Federal election plus five weeks

An already strong result for government in the Senate may be about to get even better, as Cory Bernardi eyes the exit. And yet more on the great pollster failure.

I had a paywalled article in Crikey on the conclusion of the Senate election result, which among other things had this to say:

The Coalition went into the election with 31 senators out of 76 and comes out with 35 — and may be about to go one better if there is anything behind suggestions that Cory Bernardi is set to rejoin the Liberal Party. That would leave the government needing the support of only three crossbenchers to win contested votes.

That could be achieved with the two votes of the Centre Alliance plus that of Jacqui Lambie, who is newly restored to the Senate after falling victim to the Section 44 imbroglio in late 2017. Lambie appears to be co-operating closely with the Centre Alliance, having long enjoyed a warm relationship with the party’s founder Nick Xenophon.

Such a voting bloc would relieve the Morrison government of the need to dirty its hands in dealing with One Nation — though it could certainly do that any time the Centre Alliance members felt inspired to take liberal positions on such issues as asylum seekers and expansion of the national security state.

Since then, talk of Cory Bernardi rejoining the Liberal Party has moved on to suggestions he will leave parliament altogether, creating a casual vacancy that would stand to be filled by the Liberal Party. Bernardi announced he would deregister his Australian Conservatives party on Thursday following its failure to make an impression at the election, and told Sky News the next day that it “might be best for me to leave parliament in the next six months”, although he also said he was “unresolved”. Paul Starick of The Advertiser reports that sources on both sides of the SA Liberal Party’s factional divide say the front-runner would be Georgina Downer, daughter of the former Foreign Minister and twice-unsuccessful lower house candidate for Mayo. The party’s Senate tickets usually pair moderate and Right faction members in the top two positions, and Downer would take a place for the Right that was filled in 2016 by Bernardi, with the other incumbent up for re-election in 2022 being moderate-aligned Simon Birmingham.

In other news, Simon Jackman and Luke Mansillo of the University of Sydney have posted slides from a detailed conference presentation on the great opinion poll failure. Once you get past the technical detail on the first few slides, this shows trend measures that attempt to ascertain the true underlying position throughout the parliamentary term, based on both polling and the actual results from both 2016 and 2019. This suggests the Coalition had its nose in front in Malcolm Turnbull’s last months, and that Labor only led by around 51-49 after he was dumped. An improving trend for the Coalition began in December and accelerated during the April-May campaign period. Also included is an analysis of pollster herding effects, which were particularly pronounced for the Coalition primary vote during the campaign period. Labor and Greens primary vote readings were more dispersed, in large part due to Ipsos’s pecularity of having low primary votes for Labor (accurately, as it turned out) and high ones for the Greens (rather less so).

UK Conservative leadership: Johnson vs Hunt

Boris Johnson still very likely to be the next British Prime Minister, with Jeremy Hunt pipping Michael Gove for second among Conservative MPs. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the June 13 first round of voting, three of the ten Conservative leadership candidates were eliminated as they had less than the 17 votes required – Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey. The next day Matt Hancock also withdrew. Combined these four candidates had 50 first round votes.

At the June 18 second round, Boris Johnson won votes from 126 of the 313 Conservative MPs (up 12 from round one), Jeremy Hunt 46 (up three), Michael Gove 41 (up four), Rory Stewart 37 (up 18), Sajid Javid 33 (up ten) and Dominic Raab 30 (up three). As he finished last, hard Brexiteer Raab was eliminated, with Javid just scraping through the 33-vote threshold required to continue.

In subsequent rounds, there was no threshold, and the bottom candidate was eliminated. At the June 19 third round, Johnson won 143 votes (up 17 since round two), Hunt 54 (up eight), Gove 51 (up ten), Javid 38 (up five), and Stewart was eliminated with 27 votes (down ten). While there is speculation that Johnson people tactically voted for Stewart to eliminate Raab in the previous round, commentator Stephen Bush says it is more likely that Stewart’s drop reflected his poor performance in a BBC debate on June 18. Stewart was the candidate most opposed to both a no-deal Brexit and Johnson.

At the June 20 morning fourth round, Johnson won 157 votes (up 14 since round three), Gove 61 (up ten), Hunt 59 (up five) and Javid was eliminated with 34 votes (down four). Two ballot papers were spoilt. Johnson achieved a majority of MPs (157 of 313) with three other candidates still in.

