No accounting for taste

Matthew Franklin of The Australian reports a Newspoll survey commissioned by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Administration finds Australians’ views on electoral reform are the opposite of my own: 70 per cent back compulsory voting, while “more than half would prefer first-past-the-post voting to the preferential system”.

Now for some other matters I’ve been keeping on the back-burner due to post-election ennui:

Tim Colebatch of The Age offered a litany of evidence last month on the extent of public disaffection expressed at the August 21 election, which seemed especially concentrated in areas traditionally strong for Labor. The turnout of 93.2 per cent, meaning votes cast as a percentage of enrolled voters, was the lowest since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1925. Furthermore, the informal vote rose from 4.0 per cent in 2007 to 5.6 per cent in 2010. Anecdotal evidence of large numbers of blank ballot papers have led to talk of a “Mark Latham effect”, although Peter Brent at Mumble observes it was actually 2007 that was the aberration. However, one of the reasons proffered for the lower informal vote on that occasion was a lower number of candidates (no doubt a consequence of an increased deposit, one of the few agreeable features of the Howard government’s 2006 electoral law changes). That the number was lower still this time brings the disaffection hypothesis back into play. Speaking of Latham, his column in the Australian Financial Review on September 23 argued the election amounted to a rejection of two-party politics with reference to a combined major party vote of 71.8 per cent, when measured as a percentage of enrolled voters rather than votes cast. The Australian’s Cut and Paste section then proceeded to completely miss the point in response. Brian Costar and Peter Browne at Inside Story calculate that the non-voting rate as a proportion of the adult population was 21 per cent, the main culprit being an enrolment regime that uses the power of data-matching to strike those with incorrect enrolments from the roll rather than update their details. The solution to this problem, automatic enrolment, has now been adopted at state level in New South Wales and Victoria, but is opposed at federal level by the Coalition for completely spurious reasons which are examined in another article by Peter Browne and Brian Costar.

• A fortnight ago, the Australian Electoral Commission released a report into the pre-polling irregularities that led to the exclusion from the count of 2977 votes in Bootbhy and 1306 in Flynn. The difficulties in each case related to the reform that allowed pre-poll votes to be treated as ordinary rather than declaration votes, and thus to be admitted to the count on election night. This required protocols concerning the security of ballot boxes which had not applied when each vote was contained in a declaration envelope and later subjected to individual scrutiny – in particular, a requirement that boxes not be opened during the three week pre-polling period. At the Oaklands Park pre-polling booth in Boothby, the polling official emptied the ballot boxes at the end of each day and transferred their contents to larger boxes, so as to keep “an ongoing detailed record of the number of ordinary ballot papers and the various categories of declaration votes issued”. On polling day the boxes were taken to the Boothby scrutiny centre for counting, at which point the Labor scrutineer noted the ballots inside were “stacked and flat” rather than “disordered and jumbled” in the usual fashion. There were two separate incidents in Flynn. In Blackwater, an official opened the boxes and counted the votes upon the final closure of pre-poll voting the day before the election, based on a set of instructions from the district returning officer intended to detail procedures for ordinary booths on polling day. At Emerald, the officer had opened the box on a number of occasions “to rearrange the papers and create more space”, and then applied new security seals (the officer had been provided with extra seals on request to the divisional office, which should have rung alarm bells at the time). This came to light due to procedures used to identify and record the seals. The net effect of the votes’ exclusion in Boothby was to cut Liberal member Andrew Southcott’s winning margin by 339 votes; I am not aware of the impact in Flynn, but the eventual Liberal National Party margin was 5720 votes.

• Ruminating on Labor’s malaise is very much in vogue this season, as demonstrated by the post-election review process being undertaken by party elders Steve Bracks, Bob Carr and John Faulkner, and the publication this week of Power Crisis: The Self-Destruction of a State Labor Party, by former NSW state MP Rodney Cavalier. Writing in The Australian, Cavalier calls for a secret ballots in preselection votes and a prohibition on candidates who in the past five years have been members of the “political class” (“those on the staff of ministers, ALP office and union officials who do not come from the industries the unions represent”). Lenore Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald reports NSW Labor is planning to choose candidates in selected electorates by conducting open primaries, either through a straight vote or “a hybrid of an open-to-all-comers vote and the usual branch member system”. This follows the lead of the Nationals in the independent-held seat of Tamworth and Victorian Labor in Liberal-held Kilsyth. Disappointingly for Cavalier, the latter process turned up Vicki Setches, electorate officer to upper house MP Shaun Leane.

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.

895 comments on “No accounting for taste”

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  1. triton @ 845

    [Sir Humphrey also did that when an agenda of PM Hacker’s had only one item.]

    Sir Humphrey was definitely my source for that one, as I wouldn’t pretend to the classical education he received at Oxford.

  2. [Mary MacKillop wore a jebab than hijab.]

    BW, i prefer the streamlined & supersonic version and i have got this back patented:

  3. Thanks also for the link to the Paul Howes Australian Story transcript. It explains a lot. I admire what he has achieved for himself but, as Blue-green hinted, in both experience and qualifications, he still has not actually done much.

