Sunday, April 28, 2019

How To Make Best Use Of Your 2019 Senate Vote

This piece is written to provide advice on the best way voters can use their vote most effectively at this year's Senate election.  It's a new version of the article I wrote in 2016, that takes account of the experience of that election and since, including with Section 44.  Many regular readers of the site will already be aware of many of the points below.  I hope the main part of the post will also be useful, however, for those who want to know what advice to give less politically engaged (or more easily confused) voters.  I will vote below the line and number every square, and I'm sure many other readers will too (at least in the smaller states!), but not everyone is up for that.

Under the system introduced in 2016, voters determine where their preferences go - there is no longer any "group ticket voting" in which if you vote for one party, your preference also goes to another.  Voters have great flexibility - they can vote above the line (in which case they are asked to number at least six boxes) or below the line (in which case they are asked to number at least twelve).  Voters who vote below the line are no longer forced to number all the boxes.  

This freedom is fantastic, but it's still taking some getting used to, and most voters are not using their vote in the most effective way they could.  If you don't have time to use your vote effectively and just want to get out of the polling box as fast as you like, that's fine, that's up to you.  But not making the best use of your vote might end up helping a party you can't stand beat one you are merely disappointed by.  This guide tells you how to avoid that, if you want to.   

Here I give some answers to the sorts of questions people are asking or likely to ask about the system.  At the bottom there is a section on tactical voting for advanced players only.  The vast majority of readers should stop when they get to that point.

Should I vote above the line or below the line?

You should vote below the line if any of the following apply to you:

1. You wish to vote for a range of candidates across party lines, rather than just putting all the parties in order of preference.  You might be the sort of person who will really like some candidates from a given party and really dislike others (perhaps because of their positions on social issues), or you might want to preference candidates with a certain background, or who you know, whatever party they're running for.

2. You are happy to keep your vote within party lines, but you want to put the candidates for some parties you vote for in a different order to the order their party lists them in. For instance you like a party but think it should have put someone else on the top of its ticket or higher on its ticket.  Or you detest a particular candidate and strongly want to put them absolutely last, even if it means numbering three times as many boxes.  (Be aware that if the candidate you detest is #1 for a major party ticket in a state (as distinct from territory) that they are going to win anyway so putting them last may not make any difference compared to voting above the line and putting their party last.)  

3. You wish to vote for an ungrouped candidate (an independent or a sole candidate for a party, who does not have a party box above their name) or preference one or more ungrouped candidates higher than some other candidates or parties.  These candidates appear on the far right of the ballot paper, except in NT which doesn't have any, so NT voters can ignore this one.  Be aware that ungrouped candidates are usually completely uncompetitive as they cannot get above-the-line preferences, so if putting the ungrouped candidates ahead of a nasty party is your only reason for voting below the line, you may well be wasting your time.  (Except perhaps in Tasmania, where there is one ungrouped candidate who is quite prominent.)

If none of those apply, you'll probably find that voting above the line is easier.

If voting below the line, be extra careful with votes 1-6

If you vote below the line, you'll be asked to number 12 boxes and should ideally number more.  However, if voting below the line make really sure you have put one and only one candidate number 1, one and only one candidate number 2 (etc) up to 6.  If you omit any of the numbers 1-6 when voting below the line your vote won't count. (One Tasmanian voter last election numbered every box but skipped the number 6, so their vote was disallowed.) If you double any of the numbers 1-6 when voting below the line, your vote won't count.  If you make a mistake after number 6, however, your vote will still count up to the point where you made that mistake.  Remember, if you make a mistake while voting at a booth, you can ask for another ballot paper.  (Also, don't use zeros or negative numbers for candidates you dislike - this can cause your vote to not be counted.)

Be extra careful if you like to number a few boxes then number backwards from the bottom up.  It's very easy to skip a number then end up with two 5s.  If you like to do this sort of thing, best to practice at home first.

You might think this sounds simple.  It's amazing how many people still manage to stuff it up.

So I should just number 6 boxes above the line or 12 below?

You can, but I strongly encourage you to number more! Whether you are voting above the line or below the line, the more squares you number, the more powerful your vote becomes. 

If anybody - even an electoral official - tells you that voting for more than six above the line or more than twelve below will make your vote invalid, then that is wrong.  

I've numbered, say, 17 boxes and I don't like any of the other parties/candidates.  Should I stop now?

You certainly can, but it's more effective to keep going.  One of the most important messages in the system is that while you can stop when you run out of parties that you like, this may result in a candidate you strongly dislike beating a candidate who you think is the lesser evil.  Just voting for the parties you like and then stopping is not making the best use of your vote.

A lot of voters - especially a lot of idealistic left-wing voters - are a bit silly about this and worry that if they preference a party they dislike they may help it win.  Well yes, but your preference can only ever reach that party if the only other parties left in the contest are the ones you have preferenced behind it or not at all! If that's the case then someone from that list is going to win a seat, whether you decide to help the lesser evils beat the greater evils or not. 

To make best use of your vote, you should only stop when one of the following happens:

1. You could not care less which of the remaining candidates wins (assuming that at least one is elected).
2. You so strongly dislike all the remaining candidates that you feel morally opposed to even helping them beat each other.  Be aware that this could help the worst of them beat one who, while still terrible from your perspective, is not the worst.
3. Although you actually dislike one of the remaining parties less than one or more of the others, you want to exhaust your vote in protest to encourage that party to listen to your concerns.  (To make your point effectively, I suggest you send that party a letter after the election telling them you did this, since they won't be able to work it out from your vote.)

Of course, some voters just "don't have the time" to number more than a few squares, or reckon it's not worth the effort for the sake of one vote.  It's up to you whether voting effectively is a real priority for you or not.  I'm just suggesting what you should do if it is.

I want to vote above the line for Party X but they've done a preference deal with Party Y and I don't want my preferences to go to Party Y, at least not ahead of Party Z.

They won't.  Your preferences above the line can only go to Party Y if you choose to preference Party Y yourself.  You can vote for party X then direct preferences to whatever other parties in whatever order you like.  If you put party Y well down on the list, then your preference can only help Party Y beat any parties you have ranked even lower down or anyone you have left blank (this includes the ungrouped candidates).  Any preference deals your party has done, or any preferences they give on their how-to-vote card, have no impact on your vote unless you follow that card yourself.  

I want to vote below the line for a candidate, and I want to put a certain party last, but I don't want to number 100 boxes.  Is there a shortcut?

In the previous edition I said there was: bear in mind that the great majority of minor party tickets have no chance at all of getting more than one seat in any given state.  So there is no need for you to send your preferences to all the candidates for every micro-party, just the lead candidate will do.  Make sure you still preference up to the top four candidates from the bigger parties if doing this though (except the party you are putting last) and just to be on the safe side you might want to include second candidates for the Greens, One Nation, Centre Alliance, UAP and other minor parties that might somehow manage a quota.

However, that was before Section 44 started to bite.  The small risk you do take if you leave out the minor candidates is that if a candidate for one of these parties wins, and if that candidate is then disqualified, your vote might be less effective in the special count to replace them.  So if you want to be sure of keeping your vote effective if there's a special count, then the best thing is to number all of the boxes.

Can I vote above and below the line?

There is not much point in voting both above and below the line. Under the old system voters sometimes voted both above and below the line so that if they made a mistake below the line their vote above the line would still be counted.  This still applies, but it's so much easier to just make sure you don't make a mistake in the first six numbers if you vote below the line.

Also (and this is one to watch for when telling confused elderly relatives how to vote!) do not cast a vote that crosses the line (eg a 1 above the line, then a 2 below, then a 3 below, a 4 above etc).  At best this will cause your vote to exhaust very quickly and at worst it will not count at all.

This is all confusing! I just want to do what my party wants!

That's up to you.  If your party is popular and you are voting at a booth, your party will probably hand out how-to-vote cards that tell you how they suggest you vote in the Senate.  If you are voting for a little-known party, you may need to check their website to see what they recommend (if anything). 

Be aware that it is possible your party will deal with parties you do not agree with and hence recommend you vote for someone who you would not actually like.  

The big drawback with following a how to vote card is that your party wants to keep the message simple and hence will probably only recommend six boxes above the line.  But such a vote is more likely to exhaust (or at least to have part of its value exhaust.)  If you're voting for a major party, your party will probably leave both the other major party and One Nation off its card.  If you want to preference the other major party ahead of One Nation, then you will have to keep going and number at least one more box than your party recommends.

I've heard that I can just vote 1 above the line and stop and my vote will still be counted!

That's true, but only to a degree.  If you do this (disobeying the official instructions) then your vote will only count for the party you've voted for.  Once all that party's candidates are elected or excluded, your vote will exhaust and will play no further role in the election.  It might make sense to vote this way (despite what the instructions say) if you only like one party and couldn't care less about any of the others, but really if that's your view you should learn more about the different parties.  You will almost certainly find some of them appeal to you more than others.

I've heard that I can just vote 1 below the line and stop and my vote will still be counted!

