Full house? (part three)

With another Victorian upper house thread having extended beyond 200 comments, a further update would appear in order. At the time of the last post, Labor’s hopes for an upper house majority appeared to hinge entirely on Southern Metropolitan. Since then, the chances of a DLP win at Labor’s expense in Western Victoria – always possible, but somehow too bizarre to contemplate – have increased considerably. The DLP scored 2.6 per cent of the primary vote in this region, which is subsequently engorged by preferences from the Country Alliance and People Power, putting their candidate Peter Kavanagh fractionally ahead of Family First. Family First preferences in turn get Kavanagh ahead of the Nationals, unlocking enough Coalition preferences to get him ahead of both the Greens and Labor. At this point of the count, the Greens hold the narrowest of leads over Labor (130 votes, according to Antony Green); if they stay ahead, Labor will go out and their preferences will push Kavanagh over a quota. Otherwise, the Greens will go out instead and their preferences will deliver the seat to Labor incumbent Elaine Carbines. Another alternative scenario that might thwart the DLP is if what Antony describes as "a big whack of postals from a seat contested by the Nationals" put them ahead of the DLP at the earlier point of the count.

Southern Metropolitan remains on a knife edge, except that the Greens’ position has firmed in late counting – so it now looks like a contest between Labor (Evan Thornley) and Liberal (David Southwick) for the final place, rather than the three-way contest for the last two places that was in play earlier. According to Antony Green, the ticket votes alone leave Thornley 3844 short of a quota after the addition of preferences from Democrats, People Power and independent Rita Bentley, which the distribution of the Greens surplus should cut to around 2500; while David Southwick is 2934 votes short after receiving preferences from Family First and the DLP. However, there are more below-the-line primary votes for Liberal than Labor (5602 versus 4961), and in particular, there are more for Southwick than Thornley (1683 versus 633). Then there are the 5,275 below-the-line votes for parties other than Labor, Liberal and the Greens. The destination of these preferences look set to decide the issue, bearing in mind that many will exhaust given that voters are required only to number five boxes.

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.

171 comments on “Full house? (part three)”

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  1. There is a distinct possibility that neither the Liberal or Labor candidate in SMET will achieve a quota due to the number of votes that exhaust. This to my mind leaves an “indeterminate” result, and is a traversty of democracy. Exhaustion of votes perturbs the purity of the Hare-Clarke system.

    In a truly democratic election there is one vote one value; every vote is counted and every vote counts.

    In Antony’s proposed “reforms” that limits the number of preferences allowable on a ticket, this would be exasserbated as whole groups of votes would exhaust, not just BTLs, and impose unexeptable bias to the result as discussed in the previous thread.

  2. A travesty of democracy? If votes can exhaust, and you have two candidates left – why is it a travesty that the candidate with the higher number of votes is elected?

    To remove this “travesty”, you’d have to have compulsory preferential voting, or say that the position will be unfilled, or perhaps filled at a by-election where a “real quota” is obtained.

  3. Yes you have two candidates left, and a whole heap of votes that could have contributed to resolving the winner, but didn’t because they exhausted instead.
    You’ve just made my arguement for retaining CPV as applies in the Senate.

  4. Rubbish Ray. The two purist forms of Hare-Clark in Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, have ALWAYS operated with optional preferential voting, Tasmania for one hundred years and it is put up as the model for everyone else to follow. The last spot in each seat in Tasmania is nearly always decided by less than a quota.

  5. Spot on Sacha.

    Ray does have a point, that OPV can produce winners that don’t reach a quota.

    But the only solution, CPV, produces winners with quotas that are often highly artificial. A solution that is more unsatisfactory than the problem.

  6. Oh, and is a ‘truly democratic election’ one where a voter must choose between equally objectionable candidates, or randomly fill remaining squares, or slavishly follow a how-to-vote card, just so that their vote will be declared formal and be allowed to count towards the candidates they do know and do want to vote for? The debate about compulsory voting (or more precisely compulsory attendance at polling places) is one about civics and minimum levels of participation. No such argument applies to compulsory preferences. If you have to vote, you should only have to vote for the candidates you want to vote for.

  7. Because it has operated in another state for a hundred years makes it right!

    I’ll leave you to come up with the Latin expression that exposes the falsesness of that logic.

