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 The byelections for the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba could also theoretically be called off if the speaker rescinded the writs.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. I have an advantage over the rest of you. I am listening on a pair of IMF Studio (II) transmission line speakers through a monster Marantz amplifier.

  2. Diogenes:

    It’s now been named so I can tell bludgers the resort where the American tour group is staying is The Louise, which is a luxury boutique place in the Barossa with a top quality restaurant. It’s well out of the Barossa towns.
    If I had to be quarantined, it’s probably the best place in SA for it to happen.

    It’s currently possible to get a dinner booking for April 1st (at the earliest).

    Also I noticed that degustation menu ($155pp) has “non-alcoholic pairings” for $45pp. I’ve never seen this advertised in a wine region (it is of course always possible, as of course it should be), and this does strengthen the case for Hillsong involvement.

    I would say it is a good but not outstanding (and pretentious) restaurant with high prices (and sub-par wine). Far too much money in Hillsong; avarice being the root of all evil

  3. I think it’s very likely that the Hillsong rumour is a (possibly wilful) misread of the fact that there were a number of cases associated with a Ryde Church service on that Sunday. Not the Saturday, and not Hillsong.

    Still a result of Morrison giving everyone that extra few days to spread it around though.

  4. Agreed C@tmomma. While there’s still kinda prog bent to the night.
    A story. A really good friend who probably kept me sane and alive after my wife died, and my wife and I went to see Tangerine Dream at the Regent Theatre. Yes. That long ago.
    I think it was 1981 but early on in the original Festival of Sydney. My wife fell asleep during the show. Given the type of music, the entire stage draped in black including the instruments. Understandable.
    A few years later my wife sportingly accompanied me to the Capitol Theatre to see Kraftwerk. She fell asleep again. Oh well.

    Anyway to finish the night on a train theme, here’s a mellow number and a ball tearer:

  5. Where did I see a report of a letter being sent to Netflix asking them to please lower the digital quality of their shows so as not to strain our NBN with so many of us working from home? Was it here?

  6. C@tmomma @ #2778 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 11:49 pm

    yabba @ #3460 Saturday, March 21st, 2020 – 11:42 pm

    I have an advantage over the rest of you. I am listening on a pair of IMF Studio (II) transmission line speakers through a monster Marantz amplifier.

    I also posses a pair of Kef Concerto Studio Monitors with an Onkyo Amplifier, but I don’t want to wake the neighbours. 😀

    I also have a pair of KEF Concertos, but installed into transmission line boxes I made myself. Very heavy. My daughter’s favourites. The bass is truly amazing.

  7. Puff:

    Where did I see a report of a letter being sent to Netflix asking them to please lower the digital quality of their shows so as not to strain our NBN with so many of us working from home? Was it here?

    This is a measure being requested from Netflix all over the world. As for the NBN, it could well be that it’s already as low as it can go with acceptable quality, and that they might make a fuss in our case. Or perhaps NBN will drop everyone to the FTTN lowest common denominator as an equity measure.

  8. EGT
    I went there with the wife about fifteen years ago. Had too much to drink with dinner. Very pretty place but too expensive.
    I’ve seen non alcoholic drinks pairing on menus quite a bit recently. I doubt the Hillsong connection is real but I’ve got my ears open.

  9. For anyone interested in true crime podcasts, Patreon has Casefile. The last two cases have been The Batavia, and Rillington Place. As usual, The Batavia was very well researched and detailed. It is an incredible story of breakdown of social mores, when a sociopath takes over. I might go back and re-listen in light of this epidemic.

    Talking of narcissistic sociopaths, Trump will almost certainly call off the 2020 elections.

  10. yabba,
    I’m actually getting rid of a lot of stuff when I move. Too heavy to keep carrying around. Especially the Wharfedales. 😯

  11. Puffy
    I recommend the Last Days of August podcast by Jon Ronson about the suicide of a porn star. So many people contributed.

  12. Do SA and NT have to let freight going to WA through? Or going the other way?

    And isn’t that the end of the AFL season? They can’t argue AFL players are performing an “essential service”.

  13. Dio
    Adelaide’s big mystery is the identity of Somerton Man. Apparently, he is going to be dug up for DNA sampling. And fancy someone throwing the suitcase and everything in it!

  14. Just read the breakdown of 66Bn stimulus package. It’s not going to be enough.

    We’re going to have -7% contraction at least in the next quarter. And probably more after that.
    The government should be thinking upwards of 200bn. In fact the goverment wouldn’t be out of hand to just say “lets just stop the economy and start it in a year” everyone keep track of their expense and we’ll pay for everythting and just pay this back with a 2% general tax on everyone over the next 50 years.

    A flaw with this package is it seems to be only aimed at SME’s, labor needs to be a hawk for any fraud in this space. Linking the idea of this funding in peoples minds with the sports rorts is a good idea. ie how can some miss out and others not, what electorate are they in. Lets see your emails etc. Labors digital team need to up their game with the amount of time people will be indoors consuming media.

    Anyway, it’s going to be bad and people are going to commit fraud and this isn’t nearly enough money for what’s coming.

    Personally on the home front I’m blessed and doing alright. I have plenty of cash extra on my mortgage in redraw. However noting all of that, I seriously had the calculator out today thinking through what 6 months with out work looked like. It wasn’t pretty.
    My general plan if stuff goes bad is to just take on more debt and fuck over the bank then spend the time I’m insolvent hiking in the wilderness.

  15. Dio.
    Undoubtably, along with Kirsty Gordon and Joanne Ratcliffe.

    They were all probably victims of an pedophile ring. I suspect it was in the upper-classes and may be linked to The Family Murders. I also suspect that the death or infirmity of those involved means no more information will come out. The police were not exactly shining with glory back in the day. They threw that poor lecturer off the Adelaide University Footbridge into the river where he drowned, just because he was gay.

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