Consolation prizes

On election night and the following day, the best bet seemed to be that Labor would emerge with between 86 and 88 seats. After that, Labor watched leads disappear in one seat after another. Liberal candidates took the lead in McEwen and La Trobe on the Monday after polling day, followed by Dickson and Swan on Tuesday, Herbert on Friday and Bowman on Wednesday of this week. Corangamite, Flynn and Robertson were also on the critical list at various stages after looking secure for Labor on election night: Robertson arguably still remains there. In Solomon, Labor’s Damian Hale watched nervously as his 860-vote lead on booth votes was whittled down to 89 on Wednesday, before he was saved by a late rally yesterday that widened the gap to 194. The entirely one-way nature of this traffic raises the question of what has happened and why. Here at least I will limit myself to the first half of the equation.

The first table shows the size of the swings to Labor for each type of vote in all seats which look to have margins of less than 1 per cent, barring the new seat of Flynn where any swing calculations would be hypothetical (an unfortunate omission as it would have cut the Labor swing on postals still further). Provisionals are excepted because too many of them are still to be counted, and they are few in number in any case. The outstanding feature is the Coalition’s strong performance on postal votes, which cost Labor dearly in McEwen, Dickson, Herbert and La Trobe. I read one newspaper report (I can’t remember where) suggesting this was because most postal votes were cast before the Lindsay pamphlet scandal broke, but the pattern would surely have been reflected in pre-polls if this was the case.

Ordinary Absent Pre-Poll Postal Total
Corangamite 6.43 7.42 6.20 5.00 6.10
Solomon 3.06 1.87 4.77 2.88 3.00
Robertson 7.35 7.00 6.51 6.14 7.06
McEwen 6.19 9.44 8.78 4.21 6.38
Bowman 9.17 8.34 9.95 9.36 9.09
Dickson 9.30 8.69 8.07 6.13 8.99
Herbert 6.18 2.41 8.21 1.86 5.92
Swan -0.08 -2.81 1.21 0.61 -0.32
La Trobe 5.78 6.20 6.05 0.58 5.31
Macarthur 11.04 8.63 8.51 11.29 10.58
TOTAL 6.65 6.15 6.79 4.57 6.39

The second table shows the number of votes cast for each type over the past three elections. Here as elsewhere it must be remembered that a small number of 2007 votes still remain to be counted. It can be seen that this election has maintained a trend of sharply increasing numbers of postal votes, exacerbating the impact of the Coalition’s strong performance, along with the more neutral pre-polls.

2007 2004 2001
Provisional 167,167
Absent 856,407
Pre-Poll 1,105,948
Postal 820,946
Turnout 12,681,332

The final point to note is how lucky the Coalition has been. Present indications suggest it will win five of seven seats determined by margins of less than 0.3 per cent. Assuming no further changes, the bottom end of the Mackerras pendulum will look as follows:

Corangamite 0.8
0.7 Macarthur
0.5 La Trobe
Flynn 0.3
Solomon 0.2 0.2 Swan
Robertson 0.1 0.1 Dickson
0.0 Bowman

Elsewhere, the chances of a National Party boilover in O’Connor have been reduced as the slowly progressing late count has widened the gap between Labor and the Nationals from 2.08 per cent to 2.70 per cent. It will take an extremely high level of obedience to the how-to-vote card from Greens voters if that gap is to be closed, which seems an unlikely prospect in a sparsely populated electorate where the party would have had a hard time finding volunteers to cover each of the booths. Any vague chance that independent Gavin Priestley might win Calare has probably been laid to rest by late counting which has increased Nationals candidate John Cobb (formerly member for Parkes) from 47.71 per cent to 48.47 per cent, close enough to an absolute majority that the question of who comes second out of Priestley and Labor is probably academic. In the Victorian Senate, the Greens’ hopes rested on what would have been an out-of-character boost from declaration votes, which have in fact reduced their vote from 10.1 per cent to 9.7 per cent. The Labor vote has also faded enough that third Liberal candidate Scott Ryan has overtaken Labor’s number three David Feeney, so that Ryan looks likely to take the fifth seat and Feeney the sixth. Greens candidate Richard di Natale is 1.67 per cent behind Feeney after preferences CORRECTION: I wasn’t factoring in the Liberal surplus, which actually makes the gap more like 0.9 per cent.

