Idle speculation about the federal election

Adam Carr asks: "William, could we have a thread dedicated to idle speculation about the federal election, as you have done for the NSW election?" His wish is my command. By way of a conversation starter, I note that the Australian Electoral Commission recently released an extensive list of parties that have been deregistered by virtue of last year’s electoral law "reforms", one of which sought to do away with minor parties taking the name of major parties in vain, principally Liberals for Forests. This was to be achieved by deregistering all parties that had never achieved federal parliamentary representation six months after the passage of the bill, then requiring them to register again under the new rules. I didn’t think this worth mentioning at the time, as I assumed it would be a fairly simple matter for parties other than Liberals for Forests, leaving aside the irritation of some added paperwork. However, those with their noses closer to the grindstone of minor party politics evidently don’t see it that way. Stephen Mayne, until very recently a principal of the People Power party, had this to say in today’s Crikey email:

The Howard government is known for its cynicism but the deregistration of 19 political parties when the nation wasn’t paying attention on December 27 must surely go down as one of its lowest acts. What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that don’t have an MP? Talk about abusing control of both houses … If this had happened before the 2004 election there is no way that Family First would have got up in Victoria because it relied on preferences from the likes of liberals for forests. The strangest part of this debacle is that the media has shown no interest whatsoever in reporting this assault on democracy. Imagine if there was some form of business where the regulator could get away with saying all small competitors were automatically deregistered. The big have got bigger in John Howard’s Australia and the corner store competing with Woolworths knows exactly how all these minor parties must feel.

The practical upshot is that most existing minor parties must provide renewed proof that they have at least 500 members. The exceptions are the Greens, other than the Queensland branch; Family First; the Australian Democrats; the Nuclear Disarmament Party; the NSW division of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (curiously, given that One Nation only ever won a seat in Queensland), and the Democratic Labor Party (which evidently persuaded the AEC it was the same party that existed prior to 1978). I personally am unclear as to how often parties are required to do this in the normal course of events; anyone who can enlighten me is invited to do so in comments.

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.

244 comments on “Idle speculation about the federal election”

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  1. It is as unwise to use State Results to predict federal ones, as it is to use federal ones to predict state ones…

    Though the fact that voters vote differently and sometimes at high margins says a lot about last 8 years for State Liberal Parties and the Federal ALP

  2. If parties had to have been, at some point, a “parliamentary party” (at either state or federal level) before this legislation was introduced, then why are Liberals for Forests on the chopping block? Wasn’t Janet Woollard (MLA for Alfred Cove in WA) elected as a Liberals for Forests member?

  3. * Dave: No.
    * Re South Australia: much as we would all love to see the Honourable Christopher Maurice turn a deep shade of puce on losing his seat, I think Labor would be well-advised to concentrate on wining back Wakefield and Kingston, seats where Rudd’s brand of Christian earnestness should play well. The only other SA seat I would put money into would be Makin, although I agree that Labor missed its best chance there in 2004.
    * Does anyone here have any local knowledge of the situation in Calare and Macquarie? Which one will Andren contest? Is Kerry Bartlett standing again? Who is Labor running against him?
    *Is Jackie Kelly retiring or not?

  4. To Adam,

    I think Andren is contesting Macquarie, if he did not Labor would win the seat in a caner. However Andren has a chance in a contest against Labor.

    I’m not totally sure, I think so, if she did Labor has a chance of picking up Lindsay.

  5. Andren refuses to comment on the issue until after the NSW Election. However I suspect he’ll run in Macquarie as his chances are better in a “labor-like” electorate than in the new Calare.

    The new Calare is most likely to be conservative as it takes up nearly half the state. John Cobb, the current Parkes Nationals MP intends to run in the new Calare.

    You can’t tell me with an electorate the size of the new Calare the AEC is independent or that it is good for democracy.

    And we’re all better off with independents in power than out.

  6. While Andren could win either seat, I would think Calare is an easier option. Andren will get significant media coverage of his campaign in Calare but not Macquarie. Half of the new Macquarie, the area he does not currently represent, gets all its television and radio from Sydney. That means no coverage on local television news or on local radio talkback. That is the opposite of the position if he runs in Calare.

  7. “You can’t tell me with an electorate the size of the new Calare the AEC is independent or that it is good for democracy.”

    Well there are a couple of very large electorates – eg Kalgoorlie, Grey, Farrer, Maranoa, Kennedy and the outback NT one. I don’t think that their sizes have much to do with the independence of the AEC.

