Conservation measures

The federal government takes remarkably principled action to preserve the Northern Territory’s second Labor-held seat without sacrificing the Australian Capital Territory’s third.

My previous post dealt with the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ inquiry into representation of the territories, which recommended the Northern Territory be crudely guaranteed a second House of Representatives seat while removing the more sophisticated statistical fiddle that helped preserve it when the issue last arose in 2003. As Antony Green noted, this proposal raised the strong possibility that the Australian Capital Territory might lose its recently acquired third seat the next time the determinations are made during the next parliamentary term. However, the federal government has sprung into action with new legislation that promises to preserve both territories’ seats by following Antony’s advice rather than the committee’s.

This is to be done by having the territories’ seat entitlements calculated through the harmonic rather than arithmetic mean, at least so far as their first three seats are concerned (beyond which the issue is likely to remain academic). The principle behind the harmonic mean can best be explained by using a simplified version of the Northern Territory case as an example. The basic problem is that the territory has around 150,000 voters, whereas the average House of Representatives seat has around 100,000 (population rather than voter enrolment is actually used, but the near accuracy of these nicely round figures means I will continue with them for purposes of illustration). Using the conventional arithmetic mean, this places the territory right at the cut-off point between a one-seat and two-seat entitlement. Two seats prevailed when the local economy had the wind in its sails during the late mining and resources boom, but in the more straitened circumstances of the present it only makes it to one.

Using the harmonic mean, the point at which rounding occurs is based not on the mid-point between the two quotas, but the point at which electorates’ populations differ least from the national average. Were the Northern Territory to lose its second seat, the remaining seat with its enrolment of around 150,000 would have 50,000 voters more than the national average. But if its second seat is retained, the two would have around 75,000 each, differing from the national average by only 25,000. The harmonic mean is all about minimising this difference, which in the present example would mean only one-and-a-third quotas would be needed for a second seat, or around 133,333 voters. For the Australian Capital Territory, which similarly stands on the precipice of two quotas and three, the third seat would be retained with 2.4 quotas (240,000 voters in the present example) rather than 2.5. The differences between the arithmetic and harmonic mean tipping points continue to reduce with each additional seat. By Antony Green’s reckoning, the ACT would have fallen below the arithmetic mean benchmark at 2.4796 quotas without the aforesaid statistical fiddle, which the committee had proposed to abolish without the remedial action of using the harmonic mean.

It is perhaps not surprising that the federal government has determined to save the second Northern Territory seat, notwithstanding that both seats are held by Labor: both are winnable for the Country Liberal Party, particularly the Darwin-based seat of Solomon, and an overstuffed single electorate for the Northern Territory would essentially amount to an act of malapportionment to the disadvantage of the territory’s substantial indigenous population. However, there is no such impetus in the Australian Capital Territory, where the Liberals only win House of Representatives seats under extraordinary circumstances (the most recent being the Canberra by-election of 1995), and the removal of a seat could be rationalised, if not justified, with recourse to public service bashing. At a time when mainstream conservatism in the United States is taking to the foundations of democracy with an axe, our own government’s defiance of self-interest to preserve Labor-held seats is worth acknowledging and celebrating.

Elsewhere: in the only bit of polling news to relate right now, JWS Research has released its latest True Issues survey of issue salience, as it does around three times a year. When respondents were asked to nominate the country’s three most important issues without prompting, 42% offered a response within the “hospitals, health care and ageing” category, which is down five from July but well up on the 24% recorded in the pre-COVID days of February. Results are otherwise very similar to the July survey, with economy and finances steady in second place at 32% after shooting up from 18% in February. A plunge in concern for the economy and climate change, down from 26% to 16% last time, has only slightly corrected to 19%, remaining well behind third-placed employment and wages on 32%, up two from July and eleven from February. The poll was conducted online between November 20 and 22 from a sample of 1035.

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.

1,023 comments on “Conservation measures”

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  1. Space “flight” is driven by romance, that is to say by the love of the idea. Mars doubly so. Unfortunately for the dreamers, Mars is a dead planet with no useful atmosphere, no radiation shield, and is unimaginable distant. But people take on challenges for all kinds of reasons, so if you have to do the space thing, why not shoot for the moon?

    To segue to politics, to me, Musk’s Mars thing is a bit like Trump’s legal challenges, just about the money.