That's not true.  Such a vote would be informal.  If you vote below the line you need at least the numbers 1 to 6, once and once only each, for your vote to be counted at all.  It is better to follow the instructions and vote for at least 12.

This party I've never heard of has a cool-sounding name.  Should I vote for it or preference it?

That's up to you, but again I suggest being cautious about parties you don't know much about.  Their name may misrepresent what they are really on about, or some of their candidates may go off on a completely different track if they're elected.

If you don't have time to research parties before voting, then the best place to put parties you've never heard of is probably somewhere between the ones you moderately dislike and the ones you really cannot stand.  If you don't dislike any parties, best to put the ones you've never heard of at the end.

Do you have a video on this?

I don't, but the Vic-Tas branch of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia do (from last election).  I'm not associated with them, and I don't agree with all of it (they're very anti-above-the-line, but under the new system above-the-line voters have a greatly increased amount of control over their preferences, even if slightly less than below-the-line voters).  But on the whole it's OK and does at least explain why people should keep filling in boxes, and not just stop when they reach the minimum.

Are there tools to help planning my vote, especially below the line?

Depending on where you live, there may be a lot of parties on the Senate ballot, as a large number of micro-parties with no chance of winning are still running anyway.  (The number of party groups has come down a bit from last time though.)  If you want to vote below the line and go more or less all the way, you may want to prepare your ballot beforehand so you have something to take to the booth and copy.

A few sites that may help you to vote below the line (if you want to) are likely to emerge and I will list them here as I become aware of them and they appear to be up to speed:

Senate voting card creator
geekLections - allows for both ATL and BTL but big caution - this site's default ordering uses a VoteCompass classification that gives some strange results (eg placing the completely wacko Citizens Electoral Council at the political centre - only use this site if you know enough about the parties to reorder those you may not like appropriately.)

Also if you want to vote above the line (site also includes subjective party reviews that I may or may not endorse but are often funny anyway)

That concludes the simple questions (but feel free to ask me more in comments; you may want to check the comments last time to see if your question was already covered).  On to the tricky, slightly naughty bit!  The bit below the line is rated Wonk Factor 3/5 and is mainly for serious election and voting system junkies.


Tactical Voting

Strong disclaimer: If you have read this section and are not sure that you completely understand it, please ignore it and pretend you never read it.

Most voting systems are prone to tactical voting of some kind; indeed, in some it's necessary.  Under the first-past-the-post system in the UK it is often necessary for voters to vote tactically for their second or third preference party to ensure their vote isn't "wasted".  In the Wentworth by-election, many left-wing voters voted 1 for Kerryn Phelps because she was more capable of winning from second than Labor was.  Our preferential systems are much fairer than first-past-the-post, of course, but there are still ways of voting that can waste part of your vote's value, and ways to get around that if you want.

In this case I am not arguing that voters should vote tactically - I'm just explaining how they can do it if they want to.  The ethical decision involved (since voting tactically effectively reduces the value of other voters' votes) is up to them.

Here is a good example.  A voter really likes two candidates.  One is on top of a major party ticket, the other is in a lowly position and considered in danger of not winning.  They slightly prefer the first candidate, but might it actually be worth voting 1 for the second and 2 for the first instead?

Generally, the answer is yes, but only if not everyone does it, since if everyone did it then the first candidate wouldn't be so safe anymore.  However, it's a fact that not everyone will do it, and you can rely on the party vote being high enough at this election that top-of-the-ticket major party candidates in states will definitely win.

The one principle of tactical voting I recommend to those who really want to do it is do not vote 1 for any candidate who you know or suspect will get elected more or less straightaway.  Generally a strategic voter would therefore avoid a 1 vote for the first two major party candidates in a state, or in the ACT at this election for ALP #1.  Voting below the line and starting at the bottom of your preferred party ticket - if you're a major party voter - is a common trick.  But another one is to vote 1 for the second candidate (just to be really safe) of an agreeable micro-party which has no chance of winning at all, and then number the rest of the squares as you would normally. (The possible downside of this method is that your originally preferred party misses out on a few dollars of public funding.  For people who think no parties should be funded, that's a benefit.)

You can also do this above-the-line if you want to, under the new system.  Instead of voting 1 for any party that will poll more than 14.3% of the primary vote, you can deliberately give your 1 vote to a micro-party with absolutely no hope of winning and your second preference to your preferred party (then continue numbering parties in order).    Your vote will flow at full value to the candidate from your party who is most likely to be fighting for the final seat.  However, this does get a bit risky, because if too many people do it and select the same obviously hopeless micro-party, that micro-party might someday actually win!

Here's the mechanics behind all this.  If you vote 1 for someone who is going to be elected right off the bat, you are giving them a vote they do not need.  A portion of your vote is in effect left behind with them when their surplus is passed on, and your ballot paper in effect carries on to other candidates at a reduced value.  (In some cases its value may be reduced to zero, through "loss due to fractions".)  However, your vote also slightly increases the total passed-on value of all your chosen candidate's other votes.  Effectively, 1 vote is still passed on, but instead of it being your vote at full value, it's a mishmash of your vote and bits of the vote of everyone else who voted for the same person.

This can make a big difference if you're voting across party lines.  In some cases, voting 1 for a very popular candidate and then 2 for someone from a different party could actually harm the candidate you put second! (Note: don't do this deliberately to try to harm an opposing candidate, since you can harm them more then by just voting as you normally would.)

Advanced players may like to engage in a form of "preference-running" in which they try to strategise their vote so that it never gets caught with anyone who is elected until right at the end, and stays in the hunt at full value.  It is actually really hard to pull this off, because multi-seat elections are so unpredictable.  It often involves making difficult decisions about whether you would rather be sure of your vote reaching a favoured candidate, or take some risk of it not doing so to greatly increase the chance of another candidate you like.  This sort of thing is so easy to misunderstand that I am not going to publicly give any advice on how to do it. Please don't ask.

Those interested in some real examples of the principle I recommend should see this old Tasmanian Times article (wonk factor 4/5).  That article covers the Hare-Clark system as used in Tasmanian state elections.  There is a slight difference with the Senate system in that in the Senate, if your vote reaches someone who is elected with a quota at a later count, part of the value of your vote will be passed on (though often not very much).

There is also one specific 2019 case where tactical voting may be a good idea that I should mention, as it's a good example of how voters might use tactical voting to rescue their party from a tactically daft preselection.  If you are a Tasmanian Labor voter but don't mind which Senators represent your party, you will increase your party's chances of winning three seats by voting 1 for Lisa Singh below the line, followed by the other Labor candidates in whatever order you wish.  Why?  Because if Lisa Singh is excluded, her below the line votes will "leak" a lot to other parties, and this could be catastrophic for Labor's chances of three seats.  On the other hand, if Singh takes over as Labor's effective number 3, her below the line votes will stay with the party and have no opportunity to leak.  Therefore, voting 1 for Singh below the line is Labor's best chance of winning three seats (unless the number of voters doing so more than doubles from last time, which seems highly unlikely.)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tasmania Senate 2019: Prospects and Guide

Likely 2 Liberal 2 Labor 1 Green + last seat depending on Lambie's performance
If Lambie vote falters then Labor, Liberal, perhaps someone else could win the final seat

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If you find my coverage useful please consider donating to support the large amount of time I spend working on this site.  Donations can be made by the Paypal button in the sidebar or email me via the address in my profile for my account details.  Please only donate if you are sure you can afford to do so.

Tasmania's list of Senate candidates has been released. There are 44 candidates in 16 groups including 4 ungrouped (two of them party candidates), a gratifying decline from the 58 in 21 groups plus ungrouped last time (see my 2016 guide).  Looks like some people are finally getting the message that the new Senate system does not reward parties that cannot get even 1% of the vote!

This piece gives some basic information and views about the parties and lead candidates, and some general background to the contest.  The party candidate section, in places, represents my own opinions of the candidates and parties.  There are always a few obnoxious candidates on the Tasmanian ballot and I have no hesitation in warning voters about these people.  There are also some parties that may not be what they seem.   More content will be added in as time permits, so it may be worth checking back before voting to see if I've added any more details about candidates.

For advice about how to vote in the Senate for now see How To Make Best Use Of Your 2019 Senate Vote  I will be listing how-to-vote cards for the Tasmanian parties, but I strongly recommend ignoring all Senate how-to-vote cards since following any Senate how-to-vote card that doesn't number all boxes will weaken the potential power of your vote.

Two previous articles I have written include background on the Tasmanian Senate race and prospects.  These are Tasmanian Senate Major Party Preselections, which covers the Lisa Singh situation and her prospects in detail, and What Are The Prospects Of A Labor-Green Senate Majority?


Tasmania currently has five Labor, four Liberal, one National and two Greens Senators.  At the 2016 election Jacqui Lambie was elected at the head of the Jacqui Lambie Network ticket, but she was subsequently found to have been ineligible.  Her #2 Steven Martin sat as an independent initially and then joined the Nationals, who have not had a significant presence in the state in recent decades.

