What the papers say

Random notes on coronavirus and opinion poll response rates, election postponements and a call to give counting of pre-poll votes a head start on election night.

No Newspoll this week it seems – which is unfortunate, because a report in New York Times ($) suggests coronavirus lockdowns are doing wonders for opinion poll response rates:

Even in online surveys, pollsters have also seen an increase in participation over the past few weeks. At the Pew Research Center, which does most of its polling through the online American Trends Panel, many respondents filled in a voluntary-comments box in a recent survey with expressions of gratitude.

It is inferred that “a wider variety of people are willing to tell pollsters what they think, so it’s more likely that a poll’s respondents will come closer to reflecting the makeup of the general population.”

Coronavirus is rather less conducive to the staging of actual elections, the latest casualty being the May 30 date that was set for Tasmania’s Legislative Council seats of Huon Rosevears, which was itself a postponement from the traditional first Saturday of the month. The government has now invoked a recently legislated power to set the date for a yet-to-be-determined Saturday in June, July and August. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission has expressed the view that a fully postal election, as some were advocating, did not count as an election under the state’s existing Electoral Act.

Tasmania and other jurisdictions with elections looming on their calendars might perhaps look to South Korea, which proceeded with its legislative elections on Wednesday. As reported in The Economist ($):

All voters will have their temperature taken before entering their polling station (those found to have fever or other symptoms will be directed to a separate polling booth). They will also have to wear a face mask, sanitise their hands and put on vinyl gloves before picking up a ballot paper and entering the booth. Election stewards will ensure people keep away from each other while queueing and voting. Door knobs, pencils and ballot boxes will be sterilised often.

Other than that, I can offer the following in the way of recommended reading: Antony Green’s post calling for pre-poll votes to be counted under wraps on election day starting from 2pm. This would address issues arising from the huge imbalance between election day booths, only one of which processed more than 4000 votes at the May 2019 federal election, and the three weeks’ accumulation of votes cast at pre-poll booths, of which 901 cleared 4000 votes, including 208 that went above 10,000 and ten with more than 20,000 (UPDATE: Make that 370 of more than 4000 and 208 of more than 10,000 – turns out the numbers in the table are cumulative). The result is that the largest pre-poll booths are not reporting until very late at night, many hours after the last trickles of election booths runs dry.

This has sometimes caused election counts to take on different complexions at the end of the evening — to some extent at the Victorian state election in November 2018, which ended a little less catastrophic for the Liberals than the election day results suggested, and certainly at the Wentworth by-election the previous month, when Liberal candidate Dave Sharma briefly rose from the dead in his struggle with the ultimately victorious Kerryn Phelps. It is noted that pre-poll votes in New Zealand are counted throughout election day itself, which is made practical by a ban on any election campaigning on the day itself, freeing up party volunteers for scrutineering who in Australia would be staffing polling booths.

Antony also argues against reducing the pre-poll period from three weeks to two, for which there has been quite a broad push since last year’s election, as it will lead to greater demand for the less secure option of postal voting, stimulated by the efforts of the political parties.

Also note my extensive post below on recent events in Wisconsin – you are encouraged to use that thread if you have something to offer specifically on American politics.

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.

769 comments on “What the papers say”

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  1. “Turnbull just slagged Sales off to her face.

    It’s all about tactics not substance in the Australian media.”

    Yes and as a Labor politician once wrote in his own book “sideshow” its all about the game, not about what matters.

  2. Cuddly, probably not necessary at this time.

    We are seeing the Malcolm that could have been, but wasn’t.

    There’s still time. I think there unfinished business yet to be resolved.

  3. Watching Mal tonight, he should’ve died on his feet rather than to live on his knees. It brought a lump to my throat when speaking of his old man.

  4. ‘Bushfire Bill says:
    Monday, April 20, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    Oh Jesus, interview ends with a Lifeline crawl across the screen.’

    Quite right. Turnbull talked about, wtte, considering suicide.

  5. Simon Katich says:
    Monday, April 20, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Rachel Blake was OK in Wildside. Wildside was OK… but it was no Pheonix.
    Those ABC series Phoenix and Janus remain the zenith of Australian drama. Janus in particular I was in love with as I grew up near that area and was familiar with some of the people that the series was based upon, although I did not know them personally, but by reputation.

  6. Boerwar


    Yep. I thought that the Saudis and the Russians showed a remarkable lack of insight when they started doing oil biffo a couple of months ago.

    Not if one or both wanted to ‘send a message’ to the good ‘ol US of A. Or did the Saudis kick it off at the behest of the US ?

  7. SK
    Good insight, IMO. But, the world is going to be poorer and businesses of all kinds are going to be struggling to survive.
    Cost controls are going to be pretty stringent over the next couple of years.

  8. p
    Even if that were the case… they simply failed to factor in the Virus. The Saudis were pretty quick off the mark with closing down the Haj, but Putin is only just waking up to the Virus now.

