Slowing the flow

A detailed look at what optional preferential voting might mean at a federal election.

This post delves into wonkish matters arising from last week’s report by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters into last year’s federal election, and can thus be seen as a sequel to my earlier post on that subject. That post has a stimulating comments thread that I would like to see continue if anyone has anything to contribute specifically concerning the matters covered in this post. However, the comments thread below this post will serve as the usual open thread for general political discussion, it being past time for a new one.

On with the show. Among the more surprising recommendations of last week’s JSCEM report was the introduction of optional preferential voting. Whereas committee recommendations very often die on the vine, the chances of something becoming of this one shortened last week when both One Nation and the Centre Alliance indicated it would have their support, potentially giving it the numbers in the Senate over the opposition of Labor and the Greens. This prompted me to dig into data from last year’s state election in New South Wales, which offers the most proximate and generally useful pointer to how such a reform would play out at a federal election.

The New South Wales Electoral Commission is the only electoral authority that conducts full data entry of lower house ballot papers and publishes all the data, something the AEC only does for the Senate. The broader utility of this has been limited by the fact of New South Wales’ peculiarity of optional preferential voting, but as noted, there is a chance that may shortly change. I have aggregated this data to determine how each party and candidate’s preferences flowed between the Coalition and Labor, which no one else had done so far as I could see.

For those with a professional interest, this spreadsheet lays it all out seat by seat and party by party — for the lay person, the following table should suffice. It shows the aggregated statewide results from the state election, inclusive of the rate of exhaustion (i.e. voters who availed themselves of optional preferential’s opportunity to number neither Coalition nor Labor boxes), and the equivalent results from New South Wales from the federal election.

The reform’s attraction to the Coalition lies in the 40.0% exhaustion rate for the Greens vote, which split 82.2-17.8 in Labor’s favour federally. That alone would have sliced nearly 1% from Labor’s two-party preferred vote. However, the high exhaustion rate among all other minor parties, whose preferences in aggregate tend to favour the Coalition over Labor (think Hanson, Palmer and the religious parties) would have pared that back by around 0.3%. Such a change would probably have made a decisive difference in Macquarie (which Labor held by 0.2%) and Lilley (0.6%, and with an above-par Greens primary vote of 14.0%), and made life still more uncomfortable in Cowan (0.8%) and Eden-Monaro (0.8%, followed by 0.4% at the by-election).

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.

3,329 comments on “Slowing the flow”

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  1. A Merry Christmas to all, with especial thanks to William for keeping the blog going, BK for his unmatched curation of the news of the day (better than a couple of “professional emails I get”) and for KayJay who keeps reminding us of the gentler parts of human nature.

    We can only hope that 2021 is not such a disaster as 2020, although there is the awful feeling that things may have to get worse before they get better. Hopefully the USA will pullout of its funk with Trump gone, the cost of renewable energy will continue to plummet and we will see a shift from what is good for the economy (whatever that is) to what is good for people being the subject of politics.

    John Quiggin has opined that we may have witnessed the end of capitalism (which has been one of my long term hopes), but it is not yet clear what will replace it.

    Once again, a Merry Christmas to all.

  2. Too hot to do much at all in Perth today so watching BBC News.
    Boris has a pleasant demeanour, you could almost believe a nice person dwells within.
    On the other hand you could not believe that those that govern us have any such redeeming feature. We know that within every single member of the Morrison cabal there dwells a heart as black as the blackest of pitch.

  3. Leon
    “On the other hand you could not believe that those that govern us have any such redeeming feature. We know that within every single member of the Morrison cabal there dwells a heart as black as the blackest of pitch.”

    Agree Leon, a heart of stone and their religion to give themselves comfort.

  4. Occasionally I look at one of the aircraft pilot forums.

    Mainly I’m interested in the “Fragrant Harbour” section of the forum. Its about Hong Kong of course, a subject I try to keep an eye on.

    For anyone with time in the coming days, if interested –

    But this post on quarantine for aircrews caught my eye in a general section of the main forum, gives another viewpoint about what is going on –

    Merry Christmas from a shafted pilot.

    “a member of the crew of an airliner or a medevac or air ambulance crew, including an off-shift crew member who is travelling as a passenger on an aircraft to reposition at another location, where the airliner, medevac or air ambulance or other aircraft has originated in a place outside of Australia.”

    This is the current definition of “International Aircrew” in WA at the moment.

    In the last four months alone, I have flown almost 600 hours of international ferries through 16 countries. I have tested negative to COVID at least every 4 days and have submitted COVID procedure manuals that are equivalent to airline level operations to the WA government. I have continually isolated as per crew requirements in every country I have been to.

    I have previously entered Australia via Broome 4 times during this period, and confirmed with WA health that I had a valid permit to enter WA in light of the Sydney events.