UPDATE: One other thing – it is clear that dramatically fewer provisional votes are being allowed through this year. In 2004, any given electorate ended up with about 400 to 600 provisional votes counted. This time it’s more like 100 to 200. I suspect the answer to this mystery lies somewhere in the Electoral and Referendum (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act. Can any wise heads out there point me in the right direction?

UPDATE 2: Comments respondents note that provisional voters must now show photo ID either at the booth or by emailing or faxing a copy to the AEC in the following week. Peter Brent: “Presumably the number of people who took ID to the AEC in the next week was about zero”. Grace Pettigrew: “Many voters who are likely to need a provisional vote do not carry ID around with them (aboriginal voters, the homeless, for example) are also most likely not to vote for the Coalition”. Adam Carr also takes issue with my description of O’Connor as “sparsely populated”: I would argue that this is sort of accurate, but Carr says the real point is that O’Connor is “the most agricultural seat in Australia, where most people live in or near small farming towns”, and consequently has “more booths than any other seat”.

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.

627 comments on “Consolation prizes”

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  1. I don’t know why everyone keeps banging on about Victoria. It’s not even close. The closest contest is South Australia. And the perversity of the Senate voting system is that in South Australia, where the Greens had their worst vote, they will probably gain an extra seat. And Victoria which was their best mainland vote is going to miss out.

  2. William asked: I suspect the answer to this mystery lies somewhere in the Electoral and Referendum (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act. Can any wise heads out there point me in the right direction?

    Well, a Returning Officer told me that the DRO had issued an edict to strongly dissuade provisional voters because “95% of them will turn out to be ineligible” and that they are “too much work” to validate.

  3. MelbCity said: We know where ticket votes end up. We do not know the BTL votes for minor parties. Any BTL vote for the ALP, Liberals and Greens we can safely assume will stay within the group.

    Well, in the case of Victoria, it would only take about 3% of the ALP1 and ALP2 BTLs to stray into the Greens column before ALP3 to drag the 3rd ALP below a winning position. I seem to recall that this level of leakage occurred in one of the Vic2006 LC seats, didn’t it?

  4. The table in the header, showing swings by vote type in 10 electorates can be subjected to a variance analysis to show that all the variation comes from a “between electorate” source and that there is no significant contribution from vote type.

    This means that the notion, which I held, that there really was a last-minute 2% swing back to the Government, can not be demonstrated in the pre-polls and postals made before any such a swing took effect. It adds weight to the uncomfortable notion that the “Polls got it wrong” on all but the last-minute surveys. And Tim Gartrell said as much in his Press Club speech which I inferred to mean that internal ALP polling was always showing 53% (which was what the much-maligned NineSM Passion Poll was showing 2 weeks prior).

  5. Yes, well, the sooner we have an optional BTL system the better!

    Until then, the selection of federal upper house members will remain a national embarrassment, and a rotten borough of Australian democracy, until voters decide.

    Frankly, someone really ought to mount a high court case against the practice of allowing unelected party officials to direct where our votes go.

    Its the semi-detached chad of Ozpolitics. The banjo-plucking inbred cousin in the attic. We dont talk about Johnny in the attic.

    Id suggest some fairly basic implied political freedoms (eg to vote for a party of your choice, perhaps even one vote one value) are infringed.

  6. I don’t see any objections to optional above-the-line voting. Votes don’t even need to expire. If someone wants to vote 1. Greens, 2. Democrats, 3. Labor and then isn’t fussed which party come next, why can’t the vote just revert to the group voting ticket of the party that won the primary vote, once expressed preferences are exhausted?

    In other words, if the Greens, Democrats and Labor were all eliminated, the vote in question would simply revert to the Greens’ group voting ticket. Easy. Would cut the informal vote in the Senate down to something very close to the voluntary informal rate.

  7. If there is a successful challenge they should hold the second election on the same day as the by-elections for all the retiring Liberals. That way the voters wil have a clear reminder of why they have to do it again.

    Still, at age 61 and after 14 years in parliament, I would have thought dear Fran Bailey would want to spend some time wiht the family by now.

  8. Optional preferential is akin to not votingin many cases. There is no logic of justoficaton behind the Victorian idea of being required to number at least the numbre of preferences as there are positions to be filled. Whoever came up with that idea should be sacked.Yes optional preferential assisted the Greens ion Victoria alomg with votes that went mssing betawween count A and Count B (I regret I can not say more as the VEC failed to provide a colpy of the details of the First Count preference files – Tully had something to hide)

    If we do adopt optional preferntial then it should not apply to above the line ticket votes. Parties should always be required to register full preferences. And we should then intrroduce a reiterative counting system (based on the value of tehnvote and not the number of ballot papers – one transcation per candiate no segmentation) In a reiterative count you would restart the count each time you exclude a candidate usinmg only the ballot papers that exopress a ongoing preference.

