Photo finishes: Denison

Saturday, August 28

The AEC has published its provisional distribution of preferences which makes it very clear that Andrew Wilkie will surpass the Liberal candidate in very fine style, recording 20,430 votes to the Liberals’ 15,695 after distribution of Greens and Socialist Alliance preferences, and then comfortably winning the seat on Liberal preferences.

Friday, August 27

The Australian Electoral Commission announces it will conduct a “provisional” distribution of preferences in Denison to ascertain whether the Liberals are likely to be excluded from the count before Andrew Wilkie, a necessary precondition for the latter winning the seat.

Tuesday, August 24

6pm. Indicative preference count finished for real now, with pre-polls and hospital booths added, and Wilkie’s lead has risen to 1.2 per cent (1375 votes).

3pm. The indicative preference count for ordinary votes has been completed, and it puts Andrew Wilkie 1091 votes (1.0 per cent) clear of Labor. That’s a big hurdle for Labor to clear on absents and postals, but there are too many imponderables to say it can’t happen.

Monday, August 23

11pm. “Only one seat now in doubt as Wilkie loses bid for Denison”, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, and it’s probably not alone. This misapprehension is based on the ABC computer’s projection of the Labor-versus-Wilkie indicative preference count, which assumes the 20 booths that haven’t been counted will follow the preference pattern of the 26 that have. There is a three-sided problem here: Labor’s share of the preferences is not as high in areas where they are weak generally; the booths are being counted in alphabetical order; and the strongest Liberal booths begin with an S. Antony Green’s modelling to account for this turns the projected 0.6 per cent Labor lead into a 1.1 per cent deficit (subject to a margin of error), a view shared by PB commenters who know their way around a linear regression. However, Labor is likely to at least close that a little on postal votes.

6pm. Labor might appear to have the advantage superficially at present, but Sykesie in comments has produced a model accounting for the association between Labor’s primary vote in booths that have reported and the share of their preferences in them. The upshot is that as counts are added for booths less preferable to Labor are added, their share of the preferences will come down, Sykesie projects them to finish on 48.4 per cent with an error margin of only 1.3 per cent. However, that doesn’t factor in the likelihood that Labor’s position will improve as postal votes come in. That still makes it too close to call, but Wilkie would probably be favoured.

2.30pm. The Electoral Commission is conducting a thrilling indicative preference count between Wilkie and Labor to ascertain what will happen if they are indeed the final candidates. Wilkie currently looks to be just slightly under the share of preferences he needs, but it’s been back and forth as booths have been progressively added in alphabetical order.

Sunday, August 22

Accomplished Tasmanian psephologist Kevin Bonham, who closely observed the behaviour of Greens preferences in relation to Wilkie when the latter ran at the March state elections, disagrees with Possum’s assessment that Greens preferences will not necessarily put Wilkie ahead of the Liberals, and thinks a greater threat to Wilkie would be that he might be overtaken by the Greens, who will have run a better resourced postal vote campaign. If he’s right, the surprises in Denison might not be over. It is mostly being taken for granted that Liberal preferences will allow Wilkie to ride home over Labor if he finishes ahead of them, but a WA Labor source advises caution on this count based on the precedent of Kwinana at the September 2008 state election. It was widely thought after election night the seat had been won by independent Carol Adams, but victory slipped away from her due to the surprisingly high number of Liberal voters who had Labor second.

Saturday, August 21

This post will be used to follow the late count in Denison, where independent Andrew Wilkie superficially looks well placed to win a Labor seat vacated by Duncan Kerr and contested for them by Jonathan Jackson. At issue is the distribution of preferences from the fourth-placed Greens, who polled 19.01 per cent. Wilkie needs them to close what at present is only a 0.1 per cent deficit over the Liberals, but Possum at least believes the fact preferences are splitting three ways between Labor as well as Liberal and Wilkie will land him short, especially after factoring in a likely weakening of his position as postal votes come in. However, the ABC reports “Labor scrutineers are predicting a desperately close result as preferences are distributed”.

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.

258 comments on “Photo finishes: Denison”

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  1. Some pre-poll/postal voting stats (for comparison of these 5 undecided seats, see post #210 in the thread: D-day plus 1)

    First-up, the number of pre-polls in absolute numbers and also as a percentage. The average number of pre-polls in all seats was 6,964

    4,375 6.1% Denison

    Next postal votes. The average number of postals in all seats was 6,382

    4,964 7.0% Denison

    What is noteworthy on the postals is the percentage that are ALP postals. The first number shows ALP postals:total postals (The average percentage in all seats of ALP:total postals was 26% with very wide variance).

