State of confusion

Seeking some clarity about the federal election result? Join the club.

At the end of the evening, a surprising election result hangs in the balance, with a remarkably long list of seats still up for grabs. What looked a slightly disappointing result for the Coalition early in the evening kept getting worse as the night progressed, with a number of seats that looked okay for them early on moving Labor’s way late in the night. Anything is possible, but I would now rate a hung parliament of some kind the most likely outcome, and it’s by no means impossible that it won’t be the Coalition forming the minority government.

At the 2013 election, the Coalition won 90 seats, Labor won 55, and others won five: one each for the Greens, Palmer United and Katter’s Australian Party, and two independents. Redistributions then took place in New South Wales, which lost a seat, and Western Australia, which gained one. In New South Wales, the Labor seat of Charlton in the Hunter region was abolished, but in the resulting reorganisation, Charlton’s neighbour Paterson went from Liberal to notional to Labor, as did Dobell on the Central Coast and Barton in southern Sydney. The three notionally Labor seats are now actual Labor seats, bringing the Coalition down to 87. In Western Australia, the new seat of Burt had a notional Liberal margin of 6.0%, but Labor blew the hinges off that with a 14% swing. Now let’s take a Coalition-centric look at what happened state by state.

In New South Wales, the Coalition has lost Eden-Monaro, Macarthur, Macquarie and Lindsay, and are going down to the wire in Gilmore. That brings them down to 83, with one on the endangered list.

In Victoria, there is little or nothing in it in Labor-held Chisholm and Liberal-held Dunkley. So that brings the endangered list up to two, but also brings one on to what I will call the opportunity list (which won’t be getting any longer).

In Queensland, Labor has won Longman and, following a late-evening turnaround, Flynn. Capricornia and Herbert look better for Labor than the Coalition, but I’ll nonetheless assign them to the endangered list, along with the genuinely lineball Forde, and Dickson where Peter Dutton will probably but not definitely make it over the line. Not surprisingly, Fairfax, which Clive Palmer won in 2013, goes back to the LNP. That brings them to 82, and intensifies the headache in trying to assess the situation by making it six on the endangered list.

In Western Australia, besides the previously noted Burt, Cowan could go either way. Now we have seven on the endangered list.

In South Australia, Mayo has gone to the Nick Xenophon Team as expected, bringing the best case scenario for the Coalition down to 81. Furthermore, the endangered list gets still longer with Hindmarsh lineball; Grey looking to me like a show for the NXT, with their candidate second and the Liberal member on an unconvincing primary vote of 41.6%; Boothby a less likely but still possible gain for NXT, if their candidate overtakes Labor by doing 4.6% better than him when the 13.4% Greens-plus-others vote is split three ways on preferences. Now our endangered list blows out to ten.

Tasmania at least is neat and tidy, with a surprisingly poor result for the Liberals costing them all of the three seats they gained in 2013, with Bass going on a second consecutive double-digit swing. And Labor won the Darwin seat of Solomon in a result that bodes ill for the Country Liberal Party government at their election in late August.

That brings the Coalition down to 77, which they can hope to push up to 78 if they win Chisholm. But then there’s that intimidatingly long endangered list of ten, and while they can hope to rely on the traditional tendency of postal votes to favour them, they would need to be very lucky to make it to a majority.

As for the cross bench, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan and Bob Katter were easily re-elected; Adam Bandt retains Melbourne for the Greens, and the NXT wins Mayo; and both NXT and the Greens could gain an extra two seats each with a bit of luck (quite a lot of luck actually, in the Greens’ case).

Ultimately, the spread of possibilities for the Coalition ranges from 69 to 78, while Labor’s is only slightly weaker at 63 to 75. If Labor falls below 65, it will do so by losing seats to the Greens, who would assuredly favour them to form government.

Now for the Senate.

In New South Wales, the Coalition wins five, Labor four, the Greens one and One Nation one, with the last seat up in the air. Based on my somewhat speculative preference model, Labor gets enough preferences for their fifth candidate to compete with the Liberal Democrats for that seat, but that may be overrating the Liberal Democrats preference flow based on their strong performance from top position on the ballot paper last time. The other possibility is that it goes to the Christian Democratic Party.

In Victoria, the Coalition and Labor get to four; the Greens should make it to two; and Derryn Hinch has won a seat. The last seat is anyone’s guess, but I’m inclined to think it will be a fifth seat for the Coalition.

In Queensland, there should be five Coalition, four Labor, one Greens and Pauline Hanson, and another tough call for the last spot. The Liberal Democrats are a surprisingly good show, but I wouldn’t rule out Family First.