Labor Senators Anne Urquhart and Helen Polley, Liberals Eric Abetz, Jonathan Duniam and Wendy Askew and Green Peter Whish-Wilson are not up at this election and will face the voters (if they recontest) in 2022.  The Liberal result at the last election was worse than Labor's, but in one of the daftest decisions in the history of the Senate, the order-of-election method was applied to reallocate term lengths after Lambie was disqualified.  Because of a chunk of Labor's primary vote going to Lisa Singh, the Liberals won three long-term seats to Labor's two by the order-of-election method, although Labor outperformed the Liberals on both primary vote and preference share.

Having somehow voted for this stupidity, Labor now has to defend three seats (Carol Brown, Catryna Bilyk, Lisa Singh) while the Liberals are defending only one (Richard Colbeck).  Also facing the people are Nick McKim (Greens), after a very-near-death experience at the hands of One Nation as the Greens' #2 last time, and Martin (Nationals).

The following would have been the results of recent Senate elections in Tasmania had they been half-Senate elections under the current system:

2001 and 2004: 3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green
2007 and 2010: 3 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Green
2013: 3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green (actual result was 2 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green, 1 PUP)
2016: 2 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Jacqui Lambie Network

The 2019 preselection for the Labor Party has again seen Lisa Singh dumped to the fourth position, as also happened in 2016 (when it became sixth when the election became a double dissolution).  In 2016 Singh famously won from sixth by polling such a high primary in below the line votes (6.12%) that she was able to be elected on below the line votes and preferences alone, while ALP #5 candidate John Short missed out.  Similarly demoted Liberal Richard Colbeck also polled a high BTL vote (3.97%) but lost, and got back to the Senate only after Section 44 disposed of Stephen Parry.


A good baseline for the party situation between the more obvious contenders is to look at where Labor, the Liberals, the Greens and JLN would have stood in 2016 with all other parties excluded from the race.   After the first two quotas for each major party, the Greens would have had 13.2%, Jacqui Lambie 13.1%, Labor 8.7%, Liberal 6.1%.

For either major party to win a third seat, they need to (at minimum) overtake either the Greens or Lambie, and stay ahead of whoever they have overtaken after preferences (eg if the Liberals are excluded first, their preferences help Lambie). 

The Greens have been struggling in the state recently, including a poor performance at the state election, but that was probably a result of state factors (temporary competition from state Labor's poker machine policy).  They have been making a big effort to highlight McKim who at present is by far the most prominent Senate candidate in corflute terms. The main scenario in which the Greens could lose involves being overtaken by Labor, with Lambie's vote also high enough to stay ahead of them.  However, I don't think this is likely; I doubt Labor will get the swing relative to the Greens needed to take their spot.  The other possible threat I can see would be a Craig Garland breakout into statewide substantial support, but I don't think this is likely to do enough damage to matter.

Lambie's position is weaker.  After winning easily in 2016 she has had a reduced spotlight since losing her seat to Section 44, and there was also a poor JLN state campaign in which she wasn't a candidate.  Lambie has been working the state hard, but in the meantime the sort of vote Lambie competes for - the populist non-major-party vote - has become incredibly crowded in Tasmania.  In 2016 One Nation was really the only contender for that vote, but at this election as well as One Nation there is the resurgence of the very well-funded UAP, there is Martin as a Nationals Senator, there is Steve Mav, and even Craig Garland (albeit further from the left) will compete for Lambie's vote if he gets going.  This increased competition could damage Lambie's primary vote, and because of semi-optional preferential voting, the lost votes won't necessarily come back as preferences.

If Lambie's vote isn't damaged, it could be a boring postcount, with Lambie and the Greens too far ahead of the majors for swings between them to alter the outcome.  But if Lambie's vote weakens dropping her into the reach of the majors then either major could beat her.  On paper, more likely Labor, but perhaps there would be a swing back to the Liberals because they have learned from their preselection mistakes in 2016 and picked a more diverse and moderate ticket while Labor haven't learned anything from the backlash caused by demoting Singh.

A further important issue is what size of below-the-line vote Singh gets.  Despite the lack of an obvious groundswell (at this stage) matching the 2016 "Save Lisa" campaign, it's still possible Singh could poll a similar vote to last time, in which case she could become the effective #3 Labor candidate.  But this is dicey - if Labor does really well, then Singh would need to increase her below-the-line vote to knock out John Short, but the better Labor does the harder that becomes.  Until he is knocked out, Short will continue accumulating preferences faster than Singh because all the above-the-lines will flow to him.

If Singh is knocked out, this could become a disaster for Labor in an otherwise competitive situation as her below-the-line vote will leak massively to other parties, especially the Greens.  (This was also covered in the major party preselection article.)  It will be interesting to see if any awareness can be built that Labor's preselection order (via a member/delegate ballot) is potentially a blunder and that Labor will be best placed to win three if an increased number of its voters vote below the line for Singh.

Could anyone different come into the mix?  The main way this could happen is if the various new (or reinvigorated) non-major contestants manage to between them trash Lambie's vote and also take some votes from Labor and the Coalition.  In this case it becomes possible - but not easy - for someone else (provided that they have a box above the line!) to win off even 5-6%.   Forces that might be capable of this include the Nationals (their campaign started poorly with internal dissent and widespread criticism over preferencing One Nation, but they have been given a freebie with the Liberals' implosion in Lyons), the UAP and Craig Garland.  I am unsure whether Garland will poll significantly, but he is something of an X-factor candidate based on his Braddon campaign, authentic reputation and likely media and social media interest.

 Lower House polling provides a poor guide to prospects for minor parties here as in 2016 the Recreational Fishers Party polled well (both in polls and the election) for the House of Reps but sank without trace in the Senate.  State-specific Senate polling, unless very well designed, is unlikely to be that informative, but I will mention any that I see.

Although One Nation were competitive with the Greens for the final seat in 2016, that was because it was a double dissolution (it was One Nation's first candidate against the Greens's second, so the Greens were coming off a handicap of 7.7% in that contest).  The Greens have been portraying the final seat as a contest between them and One Nation but this is almost certainly nonsense. It will be much more difficult for One Nation to be competitive this time unless their vote lifts sharply.

Australia Institute Senate polling, based on which there has been some late speculation, seems to be overestimating One Nation compared to other pollsters, and in any case Tasmania is one of the party's weakest states.  The scenario painted by the Australia Institute, apparently off a far too small sample size, in which One Nation and Lambie both compete for the final two seats with the Coalition and the Greens (and not with Labor) is extremely implausible.

Parties and candidates: a subjective guide

Here is my guide to the parties running for this Senate election.  Mostly I include background on the lead candidate or competitive candidates only, but I will also mention any interesting/concerning minor candidates (especially since there's an argument that because of Section 44, even seemingly unelectable candidates are important). Parties are listed in ballot order.  Where opinions are offered, they are obviously purely mine, and if you don't like them feel free to go and write your own somewhere else, or contest them in comments. I may add more links later, but I will not add or change any material on request except to correct clear factual errors.

The Mercury has a guide to Senate candidates (may be paywalled).

The Australian Conservatives (if referring to this party on Twitter, please tag it as #CoryTories) is the thus far unsuccessful party formed by religious right-winger Cory Bernardi (SA) after his blatant ratting from the Liberal Party.  Family First subsequently merged into this party, and that will learn them and they won't do that again in a hurry.  Lead candidate Justin Stringer (ex-Palmer United) is a culture warrior much in the Bernardi vein (and similarly ridiculed on social media) while support candidate Nigel Frame was 2005 Tasmanian state chess champion.

Incumbent Senator Steve Martin head up the Nationals ticket in their first attempt for a while to establish a presence in the state.  Attempts in the last several decades have failed miserably, though the Country Party had representation in the state in the distant past.  Martin was once a campaigner on hospital issues who then became Mayor of Devonport, and survived a challenge to his eligibility for the Senate on that basis.  He was Jacqui Lambie's #2 in 2016 polling an unremarkable personal vote in his own right, but inherited the seat when Lambie was disqualified.  Martin has tried hard to get announceables for the state in his short time in office.

#3 on the grid is the Sustainable Australia Party, whose lead candidate is Todd Dudley, a well-known St Helens environmentalist.  This party's placement on the spectrum is controversial - in many respects it campaigns on environmental issues similarly to the Greens, but it also argues for immigration restrictions.  While it does so mainly on ostensibly environmental grounds, it can do so in a rather dog-whistly and alarmist manner, causing many on the left to regard it as xenophobic, and its operatives tend to become irate when challenged on this aspect.  I am unaware, however, of Dudley ever involving himself in the immigration side of SAP's position.  Dudley was also the party's lead candidate in 2016.

The Greens ticket is headed by incumbent Nick McKim.  Support candidates are Helen Hutchinson who has run for the Greens a few times before (most recently polling 818 votes in Lyons at the 2018 State election) and Simone Marsh.

