Sydney and the bush

Poll findings and preselection news ahead of a New South Wales state election now eight months away.

The Guardian reported on Saturday in disagreeably vague terms about an Essential Research poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, which finds the Coalition on 37% of the primary vote (42% among men, 32% among women) and Labor on 33%, compared with 41.6% and 33.3% at the 2019 election. Dominic Perrottet was on 49% approval and 35% disapproval, while Chris Minns was on 39% approval and 22% disapproval. I’m guessing the poll was conducted for an unidentified private client and not for The Guardian, which would have made a bigger deal out of it otherwise. It was conducted in “over five days after the release of the state budget last week”, which I guess means June 22 to 26, from a sample of 700.

Further election-related news from the premier state:

• Gabrielle Upton, who has held blue-ribbon Vaucluse for the Liberals since 2011, has announced she will not contest the next election in March. The Sydney Morning Herald reports possible contenders for Liberal preselection include Daisy Turnbull, teacher, author and daughter of Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and “journalist turned executive” Kellie Sloane, who unsuccessfully contested the preselection to succeed Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby. The Daily Telegraph further throws in Woollahra mayor Susan Wynne, Export Council director Cristina Talacko, and two Woollahra councillors, Mary-Lou Jarvis and Richard Shields. There is clearly a view among party hardheads that the candidate should be a woman, although local preselectors ignored a similar sentiment when choosing a successor to Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby.

Max Maddison of The Australian earlier reported that Vaucluse was one of a number of seats where the Liberals are concerned about prospects for teal independents, together with Willoughby, Lane Cove and Wakehurst. Willoughby was rated most at risk, with Wakehurst having the potential to join it if its member, Health Minister Brad Hazzard, opted to retire. However, Liberal sources said they believed the challenge would be blunted by “campaign funding caps, optional preferential voting and the ‘Matt Kean effect’”. Community group North Sydney’s Independent, which activated Kylea Tink’s successful federal campaign, have identified Lane Cove, North Shore and Willoughby as potential targets, with the former offering the opportunity to capitalise on discontent with local member Anthony Roberts’ decisions as Planning Minister.

• The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the New South Wales Liberal Party’s state executive has set a target of 40 per cent of seats to be contested by women at the March election. Max Maddison of The Australian reports the state executive has opened preselections for seats specifically identified as targets at the election, including Opposition Leader Chris Minns’ seat of Kogarah, where the redistribution has cut the Labor margin from 1.8% to 0.1%. The others are Leppington (newly created in the redistribution with a notional Labor margin of 1.5%), Londonderry (Labor margin down from 6.5% to 3.0% in the redistribution), The Entrance (Labor margin of 5.3%), Bega (Liberal margin of 6.9% at the election, Labor margin of 5.1% at the February by-election), although another unnamed insider says only Leppington was a serious prospect.

Linda Silmalis of the Sunday Telegraph reports that Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone, a key backer of Dai Le’s successful independent campaign in Fowler, could now run as an independent in the corresponding state seat of Fairfield. This threat has complicated a Labor plan to deal with the redistribution by moving Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk to Fairfield, Fairfield MP Guy Zangari to Cabramatta and Lakemba MP Jihad Dib to Bankstown. Concerns that Mihailuk might go the way of Keneally have prompted suggestions she should be cast aside in favour of Tu Le, whose ambitions for Fowler were thwarted by the anointment of Kristina Keneally. Another possible contender is Khal Asfour, the mayor of Bankstown.

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.

65 comments on “Sydney and the bush”

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  1. Re Oakeshott Country at 6.09 pm

    Thanks for the link. The last AEC report there on informality, for 2016, includes this statement:

    “For the first time since 2001, more than half of all informal ballots cast at the 2016 House of Representatives elections were assumed to be intentionally informal. However, among the ten divisions with the highest rates of informal voting, more than half of all informal ballots were assumed to be unintentionally informal, and assumed unintentional informality was a highly significant predictor of the total informality rate.”

