Essential Research, territory seat entitlements, Groom wash-up

The federal government continues to be rated highly for its COVID-19 response, as a plan to save the Northern Territory’s second seat proves to have a sting in the tail for the ACT.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll finds 67% rating the federal government’s COVID-19 response as good, unchanged on a fortnight ago, with the poor rating down two to 13% – its strongest net result in this regular series since June. The small sample state breakdowns find the South Australian government’s positive rating down six to 70%, which I believe is the lowest it has yet recorded, although it might not pay to read too much into that given the near double-digit margin of error. The results for the other four mainland state are all up by one point: to 76% for New South Wales, 60% for Victoria, 72% for Queensland and 83% for Western Australia.

Respondents were also asked about their level of interest in various news stories: 69% said they were closely following the COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia, against 31% for not closely; 66% likewise for COVID-19 vaccine trials, and 34% for not closely; 56% closely for Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his election defeat, with 44% for not closely; and 53% closely for war crimes allegations against Australian soliders, against 47% for not closely. The poll also found 37% felt the government spent too much on foreign aid, down four points since 2017, with spends too little steady on 16% and the right amount up four to 23%. Also featured was a series of detailed questions on climate change and coal-fired power plants, which you can read all about in the full report. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Monday from a sample of 1034.

In other news, Antony Green peruses the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ report recommending action to preserve the Northern Territory’s second House of Representatives seat, which otherwise stands to be lost based on the territory’s share of the national population. Significantly, he notes that the proposed removal of an existing tweak to the calculation that was added to help the Northern Territory get over the line back in 2004 now stands to cost the Australian Capital Territory the third seat it gained at the last election – perhaps explaining why the government has been so sanguine about preserving Labor-held seats in the Northern Territory.

The change in 2004 made use of the margin of error the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides for its population estimates for the territories, requiring that the figure at the top end of the range be used in making the determination. Whereas the most recent determination credited the ACT with 2.55 quotas, rounding up to three seats, it would have only have been 2.48 if the ABS’s straightforward estimate had been used. There is no suggestion of changing the existing determination to cost the ACT its third seat at the next election, but a significant growth in population would be needed if the third seat was to be preserved at the next election after.

Antony Green’s submission to the inquiry suggested that, in addition to giving the territories a minimum of two seats, the calculation be made not on the basis of the garden variety arithmetic mean, but on the harmonic mean, which would be less prone to rounding down for the territories and smaller states. This method has the virtue of producing “an allocation of seats with a population per member closer to the national quota than the arithmetic mean”. The committee – apparently including the four Labor and one Greens members as well as the five from the government, since there was no dissenting report – acknowledged the logic of this but cited “problems with the potential for public acceptance”

Mention should also be made of Saturday’s by-election in the regional Queensland seat of Groom, which did nothing to alter its complexion as a safe seat for the Coalition. The LNP candidate, Garth Hamilton, currently has 66.9% of the two-party preferred vote with only a handful of votes outstanding, representing a 3.6% swing to Labor Œ more or less the same size of the swing in the Longman by-election that did for Malcolm Turnbull in 2018, though on that occasion his critics could point to a 9.4% drop in the LNP vote as One Nation surged to 15.9%. The One Nation factor went untested on this occasion, since the party did not field a candidate, although the party’s performance in the recent state election suggested they would only have done a limited amount of damage.

Of perhaps more note than the result is the pattern of turnout in the second by-election held during COVID-19 (the first being in Eden-Monaro only July 4): election day turnout was down 21.3%, from 53,943 to 42,490; pre-poll voting centres were up 0.8% from 25,169 to 25,380; and there have so far been 11,966 postal votes counted, compared with 14,108 at the 2019 election. Voter fraud fans may care to note that the LNP did better on election day votes (a 2.7% swing to Labor) than pre-poll votes (a 4.0% swing) and, especially, postal votes (a 7.3% swing).