In South Australia, four Liberal, four Labor, three NXT, one Greens. Surprisingly, Bob Day of Family First doesn’t look like he’ll make it.

Western Australia I expect will be five Liberal, one Nationals, four Labor, two Greens. In Tasmania, five Labor, four Liberal, two Greens and Jacqui Lambie.

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.

1,544 comments on “State of confusion”

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  1. Also Darren, when you say “things seems to have changed”, that’s incorrect in that no counting has been conducted today, except for preference distributions in those four booths from Grey (so far as I’m aware). So all that’s changed for me is my depth of understanding of the existing situation.

  2. twoman

    how big is liberal PV – they have long displayed what is now obvious – the age of very large parties is over – its a pity labor has to deal with present over-reaching and incoherent greens ——— but green serve purpose until other smaller parties to left emerge

  3. The thing I find amusing about Howard’s amendment to prevent gay marriage is that he did it to wedge Labor, and in the end it’s his party that’s taking the damage. It even helped topple a Liberal PM (Abbott) and might well lead to the downfall of another (Turnbull).

  4. Bolt: We were briefed by ppl in Liberal Party that “don’t worry we’re winning in the marginal seats”. They were lying to us

    I thought the whole point of being a journalist/member of the media/professional commentator was that you don’t believe things because “we were told” and you make an effort to independently investigate and confirm the things people are telling you?

    It’s a sad excuse, and a sad example of just how amateurish (and/or just plain biased) some of the the career commentators actually are.

    This is the second worst Primary Vote the ALP has ever received in it’s 110 Years of electoral history. No matter how you spin it, it was a bad result for Labor with barely 1 in 3 Australians voting for them.

    No, you forgot to roll the Greens vote into it. I’m pretty sure that if you take the Liberals, LNP, Nationals, and Country Nationals as individual entities you’ll find that none of them did better than 1 in 3 either.

  5. Bolt: We were briefed by ppl in Liberal Party that “don’t worry we’re winning in the marginal seats”. They were lying to us

    I suspect the Liberal people believed what they were saying, but they had an exaggerated sense of how well they understood the situation. The Liberals poured half a million dollars into their campaign in Burt, where they got utterly thrashed.

  6. william bowe @ #1501 Monday, July 4, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Also Darren, when you say “things seems to have changed”, that’s incorrect in that no counting has been conducted today, except for preference distributions in those four booths from Grey (so far as I’m aware). So all that’s changed for me is my depth of understanding of the existing situation.

    There have been hospital booths and a couple of PVVC booths added to some of the close seats. Georganas gaining 52 votes from the hospital teams in Hindmarsh is one thing I noticed, which could be significant in such a close seat.

  7. jenauthor @ #1466 Sunday, July 3, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Actually, when you think about it, this election highlighted two things very strongly:
    1) The electorate was ahead of the CPG in actually reading the true state of Turnbull’s fall from his dizzying heights. The polls showed a dramatic fall from grace while the CPG kept up with the ‘he has a secret plan, give him more time’ meme going long after it was apparent that Turnbull is an empty vessel with little to no political nous (which is really silly given they had an inside view of it back in 2009).
    2) Shorten, sensibly, went back to old school electioneering using a solid platform of policy. Apart from the bus there were few bells and whistles … and he treated the electorate (and even the gallery – despite their obnoxiousness) like intelligent adults. TV and gallery, on the other hand, have become entranced by the bells and whistles. Some silly graphics people have come in to ‘sex’ up the coverage with shiny baubles to entertain the viewers.
    And as a post script: the media said we were bored and disengaged/disinterested (and most people might have been) but I think this was an excuse for the CPG to be lazy and not do the policy homework etc. Instead they went for the colour and movement, easier, and plays to the dumbed down view they have of the electorate.

    There is something else that separates the electorate from the MSM. For the voters, electoral politics is usually an almost entirely negative experience. For the MSM, it’s lots of fun and one of the few times when they feel even passingly relevant.

    Voter responses to electoral politics manifest as frustration, resentment, boredom, disappointment, irritation…plain anger too. This stands against a contrary expectation voters also have – the expectation that they “would like” to enjoy politics. They know they “should” take an interest in politics and politics “should” take an interest in them. That’s how the process is supposed to work. But it doesn’t. What they experience is either near-total silence (if they live in safe seats) or parties shouting very loudly and directly at them again and again (if the live in marginals). Neither experience is what voters would like to have, but it’s what they get. So it’s no wonder the commentators of the MSM get it so wrong. They are one of the reasons voters are repelled.

