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 The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs.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.

Elsewhere:

• 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”

  1. doyley @ #3140 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:14 pm

    The government is going all “Scotty marketing “and will drop the name Newstart and roll out the Jobseeker allowance.

    It will be interesting to see how much the jobseeker allowance is increased , how long the increase will stay in place and who will receive the increased payment.

    Will it only be for those who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the virus restrictions put in place by the government with all those already receiving Newstart stuck on the lower rate ? A two tier system with some more worthy than others ?

    It will al be interesting to see if rent allowance etc payments currently received by Newstart recipients are rolled into the new payment so the government can perhaps claim they are increasing assistance to the unemployed by more than they really are ?

    We shall see but like all Morrison government announcements ignore the headlines and drill down into the details.

    The Government is using the time old approach of never wasting a crisis! The re-organisateion, re-badging and re-announcement process is a well established tactic of government’s under pressure.

  2. Actually, “herd immunity”, in it’s natural form (i.e. related to an actual herd of animals), comes about when susceptible members of the herd either get sick (but recover with immunity), or die off.

    It really does have nothing to do with immunization or mass vaccination.

    The idea that the only way to gain “herd immunity” is by vaccinating the herd is a very modern construction, like in the last week.

  3. I don’t mind this AFL with no crowds. The broadcaster has a lot of the player and bench chatter as the backdrop, makes it feel like you’re out there.

    Swannies look good, but I don’t know how many rounds they will get in

  4. This bears repeating:

    beguiledagain @ #3123 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 6:57 pm

    Lars Von Turd Polisher, says:

    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    From memory some on PB declared Morrison was grandstanding when he activated the pandemic plan on 28 Feb.

    ————————————————————
    What pandemic plan? Oh, I guess deciding to go the footy and allowing thousands of happy clappers to assemble in Sydney a day before banning large indoor events.

    Exactly when did Bowen become Health Minister?

    And pray tell us when did Morrison stop incoming flights from Italy?

    When did he shut down the Grand Prix and its thousands of camp followers?

    When did he stop cruise ships from docking in Australia?

    When did he decide not to go to the “footy.”

    When did he decide that groups of 500 was too many for indoor events?

    When did he order federal sequestration of all medical equipment, testing kits, masks, gowns, ventilators necessary to identify and treat infected persons.

    Oh my goodness, this is tiring. It’s like shooting ducks in a barrel.

    You’re aptly named. Try again. I’m sure Scomo appreciates your turd polishing efforts.

  5. I am worried about Joe Biden getting sick but presume he is being very careful. If he has to withdraw it will be chaos. OTOH Trump has a certain mean vitality that will protect him from the virus.

  6. Diogenes

    “ I’ve just had the word from someone high up in SAs covid response that now is time to start drinking the good wine from the cellar!”
    —————
    Yikes! What does that mean? A few weeks to live?

  7. Late Riser @ #3159 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:34 pm

    C@tmomma, the problem might start closer to home … especially with the hoarding.

    I was just reading George Megalogenis’ article and the horrible realisation occurred to me that, with the imminent collapse of the economy combined with everyone trying to avoid contracting COVID-19 and the eventual walling in of the healthy in their homes, will we see the collapse of the social order and the rise of every man and woman for themselves? I think we are close to it but haven’t reached the tipping point yet.

  8. Aqualung @1:23

    Thanks for the reports on buses. I’m surprised we are not hearing more official figures on public transport and school attendance.

  9. Bushfire Bill says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 7:27 pm
    Actually, “herd immunity”, in it’s natural form (i.e. related to an actual herd of animals), comes about when susceptible members of the herd either get sick (but recover with immunity), or die off.

    It really does have nothing to do with immunization or mass vaccination.

    The idea that the only way to gain “herd immunity” is by vaccinating the herd is a very modern construction, like in the last week.
    __________________________
    Your a veritable renaissance man – a learned opinion on every topic.

    Once again your talking out of your bot-bot. R u sure your not related to c@tmomma?

  10. Dandy Murray @ #3161 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:35 pm

    I’ve been busy this afternoon….. FOUR FARKING CRUISE SHIPS!?!?!?

    Dickheadery abounds

    Money talks to this government. Firstly, they didn’t want to disappoint their base, ie the wealthy retirees who have booked these cruises months in advance and hate losing money (as the Franking Credits farrago amply demonstrated). So they let them go ahead and crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. COVID-19 took no notice and went about its work.

  11. C@t

    Sewage treatment plants are pretty automated these days. There’s no real need to go anywhere near the sewage unless things break.

  12. C@tmomma says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 7:42 pm
    Dandy Murray @ #3161 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:35 pm

    I’ve been busy this afternoon….. FOUR FARKING CRUISE SHIPS!?!?!?

    Dickheadery abounds
    Money talks to this government. Firstly, they didn’t want to disappoint their base, ie the wealthy retirees who have booked these cruises months in advance and hate losing money (as the Franking Credits farrago amply demonstrated). So they let them go ahead and crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. COVID-19 took no notice and went about its work.
    ________________________________________
    Your never at your best when you post on a Saturday night, c@t

  13. Historyintime @ #3157 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:34 pm

    I am worried about Joe Biden getting sick but presume he is being very careful. If he has to withdraw it will be chaos. OTOH Trump has a certain mean vitality that will protect him from the virus.

    Genetics, black swan events and the natural course of mortality are more important than vitality as to when the music permanently stops for anyone.

