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. Interestingly the SA prefs split three ways with Wilkie getting more of them than Couser. So either the SA had no HTV order, or else their voters ignored it.

  2. Kevin, for those of us who don’t know, what were the circumstances of Wilkie leaving the Greens? If he was happy to have been a Green in the recent past, does that not suggest that his politics are basically left-libertarian-green, and that the chances of his supporting Abbott are therefore pretty remote?

  3. [Kevin, for those of us who don’t know, what were the circumstances of Wilkie leaving the Greens?]

    There are various accounts. One version says that he found them too disorganised for his military mind. But there was a specific policy flashpoint during the 2007 Senate race in which Wilkie was the candidate for the very-outside-chance-of-a-win Green #2 position. It was over the Bell Bay pulp mill. The Greens wanted all their candidates to be opposing the mill specifically, but Wilkie, although he does oppose the mill in that location, wanted to put the emphasis on opposing the process.

    I think “left-libertarian-green” is a fair description of Wilkie’s known politics. He has made very little effort to differentiate himself from the Greens on policy since leaving them, except for during the state election where he made it clear he was more extremely anti-pokies than they were. But I think on economic issues, particularly forestry, he is likely to prove a lot more moderate.

    I don’t see him as having any Labor-type heritage or natural affinity with the Labor Party. In some ways it makes more sense to see him as an extreme left-Liberal. Or a one-man Democrat without all the flawed party structure rubbish that killed that party off.

  4. Kevin – I bow to your better information on Andrew Wilkie’s stance on gay marriage – thanks for this intelligence. However, I stand by my conclusion, because most voters didn’t attend the forums nor would they know what was posted on questionnaire web-sites. What these ‘traditional Liberal’ voters did know, because it was splashed across the Hobart Mercury, interstate newspapers and the electronic media, is that the Liberal candidate said he personally supported gay marriage. So, for them, faced with a Liberal they didn’t like, an unknown Labor candidate with zero public profile, a Socialist Alliance candidate, ditto, a Green, an articulate, dark-suited Duntroon graduate with a strong anti-gambling profile looked quite attractive…

    It is interesting each of the recent elected Independents in the Reps has represented a ‘safe’ seat – North Sydney (Ted Mack), Kennedy (Katter), New England (Windsor), Lyne (Oakeshott), and now Denison (AW). One could add, in terms of minor parties, the two seats the Greens have won, Cunningham (Michael Organ) and Melbourne (Adam Bandt).

    Tactical voting is alive and well – in spite of what the party hierachies and their polling organisations may sometimes think, the voters are pretty shrewd! No one likes to be taken for granted.

  5. [However, I stand by my conclusion, because most voters didn’t attend the forums nor would they know what was posted on questionnaire web-sites. What these ‘traditional Liberal’ voters did know, because it was splashed across the Hobart Mercury, interstate newspapers and the electronic media, is that the Liberal candidate said he personally supported gay marriage.]

    It’s true, the publicity for Simpkins’ stand on gay marriage made no mention of that of the other candidates, so Wilkie’s view on gay marriage didn’t make headlines and wasn’t something he sought to make headlines about to any great degree. So it’s possible that if any Libs were cheesed off with Simpkins over that issue they would have gone over to Wilkie. But there’s probably only a point or two that could have gone over on that issue, because most of the Lib-Wilkie drift is already accounted for.

    I don’t know if there was any drift in the reverse direction over Simpkins’ stand. I think those who might have considered voting for him over gay marriage were a bit disappointed that he was equivocating about crossing the floor if it wasn’t a “conscience vote”, and also even for those who liked his gay marriage stance, a vote for him was still a vote for Abbott as PM.

  6. I tend to think the voting for Wilkie was a bit more simple than one policy. I think it was a combination of him being a high profile candiate in Hobart (just because the Mercury doesn’t print much about you doesn’t mean much, most people think the Mercury is a joke) and that locals have seen Southern Tasmania get ignored by the Federal government in favour of roads and other infrastructure in the north of the state. This is one of the big reasons I voted for Wilkie, because both major parties are a joke and don’t offer anything.

  7. I have put up a large piece about the Denison count and the widespread confusion and media havoc that it generated on Tasmanian Times here:

    As some final comments: firstly huge thanks to sykesie and also thanks to Laocoon for the postals info, and thanks to everyone for their interest in this thread and this lovely little mess we had down here for a few days. 🙂

    I’m still a bit miffed about not realising just how well Wilkie would do on primaries (especially since I also underestimated his vote in the state election) – I thought he could do well but never thought it was more than an outside chance – but pleased about spotting the probable Wilkie win and the reasons he was likely to win very quickly on the night.

    I had a fair amount of potential personal bias on board that might have interfered with the first bit (through me overestimating and overcompensating for it) but thankfully didn’t mess with the latter – I find it so much easier to be objective when the votes are in and all I’m looking at is known numbers, however complex the scenario.

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