    The second number shows ALP postals:All Party Specific postals (i.e. excluding AEC & GPV)

    2% 6% Denison

    Every one of the other 4 too-close-to-call seats has a higher proportion than average 26% – except for Denison. One rather suspects that the ALP has been caught a bit napping in this seat which I guess was not given the usual marginal seat treatment.

    Labor is about half of all party-specific postals in the other 4 too-close-to-call seats – Denison is way less.

    In Denison, most of the “gap” in postals were generic AEC postals (58% of the total), which may be more hopeful for ALP – though this may have also been used by Andrew Wilkie relatively more as well.

  2. Was Wilkie directing to the Greens? Is there a chance that if he does poorly on postal votes (as Indy’s tend to do), the Greens could leapfrog him and challenge for the seat?

  3. Update from less than an hour ago.

    The libs have overtaken Wilkie in counting this morning, and this has got to be good for the ALP. I suspect that a greater proportion of preferences from wilkie would go first to the ALP, where a greater proportion of lib preferences would go first to wilkie.

    So if the libs get more of the primary, the ALP has a good chance of retaining the seat.

  4. Wilkie, I can understand why they all voted for you, and I quietly have been rooting for you from afar, but this is one occassion where I wish Labour didn’t lose it’s seat!

  5. The Libs overtaking Wilkie at this stage is irrelevant. What is most relevant is whether Wilkie remains in third ahead of the Green following postals and preferences from the Socialist Alliance, which I expect to strongly favour the Greens. (I believe they would have preferenced Couser on their HTV card but haven’t seen one.)

    If Couser is excluded in fourth then even if the Libs are a few hundred up on Wilkie after postals, he should catch Simpkins even with the three-way split. We know that in the Tassie Lower House election early this year, with just Wilkie and a Lib in the race, those Green preferences not exhausting went to Wilkie over the Lib 68:32. Plus that Liberal was higher profile than Simpkins, and the Liberal was a female Hobart alderman receiving preferences from a female Hobart Green alderman. Wilkie is a former Green. There is every reason to believe that Wilkie can overhaul any modest gap to the Lib on Green preferences.

    If Wilkie gets over Simpkins he gets all the Liberal HTV preferences. That should be good on its own to almost (if not more than) erase the gap in primaries to Jackson, meaning that Wilkie would only need to get a somewhat better than even preference flow vs Jackson off Green preferences to win.

    In my view the biggest challenge for Wilkie is to not get overtaken by Couser on postals and SA prefs. If he can stay ahead there even by a whisker he really should be home.

    Re #5, Wilkie was not directing and nor were the Greens. The Libs directed 2 Wilkie 3 Couser, changing their mind after originally intending to direct 2 Wilkie 3 Jackson. Note that this means that if Couser can get ahead of Wilkie, it’s not impossible Couser could catch the Lib on Wilkie preferences then win on Liberal HTVs, though I think this is very difficult as Wilkie preferences really will go all over the place.

  6. I think when Possum made his comment he was probably not aware that while the Green ticket is notionally open there are strong reasons to believe the Green prefs will favour Wilkie over Liberal and Labor. Even if it is only something like a 40-28-32 split (Wilkie-Lib-Lab) then that is enough to overturn even a two-point gap to the Lib on primaries (current gap 0.24 points) – provided Wilkie stays in third. I expect it could be more pronounced than that. I’d also expect any SA prefs going through the Green to favour Wilkie.

  7. [Libs are starting to put distance on them and Wilkie. 165 votes, and they used to be behind.]

    This figure will continue to grow through postals no doubt, but unless it grows to over 1000 I doubt it will affect the outcome.

  8. Where does Wilkie stand? When he ran against John Howard in 2004 – I am pretty sure that he said that he had been a liberal voter – and then of course he went to the Greens and when interviewed last night on the ABC he said that he was at the extreme moderate end of the Greens? He may not be the lay down misaire for Labor that some think. Does anybody why he and the Greens parted company? And why the Greens did not preference him in Denison?

  9. Kevin Bonham

    I am interested in your comments as we had a discussion on thissite last week where you poopooed my suggestion that the Greens and/ or Wilkie could get up.

  10. [Where does Wilkie stand?]

    He said he’ll support an “ethical” government. If he ends up backing Abbott he needs his head read.

  11. [I am interested in your comments as we had a discussion on thissite last week where you poopooed my suggestion that the Greens and/ or Wilkie could get up.]

