Canning by-election: September 19

A progressively updated post reporting on the campaign for the Canning by-election. LATEST UPDATE (15/9): In the last hours of Tony Abbott’s leadership, ReachTEL recorded a 57-43 lead to the Liberals under a then-hypothetical Malcolm Turnbull prime ministership.

Saturday, September 19

The West Australian produces one final poll for the campaign, being the only one conducted since the leadership coup. The poll, once again, was from ReachTEL, conducted on Thursday night from a sample of 1130. It suggests a movement of over 3% in favour of the Liberals, who record a primary vote of 48.4% compared with 32.9% for Labor and 7.6% for the Greens. Respondent-allocated preferences come out at 57-43, which is no different from previous election preferences. Here then is the final and definitive list of polling for the by-election:

Tuesday, September 15

A ReachTEL poll conducted in the electorate as the action unfolded last night found the Liberal lead at its usual 52-48, but that this would blow out to 57-43 if Malcolm Turnbull was leader. Under the assumption of Tony Abbott’s leadership, Andrew Hastie had 45.3% of the primary vote, Matt Keogh 36.4%, and the Greens 7.4%. Three earlier ReachTEL polls had Hastie between 46.5% and 47.3%, Keogh between 33.0% and 35.5%, and the Greens between 8.0% and 9.6%. The respondent-allocated two-party preferred result is 52-48 to Hastie, suggesting a preference share of a bit under 40% – quite a bit higher than the 25% or so of earlier ReachTEL polls, but still below the 2013 result of 48%.

Sunday, September 13

Two new polls, together with an updated table of all Canning polling a little further below:

• Tomorrow’s Fairfax papers have an Ipsos poll that is particularly interesting for its big sample size (around 1400), and the fact that both respondent-allocated and previous-election two-party results are provided. The respective results are 53-47 and 52-48 in favour of the Liberals – suggesting a preference flow to the Liberals of over 40%, compared with a little below 25% in the last two ReachTEL polls. The primary votes are Liberal 45%, Labor 36%, Greens 9% and Palmer United 2%. The poll also has Tony Abbott with 39% approval and 54% disapproval, Bill Shorten on 34% and 50%, and Abbott leading 42-36 as preferred prime minister.

• This morning’s News Corp tabloids had a Galaxy robopoll of 557 respondents, conducted on Thursday night, crediting Andrew Hastie with 44% of the primary vote and a two-party preferred lead of 52-48, with Matt Keogh on 36%, the Greens on 9%, Palmer United and Australian Christians on 3%, and all others on 5%. Tony Abbott led Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister by 41-38.

Saturday, September 12

We haven’t had any new polling on voting intention for a while, but watch this space tomorrow evening. All there has been is a second tranche of the earlier Essential Research poll for GetUp!, which found 59% of “swinging voters” (probably a pretty small sample overall then) were less likely to vote Liberal because of “ongoing government handouts to big mining companies”, and 66% of them said health and education cuts made them less likely to do so.

Andrew Burrell of The Australian reports that a Liberal source saying the party is “anticipating a narrow victory in Canning by a margin of 3-5 per cent, down from the current margin of 11.8 per cent”. The Mandurah Coastal Times observes that SportsBets odds for Andrew Hastie have come in from $1.45 to $1.22 over the course of the campaign, while Matt Keogh is out from $2.75 to $4.

• The Liberal Democrats are directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals, in retaliation against the latter’s action through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to force the party to change its name. Minor-party how-to-vote cards mostly follow predictable lines, with the Greens, Animal Justice and Pirate Party favouring Labor over Liberal, while Family First and Australian Christians go the other way, and Sustainable Population advises voters to work it out for themselves. The Palmer United how-to-vote card features an “example” consisting of a simple donkey vote, as their candidate has drawn top position on the ballot paper. Those who follow the example – and it takes fairly careful reading of the card not to conclude that it is the party’s active recommendation – will end up delivering their votes to sixth-placed Andrew Hastie ahead of eighth-placed Matt Keogh. The cards can be viewed on Antony Green’s Canning by-election page.

