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 The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs.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. Cud, we have a fairly full pantry, normally have 1-2 weeks worth and I too did some extra buying a while back.
    ————-
    I have no idea what i would need for two weeks! I have some extra cans of beans and tomatoes and rolled oats and some uht soy and oat milk.

    But i doubt it would last two weeks!

    I better go an hoard tomorrow

  2. fess
    “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?”

    Best guess 3 months.

  3. ‘Greensborough Growler says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    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.’

    The question is whether Scotty from Marketing delayed the crowd implementation over the weekend until the Hillsong meeting was over. Were these peeps from that meeting?

  4. “Chicken Breast fillets are virtually Unobtainium. Eggs. Flour. Tinned Tomatoes (a lot come from Italy!). Dry savoury biscuits.”

    Fair enough. I guess the supply chains here (WA) are a bit more local. Eggs are still available, though a bit emptier than normal. Chicken breasts were gone a few days ago, but seem to be coming back. Had to get milk today and Woolies even had mince.

    Flour is a bit scarce, agreed. Everyone seems to be planning on baking in isolation. Hasn’t noticed the crackers.

    Tinned tomatoes – ok, but there are plenty of fresh ones.

  5. 10th March 100 cases
    11th March 112 cases, 60 in NSW
    12th March 126 cases, 64 in NSW
    13th March 156 cases, 77 in NSW
    14th March 197 cases, 91 in NSW
    15th March 249 cases, 111 in NSW
    16th March 298 cases, 134 in NSW
    17th March 375 cases, 170 in NSW
    18th March 454 cases, 210 in NSW
    19th March 565 cases, 265 in NSW
    20th March 709 cases, 307 in NSW
    21st March 874 cases, 382 in NSW

    https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers

    This official page is getting increasingly lagged relative to the real counts.

    Nevertheless the trend is the same. Quadrupling per week. We will be into the tens of thousands by early April.

    Also if the trend isn’t showing a flattening by end of March it will show that what the government has put in place today has been useless. Useless primarily because the government hasn’t communicated to enough people that this is serious.

  6. Greensborough Growler @ #3206 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:03 pm

    Vogon Poet @ #3189 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:58 pm

    Greensborough Growler @ #3187 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 6:55 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.

    The mouse piss in VB would preclude its use as a disinfectant.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63i_Zx7Xb6o

    Greensborough Growler @ #3206 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:03 pm

    Vogon Poet @ #3189 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:58 pm

    Greensborough Growler @ #3187 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 6:55 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.

    The mouse piss in VB would preclude its use as a disinfectant.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63i_Zx7Xb6o

    I was in this XXXX ad
    See if you can spot me…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKIcW_YYzAY

  7. SK
    Nicola Spurrier is very good. I’d trust her. They will trace contacts. The place they were staying at is very small. I gather they were on a wine tour of the Barossa for a few days.

  8. ———
    I have no idea what i would need for two weeks!
    ———
    Broaden your range. Lentils!!

    But seriously (I was serious about lentils) … frozen dumplings and frozen fish are handy.

  9. Boerwar

    “ The question is whether Scotty from Marketing delayed the crowd implementation over the weekend until the Hillsong meeting was over. Were these peeps from that meeting?”
    —————

    That would be normal Liberal behaviour these days. It’s all about “me and my mates”.

  10. Blobbit I shopped locally in WA on Thursday, the things on my list I couldn’t get. Jam other than expensive brands, tomatoe paste or passatto sauce, frozen dim sims, rice, pasta, hand towels sanitizer, Ventolin or Symbicort.
    I wasn’t in urgent need of anything so don’t know if it has improved.
    Also most brands crisp reads par baked rolls or other bread substitutes

  11. I don’t suppose we have any Bludgers with lived experience of rations during the war, but someone was saying the other day this is similar in that people are hoarding the same kinds of things. Flour, sugar, tinned goods, toilet paper, cheap cuts of meat (mince).

  12. Simon Katich

    Broaden your range. Lentils!!

    But seriously (I was serious about lentils) … frozen dumplings and frozen fish are handy.
    ———
    I have one bag of lentils. Good idea I’ll get more. I also have quite a few tins of tuna, sardines and mussells.

  13. Boerwar @ #3252 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:37 pm

    ‘Greensborough Growler says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    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.’

    The question is whether Scotty from Marketing delayed the crowd implementation over the weekend until the Hillsong meeting was over. Were these peeps from that meeting?

    That is the rumour!

  14. C@tmomma @ #3158 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:42 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.

    What would you have them do?

    The Diamond Princess demonstrated readily enough that trapping people on a cruise ship ensures that basically all the passengers get infected. Then what? You either bring them over anyways for medical treatment, or tell them to fuck off and die in their floating metal box. The latter option might be medically defensible if/when the mainland is sterile; when you’ve got 1000+ confirmed cases already it’s just plain mean.

