Federal election live: day three

Ongoing coverage of Labor’s search for a path to 76 seats, which it may or may not reach.

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There were two developments in counting yesterday, one of which was that batches of postal votes were counted in every seat. Taken in aggregate they recorded a bigger swing to Labor than booth and pre-poll votes, consistent with the notion that the 70% increase in applications would make the postal voter population more representative and less conservative than in past years. However, this doesn’t mean Labor can expect a surge in its favour in late counting, since the swing is not so big as to completely eradicate postal voting’s conservative lean and they are in greater in overall number now.

The other development was that fresh two-candidate preferred counts were commenced in three interesting (Griffith, Ryan and Cowper) and seven uninteresting (Bradfield, Calare, Sydney, Hinkler, Maranoa, Melbourne and Grey) races. None of these counts is very far advanced, and for several it was just a case of throwing to new pairs of candidates during today’s counting of postal votes. However, we can presumably expect them to go back through the ordinary votes and publish fresh two-candidate preferred results in fairly short order.

There are another four seats where it is clear the wrong two candidates were picked for the candidate on the night, but in which new counts have not been commenced since it is not clear which candidate will drop out before the final count, of which I rate one to be very much in doubt (Brisbane) and three not so (Richmond, Macnamara and Wannon). We won’t know exactly what’s happened in these races until all the votes are in and the full distributions of preferences are conducted.

My system is definitively calling 72 seats for Labor, 47 for the Coalition, three for independents, two for the Greens and one for Bob Katter, but there are a number involving independents that it is being too slow to give away, which I should probably do something about. These include Mackellar, North Sydney, Wentworth, Goldstein and Kooyong, where the Liberals can hope for no more from postals than to reduce the teal independents’ winning margins, and Fowler, where Kristina Keneally seemingly can’t even hope for that much. Conversely, the presence of independents in the race is making the system too slow to call Bradfield, Nicholls and Wannon for the Coalition.

The only one of the six main teal independent targets I would still rate in doubt is Curtin, and even there Liberal member Celia Hammond will need to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Postals are favouring her, as they are with the Liberals in all such contests, but they are on track to bite only around 2000 out of Chaney’s existing 3350 vote margin. That would leave her needing some dynamic on absent and out-of-division pre-polls to favour her, the nature of which wouldn’t seem clear at this stage.

Then there’s Cowper, where my system is crediting Nationals incumbent Pat Conaghan with a slight advantage over independent Caz Heise. We’re in the very early stages of a two-candidate count between the two in which the only substantial result is the postals, on which preferences are flowing to Heise 67.3-32.7. Applying that split over the projected primary votes, which have Conaghan on 39.6% and Heise on 26.7%, Conaghan would hold on by a margin of 0.6%, which is closer than the 2.0% being produced by the crude estimate of preference slows in my system.

The system is also being slow to call Ryan for the Greens, but I expect that to resolve when the fresh two-candidate count there reaches a sufficient stage that I stop relying on my preference estimates, which cause me to impose a bigger margin of error. There has been some talk of the Greens making it as high as five, but this includes Macnamara which I now can’t see happening. Labor had a very strong result on the first batch of postals, which swung 9.0% in their favour on the primary vote, making it very unlikely they will drop out ahead of both the Greens and the Liberals, which is what it would take for them to lose. The remaining issue is whether Brisbane gets them to four, on which more below.

I don’t imagine my system is too far off calling Lingiari for Labor and Casey, Dickson and Bass for the Coalition, though I’d keep at least half an eye on the latter. Throwing those on the pile, we get Labor to 74, the Coalition to 54, independents to ten and the Greens to three, with Bob Katter still on one, Cowper to either stay Coalition or go independent, and a further eight outstanding from which Labor might get the two extra they need to make it to 76. As I see it, these are, in roughly descending order of likelihood:

Bennelong. Yesterday’s 5760 postals broke 3131-2629 to Liberal, but this marked a 12.2% swing to Labor compared with 2019 and suggested postals will not give Liberal candidate Simon Kennedy the lift he needs to close what remains a 1749 vote Labor lead. Whatever they Liberals gain on remaining postals seems likely to be approximately matched by advantages to Labor on other types of outstanding vote.

Lyons. Labor’s Brian Mitchell had a very encouraging first batch of postal votes here, breaking 2056-1833 his way. Mitchell leads by 0.6% on the raw count, but I’m projecting this to come out at just 0.1% based on an assumption that the outstanding postals will lean conservative, as they did last time. If further batches of postals put paid to that idea, he can start to breathe easier.

Brisbane. As I noted in yesterday’s post, what we need here not a two but a three-candidate preferred count to establish who will out first out of the Greens and Labor, as the seat will go to whichever survives at this point. While I am projecting the Greens to hold a slight lead on the primary vote, and they should get a fillip in the preference count when Animal Justice are distributed, the postals give Labor more than a shred of hope. Postals are always weak for the Greens, but the first batch has only recorded a 1.3% primary vote swing for them compared with 5.6% overall. If that’s maintained over the rest of the postals, it’s likely to be very close. So unless the AEC does something innovative here, this will have to wait until all the votes are in and the full distribution of preferences is completed.

Gilmore. A similar story to Bennelong insofar as a weaker than anticipated showing for the Liberals on the first batch of postals suggests the final result will come in roughly where it is at the moment. That means lineball in this case, with Liberal member Andrew Constance leading by 306 votes.

Deakin. Here on the other hand postals were favourable to the Liberals, swinging 3.7% to Labor compared with 5.0% overall. While my projection still has Labor 0.5% ahead, if the postal count so far continues over what should be at least 12,000 more yet to come, Michael Sukkar will retain the seat.

Menzies. The postals swung similarly to the overall result here, which is good news for the Liberals because the increased number of them means their natural lean to the Liberals should cause the gap to widen as more can come in, by a greater amount than Labor can hope to reel in on other types of vote.

Sturt. The swing on postals here was in line with the overall result, so I’m satisfied with my projection of a 0.5% Liberal lead, which happens to be very close to the raw count. However, there are enough votes still out there that it can’t be given away yet.

Moore. Labor recorded a below par swing on the first batch of postals, suggesting Liberal member Ian Goodenough’s 1138-vote lead is more likely to widen than shrink, and that Labor will have to make do with four gains in Western Australia rather than five.

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.

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