Easter eggs

Preselection jockeying for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, a looming state by-election in NSW, and a post-mortem into yet another election defeat in the ACT.

The interruption of Easter means we’re not likely to see any opinion polls this week. A new post is wanted though, so I offer the following loose assemblage of news items. My own efforts have late have been consumed by my Tasmanian election guide, which is currently being buffed and polished ahead of publication later today.

Lydia Lynch of the Brisbane Times reports the executive of Queensland’s Liberal National Party has voted to reopen preselection nominations for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, by a bare margin of 11 to 10, but for which the position would be assured for businesswoman Fran Ward, the only candidate to nominate against Andrew Laming when he still intended to run. The Australian reports that “conservative forces” were keen that this should happen to open the way for Henry Pike, communications adviser for the Property Council and unsuccessful candidate for Redlands at the October state election. The Brisbane Times report says the preselection looms as a three-way contest between Ward, Pike and barrister Maggie Forrest. Senator Amanda Stoker has ruled herself out, despite expectations she could use the seat to resolve a difficulty where she and James McGrath are in competition for the safe first and loseable third positions on the LNP Senate ticket, the second position being reserved to the Nationals.

• A by-election will be held in the New South Wales state seat of Upper Hunter following the resignation of Nationals member Michael Johnsen after he was accused of raping a sex worker. I will have a dedicated post and election guide up for the by-election hopefully later in the week. For what it’s worth, Sportsbet has Shooters Fishers and Farmers as favourites to win the seat, paying $1.50 compared with $3.25 for the Nationals and $8 for Labor.

• The Canberra Times reports on the findings of an internal review into the ACT Liberals’ sixth successive election defeat in October, finding more effort should have been made to win over “soft Greens voters” who might be persuaded by a pitch targeting the Greens’ “anti-small business bent” and “soft law and order policies”. The review was conducted by Grahame Morris, lobbyist and one-time chief-of-staff to John Howard, Vicki Dunne, recently retired Liberal MP, and Daniel Clode, the party’s campaign manager in 2016.

Australian Capital Territory election live

Live coverage of the count for the Australian Capital Territory election.

Conclusion: Saturday, October 24

What are apparently the final distributions have been posted, so we look to have a final result of Labor 10 (down two), Liberal nine (down two) and Greens six (up four), with 2-2-1 results everywhere except Kurrajong, where the Greens won a second seat to secure a 2-1-2 result. Johnathan Davis of the Greens won the last seat in Brindabella ahead of Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbins, resulting in 2-2-1 rather than 3-2, and Peter Cain won a second seat for the Liberals in Ginninderra ahead of a third for Labor by edging out incumbent Gordon Ramsay, resulting in 2-2-1 rather than 3-1-1.

When I last analysed the count in Brindabella a full week ago, Werner-Gibbins led Davis by seven at the key point in the count, which ended up being an 82 vote advantage to Davis. Unsuccessful Liberal Andrew Wall landed 110 votes clear of Werner-Gibbins at this point of the count; if he had fallen behind, his preferences would have decided the result between the other two. In Ginninderra, Labor’s hope of ekeing out a third seat by re-electing Gordon Ramsay disappeared over the week as Liberal candidate Peter Cain’s 271 vote deficit against Ramsay at the key count has turned into a 167 vote advantage.

End of Saturday night

Let’s start with the big picture. Labor’s overall vote appears to be entirely unchanged from 2016 at 38.4%; the Liberals are down from 36.7% to 33.4%; and the Greens are up from 10.3% to 13.5%. It is clear there will continue to be a Labor government relying on Greens support: with two seats still in doubt, the 23 confirmed seats have gone Labor 10, Liberal eight and Greens five, compared with Labor 12, Liberal 11 and Greens two in 2016. Their respective best case scenarios are 12, nine and six.

