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. Interesting AMWU delegates conference i attended today with Doug Cameron and his views on his position within the ALP and his senate hopes

  2. William,

    Shocked by the number of my posts in your count yesterday, don’t want to be a crashing bore so I am tuning out until the Federal election gets interesting probably when the next Tampa turns up (which should be soon given old David Hicks will be coming home to Adelaide for Easter).

    I still think the rodent will win (sadly – believe it or not) as the ALP only wins when it is a genuine alternative (and yes I can still remember the sense of excitement in February 1983 – the messiah no less) and I just dont think the “small target I am conservative too” strategy works. The ALP needs a Whitlam to conduct a root and branch reform – hopefully Rudd will do so when he has a clear three years.

    Good luck to you all,


  3. I agree ESJ and that was Cameron’s point. He wants to unify and build the left it the caucus. A voice for the workers. A thorn in the rights side

  4. The amount of AMWU members who where/are green voters was a shock. The Greens base is growing slowly but surely and the link between left wing unionism and the Greens is also growing. Read the AMWU policies on IR, Free trade, social justice etc and then compare it with the Greens. Not too much difference! The highlight for me was the cheers and support for David Hicks after the bad treatment he has suffered under Bush and Howard.

  5. The funniest thing was when the AMWU photographer ( a mate) asked Cameron if he would like a photo with me. He said “your the Greens candidate”? Yes i replied He said “No way i would be committing political suicide”

  6. Note that both the Liberal Edward and the Marxo-Green bill want Rudd to morph into a Whitlam-Keating Big Picture leader. I don’t think that will happen. Rudd knows what the electorate will and won’t buy.

  7. ESJ – I enjoy your posts, your knowledge is breathtaking. Thank you for the news on O’Toole and Jones. I guess even in Sussex St if you live by the sword, you have a good chance of dying by the sword.

  8. Its great Adam, that your so easy to get to bite. Note that Marxo-Green bill and Lib ESJ from opposite end politically see the same ALP. A try hard Lib party and unless it looses that image it might win government once in awhile but eventually it will loose its core membership to either us or a new left party. Adam i am on the front line where workers eek out a living. I listen to them. The Rudd honeymoon wont last. Promoting liberal policies wont work. We want a share in the wealth not be the slave for the multinationals. Im not a big Cameron supporter but if he stays the same the ALP caucus wont know what hit them

  9. bill weller Says:

    ESJ posts are always well thought out and take everything he says on board

    It should read and I take everything he says on board

  10. What i like about this site is the knowledge of all the writers.To actually be able to write on the same pages as all of you and to see my name in the same column as the god of election analysts Antony Green is unbelievable All my life i wanted to help people, to make a difference to someone but being extremely shy and lacked the confidence i just dreamed. I met my wife a number of years ago and she turned my life upside down and made be believe in myself to the point where i have been the candidate in a State election, convener of my local branch and now Federal candidate. I have met many a pollie now, Had many items published in the local paper and people around Australia are reading what we write on here. Yes i am in a small party but its so me now. You cant hide when there isnt many to hide behind. Oh by the way i use to collect HTV cards when i was a kid and my sister and i use to remove them from the bins at the polling booths and hand them out ( yes for all the parties) until we got caught. was fun!

  11. Ah bill, your admiration for Edward’s vast erudition is touching. Obviously the Liberal-Green alliance, which has been firming up during recent state elections, is also developing here. It will come to full flower in the federal elections. In exchange for Liberal preferences in the Senate, the Greens – openly or covertly – will preference the Libs in key House of Reps marginals, united by their hatred for Labor.

  12. Does anyone think Labor’s got a shot in Wentworth? Apparently a poll in the Wentworth courier put Labor’s apparent candidate, Waverley Mayor George Newhouse, ahead of Turnbull a few months back. Its also, technically, the most marginal liberal seat in NSW (Parramatta being a labor seat with a liberal margin).

    I’d imagine that Turnbull would throw his vast fortune at retaining the seat, and historically its never really swung more than a couple of points at a time, and its margin is probably about 2-3% lower than what it should be because of the run by Peter King last time… but seats with higher socio-economic status have been consistently swinging to labor for some time now, so perhaps the ALP has a shot. Cruelly, if Labor does well enough they could rob the liberals of probably their best hope of leader post-costello.

    Any other thoughts on NSW’s true marginal?