    AFTER landing on Sunday, I was informed my status had changed, I was NOT an international crewmember and instead of isolating and departing to QLD as I had done every other time, I was to fly the aircraft to Perth and enter 14 days of mandatory quarantine. I was not permitted to fly on a domestic airline and if the owner of the aircraft refused to allow his aircraft to fly the additional distance, I would be placed on a private jet charter and charged for the privilege.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

    ps. Tested negative twice last week and also again negative in Broome on Monday.

    Those few who broke the rules in Sydney have caused much grief for many.

  5. Muskiemp @ #3153 Thursday, December 24th, 2020 – 6:40 pm

    “On the other hand you could not believe that those that govern us have any such redeeming feature. We know that within every single member of the Morrison cabal there dwells a heart as black as the blackest of pitch.”

    Agree Leon, a heart of stone and their religion to give themselves comfort.

    I think most of them are basically stupid people from privileged backgrounds being manipulated by the black hearted ones. The really bright people from the conservative side go into business, the law, etc.

  6. Player One:

    Thursday, December 24, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    [‘Merry Christmas to all PB’ers, with special thanks to William, BK & KayJay.

    Let’s hope 2021 is a better year for everyone than both 2019 and 2020 have been.’]

    I couldn’t put it any better; hostilities resuming on Boxing Day. I would add a plus to BK, who has done a sterling effort.

  7. Who has the best music subscritption/streaming service these days?
    I’m particularly interested in who has the best back catalogue going back to 70s/80s (and some 90s).

  8. Special thanks to BK this year. Your news links have been one of the few things that has kept me from totally losing it 🙂

    Also thanks to William. The blog has its moments 🙂

  9. Cud Chewer @ #2647 Thursday, December 24th, 2020 – 8:08 pm

    Who has the best music subscritption/streaming service these days?
    I’m particularly interested in who has the best back catalogue going back to 70s/80s (and some 90s).

    You Tube Music. If you pay for it you can listen to it (stream it?) ad free. They have an algorithm now whereby you key in 5 of your most favourite artists and they extrapolate playlists and make suggestions of like-minded musicians. Also, creating playlists for different moods. I was overwhelmed by it all.

  10. I’ve just been playing a game my son bought me for Xmas (early present). It’s called ‘The Room’ and it’s a mind-bending conundrum-solver in the spirit of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. You have to solve mad puzzles and unlock special keys that lead on to more and more dastardly puzzles to solve, which open secret compartments and sliding hidden doors. Over an hour and I have only completed the first chapter. I love it!

  11. I’m wondering how good Spotify’s back catalogue is?
    I know Youtube, but its a bitch to search.

    Also wondering if there aren’t any small/independent services with a decent catalogue?

  12. Dave,
    that is just awful for you!! Thanks for giving us an insight into the stresses of your world.
    A very Merry Xmas and may 2021 bring much-needed global stability.

  13. Merry Christmas to you all, Bludgers, and here’s hoping we are on an upward trajectory out of the disaster zones.
    You have been a great comfort mostly as I dealt with several close bereavements and the community aspect of this blog is a real plus!!
    Thanks WB, BK and those who fill in when BK is busy.

  14. I’m sure Berejiklian has got this under control:

    [‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pleaded for vigilance ahead of Christmas celebrations as fears that undetected coronavirus cases may have spread through Sydney’s CBD after several infected office workers were confirmed to have entered the city.

    Three CBD workers have tested positive as part of the growing cluster, according to NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, who said anyone that had recently visited the north-east part of the city, near Australia Square, the MLC Centre and Chifley Square should be tested for even the mildest symptoms.’]

  15. [“I do consider this case to be very clear one for the making of a continuing detention order” Justice Tinney said.

    “To my mind, the evidence was comprehensive and compelling, pointing inescapably to the correct outcome of this case.”

    Benbrika, who was born in Algeria, is also facing deportation upon his eventual release from prison after his Australian citizenship was cancelled by Mr Dutton in November.’]

    I don’t get this. After his release from prison, he’d go into detention, then, pending an appeal, would be sent back from whence he came. This is a case of Dutton rubbing salt – extrajudicial punishment. I’d expect this would be appealed.

  16. What Republicans say the Democrats will do, THEY do:

    President Trump and Republicans campaigned in 2020 by scaring Americans into thinking Democrats would “defund the police” and unleash a crime spree.

    This helped Republicans keep control of the Senate (for now) and grow their numbers in the House. So what are they doing to celebrate? Why, they’re defunding the police — as violent crime surges.

    GOP leaders over the past week defeated efforts to help states and cities that are facing cutbacks to public safety and other services because of the pandemic-caused budget crisis. They claimed this would amount to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called a “blue state bailout.” In reality, it was more of a “blue bailout” — and police in blue and red states alike are now on the chopping block.

    “Despite the clear evidence that shrinking revenue in cities across the country is leading to job loss and the reduction of critical services like public safety,” the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors protested this week, “Congress chose to turn its back on first responders, police, firefighters and other essential workers.”

    This isn’t theoretical. In large part because of the federal government’s months-long refusal to help, localities across the country are involuntarily defunding the police in real time.