    I don’t recall poopooing any explicit suggestion, I just recall being asked a question about my view of their chances. I said the Greens didn’t while Wilkie was in my view (at that time) unlikely. Re the Greens I was at that time under the impression that the Libs were preferencing Labor, which was their initial announcement, but it emerged in the last few days they’d changed their allocation. I just did not expect that Wilkie would start pulling big votes from all over the entire electorate when in the state election his support had been concentrated in the affluent educated suburbs and barely a blip on the radar in the working-class ones.

    Wilkie’s views – Wilkie is big on: abolishing pokies, ending wars, helping asylum seekers, climate change, truth in government, health care, standard of living for the poor etc. His policies are very similar to the Greens except that he is more strident on poker machines, somewhat more nuanced on major development approvals and forestry, and more economically moderate in general.

    Wilkie left the Greens largely because of conflicts that occurred during the 2007 Senate campaign, in which the Greens wanted their candidates to explicitly oppose the Bell Bay pulp mill but Wilkie, while making it reasonably clear over time he was against the mill, only wanted to oppose the pulp mill approval *process*. Tensions developed over this and each side blames the other, but obviously Green supporters still think favourably of him in general.

    The amusing thing is that if Wilkie wins there will actually be not such a great ideological change in incumbent – Duncan Kerr in my view has been a kind of closet euro-Green for years and I think he and Wilkie have quite a lot in common philosophically.

  12. I think the post election is more exciting than the election and most of the country seems to agree it was the correct outcome.

    Why should anyone win in an election about nothing at all?

  13. [He said he’ll support an “ethical” government. If he ends up backing Abbott he needs his head read.]

    I am confident he will not back Abbott in the first instance, but he seems to have the kind of black-and-white views of political morality that mean that if he does a deal with Labor and they welch on it, he’ll throw them out as a matter of principle.

    It may be that he will not have to decide to back anyone.

  14. #18

    I could see Wilkie (maybe) backing Abbott if, hypothetically, the Coalition got 73 seats and looked likely to get all 3 ex-Nats on side. Why wouldn’t he deal himself in by joining some agreement with the other 3 Independents rather than sitting on the sidelines? He’d be the 77th vote so could abstain or vote against the Coalition on certain issues if he wanted.

  15. I could see Wilkie (maybe) backing Abbott if, hypothetically, the Coalition got 73 seats and looked likely to get all 3 ex-Nats on side. Why wouldn’t he deal himself in by joining some agreement with the other 3 Independents rather than sitting on the sidelines? He’d be the 77th vote so could abstain or vote against the Coalition on certain issues if he wanted.

    That could apply to either party, except for the greens candidate. Remember, Wilki doesn’t hate the ALP… Katter and Wilson hate the nationals.

  16. [I could see Wilkie (maybe) backing Abbott if, hypothetically, the Coalition got 73 seats and looked likely to get all 3 ex-Nats on side.]

    If that happens the Coalition has 76 and doesn’t need to deal with him, and wouldn’t want to as the price could be too high.

    On the main thread blackburnpseph asked why the Greens didn’t preference Wilkie. Denison is a seat not included in the Labor-Green preference deal so I think it was always the Greens’ intention to run an open ticket there, but running a semi-open ticket (1 Greens 2 Wilkie 3,4 you decide) would probably have been too confusing. The other issue is that Wilkie himself ran an open ticket and was always going to do so to maximise his independence cred; thus he wasn’t giving the Greens anything and they probably didn’t feel they owed him anything in return.

    In the state election the Greens also declined to attempt to assist Wilkie to get elected (not that trying to direct prefs in Tassie state elections works anyway) and my view of this was that they actually viewed him as a threat. It took the Greens here about ten years to finish killing off the Democrat vampire and the last thing they would have wanted would be a Wilkie Party springing up all over the state and competing with them for third-party status. Especially when one of the things Wilkie seems to pick up on is that there is a degree of frustration in Tassie with all of Labor, Green and Liberal and a degree of interest in fourth-party alternatives.

    I just didn’t expect that degree to more than double in 5 months!

  17. Copying the link to the Denison state distribution which was being asked about in another thread.

    There are three things Wilkie needs to do to win, and he needs to do all three:

    1. Staying ahead of Couser on the postals and Socialist Alliance prefs
    2. Overtaking Simpkins (if behind on primaries, which is likely) on Couser’s preferences
    3. Overtaking Jackson on Simpkins’ preferences

    The Denison distribution is relevant only to stage 2. It shows that Greens voters heavily preferred Wilkie over a Liberal in the state election. It does not establish what happens when there is a Labor candidate in the mix as well.

  18. Andrew Wilkie ws shown on ABC TV 7pm news saying that people shouldn’t read anything into the fact that he used to be a member of the Liberal Party (!!!!) or that he previously stood as a Greens candidate.