    I can’t help noticing how many people in Labor’s senior (right) ranks started extreme left wing, were driven by a burning desire to succeed, then switched to fairly far right wing once power is obtained. This is a classic recipe for authoritarian personality types IMO. They may sincerely want power, and strive for it, but that does not mean that they deserve it, or that the rest of us are better off if they obtain it.

  4. From Bernard Keanes Crikey piece on the Essential Poll

    [The Coalition’s steady vote has been unaffected by a substantial dip in Tony Abbott’s approval ratings following his entanglements on Afghanistan, which saw considerable confusion over the Coalition’s position on whether to increase the Australian presence in the conflict. Compared to just over a month ago, Abbott has returned to the net disapproval figures that have dominated his period as leader, with an eight-point rise in his disapproval rating (45%) and a four-point fall in his approval rating (39%).]

  5. JG just served it up to KK about the Workplace Deal. Maybe that is why JG is so angry this morning.

    JG said KK want to deal in good faith, JG said good faith implies honouring a deal.

    I kind of like this more combatitive Julia!

  6. Dear Mungo, do tell:

    [Thus he latched on to the campaign from his friend, supporter and would-be mentor Alan Jones against the charging of three Australian soldiers over the deaths of civilians, including five children, in Afghanistan. Jones was at his craziest and most vicious, constantly referring to the Director of Army Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, as “that woman”?—?obviously the worst insult he could imagine. He didn’t know how she became a brigadier (actually she was appointed to the job by his old mate John Howard) and she had clearly never been on the front line?—?what a contrast to his own distinguished military career with The Kings School cadet corps, abut which he was regrettably silent.]

  7. The Big Ship
    [Dawkins deliver me from these unspeakable verbal atrocities!]
    Watch out, if you keep that up, in a few hundred years people will be lighting candles and praying to the God Dorcheen.

    [Courtesy is one thing but being forced to call someone by a title that is not true is another thing.]
    You can call Mary by any title you like, I am sure she would not have minded.

  8. [Pollytics | 45 seconds ago
    I think Andrew Leigh’s maiden speech is on today at 3pm. That’s my time – not Mexican pretend time]

    For those who may be interested.

  9. [ Are Bronnie and JBishop back from Rome yet? ]

    Bronnie’s still hanging around, hoping she can snag a sainthood. “Well if you’re giving them away…”

  10. Tips and RUmours from Crikey.

    [The Libs and Murdoch. A senior federal LNP member (and good friend) tells me that senior LNP “faceless men” have an appointment with his highness, Prince Rupert Murdoch, for next month’s visit. The purpose is to argue in favour of Mr T, in an attempt to consign the Prince’s personal loathing of Mr T to the sidelines in the best interests of the Conservative movement.

    Why, you ask? Abbott is now regarded as utterly unelectable by all but the most recalcitrant, hard-right members of the LNP federal caucus. Were a leadership spill called tomorrow, it is suggested that the numbers would go for Mr T — by roughly 10-15 votes, a landslide win in contrast to the last spill. The meeting with the Prince is regarded as paramount to the LNP’s objective of winning in 2013, let alone forcing an early poll.]

  11. The Finns @ 861

    [What a contrast to his own distinguished military career with The Kings School cadet corps, abut which he was regrettably silent.]

    Yes why did Alan Jones leave Kings? And on what terms did he leave? Was there any similarity to his departure some years before from a school in Queensland? One quite similar to Kings in fact.

    Let me put it this way – ‘one suspects there is a common thread’. Don’t take my word for it though, Chris Masters is far more forthcoming in his book on Jones.

  12. [BernardKeane | 50 seconds ago
    Joe Hockey is reading a newspaper on an iPad rather than paying any attention. His judgement is entirely correct.]


  13. Julia, I love it, “Three word slogan”, Jools is using a three word slogan to create a meme about Anthony Abbott as the Three Word Slogan Man. Karma for Abbott.

  14. [ The Libs and Murdoch. A senior federal LNP member (and good friend) tells me that senior LNP “faceless men” have an appointment with his highness, Prince Rupert Murdoch, for next month’s visit. The purpose is to argue in favour of Mr T, in an attempt to consign the Prince’s personal loathing of Mr T to the sidelines in the best interests of the Conservative movement. ]

    Murdoch hates Mr T, and Murdoch hates Mr T? Now where have I heard THAT before? 😉

    Good luck guys. I love it when a plan comes together…

  15. That purple with white stripe ties just jumps out at you. Is our treasurer saying to the oppo’n, “Things are great, get stuffed you lot, I do not need to wear a bankers tie.”

  16. Julia is laughing at Anthony Rabbott, truly chuckling. The poodle is sent in to defend his master, oops he missed and bit his own tail. Julia is laughing again.

  17. Julia points out Howard started the process for the MDBA.
    “If he ever gets around to reading the budget papers…” Another turn of the rotisserie.

  18. don@762

    It is my understanding that there never was such a census.

    Not only is there no record of a census, but the site of Nazareth wasn’t in Roman Palestine so its inhabitants wouldn’t have participated. Not that there were any. Nazareth didn’t exist until after 200 AD.

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