The Liberal ticket has just three candidates, so if they somehow manage to poll over 43% then any surplus will flow directly to other parties.  Head of the ticket is Richard Colbeck, a former Minister and a Senator since 2002, except an interruption from 2016-8 when he briefly lost his seat after being kicked down the ticket in preselection.  Colbeck is considered a moderate.  #2 and more or less ensured of election is business analyst former Young Liberal state President Claire Chandler, while Hobart City alderman (council members can choose if they are "aldermen" or "councillors") Tanya Denison runs in the difficult but potentially winnable #3 spot.  Denison is a mining engineer and was the first first female CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation.  She was also the party's candidate for the seat then known as Denison (now Clark) in 2013, following which she won a Council seat by three votes in 2014 and retained it comfortably last year.

The Animal Justice ticket is headed by Karen Bevis, who gives her occupation as "project officer".  According to the AJP web page she has "a BA in Philosophy and Sociology, a Grad. Dip. in Human Nutrition, and experience in project work in the community sector." Bevis was also the lead candidate in 2016.  The AJP is somewhat trendy at the moment and just won a second NSW seat on merit and by voter choice, to go with the one it won undeservedly in Victoria by preference harvesting.  The party is philosophically radical and opposes practically all killing of animals, humane or not (including when for environmental control reasons) as well as the sale of pets "other than from shelters or rescuers".

The Citizens Electoral Council ... oh for goodness sake, Lyndon La Rouche is dead now, give it up! This veteran waste of ballot paper is a reliably low-scoring party that promotes many ridiculous conspiracy theories. Lead candidate Ray Williams was a Liberal state candidate in 2002, a Derwent Valley councillor and ran as an independent for the Legislative Council seat of Derwent in 2011.  At that election he pushed an anti-Green "traditional user" focus similar to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and came third with 16.3% in a field of five.

The Liberal Democrats ticket is again headed by Clinton Mead, the mayor of Campbelltown (NSW) and an interstate ring-in on the Tasmanian ballot.  Mead also headed the ticket in 2013 and 2016.  The LDP is a US-style ideological right-libertarian party that aims to support individual freedom in both social and economic areas but also in the ownership of dangerous guns. Its former Senator David Leyonhjelm did not much endear himself to Tasmanians with remarks suggesting that Port Arthur conspiracy theories deserved more investigation.

The Australian Labor Party ticket is headed by Carol Brown (Senator since 2005) and Catryna Bilyk (Senator since 2008), who will both be re-elected although their profiles are relatively low.  The action is further down the ticket where unionist John Short has again been preselected ahead of factionally unaligned Lisa Singh (Senator since 2011, previously a one-term state MP) whose positions on asylum seeker issues endear her to left-wing inner-city voters.  See above for comments on their prospects.  Labor has selected two further candidates, teacher Wayne Roberts (who stood in Braddon at the state election) and unionist Robert Flanagan, presumably with an eye to keeping their below the line votes formal.

The Pauline Hanson's One Nation ticket is headed by Matthew Stephen.  2016 candidate Kate McCulloch is running in NSW instead.  Stephen was a very controversial choice at the Longman by-election but it didn't seem to greatly harm his vote.  If you don't know what you get with this party by now you should have been paying attention, but what you get is xenophobia and chaos with a dash of 90s political nostalgia.  One Nation often pretends to have mainstreamed itself in comparison to its many offspring parties, but I don't recommend believing it.  Stephen alleges that "the Greens, Labor, Lambie and Garland with their crazy climate and death taxes" will ruin Tasmania's economy.

FRASER ANNING'S CONSERVATIVE NATIONALS (sheesh, those capitals are hard on the eyes) is fittingly close to One Nation on the ballot paper.  This party is the vehicle for extreme-right Queensland Senator Fraser Anning (a plug for my article about psephological aspects of Anning's career here), who was elected as Malcolm Roberts' replacement but immediately left One Nation before it could expel him.  Lead candidate Michael Jones believes Australia should get out of the UN.

The Jacqui Lambie Network is the eponymous vector for former Senator Jacqui Lambie.  Lambie was elected as a Palmer United Senator in 2013, but fell out with the party and left it to form her own.  She was again elected at the 2016 double-dissolution with a quota in her own right but lost her seat to Section 44 mid-term.  Lambie combines Labor-ish positions on economic, education and health with right-wing positions on Islam, national service, transgender rights and so on, thereby appealing to politically-incorrect working-class voters (mostly men).  She also has a background of advocacy for military veterans, herself being a former soldier who fought the military system over medical issues.  Lambie is brash, outspoken, often crude and gaffe-prone though her quality control has improved to some degree.  She recently appeared on some rubbish celebrity game show that I decline to publicise by naming.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition is what it says on the label, and we can safely assume it is the only party that will have online advertising that includes the word "lucripetous". Its lead candidate is Alfred Informal, a disability support worker, film-maker and scriptwriter.  He is not to be confused with his father Informal, a former state candidate and fellow hemp activist who was involved in a prolonged stoush with the AEC over his enrolment under the name Informal (which I believe ended with Informal senior off the electoral roll).  Informal junior had an early taste of public life in 2014 when he was suspended from college for a spray at then state Greens leader (now Senator) McKim over statistics regarding the proportion of scientists who support the consensus viewpoint on human-caused climate change.  It appears he still holds similar views. The Informals also walked from Launceston to Hobart in a respectable time of six days to highlight the lack of footpaths.  Another great Tasmanian political dynasty!

The United Australia Party is what a precusor to the modern Liberal Party used to say on the label. It is Clive Palmer's former Palmer United Party, which at first intended to reuse the UAP name but found it preoccupied by another party unrelated to either.  Lead candidate Kevin Morgan is a small business marketer and former Department of Premier and Cabinet advisor, who has run for the party at three previous elections. At this election the UAP is much better resourced than for PUP's token 2016 campaign, and it is bombarding Australia with loud yellow advertising, which is recording very modest bang-for-buck so far in polling.  UAP runs on economic nationalism (at this election with a lot of attacks on China), populist attacks on the major parties, and Trumpy (pun intended) slogans.

Group O is recreational fishermen Craig Garland and Mark Duncan, running together as grouped non-party candidates.  Garland ran in the Braddon state election in 2018 as a scruffy (yeah I can talk) independent, polling very well in some areas on virtually no budget and rather showing up the Greens.  At the 2018 Braddon by-election, Garland again contested and became a cult candidate polling over 10%. The Liberal Party picked a scrap with him, trying to damage him using an old conviction over a fight with off-duty police.  The scrap inflated Garland's vote and the flow of preferences to Labor killed any hope the Liberals had of winning the seat.  Garland first came to attention with concerns over the relocation of seals and other fisheries matters, but in general his policies on forestry and related matters resemble those of the Greens, causing the Liberals to treat him as Greener than the Greens themselves.  During this election campaign Garland has made joint appearances with Andrew Wilkie.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers are pro-gun, pro-hunting, pro-4WD, pro-fishing, pro-resource-industries and not surprisingly anti-Green.  The party holds upper house seats in three states and three Lower House seats in NSW, but it has not had any success yet in Tasmania.  Lead candidate is Rebecca Byfield, who has a journalism and marketing background and is currently a marketing student, and who recently launched an "education and advocacy resource" dealing with responsible hunting.  (I'm sure that the Animal Justice Party would say there is no such thing, but in 2016, 405 Tasmanian voters voted either 1 Shooters 2 AJP or the other way around!)  Byfield wants to see "an end to identity politics and a return to equality for all", whatever that is.

In the Ungrouped column, the most notable candidate is Steve Mav, a high-profile serial candidate (see past profile) in Tasmanian politics who has had a number of nearly-but-not-quite attempts to get into the Legislative Council.  (His only wins known to me were elections for Glenorchy City Council in 2000 and 2005.)  A Liberal state candidate in the distant past, Mav has more recently run as a populist-right independent who is anti-Green but doesn't consider himself closer to either major party.  However this Senate campaign has taken a much darker turn with calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty "for serious crimes like child rape", and even questions to his followers about support for public executions (as well as some other law and order stuff reminiscent of the Victorian Liberals' failed "African Gangs" campaign).  Mav has been a frequent presence by Tasmanian roadsides doing his sign-waving act, and has a large social media following.

Mav's instructions to his voters to number squares from 1-6 below the line have been attacked by some lefties as advocating an informal vote, but this is false; such a vote is valid under the savings provisions and Mav has been quite shrewd in picking that up.  However a huge problem for his tilt is that as an ungrouped candidate he cannot receive any above-the-line preferences, and therefore to win will have to get most of a quota in below-the-line votes and preferences (which is extremely unlikely.)

Other ungrouped candidates are Greg Beck (Australian Better Families, a men's rights group that alleges the Family Court system is stacked in favour of women and links this to male suicide), "master chef" Francis Flannery (independent, generally left-wing based on Votesmart responses) and Karen Street (Love Australia Or Leave, a loopy One Nation-like anti-immigration party).  These have the same preference-flow problems as Mav, and in general Ungrouped candidates were very unsuccessful in 2016.  Flannery has extra problems - despite saying no to a referendum to fix Section 44 on Votesmart, he only applied to renounce UK citizenship on April 9 and therefore appears to be ineligible.

How To Vote Cards

Here I will note the how-to-vote cards issued by parties in the Tasmanian race as I become aware of them.  How-to-vote cards are recommendations put out by parties only.  The vast majority of Tasmanian voters don't follow them, and I strongly recommend not following them.  They are noted here for interest only.