    I would prefer to argue for preferential voting above the line. But this would make the AEC’s job more harder.

    Re ALP below the loine preferences I can do an analysis of the percentage of prefernecs that break ticket befor the last elected if you like. But I would be surpised if it is as high as you suggest. In any event what is interetsing in this elction is that fewer people Other then Green and Democrate voters) choose to vote below the line. Minor party support overall had droped. The Greens and clearly the Labor and Liberal Party were the benefactor of some of that shift.

    The number of ALP people voting below the line was significantly less.

    In anyevent as Antony Green has confirmed Minor party BTL votes will not infulence the reuslts of this elction. You can allocate 100% of them top teh reens candidate and the Greens will still not get above the line. They needs something like 120 to 130%. With 90.27% of the enrolled vote counted I do not see the results shifting unless there is a huge Green only booth or a few Green boxes of votes the AEC forgot about. Anything is possible wwhen you do not know how the total number of votes that were issued. That was very much one of the problems also in the Victorian Count. (SNIP: MelbCity, to simplify my adjudication here, ANY reference you make to a certain Victorian bureaucrat will henceforth be deleted – PB)

    I will see what I can do about your stats request..

    Antony The Greens could not muster the 14.28% vote… I recall Costigan once saying on radio, advocating a first-=past-the-post ballot, … that 40% of the voters voted for him …. to which I replied in debate yes that is true but 60% did not want him. The same applies to the Greens in this case. I think Risstrom would have polled better.

  9. a more interesting statistic to look at would be how many of the BTL minor party voters break direction of the ticket. Most below the line votes like my own are so they can vote first for a candidate lower down on the list. Over 97% of BTL votes remain within the group of their first choice then then just number down the party tickets of the chosen columns. Which indicate they are changing the order of party support more so then voting for individuals. I could not vote for the Democrats for example but I wanted to support Lynn Allison as I think she has been a good Senator. (Wrong party) I think many of the democrats What’s left of them) do not like the split ticket which both went to the Greens and as such never did split. Where as the Socialist Equity Party effectively applied an optional preferential ballot as their ticket went no where…

    Have you ever wondered what is behind the Greens running more candidates then they have as much hope of winning then a snowflakes chance in hell? Sadly we do not have a count back system so why nominate six? if you adopt the Optional preferential system where you have to number a minimum of six then where is the logic? I guess we will fast become by default a party list system and we might as well do away with preferential voting… that is the logical conclusion if we adopt optional preferential voting.

  10. Charlie, agree, I think numbered optional prefs ATL is also fine. And maybe it just expires after that. Who cares? Votes “expire” every time a candidate doesnt get up. Some 48% in the HoRs last fortnight. Its not a problem in the slightest.

    My sole objection is delivering votes per an unelected hack’s preference, under some dismally undemocratic notion of “convenience”. It risk setting up, for want of a better word, a partocracy.

    I like to think this isnt a tinfoil hatted view in any way. Lets face it – the current system is the bizarre oddity, not the idea that voters should determine 100% of prefs.

  11. William why no9t apply a filter block on the governor General, Rudd or any other persons name. Then fact remains that the Victorian electoral Commissioner is responsible for the shnnky count and cover-up in the Victorian election as much as you might wish to avoid his name being exposed. Had ST ullly not sought to cover up his mistakes and shoky short cut counts and released the data that should have been published he would not come under such strong criticism. nice attempt at censorship…


  12. Ok I have had a look at the Stats for Northern Victoria ALP

    And whilst 3% did jump ship the number is insignificant as the location where they jump to varies significantly in some cases they jump from ALP to Liberal and then back or a minor candidate that has been excluded in the count. Similar percentages exist with all the other parties given that the number represents less then 0.05% of the overall vote (even less when you consider the number that jump back on board before the exclusion) Not worth considering and most certainly would not make a difference in the Victorian Count in which the Greens require 100% of the BTL vote that is be determined. It would have been nice to compared the Tally stats from the first count BUT we were denied the details of that count so no one had the opportunity to scrutinise the count. It was not open or transparent thanks to a Nameless Commissioner.