  8. Although, if the method of calculating the transfer value used in NSW was adopted, you could minimise the number of exhausted preferences. When a candidate achives a surplus in NSW or the ACT, all votes that exhaust at that point remain with the elected candidate, while only those with further preferences would be included in the surplus calculation. A slight complication would be that both NSW and the ACT use the last bundle method while Victoria uses the Inclusive Gregory, but it could still be adopted.

  9. Ray – what is so “perfect” about me having to preference candidates I don’t want to preference? What if I think two candidates are completely equal in my judgement and don’t wish to preference one above the other? Is it “perfect” (whatever this means) that I be forced to preference one above the other ie the vote records something other than my actual judgement?

  10. The theorem is called “Arrow’s Theorem” (eg see Michael Nielsen’s (who’s a physicist) blog: http://www.qinfo.org/people/nielsen/blog/?p=254).

    “Arrow picked out three properties that (arguably) you would like any good voting system to have – and then mathematically proved that no voting system with all three properties can possibly exist! What is especially remarkable about Arrow’s achievement is that there is no obvious a priori reason to suppose that these three requirements are incompatible.”

  11. Arrow’s impossibility theorem is a wonderful piece of work and rightly deserved a Nobel prize. At its heart, the idea of a rational voter (or rational consumers in economics) presume one thing, the mathematical property of transitivity. If a voter prefers A to B and B to C, then they will also prefer A to C. However, in voting using fully expressed preferences, the accumulation of the choices by rational voters can produce an ‘irrational’ result in that transitivity is breached when all the votes are tallied, and the A to B to C assumption will not always be clear from the election result. Some have advocated Condorcet (not sure of spelling) as a solution but nobody has ever implemented it for anything other than council meetings.

    Optional preferential voting helps avoids though does not prevent Arrow’s problem by recognising that voters hold some preferences strongly and others weakly. Voters fill in the preferences they do have and not the one’s they don’t have. It weights the election in favour of the preferences most strongly held by voters rather than compulsory preferential voting which gives equal weight to every preference, even preference that are random and filled in only to allow a ballot to be counted.

  12. A response to Ray. Elections are intended to reflect voters desires. Everything adding up to a nice, neat 100% is only important as a check to ensure voters desires have in fact been properly accounted for. Your unstated assumption is that a voter determining that they don’t see a difference between candidates or parties and therefore don’t want to express a preference between them is in some sense illegitimate. It is not.

    “None of the above” is as valid a choice in principle (regardless of the rules re compulsory or optional) as “Candidate X” or “Candidate Y”.

    It is in fact the same in principle as an informal ballot paper deliberately left blank. How do you propose to address that “travesty of democracy”?

    To repeat – Elections are to measure people’s wishes. Just because it messes up your table doesn’t make a refusal to choose illegitimate.

  13. Arrow’s impossibility theorem is a wonderful piece of work and rightly deserved a Nobel prize. At its heart, the idea of a rational voter (or rational consumers in economics) presume one thing, the mathematical property of transitivity. If a voter prefers A to B and B to C, then they will also prefer A to C. However, in voting using fully expressed preferences, the accumulation of the choices by rational voters can produce an ‘irrational’ result in that transitivity is breached when all the votes are tallied, and the A to B to C assumption will not always be clear from the election result…..

    And, not only that but in pair-wise comparisons, the judgement criteria may vary according to the pairs. It is perfectly OK for me to prefer bananas to oranges and oranges to apples, but apples to bananas. I’m voting on different things in each comparison.

    …..Some have advocated Condorcet (not sure of spelling)

    A good exposition of it all is in “The Choice of Voting Systems” in scientific American, in about 1976. The author points out that it would theoretically be possible to elect a President who was preferred by only 10% of the voters.

  14. And, not only that but in pair-wise comparisons, the judgement criteria may vary according to the pairs. It is perfectly OK for me to prefer bananas to oranges and oranges to apples, but apples to bananas. I’m voting on different things in each comparison.

    I disagree.

    The break with transitivity only makes sense over a group, not an individual. Which I believe is what Antony was saying.

    Or put it another way: how are you going to fill out your bananas v oranges v apples ballot paper?

  15. Antony,

    The argument about strongly held preferences could just as easily (and correctly) be used in favor of optional voting. Rather than being a civil liberties issue, the strongest agrument against compulsory voting is that it gives equal weight to “even preference that are random and filled in only to allow a ballot to be counted.”

