Moral majority

Yesterday, the Australian Electoral Commission performed an act which in a rational world would have excited no interest. Since last weekend the commission has featured a “national two party preferred result” on the front page of its Virtual Tally Room, which has assumed tremendous psychological interest as Labor’s margin has steadily eroded from 0.6 per cent to 0.4 per cent. However, the tally had a flaw which biased it in Labor’s favour: there were no Labor-versus-Coalition figures available from strongly conservative Kennedy, Lyne, New England or O’Connor, where the notional two-candidate preferred counts conducted on election night involved independents. This was only balanced out by left-wing Melbourne, where Labor and the Greens were correctly identified as the front-running candidates for the notional count. For whatever reason, the AEC decided yesterday to level the playing field by excluding seats where the notional preference count candidates had been changed since election night, which in each case meant left-wing seats where the Liberals had finished third to the Greens (Batman and Grayndler) or Andrew Wilkie (Denison). The result was an instant 0.4 per cent drop in Labor’s score, reducing them to a minuscule lead that was soon rubbed out by further late counting.

In fact, very little actually changed in yesterday’s counting, which saw a continuation of the slow decline in the Labor total that is the usual pattern of late counting. The media, regrettably, has almost entirely dropped the ball on this point. Mark Simkin of the ABC last night reported that Labor’s lead had been eradicated by the “latest counting”, as opposed to an essentially meaningless administrative decision. Lateline too informed us that Labor’s two-party vote had “collapsed”, and Leigh Sales’ opening question to Julie Bishop on Lateline was essentially an invitation to gloat about the fact. Most newspaper accounts eventually get around to acknowledging the entirely artificial nature of the 50,000-vote reversal in Labor’s fortunes, but only after reporting in breathless tones on the removal of votes that will eventually be put back in.

The reality is that nobody knew who had the lead on the two-party vote yesterday morning, and nothing happened in the day to make anybody any the wiser. The Prime Minister equally had no idea on election night when she made her ill-advised claim to the two-party majority mantle. Only when all seats have reported Labor-versus-Coalition counts, which is probably still a few weeks away, will we be able to say for sure. The best we can do at present is to construct a projection based on the votes counted and our best assumptions as to how the gaps in the vote count data will be filled when all the figures are in.

At present we have completed “ordinary” polling day totals for all electorates and advanced counts of postal votes in most cases, but there has been no progress yet on absent or pre-poll votes in roughly half. Where counting of any of these three categories has been conducted, I have projected the party results on to the expected total of such votes (derived from the “declaration vote scrutiny progress” for absent and pre-poll votes, and from the number of applications for postal votes discounted by 16 per cent as per experience from 2007). Where no counting of a particular category has been conducted, I have compared the parties’ 2007 vote share in that category with their ordinary vote share, and applied that difference to the ordinary vote from this election. For example, the 2007 Liberal two-party vote in Canberra was 7.19 per cent higher than their ordinary vote share, so their 40.54 per cent ordinary vote at the current election has been used to project an absent vote share of 47.73 per cent.

For Batman, Grayndler and Denison, I have used the figures from the two-party Labor-versus-Liberal counts that were conducted in these seats from ordinary votes on election night, calculated the swing against the ordinary vote in 2007 and projected it over the expected absent, pre-poll and postal totals. For Melbourne, New England and Kennedy, where no Labor-versus-Coalition figures are available, I have used preference shares derived from the Labor-versus-Coalition counts from the 2007 election to determine the swing on ordinary votes, and projected that swing through the other categories. It’s with Lyne and O’Connor that things get crude, as we have no case study of how Rob Oakeshott’s or Wilson Tuckey’s preferences split between Labor and Nationals candidates. For O’Connor, which has at least been a Labor-Liberal-Nationals contest at successive elections, I have crudely arrived at a 7.9 per cent swing against Labor derived from the primary vote swing plus moderated by a 70 per cent share of the swing in favour of the Greens. The best I could think to do for Lyne was average the two-party swings from the neighbouring electorates, producing a 5.14 per cent swing against Labor.

Plug all that in and here’s what you get:

Labor 6,313,736 (50.02 per cent)
Coalition 6,307,924 (49.98 per cent)

In other news, Andrew Wilkie says the two-party vote total is “not relevant” in determining which party he will back. Good for him.