• Relatedly, Antony Green reviews the past behaviour of preferences in Canning, and notes that the Liberals’ share of Australian Christians preferences in the electorate has consistently been about 10% above par – or around 85%, compared with around 75%. “Either the Australian Christians are very good at handing out how-to-votes in Canning”, he concludes, “or they have tapped into local church networks, alerting supporters to how they should direct preferences”. No such party was evident with Family First preferences.

• Independent candidate Teresa van Lieshout, who made a splash in her run for the Vasse state by-election by appearing in a campaign video wearing a bikini, has made an even bigger one this time around by having a warrant issued for her arrest, after failing to appear in appear Fremantle Magistrates Court on a number of charges which appear to relate to her refusal to pay fines. She also took to Facebook to describe the Mandurah Mail newspaper as “evil cowardly lying slanderous violent pro liberal/labor govt fascist Nazi stealing, torturing, murdering dogs”.

• State Labor has used the occasion of the by-election campaign to reboot its Metronet policy from the 2013 state election, which promised a dramatic expansion of Perth’s rail network. Opposition Leader Mark McGowan this week promised that a new station would be built on the Mandurah line at Karnup if his party wins election in 2017.

Monday, September 7

Michael Gordon of The Age reports that polling of 400 respondents in Canning, conducted for Labor by UMR Strategic Research, found “34 per cent of voters agreeing that Abbott was doing a good job for Western Australia”, with “50 per cent of voters agreeing he was doing a bad job and 16 per cent unsure”. It’s instructive to compare this with the national result from the latest Newspoll, which has his approval rating at 30% and disapproval at 63%. Laurie Oakes sums up the general perception of the press corps when he writes that “optimism is growing among Liberals they will hold the seat by a reasonable margin”. In other news, Andrew Hastie has continued to dominate headlines from the campaign, having intervened during a doorstop interview to protect Tony Abbott from a question about leadership speculation, and been similarly forceful in heading off questions about his father’s and wife’s apparently conservative religious views.

Thursday, September 3

Later. Here’s a chart showing results of all five Canning polls, including ReachTEL’s numbers after forced responses from the undecided. ReachTEL and Essential did automated phone polls, the former targeting both landlines and mobiles, the latter just landlines. I believe the Newspoll was the same mode as the ReachTEL, but I await confirmation on that. The Liberal 2PP columns successively show preferences as based on the 2013 result (calculated myself for the ReachTEL polls) and, where available (i.e. only for the ReachTEL polls), respondent-allocated results and Liberals’ implied share of minor party and independent preferences.

Click on the image for a clearer view.

Earlier. However ambiguous the political situation may be, one clear winner from the by-election has been ReachTEL, which has been doing a roaring trade in automated phone polling of the electorate for private clients who have then been making the results available to the media. The latest clients are GetUp! and a coalition of environment groups, both of whose polls show the Liberals leading 51-49, as reported by The Guardian (UPDATE: Correction – the GetUp! poll was conducted by Essential Research, and it used previous election preferences, so the result is particularly worrying for the Liberals. See table above for full results.) However, those who have been following this thread will be aware that ReachTEL’s two-party totals have been reached through surprising Labor-friendly numbers on respondent-allocated preferences, such that you would want to see primary vote numbers before analysing them too carefully – and so far, no such numbers are available.

Saturday, August 29

The latest outfit to commission a ReachTEL poll of the electorate is Australian Marriage Equality, and its figures look rather a lot like those for the recent United Voice poll. After excluding 6.5% undecided, the primary votes are Liberal 47.7%, Labor 33.8% and Greens 8.0%. However, there may have been a forced preference on the undecided if the United Voice poll is anything to go by, and if the undecided had responded as they did in that poll, the Liberals would be about a point lower and Labor and the Greens little changed. Either way, the two-party result of 51-49 in favour of the Liberals credits Labor with a seemingly implausible share of preferences – this time 80%. The poll also found 46.9% supportive of legalising same-sex marriage with 40.8% opposed, and had Malcolm Turnbull favoured over Tony Abbott as Liberal leader by 38.2% to 25.8%, with Julie Bishop on 24.3% and Scott Morrison on 11.7%. The sample for the poll was 782.

