The Lord taketh away

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 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.

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.

489 comments on “The Lord taketh away”

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  1. Marcus, I have no problem with the seeking of a reount or the winning. Rather it is the comment that she was always prepared to accept the umpire’s decision which I find disingenuous. Personally I would have had more respect for her if she held a certain position for longer, ie. maintained her rage about the inconsistencies and fraud she was alluding to, rather than pretending to be all about grace and the process at a junction that shows her ahead.

  2. Sorry Sean, but we don’t know when she was ahead or behind in the recount, as the AEC didn’t release information until the end. We do know that after a stronger position was claimed publicly by her scrutineers, she claimed she would accept.

    And let me tighten my ‘loose and flailing’ comment. In addition to the 3000 votes Bailey was questioning above, here are another few claims:,25197,22903036-5006785,00.html

    ‘Liberal Party officials asserted yesterday that at least 20 ballot papers were unaccounted for.

    Party scrutineers also claimed to have seen a station wagon carrying ballot papers in which the back door of the vehicle was left open.

    “Missing ballot papers, to lack of security of ballot papers, to ballot papers being accepted that were not official ballots – look, there are just far too many questions about this whole process,” Ms Bailey said.’

    In a sense, good on her for playing hard, and she has a result at this time. But to claim she was always prepared to accept the umpire’s decision is demonstrably false.

  3. Upon the recount, she was prepared to accept the umpire’s decision. Had she lost, she would not have appealed against it.

    When she announced this, you claim that she was in “a stronger position” as “claimed publicly by her scrutineers”, but she was still behind in the votes. To say that she said she would accept the umpire’s decision because she knew she would win is false. There was no certainty in it, and at the time she was losing.

    With regards to your “loose and flailing” comment, the evidence you cite clearly backs up my assertion that it is the AEC who are loose and flailing – ballot papers unaccounted for, lack of security of ballot papers, etc., etc.

  4. In both Lindsay and the British case where a two vote victory was turned into a 2000+ vote victory after the challenge, voters punished the dummy spit candidates.

  5. Are we seriously having an argument over whether Ms Bailey is petulant or not??? I’d have thought that was bleeding obvious.
    On the not so bleeding obvious – the fact that we are arguing over whether an electoral landslide occurred or not probably means that it didn’t. Landslides tend to be obvious to all. It was, however, a very emphatic win!

  6. I remember a lot of people saying that to win sixteen seats or whatever,to take government was a mammoth task for Labor.

    Maybe the correct term would be Ruddslide?

  7. Yep, and thats why Mitchell will win a by-election. Bailey is the dummy spitter πŸ™‚

    Lets face it, the result is wholly inconclusive, and, it seems, entirely dependent on administrative calls on a (sadly decisive) number of disputed votes.

    That means only one thing: the adminstrative decision making process has run its course, is challengeable at either candidates election, and a judicial determination on the disputed votes is probably required.

    This happens all the time in government – its why we have admin law.

    Of course, if Bailey wasnt such a pillock, id say let it go.

    But my feeling is she’s practically invited Mitchell to challenge with all her previous claims of ‘outrageous irregularities’.

    Ok, Fran, you’re right – lets investigate them!

  8. As for the landslide debate, consider this example:

    Pre-election: Party A has 145 seats; Party B has 5.
    Post-election: Party A has 74, Party B wins 76.

    Under some theories, this massive 71 seat/ 45%+ shift in 2PP vote could not be called a ‘landslide’, owing to the close nature of the outcome.

  9. 55
    seajay Says:
    is it too early to claim bragging rights? myself and a number of others were the 83 seat tipsters. good on ya Ms. Bailey!

    I too have been waiting patiently for all the undecided seats to be resolved before stepping forward. How much longer, Oh Election Lord, before an absolutely definite, unalterable result?

    Though, of course, anyone who called it close to 83 (say 81-85) deserves credit, margin of error and all that.

    For those who wish to peruse the formal record of PollBludgerite predictions:

  10. I’m sure the new Labor government will find Mitchell a job, and warehouse him so he can run for Mcewen next time.

    I’d be surprised if Labor takes this any further. There is really no advantage in it for anyone in the ALP except Mitchell. The last thing Rudd would want to have to bother about now is a by-election in a very marginal seat.