  8. I also reject any suggestion that the NSW boundaries were influenced by political considerations. The fact is that western NSW is losing propulation and designing seats that conform to community of interest is very difficult. This solution is as good as any, although I regret the unnecessary loss of the name Gwydir.

    I agree that Andren can probably win whichever seat he contests, and I agree with Antony’s points on why he should probably contest the new Calare rather than Macquarie – but I was asking if anyone *knows* which one he is going to contest, to which the answer seems to be no. Also no-one knows whether Bartlett or Kelly will stand again. OK.

  9. I’d bet on both Bartlett and Kelly standing in 2007, especially given comments in the Blue Mountains Press (Bartlett) after redistribution, and in the Sydney Papers (Kelly) at the time of the Howard/Costello blip.

  10. For anyone who thinks that it’s really easy to design a reasonable set of boundaries given all the restrictive criteria, I suggest that they actually try and do it themselves. It might be more difficult than it seems.

  11. Suburban electorates, and much of the new Macquarie is this, are not good for independents. Remember Susan Davies in 2002. I know its fun to endlessly speculate about indivdual seats but by and large they go with the swing. Rudd, like Howard in 1996, is the type of leader who will induce a fairly uniform response across the electorate.

  12. This is a rather new issue and maybe should have its own thread, but there are federal implications.

    Going through the Vic state election results I noticed that some seats did not have nearly as many voters as was predicted by the boundaries commission when they drew up the stte upper house seats. Looking further, I found that the whole state was actually about 60,000 voters down on the commission’s expectations (I shouldn’t really say they predicted, as they just used data supplied to them).

    In fact, total enrollment had only grown by 8,000 or some such figure in 20 months from when the redistribution process started.

    Now Victoria’s population has grown vastly more than this. Consequently I conclude that either very few new people have been enrolled, or else vast numbers of people have been kicked off the roll so that the proportion of the eligbile population on the roll fell significantly over that time.

    An extra 60,000 voters, spread fairly evenly across the state would probably not have changed the election result much, but if the federal election is closer (as I anticipate) it could matter. And given the legislation changes preventing people getting on the roll after the election is called the issue is even more serious.

    Does anyone know why it is that the electoral roll has not matched the rise in population in the last two years in Vic, and whether the situation is the same in other states?

  13. In response to Stephen L’s comments above.

    Much of the growth of Victoria’s population has come about through overseas immigration and overseas temporary residents (i.e. foreign students). Under the constitution apportionment is based on population not voters. Only Australian citizens can vote though non citizens and non voters (those under 18) are still counted for apportionment purposes.

    Therefore states such as Victoria and NSW where there are high numbers of resident non citizens or Queensland which has a younger population profile have average electorate sizes that are smaller than SA for example where in the last 30 years there has been little immigration and the demographic profile is older.

    Once the number of seats has been apportioned between states, the distribution between seats is determined by enrolled voters. In the Victorian case, the numbers are possibly skewed because the AEC normally does a roll update in the 6-12 months before an expected e;ection and the Victorian poll would have missed this.

  14. Brand has never been a particularly safe seat for Labor and Beazley nearly lost it in 1996 (perhaps due to his carpetbagging antics). The coming federal election could be a bad one for Labor in WA if they aren’t very careful. Swan and Cowan and both at considerable risk. Adding Brand to that mix would mean stretching campaign funds and meaning that marginal Liberal held seats (Stirling, Hasluck and to a lesser extent Kalgoorie) may have to be ignored in order to shore up Brand, Swan and Cowan.

  15. there is just no way at all labor can win by focusing on Cowan, Brand and Swan, they really have to look after themselves.

    Hasluck, Stirling and other seatins including maybe Don Randall’s seat (whose name escapes me briefly) needs to be the focus.

    And without the benefit of targetted electorate polling you would have to say the fabulous 2 pp numbers Beazley had for most of last year plus the bump / bounce Rudd has got would shift the focus again (for example on those numbers for most of the last year Hasluck is just a Labor gain – even before local factors like the brickworks and the actual sitting member are taken into account).

  16. “The Qld greens are on the deregistered list, and I would assume this is because they failed to get the paperwork lodged in time.”

    Just to clear this up: There was no paperwork to lodge. This deregistration was automatic and unavoidable, and the Q Greens can reregister at no cost if they choose. And they may not, because they don’t contest Federal elections as Qld Greens. Neither the SA Greens nor the Tas Greens are registered federally (

    The biggest pain out of all this though, is the damage done to the Q Greens reputation, within the party and without. The number of queries I’ve fielded about the competence of the Party’s management that ‘allowed’ this to happen is quite disheartening.