Groom by-election live

Projected LNP swing Projected 2PP LNP win probability

9.25pm. All pre-poll voting centres as well as election day booths are now in on both primary and two-party, which I presume is all we’re getting this evening. Labor has a 2.8% swing on election day votes, a 4.0% on pre-polls and 3.1% overall.

8.27pm. The South Toowoomba and West Toowoomba pre-poll centres have reported primary votes, and while the former has swung pretty heavily to Labor, the latter was slightly stronger for the LNP than the election day result.

7.43pm. Apart from one straggler on the two-party vote, all election day results are in now. There were 42,483 votes cast at election day booths, compared with 53,943 at the 2019 election.

7.09pm. My coverage is petering out because the booths coming in are merely confirming what was already known. There won’t really be anything worth commenting in until the pre-poll voting centres report, which presumably won’t be for a few hours.

6.51pm. Very quick count with only four candidates: nearly half the booths in on the primary vote already. Swing looks like about 3%, unless there’s a different dynamic on pre-polls, which the LNP would be pretty pleased with after the 5.2% swing in their favour at the 2019 election.

6.48pm. Of the two minor parties, Sustainable Australia is handsomely outpolling the Liberal Democrats. The former have the donkey vote, but the latter have the “Liberal” confusion factor.

6.46pm. Not so sure about that Toowoomba/rural divide now: apart from the 10.2% swing to Labor in the Toowoomba booth of Harristown West, the swings to Labor in Toowoomba booths are modest.

6.44pm. The two-party swing to Labor is settling in at around 4%, and the gap between the reported two-party result and my projection (which makes use of booth results that have only reported the primary vote so far) is narrowing.

6.37pm. Could be seeing a pattern here of a swing to Labor in Toowoomba but not the rural booths.

6.35pm. Some better results for Labor coming through on two-candidate preferred, including a double-digit swing in the Toowoomba booth of Harristown West. Now projecting a 4.6% two-party swing to Labor.

6.31pm. And let it be noted that it’s already got the LNP win probability at 100%.

6.30pm. Three election day booths now in on two-party preferred, which means by two-party projection is no longer going off estimated preference flows. I’m projecting essentially no two-party swing: there’s a slight two-party swing to the LNP just off the two-candidate preferred count, but that doesn’t make use of booths where there are primary votes in but not yet a TCP count.

6.28pm. Five election day booths now in on the primary vote and a small pre-poll booth in as well, the latter with two-party in as well. It actually records a small two-party swing to Labor, which could suggest my preference estimates are a little too favourable to the LNP, although we’re only talking 103 votes here.

6.24pm. The display error is now corrected, although it may take a hard refresh to get it working. Four booths now in on the primary and it’s still looking like a good result for the LNP, with a double-digit swing on the primary vote.

6.21pm. The display above is stuck on 50% for the win probability, which I’ll look into — the results page has it at 87%.

6.19pm. We have 126 formal votes in from Bowenville, and both parties are up on the primary vote with a much smaller field of candidates, though the LNP particularly so, resulting in the projection of a small two-party swing to the LNP. Until we get a non-trivial two-party count, this assumes the LNP is receiving 75% of Liberal Democrats preferences and Sustainable Australia are going 50-50, based on a rough approximation of their historical form.

6pm. Polls have closed. Note that my results display shows daylight savings time, i.e. New South Wales and Victoria rather than Queensland, which is the AEC’s doing rather than mine. Expect to see results from small rural booths start to come in in about 20 minutes or so.

5.50pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Groom by-election. The display featured above is a small sample of what will be available tonight on this site’s results facility. The top half of the display features progress vote totals and booth-matched swings, including a New York Times-style “election needle” recording a probability estimate of the final result. This is based on a projection of two-party preferred that combines estimates of the final primary vote shares and preference flows. The latter is the subject of its own table, which will show how minor party and independent preferences are flowing based on the latest two-party count, and how this compares with the corresponding results from the 2019 election. The bottom half features the clearest and neatest display of the booth results you will find, in the form of a table in which you can toggle between vote totals, percentages and swings. Also featured are separate sub-totals for ordinary election day polling booths and pre-poll voting centres, with swings to match — an increasingly important distinction on election night, when the latter come in quite a bit later than the former and don’t always behave the same way.