Liberal: Nationals, UAP, Australian Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Shooters
Labor: Garland, Greens, Animal Justice, Lambie, HEMP
Greens: Garland, Animal Justice, HEMP, Labor, Sustainable Australia

Australian Conservatives: (open)
Animal Justice: Green, Labor, Sustainable Australia, (5 and 6 open)
CEC: One Nation, Shooters, Lambie, UAP, Greens (will be interested to see if anybody follows this!)
FACN: Shooters, Conservatives, National, Liberal, Liberal Democrat (One Nation omitted, so no love lost between Anning and them!)
Group O (Garland/Duncan): Greens, Labor, AJP, Sustainable Australia, HEMP
HEMP: (open)
Lambie: (open) (see below)
Pauline Hanson's One Nation: LDP, Shooters, Sustainable Australia (!), Nationals, Conservatives
Sustainable Australia: (open)
Nationals: Liberal, One Nation, United Australia, Lib Dems, Conservatives
United Australia: Liberal, National, Conservatives, Labor, Lambie

Lambie's card is problematic.  It falsely states that a voter voting above the line must number at least 6 boxes or their vote won't be counted.  Voters are instructed to number at least 6 but in practice anything including a single 1 will count to some degree.  Lambie also asks BTL voters to number every box (a great idea in theory, but will be offputting to some voters.)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Poll Roundup And Seat Betting Watch: Ellis Impersonator Edition

2PP Aggregate 52.5 to Labor (unchanged)
On most recent polling Labor would win a majority if election held now, with around 83 seats.

There have not been many polls in this week of an Easter-fragmented campaign, and the one national poll that has come out hasn't changed the national picture all that much (except for One Nation).  Essential will be polling over Easter (more likely to work for an online than a phone pollster), Newspoll probably won't, and we'll have to see what else we might get.  It's been a scrappy start to the campaign with both major parties losing candidates from uncompetitive seats (after some dumpings foreshadowed tonight, the Coalition will have lost six!), and gaffes by both sides including some troubles for Bill Shorten on superannuation policy and climate change policy costs, while Scott Morrison can get away from any question he doesn't like by just declaring it to be "bubble stuff".  I don't know if anyone's paying attention to any of this at the moment out there in voter-land.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

NSW Legislative Council 2019: Button Press Day

Button press from 11 am Monday

Won off raw quotas: Coalition 7 ALP 6 Green 2 PHON 1 SFF 1
Coalition will win 8th seat

Labor 7, One Nation 2, CDP, LDP, AJP, KSO for final 3 seats

Labor very likely to win seat, One Nation likely but not so clear, CDP/LDP/AJP who knows, KSO remote chance only


The result will be added here once known.  The count is expected to take a gruelling 45 minutes to one hour.  See for updates and doubtless other #nswvotes sources.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tasmanian House Of Representatives Seats Guide (2019)

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This article gives a fairly detailed discussion of the five Tasmanian House of Representatives seats, which will be updated and edited as needed up til election day.

Two seats (Clark and Franklin) are generally not considered to be in play at this election.  Three (Bass, Braddon and Lyons) are Labor marginals that the Liberals won from Labor in 2013 and Labor won back in 2016.  These could change back again if the Liberals can pick up swings of 1.5 to 5.3%.  Current national polling as I start this article (12 April) points to about a 3% swing to Labor.  If it stays like that, then it is likely few if any Labor seats will fall to the Coalition nationwide.  But should the campaign close up, then Tasmanian seats may come into play.  On the other hand, in 2010 there was a large 2PP swing to Labor in Tasmania even against the backdrop of a national swing against the party.

The Liberal Party has so far shown a fair amount of interest in Tasmania, where it performed very poorly at both House and Senate levels in 2016, and was criticised for dumping Senator Richard Colbeck down the ticket and for preselecting only one woman.  At the moment I interpret the Tasmanian campaign largely as a strategy to force Labor to defend the seats, leaving it with less resources to deploy on trying to win Coalition seats elsewhere.  Optimistic noises are being made based on the Liberal victory in the state election, but Tasmanian voters are old hands when it comes to splitting state and federal voting, and state elections often produce lopsided vote shares as voters strive to avoid minority governments.   Last year in the space of a few months, Braddon voters voted 56.1% Liberal (primary) at the state election then only 39.3% at the federal  by-election.

An added point of interest in some Reps seats at this election is the return of the National Party to Tasmania.  The party has made various forays into the state but tends to get only a few percent of the vote each time.  My pet theory on this is that even rural areas of Tasmania are closer to and have more connections to Tasmania's cities than rural areas on the mainland.  There is not the same feeling of the bush being forgotten or disconnected from the city.  Polling so far has insignificant Nationals votes.  Also, the party has quickly shown signs of disunity, with Braddon candidate Sally Milbourne distancing herself from Senator Steve Martin's announcement of a Senate how-to-vote-card preference swap with One Nation.

A prominent debating point at this election is the status of funding promised by the Liberals to the northern electorates during the campaign.  As these funds are not budgeted they may be conditional on the overall federal election result.  Labor has yet to announce which of these promises it will honour if elected.  The Liberals have been goading Labor alleging that it is taking the state for granted and claiming this is a mistake.

Very little Tasmania-specific federal polling has been seen this term, though an EMRS statewide poll showing a small swing to Labor was seen in late 2018.  Bludger Track currently models Tasmanian seats off the federal swing only.  Tasmanian seat polling has a history of inaccuracy and skew even by the low standards of seat polling generally.  In 2013 ReachTEL polls were skewed to the Liberals by 4-5 points and in 2016 all five polls taken missed the Bass margin by at least five points.

For more details on seats and their history see also the Poll Bludger and Tally Room guides.

The extraordinary situation that has developed in Lyons has resulted in detailed coverage of the disendorsement and subsequent independent campaign of Jessica Whelan, so the Lyons section is somewhat longer than the others.

Note for candidates: as this page has to cover all five seats, the candidate profiles will be kept to a link (if I can find one) and one to a few lines except for (i) incumbents, (ii) Labor/Liberal candidates, (iii) any  candidate who I identify as a credible chance to win a seat based on polling or strong subjective evidence (iv) any candidate who I consider unusually notable.  

Candidates may contact me once only to request a change in the link (if any) that their name goes to.  No other changes will be considered except in cases of clear factual error. Length of main candidate profiles is influenced by the volume of available material/dirt. Ordering of other candidates is influenced by past election results for their parties in the seat.  


Bass (Labor, 5.4%)

Geography: North-eastern Tasmania, consisting mostly of urban Launceston and also the rural north-east with major centres including Scottsdale and Bridport.

History:  Bass is a revolving-door seat with a habit of dumping incumbents, having changed parties at seven of the last nine elections.  This all started when Liberal Warwick Smith lost the seat by 40 votes, ending a 17-year Liberal tenure, in 1993.  He then won it back in 1996 and lost it by 78 votes in 1998. Forestry issues played some role in the Liberal wins in 2004 and 2013 but primarily Bass is won and lost in the suburbs of Launceston, with the southern and eastern suburbs especially volatile in recent elections.  The failed Bell Bay pulp mill proposal caused a surge in the Green vote in 2007 but this has since gone away.  Bass was the only seat in Australia to record double-digit 2PP swings in both 2013 and 2016.  In 2016 Andrew Nikolic (Lib) was defeated after a single term, with the crushing loss (of a scale unforseen in polling) being generally attributed to health issues including the Launceston General Hospital and Labor's "Mediscare" and also to a GetUp! campaign which was strongly supported by left-wing locals displeased with Nikolic's abrasive style.

Incumbent: First term incumbent Ross Hart was a lawyer prior to politics, with a long involvement at Rae & Partners, of which he was a Director and Managing Partner prior to election.  Hart also had a number of community involvements (see bio) and was also a sporadic comment poster on this site! 
Following his victory over Nikolic, Hart has been a low profile MP on the national stage, with one very prominent exception: in a June 2018 interview with Tasmanian commercial radio host Brian Carlton, Hart very repeatedly declined invitations to back Bill Shorten's proposal at the time to reverse tax cuts for medium-sized businesses.  Shorten's "captain's call" was soon reversed but the incident, contributing to leadership speculation at the time,  blew over after Labor retained all its seats on Super Saturday.

Hart, a member of the Labor Left, has a "nice guy" persona in contrast to his precursor.  Liberals have been reported as considering him a weak incumbent who they think they may knock off, but any evidence for this belief beyond the Carlton interview is unknown.

Main challenger: The Liberal candidate is Bridget Archer, the incumbent Mayor of George Town, a working-class industrial town near the mouth of the Tamar River.  Archer was a candidate for the party at the 2018 state election, polling 1803 votes in an improbable quest for a fourth seat for the party.  (Archer was eliminated just shy of the Greens and Labor candidates but would have lost had she been just ahead of one anyway).  Archer, elected unopposed as Mayor in 2014, was re-elected Mayor later in 2018, but only just - beating off-council challenger Greg Kieser 51:49.  Archer probably received a lot of blowback for having become known as a Liberal in a Labor-voting town, and this result shouldn't be considered any reflection on her quality as a candidate.