Meanwhile, Andrew Hastie has said he will not vote in the by-election after a mix-up over his enrolment, which he has blamed on “ambiguous” Australian Electoral Commission paperwork. Shortly before the closure of the roll, Andrew Hastie changed his enrolment to his new rental address in Dudley Park. However, the Electoral Act requires that a person live at an address for over a month before they are eligible to do so. A statement by Hastie says he explained his circumstances to the returning officer in full, who directed him to complete the form and told him the application would be processed.

In fairness to both Hastie and the AEC, the Electoral Act itself is fairly ambiguous, with section 99(1) providing that one is only entitled to enrol at an address after one month of residence, but section 99(5) prohibiting the questioning of a person’s enrolment on that basis. Were Hastie to vote, he would be making a purely technical breach of the former section. But since he is not going to vote, he will be sent a letter from the AEC asking that he explain his failure to do so, to be followed by the formality of it accepting his explanation. The matter will also be investigated by the AEC’s Electoral Integrity Unit, which was established recently in response to the Abbott government’s push to hype “voting fraud”. Matt Keogh will also not be voting at the by-election as he remains enrolled at his old address in Mount Lawley, having moved into the electorate at Kelmscott less than a month ago.

Friday, August 28

With today’s declaration of nominations, it emerged that there will be 12 candidates standing at the by-election, with the ballot paper order as follows:

Vimal Kumar Sharma (Palmer United)
Connor Whittle (Liberal Democrats)
Michelle Allen (Pirate Party)
Greg Smith (Australian Defence Veterans Party)
Katrina Love (Animal Justice)
Andrew Hastie (Liberal)
Teresa van Lieshout (Independent)
Matt Keogh (Labor)
Vanessa Rauland (Greens)
Jim McCourt (Family First)
Jamie van Burgel (Australian Christians)
Angela Smith (Sustainable Population Party)

I had a paywalled article on the by-election in Crikey today, which did a bit of reading between the lines (not always a good idea) to observe that Tony Abbott seems to be more optimistic about the result than Bill Shorten. The article also noted that historical observation of by-elections over the past 25 years suggests that the roughly 7% swing shown against the Coalition by opinion poll aggregates suggests the by-election swing will be around 12%, or exactly equal to the existing margin. The scatterplot below shows how this was determined. Each point represents one federal or state by-election since 1990, with the most recent available opinion poll swing shown on the x-axis (based on my own poll aggregations where possible, or the most recent Newspoll where not, which was rather more often), and the swing recorded at the by-election on the y-axis. The linear equation tells us we should multiply the minus 7% opinion poll swing by 1.3717 and then subtract a further 2.26%, which gets us to 11.86%, compared with a Liberal margin of 11.81%. The r-squared tells us the model only explains 45.73% of the variation across the 45 results, so there is plenty of scope for the actual result to land on either side of the prediction.

Thursday, August 27

Latest developments:

Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reports that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison will all campaign in the electorate over the next 10 days. However, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is in Northern Australia for the rest of this week, would not say on Tuesday if he would make another appearance”. When confronted about the matter by Mark Riley of Seven News, Andrew Hastie gave a clear impression that he didn’t have any lines rehearsed.

• Further candidates to add to the previously noted Andrew Hastie (Liberal), Matt Keogh (Labor), Vanessa Rauland (Greens) and Vimal Sharma (Palmer United): Jamie van Burgel of Australian Christians, whose multiple runs for election in the past included a bid for Canning in 2010; Greg Smith, a former army major, for the Australian Defence Veterans Party; Michelle Allen, a software development manager, for the Pirate Party; and Teresa van Lieshout, a teacher and serial election candidate (most recently seen donning a bikini to promote her run at last year’s state by-election in Vasse) who once ran for One Nation and is now under the banner of the unregistered Voters Rights Party. Nominations close at noon today, with the ballot paper draw to follow tomorrow.