    Interestingly, the managers of broadcast media also know this, which is why they de-scale political programming. That is, they want to avoid alienating their viewers by providing platforms for yet more shouting and they deliberately lower the political content of their product.

    There is a substantial disconnect between what voters want from politics and what they almost invariably experience.

  8. I can hardly believe the ineptitude of Liberal campaign people briefing the press to the effect that the election was in the bag when Mr Turnbull’s key line over the last few days, backed up by full page ads in the press, was that every voter should think of his or vote as the one that would decide the election. Talk about a circular firing squad.

  9. Briefly, maybe this is the wrong time to ask, when everyone will want to have a rest, but is the ALP doing much to keep together between elections the army of volunteers and workers whose efforts you have shared with us in recent weeks?

  10. WB
    I gave 95% certainty as a measure of when to call a seat. That means you can get one wrong in 20 and recall it. That’s perfectly okay. It’s when you retract ten or more seats that you know you were too overambitious/confident in your calls.

  11. Tony Akers downgrades Labor’s position by saying this is the second worst primary vote in the party’s history. That may have been a problem if we had first past the post voting but we have preferential voting. Preferences flowing back to Labor are just as good as primary votes. The only difference is that they don’t actually get to Labor until four or five days after polling day when the preferences are distributed.

  12. FalconWA, Actually, your point also highlights the extent to which an over preoccupation with what may be a nationwide winning primary vote is sometimes just so much guff. A falling primary vote really only becomes a problem when a major party starts to run third in a significant number of seats. I think this is something the ALP needs to be a bit worried about, but at this election it’s still really only affected them in Melbourne and Denison (with an eye to be kept on a few other seats).

  13. kevin bonham @ #1496 Monday, July 4, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Re what Briefly says above, it’s true that you can’t be certain of a seat distribution from a given national 2PP, only that all else being equal and taking into account everything relevant it should be about-so-and-so. It looks like here one side has been more successful in targeting marginals than is usual for a given 2PP and Oppositions don’t usually do that!
    But there is still the question of why public seat polls were so wrong in some of these seats. Macarthur and Bass are two examples where repeated published seat polls found things lineball (or in the case of Bass mostly Nikolic leading) and then at the end the incumbents get absolutely thrashed by an amount outside MoE of a single seatpoll let alone combined MoE of 3-4 of them. So either there’s supposed to have been a really late and really massive swing in those seats (in which case why not everywhere else) or the public seat polling had something badly wrong with it all along. (And not preferencing either – the differences between the polls and the results were massive!)
    I am not at all partisan between the major parties these days and was tossing coins all down my Senate paper between various of their candidates, but pleased to see Labor ahead in Cowan + hope it remains that way. It would be nice to see that particular species of scare campaign against the sort of expertise the parliament could do with defeated.

    Cheers, KB. This is a really interesting subject, for mine. I suppose that to explain the difference in Bass between survey results and actual results, we need to know just where the error/s lay. That is, which part of the survey samples (by location, demographic grouping or other signifier) misrepresented actual voting intention. I think this can be accounted for observing that survey samples are randomised but campaigning is not. The more effective campaign targeting becomes (the less random it becomes), the less useful random surveys will be.

  14. I think one mistake Turnbull made in his rush to a DD was in not attempting to push through his changes to income tax rates. The ALP supported the lifting of the $80,000 threshold to $87,000, but not the removal of the 2% deficit levy on income above $180,000. If Turnbull had introduced and pushed the legislation to amend the rates through the HoR, he could have had the Senate debate it before the DD. Because of S53 of the Constitution, the Senate would be unable to amend it so they would either have had to pass all the tax cuts or block them. If the latter Turnbull would been able to then portray the ALP as blocking tax cuts for “average” Australians.

  15. Wilkie has ruled out supporting either
    McGowan undecided
    NXT will vote as a block based on funding (SA) industry like Arrium, government transparency and gambling
    Katter wants port
    Bandt will go Labor for sure.

  16. Toby Akers

    The “pure” Liberal Party primary vote (no Nationals or Country Party components) is 36%. The Liberal / all Nationals variants combined vote is 40%. ie the conservos got a PV of 40%

    The ALP primary vote is 35%. The Greens primary vote is 10%. The total “Leftie” PV is 45%.

    If you look at these figures an ALP PV of 35% is as good as the Liberals, so your point is rubbish.

    The reality is (as of 24 hours ago) that a middish 30s PV for Labor made them extremely competitive, if not winners.

