Idle speculation: late March edition

By popular demand, an exciting new episode of Idle Speculation. You will have to make your own conversation starters – my focus has been elsewhere. I’m sure you’ll manage.

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.

250 comments on “Idle speculation: late March edition”

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  1. William – I’m 7th – hah!

    vee wrote in part “It is extremely silly when you have two very small geographical electorates next to each other on the coast with similar problems. It would make more sense for it to be one electorate regardless of the number of people.

    As I understand it the new electorate redistributions don’t even follow the borders of LG areas – thats pretty stupid.”

    vee, for many years the commonwealth electoral act has specified that electorates will, at least at the time of the redistribution (and since 1984, the idea is that this continues for 7 years) have roughly the same number of voters.

    New electorate boundaries often follow local government boundaries, but it’s not uncommon for local government boundaries to be inappropriate to follow. Perhaps the local government has more voters than the electorate will, or maybe the distribution of voters means that one local govt has to be split between two or more electorates. This is not unusual.

  2. To EdwardStJohn

    In 2004 the state NSW labor government was unpopular, but Labor still managed to win seats federally (Richmond and Parramatta), although they lost Greenway. Labor has a good chance of picking up Parramatta (sitting Labor member, notionally liberal), Eden Monaro and maybe Page (Ian Causley is retiring).

  3. Dear William,

    Please find hereunder some figures shamelessly cut and pasted from Adam Carr’s site

    ( )

    They show the split of coalition votes in 2004 compared to 20 years previously, in Qld.

    1984…Liberal Party 19.2 %, National Party 31.7%,
    2004…Liberal Party 39.4 %, National Party 9.7%

    My point is that while a 2PP swing to the ALP of around 6% in Qld, which would only gain 3 seats, and would from memory, bring the Labor 2PP vote to around an historically high level, and presumably be difficult to better, might however, based on past observations that Liberal seats (and therefore votes) are relatively more prone to swing to the ALP than National ones , actually be ‘ripe’ to be bettered, (assuming favourable prevailing political winds continuing), on the basis that there is now an historically greater proportion of votes ‘available’ to swing.

    In other words, the ALP ‘ceiling’ in Qld of around 50% of 2PP votes, may in 2007 be susceptible to some degree of lifting.

    By the way, Mark Latham appears to have actually been received far more antagonistically in WA than Qld in 2004. The first preference ALP vote of 34.8% was the same in both states in 2004, but to get there, it increased by 0.1% in Qld and fell by 2.4% in WA. Presumably the 2PP vote fell in both states, but fell more in WA. If so, and if your thoughts about the ‘Brian Burke fallout’ being fairly limited in WA are correct (I hope I have phrased that ok) then perhaps the ALP is in the hunt to win some some Liberal seats, and maybe more than just the two most marginal ones.

    I also suspect that any WA voters upset that Kim Beazley was not ALP leader in 2004, would have been far more likely to have been upset that the alternative then was Mark Latham, than they would be in 2007 that it is Kevin Rudd. In summary, I don’t think that the replacement of Mr Beazley by Mr Rudd will be much of an issue for WA voters. Any thoughts?

  4. Lindsay, Eden-Monaro, Parramatta, Dobell and Page are all obvious seats for Labor to go after. I also happen to think they will win Bennelong and, whilst I’m not necessarily predicting they will fall, Robertson, Paterson and even Hughes aren’t out of reach with good local campaigns. I’m undecided on Gilmore – the margin is big but is almost entirely the result of the largest single-seat swing of the 2001 election… so it’s probably a bit softer than it looks.

  5. Banks like Gondor is ready to fall! Banks is the new Greenway of this election cycle.
    There is a terrible dilemma in Banks – the margin has been whittled away, will there be a new candidate or will Daryl Melham recommit to running again?

  6. ESJ – I believe that you are suffering from what is called ‘cognitive dissonance’.

    Be brave. The sky isn’t going to fall in the moment Rudd comes to power.