  2. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    David Crowe looks at how Australia came through the challenges of 2020.
    And The Australian’s Ewin Hannan says business is demanding a two-year delay to tougher new penalties for companies ripping off workers, increasing pressure from both employers and unions on the Morrison government to make changes to its industrial relations bill.
    Josh Butler thinks the government may back down on its IR laws as a union war looms.
    Phil Coorey says that by picking at the scab of WorkChoices, the industrial relations bill gave Labor a stronger than anticipated end to the parliamentary year.
    “Who would have thought John Setka could be such a unifying force?”, asks Michelle Grattan.
    According to Jennifer Hewett, Scott Morrison conquers the ‘China’ virus, but China is a tougher threat.
    Ben Butler writes that the boss of Australia’s biggest super fund, AustralianSuper, has questioned whether changes to laws governing the sector proposed by the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, are genuinely directed at improving retirement savings.
    The ACTU has criticised the Morrison Government’s attack on the superannuation system and is pushing for reforms, writes William Olson.,14606
    Delivery giants Uber and Deliveroo are likely to be among well-known gig economy brands hauled before a Senate inquiry looking into the impacts of insecure or precarious employment.
    John Warhurst describes how our former prime ministers have had a big year in 2020. A good read.
    Nick Bonyhady explains the trouble Porter is in regarding his workplace legislation and trying to save face.
    Isabelle Lane tells us that critics are saying the Morrison government’s proposed Surveillance Bill could be used to target everyone from Black Lives Matter campaigners to underage kids illegally downloading movies.
    David Crowe writes that federal election rules would be overhauled to limit early voting and require Australians to show photo ID before they cast their ballots under a plan that has been labelled an “outrage” that deprives people of their rights.
    Matt Johnson lines up the many big companies that continue to pay zero company tax.
    Michael Fowler explains how the Andrews government is considering a plan where up to 23,000 students would return to Victoria by April and undertake 14-day quarantine in student accommodation.
    Josh Butler reports that South Australian senator Stirling Griff was ducking outrage on Thursday, after his last-minute parliamentary backflip that allowed the government to extend the cashless debit card scheme in a marathon Senate sitting. He effectively voted for the card.
    Ian Henschke, who is the chief advocate at National Seniors Australia, tells us that elderly Australians are dying while waiting to receive government help
    Associate Professor Matt McDonald provides three reasons meeting climate targets and dumping Kyoto credits won’t salvage Australia’s international reputation.
    Samantha Dick explains the real picture about Australians’ attitude towards vaccination.
    Meanwhile, with US states frantically preparing to begin months of COVID-19 vaccinations that could end the pandemic, a poll has found only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves.
    There is no behaviour, it seems, that warrants scrutiny or disciplinary action if you are a member of the Morrison Government. This is because the government of the day, today, is in a league all of its own, says Michelle Pini.,14604
    The hysteria over the Victorian government’s MoU with China’s Belt and Road Initiative shows a disturbing lack of understanding of the project by media commentators, academics and some MPs, writes Colin Heseltine.
    The Berejiklian government is facing a $2 billion budget blow out on its health infrastructure program, with delays to the planned completion dates of seven major developments.
    A desperate horticulture industry has urged Scott Morrison and the states to agree at Friday’s national cabinet meeting to bring in Pacific Islanders quarantine-free, warning that the country is on track to meet a labour shortage of 26,000 people by March.
    Lisa Visentin writes that the ABC’s leading political discussion programs The Drum and Insiders lacked conservative voices in their 2019 federal election coverage, but a major review found the broadcaster met its impartiality standard. If the government wasn’t doing so many crappy things it might have looked different!
    Jeff Sparrow opines that Australia must reckon with the fact the Christchurch terrorist developed much of his hatred here.
    Zoe Samios tells us that Australia’s competition regulator will closely scrutinise a pivotal lawsuit launched by the United States government against Facebook that could force the social media giant to sell photo sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp.
    Dave Donovan farewells Mungo MacCallum.–a-true-progressive-voice-gone,14605
    China has slapped another new tax on Australian wine that all but extinguishes local producers’ access to the world’s largest market.
    New research has found that poor job quality and poor working conditions are key reasons why restaurant employers have trouble attracting and retaining workers.
    The London Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner explains that the choice is now between no deal and a very hard Brexit.
    Boris Johnson would only have himself to blame for a no-deal Brexit, explains Simon Jenkins.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Pope

    Cathy Wilcox

    Simon Letch

    Jim Pavlidis

    Mark David

    Matt Golding

    Glen Le Lievre

    Mark Knight

    Johannes Leak

    From the US

  3. Richard Branson has the right idea. Turn it into a theme park ride/’Experience’ and charge customers $250000 per ticket to take the ride. Then return them safely back to Earth:

    New York (CNN Business)Richard Branson, the thrill-seeking British billionaire, founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 on the promise that a privately developed spacecraft would make it possible for hundreds of people to become astronauts, no NASA training required. And if a 2,500-mile-per-hour ride to the edge of space sounded off-putting, Branson also pledged to take the journey himself before letting paying customers on board.