    As Bemused has so often says, if you get the correct amount of votes in the relevant seats and win enough such seats, you win, despite what the national percentages might be.

  17. KB…thanks for your comments on Cowan and the candidate. I was thinking this evening that the Lib “attacks” on Anne not only failed to dent her, they gave her a platform from which to speak. Since she is a very good speaker – above all on these matters – by assailing Anne the Libs effectively campaigned for her for a few days in the closing space before polling. They may have won the election for Labor, considering the tightness of the result.

    Certainly, not one voter that I spoke to had developed a negative view of Anne be cause of the Lib attacks. More than a few were outraged by them and were probably motivated to support her because of them.

  18. pedant @ #1510 Monday, July 4, 2016 at 12:53 am

    Briefly, maybe this is the wrong time to ask, when everyone will want to have a rest, but is the ALP doing much to keep together between elections the army of volunteers and workers whose efforts you have shared with us in recent weeks?

    The volunteer brigades are an informal militia but they can be summoned again. Success will attract more volunteers too…and the organisers are also very good at creating and sustaining volunteer commitment. So when the drums start beating again, they will come. There’s no doubt about that -:)

  19. briefly Monday, July 4, 2016 at 12:49 am

    So it’s no wonder the commentators of the MSM get it so wrong.

    I think a lot of the senior journalists in the PG no longer accompany the campaigns. That’s now left to junior reporters. I can see why the senior hands remain in Canberra – every thing’s too tightly controlled on the campaign bus. But, I think they miss out on a lot sitting back at their Canberra desks. They’re really just relying on insider gossip, party spin and polling for their information.

    Occasionally an experienced journalist will go along to one of the photo ops, and then go talk to a civilian in the background. That can sometimes produce something interesting.

  20. Thanks Briefly. Without being partisan about it, I’d have to say that the style of campaigning you have been describing to us appeals to me much more than getting multiple robocalls from a computer, as happened to me in Eden-Monaro last week. And I’m sure the human element has that spinoff of enhancing community participation, which is very much to the good.

  21. Briefly

    And there is nothing like a win to keep a team together

    I suspect your comrades will be only to happy to turn out again early next year with a state election win in prospect.

  22. On the shape of the new Parliament, there’s one aspect where it will matter massively whether the government gets a majority in its own right or needs cross bench support. As Ms Gillard learned to her cost, while you can often negotiate the big stuff through, you can’t always rely on winning the votes on the small stuff which can influence people’s perceptions of how you are travelling.

    I firmly believe that it was the fact that Mr Abbott couldn’t be gagged when he got up day after day and disrupted Question Time with SSO motions that contributed to the perceptions that the 2010-2013 parliament was a circus. Maybe if you can’t gag a particular debate it doesn’t matter all that much: but if you can’t ever do that, you really don’t have much control over the parliament (as distinct from the legislative agenda).

  23. Diogenes Monday, July 4, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Katter wants pork

    I can’t see much in common between a Liberal economic agenda and Katter’s thoughts on the matter. Katter and Joyce might be closer on policy (Joyce seems to want to dam anything that might possibly have a trickle of running water and damn the consequences, if you’ll forgive the pun).

  24. William, I understand there are 9518 postal votes to be counted in Flynn. If these break 55/45 to the LNP, they would gain 950 votes.

    Labor currently leads there by about 2000 votes. So for the LNP to hold the seat, the postals would have to break more than 60/40 in their favour? Am I reading this right?

  25. Darren was asking about the changed 2PP on the AEC site. This is what
    Antony Green said:

    Antony GreenVerified account
    @GMegalogenis 2PP is from only 134 electorates. Change was from Grey, Mayo, Higgins, Barker and Cowper being excluded this morning

    Antony GreenVerified account
    @kestert @kevinbonham @GMegalogenis There are 16 electorates in system with no current 2PP count. Trust me I know this for a fact

  26. I’m glad you asked that question Cameron, because I’m still thinking all this through, and it’s drawn my attention to how remarkably well the LNP did on postal votes there in 2013 – 69.2% on 2PP, compared with 56.5% overall. On one level, this isn’t so surprising, since most of these votes come from rural areas. However, I suspect it’s also because Labor didn’t bother in Flynn in 2013, whereas this time they presumably organised a postals campaign. So that’s a) a potentially good sign for Labor, and b) another reason for me to conclude that I have no idea what will end up happening there.

  27. Similar sized differences in the declaration vote counting in Flynn also happened in 2007 and 2010, for what it’s worth. It seems to be a fairly consistent thing there.

