Democracy in the time of COVID-19

Queensland council elections and state by-elections to proceed in spite of everything; two polls on attitudes to coronavirus; and Josh Frydenberg off the Section 44 hook.

I had a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday considering the implications of coronavirus for the electoral process. For what it’s worth, the New York Times today reports that research finds no evidence that elections act as vectors for disease. Apropos next Saturday’s local government elections and state by-elections in Queensland, my article had this to say:

According to Graeme Orr, University of Queensland law professor and a noted authority on electoral law, it is still within the power of Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe to postpone the council elections. The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs. Since a state election will be held in October in any case, it might well be argued that filling the latter vacancies for a few months is not worth the bother. However, the official position is that neither pre-poll nor election day booths will experience activity amounting to a gathering of more than 500 people, as per the latest advice of the chief medical officer — advice that will surely be showing its age well before next Saturday.

In other by-election news, the Liberal National Party has put Labor last on its how-to-vote cards in Currumbin and Bundamba, and thus behind One Nation, a move that has evidently lost its taboo since the issue of One Nation preferences tore the state’s Coalition parties apart around the turn of the century. This could potentially be consequential in Bundamba, where it is conceivable that One Nation could outpoll the LNP and defeat Labor with their preferences.


• The Federal Court has dismissed a Section 44 challenge against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s eligibility to sit in parliament on grounds of dual Hungarian citizenship, to which he was allegedly entitled via his Hungarian-born mother. The petitioner, Michael Staindl, initially pointed to Australian documentation suggesting her family arrived in Australia in 1950 with Hungarian passports, having fled the country the previous year as the post-war communist regime tightened its grip. However, it was established that this arose from loose definitions used at the time by the Australian authorities, and that what the family actually had was “a form of single use emigrant exit passport”. This led Staindl to twice reformulate his argument, eventually settling on the contention that Frydenberg’s mother was left with the “shell” of a citizenship that had been emptied only by the communist regime’s arbitrary and capricious “pseudo-law”, a factor that ceased to apply with its demise in 1989. This did not impress the court, which dismissed the petition and ordered Staindl to pay costs.

• The Age/Herald has polling results from Newgate Research on which aspects of coronavirus are of greatest public concern. The results are reasonably consistent across the board, but top of the list is “the overall economic impact”, with which 41% express themselves extremely concerned, 36% quite concerned, 19% slightly concerned and 4% not at all concerned. “Regular health services not being available” produces similar results of 35%, 32%, 25% and 8%. There are slightly more moderate results for other questions on health impacts and “shortages of food, toilet paper and other essentials”, although in all cases the combination for extremely concerned and quite concerned is well above 50%. The poll is an “online tracking study of more than 1000 Australians, taken between Wednesday and Saturday last week”.

The West Australian ($) also has a WA-only coronavirus poll, which finds 66% supporting cancellation of large sporting events, 45% for night venues, 35% for cinemas and theatres, 34% for gyms and leisure centres, 29% for schools, 28% for universities, 22% for shopping centres and 16% apiece for restaurants and cafes and public transport. Fifty-one per cent of respondents agreed the government had been fully open and honest about the risks and implications of the virus, with 25% disagreeing. The poll was conducted Friday and Saturday by Painted Dog Research from a sample of 890.

• The count for the Northern Territory’s Johnston by-election was finalised on Friday, with Labor’s Joel Bowden winning at the final count over Steven Klose of the Territory Alliance by 1731 votes (52.6%) to (47.4%), in the absence of any surprises in the full preference count. With no candidate polling more than 29.9% on the primary vote, the latter was always an abstract possibility, but the result after the previous exclusion was not particularly close, with Bowden on 1275 (38.7%), Klose on 1110 (33.7%) and Greens candidate Aiya Goodrich Carttling on 907 (27.6%). It seems unlikely that preferences would have favoured the Greens even if it had been otherwise. My live results facility now records the final numbers – there will be more where this came from on this site with the Queensland elections on Saturday week, certainly with the state by-elections, and perhaps also for the Brisbane City Council elections, depending on how things go.