  16. See also: Paradoxes of Preferential Voting Peter C. Fishburn; Steven J. Brams Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 56, No. 4. (Sep., 1983), pp. 207-214. [this is on-line]

    ….David Walsh Says: …Or put it another way: how are you going to fill out your bananas v oranges v apples ballot paper?

    I exhaust after oranges (informal vote under the FPV rules).

    In the 1990s there were a considerable number of voters who preferred Liberal to Labor but, when they were offered Pauline Hanson after 1996, preferred her to both…. but it turned out that they now preferred Labour to Liberal as 2nd&3rd (43% of them, on the average). This was their individual choice and not the kind of intransitivity to which Antony was referring.

  17. Geoff – I’m sceptical. How do you know that these One Nation voters were Liberal and not Labor voters in the first place?

    Didn’t One Nation take a few seats off Labor at the 1998 Qld state election?

    Heck, Hanson herself probably never would have won Oxley were it not for her disendorsed status helping pull a chunk of otherwise Labor voters.

  18. Sacha,

    I’m not so much annoyed that the winner might not reach the magic number of votes that constitutes a quota, as I am annoyed that there are most likely a whole bunch of votes out there that exhaust where the voter probably would have preferred distinguish between the contesting candidates. But because the voter probably did not appreciate the implications of not filling in any more than five candidates, as was the minimum guidence, his vote may not contribute to the determination ultimate winner.

    I’m sure if you were to ask which major party the voter who lodged the exhausted vote would prefer, you would get a definite answer, and yet because he didn’t think to extend his preferences beyond five, then that major party preference is not expressed.

    Tragically in the case of this election, lack of counting of that expression may well determine the BoP of the parliament in Victoria.

  19. Ray – people get the result they voted for. They’re responsible for it. I’m not in favour of the state requiring voters to fill in all the boxes because the state thinks that voters actually do have some preferences that they’re not showing (because they don’t need to). C’mon. I suspect you don’t like the fact that the DLP will win a spot on such a low primary vote.

  20. Sacha – I was actually commenting on the situation in SMET not WVIC.

    In WVIC it is weird indeed. Lazerus with a quintupple bypass. and no-one can blame CPV for it, because OPV applies. Its GVTs that are the issue here.

  21. “Didn’t One Nation take a few seats off Labor at the 1998 Qld state election?”

    It certainly did. I was campaigning and scrutineering for Labor’s Karen Struthers in that election, and I remember thinking, after seeing the size of the swing to Labor from the Liberals at the Salisbury booth (in Brisbane’s southern suburbs), that Labor was home and hosed if the swing was on across the board. Then I got home, turned on the TV and found that One Nation were winning seats like Caboolture (far northern suburbs of Brisbane) which were assumed to be fairly safe Labor. In the end Labor’s seat gains from the Coalition were entirely cancelled out by One Nation’s gains from Labor, and Beattie had to form a minority government supported by the independent Peter Wellington.

  22. What I also recall from that election is people I knew to be left-leaning working class voters, who could best be described as disgruntled Labor identifiers, telling me that they and many of their workmates were voting for One Nation as a protest against all the other protagonists, even though they knew and didn’t like what One Nation stood for.

  23. David Walsh Says: Geoff – I’m sceptical. How do you know that these One Nation voters were Liberal and not Labor voters in the first place?

    Examples of polling in early 97 (%ages)

    1-Feb-97 36.3 46.9 __ 45.6
    15-Feb-97 36.1 47.7 __ 45.8
    1-Mar-97 36.0 48.6 1.0 46.0
    15-Mar-97 35.9 47.7 2.5 46.2
    29-Mar-97 36.0 44.4 4.7 46.5
    12-Apr-97 35.4 42.0 8.1 46.7
    26-Apr-97 35.1 40.4 10.4 47.1
    10-May-97 34.9 41.3 10.1 47.5
    24-May-97 35.1 41.9 9.3 47.9
    7-Jun-97 35.3 42.2 8.3 48.1
    21-Jun-97 36.1 42.1 8.0 48.2
    5-Jul-97 36.4 41.5 7.5 48.2

    See how, when Hanson appears, her vote climbs, the Coalition declines, the ALP stays steady…. but the ALP TPP rises. [cut and paste into a spreadsheet]

    The 43% figure is a long-term average from Morgan Poll and elections (Fed & Qld). The numbers above are means of 3 fortnightly polls from three pollsters. Before 1995, these people probably WERE ALP voters- but they weren’t in 96-97.