One of the seats in doubt is in Brindabella, where the Liberals have clearly lost a seat in the only district where they won three in 2016, the question being whether it goes to Labor or the Greens. The other is in Ginninderra, where the Greens have clearly gained a seat, the question being whether it comes at the expense of Labor, who won three seats in 2016, or the Liberals, who won two. One of the two districts that went 2-2-1 in 2016, Murrumbidgee, has done so again this time; in the other, Kurrajong, the Greens have gained a second seat and reduced the Liberals to one. The Greens have won a seat from Labor in Yerrabi, where Labor won three and the Liberals two in 2016.

Breaking it down by district:


With Labor and the Liberals assured of two, the question of the final seat comes down to a seven vote gap between Labor’s number three, Tamius Werner-Gibbings, and Greens candidate Johnathan Davis, who are respectively at 4961 and 4954 at the decisive distribution. The defeated third Liberal incumbent, Andrew Wall, is on 5050 at this point of the count, and the complexion of Liberal preference flows between Labor and the Greens will determine the result if he falls back by 50 votes so and gets excluded before Werner-Gibbings and Davis.

The absence of the Sex Party, who polled 7.9% in 2016, left room for substantial gains for both Labor (up 7.5% to 41.1%) and the Greens (up 5.8% to 10.9%), while the Liberals fell 3.8% to 38.1%. Labor’s two incumbents, Joy Burch and Mick Gentleman, had no trouble getting re-elected, and there was again little to separate them, with both gaining around 3% off similar vote shares from 2016. Taimus Werner-Gibbings polled 6.7% without getting elected in 2016, and is now contention to do so after gaining 1.7%.

The order of the three elected Liberals in 2016 was Andrew Wall, Mark Parton and Nicole Lawder, but it was Wall who went under as his fell from 12.0% to 8.1%, while Parton and Lawder made slight gains. The Greens vote more doubled, from 5.1% to 10.9%, with Davis going from 1.5% at his unsuccessful run in 2016 to 5.6% this time.


Despite polling a solid 9.2%, the Belco Party did not end up being in contention. Whereas I speculated pre-election that they might give the Liberals a path to victory by poaching a seat from Labor they would not have been able to win themselves, their presence did not in fact do the Liberals any favours, and may actually cost them one of the two seats they went in with. At the point where lead Belco Party candidate Bill Stefaniak drops out of the count, more than half his vote exhausts, with 29.8% going to the Liberals, 12.2% to Labor and 4.6% to the Greens. That leaves two seats and three candidates, with Jo Clay of the Greens in the clear on 5791, and Labor’s Gordon Ramsay ahead for the last seat with 5282 votes to 5011 for Peter Cain of the Liberals. So Cain has a gap of 271, or around 0.6% of the total, to make up in late counting.

The Liberal vote in Ginninderra slumped 6.2% to 25.8%, although Labor were also down 0.8% to 40.6% as the Belco Party muscled into the field, and the Greens were up 3.2% to 12.9%. With three Labor incumbents seeking re-election, Yvette Berry and Tara Cheyne picked up strong swings to dominate the party’s vote, while Gordon Ramsay trod water and lagged behind, to mix a metaphor. The only Liberal incumbent, Elizabeth Kikkert, picked up 2.3% to emerge the clear winner for the only assured Liberal seat. The potential second winner, newcomer Peter Cain, polled 5.3%, and Jo Clay dominated among the Greens with 6.4%.


The Greens’ success in gaining a second seat at the expense of one of the two Liberal incumbents comes down to Rebecca Vassarotti of the Greens having 5021 votes at the relevant exclusion to 4384 for Candice Burch of the Liberals, which I presume is too big a gap to make up on late counting.

The traffic in the party vote shares was between Liberal and the Greens, with the former down 4.8% to 26.2% and the latter up 5.2% to 24.0%, while Labor held steady on 38.4%. The two re-elected Labor incumbents had little change on their 2016 vote shares, with Andrew Barr on 22.3% and Rachel Stephen-Smith on 5.6%.

Elizabeth Lee emerged the only clear Liberal winner with 9.3%, little changed on 2016; Burch’s likely defeat arises mroe from the overall drop in the Liberal vote rather than her own vote share, which was up 1.6% to 7.5%. Of the Greens, Shane Rattenbury’s 13.2% was little changed on 2016, with Rebecca Vassarotti gaining 3.1% on her unsuccessful 2016 performance to score 6.5%, well ahead of the party’s other two candidates.