Groom by-election minus two days

Two days out, a guide for Saturday’s federal election in the safe LNP seat of Groom in Queensland.

The campaign hasn’t exactly been a barbecue stopper, but we’re two days out from the significant event of a federal by-election. This is to be held in Groom, which is centred upon Toowoomba in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, and will result in the election of a replacement for John McVeigh, who has held the seat for the Liberal National Party since 2016. McVeigh’s winning margin in 2019 was 20.5%, which you would normally think would mean Labor would sit the by-election out, but they have in fact done the election-watching community a solid by fielding a candidate. That’s more than can be said for One Nation and the Greens, with the by-election having attracted a meagre field of four candidates, the other two being from the Liberal Democrats and Sustainable Australia.

While an LNP victory is surely a foregone conclusion, the size of the swing will serve as a real world measure of how well the Morrison government is travelling, a particularly notable fact in these days of skepticism about opinion polls. It is also convenient that it will do so in Queensland, which has so often been the crucible of federal elections over the course of the present century, and which recently delivered Labor a morale-boosting win at state level. For more detail, I now have a complete guide to the by-election in business, and will be doing my live results reporting thing as the numbers come in on Saturday evening.

Victorian poll, Queensland election, Groom by-election

A good poll result from Labor in Victoria, an even better election result for Labor in Queensland, and only four candidates come forward for the Groom by-election.

The Herald-Sun reported on Monday on a “privately conducted” Victorian state poll by YouGov that showed Labor maintaining a commanding 55-45 lead on two-party preferred, from primary votes of Labor 44%, Coalition 40% and Greens 11%. This compares with 57.3-42.7 at Labor’s landslide win in 2018, when the primary votes were Labor 42.9%, Coalition 35.2% and Greens 10.7%. Personal ratings are good for Daniel Andrews (65% approval and 32% disapproval) and disastrous for Liberal leader Michael O’Brien (26% approval and 53% disapproval).

The poll nonetheless found that 55% thought it fair to hold Daniel Andrews responsible for the second COVID-19 wave, compared with 40% for not fair. Fifty per cent believed Andrews had been honest and transparent about the hotel quarantine failure against 43% for not honest and transparent; 53% said Victoria was heading in the right direction versus 39% who said it is “time for change”. The poll was conducted from October 29 to November from a sample of 1241.

UPDATE: Now a Roy Morgan poll gives Labor a lead of 58.5-41.5, up from 51.5-48.5 a month ago, from primary votes of Labor 45% (up five), Coalition 34.5% (down 5.5) and Greens 11% (up two). Daniel Andrews’ approval rating split is out from 59-41 to 71-29. The poll was conducted by SMS on Monday and Tuesday from a sample of 818.

In real election news, the Electoral Commission of Queensland has been completing preference distributions for the October 31 state election, and while the numbers haven’t been officially published, Antony Green relates that luck has favoured Labor in the final preference distributions in Bundaberg and Nicklin. These seats have been gained from the LNP with respective margins of 11 and 79 votes, pending LNP requests for recounts.

Confirmation of these results would leave Labor with 52 seats in a parliament of 93, a net gain of four compared with the 2017 result. South Brisbane was lost to the Greens (6.0% margin, 9.5% swing), while five were gained from the LNP Bundaberg (by a 0.0% margin with a 4.2% swing), Nicklin (a 0.1% margin and a 5.4% swing), Caloundra (a 2.5% margin and a 5.9% swing), Hervey Bay (a 2.2% margin and an 11.3% swing) and Pumicestone (a 5.1% margin and a 6.0% swing). These are Labor’s first ever wins in Nicklin and Caloundra, both of which are on the Sunshine Coast.