UPDATE: An Essential Research poll has it at 50-50, which is “unchanged” – I’m not sure if this is in comparison with the election result or a previously unpublished Essential result from a week ago. Basically no change on preferred prime minister. UPDATE 2: The 50-50 from last week was indeed an unpublished Essential result from their rolling two-week average, which they understandably felt was not worth publishing under the circumstances.

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.

3,640 comments on “Moral majority”

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  1. [Who is it?]

    Give it to Ruddock. He’s got the most experience of the House and this could be his last term anyway, so his preselection might not be an issue.

  2. [That would’ve been sweet but who’d be brave enough for that journey, knowing it’ll mean a couple of months of cabin fever?]

    I’ve been thinking : if Abbott wins – is there any spare room down that mine in Chile?

  3. OK, the avatar is easy. Either something nationalistic, idolising a conservative politician/party logo or, as previously suggested, something anglophilic like the union jack or the queen.

    As for the name, it has to be something pious and arrogant, or alludes to my view being the same as the majority of Australia (eg. “The Truth Hurts” “Generic Person” etc.)

  4. RR
    [Who is it?]
    With the lib ship (Da Leaky Boat) sailing in rocky waters. it may be prudent for one of them to jump with the only life jacket. That one would get some status, some goodies, and a safe haven when the keel-hauling starts, (i.e. should the fibs not get in.)

  5. Ruddock really sold his soul during the Howard years and it ate at him. Not that I pity him for it, he could’ve easily just stayed on the back bench if he disagreed with Howard’s draconian policies.

    Nevertheless, he still is one of the better ones and is the father of the house. I wouldn’t protest making him speaker.

  6. [I’ve been thinking : if Abbott wins – is there any spare room down that mine in Chile?] Getting me laughing at this time of morning, must be good.

  7. [“Accept Reality”?]
    I like that one. Could come back to haunt such a right-wing nasty as your new self though.
    [Pompous Ass]
    Terrific! I mean what insult can you throw at someone calling themselves that!

  8. How about “I am always right and I am a real Australian so shut up if you disagree with me or me and my mates are gonna wear our white hoods and break into your place and assault you for disagreeing with the great glorious leader! Praise Abbott!”

    …or is that a bit too wordy? 😀

  9. [I like that one. Could come back to haunt such a right-wing nasty as your new self though.]

    That’s a good point.

    Real Australian? Or is that too obviously right wing?

  10. non-labor spouse is not happy that this election stuff is dragging on so long and the only positive is that they can see that it could be worse, at least I didn’t go for that preselection years ago!

  11. [stop the botes]

    Just reminded me of “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

    Anyone who has read it would realise that Tony can be gainfully employed in the future – he can stop the “moties” escaping!

    Surely they have got at least one Saturn 5 left, even if it’s in the Smithsonian.

  12. Overnight catchup (for people doing the scanback in the morning)

    1. Coalition “black hole” in costings

    2. Mystery Liberal “offered” Speakership

    3. Blue Nile (’nuff said!)

    4. New Right Wing Troll expected to make debut appearance today

    [Yes forward
    Yes, forward on the foe, on the foe, Yes, forward on the foe,
    Yes, but you don’t go! ]

    Pirates of Penzance (I’m going)

    [At last they go, We go, we go,
    At last they go, at last they go! We go, we go,
    At last they really, really go! We go, we go, we go, we go!]

  13. [And for space adventure I recommend:
    The Gap Series by stephen donaldson.]

    Sadly when am I going to read any books?????

    Just retell them here, sentence by sentence (and change the names of the characters to Rudd, Gillard, Arbib, Abbott, Robb etc as appropriate)

  14. Now I lay me down to sleep…I wonder if the lights are still burning in Fib headquarters, how Tone is sleeping…tossing and turning a bit…will he have time for a 25k dawn bike-ride…is hockey raiding the fridge…does Julie Bishop sleep with her eyes rigidly open?

  15. Well that was utterly stupid of me. Remind me never to try and change my name on here again. Your new identity automatically goes into moderation and it’s totally not worth it just for a couple of hours of whimsy…

    Staying on Pebs for now on!

  16. Rocket Rocket
    I really like Orson S Cards books (especially Ender’s Game from 1985) but to be clear, not his politics; he should stick to writing fantasy novels and not political comment. He seems to have gone all right-wing in his old age. Sad really, for someone so talented.

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