Needing a win in an electorate where they had been favoured by the redistribution, the Liberals did no better than maintain the status quo with a particularly weak vote share of 34.6%, down 9.9% on their redistribution-adjusted total from 2016. Labor were up 3.8% to 36.8% and the Greens 1.4% to 12.1%, with most of the lost Liberal vote accounted for by independent Fiona Carrick’s 7.0%.

From the Labor ticket, Chris Steel sophomore surged by 5.0% to 14.1%, but the other newcomer from 2016, Bec Cody, looks set to lose to party colleague Marisa Paterson after dropping 1.7% to 7.0%, while Paterson was on 8.0%. Cody’s 370-vote deficit against Paterson on the primary vote grows to 717 with the distribution of preferences.

Of the Liberals, Jeremy Hanson got 14.3% after losing 8.1% from the vote share he managed as leader in 2016, while the other Liberal incumbent, Giulia Jones, dropped 0.7% to 6.5%, only slightly clear of Liberal newcomer Amardeep Singh on 6.2%. Her 113-vote lead over Singh on the primary vote expands to 528 as preferences are distributed. The new Greens member is Emma Davison, who dominated the party’s vote with 7.2%.


The outlier of the five districts, with the Liberals surging 4.4% to 40.2% while Labor sagged by 9.2% to 34.7%, for which the DLP’s 4.8% provides only half an explanation. However, it doesn’t appear to have done the Liberals any good, as they remain stuck on two seats, with the Greens instead gaining a seat from Labor after their vote rose 3.2% to 10.3%.

Part of the shift from Labor to Liberal reflects the mid-term retirement of Labor’s strongest incumbent from 2016, Meegan Fitzharris – Labor’s three incumbents, Michael Pettersson, Suzanne Orr and Deepak-Raj Gupta, made only slight gains despite her 15.2% being up for grabs, polling between 7.2% and 9.7%. The other notable candidate factor behind the result was Liberal member Alistair Coe’s rise to the leadership, though his 1.7% gain to 15.9% was quite modest. Liberal newcomer Leanne Castley gained a seat at the expense of party colleague James Milligan, polling 8.6% to Milligan’s 7.0%, the latter being 0.6% down on his vote from 2016. Andrew Braddock dominated the two-candidate Greens ticket with 6.5%.

Live commentary

Continue reading “Australian Capital Territory election live”

Australian Capital Territory election guide

A belated in-depth look at Saturday’s election in the Australian Capital Territory, where Labor is hoping to make it six in a row.

With less than a week to go, I finally have an Australian Capital Territory election guide for your reading pleasure, consisting of an overview and reviews of the contests for the territory’s five five-member electoral districts. Labor has been in power since 2001 and is aiming for its sixth successive victory – a tall order in normal circumstances made quite a lot easier by the local Liberal Party’s determination to tack far to the right of the capital’s ideological median.

That at least is my limited reading of the situation, which is based on a bare minimum of opinion polling. The only credible poll I’m aware of was conducted by uComms for the Australia Institute back in early August, which had Labor on 37.6%, compared with 38.4% at the 2016 election; the Liberals at 38.2%, compared with 36.7%; and the Greens at 14.6%, compared with 10.3%. Clubs ACT published results from an online survey it conducted of 1300 respondents, which you can read about on page 26 of its September newsletter, but it presumably didn’t involve any of the techniques that can make such a poll credible. For what it’s worth, it had similar numbers to the Australia Institute for the major parties – 36.1% for Labor and 38.4% for Liberal – but only 9.6% for the Greens.

