Sydney or the bush

Media tart par excellence Peter Brent writes to ask my opinion on independent Calare MP Peter Andren’s chances in his ambitious tilt for a Senate seat, the answer to which is that I haven’t really formulated one. He also suggests I open a thread on the topic, and I can certainly do that. My first instinct was that Andren didn’t stand a chance. The only independent ever to win a Senate seat in the era of six-seat half-Senate elections (the first of which was in 1990) has been Brian Harradine, who notably did so in the nation’s smallest state as opposed to its largest.

Then I remembered that I would never have credited Nick Xenophon with an ability to pull 21 per cent of the statewide vote for the South Australian upper house, which the “No Pokies” MP managed to achieve at last year’s election. Does Andren have an even remotely comparable profile across the premier state, particularly in Sydney? Personally, I wouldn’t have thought so. Does he need one? Not necessarily. There is no doubt he has enough vote-pulling power to be worth doing business with when the time comes for preference negotiations; he will certainly get the Coalition’s preferences ahead of the Greens, and very likely Labor’s also. Let’s say he gets 5 per cent of the vote. If either major party polls less than 38.3 per cent (Labor got 36.4 per cent last time, though this would be augmented slightly by preferences), he will defeat their third candidate and pick up their surplus as preferences. That would probably put him ahead of the Greens, who polled 7.3 per cent last time. Greens preferences would then decide the outcome.

UPDATE: Whoops – thanks to Chris Curtis for pointing out that two quotas is 28.6 per cent, not 33.3 per cent. So if Andren gets 5 per cent, the lowest major party vote will have to be 33.6 per cent, not 38.3 per cent. Which places a slightly different complexion on things.

There is no doubt that the Greens will put Andren ahead of the Coalition, and little doubt they will put him ahead of Labor – he won brownie points (greenie points?) by opposing to the Iraq war and the government’s stance on asylum seekers in 2001, and was second on the Greens how to vote card in Calare in 2004. Suddenly his tilt doesn’t look so quixotic after all. The decisive factor is likely to be whether his vote can exceed the worst performing major party’s surplus over 33.3 per cent.

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.

121 comments on “Sydney or the bush”

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  1. The Speaker, an expansion to 200 MHRs would bring the average enrolment per electorate to about 66,000 – pretty much exactly the same as the 1984 average.

    I don’t know that I agree that the states should expand by four Senators whilst the territories remain the same, though.

  2. Sorry to be away from this thread for a couple of days (jeez suddenly so many posts…) but in answer to Adam waaaay back re 20% for minors & indi’s to gather up. I am aware of the quota’s etc, but was thinking that, given the long term trend of the major party vote to fall (ie; both ALP & Lib combined) there has been an increasing number of loose votes. These have at various times been gathered up by PHON, AD’s, Greens, DLP etc. Notwithstanding the various impacts each of these parties may themselves have on either Lib or ALP vote, there has been up to 25% of the vote available.

    My point was that with Lib/ALP at or just under 3 quota’s, there could be up to 20% washing about (both at 2.9 quota’s would give you 17% or thereabouts). This election is just as likely as any other to see a tightening of this for a variety of reasons people have already canvassed here – my point was simply that if both majors are on 2.9 or 2.8 then its going to be really hard for a minor party to pull together all the non-major party vote – for starters, the left-right divide is pretty well established now, which undermines peoples desire to win with any deal possible (this doesn’t apply to the ALP or Libs however, but to the minor parties themselves). Problematically, for all the epithets tossed at each other, they can just as easily work with each other – as Chris C pointed out a while back, the Greens in Victoria might not vote with the ALP very often at all, but they end up sitting next to the DLP quite a bit…

  3. I don’t know that I agree that the states should expand by four Senators whilst the territories remain the same, though.

    True, however it reduces the power of Tasmania in the HOR.

    Maybe the ACT deserves another couple of Senators (NT doesnt), however the libs won’t like that because there is a good chance of 3 ALP- 1 Lib or 2 ALP 1 Lib 1 Green.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if given a couple of terms of ALP federal government, the above occurs. Especially if the senate proves obstructive.

