Late counting: Legislative Council

A post for ongoing coverage and discussion of late counting for the Legislative Council.

Tuesday, December 15

UPDATE: My paywalled review of the result features in today’s Crikey.

Final result: Labor 14 (down two), Liberal 14 (down four) and Nationals two (down one), the Greens five (up two), and Shooters & Fishers two, DLP one, Sex Party one and Vote 1 Local Jobs one (all previously unrepresented). The tight results favoured Labor over the Country Alliance in Northern Victoria and the Greens over the Sex Party in the South Eastern Metropolitan. The former came down to Labor squeaking ahead of the Greens at the second last exclusion – had it been the other way round, Labor preferences would have decided the seat in the Country Alliance’s favour rather than the Greens’. The latter was contingent upon below-the-line votes, since the ABC projection based on above-the-line preferences had the Sex Party winning a second seat at the Greens’ expense. But clearly the Sex Party suffered from leakage when it received the preferences of Animal Justice and the Voluntary Euthanasia Party. For further detail, we must await the publication of the full preference distributions.

Monday, December 15

The Victorian Electoral Commission will be pushing the button on the results for each region starting from 9:30am tomorrow, a process that should take about 90 minutes in its totality, with results to be officially declared later in the afternoon.

Thursday, December 11

With the lower house done and dusted, the Victorian election still has further entertainment to offer with the conclusion of the upper house count. So I’ve changed the time stamp on this post and provided an updated review of the situation. The count does not look like it will be finalised until late next week, owing to the higher number of below-the-line votes (8% of the total, double that of 2010) and the consequent greater load of data entry work before the computerised count can be conducted.

The best way to get a handle on a complex situation is to consider the many contenders as Left, which I take to encompass Labor, the Greens, the Sex Party, Animal Justice and Voice for the West, and the Right, meaning Liberal, Nationals, Shooters & Fishers, Country Alliance, Democratic Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Vote 1 Local Jobs and Palmer United. Labor plus the Greens land well short of a majority, but the Left will clearly win 19 seats, and the best case scenario for the Andrews government is that they are supplemented by a further three. However, the odds appear against them in two cases, and finely balanced in a third.

The table below shows the state of play, including three categories of “in doubt” seat: those which will definitely go to a party of one ideological side or the other, but where it isn’t clear which one, and the particularly important contests that could go either Left or Right.

Now a summary of the eight regions in order of interest, for which the number of votes in the count has increased by around 60% since my previous overview after election night. Our tools for analysis are the Geeklections simulations and the projected ABC results.

Northern Victoria

IN DOUBT: It is certain that either Shooters & Fishers or Country Alliance will win a Right seat, and there is a strong chance both of them will. If not, the second of the two seats will go to the Left: Labor, the Sex Party or the Greens.

This is diabolically complicated, but the result can be understood as being on the cusp of four Right, one Left and three Right, two Left. In the former case, wins for the Country Alliance and Shooters & Fishers supplement two seats for the Coalition (one Liberal, one Nationals) and one for Labor. Otherwise, the most likely scenario involves the Greens falling behind Labor and dropping out at Count 15, so that their preferences flow to Labor rather than Labor preferences flowing to the Country Alliance, who get them ahead of the Greens.

The odds on this have shortened as the count has progressed, with the Greens’ projected lead at the relevant point shrinking from 0.78% on election night to 0.32% (10.06% to 9.74%). When the preference distribution is properly conducted, it is not clear to me if below-the-line preferences will be a net positive or a net negative for the Greens: their projected vote total includes the 1.78% Animal Justice vote and 0.60% of residue from Palmer United, the Sex Party and Australian Cyclists, some of which will leak.

Other scenarios canvassed at Geeklections involve the Shooters & Fishers dropping out at one of the earlier stages of the count, in which case their seat could go to the Sex Party or the Greens depending on the stage at which it happens. Geeklections also rates as marginal chances other permutations of three Right, two Left, involving various combinations of the aforesaid parties.

Southern Metropolitan

IN DOUBT: A seat might go Right, to the Liberals, or Left, to the Sex Party.