  7. I’m predicting a 98-ish Howard win, with big swings against him in safe labor seats.

    Labor will need to have 54+ 2PP when the election is called to win. A smaller lead and the pro-incumbent swing by undecideds will overwhelm it.

    However my predictions are relatively bad so if I was a Labor supporter I wouldn’t be losing any sleep over it.

  8. Rumours abound that the ALP is going to be running a new candidate in Banks and that certain pretenders have moved into the seat with a view to this.

  9. re WA Fed seats: Although I’m thinking that Moore and Kalgorlie would be the next seats to perhaps swing Labor’s way, I’d also put in a word for Pearce. Although with the creation of Hasluck the best ALP bits have been hived off, the results from 2 of the state seats (Swan Hills and Darling Range) that comprise Pearce would show some hope – SH was won by the ALP 53-47, DR by the Libs 47-53. The other two electorates that comprise much of Pearce are two smaller rural seats (a legacy of the old gerrymander, soon to be redistributed out of existence) both of which polled more like 65-35 to the coalition. My own sense is that the urban end of Pearce might go far more to the ALP, reducing the inflated margin of 60-40 much closer to what it was in 2001 (56-44) or even further. Noting the almost 10% swing in Canning (to the Libs) in the last election, they can go the other way too.

  10. I also note that the state redistribution in WA should commence next month – it will be interesting to see how the new (non-gerrymandering) rules are applied – and what the difference will be in potential seat winners/losers. I was wondering if Antony G or others will be making submissions, and who (other than WAEC) will be looking at where the new numbers fall?

  11. I think the Nats have a chance in Richmond

    and i agree with ESJ on Banks, I think its a possible ALP loss

    I also think this Andren is a shoe in stuff is a bit over the top, I think the Nats will take that seat

    however i do believe its all over for bartlett in macquarie

  12. David Bradbury in Lindsay – what a fourth go? Talk about new blood !
    No wonder they” blow yet another election

    I don’t think it would be his fourth go, maybe his third. The only other person sniffing around there that I am aware of is someone who contested and lost Macquarie last time around. You can take your pick of losers!!

    But seriously, Bradbury has been solid and lived and worked in the area and in a country town like Penrith that actually counts. Still, hard to imagine they couldn’t knock Jackie Kelly off.

  13. The Coalition victory in 2004 was on the back of a massive primary vote that is unlikely to be repeated. The weakness in their position is that in NSW and VIC they could easily lose more than enough seats so that Labor will need few if any gains from the South, the West and the North.

    My bet is that if there is another interest rate rise before June, ‘grandpa’ will leave gracefully and Costello will reign till March 2008 (with a majority in the Senate why would you bother going any earlier?).

  14. I agree, anonymousie, Bradbury would seem to be the most viable challenger to Kelly in Lindsay. At least he lives in the electorate, which puts him streets ahead of the other bloke they’ve been talking about.

    Kelly is probably very wary of having to face him again, because he has had her measure at the last two polls, and recovered more ground in ’04 than a lot of other candidates out there.

    Labor’s showing in the State seats in Lindsay (Mulgoa, Penrith and Londonderry) would indicate it is competitive there. Tristan remarked about the swing to the Coalition in Mulgoa, but I think it’s fair to argue it reflected the state-wide trend and was coming off a high-water mark. In comparison, as Adam points out, Penrith copped a 10-point swing against it at the ’03 poll, so a recovery of three points is still far off the margin it was sitting on at the height of the Carr Government’s popularity.

  15. anonymousie is right – Bradbury has pegged Kelly back a bit. If you look at the primary vote figs for western Sydney in 2004 Bradbury was the only Labor candidate to record a strong positive swing – over 2.5 per cent – and that was in an electoral atmosphere where Latham recorded the lowest ALP primary vote since the elections of 1931 and 1934. His nearest ALP rival was Ptolemy who got a swing of 0.93 per cent to him in Macquarie. Bradbury achieved a pretty good result in the circumstances. In the neighbouring seat of Prospect where the sitting member Janice Crosio retired Labor’s Chris Bowen suffered a swing of more than 5 per cent against him.