  28. William, if you’re still up, can you please give us a State-of-play for the seat of Capricornia?

    I know you’ve said that the LNP is favoured to retain it, but what exactly are their chances at this point?

  29. Thanks William.

    I initially thought it was a safe Labor gain, but I can see from what you are saying why it is uncertain. It is confusing as the ABC site doesn’t have Flynn listed in their “in doubt” seats.

    PS: Do you get the historic postal vote counts from the AEC website?

  30. Thanks Dendrite.

    So do declaration votes include pre-poll, absent pre-poll and postal votes?

    And do you know if Labor has run a different/better postals campaign in the marginals in comparison to previous elections?

    I’m guessing that for example if the declaration votes in Flynn run similar to 2007 & 2010, the LNP could still retain that seat? Labor currently leads 2PP there by 2000 but in 2013 if I read the AEC site properly, the LNP gained about 2500 declaration votes.

  31. My sums in Capricornia go as follows.
    Absents: the LNP did 0.8% better than booth votes in 2013, with 3659 cast. That breaks 1833-1826 in their favour.
    Pre-poll: 5.1% better for the LNP, and I’m projecting 2500 cast through the overall rate of pre-poll vote increase. Those break 1361-1140 to the LNP.
    Postals: 8.3% better for the LNP, 7810 cast, so they break 4501-3308.
    Provisionals 149-112 to Labor.
    Final: LNP 43619, ALP 43226.
    Time will tell.

  32. Cameron Gardiner,
    Here you go:
    2007 Flynn election results by vote type
    2010 Flynn election results by vote type
    2013 Flynn election results by vote type

    By “declaration vote” I mean everything that isn’t an ordinary vote (which in turn is a vote cast in the electorate either on the day or in a pre-poll voting center). I hope that’s the correct terminology. So that’s including absent votes, postal votes, and prepoll votes cast outside of the electorate.

    If the remaining votes run very similarly to previous elections, then yes, LNP will win the seat by ~0.3%. (This is why the ABC computer never projected the ALP in front in Flynn on election night even though Labor was ahead on the raw vote count). As William mentions it’s possible the loss of fly-in fly-out workers from the end of the mining boom might help, but I wouldn’t be betting the house on it. I don’t know anything about how Labor’s postal vote campaign went.

  33. “One more point I should have covered on the election: Mr Turnbull’s reputation in some ways was a bit like the Wizard of Oz: to a certain extent people were projecting on him their own hopes, which he encouraged. That’s been fading a lot in the last six months, but yesterday, the bubble burst with a loud bang, and it won’t be possible to put it back together again. Remember how his support collapsed after the Godwin Grech affair? Watch for the same thing to happen in the next couple of months: I think his approval ratings will go through the floor, and I’d expect Mr Shorten to overtake him as PPM soon”

    I think that’s what Shorten was trying to communicate in his press conference yesterday. People know what Bill Shorten and the Labor party stand for. Thanks in no small part to this election campaign. They may not like it, but they know it. Whereas they have grown increasingly unsure as to what Turnball stands for. He is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. A centrist elected to the head of a mostly hard right party in the hopes of attracting swing voters and now an anachronism in a party where most of his closest centre right supporters have lost their seats.

    It also seems like he’s the blame for this poor result is being aimed at him from a lot of prominent LNP supporters e.g Bolt and Jones, which will definitely hit him in the PPM. A challenge isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but I think he actually has the best chance of anyone in the coalition of negotiating a minority government and maintaining the support of the independents. You can write Abbott off right away.

  34. It would be good to see Tony Blair held accountable for his disastrous premiership:

    A number of MPs led by Alex Salmond are expected to use an ancient law to try to impeach the former prime minister when the Chilcot report comes out on Wednesday.

    … Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, said there “has to be a judicial or political reckoning” for Blair’s role in the Iraq conflict. “He seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy Corbyn thinks he is a war criminal, why people don’t like him,” he told Sky News.

    “The reason is 179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism – these are just some of the reasons perhaps he should understand why people don’t hold him in the highest regard.

    “[MPs] believe you cannot have a situation where this country blunders into an illegal war with the appalling consequences and at the end of the day there isn’t a reckoning. There has to be a judicial or political reckoning for that.”

  35. I’m delighted to see Diogenes focussing on the major talking point of this post election period, Antony Green changing seats from “done and dusted” to “still in play”.

    Everyone knows the water is bitter in SA. But, you don’t have to drink it Diogs!

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