Mayo by-election thread

I’ve been too preoccupied to offer commentary on Saturday’s Mayo by-election, but maybe interested readers can do the job for me in comments. Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs is a short-priced favourite to succeed Alexander Downer in the traditionally safe seat, but two other candidates in the field are of at least theoretical interest. One is Bob Day, the cashed-up Liberal candidate for Makin at the November 2007 election who is running with Family First after being knocked back for preselection. The other is independent Di Bell, described on her website as “writer and editor in residence at our very own Flinders University” and “Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The George Washington University in Washington DC”. Bell has the backing of Senator Nick Xenophon, which was seen as a decisive factor in independent Kris Hanna’s surprise re-election in Mitchell at the 2006 state election after parting company first with Labor and then the Greens.

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.

88 comments on “Mayo by-election thread”

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  1. Dave:

    Yes dave, I think FFP has lost a lot of credibility over this election. Campainging in the makin election he was a strong supporter of workchoices.

    He then changes to the FFP who are pro the ETS scheme.

    Then organises preference deals with a number of partys, and renegs on them all.

    It would be hard for Bob Day, or the FFP to make a stand on principles after this bi election. On top of that what platform will he stand on if elected?


  2. CHINDA63

    CHINDA63 Says; ” Ziggy – FF are not directing preferenced SO FAR. I bet any money they have a HTV card ready to go for election day and that it will ultimately preference the Libs (if not directly).”

    Seems like they’ve missled everybody.

    Taking Bod Day as a candidate, missleading everyone after their how to votes have been printed.

    Looks like they’d vote for the devil if they thought they could win a seat.
    (I hope their not running on a christian platform this election)


  3. ZIGGY, if you’re right and FFP does run a ticket (as against a risky ‘vote 1 FFP option which invites informal votes) then this will prove beyond doubt that they simply can’t be trusted on any front, any time.

  4. PHIL Robins:

    The way I see it is. Bob Day is unlikely to draw the 4% of family first pary vote last election. Half of those will feel very uncomfortable voteing for a candidate that does not represent their view. (Probably move to the DLP,the more traditional christian party).

    This means Bob day will be starting with a base of abour 2%. Pollsters say he could pick up about 5.7% which would give him a total vote of about 7.7%.

    The DLPs started with a tiny .60% of the vote will probably pick up the 2% from ff and should gain about 7% of the ALP vote. Leaving the DLP vote at 9.6%.

    The greens started with 10.6% of the vote and will be lucky to advance with and independent labor standing though but lets say for the sack of the argument that they pick up another 2% meaning they poll 12.6%

    Brewerton has stood as an independent and will loose at least the amounts the DLP and greens stand to pick up (7%) so at best she would pickup say 24% more likely with the additonal candidates standing about 20%.

    The liberals should drop at least the amount that ff pick up coming from 51% – 5.7% = Leaving a vote of 45.3%.

    Just from those figures this seat will be won on preferences.


  5. I too was at the candidates’ forum last night in Aldgate and what an interesting and revealing night it was too! It would have been hard to have written a play script as entertaining as this – we even had a joker in the pack, who appeared to have come straight from the local front bar (where did he get the $500 one wonders?!)

    Of the 7 candidates who bothered to come (and our little upstart from Canberra, who sees the seat as safely his, was not one of them) one candidate stood out head and shoulders above the rest – Di Bell. It was Di who was at least able to mount a strong argument (in contrast to some candidates, who struggled to put a sentence together): she is articulate, quick thinking and powerful in her rhetoric. She was so very clearly the only candidate who would be able to stand up in parliament and argue a case for Mayo and the Murray.

    This will be an interesting by election – there is a chance that preferences will return a candidate other than the incumbant’s cardboard cutout replica. Then again, if he does get in, it probably won’t even make front page news.

  6. Mylorian@57
    Nothing biased about your representation of the meeting is there?
    Perhaps you should declare your hand. You are doing exactly what the media has been doing in trying to present this as a two horse race and marginalising the other candidates. At least one of the other candidates got spontaneous applause from the audience for responses he made to questions from the floor. So although Di does comes across as the most articulate she is not necessarily the most in tune with the electorate.
    In fact she admitted at the meeting that she has picked up that there are other issues important to the electorate apart from just water.
    What a shame she did not understand this from the start.

  7. Ziggy, good analysis of the vote. Except I don’t think Mary Brewerton will do as well as you expect. I don’t think she has much booth support on the ground.

    The risk to the Libs is, if they poll low 40s, then they may well not get enough preferences to get them over the line.

    The number of independents additional to FFP not running a ticket means that there’s probably anything up to 20% of the total vote that cannot be accurately predicted. This may well favour the DLP in some respects and will definately be a booster to the Greens. There may well be three candidates still standing as either the Greens or the Libs get past the post.