  24. This site http://www.aph.gov.au/library/Pubs/rn/1997-98/98rn49.htm discusses voring figures in the qld 1998 election.

    If it’s meaningful to mention, the six Labor seats that One Nation won were: Ipswich West, Caboolture, Thuringowa, Maryborough, Hervey Bay and Whitsunday. The first three were “safe” or “safish” labor going into the election while the latter three were marginal against the coalition.

    From memory, One Nation came close to winning Ipswich, Cairns and Bundaberg, which then were usually labor seats (Cairns/Bundaberg are more marginal in recent history). One Nation did well in outer Brisbane seats eg Waterford, where from memory they got about 25% of the vote and the Labor candidate’s vote reduced to about 45%.

  25. I’ve just been scrutineering in Southern Metro. Doing calculations on the btl votes. Votes below the line for the Lib number 1 almost all went to Southwick. Btl for Pennicuik went about eighty percent to Thornley but a number exhausted. There appeared to be a number of btl votes for Freeman on the ALP ticket giving next preference to Southwick, in fact a significant number. Didn’t see any ballot papers for Myers but these could be an important factor too. Perhaps about ten percent plus of Pennicuik votes btl exhausted.

    Another interesting tit bit. Of the btl votes for Mayne none I saw went to Thornley. Most went to Pennicuik and about a third went to Southwick. PP btl voters appear to be a different breed to Mayne’s atl voters, who went to FF and ended up with Thornley before the Greens and the Libs. Also of interest was Bentley votes. atl these went to Thornley. btl most went to Southwick and some went to the Pennicuik, but not many.

    I only did a very small number of votes being keyed in by data entry operators. I cannot give an overall picture. I have been accurate in local government elections in Darebin to within 3 or 4 per cent in a small sample, but the problem in SM region is I don’t know where the btl votes came from and there could be big differences in different parts of the region. I was totally wrong in my predictions in the election won by Abbouche in Hume, where I predicted a win for Yigit, but once again the particular ward in Hume covered a huge area, and my sampling was only on a few data entry operators, as it was today in SM region. Darebin is fairly homogeneous, and mostly the votes won’t differ much throughout parts of the various wards.

    The exhausted votes could also hold the key to the final result. Liberal btl votes won’t generally exhaust as they seemed to almost be within the Liberal ticket 1 to 5. Exhausted Lib votes won’t matter. Nor will Thornley votes that exhaust. It’s the Pennicuik votes that exhaust, and also votes from candidates other than the top 2 Lib, Lenders, Southwick and Thornley that could be very crucial.

    I support optional preference marking. The comments above for compulsory marking of preferences were originally made by Dr Evatt when pr was first introduced to the Senate, and were similar to those of certain correspondents above. The Coalition at that time did not want compulsory marking. How silly Evatt was. The Coalition probably prevented Labor from winning a majority in the Senate at the 1974 double dissolution because of the huge number of candidates, no atl voting, and the requirement on voters in NSW at least to mark about 76 preferences. The informal vote was over ten per cent, and probably most of these were Labor votes.

  26. Another update on the VEC website. Anyone care to explain whether it gives any further light as to who will win the 5th spot in Southern Metro.

  27. Word from the streets of Southern Metropolitan as of 3pm Friday afternoon is Thornley, that purveyor of crap dot com rubbish, is sinking slowly beneath the waves.

    BTL votes are quite simply killing Thornley and unless the Greens have a whack of ATL votes left over quota then it’s goodnight to a true corporate grub. Rather than shed tears for the demise of this utterly flawed man, Premier Bracks in years to come will thank the Heavens and the people of Southern Metro for their collective wisdom in saving Victoria from this shonk.

  28. The latest update leaves everything as it was . Makes almost no difference. Lyle’s comment on the Mayne preferences is important. Every BTL vote that gets to the Greens before the Democrat preferences increases the size of the Green surplus and increases the chances of Thornley getting elected.

    Peter K, you quote of me is out of context. Under compulsory preferential voting, you have to express a preference for every candidate even if you don’t have it, just so that the preferences you do have are allowed to be counted. Hence my comment about people filling in random preferences just to get their vote counted. If you are a Green supporter and you want to vote for them and don’t care about the major parties, you still have to make a choice for either the Labor or Liberal candidates because you have to if you want your vote for the Greens to count.