Other candidates:

Tom Hall (Greens), medical doctor, specialist anaesthetist, minor 2018 state candidate polling 394 votes
Allan Roark (United Australia Party), corporate driver trainer, marketer, former motor racing driver
Carl Cooper (Nationals), rural pharmacist in Tasmania and NSW, expertise in sports doping
Susan Woodbury (Animal Justice), former animal welfare sector worker
Todd Lambert (IND), recreational fisher and anti-supertrawler campaigner, former President of now defunct Recreational Fishers Party

The ballot order in Bass is Greens, Labor, AJP, Liberal, Lambert, UAP, Nationals.

Polling (Voting Intention)

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 36 Liberal 43 Green 11. I calculate 2PP at 51.8% to Labor by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Liberal internal Media Reach poll (sample 545)  Primaries Liberal 39.01, Labor 38.84, National 1.97, Greens 4.23, UAP 4.46, PHON* 4.36, JLN* 5.40, Other 1.49, Don't Know 0.24.  Parties marked * are not known to be running. 2PP 50.40 to Liberal by respondent preferences.  The Green vote in this poll is too low to be credible and internal polling should be regarded extremely cautiously because of the potential for selective release.

3. Australian Forests Products Association uComms (sample 847) 54-46 to Liberal off primaries of Labor 32.6 Liberals 42.8 Greens 10.0 Christian Democrats 1.9 (not running), Nationals 1.2, "Palmer's [sic] United Party" 2.7 Other 2.5 Undecided 6.3. A breakdown of the Undecided was available but it unhelpfully added to 131.4%.  In any case clearly the flow of respondent preferences to Liberal here has been unnaturally strong; I get about 53-47 by national last-election preferences and about 52-48 by preferences from previous elections in this seat.  uComms uses ReachTEL's framework but is a distinct pollster (recently controversial).  An AFPA ReachTEL was very good at the Braddon by-election but the accuracy of uComms has not been much tested at elections yet.  The major party primaries (suggesting a swing of 8% against Labor and nothing against the Liberals) are a little surprising.

4. Newspoll released 13 May. 52-48 to Labor off primaries of  ALP 39 LIB 40  GRN 10  UAP 4 NAT 2 leaving 5% for Lambert and AJP.

Other polling:

1. Liberal internal TeleReach: Liberal figures claiming that Bill Shorten was unpopular in the seat (a net rating of -19 compared to +6 for Scott Morrison) were selectively released.  Seat polling is unreliable, internal polling especially so, and the cherrypicked nature of the result (released three weeks after it was taken) is more reason to treat this with caution.  Also, Opposition Leader approvals have little impact on federal voting intention.

2. Labor internal unknown pollster: Labor selectively released figures from an internal poll with a sample size exceeding 500 that claimed Ross Hart had a net personal rating of +18 to Bridget Archer's +10 (ie both pretty good).

3. Liberal polling on gender issues: The Liberals released poll results of a poll about "removing gender from birth certificates" but I decline to report the results as the question wording was bogus and the results therefore useless.  They also did this for Braddon and Lyons.

Assessment: Leaning Labor (I think) but tricky. Ignore the state election result in this seat (because Tasmanian voters generally do ignore federal results).  Also, ignore the 2016 margin given the contribution of the GetUp! campaign against Nikolic and the subsequent Liberal porkbarrelling attempts in the seat - the seat is probably closer than it looks on paper.  Nonetheless I am not at this stage aware of anything that quite explains the poor poll results for Labor, and would treat them with caution at this stage.

Over Easter, the Liberals moved into betting favouritism in this seat.  This may result from punters overreacting to seat polling (unaware of its dire record in this seat, this state and generally) or there may be more to it.  It is highly unlikely there would be a 9% swing to the Liberals in an election that currently is expected to see a swing to Labor federally.  It is even possible betting is being deliberately weaponised.

I do have concerns about Labor's strategy for Tasmania which included massive funding for MONA but relatively little commitment to the north.  Labor's support for an AFL team is being attacked by Liberals on parochial grounds, alleging that it would be based in Hobart.  Some are arguing that all Tasmanians now understand the MONA effect on tourism jobs but I am unsure if it is really true, and if anything could lose the seat it would be this.  On the other hand, health (which is a strong point for Labor) continues to be a big issue in this seat.

Braddon (Labor, 1.7%)

Geography: North-west and western Tasmania, including the small regional cities of Devonport and Burnie and the large town of Ulverstone, the rural north-west (Smithton, Wynyard) and the west coast mining and tourism towns (Queenstown, Zeehan, Strahan)

History: Decades ago the north-west was infamously socially conservative, but Braddon has changed greatly in the last 20 years.  Braddon was Liberal-held from 1975 to 1998 but has since become another swinging marginal seat, changing hands at five of the last seven general elections.  Since the last election, Labor won the 2018 Braddon by-election caused by Section 44 issues.  The by-election appeared to be very close but the Liberal Party blundered away whatever chance they had by targeting local independent Craig Garland, not only driving up Garland's primary vote but also taking their focus away from targeting Keay and Labor.

Incumbent: First term incumbent Justine Keay was previously an electorate officer and a local Devonport councillor, with a diverse education but also life experience typical of the electorate (see Braddon by-election preview).  Keay had to resign her council seat to contest the 2016 election (unncessarily as it turned out) but was rewarded when she defeated incumbent Brett Whiteley.  Keay's first term was most nationally prominent because of the Section 44 issues that forced her resignation to recontest her seat in the 2018 Braddon by-election.

Keay's style is that of a somewhat folksy fighter for locals and the disadvantaged, and polling in the Braddon leadup showed her to be reasonably popular in the electorate, with YouGov-Galaxy giving her a +11 net personal rating.

Liberal Candidate: The new Liberal candidate is Gavin Pearce.  Pearce is a local beef farmer and Vice-Chair of a local farming lobby group.  He is President of the Wynyard RSL and a "decorated soldier with 20 years of military service".   Pearce stood for preselection for the by-election but was overlooked in favour of Whiteley.  He has no other past electoral form known to me.

Other candidates:

Kate Spaulding (United Australia Party), accommodation operator, former agribusiness owner
Phill Parsons (Greens), horticulturalist, background in farming and environmental design
Sally Milbourne (Nationals), Devonport City Councillor, media producer, restaurateur
Graham Gallaher (One Nation), manager of Tarkine Forest Adventures (tourism business)
Craig Brakey (Independent), storage businessman, former McDonalds franchisee and bakery owner, unsuccessful Liberal preselection aspirant.  Has some significant local support and a sign for him on the fence of Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt's property has attracted interest.
Brett Smith (IND), fisherman, farm hand, campaigner against Lake Malbena tourism development
Shane Allen (Fraser Anning's Conservative Nationalists), fitter machinist

The ballot order is UAP, Brakey, FACN, Liberal, National, Green, Smith, Labor, PHON.  The field of nine is the most Braddon has ever had, and the second largest ever for a Tasmanian seat (Denison had ten in 2013).

Bruno Strangio (Australian People's Party) was reported as a declared candidate but this was a product of an extremely out of date APP website.

Polling (voting intention):

1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 38 Liberal 40 Green 8. I calculate 2PP at 52.5% to Labor by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Australian Forest Products Association ReachTEL April 29 51-49 Liberal off raw primaries of Lib 38.2, ALP 33.5, Green 6.3, UAP 5.3, Nat 3.5, ON 3.9, Other 4.8, "Undecided" 4.5 (who were leaning slightly to Keay). Brakey not named in readout.

Other polling:

1. Liberal internal TeleReach: Liberal figures claiming that Bill Shorten was unpopular in the seat (a net rating of -28 compared to +1 for Scott Morrison) were selectively released.  Seat polling is unreliable, internal polling especially so, and the cherrypicked nature of the result (released three weeks after it was taken) is more reason to treat this with caution.

Assessment: Appears close but leaning Labor in my view.  Firstly the margin has been reduced following the redistribution.  Secondly there is a case that Labor's result in the by-election was weak (especially by comparison to Longman), and could have been weaker without the Liberals picking fights with Garland (a Senate candidate this time around).  However, it is also possible the proximity of the state election affected that result.  Thirdly Labor is not being helped by the collapse of the always-modest Green vote in this electorate and may struggle for preferences.  On the other hand, there seems to be some disunity in conservative ranks with some prominent backing for Brakey, so the Liberals are not as well placed for a clear run at the seat as in Bass.

Betting has seen the seat move into Liberal favouritism on one site as of 1 May, but the size of the move seemed to be an overreaction to the seat poll.  A few days later it moved back.

Clark (Ind 17.8% vs Labor)

Geography: Western shore Hobart.  Includes two very different halves - the working-class Glenorchy half which is strongly pro-Labor), and the Hobart City half which has been one of the greenest areas in Australia (with small pockets of strong Liberal support).  At the 2018 state election Labor made major inroads against Green support in the Hobart City half.  This electorate was previously known as Denison but was renamed to honour Andrew Inglis Clark.