  13. The right wing are in control as you have said many times. And Rishworth is the right wing of the right wing, as you know. You have said there is no difference between the Labor right and the Libs, so why not preference the Libs in Kingston and get Senate prefs in return? Hmm?

  14. Ben Raue Says:

    March 28th, 2007 at 9:07 pm
    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 NT’s quota is right on the 1.5 tipping point. (Indeed I think it’s still slightly below 1.5; but there was a fudge created to keep the 2nd seat prior to the 2004 election.)

    Further up the page, a figure of 2.4 was cited for the ACT.

    Now let’s do a bit of maths.

    1.5 divided by two seats works out to be 0.75 per seat.

    2.4 divided by a theoretical three seats works out at 0.8 per seat.

    So the ACT would still have more per seat than the NT even with a third seat.

  15. Does any one know of the Polls for Stirling ,Hasluck,Cowan, Swan and Brand?

    Ive heard Swan ,Cowan and Brand are key seats for the Libs..

    Is there any connection with Gray and Burke in WA?

  16. Grist for my mill from Newspoll. In WA, state Labor has gone from 49-51 behind in the previous quarter to 51-49 ahead in this one. Alan Carpenter’s approval rating is up from 52 per cent to 60 per cent; Paul Omodei’s is down from 37 per cent to 31 per cent; Carpenter’s better premier lead has widened from 54-17 to 63-14. Even worse figures for the Libs from SA.

  17. Adam said

    why not preference the Libs in Kingston and get Senate prefs in return? Hmm?

    Not a bad idea and you can pref FF in the senate which will flow to the libs as well and then we can have more conservatives in parliament. Oh thats right you did that last time, made sure that Howard had the Senate.

  18. “The NT’s quota is right on the 1.5 tipping point. (Indeed I think it’s still slightly below 1.5; but there was a fudge created to keep the 2nd seat prior to the 2004 election.)”

    You betcha. There was some ostensible reasons that the AEC cited to justify the extra seat for NT; but it’s obvious that the only reason it actually happened was because of behind-the-scenes politicking. With two NT Divisions, there is a good chance that the ALP and CLP will each hold a seat (Lingiari/ALP, Solomon/CLP) – hence the bipartisan support. However, given that the ACT is ‘safe’ Labor turf, three ACT seats would deliver an extra seat to the ALP. The Coalition would blackball a ‘freebie’ for the other side.

  19. Hmmm, Greens on 10 in WA? sounds like a little bit of static on the poll line. The other figures match up more or less (ALP down a fraction) so maybe a mid-term primary wobble? 6% for the Greens in SA seems about right.

    As to ALP-Green-Lib-FF deals, I hope that forests do not play a part in the negotiations, that the ALP does not wed itself to FF, that the Greens not do any sort of deal with the Libs (in fact not even talk to them if at all possible), and that the Democrats retain at least 1 Senator (they do have a role to play on the centre-right).

  20. After the débâcles of the 2004 Federal and 2006 Victorian polls regarding upper house preferences, we’d all hope that the ALP actually sticks to principle with its tickets. That said, on both occasions their preferences were about maximising opportunities for their own candidates (which, by itself, is perfectly understandable) based on a string of eventualities; when one of the elements went the wrong way (such as a softer-than-expected ALP primary vote or greater-than-expected leakage on below-the-line votes), then all sorts of unexpected events occurred (the Fundies in 2004, the Santas in West Vic and the Greens in West Met in 2006).

    After all of that, I’d certainly expect the ALP not to deal with the Fundies (or the Santas, for that matter), and to at least preference a progressive ticket second if not the Greens themselves (that’s assuming that the Dems run a serious campaign, or Richard Franklin runs his Your Voice ticket again).

  21. The Victorian State Government has just announced that it has set up joint house inquiry into the Victorian State Election. The committee will be calling for written submissions next week and is expected to conclude its enquiry and report back to the State Parliament after June 30, 2007

    There are many issues that we have identified in relation to the conduct of the State election not the least issues related to the VEC failure to publish copies of detailed results of the election (Including polling place results for the Victorian Legislative Council – The media will come in for a bit of a serve here).

    In addition issues of serious concern in relation to
    1) the lack of full certification of software used in the conduct of the election
    2) members of the VEC accessing the results of the e-voting centre polling places prior to the close of the poll on Saturday November 25, 2006 in the absence of scrutineers
    3) VEC handling of FOI requests
    4) review of the Victorian Ombudsman Act in order to ensure that the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over the Victorian Electoral Commission
    and other issues.

    The Parliament is expected to advertise the hearings next week.

