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 The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs.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. May be rumours only, but ‘am hearing’ that the 18 USA tourists in the Barossa, with Covid19 had attended the Hillsong conference 2 weeks ago…

  2. Confessions @ #3176 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:48 pm

    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!

    They’ve got a 6’5″ Security Guard who looks like he weighs about 150kg, standing at the entrance to Coles Woy Woy these days instead of the usual Greeter person.

    He does look like a big baby though, but he could sit on someone pretty effectively if there was panic in aisle 10. 😆

  3. I just got off the phone with a professor in China.

    He reckons its not worth getting COVID-19 now as their expecting COVID-20 Pro to be released in September.

  4. Cud Chewer thanks. Revenue protection got on my bus during the week. Talking to the head guy, opal tells TfNSW a 30% decline.
    Don’t know how much to believe but it’s probably conservative.
    Mate of mine works for a charity at Pyrmont. They closed up shop Tuesday. All working from home.

  5. How can there still be bare shelves? FFS, they told us not to panic buy as there would be plenty of everything.

    Looks like those who didn’t hoard are the chumps.

  6. C@tmomma says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 8:02 pm
    sprocket_ @ #3200 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:00 pm

    May be rumours only, but ‘am hearing’ that the 18 USA tourists in the Barossa, with Covid19 had attended the Hillsong conference 2 weeks ago…
    And I bet we’ll never know because Scott Morrison will clamp down hard so that no one leaks that bit of career-ending information.
    _____________________________
    Your embarrassing yourself …. again!

  7. Bloody hell

    “May be rumours only, but ‘am hearing’ that the 18 USA tourists in the Barossa, with Covid19 had attended the Hillsong conference 2 weeks ago…”
    ————

    Why are tourists still allowed from the USA. It must be riddled with virus by now.

  8. C@t:

    Have only seen scenes of police in supermarkets on the news. Nothing here.

    Brookton IGA were asking for ID though to get in the shop to combat people from out of town going there and buying up all the stuff.

  9. Hi dave,
    Do you mind answering another question for my son in America? He is now thinking about putting his money into the hands of a Funds Manager (he seems to change his mind every day), and he was wondering if you knew anything about the bona fides of
    http://ywm.com.au/services or
    https://www.treystawealth.com.au/investphilo/

    Sorry to bother you and don’t reply if you don’t want to. It’s just that he virtually caught the last flight out of Australia to America (for love) and he has the money he took with him from an inheritance he received last year that he doesn’t want to blow.

    Thank you. Again. 🙂

  10. Scott Morrison, 2012..

    Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, who on 27 February 2012 said “when illegal boats turn up in our waters there will always be the risk that people on these boats will carry serious communicable diseases. The more boats there are, the greater the risk of serious diseases presenting…Despite the best efforts of our health professionals and other officials responsible for dealing with these situations, there are no guarantees that the arrival of people carrying these diseases could not lead to an outbreak on Christmas Island or the transfer of these diseases to the mainland. This is the risk of failed border protection policy.”

  11. Confessions @ #3211 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:05 pm

    C@t:

    Have only seen scenes of police in supermarkets on the news. Nothing here.

    Brookton IGA were asking for ID though to get in the shop to combat people from out of town going there and buying up all the stuff.

    But hey, I thought a free market was what our government espoused, so hey, survival of the fittest should be what is promoted and no checking of id allowed!?! 😉

  12. Rakali @ #3207 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:05 pm

    Bloody hell

    “May be rumours only, but ‘am hearing’ that the 18 USA tourists in the Barossa, with Covid19 had attended the Hillsong conference 2 weeks ago…”
    ————

    Why are tourists still allowed from the USA. It must be riddled with virus by now.

    They were already here when Morrison announced the exclusion of non citizens.

  13. I don’t know if WA is a bit isolated from the food thing, but apart from the stuff we’re used to now (toilet paper etc) there’s plenty of food.

    At the moment I can’t see starvation being an issue. Unless you can only live on pasta and sausage.

  14. C@tmomma @ #3214 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:07 pm

    Hi dave,
    Do you mind answering another question for my son in America? He is now thinking about putting his money into the hands of a Funds Manager (he seems to change his mind every day), and he was wondering if you knew anything about the bona fides of
    http://ywm.com.au/services or
    https://www.treystawealth.com.au/investphilo/

    Sorry to bother you and don’t reply if you don’t want to. It’s just that he virtually caught the last flight out of Australia to America (for love) and he has the money he took with him from an inheritance he received last year that he doesn’t want to blow.

    Thank you. Again. 🙂

    C@t – I’ve never heard of them.

    But after our conversation the other night, I recalled you had said he had previously converted his AUD to USD. That in and of itself has got to been a good move and a good percentage return that you don’t often see

    If it were me currently, honestly I’d be making haste slowly. Lots of people around wishing they had been a bit more financially cautious ?

    This all has a long way to go and people with cash have time on their side.

  15. Cud Chewer @ #3223 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:14 pm

    Simon

    I saw it coming and built up my food reserves long before the rush.

    Me too. Am thanking my lucky stars I bought a new fridge last year that has a big freezer that can freeze food rock solid.

    So, all I have to do now is sit on my veranda in my rocking chair, with my rifle on my lap, to protect my hoard. 😉

  16. There’s been a lot of talk about closing schools. Well BoJo has closed all schools in the UK, but has allowed exceptions for health workers, and a range of others. A blueprint for here?

  17. Australia does produce more food than we need but it is exported. Companies would rather see empty local shelves than break export contracts.

  18. sprocket_ @ #3231 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:19 pm

    There’s been a lot of talk about closing schools. Well BoJo has closed all schools in the UK, but has allowed exceptions for health workers, and a range of others. A blueprint for here?

    ” rel=”nofollow”>

    Follow the ‘leader’ about to happen again, Australia waddling along after the UK or US.

    But top up your stocks of goodies soon….

  19. Cud, we have a fairly full pantry, normally have 1-2 weeks worth and I too did some extra buying a while back. Not hoarding, just making sure all was well stocked. it’s about time to shop to keep it at the 2 week level. We will see what Mondays shop brings.

    Maybe I should raid the KI shops before I go?

  20. For anyone following the curve.

    Last night’s projection for today was 1,115 cases, the reported number was 1,068.
    Updating the regression and projecting forward, tomorrow’s projection is 1,383.
    The regression coefficient is 0.9975. (Still suspiciously close to 1.0.)
    And looking further ahead, the projection hits 10,000 approx 8am on March 31. Let’s hope we fall well short.

  21. Re the Barossa group
    ———
    SA Health’s Nicola Spurrier said while the rise in cases is concerning, most are linked to travel at this time
    ———
    Of course most of the cases are linked to travel – those are the people who get priority testing.

    So it’s only “concerning”? Am I missing something? These people are tourists. They were contagious and getting about all over place before they were isolated. Will we get locations and tines/dates? Of course not – we Plebs can’t be trusted with that.

  22. solwolf @ #3232 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:22 pm

    Australia does produce more food than we need but it is exported. Companies would rather see empty local shelves than break export contracts.

    Which companies? Perhaps I’m naive in thinking we’re still some distance from food shortages, but if reports of food shortages start and companies prefer to starve Australians to “protect their profit”, I would not like to be their CEOs. And it might be an opportunity for “paddock to plate” businesses to step in.

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