  8. Steve Lewis in the Tiser today predicts a Briggs win. He mentions Vonow, Day and Bell, but no-one else – not even Brewerton, who achieved a big swing and finished second to Downer as the ALP candidate in the general election last year. How shallow can you get?

  9. Phil Robins:

    The media seem to have their agenda on this bi election.
    I Think the advertiser should get their act together because the reporting on this bi election has been awful.

    I think I’ve learnt more from this site than anything that hopeless paper has printed

    Ps go dave McCabe (DLP) for Mayo

    J Clarke

  10. Hayden Manning stated at the Mayo candidates forum on Wednesday night that only 50% of voters follow a how-to-vote card. This means if Briggs gets 40% only half of the remaining 60% of voters will have been influenced by a how-to-vote.
    If candidates without how-to-votes get a total of 20% of the vote then 10% of the total vote would have gone anywhere regardless of how-to-vote cards.

    The really amazing thing about how people vote is that a fair proportion of the voters believe that only one of the two major parties is worth voting for. Having scrutineered at an election it was surprising to see how many people who voted Labor 1 had voted Liberal 2 and vice-a-versa. It was this voting pattern that stopped John Schumman winning the seat of Mayo in 1998 when 10% of the Labor vote slipped to Liberals and got Downer over the line. This could lead to 2 to 3% addition votes going to Briggs simply because Labor has not fielded a candidate. Scarry!!

  11. Ziggy, your not a local and have shown you’ve no idea about Mayo.

    I have lived in Mayo for over 20 years and have not met one resident Cathlic (Although of corse, its not usually the first thing you ask someone, so I may have inadvertadly). We are THE LEAST cathlic electorate. The only votes the DLP will get is from those looking for Labor and get confused.


    The top four will be (probably in this order): LIB, GREENS, BELL, FF.

    Lynton will make a great local member and he has my blessing.

    This situation approximates a ‘perfect storm’ for ousting the libs. I will conceed, if it doesn’t happen now, it will probably never happen.

  12. ERICA

    Erica says: “The really amazing thing about how people vote is that a fair proportion of the voters believe that only one of the two major parties is worth voting for.”

    It’s hard to imagine that people are that stupid. They either dont care about their country or are just to lazy to find out. Lets hope that trend dies before its too late.

    Most of the people I know look to vote for one of the minors first so as to maintain a democracy and then pass thier second vote to the major of their choice.


  13. Erica @ 39 –

    There are other candidates in this election apart from the pseudo Labor candidate, the protest candidate Di Bell and the major parties. Bill Spragg, Councillor on the Adelaide Hills Council is running a second time as an independent.

    He’s been the only candidate to knock on my door. We had a longish chat and he seems to have his head screwed on right (or we’re both equally silly ;-).

    In the dozen years I’ve lived in the electorate I can’t recall Lord Downer ever sending me anything, but I’ve been deluged by half a forest worth of literature from the Libs, including 3 or 4 personally addressed letters (bit of a worry because I’m a silent elector), which makes me wonder what their polling is telling them. The anti Greens pamphlet adds to the perception that Briggs may not be travelling well.

  14. Preferences are the key in mayo and HTV cards have an influence but are not decisive. Since party names have been printed on ballot papers a lot more people do their own preferences. Some may look odd but there is usually a rationale behind them. A % of people believe that minor parties are a pest, even ones that are close to their philosophy. These people seem to believe in “strong government” – easily fooled by the argument that a vote for a minor party is a wasted vote (when truth is just the opposite). So the defeat of Schumann was caused by some Labor etc voters preferring Downer to Schumann – not usually a “leakage” or mistake but sometimes laziness. But equally there is a % who vote for all or most minor parties before major parties (plague on their house, all politicians are bastards etc voters). So Schumann got preferences from a lot of people who voted One Nation from memory.
    So just because 50% or more don’t follow HTV doesn’t mean they are random. All it needs for Briggs to lose is for 50% of voters to decide that they are prepared to move preferences among the rest. Day has got no hope as those voting against Libs will not want a proxy Lib/fundamentalist. Bell being an independent has probably got the best chance as she will probably lock up quite a few votes that would revert back to Libs as compared with Vonow and Brewerton, particularly with Xenophon support. Votes from these and other minor groups apart from Day (Rich Families First) will flow strongly to Bell but probably not better than 2/3 overall. So for Bell to win it needs about 33 Briggs, 17 Bell and 50 others. Bell gets 33.3 and Briggs 16.7 of other 50 and Bell wins 50.3 to 49.7. Vonow and Brewerton could do it as well if they get ahead of Bell but less likely. Live in hope.

  15. Wakefield, I generally agree with your assessment except for the percentage of preferences that the Liberals will receive.