At the June 20 afternoon final round, Johnson won 160 votes (up three), Hunt 77 (up 18) and Gove was eliminated with 75 votes (up 14). From the first round to final round, Johnson increased his total by 46 votes to reach 51% of Conservative MPs, Hunt increased by 34 votes to reach 25%, and Gove by 38 votes to reach 24%. Johnson or someone like him was likely to be one of the final two after 157 Conservative MPs voted in favour of a no-deal Brexit on March 27.

Johnson and Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary, will now proceed to a postal ballot of Conservative members that is expected to conclude by mid-July. Johnson is the heavy favourite to win this vote, and become Britain’s next PM. In a recent YouGov poll of Conservative members, 77% thought Johnson would be a good party leader, and just 19% thought he would be poor. For Hunt, these figures were 56% good, 37% poor. Gove and Stewart were perceived as worse than Hunt by Conservative members.

Bush says Conservative MPs voted for Johnson after their party lost over 1,300 councillors at local government elections in early May, and then finished fifth with just 9% of the national vote at EU elections in late May. Bush suggests that the 27 Stewart voters imply that many Conservative MPs are very unhappy with Johnson, and with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. A new election may be required soon if those Conservative MPs join Labour in voting no-confidence in their government if Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit.

I wrote for The Conversation about the education divide explaining the Coalition’s upset victory in Australia, and also about Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election. Johnson is likely to appeal to the same types of voters that benefited the Coalition and Trump.

More Senate entrails examined

The lower house count concludes with the Coalition on 51.53% of the national two-party preferred; the button is pressed on the Senate for Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia; only the Victorian Senate result remains.

The last two-party preferred count for the lower house is complete, leaving the Coalition with a national two-party preferred total of 51.53%, which is exactly the result that was projected by the opinion polls, albeit for the wrong party. The Australian Electoral Commission website continues to record that 288 declaration vote envelopes remain unprocessed, of which 234 are in the seat of Kingsford Smith, but I suspect that may just reflect tardiness in keeping these numbers updated.

We should also have the last Senate result finalised this morning, that being in Victoria, where a result of three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens is assured. Counts were finalised yesterday in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. To complement previous efforts for New South Wales and Tasmania, I offer the following displays showing how the preference distributions proceeded. In each case they record where the votes stood after the election of candidates with full quotas at the start of the count, and also in the final stages, where three seats were decided in Queensland, and two were decided in Western Australia and South Australia.

First up, Queensland, where the result was three for the Coalition (Paul Scarr, Susan McDonald and Gerard Rennick, all newcomers) and one apiece for Labor (Nita Green, also a newcomer), One Nation (Malcolm Roberts, returning after falling foul of Section 44 and having his seat pass to Fraser Anning, whose own party proved uncompetitive) and the Greens (Larissa Waters, another Section 44 casualty who had already returned to the Senate after her successor, Andrew Bartlett, agreed to make way for her ahead of the election). Queensland was the one state where the result was not clear long in advance, although in the final analysis it wasn’t really all that close. The Coalition won two seats straight off the bat and Labor one, leaving Green, Roberts, Waters and Labor’s second candidate, Chris Ketter, in the mix for the last three. There never seemed much doubt that the fourth seat would go to One Nation and the fifth to the Coalition, but Labor might have hoped the dual miracle of a strong performance in late counting and unexpectedly strong preference flows could have given Ketter the last seat at the expense of Waters. In fact though, Ketter trailed Waters by 52,767 votes (1.8%) at the start of proceedings, which widened to 78,681 (2.7%) by the end, with Waters doing predictably well out of preferences from Animal Justice and Help End Marijuana Prohibition – although she didn’t quite make it to a quota.

Now to Western Australia, which has returned three Liberals (incumbents Linda Reynolds and Slade Brockman, and newcomer Matt O’Sullivan), two Labor (incumbents Patrick Dodson and Louise Pratt) and one Greens (incumbent Jordon Steele-John). Reynolds, Brockman and Dodson were elected off the bat; O’Sullivan got most of the way there when the 1.4% Nationals vote was distributed; and Pratt and Steele-John were always going to get there late in the count ahead of One Nation incumbent Peter Georgiou.