  19. That preference distribution mentioned by peterk has since disappeared from the AEC site.
    I suspect it was premature.
    They cannot know the order of candidates until all extraordinarty votes [prepoll, postal etc] have been counted and that will take several working days in the case of postal.
    So a preference distribution is well in the future.

    Denison has a ways to go yet.

  20. [Looks like preferences were distributed today ALP vs Wilkie & result is an easy win for Wilkie with 57.5%

    This figure was also showing on the ABC site at times on election night and I believe it is simply an estimate, based on some assumptions about preferences. At this stage I don’t believe a notional 2PP Jackson v Wilkie has been done and even if one is done that is not the full story as we still need to know the order of exclusions as fredex rightly points out.

  21. Had a look at that Kwinana example the WA source mentioned and I see that it was an 81.4:18.5 split Ind/Labor on Lib preferences. It would not surprise me greatly if the split was similar to that in Denison, but that kind of split is fine for Wilkie and would leave him only needing to very slightly outperform Labor on the Green preferences on current figures (provided of course that he is second.)

    It gets harder if there’s serious drift in the primary figures, so that, for instance, the starting gap between Jackson and Wilkie widens by a few points. It will be interesting to see if that happens though, given the evidence that Labor have not made a big effort on postals.

  22. Based on current figures ( I really struggle to see a situation where Wilkie doesn’t make it to the 2PP runoff. Even if 95% of Socialist Alliance prefs flow to Greens, given the meagre number of votes left in the pot, they would have needed to run the mother of all postal vote campaigns to get above Wilkie. Then when they go, Wilkie will inevitably and easily make up the tiny gap he faces vs the Libs.

    The real question to decide Denison is whether enough Green and Lib (it does happen, in often surprising numbers!) preferences leak to the ALP, rather than Wilkie, to get the ALP to 50% 2PP.

  23. Counting on the ALP vs Wilkie basis is now only just coming in
    and one booth has been reported.

    It’s 66% to the ALP, 34% to Wilkie.

    But I am now calling this for the ALP too.

  24. Dr Good the one polling booth where the 2PP has been done is a strong Labor booth: they got a 57% primary vote. What is more significant is that Andrew Wilkie got 66.25% of the preferences from the other candidates. If that flow were continued uniformly across all booths he would fall just short, at 49.7% TPP of the polling-day booth votes. However, it is likely that in a booth where the Labor primary vote is very high that their preference acquisition will also be high. They will probably not do so well at other booths. A countervailing factor may be postal votes. Too soon yet to call this one.

  25. Sure enough, Wilkie got 69.7% of preferences in the second booth to be counted. He is on track to win the booth vote from polling-day. We should see that result later today.

  26. Thanks Canberra Boy

    It does look like Wilkie is getting just over 70% of the prefs from the
    eliminated parties. He needs 67% to win so I guess that just about
    does it.

    Ok. I reckon Wilkie will get there.

  27. It is too close to call and no-one can project the result confidently just yet. Across the electorate as a whole on current primary figures Wilkie needs 66.9% of combined preferences from Couser, Simpkins and Barnes to win – but this figure could shift by a few points with further counting. In the first three booths done for 2PP he got 69, 70, 66. Ignore the 2PP at the bottom of the screen on the AEC page as two of the first three booths counted were big Labor booths. The important thing is the %age of preferences Wilkie gets in the various booths, whatever the 2PP in that booth as a whole.

    I am going to set up a spreadsheet to feed in booth results and project the outcome as booths come in and with updates of primary figures.

  28. Spreadsheet set up. Of the first six booths, Wilkie was above target in four and below target in two. Across these six booths combined, which represent 11% of the available preferences, Wilkie is 62 preferences ahead of target, which if it held up would see him win the 2PP with Jackson by 1100 votes (not necessarily the same as winning the seat since he still has to stay ahead of Couser then get ahead of Simpkins). But the figures from booth to booth are quite volatile in terms of whether W is above or below his target %age and I am finding it difficult to read a clear pattern yet in terms of which booths he does best on preferencing. In the alphabetical order he is about to go through a bunch of largely bad booths so don’t be surprised to see his 2PP at the bottom go down.

  29. As an example of the sensitivity of the 2PP projection, entering the Cascades booth (the 7th in the list) showed Wilkie one vote behind schedule for that booth but dropped my projected 2PP to 906. Also if I remove the Battery Point booth, Wilkie is losing the 2PP, so it is extremely sensitive.

    It looks like Wilkie is going to struggle to get his share high enough in the super-strong Labor booths and also in the super-strong Green booths.