  17. Dave S Says: ” The coming federal election could be a bad one for Labor in WA if they aren’t very careful.” I take it you are a Western Australian. I won’t hold that against you (joke!!!!). As a Victorian and obviously not on the scene over there, could explain why Labor could do badly in WA? Are there any Federal poll figures that you’ve seen of recent times that indicate this? Just curious and somewhat surprised that Labor could do poorly in that state.

  18. Beazley being leader boosted the ALP vote in the west in 2001, and there was a strong (and correct) expectation in my circles that not being leader would detract from it in 2004 (hence a swing of over 5% in the West against the ALP last time).

    I would imagine a similar thing may be on the cards again. Small States have small state issues to throw into any mix. Dumping a local leader for a Queenslander and a Victorian could do something.

    The West also has strong economic performance, very low unemployment, and the weakest re-election result for a state ALP government in the country.

  19. The West today suggests the left is to get behind Sharon Jackson (former Member for Hasluck) if she wants Swan. It was never clear she wanted Hasluck again, but rumors have had her running again there.

    Whether Mr Gray would want to run in Hasluck would be an interesting question. The West also has David Ritter, ALP candidate for Pearce last time expressing an interest in any winnable seat.

    Magpies – um are you suggesting down an additional 5% on the last result or similar levels to the last result ie down 5% on the 2001? That you correlate the vote with Kim would no doubt please him but is there any evidence for it being Kim rather than other factors?

    I’m also not at all sure you are reading the Gallop wins all that well – the miracle election result other labor leaders got in the second election arguably came to Gallop in his first, defeating an incumbent Government in reasonably good economic times – and in a fundamentally undemocratic system.

    I still feel at this time based on 2pp results, without any internal targetted polling to help me, labor would not be worried at all about existing seats on the basis it would be hard to do worse than 2004, would be pencilling in Hasluck and maybe even Stirling as wins and looking at the next bracket of seats for winnable coalition targets. And Howard looks like he wont be lucky enough to avoid a Feb interest rate rise so looking at Hasluck, Stirling and maybe Canning there are a lot of hurting mortgages in that belt and even if Howard forgets they will not have forgotten the ‘mortgage calculator’ scam ‘no interest rate rise under howard’ line they were blanket bombed with last time.

  20. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the displeasure of West Australians at not having ‘their’ Kim at the top of the ALP ticket was expressed and fully exhausted at the last election, and that Rudd’s performance could hardly be worse than Latham’s in WA. Swan and Cowan, despite being on very tight margins, would therefore be safe.

    Yet like WSM, and from over here in NSW, and having met a great many, VERY parochial West Australians, I just can’t shake the doubt. Can’t forget that Kim resigned the leadership voluntarily three years before the 2004 election, and his leadership ballot loss to Latham didn’t actively remove him from the leadership like his recent loss to Rudd. If West Australians were looking for a sign of rejection, the absence of Kim this time round, given the circumstances, could hurt just as much as last time round.

    Can a West Australian give us a low down on the mood over there re a Kim-less ALP?

  21. I wasn’t suggesting 5%… That would be crazy.

    I have heard some speculation about Cowan (with a retiring popular local MP) being available.

  22. I think too much emphasis is being put on the impact of Kim’s departure on Labor’s fortunes in WA. Western Suburbs Magpies Says: “Beazley being leader boosted the ALP vote in the west in 2001, and there was a strong (and correct) expectation in my circles that not being leader would detract from it in 2004 (hence a swing of over 5% in the West against the ALP last time).” You’re talking about an election tha

  23. Sorry, pushed the wrong key. Let me continue. You’re talking about an election that was a disaster for Labor across the country. WA was no exception. I think Rudd will achieve a swing to Labor this election. To what degree I’m not sure but I would expect WA to reflect this swing as well. The Burke trouble over there will pass over – besides all around the country you see people distinguishing between state and Federal issues when it comes to voting. Nothing I’ve seen so far in this discussion has convinced me that WA is a problem for Federal Labor but I can be persuaded with convincing evidence.

  24. Did I understand No Way to say that Sharryn Jackson is challenging Kim Wilkie in Swan? This would be folly of a high order. Not only is Wilkie a highly capable MP, he is also defending one of Labor’s most marginal seats. I can’t find anything at the West Oz’s website about this. Did No Way perhaps mean Brand or Cowan?

  25. It’s the parochial nature of the small states Gary. I’m a South Australian, but my state is similar to WA and I have a lot of connections over there. They are annoyed that Kym has been shunted out. The fact that he is not standing in Brand will be a strong reminder to the Brand electorate that Kym was treated badly by Labor, the seat is not safe, it probably won’t fall, but it could.