  11. So some argue that a third of the seats changing hands (going to one party) is not a landslide of seats. What is a landslide of seats then? Half?

  12. Interesting that the average 2PP ALP vote in WA appears to be about 4% lower than the national average, meaning that the 2007 result does not represent a significant deviation from the norm. All the stuff about WorkChoices being loved in WA therefore looks like a furphy.

  13. Yeah, “workchoices” was never something anyone “loved”; or actually cared to defend. Not even the BCA bothered much in the end.

    Closest the coalition ever got to that was some irrelevantly small number of high paid miners in WA who didnt utterly despise it quite as much as the rest of us.

  14. Someone asked me the other day how much of the Health budget is spent in patients who die within 3 months. I’ve got some more accurate figures. 6% of the Health budget is spent on ICU patients. Of these, 25-30% die whilst in ICU and another 10% die within 3 months of leaving ICU. The rest are long term survivors. This doesnt fully answer the question but helps.
    BTW I also predicted 83 but I’m not on the official list.

  15. phew! It would be a landslide if Howard handed leadership to Costello πŸ™‚
    At least, give some credit to Howard as annihilation did not happen as predicted. πŸ™‚

  16. Embrucement erases all credit, as Howard would readily admit, FF.

    Bennelong inevtiable made it a humiliation of historic proportions. πŸ™‚

  17. A landslide of seats is WINNING at least approx. 2/3 of them. This is the case whether you first gain 2/3 of seats, or retain 2/3 of seats at subsequent elections with not much change. I would thus call Beattie’s Qld win in 2001, with 66 of 89 seats, a landslide, but also his 2004 and 2006 wins, with 63 and 59 out of 89 respectively.

  18. Some of you should try the approach I take on topics being discussed here. Choose those topics you want to read and respond to and ignore those you have no interest in. It’s a lot easier than trying to “shut” people up with smart alec comments, believe me.

  19. The real test on Serfchoices will be when the new IR legislation is to be passed. Will all of those who have now said it was electoral poison, and they could see the problems when others couldn’t or wouldn’t; will those people pass the new legislation or will they block it? I’ll bet they’ll block the IR legislation.

  20. Dunno, Lord D.

    Howard won 29 seats in 1996 (from a start of 65), and I was happy to call that a landslide.

    23 (with another 5 or so on a knife-edge for 2010) from a start of 60 aint really very different.

    Id suggest we’re in the quibble zone!

  21. 71 William Bowe – I’m prepared to say that you need to win to call it a landslide win William but it was a landslide of seats.

  22. Quite so, William – one must certainly *win* to get the landslide defintion.

    Which leaves the ‘Ruddslide’ debate alive and well, no? πŸ™‚

  23. “Do Lefty E and Gary Bruce ever refer to β€œthe Whitlam landslide of 1969?? I can guarantee them they will get extremely puzzled looks if they do.”

    There is a difference between having a formal definition of a landslide versus the media’s portrayal of an election result. The media tend to call it a landslide if a large number of seats change hands (20+) AND the overall majority for the winning party is large (20+).

    But as far as I am concerned, a landslide is a large increase in the number of seats for a particular party. This is why the term “landslide” is used – the political “ground” or the seats in parliament basically shifts in a significant way. So, yes, I would call Whitlam’s result in 1969 a landslide, but one that was unfortunately not quite big enough for him to take government. He was simply coming from a LONG way behind.

  24. And just a point of order, bludgers:

    if you were one of those who called 16 seats “Mt Everest” (and you know who you are), you may care to pause before poo-pooing the “Ruddslide” position, in case in leaves your asscrack showing. πŸ˜‰

  25. “Do Lefty E and Gary Bruce ever refer to β€œthe Whitlam landslide of 1969?? I can guarantee them they will get extremely puzzled looks if they do.”

    There is a difference between having a formal definition of a landslide versus the media’s portrayal of an election result. The media tend to call it a landslide if a large number of seats change hands (20+) AND the overall majority for the winning party is large (20+).

    But as far as I am concerned, a landslide is a large increase in the number of seats for a particular party. This is why the term “landslide” is used – the political “ground” or the seats in parliament basically shifts in a significant way. So, yes, I would call Whitlam’s result in 1969 a landslide, but one that was unfortunately not quite big enough for him to take government. He was simply coming from a LONG way behind.