  14. Cud Chewer @ #3168 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:42 pm

    C@t

    Sewage treatment plants are pretty automated these days. There’s no real need to go anywhere near the sewage unless things break.

    Thanks, Cud. 🙂

    I’ll tell you one thing. I know who is going to survive COVID-19. Those Indians whose job it is to go down into suburban sewer lines and pits and unblock them. With their bare hands! And no PPE! Just in a singlet and shorts!

    I think COVID-19 would die at the site of them! 😆

  15. Greensborough Growler says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 7:44 pm
    Historyintime @ #3157 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:34 pm

    I am worried about Joe Biden getting sick but presume he is being very careful. If he has to withdraw it will be chaos. OTOH Trump has a certain mean vitality that will protect him from the virus.
    Genetics, black swan events and the natural course of mortality are more important than vitality as to when the music permanently stops for anyone.
    _____________________________-
    “Whether your a king or a street sweeper you gotta dance with the grim reaper some time”

    Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

  16. If we can really tighten down with this lockdown Australia could be in a great position if we can get rid of it quickly like China.

    With China turning the corner, tourism, trade and education between Australia and China can surge back quickly. If only the dickheads on Bondi Beach understood.

  17. I was just reading George Megalogenis’ article and the horrible realisation occurred to me that, with the imminent collapse of the economy combined with everyone trying to avoid contracting COVID-19 and the eventual walling in of the healthy in their homes, will we see the collapse of the social order and the rise of every man and woman for themselves? I think we are close to it but haven’t reached the tipping point yet.

    Whoever thought we’d see the day when police had to keep patrol in the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket!

  18. Sewage treatment plants are pretty automated these days. There’s no real need to go anywhere near the sewage unless things break.

    Like when people use non-flushable substitutes for toilet paper?

  19. I have some nice bubbly waiting in the fridge for one of 3 events..

    1. The virus is under control
    2. Trump gets bumped off
    3. Morisson gets driven out of town by an angry mob

  20. Rakali
    He’s got thousands of bottles in his cellar so he’s going to start way earlier than me who has basically an empty cellar (about forty bottles).
    I’m still on beer.
    He wants to meet up fortnightly so he’s pretty confident things will be okay for most people (apart from elderly, unwell and health care workers). I’m waiting for doctors and nurses to start refusing to work in the big hospitals coz they are dying in Italy and China in large numbers.

  21. #PleasuresOfSocialDistancing No. 001:

    Watching The Train starring Burt Lancaster and Paul Schofield, with music by Maurice Jarre (directed by John Frankenheimer and Arthur Penn) on free-to-air TV in the afternoon, followed by the Blu-Ray of The Professionals starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, Claudia Cardinale and a brilliant, late-career featuring role from Ralph Bellamy… with music once again by Maurice Jarre (directed by Richard Donner), in the evening: the absolute first of the modern westerns.

    Cinema bliss.

  22. Lars Von Trier @ #3171 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:47 pm

    Greensborough Growler says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 7:44 pm
    Historyintime @ #3157 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:34 pm

    I am worried about Joe Biden getting sick but presume he is being very careful. If he has to withdraw it will be chaos. OTOH Trump has a certain mean vitality that will protect him from the virus.
    Genetics, black swan events and the natural course of mortality are more important than vitality as to when the music permanently stops for anyone.
    _____________________________-
    “Whether your a king or a street sweeper you gotta dance with the grim reaper some time”

    Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

    It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

    Woody Allen.

  23. Dio:

    What’s your best guess for when we’ll get to the other side of the peak? Ie when the worst of the pandemic is behind us?

  24. Easy to block off The Shire. Captain Cook, Tom Uglys, Alfords Point Bridges. Barricade the South Coast line at Como. Block off Heathcote Rd at Dead Mans Creek. Voila.
    Think that covers it.


  25. Greensborough Growler says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    frednk @ #3180 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:53 pm

    Does anyone know what they spray round when they want disinfect a place?

    XXXX Beer.

    I am sure Queenslanders would see that as a waste of a good bear, and the rest could be of the view, not even a virus deserves that.

  26. The main messages being sent out by our AFL role models is 100% appalling.

    They just panned past the three Giants coaches.

    No 1 was rubbing his nose/mouth.
    No 2 was rubbing his eyes.
    No 3 had his hands well away from his face.

    On the field a player had just knuckled ten of his team mates. He then rubbed his face.

  27. What do the wiser heads think of John Daley’s “endgame C” as the best option and to start it ASAP?

    Endgame C: stop then restart
    Endgame C is to “stop then restart”. This means minimising activity and interactions, and sealing the borders to passenger traffic including citizens (although not trade), until infections are driven down to zero. …..

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/21/the-case-for-shutting-down-almost-everything-and-restarting-when-coronavirus-is-gone

  28. ———
    I’ve just had the word from someone high up in SAs covid response that now is time to start drinking the good wine from the cellar!
    ———
    If you say so doc.

    Lack of testing people who are symptomatic about to pay dividends?

    As soon as they realised they could test the general community they should have a) sacked everyone remotely responsible for lack of preparedness and b) locked the place down.

  29. Marrying Woolworths was not bad. A reasonable amount of bread and milk.
    Some eggs, butter and Marge.
    No panadol, tissues and bum wipes aka TP. The laundry aisle was sparse.
    Didn’t really pay much attention but I guess the other empty shelves were pasta and rice.
    If anybody invites me over for Italian when this is all over I think I’ll decline.

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