    The state government is not overly popular in WA. The stench of Burke hangs nastily in the air and the Outcomes Based Education system is an ongoing debacle. These factors, combined with the good factors that can be attributed to the Libs could be a toxic mix for the ALP in the West. Rudd is not likely to resonate with voters over there. He’s an east coast boy and I don’t believe Labor can win the election without gaining at least 2 seats in WA. That won’t happen.

  26. Just looking at some Eastern state press articles from Piers Ackerman. Piers has said that Edman has wide growing support . Laurie Oaks also did an article in the bulletin that hes a knock around bloke . Said him and kimbo have met a few times over a cup of coffee on local issues.

    Labour independent candidate Gerald Kettle also shared his office with Edman.

    Sounds like Brand is an interesting pastie.

  27. That’s all speculation on your part Dave. In 1983 Labor sacked the Queenslander Hayden as Leader and went on to a landslide in Qld under Hawke. And Kim (only in SA is it spelled Kym) was NOT treated badly by Labor. He was indulged for far too long in many people’s opinion. The real problem for Labor in WA is its conservatism – which is why Mad Mark was poison there, and why St Kevin the Blessed should do much better.

  28. Adam
    It just dosent seem to be the normal story in regards to candidates and federal electorates.

    The libs in WA did get more of the primary vote in 2004 than any where else in Australia but in brand the primary vote gain was close to 16% to Edman.

    The Howard interest rate scare campaign probably also had a bit to do with it of maybe 5%. Kim also wasnt the Leader . Latham however did spend some time in Brand with Kim.

    Regional partnerships also had a part to play as well

  29. The reason the Liberal vote in Brand rose by 15.9% was that in 2001 the “Liberals for Forests” polled 11.2% and One Nation polled 6.1%, and most of that vote went back to the Libs in 2004.

  30. Adam
    Yep , just had a look at the AEC results for 2001.
    In conclusion:In 2001 One nation and “Libs for Forrest” gave there preferences to Labor and in 1998 the same thing happen again.

    However in 2004 One nation still had 2.7% of the vote and gave prefences to the Libs . and the other 11.2% of libs for Forrest and say 3.4% of one nation voters from 2001 also change there minds and voted for the libs.

    I agree with you but why did one nation and Libs for forrest voters give preference the libs in 2004 and not in 2001 or 1998?

  31. sorry some very careless mistakes – but William got it right.

    And no evidence at all but my feeling is that West Australians who aren’t rusted on Labor voters had an affection for Kim but not a passion – and I would be surprised if we slipped from last time. Given my track record I’ll avoid naming electorates but surely Labor would have to be looking at and for ‘suprise wins’ rather than suprise losses in WA.

    There could be a demographic swing factor in Cowan but again coming of a low base should make this pretty unimportant. Much more important is the number of interest rate rises, the nature of the budget and the timing of the election.

  32. Polarising Labor leaders; Chifley, Whitlam, Keating, Latham don’t do well in Qld & WA. Labor will easily hold Brand. As for the Liberal in Brand being a good bloke, everybody in South West Coast in Vic said the same about the Labor candidate, didn’t stop the seat going with the swing.

  33. If Gary Gray is looking like getting preselected does anyone know if he is still denying the existence of the Greenhouse effect? Now that Howard is starting to be embarrassed by his lack of action on global warming I bet he would just love to have Labor run one of Australia’s more prominent denialists, someone who thinks pretty much every Noble Prize winner on Earth is a liar or an idiot.

  34. It is amazing with all the media on the subject of Brand in relation to Sharon Jackson and Gary Grey .
    Where the media fails in this regard is that people living in Brand share a different view.
    Neither of these two labor icons live or have ever lived in Brand. Phil Edman a councillor for the City of Rockingham and a resident is the liberal candidate for 2007 election and was in 2004 election.

    Without being completely bias it seems the media is pushing that aside.

    Geoff R says that the Lib may be a good bloke but if you look at the Vic it didnt matter at all.

    Edman was been responsible for lobbying for facilites for the locals for some years with success.

    My point is that i wouldnt under estimate the little people.

    Look at what happen with Matt Birney in a safe labor WA seat in Kalgoorlie.Which was labor for over 100 years

  35. The difference between Grey and Jackson and the Lib Candidate is that Grey and Jackson have a national profile.

    4.7% is marginal and I would think that now the bomber has gone back to teaching the margin may be even be smaller.

    Hasluck ,Stirling, Swan,Cowan and Brand have no parliamentry funds for labor . So money will have to be carefully spread out or directed at seats they can win like Swan and Hasluck.

