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 The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs.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. I probably should have put TIC at the end of the quarantine post.
    Anyway, yes now hotel/conference centre. But still reasonably isolated.
    Nationalise it.

  2. poroti @ #3337 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 8:33 pm

    ar

    “ Letting the people off is the only humane option. ”

    True but as it was a ‘plague ship’ it should be -off the boat and into buses taking them to a temporary quarantine camp for 2 weeks.

    Maybe we are no longer in the containment phase? If that is a bust then letting 50 carriers into a country already riddled with the stuff makes little difference. (I’m not saying this is how it was decided.)

  3. Can anyone running the curve shed some light on what difference it makes if the numbers for tonight are ~1100 vs. ~1150

    Simplistically, that would feed into the exponential curve. An extra 50 today, 100 in 3 days, an extra 1600 in 15 days…

  4. Frednk

    Exactly! People like Norman Swan are doing an invaluable job getting across the seriousness of the situation to many people.

    Cud Chewer

    I can’t imagine degraded viral RNA will last very long in a human body, minutes not hours. You’ve got RNA degrading enzymes everywhere, in pretty much every molecular lab that works with RNA you wear gloves to protect the samples from the scientist, not the other way around.

  5. C@tmomma says @ Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 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.

    I’m not Dave, but if it was me I would look at an index fund over a funds manager. Vanguard are one of the most famous.

    There’s a lot of volatility at the moment though. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be patient and let the market calm down.

    Note, I’m not a financial adviser and this is not a recommendation. I would recommend your son doing his own investigation.

  6. The NSW Liberal Health Minister, responsible for releasing passengers from an infected ship, run by a negligent cruise company, has the unfortunate name of Brad Hazzard.

    He had more misfortune this afternoon where he had a coughing fit at the presser announcing the cruise fiasco

  7. Diogenes:

    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.

    It was indeed

    Also anything to do with ships involves the Commonwealth (tried to arrest a ship?)

    There is a clear weakness in that the Commonwealth’s role in pandemics is not properly defined.

    I presume NSW asked the Commonwealth for advice, and the Commonwealth (knowing NSW was responsible) gave poorly thought through advice.

    Once there is a hint of a pandemic (and in Australia this was accepted late January, notwithstanding WHO’s toleration of the fools in the Trump administration) then the Commonwealth should arrest all cruise ships is Aus waters for the duration (use the RAN if necessary) and quarantine the occupants on land. Mr Morrison would be being hailed as a genius if he’d done that.

  8. B

    14 March 2020

    Worshippers gather for Sydney Hillsong conference after Scott Morrison introduced ban on mass events

    https://internewscast.com/worshippers-gather-for-sydney-hillsong-conference-after-scott-morrison-introduced-ban-on-mass-events/

    “Large groups of people attend Hillsong Church Colour Conference in Sydney’s north-west on Saturday
    :::
    The worshipers flocked to the Hillsong Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills, Sydney’s north-west, on Saturday”

  9. Today’s figures are a bit off anyway because we don’t have the second tranche of the New South Wales figures which we normally get.

    In an event, the projections assume no effect from the diminution of people in the city and those people who do take the government warnings seriously

  10. The SmearStralian article is gobsmacking…

    Sydney port officials told there was no one sick on Ruby Princess cruise ship despite 158 passengers reporting ill

    Sick passengers allowed to disembark and potentially spread infection throughout state capital

    At least four passengers tested positive after ship docked in Sydney Harbour

    2700 new passengers boarded ship following outbreak onboard cruise liner amid accusations of negligence

    Two more COVID-19 cases in the NT traced to Ruby Princess

    A cruise ship that docked in Sydney with four confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday had previously been sailing with 158 sick passengers on board — including 13 with high temperatures — who disembarked at Circular Quay before the vessel left for New Zealand with nearly 4,000 on board.

    The Ruby Princess returned to Sydney 11 days later — on Thursday, March 19 — with four confirmed cases of coronavirus; health officials are now urgently trying to track down passengers who were allowed to disperse into the community.

    Two more confirmed cases in the Northern Territory have been traced to passengers from the Ruby Princess.

    The infections were found in a couple who disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship and then flew to the Top End capital, before testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

    Questions are now being raised over why the Ruby Princess was permitted to leave Sydney for New Zealand without undergoing quarantining or disinfection — it was carrying 2,700 new passengers and 1,100 crew members when it set sail, just hours after 158 sick people disembarked the ship.

    Further concerns are being raised over the conduct of the Ruby Princess’s master. An email sent by the Port Authority of NSW, and obtained by The Weekend Australian, revealed that when the Ruby Princess arrived in Sydney on March 8 its captain told NSW Vessel Traffic Services there were “no ill passengers or crew on board”.

    This is despite the ship logging its 158 unwell passengers through the Federal Government’s biosecurity management portal, known as MARS, or the Maritime Arrivals Reporting Systems. Breaching the MARS is an offence under the Biosecurity Act, according to its website.

    https://t.co/7qtAkZEtuB?amp=1

  11. Diogenes:

    I haven’t heard the Hillsong rumour (except here) but I will say no one comes from the US just to visit the Barossa Valley. They must have been elsewhere in Australia.