  13. Lefty you logic is flawed or just plain misleading. Might as well adopt a party list system and be done with it. Abolish compulsory voting and wearing of seat belts… Optional preferential can only work if you adopt a reiterative count (Drop quota) system. I have no problem and have been advocating preferential voting above the line but its should be compulsory to vote all squares in order of preference if that is the case. And most certainly parties should not be able to register a optional preferential ticket. Failing that we adopt a party list system

  14. Let me correct my terminology. The formality requirements of the vote should be that all above the line votes should indicate a preference for each column/group Whilst supporting Australia’s compulsory voting requirement it si not compulsory that the voter submit a formal vote. If the voter wishes to waste his or her vote they have the right now. But Lefty is of the view that only activists have the right to have their vote counted and he would support not only option preferential but also non compulsion of voting so that the non week will inherit the earth/parliament… I suppose Left E also supports the notion that an unnamed Victorian Commissioner should withhold the details of the count so as to avoid public scrutiny and review of his obvious mistakes in the count. he should not be held to account or even brought into question. open and Transparent elections is not a right but a privilege and Commissioners on high salaries are exempt from review and criticism even if they stuff up big time. Publish the detailed data…. maintain an open and transparent system.

  15. hey we should not be allowed to criticize or express concern at the fact that the number of ballot papers recorded as being issued is less then the number received back. IOf ballot papers go missing or are added into the count well bad luck we should only know what the commissioners publish as a being the results be it seven votes or 150 difference. if the result changes between count well the last count holds. Even if the first count clearly had errors.

    Sorry I am of the view that the system Must be open and Transparent, that details of the count MUST be published and made public and that Commissioners are accountable for their mistakes and attempts of cover-up. Elections go to the heart of our democracy and if the system is not open or transparent then public confidence in the outcome and process is undermined.

    I expect the Commissioners to know how many votes they have issued and to accurately and in a timely fashion make that information public. i also expect that the data files recording preferences used to determine the result should also be published and open to independent public review.

    The Greens remain quite on all accounts. Got news for you it will bite you in the bum at some stage and you will yell….

  16. So, when will John H*ward concede Bennelong??????

    Or is he waiting on the 2 000 odd postals he and Janette personally filled in at Kirribilli to come in?

    This is the story that has been overlooked by the media. No-one has applied the egg to the faces of the pundits (even the online ones here) who refused, poll after poll after poll, to entertain the possibility that H*ward could loose his seat, regardless of the national swing.

    How many times did we hear the horsesh-t: “Maxine wont win this time, but she’ll win the by-election” ?

    Even on election night, the pundits kept banging on about how H*ward *may* have lost his seat. They’d called several other seats which were less close, but there was something magical about Bennelong which made every one overly conservative. Had they been consuming LTEP’s medication perhaps??

    H*ward won’t concede of course, he’s hoping we all forget that he’s lost his seat – only the 2nd PM to be honoured in such a way. The media and even many posters here have been so compliant in this, that Maxine’s victory just feels like an anti-climax. Not letting her claim victory for days after the election has made it almost as if she’s won a by-election after the election, with the press relegating her victory to a page 13 post-election side note to the Rudd victory.

    Antony and Kerry O’brien’s shameless abuse and fluster at the folks in the tally room who were claiming Maxine’s victory were part of the complicity. They couldn’t fathom that a) Bennelong was lost and b) people were happy about it.

    Well just in case you missed: H*ward lost Bennelong!

    *rant over*

  17. WHat on earth are you going on about Melbcity? I support compulsory voting. I dont support the undemocratic practice of allowing third parties to determine where a vote ends up.

    Exhibit A: Fielding, who practically no-one (aka 1.7%) voted for, randomly generated by hacks foisting a pref list on unsuspecting ALP voters.

    As for your views on the Vic Commissioner – huh? I think you’ll find im not too interested in whatever that’s about.

  18. To be fair to Anthony and Kerry regarding Bennelong calling the seat of the PM has gone is a big call and while it was clear early on that Maxine was going to win I think out of respect for the position of PM rather than the person dicates that it couldn’t be called until Howard conceded it.

    Anyway Maxine McKew is now the MP for Bennenlong and that will be the definding moment of the 2007 election.

    In saying that had Howard conceded on the night but somehow hung on he would have looked very silly.

  19. Perhaps BMW. But I don’t agree that his seat should have been subject to any special treatment. People had been doing that all campaign and that impacted their logic to the extent that they actually believed that H*ward couldn’t lose his seat because he was sitting PM. This carried over into a group think for much of the press.