    That’s why voluntary voting combined with compulsory preferences can’t work. If I live in a seat with two candidates, say Communist and Fascist, and I don’t care for either, under voluntary voting, I wouldn’t have to vote. But if a third candidate of the Moderate party nominated, and I wanted to vote for them, then under compulsory preferential voting with voluntary voting, I would be forced to make the choice between Communist and Fascist if I wanted to vote for the Moderate. That’s a choice I wouldn’t have had to make if their had been only two candidates.

    In the 1950s, the Liberal Party often opted out of the electoral contest in the NSW state seat of Cessnock, leaving the field to the Labor and Communist Parties. Whenever this occurred, there was always a huge jump in the informal vote. When the Liberal Party did stand, Liberal supporters were forced to make that choice and seemingly quite happily did so.

    In relations to the 1998 Queensland election, in the seats where One Nation finished 3rd or did not contest, the swing to Labor was 4.7%. The swing was strongly against Labor where the Nationals finished third because the National preferences flowed more strongly to One Nation than the reverse. If you break down that election, it is pretty clear that One Nation may have taken a few percent off the Labor primary vote. Unfortunately for the Coalition, it also halved the National Party vote. If anyone is looking for a good thesis topic, an excellent one is what the Federal Coalition government was saying about Pauline Hanson and One Nation before the 1998 Queensland election, and the language it was using afterwards.

  29. Though equally, every BTL that goes straight to Southwick makes it harder for Thornley. Funny, the BTL beauty contest between Liberal and Greens will decide Thornley’s fate. Under the Tasmanian, ACT and NSW rules, the BTL votes would carry more weight than the Green tickets.

  30. Sacha: Labor only lost or came close to losing seats where One Nation outpolled the Nationals, not the other way around. The rise of One Nation prevented Beattie getting a majority in 1998, but the price the Coalition paid for heading Beattie off at the pass was the decimation of its own base vote.

  31. The possible resurrection of the DLP is fascinating. It is also fascinating that along with that party’s possible resurrection comes the resurrection of anti-DLP feeling; e.g., on ‘Full house (part two)’, centaur_007 (December 8th, 2006 at 9:59 am) says: ‘I can’t believe it we’ve done it again FF then DLP. Whoever works out these voting tickets should be shot.’ I do not know whey ‘we’ is the chosen pronoun, but the ALP and the DLP did a deal on preferences, each thinking to gain from it, the ALP in Northern and Western Metro and the DLP in Western Victoria. The same applied to the ALP/Family First deal in 2004, which the ALP expected to re-elect Jacinta Collins on FF preferences. The ALP would have been right if its vote had not fallen so badly. Those who do not like preference deals have the option of voting below the line. If they choose not to inform themselves or exercise that option, so be it.

    In the lead-up to the election, the DLP was hardly mentioned, while both the dead Democrats and the stillborn People Power got a few mentions. Yet the DLP out-polled both in the Legislative Council. After the election, the DLP does get a mention, but often in the same way as it did 30 years ago; i.e., with plenty of negative comment. It also seems that attempts to correct the negative comments and even straightforward inaccuracies will remain unpublished, just as they often were 30 years ago. I give as an example my so far unpublished letter of 6/12 to The Australian:

    ‘A little knowledge of political history would be useful to those who read the inaccurate claims still made about the DLP (“DLP on verge of breaking 30-year drought”, 6/12). Even leaving aside Nino Randazzo, whose election to the Italian Senate was not under the DLP label, the last DLP MP was Kevin Harrold, who sat in the NSW Parliament from 1973 to 1976.

    ‘According to every public source I have seen, Steve Bracks’s “heated discussions” with his father were solely about capital punishment. Whatever Stan Bracks’s views, the DLP was consistent in opposing both capital punishment and abortion and campaigned against the hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967.

    ‘The DLP was never “extremist” or even “right-wing”. It was the result of a decision by the men who controlled the federal ALP in 1954/55 to launch an unjustified and foolish attack on the Victorian party, thus destroying the parliamentary careers of a number of principled Labor MPs and condemning the ALP to a generation in the political wilderness – a mistake the current ALP would never make.

    ‘The real right wing is outside the DLP and takes every opportunity it can to denigrate the public sector and those who work in it. “Labor Party sources said Mr Rudd was likely to take an uncompromising position on political correctness in the education system and had spoken of placing the concerns of parents above those of pressure groups such as teachers’ unions“ (“Rudd calls on states to corner PM”, 6/12). This manipulative attempt to treat teachers as the enemies of education is a typically right-wing attack on the teaching profession.

