Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Migrants Voting For One Nation and UAP? (Plus Some Polling Comments)

A Few Pointed Words About Polling

Before I start this article, a quick four paragraphs regarding polls, in lieu of a formal roundup.  Firstly and mainly for Tasmanian readers, there has been some (disappointingly uncritical in some cases) media coverage of a poll commissioned by The Australia Institute (Tas) concerning proposals for a Tarkine National Park.  Unfortunately the poll is simply totally unsound.  It uses a loaded preamble that gives arguments for one side of the debate, quantifying a claimed total clearance area while not quantifying how much of the area included is really old growth or rainforest, and further leading the respondent with a comment about claimed community and business support for a National Park.

Having been presented with just one side of the argument, respondents may well be led to give the answer that suits the sponsor, or may well be driven to just hang up if they don't agree with the statements made.  The poll report also provides no data whatsoever on other questions asked, disconnection rates or on the methods and extent of any weighting used to obtain the final results.  The question design also fails to establish whether any support for a National Park would be in addition to some logging activity or as an alternative to it.  Maybe voters really do support a Tarkine National Park of some kind, maybe they don't (the risible voter support for the Greens in Braddon in recent years is not the most promising sign)

I have been trying to write about polling more generally but it is very difficult to get the job done with any motivation when leading pollsters, with the sole exception of YouGov's Queensland polling, have thus far done virtually nothing about the pressing need for a major improvement in polling transparency following the 2019 Australian polling failure.  As such there is no basis for confidence that Newspoll's current picture of a close federal race is in any way accurate (the Coalition's 51-49 leads might really be 54-46 or more, or alternatively Labor might be in front, though that is much less likely.)  And since Essential keeps suppressing its voting intention figures although its unsatisfactory reason for doing so long ago expired, there is no way to benchmark any of its leadership polling, and its issues polls are often problematic.  

Media coverage of commissioned polling also continues to be as awful as before.  Some recent amusing nadirs were rival YouGov poll results being cited and uncritically reported by friendly media on both sides of the NSW abortion debate, and also the Your Right To Know campaign claiming to have Colmar Brunton polling supporting their position, but failing to publish the details of the polling.  If you want to scrutinise it, you can't - you just don't have the right to know.  Media are rightly, if in some cases hypocritically, concerned about laws that can unduly limit what public interest information they are allowed to report. But the claim of media outlets to be servants of the public in reporting public interest information is undermined when they so frequently fail to report relevant information or cautions about their stories when they could and should, largely for reasons of laziness and the back-patting of sources who have fed them material for easy articles.

On to the main course ...

There has been quite an amount of interest in an ABC article by Stephanie Dalzell that claims that migrant voters are increasingly voting for populist right outfits like One Nation and the United Australia Party. Of course, some migrants will vote for these parties, but the article is not a useful contribution to establishing how many.  

Saturday, October 26, 2019

MPs Who Do Not Have Citizesnhip Of New Zeland

Now would I misspell a title twice?  Read on and all will be revealed ...

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Scott Morrison (Liberal, Cook)

Today there was a curious development in the long-running Section 44 citizenship farce.  Margaret Simons in the Guardian reported that Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to have given incomplete/incorrect citizenship declarations that fail to address a manner in which he could in theory have become a citizen of New Zealand.  That is not to say he is a citizen of New Zealand, but that his explanation of why he is not is apparently wrong, or as Dr Anna Hood puts it in Simons' article, "problematic".

Simons has published that fine print in a change in New Zealand law, passed in 1948 and effective 1/1/1949, conferred full citizenship on then-living females (but not males) who were the offspring of British subject fathers born in New Zealand.  That full citizenship then allowed the offspring of those females to be potentially registered as New Zealand citizens by virtue of being "the minor child of a New Zealand citizen".  If so registered, they would now be ineligible to sit in the Australian parliament under Section 44, unless they had subsequently renounced.  (The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 was repealed effective 1 Jan 1978 by the Citizenship Act 1977, but those who were citizens under the former Act at that stage remained so. For this reason as well as Morrison no longer being a "minor child", there is no issue of an existing entitlement to become a citizen.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Chisholm and Kooyong Signs Challenges

Update Feb 20: The Federal Court has decided not to report anything to the High Court regarding alleged violations of the Electoral Act.  It has decided that it did not have before it such material as would allow it to decide that "the relevant fault element" was satisfied to be sure that an offence had been committed.  At [28], the Court holds: "We think the better view is that the Court is obliged to comply with s 363 when it is persuaded that there is material from which it can be concluded that a person not only was responsible for the physical elements of a contravention of s 329(1), but also that the relevant fault element was satisfied."