  16. I don’t think they can push the election out till March next year – I was under the impression that the last possible date was in mid-January, meaning that the last practical date would be early December.

    The control of the Senate will be an interesting thing to watch, especially if the K-Rudd does take the Reps. The current Senate will remain there until July next year, and they will have to have a particularly poor result in the election this year to lose control after that. Double dissolution, anyone?

  17. Oh Vee, your comments on the redistribution results in NSW – and the impact on Andren in Calare.

    I’ve lived in three National Party seats (must be some sort of record), and always there is this complaint that those evil and lazy city dwellers get easy access to their local member because they live in postage stamp sized electorates while poor, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth (insert any other cliche) country people have to drive for days on end to see their local MP.

    Sorry, it is just another case of the bush wanting a special deal so that they can have more political voice than the just as hardworking, salt-of-the-earth and poor people of western Sydney or western Melbourne.

    If you can’t accept one vote one value, then head to a country where rural voters exert control out of proportion to their part of the democracy. Let’s think about the results – more AWBs than you could poke a stick at, more $10 billion handouts that will line the pockets of irrigators, more beautifully sealed roads which carry 10 cars a day…

    I think the maligned former Liberal member for Parramatta, Ross Cameron, was on the ball with his argument that what’s the difference between a group of sheep/wheat/cattle farmers and a group of kebab shop owners. Nothing, except that the rural sector is organised politically – probably because the kebab shop owners are too busy.

    By the way, Andren to stand against Cobb in Calare and to win. Another nail in the Nats coffin.

  18. Oh, that’s a good one!!

    Ross Gittins’ article in the Herald today is about how drought relief should go on a HECS based system of forward loans, paid according to subsequent income. Not a bad idea.

  19. It’s a little too early to be making predicitons. A lot can happen in 6 months, like another Tampa, a terrorist attack on Australian soil, Kevin Rudd either falling under a bus or imploding etc.
    As a Labor supporter, I’m too used to the ALP losing previous elections, after having substantial leads in the polls a few months earlier.
    Not getting too carried away with all the predictions of a “Ruddslide”.
    If Kevin does win, it’ll only be a maximum majority of 10, at best.

  20. Yes, Evan, I think your caution is well placed. The electoral maths are hard for Labor – 16 seats is a lot, and despite the poll leads at the moment, voters have a habit of coming back to the incumbent on election day. the most likely result (as much as it kills me to admit it) is that the government will be returned with a much reduced majority.

    Having said all that, every ten elections or so some weird dynamics come forward, and so the normal rules don’t apply. Whether or not 2007 will be one such election remains to be seen.

  21. re Queensland it is true that Labor rarely polls above 50% but when they do they tend to win half or close to half. I refer to 1961 & 1990. also look
    at the pattern of swings eg leichardt , herbert blair @ last election. also
    the labor vote in 2004 was very poor 42% 2ppp If you look at the last 3 Queensland elections you can see what is possible.
    Re Banks I’m sure Daryl Melham will be the labor candidate AND that
    he will win that seat.

  22. I agree, anonymousie, Bradbury would seem to be the most viable challenger to Kelly in Lindsay. At least he lives in the electorate, which puts him streets ahead of the other bloke they’ve been talking about.

    Kelly is probably very wary of having to face him again, because he has had her measure at the last two polls, and recovered more ground in ‘04 than a lot of other candidates out there.

    Labor’s showing in the State seats in Lindsay (Mulgoa, Penrith and Londonderry) would indicate it is competitive there. Tristan remarked about the swing to the Coalition in Mulgoa, but I think it’s fair to argue it reflected the state-wide trend and was coming off a high-water mark. In comparison, as Adam points out, Penrith copped a 10-point swing against it at the ‘03 poll, so a recovery of three points is still far off the margin it was sitting on at the height of the Carr Government’s popularity.