The most likely scenarios here remain three Liberal, one Labor and one Greens, or two Liberal and one each for Labor, the Greens and the Sex Party. For the latter to happen, the Sex Party will need to get ahead of the Liberal Democrats at Count 17. The chances of this have been weakened as the count has progressed, with a Liberal Democrats lead of 6.92% to 6.62% on election night widening to 7.47% to 6.69%. Furthermore, a much higher share of the Sex Party total is in the form of preferences, so they stand to suffer more from below-the-line leakage. Marginally possible scenarios contemplated by Geeklections are the Liberal Democrats winning the seat instead of the Sex Party, and the Sex Party instead taking a seat at the expense of the Greens.

Western Metropolitan

IN DOUBT: A seat might go to the Right, most likely the DLP or theoretically possibly the Liberal Democrats, or to the Left, namely Voice for the West, although the latter seems unlikely.

The ABC projection is Labor, Liberal, Labor, Greens, DLP, which I rated a certainly after election night. However, counting since election night has seen the DLP vote drop from 2.76% to 2.56% and the Liberal Democrats go from 4.55% to 5.52%, and Geeklections is allowing for the possibility of the Liberal Democrats winning the seat if they stay ahead of the Liberals at Count 16, or Voice for the West doing so if they get ahead of the Sex Party at Count 13. Both look rather unlikely to me: in the former scenario, the Liberal vote is almost entirely their own, and thus not susceptible to leakage, and the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to be a magnet for below-the-line preferences; in the latter, a bigger share of Voice for the West’s vote comes from preferences in comparison with the Sex Party, and the higher profile of the latter suggests it is more likely to attract below-the-line preferences.

Western Victoria

IN DOUBT: A Right seat will go to Vote 1 Local Jobs, Shooters & Fishers or Palmer United.

It is clear that the first four seats have gone Liberal, Labor, Liberal, Labor, but the last is a lottery which Geeklections rates in order of likelihood as Shooters & Fishers, Vote 1 Local Jobs, Palmer United, DLP and the Greens, with the latter two particularly long shots. The ABC projection presently has it with Vote 1 Local Jobs, who supplanted Shooters & Fishers on the first day after the election. Shooters & Fishers have been harmed by a 0.36% boost for the Liberal Democrats as counting has progressed, putting them some distance behind (2.59% to 2.27%) at their point of exclusion at Count 14. The Palmer United scenario is contingent on the Coalition doing more strongly than the projection suggests, so that Vote 1 Local Jobs is excluded ahead of them at Count 16 or Count 17.

South-Eastern Metropolitan

IN DOUBT: A Left seat will go to the Sex Party, the Greens or Animal Justice.

Two Labor and two Liberal seats stand to be augmented by a third seat for the Left, which Geeklections rates in order of likelihood as Greens, Sex Party, Animal Justice and Labor. The Sex Party has emerged as a show through the course of counting due to an almost 1% drop in Labor’s total, putting them in danger of exclusion at a point where previously they were staying ahead of the Sex Party. A Sex Party victory is indeed what the ABC is presently projecting, although Geeklections rates the Greens an equal likelihood. The seat would instead go to Animal Justice if they stayed in the hunt in Count 11 and Count 12 by getting ahead of Palmer United, which they presently trail 1.98% to 1.86%, with neither total including any preferences. At this stage though that would appear unlikely. Even less likely is a third seat going to Labor, although Geeklections has it at the margins.

Eastern Metropolitan

The result here has always looked like Liberal, Labor, Liberal, Liberal, Greens. Geeklections has been rating a sizeable possibility of the last seat instead going to Labor, but I’m struggling to see how. The ABC projection has them leading 17.12% to 12.01%, and while 6.64% of that Greens total comes from preferences and is thus subject to leakage, that shouldn’t make more than about 0.5% of difference.

Eastern Victoria

Liberal, Labor, Nationals, Shooters, Labor.

Northern Metropolitan

Labor, Liberal, Greens, Labor, Sex Party.

Sunday overnight

Simulations by Geeklections suggest that a) the Greens seat in Eastern Metropolitan is no foregone conclusion after all, and that Labor might yet win a second seat there, b) the seat in Northern Metropolitan which I have as either the Sex Party or Family First is all but certain to go to the former, c) there is an outside chance that the Shooters & Fishers seat in Northern Victoria will instead go to the Greens or the Sex Party, d) the three Labor, two Liberal possibility in South East Metropolitan is a slight one, and there’s a slightly higher chance of the Greens seat going to Animal Justice rather than third Labor; and e) there’s a slight chance of the micro-party winner in Western Victoria being Palmer United, but Vote 1 Local Jobs is more likely and Shooters & Fishers rather more likely still.