• With the electoral roll having closed on Monday evening, the Australian Electoral Commission relates there are 112,809 people enrolled to vote at the by-election. A breakdown by age can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26

The West Australian reports a ReachTEL poll has Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie on 44.4%, Labor’s Matt Keogh on 30.2%, Vanessa Rauland of the Greens on 8.6% and Vimal Sharma of Palmer United on 2.3%, which compares with 2013 election results of 51.1%, 26.6%, 7.4% and 6.9%. However, it’s not clear if the 14.5% remainder includes those who opted for a response of “undecided”. My guess is that it does, since otherwise the two-party result would pan out to 57-43 in favour of the Liberals based on 2013 preferences, whereas the report states that Labor leads 50.1-49.9. Even so, it’s clear enough that this must be based on respondent-allocated preferences, and that the flow credited to Labor is substantially stronger than what they achieved in 2013. There is a slight further complication in that the report refers to a “Coalition” primary vote, when the Nationals fielded a separate candidate in 2013 but are not doing so again this time. The Nationals only scored 1.9% of the vote in 2013, but this delivered a remarkably weak 67.5% share of preferences to Don Randall over Labor. The ReachTEL poll was conducted for the United Voice union, and had a sample of 768.

UPDATE: The primary vote numbers cited above include 5.9% others and 8.6% undecided, adding up to the “14.5% remainder”. The undecided were then asked to indicate who they were leaning towards, after which the result was Liberal 47.3%, Labor 33.0%, Greens 9.6%, Palmer United 2.7% and others 7.5%. The 50.1-49.9 two-party preferred is based on respondent-allocated preferences, and implies a remarkable 85-15 split in favour of Labor. The poll question did not identify the candidates, and the prompt was for the Liberal Party rather than the Coalition, with no mention of the Nationals.

Monday, August 24

Noteworthy occurrences of the first week of the campaign:

• Whoever emerges the winner of the by-election will have their political future coloured by the redistribution currently in progress, draft boundaries for which were published last week. About a third of the voters currently in Canning, in the south-eastern Perth suburbs area encompassing Armadale, Forrestdale and Kelmscott, are set to be transferred to the new electorate of Burt, which further extends north to Canning Vale, Thornlie and Gosnells. It is proposed that Canning be compensated for the loss by gaining the northern part of Mandurah, which is currently in Brand. Should Matt Keogh win the seat for Labor, he will presumably be keen on a transfer to Burt, which has a notional Liberal margin of about 5%, and encompasses his old stamping grounds of Armadale and Kelmscott. But if Andrew Hastie retains the seat for the Liberals, the redistribution will make the seat about 1% more favourable for him, the Armadale area in particular being relatively strong for Labor. More on the redistribution here.

• The first weekend of the official campaign has been dominated by a Fairfax report’s revelation that Andrew Hastie was the officer in command of a troop of around 30 soldiers which is being investigated for “chopping the hands off dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan”, which were “believed to have been removed for the purposes of identifying them by fingerprinting”. The Defence Department has declined to say if Hastie himself was being investigated, but Hastie says he had been in a helicopter overhead at the time, and that all but one soldier from the troop has been cleared.

• The subsequent outbreak of dubious jokes from Labor partisans on social media has made headlines after two entries in the field were retweeted by state Labor MPs Chris Tallentire and Darren West. Julie Bishop described the tweets as “simply appalling”, and the MPs have been admonished by state Labor leader Mark McGowan (“completely unacceptable”) and federal front-bencher Brendan O’Connor (“distasteful … no one should be seeking to reflect adversely on a soldier who’s defended this nation”).

• The other theme of the early part of the campaign has been one-upmanship regarding the major party candidates’ local credentials. Andrew Hastie is preparing to move into a rental property in the Mandurah suburb of Dudley Park, but he was born in Victoria and has spent most of his life in New South Wales, and currently lives in Defence Force housing in the inner Perth suburb of Shenton Park. Matt Keogh grew up in Kelmscott and Armadale, but now lives in the bohemian inner-city suburb of Mount Lawley, prompting Julie Bishop to label him a “hipster lawyer”.

• The Greens have preselected Vanessa Rauland, a lecturer in sustainability and climate policy at Curtin University and co-director of SimplyCarbon, “a boutique sustainability and carbon consultancy that assists businesses to become leaders in sustainability”.

