Monday, February 29, 2016

Senate Reform: JSCEM Submission Take Two

I'm posting links here to my submissions to the warp-speed JSCEM inquiry into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendments Bill (see Senate Reform: It's Finally On! for more comments).  They are also available as a single document on the JSCEM page.

Main submission
Simulation - Half-Senate Elections
Simulation - Double Dissolutions (See correction further down to Vic 2007 double-dissolution simulation)

After spending a lot of time looking at the Bill over the past week my view remains that it is a massive improvement on the broken Senate voting system we currently have.  However it appears to have significant flaws in the treatment of below-the-line votes and these should be either justified or remedied.

What has become apparent in the brief time available for debate about the current Bill is that by encouraging voters to fill more squares above the line (a minimum of six instead of a minimum of one) the Bill makes deciding what to do with below-the-line votes more difficult than in the original JSCEM model.  The original JSCEM model allowed a voter to just vote 1 above the line, or to direct preferences above the line, and it was very safe to conclude (based on the Victorian model) that the rate of below-the-line voting in that system (with a minimum of six boxes) would have been low.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Poll Roundup: The Wobbles Just Got Worse

2PP Aggregate: 51.8 to Coalition (-1.1 in a week, -2.5 in five weeks)
Coalition would win election "held now" with substantially reduced majority

Just over a week ago I noted that the Coalition had an attack of the February wobbles, a common pattern of government polling tanking around this time in an election year.  A shock Newspoll result this week has seen this get a lot worse, as the Turnbull government looks rattled and tired and above all confused about its own tax reform steps, and for the first time in a long time, Bill Shorten has a spring in his step.  A robotic spring, true, but a spring nonetheless.  Government polling seems to be in freefall and no-one really knows where the bottom might be if it doesn't snap out of its tax funk sometime soon.  I've started a Not-A-Poll for anyone with a view on when or whether in this term Labor might get its nose in front.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Senate Reform: It's Finally On!

Today the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 (see explanatory memorandum) to Parliament.  This bill primarily reforms Senate voting to remove Group Ticket Voting and eliminate the broken preference-dealing system that led to many farcical outcomes at the 2013 election.  The defects of that system have been covered exhaustively on here before (click the "senate reform" tab) and I will not discuss them further here.  This article concerns the system in the new Bill, how it will work and whether it is any good.  I expect to update this article over coming days as news and comments come to hand.

The Bill was read in the parliament today and debate was immediately adjourned.  The Bill will now be scrutinised by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) with a reporting date of 2 March.  Possibly the JSCEM scrutiny will still result in minor changes.  After that it can be sent to the Senate, where barring anything unexpected it will pass with support from the Coalition, the Greens, Nick Xenophon and possibly others.  Labor's stance on the Bill is not clear at this stage.  The Australian Electoral Commission has said it will need three months to implement the changes, which in theory keeps a July double dissolution in play.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Senate Reform: It's Too Easy Being Breen

A quick one by my standards as I am away on fieldwork.   It's sad to report that the so-called "analysis" of Peter Breen and Graham Askey on the subject of the new proposal for Senate Reform has been picked up by The Age.  As many commenters on the Tally Room thread have noticed, the Breen/Askey forecast of a Coalition-dominated Senate is utter rubbish.  Breen is a serial errormaker with an obvious conflict of interest and absolutely should not be reported as if he was an expert in such analysis.  He has received a ludicrously cushy ride in this instance, and it's high time the media gullibility in lapping up this scaremongering guff up because it's an easy story came to a shuddering halt.

The so-called analysis (no copy of which I have yet been able to find) projects that in a double dissolution the Coalition would win seven seats in each of Queensland, NSW and WA, and that in each of these seats Labor would win four and the Greens one.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Poll Roundup: Return Of The February Wobbles

2PP Aggregate: 53.0 to Coalition (-0.3 this week, lowest since early November)
Coalition would comfortably win election "held now", but could lose some seats

Last week, the Coalition government under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to reshuffle its ministry.  This became necessary following the loss of Human Services minister Stuart Robert to concerns regarding an "unofficial" trip to China, the delayed resignation from the ministry of Mal Brough (under police investigation) and the announced retirements at the next election of Warren Truss and Andrew Robb.  While hardly the worst week a sitting government has endured, it's not something they'd want to repeat. The loss of three ministers to scandals since Mr Turnbull took over hardly helps create an image of post-coup stability, let alone the mirage of "good government".  Admittedly, none of them were major figures.  A second problem for the government has been a perception of planlessness in the conversation it started about tax reform.

The four polls in the last week have all suggested the government has come down a little from the cloud that it started the year on.  This week's Ipsos has only 52:48 to the Coalition, down from 56:44 in November.  ReachTEL has 54:46, down from 55:45 a few weeks ago; Morgan is down from 54 to 52.5 by last-election preferences, and Essential is stable at 51 but off marginally worse primaries.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Can Required Multiple Preferencing Solve The Senate Reform Mess?

Senate reform has been a major focus of this site since the farcical outcomes of the 2013 Senate election.  The massive gaming of the Senate system by preference-harvesting micro-parties resulted in candidates being elected from very low primary votes, in a candidate being elected because of confusion about party names, in one state's election having to be cancelled and rerun because of the loss of a relatively small number of votes, and countless other absurd things.  Nearly two and a half years after that election, and almost two years after the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters delivered a unanimous report in favour of an alternative, we were, until very recently, still to see any serious commitment to fixing the disaster from either major party.

The JSCEM proposal was to scrap group ticket voting and instead allow voters to distribute their own preferences above or below the line, although if they did so below the line a minimum of six numbers would be required.  Voters could continue to just vote 1 above the line, but if they did so then once all candidates from their chosen party were elected or excluded, their vote would exhaust from the count.  This is very similar to the system used in the NSW Upper House.

The JSCEM proposal has come under a number of attacks, claiming it would unfairly exclude minor parties (wrong), that it would advantage the Coalition (wrong and wrong again), that it would permanently stop "progressive" control of the Senate (wrong), that the existing system is sound (wrong and wrong) and so on.  Beyond the reality that there is no perfect solution, none of the attacks have had any merit at all, but there is still a lot of wariness of the JSCEM proposal, especially in Labor ranks.