South Australia produced the same result as Western Australia (and indeed New South Wales and Victoria, if the Coalition is considered collectively), the three Liberals being incumbents Anne Ruston and David Fawcett, and newcomer Alex Antic; Labor returning incumbent Alex Gallacher and newcomer Marielle Smith; and the Sarah Hanson-Young retaining her seat for the Greens. The top two on the Liberal and Labor tickets were elected off the bat; Hanson-Young made a quota after the third Labor candidate and the Help End Marijuana Prohibition candidate dropped out; and Antic stayed well clear of One Nation throughout to take the last seat.

The overall picture in the Senate was summarised here a few weeks ago – all that’s different now is that the “likely” qualification can be removed from Queensland.

Update: Victorian Senate result

The Victorian result was finalised this morning (Wednesday), producing the anticipated result of three seats for the Liberals (incumbents James Patterson and Jane Hume, and newcomer David Van), two for Labor (Raff Ciccone, who came to the Senate after filling a casual vacancy in March, and Jess Walsh, a newcomer) and one for the Greens (incumbent Janet Rice). The chart below follows the same format as those above, and shows that this was not a close run thing. The Coalition and Labor both had two quotas on ticket votes, leaving two seats to be determined through the preference distribution. Labor’s third candidate, incumbent Gavin Marshall, was never in contention, and his exclusion pushed the Greens to a quota with Van, Derryn Hinch and One Nation still in the count. One Nation then were excluded, leaving David Van well ahead of Hinch to take the final seat, without making it to a quota.

NSW Senate entrails examined

A close look at the New South Wales Senate result as finalised yesterday, plus Essential Research findings on attitudes to nuclear power.

Essential Research is continuing to provide The Guardian with polling on a fortnightly basis, but is still limiting itself to issue polling in the wake of the great debacle of last month. This week’s poll is concerned with nuclear power, after a push by Queensland MPs James McGrath and Keith Pitt for a parliamentary inquiry into lifting Australia’s nuclear power ban (showing rather unfortunate timing, in view of the runaway success of HBO’s television series Chernobyl). The poll finds a slight majority of 44% to 40% in favour of Australia having nuclear power plants, compared with a 40-40 tie when Essential last posed the question in 2015 – the kicker being that only 28% said they would be comfortable living near one, with 60% disagreeing. Among the other findings, 47% per cent rated that nuclear would be better than coal-fired power for the environment.

In election counting news, the button was pressed yesterday on the New South Wales Senate result, which, foreseeably, produced three seats for the Coalition (Liberals Hollie Hughes and Andrew Bragg, and Perin Davey of the Nationals), two for Labor (Tony Sheldon and Tim Ayres) and one for the Greens (Mehreen Faruqi). Above-the-line votes accounted for 93.1% of the total, which included more than two quotas each for the Coalition and Labor (albeit just barely in the latter case). This meant the top two candidates on the Coalition and Labor tickets were elected immediately, leaving two seats to be determined by the remainder of the preference distribution. The chart below shows how this proceeded as the last eight candidates were excluded, and also shows how the main candidates were placed after the surpluses of the first four elected candidates were distributed (Count 4).

Under the old system, the entirety of the vote was effectively divided between the sixth elected candidates and the unelected seventh, who was left with what is known as the “wastage quotas”. Now that it’s possible for votes to exhaust, it becomes possible for the count to fail to deliver quotas to six candidates, in which case the final seats go to whoever comes nearest at the final count. Such was the case with the last two seats in New South Wales – 0.39 quotas exhausted, and the final three quotas were distributed between three candidates in such a way as to leave all of them short of a full quota. Two of these candidates, Davey of the Nationals and Faruqi of the Greens, finished just short with 0.97 and 0.96 quotas respectively, causing them each to be elected well ahead of Kate McCulloch of One Nation on 0.68.

The chart illustrates exactly how far Jim Molan, shown in blue, fell short of winning the third seat through the strength of his below-the-line support, notwithstanding conservative excitement that he achieved the highest below-the-line vote in Senate history – in terms of aggregate votes, which is naturally a significant qualification when considering a result from New South Wales. Molan’s total share of the first preference vote was 2.92%, some distance behind a number of recent results in Tasmania, where the rate of below-the-line voting is particularly high. His exclusion unlocked a flood of preferences to Davey that closed the gap between her and Faruqi, who were all but level for the remainder of the count.