Note also two new posts below this one, one dealing with a new poll of state voting intention in Tasmania, the other being Adrian Beaumont’s latest contribution on the Democratic primaries in the United States.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

3,538 comments on “Democracy in the time of COVID-19”

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  1. Trumps evolution

    Ali Velshi
    2/26 “The 15 (people) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to 0”

    2/28 “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”

    2/28 “This is their new hoax”

    3/12 “It’s going to go away”

    3/17 “I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”

  2. Julian Abbott
    · 11m
    This in re regional supermarket panic buying: A frustrated cashier at Yass Aldi says they have regular customers from Sydney lining up one hour before opening on a daily basis.

    Anecdotal reports of people using vans to stockpile in regional supermarkets.

    The people from the cities are eating rural towns. This is the next plague – of locusts.

  3. Goodness me

    Dr. Dena Grayson
    Warning signWHOA. The situation in #Italy is now deteriorated so much that medical students are being qualified as doctors 8-9 months ahead of graduation WITHOUT final exams.

    #coronavirus #COVID19 #CoronavirusPandemic
    Quote Tweet

    · 4h
    Italy will rush 10,000 student doctors into service, scrapping their final exams, in an effort to help the struggling health service cope with the #coronavirus outbreak (1/4)
    Show this thread

  4. What a bore is Boris:

    “ Ventilators are critical in the care of some people suffering coronavirus, and there is concern that the NHS will face a shortage of the life-saving equipment as need increases.

    A recent report from the Imperial College Covid-19 response team also warned that, under the UK Government’s current plan to curb the spread of the pandemic, the health system will be “overwhelmed many times over”.

    In a conference call with over 60 businesses last night, Johnson and Michael Gove asked manufacturers to step up to help deal with the shortage.

    However, according to POLITICO, Johnson joked that the initiative to build more ventilators could be known as “Operation Last Gasp”.

  5. Rakali

    It was only yesterday when Johnson had a change of heart on how to handle the pandemic.
    It could be argued that the UK citizenry having voted for this buffoon, are getting karmic justice. Not nice, but hey.

  6. The Brits are getting what the voted for. What happens when Brexit finally reaches its conclusion and their economy is in the tank?

  7. Victoria

    I was disgusted at the report that obviously able-bodied people attended the early morning supermarkets and pushed aside the disabled and frail to grab what they wanted.

  8. Fess

    And I guess so are we. But I do believe that Morrison took a more serious approach much earlier on. Probably only due to fact that he bungled the bushfire crisis so badly.

  9. I was disgusted at the report that obviously able-bodied people attended the early morning supermarkets and pushed aside the disabled and frail to grab what they wanted.
    At some time the physical and economic capacities of these ignoramuses will slow them right down.
    However, governments need to step in to control these odious practices.

  10. Vic:

    Our govt hasn’t bungled coronavirus anywhere near as badly as Trump or Boris have. Which is why it’s so concerning that Scotty is now mirroring whatever Trump does.

  11. Lizzie

    Where did you hear that?

    I mainly shop at my local plaza, and to date, my general experience has been one of calm and support.
    Whilst people are waiting in line at the fruit shop for example, we are having interesting conversations with each other.

  12. poroti –
    Wall Street should be praying to her:

    Corona is especially venerated in Austria and eastern Bavaria. She is invoked in connection with superstitions involving money, such as gambling or treasure hunting.

  13. The French lockdown for 15 days.

    Of course keeping utilities in public hands allows for free services during an emergency.

    It includes:

    The new measures will be reinforced by 100,000 police and punishable by a 38€ which will quickly be increased to a 135€ fine, interior minister Christophe Castaner specified after the president’s speech.

    – People can only go out with a downloadable certificate that states the reason why they are leaving the house.

    – People can only leave the house for work (where working from home is not an option), buying food or medicine, seeing a doctor, or urgent family needs such as bringing children to another parent or taking care of vulnerable adults.

    – all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops must close to help contain the virus.

    – rents and gas, water and electricity bills would be suspended. No French citizen would be left without resources, Macron added.