  4. Two more Qld names: (Judith) Wright and Oodgeroo (Noonuccal). I had some success with the Wright suggestion a few months ago and had the new division been anywhere else in the State, it would have stuck…

  5. I agree with Adam that the Speaker’s forecast seems to be overly rosy for the minor parties, especially the statement: “Any party who can get more than 4% will probably win a seat.”
    Since the parties that just fail to win a seat are quite likely to be minors with over 4%, this seriously overcounts.

    However I think Adam goes the other way and overcounts for the majors in saying that they will get at least 11 quotas between them in most states and 12 in some.
    “In a polarised DD, it is quite possible that both sides will get 6 quotas in some states.”
    This relies on Adam’s assumption that the major’s share of the vote is likely to be larger in a DD election, and again, I take issue with Adam’s comments about polarising DDs.

    There have been exactly 6 DD elections for comparison.

    1914 was no more polarised than any other election, but in any case the different Senate voting system makes comparison harder.

    1951 was a bit more polarised than average, but considerably less than the 1954 ‘normal’ election, so there is no real evidence of the ‘tendency’ here.

    1974 and especially 1975 were certainly more polarised than usual, and the minor parties did badly.

    1983 and 1987 were not especially polarised and the minor parties did well.

    It is quite easy to argue that 1974 and 1975 were the unusual cases with special circumstances in this list, so I see no real justification for the statement “DD elections tend to be polarising and the minors are likely to be squeezed out”.

    And at the risk of repeating myself this ignores the political situation. Firstly A DD would almost certainly be called by a Rudd government seeking to wrest control of the Senate from the conservatives. It would almost certainly not be forced on the government.

    I suggest that such an election would only be called if there was a good chance of success and a low chance of failure for the government, in other words if the political situation was fairly smooth.

    In a polarised environment the ALP’s chance of failure would be unacceptably high to call a DD. I think it is far more likely in such a situation arose for the government to grit its teeth and hold out to the next half-Senate election.

    Secondly, it is likely that there will be more appeal in voting Greens for leftist ALP voters when the ALP is in government than when it has been in opposition for 11 years.

  6. An expansion of the number of seats would presumably help stop the westward movement of Sydney seats such as Bennelong and Wentworth?

  7. Martin B: Nice research. Yes maybe I am a little overenthusiastic with my minor party predictions but I think a few would get up in a DD.

    Charlie: Yes sorry, I meant Elizabeth Kenny. I prefer real achievers like her to Sportspeople/Actors.

    (Ironically for me, Hollywood made a movie about Elizabeth Kenny)

    At the next redistribution, when QLD gets a seat off VIC, I might stick in a couple of recommendations.

    Btw is Kevin Rudd related to Steele Rudd ?

  8. The Greens say they didnt direct preferences to the ALP in 20 of the 150 HOR seats at the last Federal Election; they also reckon where this occured ALP 2PP from Green primary voters fell away by 6.7%. Can anyone tell me what those 20 seats were ?

    Why ? I am trying to assess the potential impact of the (reported) ALP-Green preference ‘deal’ in NSW on the ALPs chances of (a) protecting/perhaps increasing the margin in ALP ‘ify’ seats like Banks, Lowe, and Richmond where the Green primary vote was 4.7%, 9.2% and 12.4% respectively (b) giving the ALP some chance of retaining Parramatta where the Green primary vote was 5.3%, and (c) the degree to which an increase in Green primary voters 2PP preferences would assist the ALP to gain Coalition marginal seats in NSW such as Dobell (5.2%), Lindsay (3.4%), Macquarie (10.8%), and Wentworth (11.5%) and the less likely potential ALP gains of Eden Monaro (7.4%) and Greenway3.6%), and the very doubtful potential gains in Page (10.8%) and Bennalong (16.3).

    That is, 4 ALP marginal seats and 8 Coalition marginal seats where an increase in Green Preferences could, on paper, help the ALP tilt in NSW where most educated pundits say the ALP ‘must’ improve to win the next Federal Election. I shy away from edicts like ‘must win seat’ or ‘must win State’ , but NSW is where my attention is focussed at the moment.