  23. With respect to the seats in WA:

    Stirling – The ALP candidate is Peter Tinley, a former Major with the SAS, who was in charge of the team who boarded the Tampa when it was heading to X-mas Island. He has been brought in as a “cleanskin” with no links to Brian Burke so it would be hard to think there will be any fallout in that seat. Keenan got an easy run against Jan McFarlane last time and won’t hold the seat this time.

    Hasluck – Stuart Henry, the local Lib member, got a real kick in the teeth when the Federal Govt decided to approve the construction of a brickworks on Federal Airport land despite the objections of the Local constitutents, Local Council and the State Govt who all expressed their concern about the impact on the air quality in the area. It did not help that the proponent of the Brickworks is long time Union basher and Liberal Party Supporter Len Buckeridge. Stuart Henry has been trying to get on board with the anti-brickworks campaign but will lose anyway.

    Canning – Despite being held by over 9% by Liberal Don Randall should still be regarded as a marginal. The ALP ran former MLA Kay Hallahan last time after their preselected candidate, Cimilie Bowden, had a falling out with campaign co-ordinator and long time BB supporter, Shelley Archer. The resulting farce of a campaign saw a huge swing to the Libs. Expect a swing back the other way because Randall has done little to endear himself to the electorate.

    Cowan – The ALP are losing their sitting member, Graham Edwards, who is retiring and has quite a large personal following. Will take a lot of work from the ALP to hold onto the seat in those circumstances.

  24. Sacha, You mentioned that electorates are required to be roughly the same size. Compare the two ACT seats with those of the NT or Tasmania. ACT is long overdue for a third seat, but apparently doesn’t fit the formula to allow another seat to be created. It’s like cutting the people to fit the formula, not adapting the formula to accommodate the people. It’s totally unrepresentative. Of course, there are already two Labor seats in Canberra – and, heaven forbid if democracy was allowed to prevail there may be three!

  25. Tina – the reason that Tasmania is over-represented is that their is a requirement in the Constitution that States have a minimum of 5 seats. Back in the days of a 75 member House (pre 1949), they were even more over-represented. Imagine if NT had carried the Statehood referendum a few years ago – they would be required to have 5 house seats and 12 Senators, which would be close to one representative per person!

  26. Hugo – that only applies to “original states”, which the NT wouldn’t have been. My understanding is that the NT would have gained a third senator, but that’s about all.

    Tina – the populations of Tas and the ACT are not absolutely hugely different, but Tasmania will always have at least five MPs due to a constitutional provision, regardless of its population (even if it falls to 10 000 people!) and the ACT currently has roughly 2.4 quotas of voters for MPs. There was a third ACT electorate for the 1996-98 parliament from memory (the ALP won all three).

  27. Tina, it’s not completely straightforward:

    1. MPs are allocated to the original states (the six states) according to relative populations.
    2. But each original state is given a minimum of 5 MPs regardless.
    3. Each state is divided into electorates where each electorate contains roughly the same number of voters (not people).
    4. The territories are allocated MPs by population, relative to the population in the states (I think) and their electorates are drawn similarly as are state ones.

  28. The big lesson from the NSW Election is that electors almost never kick out single term pollies. Shelley Hancock and Anthony Roberts for the Liberals got big swings towards them, despite portents of doom, and Karyn Paluzzano in Penrith defied the statewide trend and got a hefty swing to her.

    Meanwhile plenty of MPs who were seen as excellent local Members but had been around for a while got thumping swings against them – Barry Collier, Alison Megarrity to name two. Familiarity eventually breeds contempt.

    I think this is more applicable to State politics where local issues are more prominent, but it still holds that an MP who has worked hard in their first term is very very hard to dislodge and this needs to be taken into account Federally.

    So to sum up I think Jackie Kelly is in all kinds of trouble, as is the PM, but Turnbull probably has a chance of surviving a big swing.