    – €300 billion in fiscal support to companies that would lose business during the crisis.

  14. I live in a regional town and I’ve not seen any evidence of people from Perth journeying to stock up at our local supermarkets. What I did see yesterday was caravaners and grey nomads in winnebagos flocking to the supermarkets, presumably in an attempt to literally self-isolate away from it all. Probably not a bad strategy if you’re in a high risk demographic group.

    Shopping experiences here have been relatively calm despite the significant increased number of shoppers. I only go once a week though, perhaps the crazy comes out when I’m at work.

  15. Rakali @ #75 Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 – 8:57 am

    C@t, thanks. As is obvious, i have trouble posting pictures sometimes.

    Vogon Poet helped me to understand that all you have to do is, right click on the cartoon, right click on Copy Image Address, Paste it in the comment box here, then add #image.jpg to the immediate end of the image address, no space. 🙂

  16. Rakali

    C@t, thanks. As is obvious, i have trouble posting pictures sometimes.

    Try what some clever Bludger suggested a while back, add #image.jpg at the end of an address of images that lack a .jpg etc at the end.

  17. Thanks BK for the Dawn Patrol.

    I have never seen the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” and today’s the day. Thanks for the cartoons.

    P.S. I don’t agree with of Mr. Bowe beating you. I believe you are the very model of a modern major source of information and should be spared. 😵☮☕

  18. Victoria

    The disabled panellist on The Drum told of her experience and I have also seen examples on Twitter. She also said that she was only able to go to the early shop because she had some “available carer hours” in her NDIS package, and that the single security guard was so outnumbered by a crowd he gave up on trying to check credentials. Whatever happened to patient queues?

    Thinking back, I recall a similar scrum to buy crayfish one Christmas, with large lady elbowing everyone aside.

  19. lizzie

    security guard was so outnumbered by a crowd he gave up on trying to check credentials. Whatever happened to patient queues?

    And all those “oldies’ would have been complaining for years about rude/impolite/badly behaved “young people today” as “back in our day..” 🙂

  20. Businessman Tony Shepherd, who chaired Tony Abbott’s 2014 Commission of Audit, called for super contributions to be suspended for six months to give workers an immediate pay rise.

    Characters like Shepherd will always use any excuse to attack the wages and conditions of employees. Especially reprehensible at a time like now.

  21. It sounds like certain enterprising people are driving their vans to country shops and stripping them.
    Are they expecting to make a killing reselling when there are serious shortages?
    Profiteering from people’s desperation?
    Our governments must approve since they do nothing to stop it.
    ‘Have a go to get a go’?

  22. Ironic that just after I posted about the supermarket panics, I turned on TV to see Morrison congratulating “all Australians” for working together.

  23. Sorry to be political….but, our new wartime Prime minister has secured another term no risk.
    But it is sobering to imagine how different things might have been had Labor won last May and then boom, stimulus spending deja vu ….what of the coalition’s response then?
    Just sayin’

    Scrotty’s on a winner for sure.
    The praise for Scrot will be over the top when it starts.

    Just sit back and watch the show.

  24. Ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100

    The government has banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, effective immediately.

  25. It’s hard to separate any real message from the self-congratulatory spin and verbiage. We need a summary, not a lot of waffle.

  26. Was 500; is 100.
    Was shaking hands OK; is shaking hands not OK.
    Was going to the footy OK; is no going to the footy.

    The pattern here is adopting incremental, forced, half measures.
    Exactly the opposite to going in hard and going early.

  27. BK says:
    Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 9:16 am
    Measures from Morrison good so far.

    Disagree about the venues which are exempt essentially saying
    The conora virus is not going to infect airports, offices ,government departments , schools etc

  28. Schools to remain open, Scott Morrison says

    “The health advice is that schools should remain open,” the prime minister says.

    “This is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

    He stresses this is the advice from experts like chief medical officer Brendan Murphy.

  29. For someone of my age and older (and maybe even younger), separation of 1.5 metres means nothing. I’ve also seen 2 metres suggested, which can translate into the height of a person. Certainly not arms length.

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