    Written submission can be forwarded to Mark Roberts, Executive Officer, Electoral Matters Committee, Parliament House, Spring Street East Melbourne.

    No email address have been provided by copies of any submission could be also forward to the Speaker and President of the Parliament House.

  22. I’ve always been a big believer that Labor has a shot in Wentworth, even if the chances are less than half. With the redistribution that punished Turnbull by bringing in swathes of solid Labor territory into Wentworth. His margin is now 2.3% – 2.6% (one or the other and I can’t be bothered checking). This is highly marginal territory no matter how blue-ribbon the seat is meant to be. That, and the anticipated swing away from the Gov’t should make this a possible win for Labor. Not certain, but definitely worth a shot.

  23. The ALP hasn’t yet chosen its candidate for Wentworth. Many local Wentworthians apparently think that the area has many rusted-on conservative voters. Even if that is true, I suspect that there are many non-rusted on voters that would swing if the swing was on. I wouldn’t be surprised if voters in Woollahra municipality (excluding Paddington) are pretty rusted on conservative voters, but there are a lot of voters in Waverley and the new areas who might swing.

  24. To all those who explained the constitutional inequities of Tasmania being guaranteed 5 seats, thankyou. I did know that. It still doesn’t make it right. Each of the ACT seats has well over 100000 voters. I think that Fraser may have as many as 118000. If there was a third seat,(and I lived in the late lamented electorate of Namadji) there would still be well in excess of the 60000 or less in the NT seats. Right now, an ACT vote is worth about 50-60% of a NT vote. I’m not interested in increasing the number of senators, even though it is totally ridiculous that there are 12 for each state and only 2 for the territories. Ideally there should be no more than six senators for each state, and yes I know that it’s also constitutionally pegged to the numbers in the Reps. The whole system is in some need of serious reform.

  25. Andren has just announced he will stand for the Senate, rather than in the lower house.

    Says he has been considering it for the past 12 months. Admits he probably won’t get quota first up, but will have to rely on preferences.

    Also says that he is hoping a network of independents around the state will give him the support base he needs on polling day. Added that he expects a couple of high profile independents in Calare/Macquarie.

    Effectively, admitted an independent in the lower house is not worth much, but better off as “balance of responsibility” in the senate.

  26. Sacha has got it spot on regarding Wentworth. If the swing is on in NSW, Turnbull is in big trouble. Certainly I would have thought that if there is a swing big enough to consume Howard, Turnbull is gone as well.

    For what its worth, 7 comments about Wentworth, the electorate I have lived in for the last 7 years:

    Firstly (and please correct me if I am wrong on this), the western boundary of Wentworth has moved closer to the CBD and thus takes in more of the area heavily populated by the gay community – and they could be forgiven for thinking the Howard Government is the most homophobic in this nation’s history – and age groups and demographics where Howard’s support is weakest (late 20s to mid 40s, professional, non-mortgage belt);

    Secondly, Wentworth is surely one of the most unstable electorates in terms of people moving in and out of the electorate (so many renters etc.) – so any loyalty to MT is going to be much less than for other Liberal MHRs;

    Thirdly, the impression I get from my many left-leaning friends who loved MT during the Republic debate is that he is now no longer viewed as a progressive / moderate who they might make a special exception for when it comes to ensuring Howard is booted out;

    Fourthly, the fact that MT is so vulnerable will surely mobilise the latte-set in the eastern suburbs who want to “do all they possibly can to elect Kevin Rudd” but don’t want to travel any further west that Balmain or any further south than the airport. On this last point, I am little surprised that the ALP hasn’t already chosen a candidate and started firing up with letterbox-drops etc ;

    Fifthly, there are still a lot of bitter people in what I would refer to as the ‘King faction’ of the Liberal organisation in Wentworth who wil stay at home rather than get out and help;

    Sixthly, my own observations of MT is that he is an awkward campaigner – he certainly didn’t have the outgoing nature of Peter King or (2004 ALP candidate) David Patch; and

    Finally, Wentworth electors are far less likely to use the federal election to punish Iemma & co than voters in other seats for a number of reasons (transport stuff-ups not such an issue, high % of tertiary education = greater likelihood to differentiate between state and fed issues etc.)

    So….if St Kevin still has something approaching a 2PP double-digit lead in 3 or 4 months, I would say MT is in huge trouble

  27. We criticise elections from Florida to Zimbabwe, with good reason, but the Australian system is far from perfect either.