    Which 20 seats did the Greens not direct preferences in at the 2004 Federal Election? Were any in NSW ? Would a 6.7% increase in 2PP preferences (if we take the Greens ‘research’ at face value) make much difference to the outcome in NSW ? I would have thought the Greens in Victoria were more likely to resist directing preferences to the ALP.

  9. ‘Steele Rudd’ was a pseudonym, so probably not. As for sportspeople and actors – there’s only one in my list, and Sir Donald Bradman is a rather unique sportsman.

  10. 16 senators per state!! If this continues there won’t be too many Tasmanians left who haven’t got their bums on the red leather. In a double dissolution the Tasmanian quota would be about 19,300.
    If the Australian people were actually consulted about such a move, I thing another anti-nexus referendum might get up. After all, the last failed mainly because the DLP lied through its teeth and said the referendum would lead to more politicians rather than less.
    What are you going to do about the seat of Cook which the AEC says is named after James rather than Joe?

  11. STROP:

    Alot of research has already been done into the directability of Greens Preferences.

    The general view is that Greens voters ignore their HTV cards and their deals have little power.

    From mumble:

    …a House of Representatives preference deal between the ALP and the Greens is not worth much to the larger partner, because all the Greens can do is advise voters, using how-to-vote cards, as to who should get preferences; evidence suggests nearly all Green voters (about 96 per cent) ignore the advice.

    Antony Green:

    For every 1% increase in the Green primary vote, the flow of Green preferences to Labor increased by 1.95%. So on average a 5% Green primary vote produced a 70.4% flow of preferences to Labor. If the Green vote rose to 10%, the flow of preferences rose to 80.1%. This rate of increase is consistent with all the increase in Green vote coming from Labor, with almost all the extra primary votes going back to Labor as preferences.

    I remember a poll before the last Victorian election asked voters whether they’d follow their party’s HTV. Of the Greens only 12%? said they’d follow the HTV. Other parties all got 50%+

    John Cherry from the Democrats did some good work into this question as well but I don’t have a link to hand.

  12. I wasn’t aware of that, Oakeshott. I just presumed it was named after Joseph. It’s made more problematic by the fact that Joseph Cook was from New South Wales.

  13. There are only two deceased PMs without seats named after them: Bill McMahon and Joe Cook, who has the misfortune to share a surname with Captain Cook. Perhaps there could be a seat of Joseph Cook – it’s no more unweildy than Kingsford Smith. Berowra could easily be renamed McMahon. The other obvious candidates for seat-name-immortalisation are John Latham, Ted Theodore, Jack Lang, Doc Evatt and Bill Snedden.

    Quiz question: to my recollection only two people have had seats named after them while they were still alive. Who were they?

  14. “‘Steele Rudd’ was a pseudonym, so probably not.”

    But both from R&R Qld so you never know 🙂

  15. I think you’ve asked this one before, Adam. From memory, the answer was Watson and Tangney.

    Both Charlie and Adam have left out Frank Tudor. Is Tudor the forgotten man of Australian politics? He’s been eligible for a seat name for 85 years.

    As I think Phil was aluding to, the present guidelines stipulate that “The names of Commonwealth Divisions should not duplicate existing State Districts.” Although there does remain a number of exceptions. In the case of SA, it would count against Florey, Playford and Mawson.

  16. I forgot both Frank Tudor and George Turner (the only one of the first Federal Ministry not to have a seat named after him). As a Victorian, I should be ashamed.

  17. Labor proposed that Paterson, be called Evatt when it reappeared in 1993. The quote was that the seat should be named after a famous jurist, politician and madman rather than a Rum Rebel. I note on the AEC site that the current incarnation is named after Banjo rather than the Colonel.

  18. Andren will be in the senate… if I could bet on it I would lol! He will get plenty of preferences and . Would be one of the best things to ever happen to this country if he could get in. Only thing better would be for him to get in and be part of the balance of power in the senate. He is a people’s champion that is no doubt. But if it wasnt for the Governments intervention in the AEC’s redistribution then he would of been running again for his seat. I find it just so convenient that in the whole redistribution of NSW, where 1 sydney seat could of been abolished with little real consequence that the seat of Calare was cut in half by the AEC and the new seat made ridicuously big. I hope that it bites them hard in the a** and he gets in.

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