    At the last election Downer got 51.08% on primary and got an extra 5.98% on preferences, which is about 1/3’rd of all preferences as you point out. My feeling though is that the Liberal’s won’t get 2/3’rds of the larger number of preferences this election but will instead receive about the same 6% of total preferences as last election.

    I agree with Haydon Manning’s assessment that if the Liberals poll below 45% on first preferences it will be a competition and if they get closer to 40% than they will struggle to win.

  16. Just a quick interjection to stuff up your calculations but about 75% of voters, depending on the party affiliation, follow HTV cards. Labor and Liberal voters are especially obedient.

  17. Diogenes:

    With tonights news indicating that the fuel will rise 20% and Electricity 40% under the proposed ETS Scheme, we should all step back and have a think.

    What party is the only party that will do all in it can to stop this monster from being released onto the public.

    A Tax that will serve no purpose. A Tax that will hit the poorest and reward the polluters.

    What party is that….. The DLP thats who.
    So the way I see it is the DLP is up againts a bunch of yes men you are all in agreeance that this tax should be introduced.

    So think hard (These bi elections might be our last chance) and lets all get behind David McCabe of the Democratc Labor Party.

    Otherwise we will end up with this monster and only have ourselve to blame.


  18. Damn right, Ziggy. Lets all sit back with head in the sand waiting for nature to extract its revenge.

    However, for all those wimps 😉 who don’t want to see it all end:
    Garnaut figures show petrol will go up 5 cents/litre on his recommended carbon price of $10/tonne, and the 40% increase for electricity is over 12 years to 2020. For those on average incomes or less there will be kick backs which will rebate up to 80%, anyway. Or you could invest a few thou on a solar PV system which in SA currently returns you 44 cents for every KW you pump into the grid. This will rise with every price increase to ensure it’s at least double the going retail rate.

  19. MayoFeral:

    Carbon will be traded. There is no sure way to measure Carbon.

    The major polluters are already planning how to cash these credits through other subsiduaries.

    What joke. Kevin is trying to work our ways to try to stop the crippling effect on pensioners and the low income.

    The only thing we are sure of is it will do no good, control and cost the lowest income earners in everyway.

    But most of all, will achieve nothing. I think we already have enough yesman puppets standing Mayoferal.


  20. Yeah, we have system in place for charging companies and people to stop polluting … it’s called the taxation system. Already in place, already tested, and low income earners can be easily assisted.

    Sadly, “tax” is a bad word these days, so we’re going to spend more money setting up a duplicate taxation system that is overly complicated and difficult to administer, called the carbon trading scheme.

    And now we find out the bar is so low nobody will have to actually stop polluting!

    Anyway, my hope is a Di Bell or (of course) a democrat Andrew Castrique upset (4% would be good too!).

    Come on Mayo … you can do it!

  21. Here’s why I think Mayo will be a lot more interesting than most of the pundits 9but not Professor Haydon Manning) seem to think:

    1. Alexander Downer quit the seat just a few months after his re-election, forcing on the people an unnecessary, costly, disruptive by-election. That deserves some kind of backlash.

    2. There’s a mood in the electorate to lash out at the establishment, especially over the water issue. In Mayo, the Liberals are the establishment. They did nothing to alleviate the water crisis while in office. There’s no Labor candidate to punish. The Libs are the next best thing.

    3. Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs is a Canberra blow-in who was one of the architects of WorkChoices.

    4. Briggs won a conflicted preselection contest. Crying foul, wealthy long-time Liberal Bob Day, Liberal candidate for Makin last November, quit the party and is standing against Briggs under the Family First banner. He has spent up big in the by-election and, crucially, is not alloting preferences. If he can take a slab of the conservative vote, a lot of his preferences may not return to the Liberals.

    5. The Greens seem to be on a bit of a high. Certainly the Liberals have targeted Greens candidate Lynton Vonow with a pretty full-on attack, suggesting they are worried. Vonow should be well known as he stood in the general election.

    6. Although Labor is not contesting the by-election, its candidate for the election last year, Mary Brewerton, has left the party and is standing as an independent. Last year she gained nearly 30 percent of first preferences and more than 40 percent two-party. Now that she is without both the advantages and handicaps of standing in the name of Labor, it will be interesting to see how she polls. Certainly she should have name recognition and apparently she’s well-organised at the booths.

    6. Di Bell, a very articulate environmental independent, has the influential backing of the man who can do no wrong, No Pokies Senator Nick Xenophon.

    7. Democrat Andrew Castrique and independent Bill Spragg also were candidates at the general election, which should help them a bit.

    8. Importantly, eight of the 11 cndidates are preferencing against the Liberals.

    Having said all that, it’s nearly always been a pretty safe Liberal electorate with plenty of conservative rural voters to outweigh the Adelaide Hills trendies. Unless they’re well behind at close of counting tonight, the Liberals will cruise home on a superior postal vote campaign. The massive retirement village called Victor Harbour will be manna from heaven.