Sunday 3pm

A revised review of the situation, with more care taken to consider alternative scenarios. I see five seats out of 40 in doubt, the remainder going Coalition 15, Labor 13, Greens four, Shooters & Fishers two and DLP one. Shooters & Fishers might get to three, or the third seat could go to Vote 1 Local Jobs instead. The Sex Party might get two, or the two seats in question could instead go Liberal and Family First. Country Alliance might win a seat, or it could go to Labor instead. And there’s a race between the Greens and Labor for the last seat in South Eastern Metropolitan.

First the regions with doubtful seats:

Western Victoria. Since last night, and as intimated might happen below, the ABC has switched its prediction for the last seat from Shooters & Fishers to Vote 1 Local Jobs. That makes two Liberal, two Labor and Vote 1 Local Jobs, with the last seat to be determined by Count 14 and whether Shooters & Fishers (currently 2.27%) can get ahead of the Liberal Democrats (currently 2.28%).

Northern Metropolitan. The current read here is two Labor and one each for Liberal, Greens and Sex Party. But the Sex Party win is contingent on them staying ahead of Labor at Count 22, which is currently 10.62% to 8.73%. Otherwise, the unlocking of the Sex Party bundle causes Family First to win owing to some unlikely types directing them preferences ahead of Labor: the Basics Rock’n’Roll Party, Animal Justice and Australian Cyclists, together with Shooters and Fishers and the Liberal Democrats.

Northern Victoria. Currently a very striking result with two micro-parties elected: two Coalition (one Liberal, one Nationals), and one each for Labor, Shooters & Fishers and Country Alliance. This is because Labor’s surplus of over half a quota is set to flow to Country Alliance ahead of the Greens. However, this will change if the Greens fall behind Labor at the last exclusion, Count 15, at which the Greens are on 10.27% and Labor is on 9.50%. If so, the Greens will be excluded and their preferences will decisively flow to Labor over the Country Alliance, making the result two Labor, two Coalition, one Shooters & Fishers.

South Eastern Metropolitan. Currently a straightforward result of two Labor, two Liberal, one Greens. But if the third Labor candidate gets ahead of Rise Up Australia at the last exclusion, Count 17, where it’s currently Rise Up 10.79% and Labor 9.08%, Labor wins the last seat instead of the Greens, for a result of Labor three, Liberal two.

Southern Metropolitan. Currently a status quo result of three Liberal, one Labor and one Greens – but the third Liberal might yet lose to the Sex Party if the latter stays afloat at Count 17, where the Liberal Democrats currently lead them by 6.96% to 6.64%. The Sex Party would then absorb the big Labor surplus, which otherwise stands to go untouched because the present projection has the second Labor candidate staying in the race until the final count, at which point he loses to the Liberals.

Now the straightforward ones:

Eastern Metropolitan. Liberal 3, Labor 1, Greens 1.

Western Metropolitan. Labor 2, Liberal 1, Greens 1, DLP 1.

Eastern Victoria. Coalition 2 (Liberal 1, Nationals 1), Labor 2, Shooters & Fishers 1.

Close of Saturday night

Another freakish upper house result, with the present ABC projection being Liberal 14 and Nationals 2; Labor 13; Greens five, winning seats in each of the metropolitan region, including gains in South Eastern Metropolitan and Eastern Metropolitan; three for Shooters and Fishers; and one each for Family First, Country Alliance and the Democratic Labor Party. As I shall shortly explain, there are a few results I don’t think are locked down:

Eastern Metropolitan. Nearly half counted, and it’s looking like the Greens have gained a seat from Labor: enter Samantha Dunn, exit Brian Tee.

Eastern Victoria. As was widely anticipated, it appears Shooters and Fishers have gained a seat at the expense of the Coalition. Result: two Coalition (one Liberal and one Nationals), two Labor, one Shooters and Fishers (Jeff Bourman).