    Hillsingers from the US will almost certainly be teetotal. That makes it quite unlikely they’ll be going on a Barossa Wine Tour (unless it’s an exercise in resisting temptation, which I suppose is possible, though in that case they need to read the Bible regarding deliberately placing oneself in temptation).

  12. [Once there is a hint of a pandemic (and in Australia this was accepted late January, notwithstanding WHO’s toleration of the fools in the Trump administration) then the Commonwealth should arrest all cruise ships is Aus waters for the duration (use the RAN if necessary) and quarantine the occupants on land. Mr Morrison would be being hailed as a genius if he’d done that.]

    Exercising the power conferred on the Commonwealth by Poll Bludger retrospectively.

  13. LR
    To be strictly accurate, NSW is in the delay phase and SA is in the containment phase (we haven’t had community transmission yet).

  14. Just a reminder.

    The projections merely look at the current curve and create a measure against which to compare the next 24 hours. You can think of the curve as a speedo in a car. You don’t have to drive for an hour to know you’re travelling at 60km/hour. But if you do drive for an hour and discover you’ve driven 65km then you’ve sped up, overall. If it is 55km, well you slowed down along the way. But you only find out after an hour. (Sorry in advance. Don’t mean to be patronising.)

  15. “Air raid sirens echoed across Amman early on Saturday to mark the start of a nationwide curfew affecting 10 million Jordanian citizens to combat the spread of coronavirus.

    In one of the strictest measures yet, Jordan has ordered all shops to close and everyone to stay off the streets until at least Tuesday, when it plans to announce specific times for shopping. The army said anyone violating the curfew, which restricts movement beyond emergencies and essential services, could be jailed for up to a year.”

  16. Some more from the Smear..

    “NSW Labor Deputy Leader Yasmin Catley said the NSW Port Authority should have unequivocally prevented the Ruby Princess from disembarking on March 8 when it knew sick passengers had been on board the ship.

    “They have been negligent in their actions,” Ms Catley said. “This is a massive failure of the regulator, a direct example of governments working in silos, and not sharing critical information for the safety and protection for the citizens of this state.”

    The Australian has been told that when the ship arrived back in Sydney on Thursday with its confirmed cases of COVID-19, it was processed at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at 2:29am rather than the usual time of sunrise, which is when ships normally arrive in the harbour.

    Ms Catley said this raised questions around the intention of NSW Health authorities and others involved in the processing of passengers, and whether this was done deliberately under the cover of darkness.

    NSW Health on Friday stated that the confirmed cases of coronavirus were only discovered later that morning, after the passengers had disembarked from the ship.

    “It would appear that there is a shroud of secrecy over this vessel docking because we know there were ambulances waiting to transport unwell passengers directly to hospital,” she said.

    “It beggars belief why that vessel was allowed to sail on the 8th, but it’s even further and greater concern that those passengers who returned on Thursday the 19th in the cloak of darkness, at 2:29am, were then allowed to disembark that vessel, because the government considered it a low risk.”

  17. What would you have them do?

    Order the cruise cancelled before the passengers get anywhere near it. COVID-19 was in Australia before that ship set sail for New Zealand.

  18. This article still has the best explanation of why the real pool of infections is much larger than the official stats.

    https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

    This is one of the most important charts.
    It shows in orange bars the daily official number of cases in the Hubei province: How many people were diagnosed that day.
    The grey bars show the true daily coronavirus cases. The Chinese CDC found these by asking patients during the diagnostic when their symptoms started.
    Crucially, these true cases weren’t known at the time. We can only figure them out looking backwards: The authorities don’t know that somebody just started having symptoms. They know when somebody goes to the doctor and gets diagnosed.
    What this means is that the orange bars show you what authorities knew, and the grey ones what was really happening.
    On January 21st, the number of new diagnosed cases (orange) is exploding: there are around 100 new cases. In reality, there were 1,500 new cases that day, growing exponentially. But the authorities didn’t know that. What they knew was that suddenly there were 100 new cases of this new illness.
    Two days later, authorities shut down Wuhan. At that point, the number of diagnosed daily new cases was ~400. Note that number: they made a decision to close the city with just 400 new cases in a day. In reality, there were 2,500 new cases that day, but they didn’t know that.
    The day after, another 15 cities in Hubei shut down.
    Up until Jan 23rd, when Wuhan closes, you can look at the grey graph: it’s growing exponentially. True cases were exploding. As soon as Wuhan shuts down, cases slow down. On Jan 24th, when another 15 cities shut down, the number of true cases (again, grey) grinds to a halt. Two days later, the maximum number of true cases was reached, and it has gone down ever since.
    Note that the orange (official) cases were still growing exponentially: For 12 more days, it looked like this thing was still exploding. But it wasn’t. It’s just that the cases were getting stronger symptoms and going to the doctor more, and the system to identify them was stronger.
    This concept of official and true cases is important

    And it strikes me that neither the Prime Minister, nor the CMO, nor a lot of the senior state health officials seem to be able to grasp the truth of what is written here.