  22. I know this is going to sound like unsubstantiated biased snark, BUT nonetheless:

    I have it on reasonable authority that the doyen(ne)s of the Mayo Liberals are very concerned about Lynton Vonow.

    I heard that before I heard of the pamphlet – a little bit of classic Lib tactics!

    I personally would love to see him get in – but I don’t for a moment think it’s going to happen. 56-44 Lib-Green (just numbers out of the air, but I don’t think it will be close. So much for Green optimism).

  23. 70 Diogenes. Have you done any scrutineering of votes for your 75%? At the 2007 Federal election the booth votes I checked (about 1000) showed about 50 % of ALP votes followed HTV, 45 % of Libs and about 1/3 Green and FF. With minor parties and independents the figures are all over the place because there usually are no HTV. With FF for example the end ALP Lib split might have been about 2/3 but they got there by different ways.

    69 Tim – I’m suggesting Libs will get about 1/3 of preferences of all minor groups. Higher for FF, lower for others. If thats the case Briggs will win unless his primary vote is 35% or less. That is possible in this sort of by-election but not likely.

  24. Josh WK:

    That would just excelate the governments plans to implement this regressive
    carbon tax on the poorest in the community.

    Lets say no to this monster tax and vote for the only one who will do all he can to stop it. (He will gain a lion share of both sides preferences as well).

    Lets all go David McCabe (DLP) for Mayo or forever be lumbered with this tax on the poor and small and regional businesses.

    These bi elections are our last chance to send a message


  25. Wakefield

    I can’t find all the references but there is this on Wiki. This one says prefenence leakage is only 20%.

    Supporters of the parties and individual candidates hand out “How to Vote” cards (HTVs) at the entrance to polling stations or distributed with election material sent in the post, advising voters how to fill in their ballots to support that party or candidate. The information published on a how to vote card is a recommendation only and no voter is obliged to vote as published, but up to 80% of voters follow the recommendations of their preferred party or candidate. The proportion of voters that choose not to follow their preferred candidate’s recommendations is called the “preference leakage”[2].

  26. 80 Diogenes. The figures quoted are for the final outcome which includes people who get the same result through another method or just luck rather than follow HTV. With minor parties and independents there is a much lower % who strictly follow HTV but again a higher % who end up at the same place just through restricted choice when its down to distribution between only 2 or 3 candidates left.

  27. Just visited a Stirling polling booth. HTVs handed out for Bell, Brewerton, Briggs, Castrique, Day and Vonow. Briggs gets preferences from no-one. Day has a big, finely printed HTV on quality paper but let’s “You decide” who to preference.

  28. The last Australian Electoral Study, which I think is put out by ANU, found that 51% of all voters reported following the how to vote card. Probably a bit higher but it isn’t up to 75%.

  29. Wakefield@78 … 35% at first sounds low to guarantee the Liberal the seat, but as this thread has teased out the numbers, it is probably realistic. With a solid base for the FF candidate and some Labor party transfer to the Liberals, getting that last 15% shouldn’t be too hard for the Libs.

    That’s the beauty of PR in my mind, it doesn’t matter if 60% of the candidates are from one side of politics, if 60% of voters want someone from the other side, he or she’ll get in.

    And to be fair, if you can get 35% in an election with 11 candidates then your team has done something right!

  30. Tim

    I think at the last fed election about 75% of FF preferences went to labor, which went against their HTV and what FF stands for.

    51% does sound a bit low, majors primary is around 80%.

  31. As a matter of fact Ziggy, that’s why I support Vonow.

    And you’re wrong if you think the ALP supports a carbon tax. They don’t. That’s why they’re not creating one while they’re in government.

    I support the Gs because they might actually put a real price on carbon emissions. Because the Greens are the only party talking about acting on climate change and supporting those on the lowest income to get through the pain that action will cause – pension increase (long before the Libs or DLP said anything); assistance for low income earners; feed-in laws & efficiency retrofits to help households earn money from a clean energy future, rather than just paying as they will under your model (either now or 30 years down the track). Acting now means less pain, zigs, not more.

    Environmental action + social justice campaigning. Sounds right up your alley!

    Unfortch – still don’t think Vonow’ll win it. Briggs has it for now (fervently hoping I’m wrong).

  32. Josh WK:

    The DLP have been against a Carbon Tax/Trade right from the beginning.

    It serves no purpose. Will do no good. The burden on the poorest people in our community will be far to great.

    One only has to look at warnings coming out of Europe. The greens will only increase the burden on the poorest people in our community.

    Bob Brown even wants to shut down all coal power stations.

    The extreme green ideology hopefully has reached its peak and once people start to realise the danger of this ideology they will desert it in droves.

    Young 18 year olds grow up someday you know


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