Saturday, May 25, 2019

2019 Queensland Senate: Who Will Be Last When The Music Stops?

2019 Queensland Senate

Outgoing Senators: 2 LNP 2 ALP 1 Green, Fraser Anning

Seats won: 2 LNP (Paul Scarr, Susan Macdonald), 1 Labor (Nina Green)

Four-way fight for three seats with one to lose: Gerard Rennick (LNP), Chris Ketter (Labor), Malcolm Roberts (One Nation), Larissa Waters (Green)

Rennick and Roberts are overwhelmingly likely to win; Waters is most likely to win final seat
Final result won't be known for certain until the button is pressed

Warning - Senate races are complex! This article has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5.

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In the 2016 Senate count, a double dissolution and lack of knowledge about voter behaviour in the new Senate system meant that races in most states were up in the air until all the ballot papers had been entered and The Button pushed. 

With the increased quota, it is much harder for micro-parties to compete in 2019, and barring upsets not currently on my radar it looks like 2019 has delivered seven fizzers and a cracker.  The cracker is in Queensland, where four parties with most but nowhere near a whole quota each will fight it out on the preferences of over a quota worth of micro-party preferences.    Labor risks the historic loss of its second seat in the state after a disastrous Queensland campaign.

Currently, votes are being gradually verified by data entry, a process that will take weeks, with an end result sometime well into June (I don't know the exact AEC timetable for it.)

As I start this article, the LNP leads on primaries for this race, as it has 2.765 quotas (a quota is one-seventh).  One Nation are next on 0.721, the Greens have 0.681, Labor has 1.604.  However not all votes are yet included in the count, and Ross Leedham, who has been following this closely, is projecting that the primary gap between the Greens and Labor should close a little bit.  The Greens will start the preference distribution with a lead over Labor, but it won't be a big one.

The micro-parties to be excluded are headed by Clive Palmer's United Australia Party (0.241 Q) and the rest include HEMP (.118Q) Katters Australian Party (.107Q), Animal Justice (.091), Fraser Anning Conservative Nationals (.090), Conservatives (.071), Labour DLP (.068), Shooters (.066), Liberal Democrats (.055) and Rise Up Australia (.051).  Various other micros have less than .05 Q.

The total vote for all preference sources is presently 1.229 quotas (17.6%).  However, this 17.6 points includes almost 11% (0.75 Q) for clearly right-wing parties, about 4% (.28 Q) for clearly left-wing parties, and not very much that is even arguably in the middle. Given that One Nation smacked the other three on the preferences of parties like KAP, Shooters, Rise Up and even the left-wing Sex/HEMP ticket last time, it seems a good chance that One Nation will be again a good performer here, even without Pauline Hanson herself on the ballot.  Even though neither FACN nor UAP preferenced One Nation at all, a lot of their supporters will probably preference One Nation anyway.

In terms of the flow between Labor and the Greens, the following are some estimated flows from the parties that ran in 2016.  These are based simply on the breakdown of above-the-line #2 flows that went to one of the four parties fighting for the final seat, and may not be all that representative, but should be better than nothing:

HEMP (as Sex/HEMP): Green 30.7%, Labor 20.6%
KAP: Green 3.8, Labor 23.5
Animal Justice: Green 39, Labor 26.2
Labour DLP: Green 24, Labor 35.6
Shooters: Green 3.9 Labor 16.6
LDP: Green 4.7 Labor 25.7
Rise Up: Green 6.8 Labor 7.0

Someone may want to do a more accurate 4CP-and-exhaust model from the 2016 actual ballot papers (it's a bit beyond my energy levels at the moment.) [EDIT: see update below]

If these flows are roughly accurate and repeated, and a 10% exhaust rate assumed, Labor will gain less than .03 quotas over the Greens from these preference sources, except if the flow is strengthened by one of the right-wing parties crossing quota first (which may not help much as a lot of votes that have been through LNP or PHON will exhaust).  One question is how much help Labor might expect from UAP, FACN and Conservatives (I'd suggest not much at all from at least the latter two).  Labor will also suffer to a small degree from leakage off their surplus and their minor candidates - this might cost them another .005 Q.

A further issue is that given the abysmal primary support of Labor in North Queensland, it could well be that Katter voters (for instance) preference the party more weakly than last time, and are more inclined to preference PHON, LNP and exhaust without bothering to preference Labor.

The UAP vote including their how-to-vote card (if it has any follow rate to speak of) offers potential deliverance for Labor.  The UAP's preferences flow at 2 to the LNP, at 3-5 to parties that will exit before it does, and at 6 to Labor.  If the LNP have been elected before UAP are excluded, and the card has even a say 15% follow rate, then that alone might be enough to catch up.  But I'm not sure the follow rate will be that high given the low follow rate for most HTV cards at the last election.  I also think a lot of UAP voters will preference One Nation.  Even so, if the LNP were over the line, it's quite likely Labor would do a lot better off UAP than the Greens.