The numbers in the 25-member Legislative Assembly are Labor 12, Liberal 11 and Greens two, after the 2016 election gave Labor three seats and Liberal two in the northern suburban electorates of Yerrabi and Ginninderra, the reverse in the southern suburbs electorate of Brindabella, and two each for Labor and Liberal plus one for the Greens in each of the central Canberra electorates of Kurrajong and Murrumbidgee. Labor’s likeliest path to defeat would involve losing seats in any two out of Yerrabi, Ginninderra and Murrumbidgee. The Liberals could perhaps win a third seat in Murrumbidgee with a 2% swing, but Yerrabi and Ginninderra would require major breakthroughs. However, an opportunity could arise courtesy of Bill Stefaniak, a former Liberal MP who is running in Ginninderra under the banner of the Belco Party – albeit that he has not been in parliament since 2008 and memories of his good works will have faded.

Antony Green is tracking the progress of pre-poll voting on his blog, and the numbers are rather startling, with 28.8% of enrolled voters already having cast their vote, compared with 7.3% at the same point in 2016. All of the pre-poll voting centres allow for electronic voting, a contingency all but unique to the Australian Capital Territory, and Antony Green reports that nearly 90% of pre-poll voters are availing themselves of it. This could potentially take some of the drama out of election night, as results from electronic voting arrive in a flood within the first hour after polling booths close.

Essential Research leadership ratings, ACT poll, Eden-Monaro wash-up

Poll respondents continue to rate incumbents generously in their response to COVID-19; an ACT poll points to a status quo result at the election there in October; and the preference distribution is finalised from the Eden-Monaro by-election.

The Guardian reports the latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes its monthly leadership ratings, showing further improvement in Scott Morrison’s standing. He is up three points on approval to 66% and down four on disapproval to 23%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively steady at 44% and up two to 30%, and his lead as preferred prime minister is at 52-22, out from 50-27.

The small-sample breakdowns on state government performance finds the Victorian government still holding up reasonably well, with 49% rating it good (down four on a week ago, but well down on a 75% peak in mid-June), while the New South Wales government’s good rating is down a point to 61% and Queensland’s up a point to 68%. Results for the federal goverment are not provided, but will presumably be in the full report when it is published later today.

Fifty per cent now rate themselves very concerned about COVID-19, which is up seven points on a fortnight ago and has been progressively rising from a low of 25% in mid-June. Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they would seek a vaccine straight away, 35% less immediately and 8% not at all. Twenty per cent believed that “hydroxychloroquine has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment”.

UPDATE: Full report here. The federal government’s good rating on handling COVID-19 is down a point to 63%, and its poor rating is steady at 16%.

Other news:

• We had a rare opinion poll for the Australian Capital Territory, which holds its election on October 17, conducted by uComms for the Australia Institute. It offered no indication that the Liberals are about to break free of their status as a permanent opposition, with Labor on 37.6%, Liberal on 38.2% and the Greens on 14.6%, compared with 2016 election results of 38.4%, 36.7% and 10.3%. This would almost certainly result in a continuation of the present state of affairs in which the Greens hold the balance of the power. The poll also found overwhelming support for “truth in political advertising” laws, with 88.5% supportive and 4.9% opposed. The poll was conducted on July 20 from a sample of 1049.

• The preference distribution from the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election has been published, offering some insight into how much Labor’s narrow victory was owed to a Shooters Fishers and Farmers preference recommendation and a higher than usual rate of leakage from the Nationals. The former was likely decisive: when Shooters were excluded at the final count, 5341 (56.61%) went to Labor and 4093 (43.39%) went to Liberal, which includes 5066 first preference Shooters votes and another 4368 they picked up during the preference distribution (including 1222 from the Nationals). When the Nationals were excluded earlier in the count, 4399 votes (63.76%) went to the Liberals, the aforementioned 1222 (17.71%) to Shooters, 995 (14.42%) to Labor and 283 (4.10%) to the Greens. This includes 6052 first preference votes for the Nationals and another 847 they picked up as preferences earlier in the distribution. That would be consistent with maybe 20% of Nationals votes ending up with Labor compared with 13% at the 2019 election, which would not quite account for Labor’s winning margin. At some point in the future, two-candidate preferred preference flow figures will tell us precisely how each candidate’s votes split between Labor and Liberal.

Various stuff that’s happening

Sarah Henderson reportedly struggling in her Senate preselection comeback bid, plus yet more on the great pollster failure, and other things besides.