Northern Metropolitan. Only a third counted, but Family First projected to take a seat from the Liberals, and I don’t see any narrow cut-off points that might thwart them (UPDATE: I spoke too soon: in an interesting reversal, the seat is now projected to go to the figurehead of the Sex Party, Fiona Patten).

Northern Victoria. Two micro-party winners projected here: Country Alliance, which I figured, and Shooters and Fishers, which I didn’t. But what happens if the Greens drop behind Labor at Count 14?

South Eastern Metropolitan. Looks like the Greens have poached a seat from Labor for a result of 2-2-1. Although there are some close cut-off points there, for which I’ll shortly get to experimenting with alternative outcomes.

South Metropolitan. Status quo result of 2-2-1.

Western Metropolitan. The DLP are back, taking a seat off the Liberals.

Western Victoria. Two Liberal and two Labor, but the third Coalition seat (the Nationals) seemingly to be dropped to Shooters and Fishers (Nicole Bourman, presumably related to Jeff). But there are a lot of close cut-offs late in the count which warrant a closer look. (UPDATE: Areaman notes in comments that the Shooters and Fishers win is contingent upon them keeping their head above water at a point in the count where they are nearly level with the Liberal Democrats. If they fail to do so, the seat looks likely to go to James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs, whose chances were being spruiked by a number of close observers based on his tight preference arrangements.)

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.

213 comments on “Late counting: Legislative Council”

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  1. [the voters freely choose to endorse the public deals (on the VEC website) or to ignore them by voting below the line. If voters aren’t aware of the deals, it’s because they don’t really care as they can find them on the VEC website and at every polling centre.]

    It is not just clear from looking at voter preferences in lower house elections that 92% ATL voting is not free endorsement, it fails the sniff test. And construing “don’t know about it” – which you and everyone knows happens – as free endorsement is really quite mendacious. We should count the markings on ballot papers as they are meant as much as possible, so we should have a system where the meanings of the markings are as clear as possible.

    [Having preferences above the line empowers parties because they choose the order of candidates below the line in each group.]
    is not at all contrary to
    [The system elects individuals. People within a party may be closer in ideas than people in different parties but the whole idea is to produce a ranking of individuals.]

    [the demand is that the rules be changed to make it harder for the 22 per cent to be represented and easier for the 11 per cent.]

    Chris, I’d personally prefer a proportional system (and hell, let’s make it OPV amongst the lists so that we don’t have to throw away sub-threshold votes: micros can still combine votes) so that it is just as easy for any given 22% as it is for any given 11%. And I think most Greens supporters feel similarly. So please cut with the Greens conspiracy stuff.

  2. 195

    Above the line preferencing gives voters no less choice over the candidates parties put up than the group ticket voting you defend. Since the introduction of group ticket voting, below the line voting has never changed which of a group`s candidates get elected. Under the previous system Tasmanian voters used to, from time to time, elect candidates from parties that were not the parties top candidates.

    Above the line preferencing actually makes it easier to give voters greater control of which of a group`s candidates get elected to voters. Just switch the distribution of ATL votes to candidates in groups to Robson Rotation or equal distribution and let the BTL voters decide which candidate(s) gets elected. Doing this while group voting tickets are in place would mean that group voting tickets had more control over which candidates were elected from other groups or they would gust be deciding between groups and having no choice between candidates of different groups.

  3. Michael Tandora,

    My logic is impeccable. I don’t “persist in lumping together all the micro-parties as though they stand for the same thing”. The critics do when they try to change the rules to shut the micro-parties out even though they have 22 per cent of the vote and have swapped preferences to gain quotas. The micros stared with 22 per cent and swapped preferences. In those swaps, and perhaps with major party surpluses, they managed to elect five MLCs. Had the vote in every region been Labor 40 per cent, Coalition 40 per cent, Greens 15 per cent, micro 5 per cent, they would not have elected a single MLC, and no one would be complaining about the result. Their victories are primarily due to the fact that people voted for them in large numbers in the first place.


    By the same token, the 11 per cent greens vote includes a percentage that ended up electing other candidates too. The micros need to end up with only 16.7 per cent in one region to win a seat, and that they managed to do in five regions. So I am not saying that the whole 22 per cent wanted any micro, just that they were happy with a micro and in many cases with several different micros. They may have gone through six other micros before settling on the Greens or the Liberals.