This question of whether the LNP (and possibly PHON as well) might cross the line before UAP's exclusion or not is a potential tipping point for Labor's prospects if it's really really close.  On present numbers, the question here is the breakdown of preferences from all the other parties in a six-way split between LNP, One Nation, Greens, Labor, UAP and exhaust.  The LNP currently needs 23.8% of these votes to hit it before UAP is exhausted, and One Nation currently needs 28.2%.  (These numbers will change with more counting.)

Maybe both the right parties will get there by that stage, but maybe not.  If the LNP can cross quota before UAP are excluded then Labor gets a free swing at whatever break on the Greens it can get off the UAP votes, including the UAP-LNP votes, at full value.  But if the LNP need even a few UAP votes to get over, then that will give the LNP a surplus that will be almost all their own votes.  The reason for this is partly that most of Rennick's votes would be LNP votes to begin with, but also that a ridiculous system flaw called Unweighted Inclusive Gregory distortion would slightly expand the value of the LNP votes in the surplus and shrink all the others.  Any vote that has followed the LNP card will at this point go to exhaust.

Something that will help Labor if it appears is a pattern of right-wing voters voting through the card to put the Greens last.  We didn't get to see this last time because Waters was elected too early in the count, and I'm not sure how much of it there would be.

Scrutineering a race like this is almost impossible because of the need to sample minor party preferences accurately across a representative range of divisions.  I suspect the effort involved would dwarf the 15 hours I spent scrutineering to project the Tasmanian Senate race last time.  And even then it might be too close to call.  So my feeling is that we will not know the answer nor have an especially accurate handle on the answer until the button is pressed.  My opening offer is that the current projected Greens lead on primaries might just be enough, but this is complex, and I might be missing something important and obvious, or change my mind later.

If you want to have a go yourself, there's a Not-A-Poll in the Sidebar.  I'll be updating this post now and then with further thoughts, but not for changes in projected or actual primaries that don't significantly alter the overall picture.  You can follow those yourself on the AEC page, and also keep an eye on Ross Leedham's Twitter feed.  I'll be back on button press day (whenever that is) with what I hope will be detailed analysis of what went down in the preference distribution.

Update 26/5: Ross has kindly sent me four-party preferred (plus exhaust) figures for the micro-parties who contested in 2016.  The exhaust rate without reaching any of the competing parties is higher than I guessed above, at 18%.  If the overall preference flow is the same (ignoring changes in party makeup) then nobody will cross quota before the UAP exclusion, and Labor will gain about .057 Q on the Greens in total ignoring any possible flow-on from surpluses.  The actual Labor-vs-Green flows from recontesting parties with over .05 of a quota would actually help Labor by only .024 Q.  (In order the Green/Labor splits were: AJP 31.2/16.2, Sex/HEMP 25.8/17.5, LDLP 17.9/28.5, Shooters 6/14.3, LibDems 7.1/21.3, RiseUp 6.2/9.1, KAP 5.2/17.8).

The 4PP figures are consistent with the gap being difficult for Labor to close, especially given that their preference flows from some parties will worsen.  There are anecdotal suggestions in various directions regarding Chris Ketter possibly getting or missing BTL flows because of his position on same-sex marriage.  My suspicion is that there won't be much impact and what there is could cancel out.

Update 29/5: I missed it at the time but William Bowe has a detailed projection which adds in projected flows from all the sub-0.05 micro-parties that I was ignoring (just assuming that the tail end would break evenly as they did last time) and on his projection the Greens do very well off these micros and Labor actually goes backwards relevant to the Greens.

Update 4/6: Labor is continuing to perform poorly in the primary vote count and is now 0.1 quotas behind, making getting back to the projected 0.07 gap difficult. The most undercounted division is Wide Bay where the Greens are notionally beating (Labor minus quota) because Labor's primary is so poor there, though there is also undercounting in Blair and Dawson where Labor is doing better.  All up I see not much chance for Labor at the moment,


  1. Ketter is a conservative Labor MP aligned with the SDA, who notably voted No in the final vote on the same sex marriage amendment. While there wasn't any kind of real campaign on that basis, it is more public information than usual about where he sits compared to other ALP candidates.

    This may help him with preferences from Labour DLP and other conservative parties.

    On the other hand, it may hurt him with progressive voters, including below the line ALP voters. In particular I wouldn't assume that BTL votes for 3-6 on the ALP ticket would overwhelmingly flow to Ketter over Waters.

  2. My view is that with 26 groups on the ballot, and so many different right wing parties to choose from, very few of the people who voted for right wing micros would have found room for either ALP or GRN in their top 6. On the other hand there are precious few small left parties and I expect most of these voters would have included either or both GRN and ALP. So... I wouldn't be too surprised if the final showdown smoulders out and fails to deliver the fireworks? If GRN maintain even a slim lead over ALP(2) on primaries then my suspicion is that's where they'll stay.