    Some of them are still claiming that its all mostly the bug getting in across the border and that its not true community transmission.

    No. You idiots. Its gone into community transmission over 2 weeks ago.

  19. Further concerns are being raised over the conduct of the Ruby Princess’s master. An email sent by the Port Authority of NSW, and obtained by The Weekend Australian, revealed that when the Ruby Princess arrived in Sydney on March 8 its captain told NSW Vessel Traffic Services there were “no ill passengers or crew on board”.

    This is despite the ship logging its 158 unwell passengers through the Federal Government’s biosecurity management portal, known as MARS, or the Maritime Arrivals Reporting Systems. Breaching the MARS is an offence under the Biosecurity Act, according to its website.

    Someone is for a long walk off a short plank!

    And it doesn’t sound as if, ‘Super Woman Manager Politician of the Year’, Gladys Berejiklian has been open and transparent with the citizens of the state she is Premier of.

  20. One doesn’t need one’s senses offended with Joan Sutherland!

    I feel like putting up, ‘God Save the Queen!’ by The Sex Pistols to counter-balance that Arch Monarchist’s caterwauling!

  21. Shellbell

    Exercising the power conferred on the Commonwealth by Poll Bludger retrospectively.

    Does this mean that matters related to “plague ships” are not in the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the Federal Court (which I presume based on what you say has actually been referred by the States?)

    If so that’s a mess, but might explain the non-involvement of the Commonwealth (it’s completely ridiculous if each State has to make its own assessment of a seaborne threat – how could they possibly do that?)

    In any event, the times demand the making of law, not its discernment via nice arguments. Or use another power.

    The underlying science is that Cruise Ships are Weapons of Mass Destruction in pandemics; this has been known for about 100 years, and (national) governments need to act accordingly.

  22. Better than NSW, but still.

    Two cruise ships docked in Fremantle this morning carrying hundreds of international guests who will be disembarking over the next 48 hours, according to operator Carnival Cruises.

    One of the ships — the Pacific Princess — was among four exempted from a national 30-day ban on cruise ships docking in Australia, put in place by the Federal Government earlier this week, as their voyage to an Australian port was already underway.

    The WA Government announced yesterday non-Australian cruise passengers who had arrived from overseas ports would not be allowed to disembark in the state, unless they were heading straight for the airport to fly home.

    Police would be patrolling the port to ensure the process went smoothly.

    Passengers from the Pacific Princess began disembarking this morning in Fremantle and went directly to shuttle buses at the port.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-21/coronavirus-covid-19-infections-spike-by-26-in-wa/12077652

  23. Danama Papers:

    [‘Thanks Cud. Good to have some real music posted on here rather than the flood of opera shit it normally gets.’]

    It’s not your fault that you have a lack of breeding. I blame your parents.


  24. E. G. Theodore says:
    Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Diogenes:

    I haven’t heard the Hillsong rumour (except here) but I will say no one comes from the US just to visit the Barossa Valley. They must have been elsewhere in Australia.

    It originated in Australia, they are not Methodists.

  25. Someone said the other day that the US is about to be mugged by reality.

    The growth is driven by Americans with mild symptoms who are carrying and spreading the virus without being aware that they have it, the researchers say. The number of undetected cases — 11 times more than has been officially reported, they estimate — reflects how far behind the United States has fallen in testing for the virus.

    New York City, Seattle, Boston and parts of California already have such large outbreaks that they will probably see significant growth even after taking extraordinary measures over the past week, the researchers say. New York City’s outbreak, the nation’s largest, grew to more than 4,000 known cases on Friday and is likely to increase many times over even in a favorable scenario.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/20/us/coronavirus-model-us-outbreak.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

    Even with “severe control measures” the outbreak is still pretty widespread. The “some control measures” is a wakeup call. As for “no control measures”, total lost case.

  26. Regarding the Ruby Princess, all passenger boarding and alighting in Australia at ports and airports is a Federal responsibility administered by BorderFarce. In fact if you do arrive by boat technically you are still supposed to fill out one of those passenger arrival cards. The Ruby Princess is clearly Dutton’s responsibility. NSW State transport may control the port and letting the ship dock, but whether o not the passengers get off is clearly up to Federal law. Its the same for getting cargo off ships and through customs too.
    https://www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/crossing-the-border/at-the-border/incoming-passenger-card-(ipc)

    Basically it is the Reichspotato’s responsibility. I expect he will remain in quarantine until the last journalist gives up asking questions.

  27. Confessions

    I hope that the so-called authorities in Australia are learning from the US experience and realising that their official statistics are probably only a fraction of what’s actually happening.

  28. Pegasus @ #2830 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 2:08 pm

    There are also predictions divorces and domestic violence will increase.

    Yes, as I pointed out earlier somewhere, this is inevitable. As well as the increased time together, the more the outside seems out of control the more the abuser will bash their partner.

    An example of this feeling of loss of control being placated through violence, is that when the woman gets pregnant her male partner increases the violence towards her.

    And we will not have any government response to this looming problem. We need womens’ refuges and places where these woman can isolate safely if they need to. But mostly we need men to stop bashing women when they feel any hint of powerlessness.

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