    Brand is also a seat labor could keep with enough funds . I would hate to be the State labor director in WA, difficult decisions. However once labor does a poll for the different seats you may find which seats get first class swan and Hasluck are achievable

  36. Kevin Rudd is in the West Australian today backing Gray as the candidate in Brand. Will be a good test for Rudd of his standing in the WA party, particularly with his views on uranium at odds with the State ALP.

    These are some of his quotes:

    “The reason I want him there is because he is a first-class candidate with first-class business credentials and strong links to the mining sector.

    “He is also an excellent representative of his home State, Western Australia, and for all those reasons I have spoken to the national and State secretaries of the Labor Party and expressed my view that I want him to replace Kim Beazley in Brand — and I expect that to happen.”

    Les D also forgets something about Bomber in Brand. He never lived in the seat, and parachuted himself into Brand from Swan in 1996 when a redistribution made Swan almost impossible for him to win. The voters of Brand didn’t seem to mind having a sitting member who didn’t live in the seat, and one who spent much of his time on the East Coast.

  37. Trying again and again pretending it is only a WA election – and Jackson and Gray as good as pre-selected last night, for Hasluck and Brand, respectively. Mark Hasluck a win and Brand an easy retain.

    I perhaps foolishy note my disagreement with Mumble who is not looking at the outer suburbs for change – I disagree – Labor has in WA (very roughly at the top end) up to 60% of the 2 pp vote at a State level in booths it only got a 40% 2pp at the last Fed election. There aren’t enough leafy liberals to replace this amount of vote if labor has really lost it for ever.

    And no-one has explained to me exactly why they are voting so differently at State and Federal levels.

    I’m much more comfortable at a broad level with a sticking with the team in goodish time theory; than I am with the Fed tight financial control (as if Howard has ever delivered that) / state for services theory that goes around.

    Swan and Cowan should be easy retains on either theory though looking at where they are.

    So until internal polling is leaked showing seat specific trends you would be looking for big money to go to Stirlling and somewhere further up the pendulum. Of course Hasluck and Swan would stay marignal campaigns they are and can’t be ignored.

  38. I’m a little skeptical about the whole Kim factor pulling up the Labor vote when he’s leader and WA parochialism kicking in and punishing Labor when Kim’s not leader. For starters, Howard isn’t from WA either, so shouldn’t that cancel each other out? Perhaps it’s more a case of the Labor vote being inflated when Kim was leader and it returning to more stable levels when he’s not. In which case WA is a naturally conservative state where Labor should be content with having its current 5 seats. But I’m not too warm to that idea either, history doesn’t seem to vindicate that theory the same way as it does in QLD.

    Instead, I just think 2004 was a nightmare for Labor in WA because they had one Mark Latham as leader who, in my recollection, barely visited the state. Without allowing himself access to the WA media market (i.e. The West Australian) Latham sold himself short and sacrified critical WA votes. Combined with low unemployment, a resources boom and, ergo, overall solid economic conditions, why would WA voters swing to Labor? In these circumstances, the rejection seems logical.

    2007 won’t be as bad for 2004 in WA. My guess is swings to Labor in Stirling and Hasluck and, given their thin margins, probably gains. Kim Wikie in Swan will survive another day to fight another battle. No chance for Labor in Canning, so they’ll have to wait it out until 2010 before they can be in the hunt there. The big question mark is Cowan. The incumbent is retiring whose personal popularity undoubtedly saved this seat for Labor. I think alot of Liberals-who-voted-for-Edwards will come back to the fold. Assuming this swing is offset by voters returning to the Labor fold after the Latham debacle, this seat is safe for Labor. Labor just has to hope that Graham Edwards isn’t as popular as convention makes him out to be.

  39. I think that the ‘safe incumbents due to good times’ theory that No Way refers to is far to simplistic. While we have had economic good times internationally speaking it has been quite scary for a lot of people.

    I was handing out for Labor in the 2001 election when an old guy came up to me and said sorry he usually votes labor but that he’s worried that the Indian navy, which he saw during the war, was going to invade us so he had to vote liberal.

    So while the economic good times are largely continuing, especially if oil prices stay down, I think the fear of terrorism that dominated 2001 and was a big issue in 2004 is starting to quickly wane. Once that does the need for a leader willing to send people to war for no clear purpose diminishes

  40. If the ALP scraps its no new mines policy then that there will probably be a small swing from Labor to the Greens which may get them over the line in a few inner city seats and could leave them with a bi-cameral balance of power.

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