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After an incident-packed first week of the Queensland election campaign, week two has been agreeably uneventful. I shall have to fall back on two things that caught my attention in the papers recently.

Renee Viellaris from the Courier-Mail reports: "The Coalition will adopt the previously successful Labor strategy of ‘just vote one’ on its how-to-vote cards. The aim is – as Labor did in the 2001 and 2004 elections – to harness any protest vote against the State Government to its maximum effect". Unfortunately, "just vote one" was a genie that could only be let out of the bottle once. In order to be meaningful, the Coalition’s tactic will have to influence not its own supporters, but those who vote for minor parties and independents. Peter Beattie succeeded in doing this in 2001 and 2004 because it was the first time a party leader had advertised the legitimacy of the practice. The effect was to increase the rate of "plumped" voting across the board, from around 20 per cent of the total to more than 60 per cent, preventing scattered Liberal, Nationals, One Nation, City-Country Alliance and independent votes from consolidating behind the anti-Labor front-runner. Having the Coalition leaders reiterate the point will have little further effect. It will however have a substantial impact on their own supporters, thereby denying preferences to anti-Labor independents (UPDATE 25/8/06: Former Queensland Electoral Commissioner Bob Longland on ABC Radio this morning: "I heard Mr Greene, the campaign director for the Coalition, quoted in the press this week as saying that they were going to go on a just-vote-one campaign for the first time, but of course that’s not right, they did that strongly in 2004").

Labor’s natural source of preferences remains the Greens, and as this ballot paper study from the 2004 eection makes clear, these voters are by far the most inclined to number every box. It is unlikely that this is because they are unaware of the alternative, or because they need conservative party leaders to persuade them not to give preferences. The following table indicates the rate of plumped, partial preferential and full preferential voting by party support.

Labor 69.9 4.9 25.1
Nationals 60.2 5.5 34.4
Liberal 67.2 2.2 30.6
Greens 37.9 10.1 52.0
One Nation 43.4 12.1 44.5
Others 55.3 11.2 33.5
Total 62.2 6.1 31.7

Cath Hart of The Australian reported yesterday that the election was called just before a mechanism providing for an electoral redistribution was about to be triggered. The article says: "A redistribution is automatically triggered if 30 seats deviate by more then 10 per cent for two consecutive months under the current act. Queensland Electoral Commission insiders said growth trends within the state – which attracts 1500 new people every week – meant the redistribution would have been triggered ‘by the end of the year’ had the election not been called". Enrolment ranges from 16,428 in Mount Isa to 34,580 in Murrumba, which sounds like a statistic from the bad old days of life under Joh. One measure of malapportionment, the David-Eisenberg Index, is calculated by dividing the highest electorate enrolment by the lowest. The current figure of 2.1 is precisely the same as for the old zonal system as amended by Bjelke-Petersen in 1985, going on the quota figures for the smallest and largest zones (from which a degree of variation was allowed, presumably up to 10 per cent). It should be noted however that the current figure is not entirely due to population change and is influenced by the concession to rural vote weighting that was made when one-vote one-value was introduced in 1991. This allows for geographically large electorates (more than 100,000 square kilometres) to be "weighted" with a number of phantom voters equal to 2 per cent of their total area in square kilometres. If the six electorates affected by this are discounted, the David-Eisenberg index is 1.5.

Another measure of malapportionment is the Gini index, which takes into account the overall distribution and not just the two most extreme examples. This is currently at 6.5 per cent if the weighted electorates are included and 5.2 per cent if they are not, compared with 9.6 per cent under the zoning system of 1985, 8.1 per cent under that of 1977, 8.3 per cent from 1959 and 10.9 per cent from 1949 (in each case using quota figures for each zone rather than actual enrolment). For purposes of comparison, the Australian Electoral Commission provides this measure for every federal redistribution since federation (although you will have to multiply their figures by 100 – they appear to have confused the index with the coefficient).

To give a broad idea of the direction of population change, I have divided the state into 12 zones ranging in composition from five electorates to 13. "SD" refers to the standard deviation, which indicates the degre of variance within the sample. The idea in constructing the zones has been to gather as many similarly behaving, geographically joined electorates together as possible. Obviously there are imperfections here: booming Kurwongbah (34,374 voters) is an outlier in Northern Brisbane, Woodridge (24,496) weighs down Southern Brisbane, and Urban Hinterland is pretty much ruined by below-par Nanango (24,279). The party figures refer to seats won at the 2004 election.

Sunshine Coast 31,540 1,798 3 1 1 1
Gold Coast 30,796 1,346 5 0 3 0
Northern Brisbane 30,281 3,205 7 0 0 0
Urban Hinterland 29,733 3,012 1 2 0 2
Southern Brisbane 28,796 2,522 13 0 0 0
Central Qld 27,834 1,515 3 2 0 2
Inner Brisbane 27,691 1,580 13 0 0 0
Western Brisbane 27,237 1,386 5 0 1 0
Cairns/Townsville 27,584 1,951 6 0 0 0
Inland Towns 26,629 1,499 4 1 0 0
Interior 25,164 1,995 1 6 0 0
Weighted 19,146 1,931 2 3 0 0

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.