  17. C@tmomma:

    Thursday, December 24, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    [‘Yeah, the messaging and co-ordination with the media.’]

    Cat, I was being facetious, my view of Berejyklian on par with yours. Anyway, Merry Xmas to your and yours, and do keep up the splendid work you do for Labor, and the stuff the critics.

  18. Mavis @ #2673 Thursday, December 24th, 2020 – 9:36 pm


    Thursday, December 24, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    [‘Yeah, the messaging and co-ordination with the media.’]

    Cat, I was being facetious, my view of Berejyklian on par with yours. Anyway, Merry Xmas to your and yours, and do keep up the splendid work you do for Labor, and the stuff the critics.

    Oh, I know. I just like to reinforce certain important points we should all never forget. 😀

    Merry Christmas, Mavis from the Xmas C@t:

    We made it through another year alive. 😀

  19. Well, that’s the Xmas presents wrapped for another year. And that’s a wrap from me. Though I will definitely see you all on the other side because Xmas Day on PB is usually full of thrills and spills. Till then, sleep tight and leave out some milk and cookies for Santa and the Reindeers. 🙂

  20. C@t

    My Xmas will be
    1. Sleep in till after noon
    2. Make a nice pizza
    3. Eat it whilst wondering when my sister will show up..


  21. Apple and Spotify are essentially the same in most respects, including catalogue, cost and quality.

    I go with Spotify and stream about 3 hours of music per day i.e. bus, gym, lunch time. At $12 per month it’s amazing value.

  22. Good morning Dawn Patrollers. This is all I can manage to dig up today.

    The Morrison government spent a total of $128m on advertising in the past financial year, including $5.2m on market research for the ad campaigns, new figures reveal.
    Britain and Europe have struck a Brexit trading deal a week out from the transition deadline, ending four years of bitter break-up talks since the UK voted to leave the single market in the 2016 referendum.
    But Martin Kettle says Boris Johnson has ‘got Brexit done’ – with a deal that will please no one.
    A deal is better than no deal, but the prime minister will be personally held to account for every negative impact on the UK declares David Gauke.
    SA has recorded two new COVID cases – one an overseas traveller and the other a possible infection in a man who was at Sydney Airport.
    The staff of federal politicians have rejected the government’s pay offer for the first time in 13 years.
    Now China has suspended Australian timber imports from New South Wales and Western Australia.
    House Republicans have shot down a Democratic bid to pass Donald Trump’s longshot, end-of-session demand for $US2000 ($2630) direct payments to most Americans as he ponders whether to sign a long-overdue COVID-19 relief bill. What a clusterf**k!
    Political experts disagree on whether Joe Biden can heal the US.
    David Smith writes that Donald Trump is expected to grant further waves of audacious pardons for allies and supporters – possibly even for himself – in a frenzied final month as US president.
    QAnon and the ‘Trump coup’ have more in common than you might think, explains Dan Brooks.

    Cartoon Corner

    Matt Golding

    Glen Le Lievre

    From the US

  23. Britain heads into a new chapter in its relationship with the rest of Europe today with Boris Johnson vowing to pit the country against the EU in a race for economic success.

    After nine months of tortuous talks, a Brexit deal was secured at 1.44pm GMT on Christmas Eve, avoiding a no-deal exit from the transition period with just a week to go.

    The deal was met with “relief tinged with some sadness” in Brussels. But it was said by Johnson to be the settlement of the vexed question of Britain’s relationship with Europe, 48 years since the country joined the then European economic community.

    Flanked by large union flags, the prime minister said: “This European question’s been going on for decades. I think this gives us the platform, the foundation for a really prosperous new relationship.”

    The deal delivered on the promise of a “giant free trade zone” characterised by “regulatory competition,” Johnson said. “We have taken back control of laws and our destiny …We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.”

    The prime minister said the UK had won the right “set our own standards, to innovate in the way that we want” in key sectors such as biosciences and artificial intelligence. “British laws will be made solely by the British parliament; interpreted by British judges, sitting in the UK courts,” he said.

  24. Merry Christmas to All.
    Many thanks to William and Adrian. The election coverage has been terrific.

    Big thanks to BK for keeping us informed. Hope your little grandson is back to good health. Footy season not far away again for him.
    Kay jay – stay cool. Muriel and Brown Bear need you.
    Thanks to Bludger, one and all, who regularly contribute to keep the forum alive. It’s most appreciated. I love youse all as Jeff Febech would say.
    May today be filled with cheer and good things for all.

  25. Seasonal greetings of every kind to all PBers, especially William and BK .

    When you woke up early this morning to compile the Dawn Patrol, BK, I hope you found an overflowing stocking as a reward for your care and thoughtfulness throughout the year. Thank you.

  26. Merry Christmas, KayJay! Enjoy the best of days with your family. Not too much Creaming Soda now! 🙂

    From the C@t and her kitten. 🙂

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