The verdict from the McEwen recount is in: Labor candidate Rob Mitchell’s six vote win has been overturned, and Liberal member Fran Bailey declared re-elected by just 12 votes. This gives the result level pegging with the Liberals’ 1974 win in Stirling as the closest federal electorate result of modern times. Labor is still considering a legal challenge, but it’s an open question as to whether a re-match would really be in their interests. It seems very likely that we can now settle on a final result of 83 seats for Labor and 65 for the Coalition plus two independents. Two other recount demands await adjudication:
The Greens will reportedy call for a recount for the Victorian Senate, a contentious move given that nearly 3.3 million ballots would need to be rechecked. Antony Green’s projection shows both the Coalition and Labor winning third seats upon the exclusion of eighth placed Family First, the Liberals doing so with a surplus of 21709 votes (0.68 per cent) and Labor with 6088 (0.19 per cent). At this point Greens candidate Richard di Natale is left stranded on 13.4 per cent, 0.9 per cent or 27804 votes short of a quota. This of course assumes that all votes are cast above the line, when there are in fact 65101 (2.05 per cent) below-the-line votes for which we presently have only first preference results. These are unlikely to make much difference, as most are votes for parties whose preference tickets favoured the Greens ahead of Labor. Much of the leakage would come from Liberals going below the line to ensure the Greens did not get their vote. Against this can be weighed Labor voters who gave their first preference to a Labor candidate before switching to the Greens, but past experience suggests this is unlikely to account for more than 10 per cent out of 14123. If the assumption of all votes behaving as ticket votes were to hold, the Greens would need for Labor to finish around 2000 votes below the quota after Family First’s exclusion, which is roughly 8000 less than they presently appear to have. The distribution of the Liberal surplus would then be enough to give di Natale the narrowest of victories. In support of their recount appeal, Greens spokesman Jim Buckell provided The Age with an interesting list of claimed irregularities: 309 Greens Senate votes from one booth were not recorded at all; in Isaacs 150 votes were missed; in Dunkley 173 Greens votes were recorded as 17; and in Gellibrand, some Greens votes were attributed to another minor party. However, it seems most unlikely that the required average of around 215 votes per electorate would be found to have wrongly favoured Labor over the Greens.
Labor candidate Jason Young’s request for a recount in Bowman following his 64-vote defeat has been knocked back by the divisional returning officer. Young is continuing to pursue his recount request further up the Australian Electoral Commission hierarchy, but one suspects he is unlikely to find any joy.
On a completely unrelated note, here is a chart I knocked together showing each state’s deviation from the national Labor two-party preferred vote going back to 1949.
The first thing to note is the hyperactivity of Tasmania, which can in large part be put down to its small population of five seats. Nonetheless, the results tell a story of a natural Labor state which turned around temporarily following the Whitlam government’s tariff cuts and Labor’s opposition to the Franklin dam at the 1983 election. The largest state by contrast has stayed within a narrow 5 per cent band on the Labor side of the ledger, dipping below the line only in 1987 and 1998. Victoria’s long-lost standing as the jewel in the Liberal crown looks very much like a symptom of the 1954 Labor split and the party’s subsequent paralysis at state level, and its Labor vote has only once fallen below the national result since 1980. The exception was the 1990 election which also proved aberrant for reliably conservative Queensland, state government factors providing the explanation in each case. It can also be seen that the Coalition’s relative strength in Western Australia at the 2007 election was matched only by 1961, there is nothing new about its conservative leaning.
On another completely unrelated note, I have just had to pay a fee to renew the pollbludger.com domain. This wasn’t hugely expensive ($50 to be precise), but it nonetheless offers a good excuse to pass the hat around among those of you who enjoy giving me money.