    Branson is the only one among the group of the so-called space barons, the group of space-loving billionaires that includes Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who has publicly pledged to take a ride in the near future aboard a spacecraft he has bankrolled.
    Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, is working on a competing suborbital space tourism rocket. Musk’s SpaceX, however, is focused on transporting astronauts and perhaps one day tourists on days-long missions to Earth’s orbit.

  4. Lynchpin @ #229 Friday, December 11th, 2020 – 6:38 am

    What an absolute tool we have as PM.

    It was great to hear that he’s getting feedback telling him that his Daggy Dad schtick isn’t working as well as he thought it was.

    I honestly think that the public’s perception of politician’s fakeness is speeding up. It took them a long while to figure out John Howard, and I’m pretty sure Scott Morrison as NSW Director of the Liberal Party had a lot to do with Howard’s political persona, but eventually they did. How the daily walks in his tracksuit disguised a man intent on dismantling fairness and equity in Australian society, replacing it with unfairness and greed.

    Scott Morrison is all that and more, on steroids. His particular secret sauce ingredient has been to dehumanise government decision-making (Robodebt, Aged Care, Refugees, now Banking) and replace it with the rise of AI decision-making and the Law of the Jungle. Plus rule by bloodless religious maniacs. People who only ‘care’ for their kind. But cast a few shekels on the ground for the Poors.

    It’s really sad. I just hope that the majority of Australians discover their souls again and don’t allow the Coalition to change Australia irreparably and forever.

    People around the world used to look to Australia for leadership. Now they look away.

    And that makes me sad. And angry. But it’s the anger that motivates me to keep turning up for the fight.

  5. Bugger . The UQ/CSL “molecular clamp” vaccine is a no-go, not because it doesn’t work or causes illness in the recipients, but because some develop antibodies to a component of the vaccine which causes false positive HIV Ab testing. Thems the breaks in vaccinology.

  6. BK’s comment on the ABC review is correct. Following the polls, it was “normal” for commentators to predict a Labor win in the 2019 election.

    “There appeared to be a substantial shortfall in positive reflection of the Coalition’s prospects, policies or performance compared to Labor,” the report said.

    “This was not related to the expression of opinions but the weight of analysis, where the positive impression for Labor across all contributions in two episodes far outweighed that for the Coalition.”

    The report found that while Insiders “met the impartiality standard” there was “not sufficient challenge to the prevailing consensus” and “as a result the return of the Morrison government was never seriously contemplated”.

  7. CC et al.
    This is a very impressive Korean paper on the long distance (>2m) transmission of Covid-19 by airborne droplet rather than aerosol. Physical modelling of biological systems using engineering principles rules. I still think it’s droplets (almost) all the way down – including Marion Kainer’s Melbourne geriatric HCW presentation at yesterday’s Covid meeting.

  8. frednk

    Makes you wonder how much Dutton has personally cost the country. If he’s moved to Defence he will undoubtedly splash out even more.

  9. Thanks Cat. Good on you. I am not as positive or motivated as you, at the moment. I have resigned myself to the knowledge that governance at a federal level is shot, aided by a largely pathetic media and an apathetic, ignorant public.

    I am so jaded that when I saw Coorey’s Piece above about ‘Albo gets an opening” I wondered whether Morrison’s people helped write that story to help keep Albo in the job. He’s a nice bloke, but he’s letting Morrison off the hook so often that this government’s antics and disregard for accountability is becoming the new norm.

  10. Morning all. Thanks for the roundup BK. Morrison’s annoyance at not being invited to speak at the UN CC online forum this weekend is the height of arrogance. Australian actions so far compare poorly with mid-level wealth countries like Chile or Mexico. We are nowhere close to being leaders. See

    You can watch some of the dialogues this weekend.

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