Sunday, March 24, 2019

2019 New South Wales Postcount: Lismore

(Link to main postcount thread)

LISMORE (2015 margin Nat 2.9% vs Green 2CP, Nat 0.2% vs Country Labor 2PP)

Key questions:

1. Who will be second after preferences between Janelle Saffin (Country Labor) and Sue Higginson (Greens)

Outlook: Very likely to be Saffin and assumed to be so given that both Nats and Greens have conceded.

2. If Saffin is second after preferences, who wins between Saffin (Country Labor) and Austin Curtin (Nationals)?

Outlook: Saffin

3. If Higginson is second after preferences, who wins between Higginson (Green) and Curtin (Nationals)?

Outlook: Probably Curtin, but there are no direct data on this

Overall outlook: Saffin (Country Labor) strongly expected to win

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Updates will be added here scrolling to the top.

Thursday: Still quite a lot of absents and postals uncounted; the Nationals also conceded on Tuesday and I've been busy with work and the Upper House so not following closely.  There is no reason to think the Greens can get into second and hand the seat to the Nationals here but I don't claim absolute certainty that that cannot happen.  The consensus among the candidates is that it is over so I assume they have scrutineering data on the minor candidate preference flows.

Monday 8:50: The check count has started.  When it gets a bit more advanced I'll have a look for any major issues in it but none have been mentioned so far.

Monday 4:50: All the prepolls are now in and counted to 2CP except Murwullimbah which based off the primaries will make little difference.  Now Saffin's 2PP has dropped to 51.47%, but this will increase on absents and enrolment votes but may suffer on postals.  The ABC's projection has dropped to 51.1% to Saffin and we will have to keep an eye on the postals, but I cannot see Saffin losing the 2PP, though it might end up close than that.  On the Greens front, the margin is currently 602.

5:00 iVotes have been added.  They broke 556-406-417 (Nationals-Labor-Green) compared with 1066-610-682, so actually that's a weaker break for the Nationals compared to 2015 and doesn't help their projected position.  Saffin's 2PP has come down to 52.96% but this includes the large Lismore prepoll where Saffin got a 2.5% 2PP swing.  There is no sign of trouble for Labor on the 2PP front and it is looking more or less certain they will win if they make the final two - meaning the Nationals' main hope is they don't.  On that front too, Labor is now further ahead (1.39 points) though this is likely to come down on absents and enrolment votes.

11am Sunday Greens concede: Sue Higginson has posted the following on Facebook:

"We just missed out but it seems almost certain Janelle Saffin - of the Labor Party - is up as the first female and non-National (for many many years) to represent the Lismore Electorate in the NSW Parliament."

Conceding has no impact on the result and there have been cases of candidates mistakenly conceding elections but winning.  However this is a fair sign that they don't see anything that can turn it around for them.  On that history, Labor last held Lismore 1959-1965 after picking up the seat in a by-election after the original contest was voided.  It was also in independent hands 1982-1988 after Bruce Duncan quit the Country Party when it rebadged as the Nationals.

Intro: Background

The northern New South Wales seat of Lismore has served up another three-cornered cracker after being also the most interesting NSW seat in 2015.  (See my 2015 Lismore postcount thread).  To recap, in 2015 the Nationals' long-serving incumbent Thomas George polled 42.5% of primaries, the Greens' Adam Guise 26.4% and Labor's Isaac Smith 25.6%.  After preferences, Guise's lead over Smith expanded from 379 votes to 417 and Smith was eliminated.  George then defeated Smith comfortably with 52.86% of the two-candidate vote.

The sting in the tail was that the wrong candidate finished second in terms of prospects of unseating George, because had Smith been second it would have been a lot closer.  Often preference flows from Labor to the Greens and vice versa are more or less the same (sometimes Labor flows are slightly stronger because their voters follow how-to-vote cards a lot more) but for whatever reasons Lismore was a big exception.  The two-party vote between George and Smith was a mere 50.23%, just 192 votes in George's favour.

