Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite Is A Terrible Idea

At its National Conference on the weekend, the Australian Labor Party appears to have resolved its internal differences over whether to have a conscience vote on same sex marriage.  The solution pleased nobody, but from a purely political standpoint it makes some sense.  The few reactionary MPs remaining in the ALP have a few years left to either get used to the party's decision or leave, and this should avert the disruption that might have been caused by a very small number of MPs crossing the floor had a binding vote been held now.

In my view that disruption was an overstated risk anyway (the number willing to be kicked out of the party for it would have been quite small) but Labor now has a position members should be able to unite behind and which promises that regressive opposition to a no-brainer reform will be phased out of the party.  It's craven that the party is putting up with the attitudes of Joe de Bruyn and co for four minutes let alone four years, but the unhappiness he demonstrated when the measure was passed said it all.  Time will soon be up for the ALP's dwindling anti-SSM brigade.

The Labor resolution also means that Labor can continue for a few years to tell the Coalition that it has a conscience vote and the Coalition should allow one too.  That aspect of the weekend's outcome has ramped up pressure on the Coalition to resolve the issue.  Unfortunately, it's been widely reported that there is pressure within the Coalition to "resolve" it by agreeing to hold a plebiscite within the next parliamentary term, and on this basis to avoid a vote in the Parliament.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Poll Roundup: Chopper Plus TURC Equals Zero

2PP Aggregate 52.4 to ALP (+0.5 in a week, -0.1 since two weeks ago)
Labor would very probably win election "held now" with small majority

This fortnight's polling has reflected a mixed news cycle for the major parties.  The first half was dominated by Bill Shorten's mildly embarrassing appearance at the Royal Commission into trade unions, and a leak of internal ALP discussions about carbon pricing.  The second half was dominated by an expenses scandal involving speaker Bronwyn Bishop, initially covering her unnecessary helicopter trip to a golf course for a party event, and also extending into aspects of her overseas travel and other expenses.

None of these things are anywhere near as large movers of voting intention as some people might expect, but that doesn't mean they have no impact at all.  While the various moves in the polls over the last week might just have been random fluctuations, they are fully consistent with the Coalition having made small gains with Labor in the spotlight but then lost them all as the Bishop scandal extended to messy recriminations between Bishop and Joe Hockey.  Hockey's misfortune was to be the first frontbencher to say what the Coalition generally including PM Abbott are now admitting: that the Speaker's behaviour has hurt them.  Bishop's response of dredging up Hockey's past gaffes was a remarkably dumb case of shooting the messenger.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why Was A Press Release About Peter Slipper Deleted From The Liberal Party Website?

Advance Summary

1. This post examines claims that a 2012 press release about former Speaker Peter Slipper was deleted from the Liberal Party website "overnight" on the night of 17 July.

2. This post finds that all press releases from July 2010 to December 2012, not just those mentioning Peter Slipper, were recently deleted.

3. Google cache evidence suggests that while the mass deletion of press releases clearly occurred in the last 11 days, it probably predates the Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal.


A topic of discussion today on Twitter has been a claim that a press release about Peter Slipper was deleted.  This forms a minor part of the ongoing Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal, which in recent days has significantly deprived the government of the friendly media cycle they enjoyed when news was dominated by Bill Shorten's TURC appearance and a leak of internal Labor carbon pricing discussions.

The topic appears to have first arisen in this tweet by a sparsely active but well-established (ie it didn't just spring up overnight, and appears genuine) Twitter account:

Click here for link to original tweet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

If Ordering Dinner Was Like Senate Voting

Another instalment in the Senate reform debate is overdue, following a Richard Denniss op ed published by the Canberra Times a week ago.  I've been extremely busy with work recently and fortunately Ben Raue at the Tally Room has dealt with most aspects of the Denniss article.  (Anyone who hasn't done so already should read Ben's article before reading this one).  There is one main point I want to deal with at some length here, and that is the article's analogy about buying dinner.  I want to repair this analogy and explain what real-life decisions about something as simple as obtaining a takeaway meal would really be like if ordering dinner via a friend was as silly as our current Senate voting system.

In the process, I hope to demonstrate that the way we (and only we) select Senators is so utterly bizarre that if we tried to do anything else at all by such a method we would find it completely ridiculous.  Click the "Senate reform" tab at the bottom for more of my writings on the subject.  (I am sometimes accused of using sledgehammers to crack nuts, and this article is probably a prime example of that, but while unsound claims continue to be given media coverage I will continue doing so.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

ReachTEL: Liberals Narrowly Holding In Bass And Lyons

ReachTEL: Bass Liberal 51% 2PP (-3 since election) Lyons Liberal 53.2% 2PP (+2) (2PP estimates mine)

Analysis: Poll consistent with other polls showing small net swing to Labor in Tasmania, but not clearly sufficient for seat gains

The Examiner has commissioned a ReachTEL of the marginal Tasmanian federal seats of Bass (LIB, 4%) and Lyons (LIB, 1.2%) (see report here).  At this time the full data are not available online but they are present in the paper edition, albeit in a slightly garbled form.  The format of the polling is also unusual and requires some further discussion.  The poll has been reported as showing that Andrew Nikolic (Bass) and Eric Hutchinson (Lyons) would have been "comfortably returned" in an election held on Thursday.  My analysis agrees with the "returned" but disagrees about the "comfortably".