    ‘The modern ALP knows that a bird needs both wings to fly. The ALP gained DLP preferences for its fourth candidate in the Western Metropolitan Region. If Peter Kavanagh succeeds in the Buffy-like resurrection of the DLP, I am sure that there will many in the ALP comfortable having a negotiating partner other than the Greens in the Legislative Council. What the critics forget is that both the ALP and the DLP are Labor parties.

    ‘Yours sincerely,
    Chris Curtis
    (Vice President, Victorian DLP, 1976-78)

    ‘e-mailed to: letters@theaustralian.com.au
    as Labor Parties’

    I have read attacks on the teaching profession for the 33 years I have been a member of it. These attacks are malicious and evidence-free, but they keep on coming. They work on the subconscious drip method; i.e., casual slurs are dropped into many articles and comments, almost always without any supporting facts, but the repetition of these slurs gives them a life of their own and people start to believe and repeat them without even knowing where they came from. Unions are nowadays treated the same way. The same process occurred so effectively with the DLP that it was driven to disband in 1978. The current DLP will get the same treatment.

    These are examples of the way in which public opinion is formed without the public paying much attention to it.

    If the current DLP wins in Western Victoria and if it retains the Labor philosophy of the DLP to which I belonged, I expect that its MLC will vote quite often with the ALP rather than with the Liberal Party. Of course, the ALP would prefer the numbers in its own right, but having to rely on a DLP vote will not trouble it.

  32. Chris your letter was way too long (and some would argue pointless) to warrant inclusion.

    You mention that the modern ALP needs both wings to fly. The fact remains, Western Victoria or not, the DLP is a dodo. Any win is not a resurrection but a fluke brought about by clever preference harvesting and some extremely fortuitous exclusions.

    What will Peter Kavanaugh talk about in his maiden speech? The threat from Communist Vietnam? The Domino Theory? Give us all a break.

  33. The only issue that really motivates the current DLP (which is not legally the same party that Chris belonged to) is abortion. It is no more than a front for the Right To Life consisting largely of the Mulholland family. Those members of the old DLP who considered themselves to be part of the labour movement came back into the ALP when Hawke brought the “Grouper unions” back into affiliation, and as far as all sensible ALP people are concerned (ie everyone except the Tomato Left), they are very welcome home.

    Of course it is a travesty that a party with 2.5% of the vote wins a seat when the quota is 16.7%, but any system of multi-member preferential PR requires preference deals of this kind, and there is always the risk that they will backfire as happened with Fielding in 2004 and now with the DLP. Labor never expected to retain control of the Council anyway so I don’t see anything particularly tragic about this outcome. Any “left” bill that Bracks wants to pass (there won’t be many) will get through with the support of the Greens. Labor lives quite happily with upper houses of this type in WA and SA.

  34. Isabella,

    I tend to write at great length because I want to cover all the facts I can. That is probably my history training. Letters to the editor can be edited if space is the reason for non-publication. The point of the letter was to not leave factual inaccuracies and misrepresentation unchallenged. The point of the post was to suggest that the ALP will not find it difficult to deal with a DLP MLC who holds or shares the balance of power.

    I do not know Peter Kavanagh or what he will talk about if he gets to give a maiden speech, but I can make an informed guess. It won’t be the non-existent threat from communist Vietnam, though he may make a reference to the suffering of the people there. I think he will talk about life itself, about his grandfather, about persistence in a cause you believe in, among other things, but I am content to wait and see.

    I do not see the DLP’s possible win as a fluke but at least partly as the result of some astute assessment of potential voting numbers and preference flows made before the election.

    Tom the grouper,

    Thank you, but I will not be coming back to the party. I will, however, speak up for what I see as historical truth.


    The terms ‘right’ and ‘left come’ from the where members of the French National Assembly sat more than two centuries ago. They deserve a discussion in their own right, but that can be left to another occasion. It does depend on where the centre is. The Kennett Liberals were way to the right of the Hamer Liberals. The Howard Liberals are to the right of the Fraser Liberals. The Rudd ALP is to the right of the Whitlam ALP. The DLP is to the left of all the Liberal incarnations mentioned, but to the right of the Whitlam ALP. I do not know how different the current DLP’s policies are to those of 30 years ago, but I was the DLP’s policy review convenor then and you would be hard-pressed to call those policies, outside of foreign affairs and defence, right-wing. Only last year, I showed the DLP’s environment policy from then to a member of the German Greens. His verdict was that it was advanced for its time.

