if it is valid, but if your vote below the line is not valid, your vote above the line is used instead. (That means it might end up somewhere silly, but it's better than your vote not counting.)