    Again, I say I don’t support the system as is, but the changes I would make do not include getting rid of group voting tickets. I think parties should be genuine and that voting below the line should not be too hard. I am willing to research and decide on 100 preferences below the line, but most people are not, and even I would not bother if there were 500 candidates or 1,000, so I recognise the need to make the system manageable. If we have stricter registration rules and higher deposits after the first candidate, we can legitimately reduce the number of candidates below the line without infringing people’s rights. If we set a number of compulsory preferences (that has to be greater than the current five) and make that the number of preferences allowed on a group voting ticket), we reduce the incentive to establish lots of micro-parties because their GVts would exhaust before affecting the result.

    I read your blog on transfer weighting too but did not comment. I want to thank you for it. For years a particular person who has posted under different names has been going on about the technicalities of the counting system and I have never understood what he was talking about, but you have explained it in just a few lines, and it seems that the weighting needs to be changed.


    I can distinguish between anti-Green feeling and ideal voting systems. I know individual Greens who are good people and I had respect for Bob Brown, but I think some of the current Green MPs are truly awful people, but that is not the point. If the Animal Justice Party was the third party and the Greens were a micro-party that the AJP was trying to exclude from wining seats so the AJP could have the balance of power, I would have exactly the same opinion on the voting system. In other words, in the current case, I am not opposed to changing the voting system in a particular way because I am opposed to the Greens; I am opposed to the Greens because I am opposed to changing the voting system in a particular way.

    I would like politicians to do the right thing because it is the right thing, but they do respond to political arguments, so I point out that the consequence of the changes proposed is to increase the power of the Greens, something neither the Coalition nor Labor wants. If the change was justified on other grounds and that was the consequence, I would accept it, but I do not believe the change is justified on other grounds and I see the Greens, who are after all just another party, acting out of self-interest.

    I am in danger of repeating myself, but the STV system says there is nothing farcical about electing someone whose primary vote is one per cent. Indeed, there is nothing farcical about electing someone whose primary vote is zero. STV produces a series of elections, in each of which, after all the surpluses have been distributed, the candidate with the least support drops out and his or her voters move to their next choice. The candidate who started with zero and then got a surplus lifting his or her vote to one percent and then a series of preferences lifting his or her vote to 1. 5 per cent, 2.9 per cent, 5 per cent, 9 per cent, 16.67 per cent is simply the candidate more preferred by those voters whose higher choices had to drop out. That is exactly what the STV system is meant to do, and no one bats an eyelid when the number two candidate of a major party gets a tiny primary vote and is nonetheless elected. The number two candidate of a major party may be closer in ideology to the number one candidate of the same party than the number one candidate of another party, but the number one candidate of the second party is likely to be closer in ideology to the number one candidate of the first party than the number one candidate of a third party is.

    The argument about group voting tickets and the argument about STV itself are different arguments, but the abolition of GVTs is not the only suggestion that has been made over the last year.

  4. Martin,

    I think I have dealt with your points in my post above, except that I don’t see any Greens conspiracy: I just see a party doing what suits itself.

  5. Arguments about whether a system will lend great or lesser power to one political party or another is irrelevant.

    The key questions is whether the system will give greater effective power to the individual voter and take power away from the party machines of whichever party is a key desideratum.

    enabling voters to vote above the line and allocate preference by party is I think unarguable along with the option to vote below the line.

    the current preference dealing by parties is an absolute rort.

  6. Chris,

    In South-east Metropolitan region, the micro-parties polled 18.4% between them. None of them were elected because they chose not to elect each other, which is why I say you don’t just add first preferences together.

    The only region where the Greens helped elect another party was Northern Victoria, helping Labor over the line. The Shooters and Fishers, DLP, FFP, LDP, Rise Up Australia and Australian Christians helped elect Liberals in two regions, the Australian Country Alliance in one.

    The Sex Party helped the Greens get elected in 5 regions, Animal Justice and Cyclists Party helped elect Greens in three regions and Voluntary Euthanasia helped in two. Palmer United helped the Greens get elected in three regions and the Liberals in one.