Newspoll’s no-show this week suggests last fortnight’s poll may not have portended a return to the familiar schedule. Amid a general post-election psephological malaise, there is at least the following to relate:

• The great pollster failure was the subject of a two-parter by Bernard Keane in Crikey yesterday, one part examining the methodological nuts and bolts, the other the influence of polling on journalism and political culture.

Richard Willingham of the ABC reports former Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson is having a harder-than-expected time securing Liberal preselection to replace Mitch Fifield in the Senate, despite backing from Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Michael Kroger. According to the report, some of Henderson’s backers concede that Greg Mirabella, former state party vice-president and the husband of Sophie Mirabella, may have the edge.

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has invited submissions for its regular inquiry into the 2019 election, which will be accepted until Friday, September 2019. Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath continues to chair the committee, which consists of five Coalition, two Labor and one Greens member.

Daniella White of the Canberra Times reports Labor is struggling to find candidates for next October’s Australian Capital Territory election, said by “some insiders” to reflect pessimism about the government’s chances of extending its reign to a sixth term.

• The Federation Press has published a second edition of the most heavily thumbed tome in my psephological library, Graeme Orr’s The Law of Politics: Election, Parties and Money in Australia. A good deal of water has passed under the bridge since the first edition in 2010, most notably in relation to Section 44, which now accounts for the better part of half a chapter.

Australian Capital Territory election finalised

Final scores: Labor 12, Liberal 11, Greens two; women 13, men 12.

The Australian Capital Territory election count was resolved today, producing a final result of 12 seats for Labor, 11 for Liberal and two for the Greens, confirming Labor’s re-election with Greens support. In the two close races, Labor won the final seat in Ginninderra at the expense of the Greens, for a result of Labor three, Liberal two, and the Greens edged out the Liberals in Murrumbidgee, for a result of Labor two, Liberal two, Greens one. Thirteen of the 15 elected members are women, which is presumably some sort of first.

Brindabella. This was the one result that was entirely clear on election night, with three of the seats going to Liberals (Andrew Wall, Mark Parton and Nicole Lawder) and two to Labor (Mick Gentleman and Joy Burch).

Ginninderra. The last seat was down to a third Labor candidate and the Greens, with the former prevailing. In the race for the last two seats, Indra Esguerra of the Greens dropped out with 6129 votes to 6851 and 6830 for Labor’s Gordon Ramsay and Tara Cheyne. Of the two Labor incumbents, Yvette Berry was comfortably re-elected at the point where only three Labor candidates remained, while Chris Bourke was defeated. Incumbent Vicki Dunne was the first Liberal elected, and newcomer Elizabeth Kikkert the second, edging out party colleague Paul Sweeney by 5587 to 5272 at the relevant point of the count.

Kurrajong. It was always clear the result here would be two each for Labor and Liberal, plus one for the Greens. For Labor, Chief Minister Andrew Barr was elected on the primary vote, and the race for the second position eventually went to Rachel Stephen-Smith, who finished clear of Josh Ceramidas by 7699 votes to 5165. For the Liberals, newcomer Elizabeth Lee was first elected, with incumbent Steve Doszpot managing to edge out newcomer Candice Burch by 5823 to 4920. Greens leader Shane Rattenbury was the second candidate elected after Barr.

Murrumbidgee. Caroline Le Couteur joins Shane Rattenbury as a second Greens member after prevailing over a third Liberal. Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson was elected on the primary vote, while Bec Cody and Chris Steel emerged the winners of a fairly even race between the five non-incumbent Labor candidates. The last two seats came down to Le Couteur and two Liberals, incumbent Giulia Jones and newcomer Peter Hosking, in which Hosking dropped out with 6762 votes to Le Couteur’s 7571.

Yerrabi. This was always going to be three Labor, two Liberal. Labor’s elected candidates were incumbent Meegan Fitzharris, followed by Michael Pettersson and then Suzanne Orr, the latter finishing ahead of incumbent Jayson Hinder 5141 to 4471. For the Liberals, deputy leader Alistair Coe was first elected, followed by James Milligan.