    There are various categories in table 1 there. One way to comprehend those figures (as % of vote) is:

    Intentional, via Blanks = 1.26% + Scribblers, sloganeers etc = 1% = sub-total of 2.26%

    via Incomplete prefs (incl just 1) = 1.28% + Ticks/crosses = 0.39% + Nos out of order = 0.78% + illegible numbers = 0.14% = sub-total of 2.59%

    Even if you include unspecified (0.13%) and symbols (0.08%) then the Intentional sub-total = 2.47%.

    So the Unintentional informal vote was larger on that categorisation, including sundries elsewhere.

    The division informality rates include intriguing comparisons (e.g. Grayndler was twice Gilmore for informality rate when Albo was first elected in 1996 but now similar). AEC may have the data but not the resources to analyse informals by category for close seats to see if Unintentionals were decisive.

    In the end, it is an ethical question regarding OPV. The persistence of this electoral system in NSW leads to the unwitting disenfranchisement of poorly informed voters who thought they did it right. The evidence from AEC clearly shows such a problem exists. Education as a solution has not worked.

    In terms of voters, not parties, whose preferences deserve most respect? Those who have tried to vote correctly but were unable to, including because of the confusion in federal elections in NSW courtesy of OPV, or the Blanks and Scribblers etc? While ending OPV in NSW would not deprive the latter group of their impotent outlet of expression (whatever their symbols), it would enfranchise Unintentional informal voters who tried but failed, by ensuring their votes are counted (as they presume occurred).

  2. I accept much of what you argue but the data we don’t have (afaik) is a similar survey from NSWEC.
    In NSW, the informal vote is less in state elections than federal. Is this because it is easier to make a formal vote under OPV or because there are less deliberate informal voters, as they are freed of the duopoly, or both?

  3. Was the change to opv done by an act of parliament only?if yes then I would argue that a voting method back to full preferential could be also changed by an act of parliament. At the moment the coalition lacks a majority in either house of parliament…. I would try and change the law and if passed let the liberals appeal. I would also include a formality law based on identifying voter intention

  4. No, it’s in the small part of the constitution that can only be changed by referendum – (existence of the LC, electoral law, dismissal of judges and fixed term elections -covers it). The constitution implies that the Governor will not accept such a bill

    In any case I can’t see any move from the public or any party to change it

  5. The sec9nd part is for political processes but opv benefits the lnp as long as they outpoll Labor. I have doubts still that you can intrench.a voting method without actually. Passing such a change via a referendum

  6. The NSW constitution is not the Australian constitution.
    S 5 states:
    The Legislature shall, subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, have power to make laws for the peace, welfare, and good government of New South Wales in all cases whatsoever

    Other than the defined sections requiring a referendum, there is no specific mention of how the constitution is changed and therefore it can and frequently is changed by legislation – 24 times since 2000

    The ability of the parliament to embed the requirement for a referendum without afirst having a referendum was tested through the courts up to the privy council when Lang tried to abolish the LC in 1930

  7. Re Oakeshott Country at 8.05 pm

    It’s easier for voters to vote formally in NSW elections because the bar is so low, “just vote 1”. If NSW was only Lord Howe Island the consequences, in terms of unwitting but real disenfranchisement for those who can’t comprehend the different state and federal systems, would of course be negligible.

    While Wran died 8 years ago, other key people (or perhaps the key person, G Richardson) could still be interviewed, if somebody wants to do a bit of oral history, assuming the quality of his memory is not deficient. It is most unlikely that he would have given even a passing thought to the consequences of such disenfranchisement federally, partly because informal rates were generally lower prior to 1980.

    There is probably a statistical correlation between informal voting and the number of candidates in electorates, meaning superficially that more supposed choice does not mean less informal voting. Most of the choices are hopeless, for various reasons. E.g. the informal vote in the 2020 Eden-Monaro by-election was 6.7% with 14 candidates (excluding a Palmer stooge); in 2022 it dropped marginally to 6.5% with 10 candidates, most to the right of the Libs. That figure of 6.5% was the 21st highest informal vote in NSW; in Victoria the similar rate in Holt was the 4th highest, showing the problem.

    If any NSW voter on 25 March 2023 believes they have freed themselves of the duopoly, courtesy of OPV, Antony Green will remind them that, even in a hung parliament, it is inconceivable at present that the next NSW Government will not be Labor or the Coalition. If you don’t choose, others will.