    A vote for the House of Representatives cast by a resident of Darwin is double the value of a vote cast by a Canberra elector. It takes five South Australians to equal the voting power of three Northern Territorians.

    There’s an even greater disparity in the Senate, where the number of people eligible to vote for six senators for New South Wales would elect 76 senators for Tasmania and 154 for the Northern Territory if strict proportionality applied. No wonder that former Prime Minister Paul Keating once called the Senate “unrepresentative swill”.

    Australia’s electoral inequalities stem not from fraud or malfunction but from provisions enthroned in our horse-and-buggy Constitution.

    House of Representatives seats are allotted to each state according to the number of people, not the number of electors, in that state. Thus a state like South Australia, with an aging population and a high proportion of enrolled voters, is at a disadvantage against more dynamic states with burgeoning young populations but a lower proportion of enrolled voters. These states may have disproportionately more seats but fewer voters in each. If number of electors were the criterion, South Australia might well be entitled to 12 seats instead of 11.

    South Australia’s next problem is that because it only narrowly misses out on being eligible for an extra seat, a large pool of surplus voters has to be distributed among the state’s existing seats. The net result is that South Australia has more electors in each of its seats than occurs in any other part of Australia except the Australian Capital Territory.

    We are supposed to have a one-person, one-vote system, but at the last federal election the Northern Territory’s two seats averaged 55,825 eligible electors – more than double the 112,448 average for the ACT’s two seats. The average in Tasmania’s five seats was 67,918 compared with 95,438 in South Australia, 82,490 in Western Australia and a reasonable equality across the other three states – Victoria 88,984, Queensland 87,979 and New South Wales 86,042.

    There are special reasons for some of the worst disparities. The Australian Constitution says that Tasmania, as an original state, must have at least five seats despite having population shortfall. And Federal Parliament decreed that the Northern Territory should have two seats even though it fell a fraction short of a second quota. Sensing the chance to win both NT seats, politicians from opposite sides argued the possibility of statistical error to justify overturning the Australian Electoral Commission’s assessment that only one seat was warranted. But in the end their finagling was in vain as Labor and the Coalition won one seat each.

    What can be done to iron out the kinks in House of Representatives elections?

    1. It would help if the proportionality of seats was based on numbers of electors, not people. But since this would mean amending the Constitution, it’s not likely to happen.

    2. Most problems would be solved if electorates could spill across state borders, so that surplus numbers in one state were mopped up in another. Ideally, Australia would be one giant electorate with proportional representation. But these are utopian solutions involving unrealistic constitutional change.

    3. Fine tuning would be feasible if there were more seats to play with. But the Constitution says that the number of seats in the House of Representatives must be as near as practicable twice the number of seats in the Senate. Currently we have 76 senators and 150 members of the House of Representatives. To increase the size of the House of Representatives to, say, 176 members, Parliament would have to give each state two extra senators for a total of 88. That would be deeply unpopular. An alternative would be to break the constitutional nexus so that numbers in the House of Representatives could be increased while maintaining or even reducing numbers in the Senate. That was attempted by referendum in 1967 with the support of all the major parties, but the No case won the day by saying it would lead to more politicians. So we increased the size of the Senate and got more politicians!

    If the states are mildly unrepresentative, the Senate is fundamentally flawed. As part of the federal compact, tiny Tasmania with fewer than 320,000 voters in 2004 is guaranteed the same number of senators as mighty New South Wales with nearly 3,850,000 voters. This would be all very well if the Senate operated as a genuine states house, as was originally intended, but now that it acts simply as another party house the disparity in representation is nothing less than electoral corruption on a grand scale..

    Even Zimbabwe would be hard-pressed to beat it.

  28. For crying out loud Melb City, noone gives a flying f*** about the Victorian state election. It’s over, it’s done with, this is a Federal election thread, please keep it to yourself!

    And to keep on topic… Peter Garrett had his first big stuffup yesterday. Wonder if the Government is targetting him as a prelude to going after St Kevvie?

  29. Chris: Firstly – Yes.

    Secondly – there’s a huge turnover in population in the Kings Cross/Darlinghurst part, at least. The electorate overall has a huge number of units, which at a guess might contribute to a turnover of voters.

    Thirdly – possibly true. He’s am ambitious Liberal who’s not a nasty right-winger.