    They shouldn’t have had to wait for H*ward to concede the seat. All the networks had called the election for the ALP long before H*ward was wheeled out at the Wentworth Hotel for his national concession speech. Why have this special treatment for Bennelong? I mean they even called McEwen for Fran Bailey, and now she’s lost the seat! That was actually a close seat, rather than Bennelong which was never close.

  20. John Ryan, that is pure stupidity. A bunch of yahoos in the tallyroom reacting to any picture of Maxine McKew on the television doesn’t correspond to analysis of the numbers. Now I always said the Bennelong would go with government, and the swing has been exactly that. But on election night, using a mathematical model that has been spot on accurate for 15 years, you couldn’t give the seat away until 40-50% of the vote was counted. It got no special treatment from me on the night. It got the same formula as every other seat, and indeed every seat at every state territory and federal election since 1992.

    As for fluster at the crowd. I’m not sure if you’ve ever relied on ear pieces to hear other people on a television panel, but it becomes impossible when your other ear gets drowned out with background noise. It’s like trying to talk on a mobile phone in noisy bar.

    Whether Howard conceeds or not is entirely his business. I have nothing to say on the subject. Concession or claims of victory mean nothing to the counting process, and there are candidate who have conceeded defeat on election night and been elected.

  21. And as for optional preferential voting in the Senate, I’m all for it. Optional preferential voting both above and below the line and an end to group ticket votes, though perhaps some interim measure to deal with people being used to the use of only a single 1. Force parties to campaign for votes rather than arrange deals on preferences. Optional preferewntial voting and PR works fine in Tasmania, the ACT and NSW. Minimum number of preferences below the line, perhaps matched by a minumum number above the line.

  22. Was the National Tally room shambles its demise? I doubt TV channels will broadcast from there again (not serious ones anyway).

  23. Does anyone have any real knowledge of what’s going on with the count in O’Connor? If CDP and Greens preferences flow as directed then Wilson Tuckey is in trouble. If he loses, it could have implications for the Liberal leadership.

    I agree with comments previously that Greens preferences may not be disciplined, but does anyone know where they’re going in O’Connor? The AEC still hasn’t released two-party preferred voting.

  24. Christmas greetings to all candidates who have taken part in the great democratic process. My particular thanks go to the people who carried the banner for Labor in South Australia. Here they are, seat by seat:

    Barker: Karen Lock was the state champ with a swing of 10.4% swing. Admittedly that was from a very low base but Karen captured many votes that were supposedly heading from the Liberals to the Nationals. She as clearly the right fit for the electorate.

    Grey: Karin Bolton won big in the Iron Triangle for an overall swing of 9.4%. Grey would have returned to Labor with that vote on the old boundaries (before Yorke Peninsula and parts of the Mid North were added). In a vast seat like this, maybe Labor could consider running two candidates – one from the industrial cities and a farmer like Ben Browne to appeal to the outlying areas.

    Makin: Tony Zappia was rewarded second time around with a massive 8.6% swing against his moneybags opponent. Justice at last.

    Wakefield: Nick Champion regained the Labor heartland with a 7.3% swing. He should be a member for many years.

    Adelaide: Kate Ellis gained a 7.2% swing and a ministry after three years of hard work. All those street corner meetings have borne fruit.

    Port Adelaide: Mark Butler rode the wave against Work Choices for a very enjoyable 6.8% surge into parliament.

    Mayo: Mary Brewerton did really well with a 6.5% swing, but this seat needs a strong independent to challenge the Libs should Lord Downer step down.

    Sturt: Mia Handshin achieved Labor’s best result here since Norm Foster’s 1969 win. Big swings in the northern suburbs for an overall result of 5.6% but the blueblood south stayed true to class.

    Hindmarsh: Steve Georganas gave up smoking during the hair-raising 1974 election count which he won by 106 votes. No need to take it up again after a reasonably comfortable 5% swing this time.

    Kingston: Amanda Rishworth survived a tough multi-candidate contest to regain what is perhaps the state’s most volatile seat with a 4.5% swing. For some reason some of the south-western suburbs in Kingston and Boothby did not swing that much to Labor.

    Boothby: Nicole Cornes has sparked more commentary than anyone in memory. Why only a 2.4% swing? She did well in some middle-class booths, poorly in the affluent east and disappointingly in some of the tree-hugging and working class areas. But she still came closer in Boothby any Laborite since Tom Sheehy won it in 1946.

    Congratulations also to Labor’s Senate winners, Don Farrell and Penny Wong (though they should have been in reverse order on the ballot paper).

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