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Poll Roundup: Abbott, Shorten Racing To The Bottom

2PP Aggregate: 52.5 to Labor (+0.2 in a week, highest for ten weeks)
Labor would almost certainly win election "held now" with small to modest majority

This week has seen the debut of the new Galaxy-run Newspoll, a hybrid robopoll and online poll with a sample size of over 1600.  There's also been another Fairfax-Ipsos, the usual Essential and far too many dodgy skew-polls, so there's more than enough for another poll roundup.

Not much changed in as week in the media issues mix, with the government sinking further into the mire of internal confusion on both same-sex marriage and, of all things, Q+A.  The week has seen an open clash between frontbenchers Abetz and Pyne over Abetz's controversial same-sex marriage comments (for my own, entirely critical, view of which see here).  

Same-sex marriage is not an issue that normally drives voting intention, but it may be one that discourages people from changing their vote when they otherwise would have done so (for "Republicans" there read "Liberals" here in Harry Enten's take on the US situation)  . It's also one that can cause damaging public schisms on both sides of the chamber.  The PM's own tactics on the issue are mysterious - it seems he will at least go through the motions of opposing it, but opinions vary wildly as to whether he is doing his utmost to prevent it from passing, or trying to secretly engineer its passage.  Some within the Coalition are totally fuming about the latter possibility, but as Paula Matthewson points out, if it is true, what can they do?  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Abetz, Mushrooms And Shaky Same-Sex Marriage Polling

Advance Summary

1. Recent comments by Senator Eric Abetz opposing marriage equality should be taken in the context of Abetz's historic opposition to repealing "anti-gay" sex laws, and his use of much the same thin-end-of-the-wedge argument style then as now.

2. The anti-equality group Australian Marriage Forum is receiving substantial publicity but media have not examined whether this group has a formal membership structure or substantial membership.

3. Claims by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty that support for same-sex marriage drops when respondents are asked to support changing the Marriage Act ignore the likelihood that some respondents would support achieving it through distinct legislation.

4. Many other findings in the Ambrose Centre's study are unreliable because of the extent to which respondents have been primed through the emphasis on one side of the story.

5. The Ambrose Centre study does, however, reveal that most voters who oppose same-sex marriage would still do so even if it did not cause significant social change and even if studies showed there was no impact on the wellbeing of children.  

6. Australian Marriage Forum's own report on polling is awash with unsound conclusions, and the amount of priming involved in their question designs means that little of use can be drawn from it.


This very long and in places rambling article covers some dodgy polling by opponents of same-sex marriage, but also some dubious recent comments by fellow Tasmanians on the issue.  There's also an irrelevant diversion about mushrooms.  Feel very free to just read whatever bits of it, if any, interest you.    As stated before I completely support allowing federal same-sex marriage and regard the arguments against it as lacking even the slightest shred of merit.  This then will not read like an unbiased article, but when it comes to polling I am careful to criticise bad (and praise good) polling practice by both sides of any debate, whatever I think of the views of those involved.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Poll Roundup: Shorten's Struggles Aren't Shifting Votes

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to Labor (unchanged since end of last week)
Labor would probably win election "held now" with small majority

It's been another fortnight of sound and fury, dominated by speculation over Bill Shorten's leadership (amid worsening personal polls, unflattering reflections from The Killing Season, and concerns about aspects of his union background), still more anti-terror laws and another overheated culture war about some goose let loose on QandA.  Yet in this week's voting intention polls, very little has changed.

A ReachTEL late last week came out with a 52:48 to Labor headline, followed by a 53:47 by last-election preferences (53.5:46.5 respondent-allocated) from Morgan and a 53:47 from Essential.  The latter broke the run of seven consecutive 52s, as Essential finally caught a touch of the Green surge being seen by all other pollsters.  There was no Newspoll as the brand is in transition to operation by Galaxy.  (Meanwhile former Newspoll staff have started Omnipoll, which doesn't look like it will be doing regular voting intention polling, but which will continue many of Newspoll's other operations in an online format.)

After adjustments for the primaries and Morgan's house effect, I aggregated the ReachTEL as 48.2 to Coalition, the Morgan as 48 and Essential as 47.3, and the net impact is diddly-squat: a 0.1 point improvement for the Coalition on two weeks ago:

I should note that while the different aggregators have been pretty close together in recent weeks, PhantomTrend now has it at just 51.5, from which the "model's best guess" is an Abbott-Katter coalition. Mark The Ballot has 52.2 and I'll add in BludgerTrack when it's updated (update: it's 52.0, with a projection of 77 seats for Labor).  Labor's lead might look pretty solid but when translated into seat terms, it's a sliver.