    Fourthly – quite possibly true, especially as the notional margin is so small. “On this last point, I am little surprised that the ALP hasn’t already chosen a candidate and started firing up with letterbox-drops etc ;”
    I suspect that the ALP was 1. waiting for the redistribution to happen and 2. getting the state election over with. My understanding is that some ALP people are pushing for a candidate to be (pre)selected.

    Fifthly – quite possibly. I was handing out HTV in Darling Pt in 2004 and was surprised at the venom from King volunteers towards MT.

    Sixthly – people have said this to me too.

    Finally – agree.

  30. Jeez, that throws a spanner in the works?

    Maybe he could be the one to absorb those more right-wing Democrats voters whose return to the Liberals helped them gain control of the senate.

    It’s hard to tell where Andren would fit in. I could easily see the result of Andren winning alongside 2 Libs, and either 3 ALP or 2 ALP and 1 Green.

    Then again, while he may be able to get primary votes from Liberals, he would need to get preferences from either Greens or ALP. I’d expect that the primary for the Greens or Andren would add up to no more than, say, slightly more than one quota.

    Anyway, it will be interesting, and if they do fulfill the role of the Democrats previously of being relatively progressive but taking away votes from the coalition (which was a major reason for the Coalition not getting control of the Senate until 2004), that will bring them back to 38 seats, making it conceivable Labor and the Greens (maybe in Tassie) could knock off one more seat.

    PS. No way will Turnbull lose, for two reasons. 1. The seat is only marginal because of Peter King, and 2. Now he’s no longer just a rich businessman but has been quite impressive policywise, and has made a mark as Environment Minister.

  31. There is commentary pre-Federation that indicates the senate was never going to be a states house. I don’t have Hanks on Constitutional Law on my bookshelf here but I think there is a founding father quote on that issue in Hanks.

    But your analysis seems to forget we are a Federation.

    If you look at the States as primarily service delivery think how much better the Federation would work if we found a way to remove vertical fiscal imbalance. I think it is a real mistake to dismiss the States.

  32. Ben Raue – the redistribution decreased the wentworth margin by about 2.5-3% and the margin after 2001 was 7.9% – so the seat is probably winnable for the ALP if a swing was on.

  33. If I was Andren I wouldn’t bother with a preference deal with the Greens.

    The Greens primary vote is high enough now that they normally finish 6th or 7th, thus their preferences are rarely distributed.

    The only states where they were distributed were SA and NSW from memory. Even then there were few horses left in the race and it was obvious which way the Greens were going to preference, ie no deal required when you are facing Lib/FF.

    The more likely scenario is Andren gets 2% and eliminated early.

    Understandably Ben sees Andren as a source of preferences to get Nettle (who is unlikely to be returned) re-elected since One Nation isn’t there to elect her this time.

    If I was Andren I’d target all the little parties and try not to alienate right or left. All the big players will put him ahead of their opponents even if he does nothing.

  34. Jack said
    And to keep on topic… Peter Garrett had his first big stuffup yesterday. Wonder if the Government is targetting him as a prelude to going after St Kevvie?

    Interesting to note at the AMWU delegates conference when Cameron showed us that Garrett was being targeted by the government and He ( Cameron) would have dealt with it a better way a few voices popped up stating that Garret was a sell out and a turn coat ( makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside)

  35. The Speaker Says:

    March 29th, 2007 at 2:25 pm
    With Calare going National.. is that 17 seats Labor needs now to win government?

    No. 16 (76 in total) is the figure for an outright ALP majority.

  36. anonymousie Says:

    March 28th, 2007 at 6:43 pm
    ALP preselections have been called for Benenlong, Macquarie, Richmond and Parramatta.

    Parramatta was lost because Ross Cameron shot himself in the foot by admitting cheating on his pregnant wife just before the election. Parramatta has a significant working class Christian Conservative population who would have deserted Cameron. BTW I heard a rumour that the Libs are trying to get Tim Webster to run for Parramatta.

  37. I’m surprised by the comment that it’s unlikely the conservatives will lose control of the Senate.

    I would have thought that, on current trajectories, we’re very likely to see splits of 2 Lib, 3 ALP, 1 Grn in both WA and TAS. And there’s always now the possibility that Andren may help achieve similar in NSW. Although that’s more likely to go 2 Lib, 1 Nat, 3 ALP, along with QLD, Vic and SA. With 1 each in each territory, that’d remove conservative control, wouldn’t it?

  38. Andren’s decision strikes me as downright bizarre. He’s taken a win-win situation and made it into a solid lose. I guess there’ll just be one less independent in the next parliament.

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