    And in other news you have all missed Boothby in SA, which I think will go in a swing that will be almost as big as in Queensland.

  29. Sacha’s correct. The third (and very ephemeral) ACT seat was Namadji. Named after the National Park, is my guess. I’m surprised the name wasn’t kept when the ACT went back to two seats. The AEC usually tries to keep aboriginal names, though there are exceptions: Corinella, Gwydir (sort of), etc. Besides, the name “Fraser” should be reserved as the name of a future Victorian seat.

  30. ALP preselections have been called for Benenlong, Macquarie, Richmond and Parramatta.

    The first two are not held. The last two are key marginals, won by bloody strong local campaigns off the Libs last time.

  31. The question is, who will stand for Macquarie? You would think it is Bob Debus, and that would explain why Mark Ptolemy has declared he will run for Lindsay. Ptolemy is apparently not well-liked in the Macquarie branches and wouldn’t have a chance against Debus, but you would think he had an even smaller chance for preselection in a seat he doesn’t even live in.

  32. Does he have a wife called Cleopatra? Is she perchance his sister?

    Thanks to Luke for some decent intelligence on the WA seats. I guess I am persuaded by him and William that BB will not prevent Labor winning Stirling and Hasluck. Luke is more pessimistic about Cowan – is Liz Prime not a good candidate? And what about Swan? Does Labor have a show in Kalgoorlie? (Does Labor have a candidate in Kalgoorlie??)

  33. What has happened to Cathy O’Toole in Lindsay? I have always felt that her pre-selection at the 1998 election (at the behest of the ETU?) helped to create divisions in the branches and extend Jackie Kelly’s incumbence long beyond its natural expiry date>

  34. Bob Debus is 63. Considering that ALP MPs are required to retire at 65 (or at the first election after turning 65, at any rate), what would be the point?

  35. FrootLoop appears tohave nailed it in one – Ptolemy is trying to find a new political home with Debus set to run for Macquarie but I had no idea he didn’t live in the electorate, that would have to make it pretty difficult for him to get endorsement…they’d be much better off sticking with a local who is popular and has been a successful Mayor of Penrith.

  36. Firstly exemptions to that rule can be given by the National Executive (and obviously would be in this case), and secondly that rule would not stand up in court if challenged on grounds of age discrimination, as George “Safe” Seitz never tires of pointing out.

  37. Haven’t heard that one, Charlie. There’s no disputing Debus would be a quality candidate, and would contribute a lot to the Parliamentary party if he got up. And he has a longstanding connection with the electorate, which the ALP needs to have in its candidates if it wants to have a decent shot at winning key seats. McKew’s run in Bennelong is pure theatrics because they aren’t really expecting to win. In the key marginals, they need to be running locals with a bit of depth, or they are going to see massive swings against them on the local vote.

  38. Cathy O’Toole was purged because she fell out with the Hutchins machine in Penrith even to the extent of losing preselection for the local council. Also her husband Peter Jones fell out with the CEPU and was lately pursuing litigation against the union.

    Really 2 goes is fair enough for anybody isn’t it? If you cant win on the second go it really means the electorate doesnt like you for some reason. Surely the hour of the NUW has arrived?

  39. Isn’t it true that, if the ACT was given a third seat the average number of voters per electorate would be even lower than in the NT? I haven’t looked at the figures, but if true it tells me that they’re simply at opposite ends of the fair range.

    The fact is that it’s much harder to keep the numbers balanced in a small state like ACT than in NSW or Victoria. When you take one seat away from NSW the change in the average is quite small, yet when you increase the number of seats from 2 to 3 it’s a massive change.

  40. “My understanding is that the NT would have gained a third senator, but that’s about all.”

    Correct. Part of the deal for statehood was (still is) that the NT would not get the full compliment of 12 senators, and that the number of senators would only increase over time in line with population increases. And that is fair, given there is only around 200 000 people in the NT.

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