  26. Interesting analysis of the Victorian Senate cut-up in the header.

    Throughout the weeks of counting, the result of the final cut-up of FF (usually showing both ALP3 and LIB3 elected in one hit) has shown an ALP surplus of anything from 15,000 to a shortfall of about 1,000, with the Libs surplus being relatively stable. All the unapportioned votes vanished yesterday and the AEC ought to be in a position to “push the button”, but it doesn’t appear to have been pushed yet.

    The degree of ALP leakage necessary to pull ALP3 sufficiently below a quota and have di Natale leapfrog over them on the Lib3 cut-up is not unattainable, but does not now seem as likely as it did last week. But exactly such a result did occur, IIRC, in one of the Vic LC seats last year?

  27. Instead of agonising over the semantics of the merits of the term “landslide”, I suggest we continue to use the accepted term “Ruddslide” and add that to the psephological dictionary.
    Definition: Comfortable electoral victory over a Rodent who had increased his margin in the previous three elections.

  28. If Bailey is declared the winner she won’t be seen as the dummyspit candidate, Mitchell will. He’ll be the one blamed for causing a by-election, if there’s to be one.

    As for the “landslide” talk, isn’t this getting into “how many angels fit on a pinhead” territory. Does it REALLY matter? Can we agree perhaps on declaring the win robust, and leading to a strong working majority……..?

  29. With the final result looking like 83 seats for Labor, 65 for the Coalition and 2 for Independents, my prediction as to the number of seats that’ll be won by Labor ( ) was spot on.

    Technically, a 16 seat majority isn’t quite what I’d call a landslide win, you’d really need a majority of at least 20 seats for a landslide win. But the nationwide swing to Labor of 5.52% is certainly what I’d call a landslide swing and the swings to Labor seemed to be in all the right places – in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia which more than off-set the two losses in Western Australia.

  30. 87 Boll – yep, given where he started from. It really depends on what you define as a landslide. I see it as a landslide of seats won, from where a party begins to where it ends up after the election. Others have their own definition and good luck to you.

  31. Well, hate to be a pedant, but:

    In ’96 Howard got a 5% 2PP swing, picking up 29 seats of 148, or 19.5% of seats.

    Most are happy to call that a landslide. I certainly was.

    In ’07 Rudd got 5.4% (ie *larger*) swing, picking up 23 seats of 150, or 15.3% of seats.

    So! Two alternative conclusions may be reached:

    1. 96 wasn’t a ‘landslide’ to Howard; or

    2. 96 was a landslide, and: a. the defintion kicks in somewhere in the narrow 4% band between 15% and 19% of seats; b. swing size is irrelevant.

    Conclusion: If you argue Rudd didnt get a landslide, then you probably need to argue that Howard didnt in 96 either.

  32. Howard and the Libs changed a few laws and seemed to use every trick in the book to maxamise their vote and seat total. all the result of incumbency.

    my question is: what will Labor likely do now that they have incumbency?

    will they reverse these electoral laws to favor them?

    what will they likely do and what likely effect will it have on Labor and the coalition.

    or will they do nothing

  33. Further, and leaving aside those (quite good) witticisms, as any good pedant must:

    Imagine Sir Hilary, having not only scaled “Mt Everest” (apparently 16 seats high), but exceeded it safely by another 50% (7-8 seats) by 830pm Kathmandu time, being told

    “meh, not bad. Solid effort … spose.”

  34. I would say, however, that the result here in Qld was a landslide by anyone’s definition. Deanne Kelly would agree I’m sure.

  35. Good question Harry!

    My guess is that if the AEC alone handled postals, rather than the parties, Rudd would have got 29 odd seats, and I wouldnt be resorting to questionable mountain climbing analogies.

    Me, Id be abolishing party touting for postals forthwith. A deeply questionable practice, which wont find many overt supporters when canned.

  36. While in no way diminishing Sir Edmund’s remarkable climb, there have been a number of solo climbs up Everest with no supplementary oxygen. Using Ruddski’s analogy, that would be a victory a fifty seat gain.

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