The function of a Disputed Returns hearing is to decide whether a seat needs to be vacated and it is not surprising that the Court did not turn over all the rocks that might have been needed to fully explore the question of whether an offence was committed.  That question was ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the challenges.  This does however raise the question of what recourse there is over the misleading signs, if any.  Normally these matters would be pursued through the AEC (not necessarily to prosecution, perhaps a warning), but the AEC initially submitted that there was no offence anyway.  It might not be all that interested in trying to now establish whether there was a fault element involved in the production of an illegal sign that it did not consider illegal in the first place.  Especially, it is unclear who would be in a position to demonstrate that fault element in a complaint.   I am not sure therefore whether the matter will go any further.

Again, it is my view that these sorts of signs should be banned.  The above outcome of the case only further highlights why the existing law does not adequately address misleading and deceptive signs that pretend to be official electoral signs.

The only other action of interest today was the costs order.  The AEC is to bear its own costs.  The Court is considering ordering that the Commonwealth bear the costs of the successful defendants Liu and Frydenberg, the unsuccessful challenger (Garbett) in Chisholm (because of public interest) but not the unsuccessful challenger (Yates) in Kooyong (because of a it being a duplicate case that was obviously unrealistic given Frydenberg's margin.) The Court will determine these matters later on further papers from the parties.

Update Dec 24: As expected both petitions have been dismissed. However the Court has asked Simon Frost to show cause why an apparent violation of the Electoral Act by him and possibly others should not be reported, suggesting that it has provisionally found the signs were illegal but has found that the outcome should not be altered as there is insufficient evidence that they changed the results in those seats.  The judgement is available here.

The Guardian has an excerpt:

"“In our view, the corflutes are properly read, not as encouragement to vote 1 Liberal, but as a statement first, that to vote correctly (that is validly), one must vote 1 Liberal and, secondly, that there was an official instruction of the AEC that electors must cast their votes as indicated,” the court said."

The court has found that the signs did have the capacity to mislead electors (albeit naive, gullible or uninformed ones) in relation to the casting of their votes but that at most a handful of voters could have been so misled, nowhere near sufficient to overturn the result.  The court has found the signs only had capacity to mislead where they were placed next to an AEC sign.  Simon Frost has been given a chance to argue that he should not be the subject of a declaration of illegality because he was not represented while giving evidence in court.

Update Dec 21: Judgement in these cases will be handed down at 2:15 pm December 24.

Updates Nov 6-8

The case, before three judges, is now on, and expected to run for three days, after which the court may well reserve its judgement.  Tweeted coverage is being provided by Josh Taylor of the Guardian and I will link here to other reports of interest that I see.  If anything of special interest comes up I may discuss it at length here.

Nov 6 12:30: Of some interest today is discussion about the signs having said something different to what was intended (as touched on below) - Frost says that he provided an intended meaning but the actual signs when translated said something different.  According to Taylor "Frost said he made no inquiries on election day to make sure the corflutes said what he authorised them to say. Frydenberg and Liu didn't contact him to ask about them on election day" and "Frost says he doesn't know if anyone who proof-read the corflutes before election day speak/read Chinese." (It may be significant here that Liu could read the signs for herself.) However later in his evidence Frost said that the Hotham Liberal candidate, George Hua, checked the signs.  According to Taylor, Frost has also admitted that the corflute was intended to convey the impression that it was an AEC sign.

Under Section 329 (5) "it is a defence if the person proves that he or she did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the matter or thing was likely to mislead an elector in relation to the casting of a vote." however "Note: A defendant bears a legal burden in relation to the defence in subsection (5) (see section 13.4 of the Criminal Code )." It should be kept in mind that Simon Frost is not on trial for breaching Section 329 at present.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Psephology And "Total Control"

Episode One

I don't watch a lot of TV drama really (too much else to do).  However, yesterday some tweets regarding electoral situations in the ABC's new political drama "Total Control" attracted my attention and I decided to watch an episode to see what its representation of Australian politics is like.  I may do this for future episodes too, either as updates to this article, or if there is enough material as separate articles.  Warning: spoilers will be posted without restraint and commenters are welcome to post spoilers likewise.

This article and any that may follow it are not intended as reviews as such, though like the reviewers I have noticed that these are tough times for political drama generally as it struggles to keep pace with the outlandishness of the real thing.   Rather, what I'm doing here is purely commentary on whether the series' representations of Australian politics, and especially electoral politics, are accurate.  Some people think such commentaries about fiction are pointless because "it's fiction", but others enjoy political fiction more when they are able to suspend disbelief and think they are watching something that could really happen, and that as such is an insight into our actual political condition.  I don't personally care at all about the plot holes and contradictions already evident in this series, because I wouldn't have watched it except to write about it, but others may find them irritating.

Also in a world where many people take their political cues from dispersed, self-selected and frequently non-credible/biased sources, it's not that unlikely that someone out there who sees something in an ABC drama production will assume that that is how things actually work.  So far as Episode One is concerned, it isn't ...