Roll on 2019 and George has retired after twenty years in the saddle, and as we all know, the loss of a long-serving regional MP spells trouble.  There was some thought that the waning of outrage over coal seam gas - a major cause of monster swings to the left that delivered Ballina and nearly Lismore in 2015 - might have subsided enough to return both seats to sender comfortably, but that hasn't been the case.

Intro: 2019

At present Austin Curtin has 39.5% of primaries, Country Labor's Janelle Saffin 25.66% and the Greens' Sue Higginson 24.68%.  There is 5.37% for an independent, Greg Bennett, and the tiddlers are Animal Justice 2.35%, Sustainable Australia 1.40% and the Australian Conservatives on a sterling 1.02%.  Saffin is a well-known name in the area, the former two-term Labor federal MP for Page 2007-2013.  After being defeated by the Nationals' Kevin Hogan in 2013, Saffin recontested in 2016, so her profile in the area is very high.

The votes counted to primary in Lismore include all the prepoll centres except Kyogle, The Kyogle prepoll returned 1322 formal votes in 2015 but there has been a 28% total increase in prepoll voting across the other major prepoll centres.  On this basis, about 1670 formal votes might be expected from this prepoll.  In 2015, Kyogle was about ten points better for the Nationals, 6 points worse for the Greens and 1 point worse for Labor than the division average.  Also still to come are absent votes, provisionals, iVotes, enrolment votes (where someone enrols on the day) and remaining postals.  In 2015, these categories excluding postals favoured the Greens by 267 votes (1509 to 1242).  Adjusted for Labor's slightly better primary vote performance relative to the Greens, they might be expected to do so by about 177 votes, but on the other hand Kyogle should help Labor by about 100 votes.  Labor is beating the Greens by about 10% on postals so far.  The sample of postals counted is small, but in 2015 Labor beat the Greens by 8%, so 10% is likely to be about right.  Labor might get another 140 votes here, although not if the postal count is down.

All up I do not see the Greens closing the primary vote gap significantly on the remaining primaries.  If anything things might get slightly worse.

The Labor vs National 2CP count is currently at 53.94% to Saffin, but this includes only the booth votes and some postals, and not the prepolls.  The ABC projects Saffin to win this 2CP count with 51.5% once all votes are in.  I have not looked at this in detail but see no serious reason to doubt that Saffin wins the 2CP.

The key question then is: can the Greens get into second after preferences from the minor candidates, thereby keeping their hopes alive but also giving the Nationals a leg up into probable victory if the 2015 preference flow difference repeats?

The only recontesting party that can be modelled directly off 2015 is Animal Justice.  In 2015 Animal Justice polled 1.5% and AJP votes (including a few from an earlier-excluded candidate) split 23.6% Green, 8.5% Labor, 7.0% Christian Democrat, 4.5% to National with 43.6% to exhaust.  The same gain rate in 2019 would see the Greens claw back 0.35% from their preferences, leaving them perhaps 0.7% shy depending on what happened with the postals.

Because of optional preferencing, the Animal Justice preferences flow much more weakly between Labor and Green than they do in a compulsory preferencing election (in Victoria the Greens gained at .45 votes/vote on AJP preferences in retaining Prahran).  Perhaps with a slightly higher AJP vote this time their vote will be a little less random and the gain rate might be .2 rather than .15 as in 2015, but on the other hand with a high-profile Labor candidate this might not be the case.  The Sustainable Australia preferences may also help the Greens slightly (this party had a .2 votes/vote gain rate for the Greens in Prahran) but even so it seems that the Animal Justice and Sustainable Australia preferences are not enough to put the Greens into second.

The wild card then is the 5.37% for the independent Greg Bennett.  Bennett, a macadamia farmer and local councillor, didn't recommend preferences for anyone on his how-to-vote card, but is a known supporter of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (in one case bringing a successful Press Council complaint after being incorrectly claimed to be a candidate for the party).  Bennett also claims to be a "common sense" candidate supporting "preserving our Christian traditions" - I think it's safe to assume the Greens won't be getting help here (if anything the reverse).  For this reason I am currently pessimistic about the Greens' chances of getting into second, and I think Saffin will win the seat.

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