  35. To return to Ray’s point about the final seat possibly being decided by the candidate with the higher number of votes, but short of a quota:
    I would argue that mathematically that’s perfectly proper. Effectively a BTL voter who chooses not to complete the full available list of preferences submits an informal if s/he doesn’t express a preference between the last two surviving candidates (there is absolutely no way the counting process can infer a preference). The consequence is that the quota for the fifth spot therefore is reduced, since there are now fewer effective formal votes.
    I think the in principle objection to ATL votes is much more powerful, that the voter is denying themselves the right to allocate their preferences, and passing that option to Stephen Newnham, Julian Sheezel and their corresponding executives in other parties (Faceless men and women?). When this coughs up results that people didn’t intend, that’s a direct consequence of the system. Whether you can blame people for their limited engagement with the system, or whether the system should be blamed for exploiting that reality is an issue worth discussing.

  36. But is the alternative a return to the pre-1984 system, when voters had to number the entire Senate ballat paper in the correct order? This led to informal rates of up to 10%, effectively disfranchising large numbers of (mainly working-class and non-English-speaking) voters, and also encouraged the tactic of ballot-flooding, running large numbers of dummy tickets to make the ballot bigger and voting harder. This was how the Liberals stole a crucial Senate seat from Labor in NSW in 1974 (there were 73 candidates). This episode led directly to Mick Young’s reforms of 1983, introducing ATL and BTL voting.

  37. And led to the Wran government adopting optional preferential voting when it reformed the NSW Legislative Council. The speeches by Labor members on the bill all referred to this as a measure to stop a repeat of the 1974 Senate election informal vote.

  38. Lyle,
    I was also scrutineering, and had a smaller sample than you to go on. However, my impression of Mayne’s BTL votes was that they broke 40% Green and approximately 30% each to Liberal and Labor. That would reduce Labor’s vote (cfd. to an assumption that all BTL votes follow the ATL preference allocation – in this case to Labor). However, there were also FF votes going to Labor (certainly in smaller numbers), and doubtless DLP votes likewise, so the leakage in net terms impacts on Labor, but IMO not disastrously.
    Where preferences from candidates formally favouring Labor go to the Greens, this only matters if they and the Greens’ votes subsequently exhaust or favour Southwick.
    Incidentally I had a sample of Pennicuik’s BTL ist preferences, of which 15-20% exhausted, less than 10% went to Southwick, and ca. 75% went to Thornley. That’s a leakage from the votes ET needs for his quota (surplus Greens assuming they win the 4th seat), but it’s not on a scale sufficient to change the result.
    I reckon Thornley’s margin over Southwick is a theoretical excess of 2,000; extrapolating from the previous paragraph, that figure is narrowing, but by less than the Liberals need. Also Southwick’s gain through much of the earlier post-polling day count seems to have stalled.
    Barring a further change of direction of the count (bearing in mind 90%+ has been accounted for), I think Thornley has just about made it.

  39. Just an addendum to your note Peter. Remember that any BTL votes that get to the Greens before the Democrat ticket votes are distributed is subsequently swamped by the Green ticket. Every extra BTL vote going to the Greens increases the size of the Green surplus and effectively releases a little bit more of the Green ticket. When the surplus calculation is done, all of the votes held by the Greens are included along with the Democrat ticket, meaning that 85-90% of the Green surplus will be ticket votes with preferences for Labor. Every BTL for Southwick that first goes to the Greens gets de-valued and helps release a little bit more of the Green ticket with preferences for Labor. Labor would rather have preferences locked up and devalued with the Greens than sloshing around at full value with a free choice between Southwick and Thornley.

  40. The fact that votes become exhausted is not the only explanation for someone to win the last seat without a quota. In a five-seat electorate with 300,000 voters, the quota would be 50,001 votes. Four quotas would total 200,004 votes, leaving 99,996 votes to be shared between eventually two remaining candidates, who could get 49,999 votes and 49,997 votes respectively, with the former to be elected despite falling short of a quota.

    Can someone explain what would happen under the extremely unlikely scenario of an exhaustion of votes which occurred with only three seats filled and which left insufficient votes remaining to fill the two remaining quotas? Would the quota be re-calculated? If so, how?

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