  30. Kevin

    It should not depend on the ALP-ness of the booth.

    It is more likely that the pref flow would be related to the
    ration of Liberal to Green voters.

    Any pattern in that?

  31. Chigwell booth being a strong Labor booth was bad for Wilkie on preferences and trashed his projected lead on my spreadsheet to 300, and that’s a meaningless lead at this stage since it is basically generated by one booth. Jackson may well take the projected lead as some of the next few booths come in, but we need to see more “middle ground” booths in the mix to get the full picture.

  32. [Kevin

    It should not depend on the ALP-ness of the booth.

    It is more likely that the pref flow would be related to the
    ration of Liberal to Green voters.

    Any pattern in that?]

    Not really. The L/G ratio is 3-1 in Austins Ferry and Brent Street and Wilkie got 69 and 70 there (these are %s of preferences). But in Battery Point where he got 78 it is not much over 1-1.

    It seems to be a complex pattern because in booths where Labor is strong and Wilkie weak (northern suburbs) it makes sense that Labor would get more preferences, not including the makeup of the other parties. But some of these booths have high Lib-Green ratios which can cancel that out to some degree. In booths where Labor is weak and Wilkie strong, it would make sense that Wilkie would get more preferences, but some of these booths, like Cascades, have high Green-Lib ratios, which cancels that out. So his ideal booth is a booth where Labor is weak, he is strong and the Libs are strong, and Battery Point was one of those – but there’s not that many of them.

    I think this is actually looking pretty shaky now, in terms of him winning the notional 2PP today by enough to not get done on postals.

  33. Ten booths in now and Wilkie’s projected lead on my spreadsheet, which was largely caused by the Battery Point booth, has been completely wiped out with 17% of the known primaries counted, however the ten booths in so far are on average stronger than normal Labor and SA booths, and slightly stronger than normal for the Liberals over the Greens.

  34. This is all very interesting but we seem to be forgettoing how the count actually works. Preferences can’t be distributed until all votes are in. Once that happens counting and elimination occurs at the electorate level, not the booth level (it is not the same thing).
    The lowest candidate is eliminated, and then the next lowest, at the electorate level. It is clear that Barnes and Couser will be eliminated, on the current figures, but it is far from clear who will be eliminated next – especially if Couser’s votes flow strongly to Jackson. There may not be enough votes left for Wilkie to get ahead of Simpkins. In which case, game over.
    In most electorates, it is a 2 horse race, and simple preference processes can be used. But in this case, it is the race between Wilkie & Simpkins which is most relevant – and that can’t be determined for a long time yet.

  35. runim

    you are right to some extent.

    However if Greens are preferencing ALP ahead of Wilkie as you say
    then the ALP will win the TCP Wilkie vs ALP count anyway.

    so it does not matter about that possibility

  36. Claremont a shocker for Wilkie. He now trails by 500+ on my projection, but it is clear that it, just like the 2PP at the bottom of the page, it is being too much influenced by which kinds of booths are included and isn’t reliable until the booth mix normalises.

    Another way of looking at it is that Jackson currently leads Wilkie 56-44 2PP on the eleven booths that are in. However, these booths have an average Jackson primary of 43.4 compared with an average Wilkie primary of 19.4. So a Jackson primary lead over Wilkie of 24 points generates a 2PP lead over Wilkie of 12 points – in those booths.

    Jackson’s primary lead over Wilkie for the whole electorate is currently 14.48 points. So that sounds pretty good for Jackson – except that where Jackson’s primary lead over Wilkie is low (or Wilkie has a primary lead on him) Wilkie “closes” by much more than 12 points on 2PP, and this corellation is very strong. So that difference between the Jackson primary lead and the Jackson 2PP lead will increase as the booths that are less good for Jackson hit the can. How much it will increase by is hard to say because we’ve hardly had a “typical” booth in yet.

  37. Dr Good, the preference flow to Wilkie is dependent on the Labor primary vote (higher ALP primary –> lower pref flow to Wilkie), so taking a raw average of the booths so far isn’t accurate.

    Allowing for this, I estimate the ‘true’ preference flow to Wilkie to be about 67.3%.

  38. I know the media need something to feast on during this uncertain time, but it’s interesting to see them declare “Wilkie’s lost” and “it’s 73-73” as if it was fact.

    Someone needs to tell them the results aren’t final and there are still a couple of seats that may change.

  39. Dr Good,

    That’s correct but where do Wilkie’s preferences flow (as well as the reallocation of the others) ? If he goes out before Simpkins, will he elect Simpkins ?

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