• The Palmer United candidate is Vimal Sharma, managing director of Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy company, who ran for the party in the seat of Cowan at the 2013 election. Sharma was not present at the press conference Clive Palmer held on Friday to announce his candidacy.

Friday, August 21

A report in The West Australian yesterday related that a ReachTEL poll of 734 respondents conducted for the Australian Workers Union on July 29, eight days after Randall’s death, had Labor leading 50.8-49.2.

Thursday, August 20

This post started life recounting the Newspoll result you can see immediately below, but it shall henceforth provide a rolling account of by-election news as it emerges. It was announced this week that the date for the by-election would be September 19 – evidently a little earlier than Labor expected, given their as-yet-unresolved preselection process – with the roll to close on Monday, nominations to close next Thursday, and the ballot paper draw to be conducted on Friday. The by-election looms as a contest between Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, an SAS officer who has served three tours in Afghanistan, and Labor’s Matt Keogh, a commercial lawyer and president of the WA Law Society.

Hastie won a preselection vote last week from a field which, as described by Colin Bettles of Fairfax, included “company director Daniel Nikolic, local school teacher Ashley King, and small business owners Marisa Hislop, Steve Marshall and Lance Scott”, as well as Pierrette Kelly, electorate officer to Senator Chris Back. The vote involved mostly delegates from local branches, and is set to be signed off today by the party’s state council. A vote of local Labor members will be held on Sunday, but this appears to be a one-horse race following the withdrawal yesterday of Kelly McManus, a staffer to state Mandurah MP David Templeman currently, and formerly to Kim Beazley. Nathan Hondros of the Mandurah Mail reports it is “understood” that McManus withdrew to give Keogh a clear run. The by-election seems to have restored some of Clive Palmer’s vigour, with his party set to unveil its candidate tomorrow.

Monday, August 17

The Australian has published results from a Newspoll survey in Canning, for which the date was set today at September 19. The poll finds the Liberals grimly hanging on with a two-party preferred lead of 51-49, suggesting a swing of around 11% since the 2013 election. The primary votes are 41% for the Liberals (down 10.1%), 36% for Labor (up 9.4%), a 11% for the Greens (up 3.6%). The poll also finds Tony Abbott favoured over Bill Shorten in the electorate as preferred prime minister by 36-32, and 78% opting for a “people’s vote” option on same-sex marriage over 20% for “vote by politicians”. The poll was conducted over the weekend from a fairly small sample of 508 respondents, with a self-ascribed error margin of 4.3%.

I’ll flesh this post out into a proper by-election overview when I get time, but for the time being, here’s a 2013 booth results map for the electorate:

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.

324 comments on “Canning by-election: September 19”

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  1. Indeed – looking good for your “team” and another right wing religious zealot in Parliament. Just what we need.
    I have posted many times that I wish people would look for a quality candidate not blindly follow a party in the same way as a sporting team. Vain hope methinks.

  2. Keyman:

    I have been doing that since day 1. When Abbott took the leadership I said that I couldn’t believe it and have never supported him or asked anyone to vote for him. I have always said that Malcolm Turnbull should be leader as it is best for the country……so of course I am very happy now! Hardly blindly following the team.

    There are others here who have supported a leader and advocated a vote for them, right up until the time they told us they always thought said leader was a psychopath

  3. Prediction: The people of Canning will come to regret electing Hastie!

    It kind of made some kind of sense when Abbott was in charge – they could have been two peas from the same pod. But now that the adults are back in charge, Hastie will just look like “Abbott-Lite”.

  4. TrueBlueAussie @ 310


    Turnbull 1
    Shorten 0

    The Canning result has already been declared & it’s:

    Turnbull 1
    Abbott 0


    It was the fears around the Canning result that forced the Liberal Party caucus to think of the 2016 election and shift votes from Abbott to Turnbull.

  5. I’m predicting a Liberal win and yet another religious nutter war-monger is elected to our federal parliament to unload his own brand of ignorant numpty-ism on Commonwealth legislation.

    I wonder if he and Alex Hawke will become buds.

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