  9. One site says 5 cases in Tasmania. Another doesn’t know. The official Tasmanian government page hasn’t been updated. what gives?

  10. nath. Indeed. I was youngish when Pheonix was on. Some of those characters still scare me in my sleep.
    I looked them up – Simon Westaway and Paul Sonkkila.

  11. Oops

    Today’s InBrief included a vale notice for the Hon John Purdy Bryson QC. That was incorrect. It was John Henry Bryson (1951-2020) of Second Floor Selborne Chambers who sadly died on Friday, 17 April 2020. We sincerely apologise for any confusion or grief that this error has caused and our thoughts are with the family of John Henry Bryson.

  12. West Texas crude below $15 a Barrel.

    1m Texans file for unemployment in 4 weeks.

    Fracking is only economic when the price is $30 a barrel or more.

    The US fracking industry is bankrupt and Texas is stuffed.

  13. Boerwar

    Both countries have a reason outside of the virus for putting the boot into the US re oil prices. Saudis started it so all you have to do is work out their motives……………..good luck with that 🙂

  14. Turnbull didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know.
    Abbott was a nut, totally enthralled by Peta, we knew that.
    Murdoch owns the libs, we knew that.
    Morrison is a snake and Dutton is dangerous, we knew that.
    The bit about his dad and his obvious love and respect for him was quite touching but that was about the only bit that really resonated with me.

  15. the world is going to be poorer and businesses of all kinds are going to be struggling to survive

    They will wring blood out of the human capital stone before they give up their perks.
    But yes, middle management and junior execs will need to tighten their belts.

  16. Malcolm Turnbull’s only achievement as PM was to stay in office for nearly 3 years during which time he mostly prosecuted his predecessor’s agenda.

  17. Simon Katich says:
    Monday, April 20, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    nath. Indeed. I was youngish when Pheonix was on. Some of those characters still scare me in my sleep.
    One of the characters the tv show was based upon actually killed the mother of a childhood friend of mine. No shit.

  18. Henry

    A lot of Australians do not know that.

    The very same voters that trusted that media on Franking Credits.

    In my eyes given the collapse in Murdoch influence all the more important Turnbull has joined Rudd. The message will start to get through.

  19. I’m not sure whether Malcolm “gets it”.

    Maybe he does, and he just can’t admit it publicly. I felt a bit sad after watching him. What a talent, gone to waste.

  20. Boerwar:

    [‘Quite right. Turnbull talked about, wtte, considering suicide.’]

    Suicide ideation is invariably serious, those not expressing same are at most risk.

  21. Four corners interviewed Gladys and Daniel regarding that day they decided to shut things down and announce it publicly before the National Cabinet meeting. Kudos to both of them.

    That night I slept well.

  22. Henry @8:43.
    ”Turnbull didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know.
    Abbott was a nut, totally enthralled by Peta, we knew that.
    Murdoch owns the libs, we knew that.
    Morrison is a snake and Dutton is dangerous, we knew that.”

    And yet Turnbull remained in the Liberal Party, made no attempt no improve its culture and promoted dangerous colleagues and snakes.

  23. “In my eyes given the collapse in Murdoch influence all the more important Turnbull has joined Rudd. The message will start to get through.”

    You’re probably wrong even though I wish you were right..

  24. If anyone’s into military history, can I recommend the Lindybeige channel on YouTube?

    He’s this frenetic Pom who delivers quite long dissertations direct to camera, but with hardly any props or illustrations. They are essentially stream-of-consciousness podcasts. You don’t need the vision.

    They are invariably well-informed and researched, and (to my mind) always interesting.

    He covers topics from the Punic Wars to the Falklands Campaign. With an awful lot in-between.

    I had him on today while painting. Quite fascinating, and you don’t need to watch, just listen.

    Today’s YouTube, on which general Napoleon really feared the most, was fascinating.

  25. Don’t watch Lindy Beige if you are a Francophile…he doesn’t have much positive to say about them. Think a mildly eccentric public school boy as an adult and you have Lindy Beige

  26. The best programmers (probably in the world) are working on this, and the stakes couldn’t be higher: the health and economy of an entire nation.

    The BlueTrace/TraceTogether developers are employees of the Singapore Government; it’s quite unlikely they would be “The best programmers (probably in the world)”.

    And all you have to say is, “It’s a dud”. This is based on what?

    Based on the fact it doesn’t work, which is the standard definition of a dud.

    Aas I said previously, Australia has plenty of companies that could do a better job. Australia should be funding them to do it (fund three+ teams in parallel), not sending Stuart Robert out to market a dud. I’m not a huge fan of Mr Turnbull, but there’s little doubt he would have funded Australian businesses to do it.

    There are also an app from Israel (which does work, but uses location)

    “This requires both phones to be running the ap”

    Which is EXACTLY the aim of the app and the public relations campaign in favour of it.