    Letting the people off is the only humane option. Especially when the mainland is already infested with coronavirus anyways. Then at least the non-infecteds on the cruise have the same chance as everybody else.

    May not be a popular call, but it was the correct one.

    Bushfire Bill @ #3144 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 7:27 pm

    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.

    Who’s saying it’s the only way? It’s the only safe way.

  15. Rakali,
    My local Coles was empty of all flour with the exception of 3 large bags of bread flour and a scattering of corn flour. (We had some already. I live with a baker. So we didn’t buy any.) But the point about bread flour if you can get it, is that it comes in big bags and you don’t have to make bread with it, though that is a yummy thing to do. Just make sure you have some yeast if you want to go that route. Aside from bread, pancakes, pasta, gnocchi (needs potato), spaetzle, are all good and fairly simple to make. I’m sure there is lots more. And it keeps you busy. (Who knew? PB is a recipe exchange.)

  16. If those yanks holed up in the Barossa did attend Hillsong, it wouldn’t be much good Morrison or Houston trying to hush it up.There would be enough Hillsong attendees who encountered the yanks to be worried about their own health and try to get testing that the story would eventually come out.

    The biggest issue is that “border security” has been applied selectively by this government, according to who you are and where you come from.

  17. Actually just remembered a couple more access points to the shire.
    Royal National Park so a barrier at Loftus. But that would allow the bastards at Bundeena and Maianbar to escape south so a blockade before Stanwell Tops somewhere and another blockade of the highways at Waterfall!

  18. In Scotland (and UK) the closure today of all pubs, clubs, cinemas etc

    Stricter measures are expected for 6 months!

    The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling said while the severity of measures could fluctuate, “stricter” measures would need to be enforced for at least half of the year in order to keep cases at a level the NHS can cope with. These could include continuing the school closures and social distancing for everyone, while less restrictive measures include isolating cases and households.

    https://www.thenational.scot/news/18323439.coronavirus-normal-life-suspended-pubs-cafes-told-close/

  19. Nath
    “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.”

    Once the cases are starting to occur more frequently from community transmission, there will be a lock down of those communities until the cases stop. No doubt there will be multiple communities locked down at the same time or even whole states.

    After a few months of rolling lock downs we will be back to where we are now. Those that have survived the disease will have developed an immunity but the vast majority of the population will be just as susceptible as we are now. I doubt that there would be much international travel and certainly not any tourists until after a vaccine is available or the majority of the population has recovered from the disease.

  20. Aside from bread, pancakes, pasta, gnocchi (needs potato), spaetzle, are all good and fairly simple to make.

    I thought bread flour was specifically for those machines, otherwise whatever you’re making doesn’t turn out right.

  21. Aqualung @ #3274 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:55 pm

    Actually just remembered a couple more access points to the shire.
    Royal National Park so a barrier at Loftus. But that would allow the bastards at Bundeena and Maianbar to escape south so a blockade before Stanwell Tops somewhere and another blockade of the highways at Waterfall!

    It is surely time for the consideration of blowing up the harbour Bridge to protect the citizens of the People’s Rebublic of North Syney

  22. Rakali says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Aqualung

    “ Marrying Woolworths….”
    ————-

    Is that legal now?

    Ha ha. Only just saw that now. Bloody auto correct.
    Might not be a bad deal at this stage. Could be rolling in toilet rolls.

    Anyway it should be Maryong.

  23. ar
    “ Letting the people off is the only humane option. ”
    Letting them loose means the epidemic curve goes up exponentially even more.
    Meaning lots more will die. We have to view this in terms of minimising the total number of deaths.

    It was a weak easy decision that will lead to extra deaths.

  24. “Confessionssays:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9:00 pm
    Aside from bread, pancakes, pasta, gnocchi (needs potato), spaetzle, are all good and fairly simple to make.

    I thought bread flour was specifically for those machines, otherwise whatever you’re making doesn’t turn out right.”

    There’s two types of bread flour – premixes and “just” flour. The premixes have salt and a bit of sugar in them. Maybe some added vitamins.

    The bread flour bags – not the premix – are just plain flour, usually one with a higher gluten content. If you use that for a cake, it might be a bit chewy.

    Yeast is a little hard to get. Slightly annoying, as all our bread comes out of the breadmaker.

  25. Confessions @ #3283 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:00 pm

    Aside from bread, pancakes, pasta, gnocchi (needs potato), spaetzle, are all good and fairly simple to make.

    I thought bread flour was specifically for those machines, otherwise whatever you’re making doesn’t turn out right.

    When you run out you “don’t be fussy.” Technically (though I’m not the baker in this family) it has different characteristics but it’s still wheat flour, just a different breed of wheat. The bakers tell me “regular” flour has a lower gluten content and will be more “cakey”. So bread flour is fine for pasta. Going the other way is the issue. Regular flour makes poor bread.

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