  7. @203 again I don’t see what, in your paragraphs of text above, your issue with getting rid of cross party GVTs is? What would be to downside of having people preference parties above the line (with the below the line option still being there)?

    That would stop the problem of people who vote above the line electing people they didn’t expect to and didn’t want. I doubt many of the voters for the cyclist party in in Eastern Victoria wanted to elect a shooter, but they did.

  8. Antony,

    Thanks for the details.

    To all,

    Someone has to have the last word. It doesn’t have to be I. I think I have made my points more than once, as have others.

    I see an attempt to deprive 22 per cent of the voters of representation in Parliament in order that 11 per cent have their representatives control the balance of power. Others see it differently. In time, we will see how the Coalition and Labor see it.

  9. CC @208

    It seems it is you who want to put the last word in. You have conveniently ignored the points raised by many posters here, that a significant portion of the 22% of voters you mentioned have their preferences going on to elect Greens and Liberal MLCs.

    I can’t say if it is the intention of those voters to preference these MLCs, but it points to a chance that it is in the design of the GTV that has resulted in that.

  10. Raaraa,

    As I said, I am content for someone else to have the last word but not when that last word says something untrue, and your statement that I have “ignored the points raised by many posters here, that a significant portion of the 22% of voters [I] mentioned have their preferences going on to elect Greens and Liberal MLCs” is untrue. I have dealt with that point at post 203:
    ‘I don’t “persist in lumping together all the micro-parties as though they stand for the same thing”. The critics do when they try to change the rules to shut the micro-parties out even though they have 22 per cent of the vote and have swapped preferences to gain quotas. The micros stared with 22 per cent and swapped preferences. In those swaps, and perhaps with major party surpluses, they managed to elect five MLCs. Had the vote in every region been Labor 40 per cent, Coalition 40 per cent, Greens 15 per cent, micro 5 per cent, they would not have elected a single MLC, and no one would be complaining about the result. Their victories are primarily due to the fact that people voted for them in large numbers in the first place….

    ‘By the same token, the 11 per cent greens (sic) vote includes a percentage that ended up electing other candidates too. The micros need to end up with only 16.7 per cent in one region to win a seat, and that they managed to do in five regions. So I am not saying that the whole 22 per cent wanted any micro, just that they were happy with a micro and in many cases with several different micros. They may have gone through six other micros before settling on the Greens or the Liberals.’

    You may not agree with my response, but you cannot say I ignored the point.

  11. And the basic weakness of the argument is that it assumes if I voter gave a first preference vote for a minor party, then they wanted any minor party ahead of Labor, the Coalition and the Greens.

    Now we know that was not the case from the party tickets drawn up by the people that negotiated them. Parties like the DLP, Family First, Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia would not put the Sex Party ahead of the Liberal Party. The Sex Party would not put the morals parties ahead of the Greens and Labor. However the Shooters and Fishers did get elected by being capable of getting preferences from both ends of the spectrum, as did Ricky Muir at the Senate election.

    And when you look at below the line preferences in 2013, 75% of Family First preferences went to the Liberal Party ahead of Ricky Muir, but that’s the opposite of what the party chose to do with its ticket.

    The basis of STV assumes that voters fill in ballot papers in a preferred ordering of candidates. That’s not how 90% of ballot papers are filled in because of ticket voting. If you have a counting method designed to produce an outcome based on a preferred ordering of candidates and parties, and most people don’t fill in preferred orderings, you get a less than optimal version of a preferred outcome over the final seats that are totally dependent on preferences.

    If you want to talk about first preference share proportional representation, then advocate such a counting system in which case none of those parties would get elected because they split their vote. They only get elected in the current system because of the power granted to them by ticket voting. Left to their own devices voters would not themselves produce the convoluted chains of preferences that would allow those parties to get elected. Just look at any non-ticket preferential system and you’ll see why.

  12. Under optional above the line preferencing, similar parties would have an incentive to run joint tickets to prevent their votes exhausting through vote splitting rather than preferencing each other. Allowing or even requiring ticket votes to be more equally divided between the groups would make this more functional by letting the BTLs choose which candidate makes the top of the pile rather than intra group inter-party deals.

    The various Christian parties could run a joint ticket.

    The Shooters and Fishers might run a joint ticket with the Country Alliance.

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