    As Dr Bonham has reiterated, what counts in Australian elections is the two candidate preferred vote.

    An article by Kate Eastman on Albert Langer’s failed attempt to advocate for OPV federally is at:

    David Walker and his Chinese translator friend Li Yao have a new book, about their travels in China:

    A review, including a nice photo, by David Goodman, is at:

  8. I have met Li Yao – his life experiences particularly during the cultural revolution are remarkable. As the reviewer noted this dual biography of two people living in different worlds contemporaneously is a fascinating read. A good sequel to Not Dark Yet

  9. Re optional pref-

    The booth I scrutineered at in Lindsay was in a new development called Jordan Springs- a relatively solid working middle class mortgage belt community. The Libs won the booth by about 300 votes after preferences were allocated.

    Due to the confusion in voting requirements between state and federal with some in the electorate there were about 45 informal votes that just put a 1 for our labor candidate and nothing else. He got about 800 primary votes in the booth. If you add that 40 odd up times the 20 or so booths in an average electorate they can quickly add up and be the difference between winning and losing in tight seats.

    Optional pref voting should never have been introduced in NSW and was a crude, politically motivated policy aimed at trying to negate the potential of the greens et al

  10. Re NSW optional preferential voting…

    The only logical conclusion to draw from our discussion on the provisions of the state Constitution is that all election prior to OPV were invalid and any persons elected thereby weren’t.

    It’s the Constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s the vibe…

  11. Re leftieBrawler at 11.50 am

    Very interesting and revealing info. Perhaps you should write a polite, descriptive letter to the AEC.

    After all, to some degree, the AEC is at fault with the Unintentional informal voters. In other words, whatever the underlying causes, the AEC has failed to educate those voters. That’s clear. When you think about it, the AEC (perhaps because they have not demanded enough staffing resources) hasn’t apparently attempted the most obvious and effective way of reducing the Unintentional informals.

    What would that be? To have a small team of utterly impartial, completely polite and even a bit funny AEC “sherpas” who greet electors as they move from the electoral roll table, or maybe better before they get to the table (though this assumes an adequate memory on the part of all electors), with the sole purpose of reiterating to the electors that this is an Australian election (green and gold etc), not a provincial one, so for their vote to count they must number all squares consecutively. There could be a special AEC leaflet for the purpose (e.g. a green, gold and purple kanga) that puts the point clearly.

    Speaking of Greens et. al., Wran and Richo when they dreamed up this dumb scheme weren’t trying to negate the Greens’ potential. Quite the opposite. They didn’t see it coming. They were being myopic. As noted up the thread, there were still common contests between Labor vs both Lib and Nats. The aim was to reduced the combined vote of the latter two. There should be a bust of Richo in the Lib HQ!

  12. A word in mitigation – the same constitutional change also ensured that one vote, one value (+/- 10%) cannot be removed without a referendum.

  13. Re polling idiocy

    Some drongos have instructed UComms to do a poll of NSW voters giving them (i.e. the drongos among them) the option of Palmer, under its fake name “UAP”. Surely the AEC could get some truth-in-names regulations going. That name is as accurate as Zhirinovsky’s fascist party’s name (“Liberal Democratic of Russia”). While Zhirinovsky was finally put out of Russian people’s misery by Covid, Putin, in his meeting on 7 July, had that party’s leader in his circle. The party was an ex-KGB front.

    The poll was apparently conducted for people promoting state-supported childcare, but what a waste, to suppose Palmer will be running in March, when the NSW nutters are led by ex-Labor creep Latham.

  14. Macca RB @ #25 Sunday, July 10th, 2022 – 8:18 am

    What a choice?
    Two extreme right-wing, socially conservative Catholics leading the two major parties.
    Fortunately, living in the safe Tory seat of Terrigal – I can vote for an independent or Green and give my 2nd preference to the ALP.
    I am one of those neanderthals who number every square and always place the Lieberals, last.

    I have been told that the ALP has an exciting new candidate lined up for Terrigal. We want to take the coast, lock, stock and barrel. 🙂

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