History: After winning the seat from the Liberals in 1987, Labor's Duncan Kerr held the seat for 23 years.  On his retirement Labor flubbed both the preselection and the campaign, resulting in independent Andrew Wilkie very narrowly winning the seat on preferences from third place.  Wilkie was re-elected by massive margins in 2013 and 2016 with the highest Independent primary in the country.

Incumbent: Andrew Wilkie is a former army officer and intelligence analyst who blew the whistle over the Howard government's support for invading Iraq. He ran for the Greens in Bennelong 2004 and Tasmania Senate 2007 then left said party, narrowly missing a seat in the Tasmanian House of Assembly as an independent in 2010.  Later that year he won Denison.

Wilkie initially supported the Gillard Labor government in the 2010-3 hung parliament but withdrew support after the government did not follow through on its agreements with him concerning poker-machine precommitment.  At the tail end of the current parliament, Wilkie was blessed with another hung parliament situation, and the flow of announceables for sports facilities, housing and so on has resulted in claims that the government has given him an open chequebook.

Wilkie is a generally left-wing independent with forthright, often black-and-white moral views on issues, and whose major issues have included the environment, asylum seekers and health services in Denison.  During this term he was also the first plaintiff in one of two failed legal challenges to the holding of the same-sex marriage "postal survey".  Polling in the 2016 leadup showed very strong personal ratings for Wilkie across the whole electorate, but no polling of his ratings has been seen by me since.

Labor Candidate: First-time Labor candidate Ben McGregor is a social worker and mental health clinician working in Hobart children's mental health services.  I am unaware of him having previous political form.  McGregor's run was announced back in September and Labor are arguing that they are going to win the election in majority so voters should elect someone who will be part of the new government.   He also has an excellent photo album of cats he has met while doorknocking.

Liberal Candidate: Amanda-Sue Markham is a nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital and postgraduate student.  She was the Liberal candidate for Franklin in 2016 and had a controversial campaign including coverage of her status as a nurse (she is now re-registered) and her anti-abortion views (for more controversies see my 2016 guide).  Markham, a former Christian Democrat, is a religious social conservative involved with the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church run by her husband Campbell Markham.  The Cornerstone Church has attracted frequent controversy over its strident anti-gay and anti-abortion blogging and street preaching, and incidents involving the latter in the Hobart mall.

In 2016 there was a 5.6% swing against the Liberals in Franklin with Markham as the state's sole female Liberal candidate.  This was not an especially large swing by the standards of the state, but the seat had had a muted swing away from Labor in 2013 when the Liberal candidate also struck trouble.  Markham as a candidate would have had some resonance in the bible-belt parts of Franklin. However her preselection for socially liberal Clark strongly suggests the Liberals are not taking the seat (in which they lost the 2PP 65-35 last time) even remotely seriously.

Other candidates:

Juniper Shaw (Greens): proprietor of the Grand Poobah alternative music venue*, previously cafe owner
Jim Starkey (United Australia): who claims to be great-grandson of former PM Joseph Lyons, founder of the original UAP.

Starkey is happy to consider the UAP as a revival of the original, but several descendents of historic UAP leaders have had a different view and also dispute Starkey's claim to be descended from Lyons. Anne Henderson (biographer of Lyons) has rejected the claim unequivocally.  As of 2018 Starkey was reported as living in Illawarra, NSW.

The ballot order in Clark is Wilkie, Labor, Liberal, Green, UAP.

(* Of which your host is now and then a patron.)


1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 39 Liberal 19 Green 15 Others 28. However this sample is useless not only because of the tiny sample size but more seriously because it failed to name Wilkie in the readout, and failing to name high-profile independents generally suppresses their polled vote.  (I estimated the 2CP at 51.7% to Wilkie off these numbers, for what it's worth, which you can safely assume is very little.)

Assessment: Wilkie retain.  It will be interesting to see if Labor can make significant inroads against Wilkie's support this time, but even if they were to manage a large primary vote swing (from a baseline of 44-23 in Wilkie's favour) they would not be able to do anything about the 70+% flows of Liberal and Green preferences to the incumbent.  On that front, Labor had increased success in Green strongholds at the state election, but (i) this was partly off the back of the state party's poker machines policy, since recanted (ii) Wilkie has already gutted federal Green support levels in these areas.   I have heard some good impressions of McGregor as a candidate, but this was also true of his predecessor Jane Austin.  Having often seen voters reject the strategic argument to "have someone in government" before, I think it is more likely the seat will be decided by voter impressions of the incumbent.

Franklin (Labor, 10.7%)

Geography: An oddly shaped electorate containing the eastern shore Hobart suburbs within the Clarence council area, and also the Kingston area, D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon Valley areas on the other side of the river.

History: Franklin has been won by Labor at every election since the 1993 retirement of Bruce Goodluck, who had held the seat for the Liberals since 1975 (often by force of personality or electorate work rather than by party identification).  Franklin attracts a high Greens vote, but not enough to threaten to win the seat.

Incumbent: Julie Collins is a four-term incumbent who served as a Minister in various portfolios (including Social Services) under both Gillard and Rudd in the 2010-13 parliament.  She is currently Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, having been Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Employment Services in the previous parliament.

ReachTEL polling in the 2016 leadup showed quite strong personal ratings for Collins but also a fairly high non-recognition rate, suggesting that her profile had been low in Opposition.  I am not aware of any more recent polling of her approval.  Aside from a tongue-tied press conference in 2010 (used by the Liberals in an attack ad in 2013) I am unaware of Collins receiving any distinctively negative publicity as an MP.  She has been blessed by having trouble-plagued Liberal opponents at the last two elections, but would have been re-elected at both anyway.

Liberal Candidate: The Liberal candidate is Dean Young, a newsagent and qualified accountant who also holds a diploma in law.  Young was a Liberal candidate for Clark (then Denison) at the 2018 state election polling 1260 votes, the lowest for a major party candidate in that seat.  (Young lives in Bellerive, in Franklin, but his business is in Glenorchy in Clark).

Other Candidates:

Kit Darko (Greens): activist (climate change etc), software developer
Darren Winter (United Australia Party): bakehouse owner, high-profile General Manager of Lauderdale Football Club and multi-premiership-winning (and sometimes controversial) local football coach
Darren Hawes (Fraser Anning's Conservative Nationals), electrical contractor

The ballot order is Green, Liberal, FACN, Labor, UAP.

Darko described himself as an "anarcho-#communist" as of January 31 this year on a now deleted Mastodon account of which I've retained screenshots, and also described the current Prime Minister as a "vile excuse for a human". However as of May 7 he denied being a communist or anarcho-communist.
Winter has received some adverse publicity over a nine-year-old Facebook post about parenting teenage girls, while the absence of any coverage of Darko's social media strongly suggests that Andrew Bolt is asleep.


1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 44 Liberal 33 Green 14.  I estimate 2PP at 60.6 to ALP by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

Assessment: Labor retain.  Zzzzzzz.  In Franklin the minor party candidates in Franklin are more entertaining than the majors, with the Liberals selecting a safer candidate after their misadventures with Bernadette "Hey there rockstar" Black and of course Markham.  However Young is no world-beater based on his Denison result and there is no reason to expect any significant decline in Labor's margin.

Lyons (Labor, 3.8%)

Geography: A mainly rural seat including the large regional town of New Norfolk, the fringes of Hobart and Launceston, and numerous small towns dotted across the centre and east of the state.  Lyons has a sharply north-south voting divide, with the northern part much more pro-Liberal.

History: Partly because of the difficulty of building name recognition in a seat with so many scattered communities, Lyons (formerly Wilmot) had only three incumbents (two Labor, one Liberal) between 1946 and 2013. Long-serving Labor MP Dick Adams was dislodged by the nation's largest swing caused by anger over the state's forestry "peace deal" in 2013 (having survived a similar scare in 2004) but his replacement Eric Hutchinson lasted only one term before Labor recovered the seat.

Incumbent:  A former journalist/editor and later media consultant, Brian Mitchell did not fit the mould of a typical winner of this rural seat at all, but he did at least have one or more appropriate hats.  Preselected two years in advance of the 2016 election, Mitchell worked the electorate and was rewarded when he dislodged Hutchinson with a 3.5% swing.  He is a member of Labor's Country Caucus.

Mitchell is a larrikin who unsurprisingly adapted well to parliamentary rough and tumble, being Labor's sixth most frequently suspended MP in this term.  In one instance he had to apologise after extending this behaviour to a journalist challenging Keay about her citizenship status.  (The audio is indistinct and Mitchell has denied that he used the word "maggot" as claimed by the ABC.)

While overshadowed by the disendorsement of his opponent, Mitchell's campaign has also hit some trouble with Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor Debbie Wisby reporting an acrimonious phone call from Mitchell's chief of staff over the issue of whether Labor would match funding the Liberals had promised.  Mitchell has apologised.  He was also targeted in one of the weakest dirt unit attempts of the campaign, which he laughed off.