However, a good many of Molan’s preferences flowed out of the Coalition ticket and further to the right, with 20% going to McCulloch compared with 71.5% for other Coalition candidates. McCulloch also received a strong flow of preferences when Shooters Fishers and Farmers were the last party excluded two counts later. However, this was well short of what she needed to put her in the hunt for the last two seats, for which her share of the total vote would have had to have been about 2% higher. For more details on preferences, Ross Leedham has determined four-party preferred preference flows along the same lines as I provided in yesterday’s post on the Tasmanian result, observing how small party preferences split between the Coalition, Labor, the Greens, One Nation and exhaustion.

To get a sense of how the result might have played out under the old system, I’ve had a play with Antony Green’s Senate calculator from 2013, using the results from this election where possible and judiciously allocating the residue from new parties to old ones. This suggests One Nation would have won the fifth seat at the expense of either the Coalition and the Greens, who would have been in a very tight race for the last seat. One Nation preference feeders would have included not only Shooters and Fishers, Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats, the Democratic Labour Party and Australian Conservatives (nee Family First), but also leftist concerns such as Animal Justice, thanks to Glenn Druery-inspired preference networks that had nearly every micro-party preferencing each other ahead of the main three.

The button will apparently be pressed on the Western Australian result this morning and Victoria tomorrow, both of which will assuredly produce results of three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens. Not sure when Queensland and South Australia will be done.

Tasmanian Senate entrails examined

As the finalised Senate results are unrolled one by one, a deep dive into the preference distribution from Tasmania.

A summary of what remains to be resolved of election counting:

• The button is yet to be pressed on five of the eight Senate counts, with Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory completed and fully published. More on the Tasmanian result below.

• The Coalition-versus-Labor two-party preferred preference count for Farrer is 54% complete, with the remainder presumably to be knocked over today. Only then will we have a definitive total for the national two-party preferred, but the remaining uncertainty is relevant only to the second decimal place: to the first, the Coalition will finish with 51.5%, a swing of either 1.1% or 1.2%.

• Preference distributions for lower house seats are yet to be published, though in some cases they have assuredly been conducted. As noted previously, only with the distribution could the theoretical (though not practical) possibility of One Nation winning Hunter from Labor be ruled out.

I will be taking a deep dive into each Senate result as they are reported. As discussed here, none of the results are seriously in doubt, with the highly arguable exception of Queensland.

The chart below shows how the late stages of the preference distribution for Tasmania proceeded, after the election of the first three candidates and the elimination of lower order candidates and parties (the latter included independent Craig Garland, who managed a disappointing 3475 votes, compared with the 6633 he polled at last year’s Braddon by-election). The first three were the top two on the Liberal ticket, Richard Colbeck and Claire Chandler, and the first on Labor’s, Carol Brown. Both Liberal and Labor polled clear of two quotas (the primary vote totals can be found here), but owing to Tasmania’s high rate of below-the-line voting (28% in this case), neither scored over two quotas on above-the-line votes alone. However, Chandler was promptly elected after Colbeck as most of his below-the-line votes proceeded straight down the Liberal ticket.

The situation for Labor was more complicated owing to Lisa Singh, who again had to campaign for below-the-line votes to retain her seat after the party placed her fourth on the ticket. This she was able to accomplish at the 2016 double dissolution, when she won Labor’s fifth seat from number six on the ticket. This time though she had the effectively impossible task of winning one of two Labor seats from number four. Singh scored 5.68% of the first preference vote, slightly down on her 6.12% in 2016. This meant she remained in the count longer than the candidate one place above her, who on both occasions was John Short, but she was well behind the second candidate on the Labor ticket, Catryna Bilyk, who received all the above-the-line votes remaining after the election of Brown.

