Monday, March 30, 2015

New South Wales Postcount: Ballina

Ballina (Nat 24.6) Kris Beavis (Nat) vs Tamara Smith (Greens) vs Paul Spooner (ALP)
Outlook: Greens favoured.
Outcome: Greens have won preference distribution.

This thread follows post-counting in the NSW seat of Ballina.  On election night this was widely called as a certain Green gain, the Greens being only slightly behind the Nationals on primaries.  However extremely strong post-counting performance by the Nationals has both placed the Green win in doubt and also created a possible exclusion order issue.  As absent votes have not been included yet, it is probable the seat now looks closer than it actually is and the Greens will still win fairly easily.  However we need to see if this will actually be the case.

Ballina is one of the two far north coast seats where the Nationals have copped an enormous swing over coal seam gas issues and because of demographic change, the other being Lismore where the Greens' position in the postcount is somewhat weaker.

The ABC has been projecting Ballina as a certain Greens win, but what the ABC is showing for the Ballina Nationals vs Greens two-candidate contest are not real figures.  Rather, they are ABC estimates of preference flow.  It is very difficult to know exactly what the preference flow will be, other than that it is safe to assume it will be stronger than in 2011.  In 2011 the net flow of all preferences in Ballina was that 58.8% of third-party preferences exhausted, and those not exhausting split 77% to the Greens and 23% to the Nationals.  That gave the Greens a gain rate of .191 votes per preference.  The gain rate required is the key statistic that I monitor for these contests.

On election night the gain rate required for the Greens in this seat was only .113 which was a piece of cake by comparison.  At this election the Greens have campaigned more strongly, CSG is an issue, Labor has preferenced them on its how-to-vote card, and the Nationals have no incumbent.

However an extremely strong performance (even by conservative post-count standards) has seen the Nationals increase their primary lead.  They now have a primary vote of 37.1% to the Greens' 26.5% and Labor's 24.9%.  Independent Jeff Johnson has 7.9%, Independent Matthew Hartley has 1.6%, the Christian Democrats have 1.4% and No Land Tax has 0.6%.  This has moved the Greens' required gain rate up to .290.  In the Lismore article I argued that given the strength of the backlash in the area and given that Labor are preferencing the Greens, something like .350 should be achievable, while over .4 may be too difficult.  I would think .290 would be achieved (though gain rates in two similar inner-city contests in 2011 were much lower), but I'm not certain.

Jeff Johnson is a Ballina Shire councillor originally elected as a Green in 2008.  On that basis his preferences should somewhat help the Greens, meaning that unless the Greens' primary position relative to Labor deteriorates further they should still be second after the exclusion of Johnson and the three minor candidates.

The other advantage for the Greens is that absent votes are now a major part of the uncounted vote total.  In 2011 the Greens outperformed their electorate total by eight points on absents, and the Nationals underperformed by the same amount.  This is likely to be repeated.

So while I still favour the Greens winning this seat, I think there is enough uncertainty to keep an eye on the gain rate and the gap to Labor in case of any further surprises.

9:05 See also Antony Green here for an explanation of what is going on with the ABC's assessments. Antony notes that the Greens' preference flow on election night was 47% to Labor, 9% to Nationals, the rest exhausted.  (That's a gain rate of .38). If the Labor to Green flow is as strong as Green to Labor, or nearly so, then the Greens will win comfortably.

Tuesday 12:15 A small number of postcount votes have been added with the Greens' position weakening slightly - the required gain rate is now .296.  However the crucial absent votes, likely to cut that rate sharply, are still not included.

Wednesday midday: Very little added here since last update.  The required gain rate is now .298 but that should drop when absents are added.

Wednesday 9:45: We finally have this electorate's first absents and the Greens got 39% of a sample of 743 to 27% for the Nationals and 20.7% for Labor.  These might be from somewhere unrepresentative and the rest might not be quite that strong.  The effect so far is only a small reduction in the Greens' required gain rate, now down to .290.

Friday 3:00 The required gain rate is now down to .268 as more absents have been added.

Friday 5:10 I did not notice before but Antony Green has posted some Greens scrutineering figures (update of 1 April) - if these are anywhere near accurate then the Greens will win comfortably.

Saturday 6:10 Some more votes were added but the picture changed little with the required gain rate now at .267.

Wednesday 10:20 The Button has been pressed and Tamara Smith (Greens) has won Ballina (pending details on margins and any possible recount, though I suspect margins will be large enough that that won't be an issue.)

Wednesday 1:30 The Ballina preference distribution has been published.  The Greens increased their margin to Labor on all exclusions except the CDP, and especially on Jeff Johnson's as expected.  They eventually won easily with over 53:47 two-candidate-preferred.  Overall the Greens gained 8704 votes on preferences, the Nationals 1604 and 6934 exhausted, for a net gain rate of .412.  There will not be any recounts needed.


  1. Do you have any scrutineers feedback on Mr Johnson's preferences? I took a look at his web site and there was no how to vote. The semi-donkey vote ie Johnson 1 then in order would give the Nats a boost you might not otherwise expect.

    1. I understand Johnson preferenced the Greens but I have no idea what his level of how-to-vote handout (if any) was. Probably the preference flow would rely on associations from him having been a Greens councillor for several years.

      Not sure how much of an issue semi-donkey voting is in OPV. When a voter can just stop at 1, why bother? (Top of the ticket is still an advantage though; at least it is in first past the post elections.)

  2. Wow, you were so conservative on this one. It seems to have been declared since election night. An extraordinary result. Not as exciting as Prahran but almost. Any seat removed from the 'the old parties' is a great result.

  3. Not sure any seat has been formally declared as such yet. However this is one of the seats where the distribution of preferences was done today. Yes a certain online projection system called Ballina a safe Green gain more or less continually from the night, but the same system called Lismore a safe Green gain at various stages of the night and not only thus definitively called it for the wrong winner but had the margin wrong by over 5%. I prefer not to say I'm sure about things when I'm not. That said, the Green preference performance here was just slightly above what I expected.