    Look at the numbers: Singapore has less than 40% take-up. This mean that the % of contacts where both have the app is about 16%. Moreover they have to be running it in the foreground at the same time, chance of this might (at best) be 80%. The further reduces the chance of detecting a contact down to about 10%. 10% is better than nothing (for example it was well worth it for IED detection, though the implications of that are confronting) but not good enough for this application, because clusters are of more than 2 people.

    Instead, approaches that work are needed, and these almost certainly require either:
    – location tracking and/or
    – changes to the device operating system (for example phones could go discoverable for a minute every five minutes to enable your pinging approach to work)

    My prediction is that the app will romp home in a canter, with major uptake, while old hippies like yourself will still be hiding in their bathroom, feverishly washing their hands, wondering who they’ve been standing next to in the supermarket today, mumbling under their breaths about ScoMo’s police state.

    I’m 48, work full time and run a (small) software development company (but not an app developer or security software developer), which I founded slightly more than 10 years ago. As I said on Sunday (previous thread @12:30 AM):

    Apparently Australia is using BlueTrace

    There will be screaming about government malice motivated by a nefarious desire to track people , but that should be ignored; …

    At least on that, I suspect we agree.

  27. Confirmed cases of influenza dropped from 7002 in February to just 95 in April so far as the government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 kicked in.

  28. Graham Green, A Life in Letters, is an enjoyable read.

    Early on in the book, it is observed as to his Catholicism:

    “Greene positioned himself just inside the church door.”

  29. I haven’t seen the Turnbull interview on 730 but having seen some grabs on ABC news I doubt he will come off looking good as a result. Yes he’s got a book to plug, but Scotty’s polling at present is sky high and he’s basking in record high levels of public approval. Yet again Turnbull shows poor judgement in picking now of all times to come out and speak against him!

  30. Morrison, Frydenberg and cohorts believe some of their own bullshit.
    The numbers of workers, now no longer workers, has yet to hit home. The money from the government is not making its way through, employers are looking after their own interests.
    In a very short number of weeks the quagmire that is the Morrison/Frydenberg scheme to keep workers employed will unravel.
    To imagine that these goofballs are the same ones who screamed to the heavens about the response to the GFC, yet when confronted with their own destiny defining moment, have no trust and no goodwill.
    Those mortgages, business loans and credit cards can’t be delayed forever. The asset hoarders will panic. The taxation deception industry will begin to hyperventilate. Secondary virus outbreaks, school disruptions and lack of spending money will deflate all the “we are one” rhetorical government funded advertising now being flung all over the disarray.
    The right wing jaunta will respond with heated vigour. The response to the Pell imbroglio will be a pale taste of the vengence which will be dispensed by the asset and income stripped LNP nurtured wealthy as the reality proves to remove their set of privileged elitist idioms.
    The pandemic has a long uncomfortable journey yet.

  31. Bucephalus:

    Someone correct me if wrong but from recollection if you buy 20% or more of an entity listed on the ASX then you have to launch a takeover bid – pretty sure that no government wants to do that right now.

    20% share holding is the international standard at which listed companies typically have to start disclosing information (inc. risks) related to companies in which they hold shares. Hence they try to keep their holding below 20%.

    There are several takeover thresholds, including a high one at which point the shareholder can forcibly complete the takeover (but must pay a fair price). Sometimes hedge funds try to put in blocking stakes to prevent the compulsion being triggered (the complement of the high threshold, plus one share) and sometimes get wiped out (if the acquirer can outlast them).

    There are various thresholds at which disclosure is required. There would be a threshold at which the acquirer must be prepared to accept all shares offered for sale (which I guess is the sense of “launch a takeover bid”) but I can’t remember if its 20% (it certainly wouldn’t be lower than that).

    In any event, the Commonwealth is not subject to the rules and it would be improper for it to purchase any shares through the ASX, let alone launch a takeover bid (although in the US Mr Trump is so in awe of real billionaires that he might well try playing with government money). Instead it would obtain some sort of special security (and would do so having the agreement of current shareholders and proposed continuing/future shareholders)

  32. One of the most feared words in markets is contango – oil is in super contango right now..

    “U.S. oil futures have dropped to their lowest since early 2002, but its the price spread between the front-month and future-month deliveries that’s caught investors’ attention this week.

    West Texas Intermediate crude prices for future delivery have risen well above the spot market—a situation known as contango—and that can encourage traders to store oil.

    “The historic contango is a reflection of physical barrels that can’t easily find buyers and are being sold at distressed prices,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, told MarketWatch. “The implication is that storage might be more full than thought, or that buyers expect it to be very soon.”


  33. Confirmed cases of influenza dropped from 7002 in February to just 95 in April so far as the government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 kicked in.

    Another of my accurate predictions, based on common sense, but I’ve lost count by now.

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