As the chart demonstrates, the race for the last three seats was not close – Labor was always going to win a second seat; Liberal and Labor were both only slightly in excess of two quotas; and the respective vote shares of 12.57% for the Greens and 8.92% for the Jacqui Lambie Network guaranteed them both a seat. Nick McKim of the Greens edged over the line to take the fourth seat after the preferences of various minor parties were distributed. Bilyk and Lambie were both pushed over a quota at the point where Singh was excluded, very slightly behind One Nation candidate Matthew Stephen, although it would have made no difference if Stephen had gone out first. The result was thus clear-cut enough that all elected candidates achieved quotas in their own right, which is not guaranteed under the new Senate electoral system under which some votes can exhaust.

The table below records “four-party preferred” preference splits for those parties that failed to win seats (including Craig Garland as “Group O”).

UK Conservative leadership first round results

Boris Johnson is very probably Britain’s next Prime Minister, and polling suggests he would be a winner for the Conservatives. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the June 13 first round of the UK Conservative leadership election, Boris Johnson won support from 114 of the 313 Conservative MPs (36.4%). He only needed 105 votes to ensure he reached the membership runoff, where he is strongly supported. In the field of ten candidates, Jeremy Hunt was second with 43 votes (14%) and Michael Gove third with 37 votes (12%). Three candidates – Mark Harper, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom – failed to win the 17 votes needed to pass the first round, and were eliminated.

In the second round, to be held on June 18, the threshold for continuing rises to 33 votes. In subsequent rounds the bottom candidate is eliminated until there are just two candidates left – these two go to the hard-Leave supporting Conservative membership. Johnson will gain further support from the elimination of hard Brexiteers McVey and Leadsom, who had 20 combined votes. Whichever of Hunt or Gove finishes second is likely to be thrashed by Johnson in the membership vote. Johnson is very probably Britain’s next PM.

On June 12, the Commons defeated a Labour motion that would have enabled Brexit to be debated on June 25, 309 votes to 298. Ten Conservative MPs voted with Labour, but eight Labour MPs sided with the Conservatives. Had the motion succeeded, legislation to potentially rule out a no-deal Brexit could have been moved on June 25. With the Commons failing to take action that would prevent a no-deal, and Johnson likely to be the next PM, a no-deal Brexit on October 31 is more likely.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have tanked in polls in the last month, with the Brexit party, Liberal Democrats and Greens surging. The latest poll, by ComRes, has Labour leading with 27%, followed by the Conservatives at 23%, Brexit party at 22% and Lib Dems at 17%. However, in a hypothetical question with Johnson as PM, the Conservatives surge to 37%, Labour drops to 22%, the Lib Dems are up to 20% and the Brexit party falls to 14%. Under first past the post, this would be a Conservative landslide.

Hypothetical polls like this are frowned on by many poll analysts as people are not good at predicting how they will react to an actual event. But given Donald Trump and Scott Morrison’s upset victories relied on appealing to those with a lower level of educational attainment, it would be folly for the UK left to dismiss this poll result. The only thing that is likely to break the hold of some right-wing politicians over the lower educated is what the UK left most fear: catastrophic economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Labour holds Peterborough at by-election triggered by recall

At the June 2017 general election, Peterborough was a surprise Labour gain from the Conservatives, with Labour winning by 48.1% to 46.8%. However, on May 1 Labour member Fiona Onansanya was recalled after more than 10% of constituents signed a petition. Onansanya had been convicted of lying to avoid a speeding ticket. It is the first time a recall petition has succeeded. Under the 2015 Act, recalls can only be used for MPs convicted of crimes or serious parliamentary misdemeanours, not for MPs who change their party.

At the June 6 by-election, Labour won with 30.9% (down 17.2%), followed by the Brexit party at 28.9%, the Conservatives at 21.4% (down 25.5%), the Lib Dems at 12.3% (up 8.9%), the Greens at 3.1% (up 1.3%) and UKIP at 1.2%. This constituency voted Leave by over 60-40 at the Brexit referendum, so it was seen as a strong target for the Brexit party – bookies heavily favoured that party. Ironically, Labour owes its win to the 21% who stuck with the Conservatives rather than vote for the Brexit party.

Left wins Danish election, and other electoral events

I wrote on my personal website on June 6 about left-wing parties winning a total 99 of the 179 seats at the June 5 Danish election. Also covered: a new election in Israel is required after Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government, the German Greens have surged to a tie with the conservative CDU/CSU, and the left gained a Tasmanian upper house seat at May 4 periodical elections.