Nationals Candidate (endorsed by Liberals): Following the disendorsement of Jessica Whelan (who will appear on the ballot papers as Liberal), the Liberal Party has now endorsed the Nationals' Deanna Hutchinson.  Hutchinson (see bio) is about as left-field a Nationals candidate as you could get, being a technologist and CEO of something called the Spatial Industries Business Association. I will be expanding this section with more comments about her when time permits.  I understand she is not related to Eric Hutchinson, Liberal MP for this seat 2013-6.

Hutchinson has no known previous political form - some prior local profile but generally apolitical.  She has said she is "conflicted on the coal issue".  Hutchinson is clearly a very intelligent candidate but is also not at all well known given her sudden prominence in the campaign.

Disendorsed Liberal Candidate (Appears as Liberal on ballot paper): The Liberal candidate is  was Jessica Whelan, who is now running as an independent after being disendorsed.  Whelan is a first-term Brighton councillor, having been elected 6th out of 9 candidates for her council in 2018.  Whelan is a former restaurant owner with a background in "aged care, HR, hospitality and more recently in property."

Whelan was the first female major party candidate ever formally nominated for Lyons.  Little is  was known to me of Whelan's politics although former Liberal candidate and later "independent liberal" MLC Tony Mulder has described her as moderate. It seems either that that was a long way wide of the mark, or that her views have recently changed greatly.  Whelan stated she is somewhere "in between" small-l Liberals and Christian conservatives in the party, and not religious herself.

On 16 April Whelan stated she supported an increase in the Newstart allowance. According to the Mercury's Emily Baker " She later clarified she’d learned about the energy bonus “which is great and addresses my concerns” ".  (Mitchell also supported increasing the Newstart allowance.)

Whelan Social Media Issues and Disendorsement

On 1 May Whelan was accused of making anti-Islamic posts on social media. The alleged posts included telling someone they "shouldn’t even be in Australia if you believe in ALLAH!" and some more extreme material (content warning, and Whelan has denied making the later post).  Following a flood of other alleged posts, Whelan either resigned or was disendorsed as Liberal candidate and from the party on May 3.

Prior to Whelan's resignation/disendorsement, I established that some posts by a "Jessica Whelan" about issues including the Royal Hobart Hospital and same-sex marriage were made from a Facebook account that has been deactivated or hidden.  Labor alleged that Whelan had a specific old account with the username "superhotchick" that was deactivated around the time she was preselected, and Whelan's own personal Facebook account only has posts dating from the start of the year.  More old alleged Whelan posts were soon published or claimed including one apparently showing Whelan expressing interest in running for One Nation, a range of further generic anti-Islamic material, and according to the Mercury a disparaging physical comment about the Tasmanian Speaker Sue Hickey.

Earlier in the campaign, 2016 ungrouped Senate candidate George Lane posted a video revealing Whelan had "liked" Fraser Anning's Facebook page.  I investigated this and found Whelan had "liked" a large number of pages across the political spectrum (mostly Liberal) and had even "liked" both sides of an opposing issue, the kunanyi/Mt Wellington cable car.  Lane's video also showed Whelan liking pages of Alan Jones, Cory Bernardi, Mark Latham etc.  It seemed at the time Whelan was just using "like" as a way to follow politics across the spectrum, albeit naively.

After a day of media hounding, Whelan resigned as Liberal candidate on 3 May.  While continuing to deny the worst post attributed to her, Whelan admitted to making "ill-advised and misinformed" comments on social media, and admitted to making "anti-Islamic" posts.  She has apologised for her past posts. The Liberal Party alleged that the most extreme post was digitally manipulated but have provided no evidence that this is so, while Whelan has claimed it was completely fake.  Whelan, after ceasing to be a Liberal candidate, explicitly stated she had "no evidence at this stage" of alteration.  However on the same afternoon, the Australian Federal Police announced that the matter had been referred to them and was being considered.

Despite all this, Whelan will still show on the ballot paper as the endorsed Liberal and could still in theory be elected and sit in parliament.  Pauline Hanson was elected in similar circumstances in 1996 after she continued campaigning.  Whelan has indicated she will serve if elected, and in the immediate wake of her disendorsement has been all over the place about whether she will campaign seriously or not.  On the night of the 3rd May she put up an "Independent for Lyons" Facebook page showing a photo of her Liberal for Lyons car, but this was quickly taken down though a (as far as I can see unauthorised) comment was instead up on her personal Facebook.  Whelan's campaign largely consists of media appearances and sporadic Facebook postings, with a request for how-to-vote card hand-out assistance.

Whelan states that she has "very strong opinions" on immigration numbers and border security.  It took some time for her to make anything much else known about what she stood for.  On 9 May she released a list of her most important issues numbered 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9.  Most of these were left-wing issues: cost of living including rent and homelessness, poverty, health care, traffic, the NDIS, "The Child Support System", phone and NBN services.  Despite this her partial how to vote preferenced the Greens second-last and Labor last.  However she later put out a different how-to-vote recommendation: Nationals, UAP, One Nation, Labor, Greens.

Following this Whelan posted an anti-foreign-aid meme showing Labor's Penny Wong and anti-UN conspiracy theory images.  Similar images have been posted on far-right Facebook pages such as Respect Australia Rally and are common in "Agenda 21" anti-globalist paranoia. On 11 May Whelan was found to have "liked" an post supporting Fraser Anning on the page of an obscure Fraser Anning supporter.  She denied that this amounted to an endorsement. Later that night her Facebook page disappeared, but it has since reappeared.

Whelan signs continue to be seen in large numbers and the Liberal Party has been tardy in removing them.  Preferencing shenanigans have also been evident with the Nationals' site how-to-vote card link for Hutchinson not working for several days, then being replaced with a Liberal how-to-vote card preferencing the UAP ahead of Whelan and Labor ahead of One Nation (this card also misspelled Hutchinson's surname), then reverting to the original Nationals card which preferences Whelan and One Nation ahead of UAP, then being removed again.

Other Candidates:

Gary Whisson (Greens), Lyons branch convenor, ecologist formerly working for WA Environmental Protection Authority
Mick Warne (United Australia Party), finance broker (Buyers Choice), previously in telecommunications
Tennille Murtagh (One Nation), Brighton councillor and local community worker (see profile here)

The ballot order is Nationals, Labor, Greens, PHON, (ex-)Liberal, UAP.


1. EMRS sub-200 vote sample Dec 2018 ALP 43 Liberal 32 Green 10.  I estimate 2PP at 60% to ALP by last-election preferences.  Samples of this size are extremely unreliable.

2. Internals prior to Whelan's disendorsement, Labor sources had stated they were ahead 54-46 two-party preferred, while Whelan had claimed (with no figures) that things were very close.  Internal poll results are frequently based on small-sample tracker polls and are often strategically released, making them highly unreliable.

3. "Coalition internal" post-disendorsement with sample size 503 and partial primaries released: Labor 38 Nat 19 Whelan 12 One Nation 11.  No primaries released for UAP or Greens.  Leaving aside the extreme unreliability of internal seat polling with such a tiny sample size anyway, the unsourced and presumably party-provided interpretation in the Mercury article was rubbish.  The numbers were spun as showing Hutchinson was in with a chance based on the claim "Assuming the results reflect reality and voters who cast a primary vote for conservative candidates preferenced the Nationals ahead of Labor, Ms Hutchinson and Mr Mitchell would be about even."  But this is a bogus assumption because One Nation preferences never flow that strongly.  Even if 90% of Whelan preferences and 70% of One Nation preferences flowed to National over Labor, Labor would still lead by 5 points off those, and that's ignoring the Green preferences which would come from the 20% not included.  So on these figures Labor would win easily.

Assessment: Highly likely Labor retain.  Prior to the disendorsement of Whelan I pointed out that Lyons has only been won once by the Liberals since 1993 and kicking incumbents out of it is hard work.  Whelan was only preselected in February with little existing profile and very little time to build it.  While I have seen no polling on his standing, journalists have told me Mitchell is considered popular in the seat, which may explain the Liberals' tardiness in finding an opponent.  The redistribution has also assisted Mitchell by increasing his margin.

Then there was the Whelan social media disaster (highly unusual in Tasmania).  The situation has obvious parallels with the disendorsement of Pauline Hanson in 1996 (following which Hanson won the seat of Oxley) but there are also significant differences.  Oxley was a safe seat that was taken for granted whereas Labor has already been campaigning hard in Lyons.  Hanson had a higher existing profile whereas Whelan has only been on a small council for six months and is politically inexperienced.  Right-wing populists do have some appeal in Lyons, but only so much  - it isn't Ipswich.

On the other hand, any appeal Whelan may have may be not only to the racists supporting her and who she is interacting with on social media, but also to some Labor voters who might agree with her Newstart comments; in this regard there is more similarity with Jacqui Lambie than Hanson.  And it is unclear how many Liberal voters will actually cross to voting Labor or preferencing Labor.

I am expecting a blowout in Labor's favour but the Whelan situation leaves a real vacuum in terms of where the Liberal vote will go.  If they don't vote for Whelan how much will they switch to the Nationals, whose candidate is even less well known?  This will be a very interesting primary vote count on the night.