The LNP is duly reduced from 38 seats to 33, unless you count their recovery of Whitsunday after its previous member was expelled from the party mid-term. Their one piece of good news from late counting was that they managed to retain the Gold Coast seat of Currumbin by 310 votes, a 0.3% margin against a swing to Labor of 3.0% (David Crisafulli will be chosen as the party’s new leader unopposed at a party room meeting today). South Brisbane increases the Greens from one to two, with the party having easily its 2017 gain of Maiwar from the LNP, while Katter’s Australian Party and One Nation achieved status quo results of three seats and one respectively, as did independents with Sandy Bolton comfortably retaining Noosa.

Official results are naturally available from the ECQ; the numbers on my live results facility are emphatically not official, in that I have preserved them as they were a week ago before the ECQ removed the indicative two-candidate preferred counts. This means both the booth-level two-candidate preferred results and preference flow by candidate breakdowns are preserved, albeit in not entirely complete form.

Finally, while the attention of most of us has been firmly elsewhere, the process for the November 28 Groom by-election has continued chugging along, with nominations having been declared last Friday. The by-election has attracted a remarkably thin field of four candidates, which somewhat to my surprise includes one from Labor: Chris Meibusch, a community lawyer and unsuccessful candidate for the Toowoomba mayoralty in March. The preselection of LNP candidate Garth Hamilton was related here. The other two candidates are from the Liberal Democrats and Sustainable Australia – as well as there being no One Nation presence, this must be the first time a while that the Greens have left a federal contest uncontested.

Ipsos state polling and Groom preselection

The LNP settles on a candidate for the Groom by-election, as what doesn’t kill Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews only makes them stronger.

Ipsos has made its first entry into the Australian polling game since the 2019 election (at which it was probably the best performer of the lot, at least to the extent that it was the only one to accurately read the Labor primary vote), courtesy of New South Wales and Victorian state polls for Nine Newspapers. Unhappily though, neither features results on voting intention, though the question was clearly asked because responses are broken down by party support. In turn:

• Further evidence that Gladys Berejiklian’s travails have harmed her not at all in the view of the public, with the poll in the Sydney Morning Herald showing her with 64% approval and 16% disapproval. This compares with 22% approval and 25% disapproval for Labor’s Jodi McKay, who evidently remains a largely unknown quantity, with Berejiklian leading McKay 58-19 as preferred premier. Interestingly and unusually, opinion was also gauged on all-too-high-profile Nationals leader John Barilaro, who recorded 18% approval and 35% disapproval. Thirty-six per cent believed Berejiklian knew either a great deal or a fair amount about Daryl Maguire’s “alleged corrupt activitity”, with the same amount thinking she knew “not very much”, and 11% of trusting souls that she knew nothing at all. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Friday by phone (which I believe means live interviews, based on Ipsos’s past form) from a sample of 863.

• In Victoria, and courtesy of The Age, Ipsos records 52% approval for Daniel Andrews and 33% disapproval. Still more strikingly, Liberal leader Michael O’Brien records what may prove to be terminal ratings of 15% approval and 39% disapproval, with Andrews leading scarcely less handily than Berejiklian as preferred premier at 53-18. The poll also records 49% satisfaction and 40% dissatisfaction with the state government’s handling of the pandemic, compared with 16% and 44% for the state opposition (not featured, but probably related: opinion on the response of the news media). The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, has 57% approval and 20% disapproval. The poll also finds 50% attribute responsibility for the state’s outbreak to the state government hotel quarantine program and 40% to individuals not taking the risk seriously enough, and 72% support for compulsory mask wearing, 61% for bans on regional travel and 56% for the newly relaxed 25 kilometre travel restriction. This poll was conducted Monday to Wednesday and has a sample of 858; oddly, this one was conducted online rather than by phone.

In other news, the Queensland Liberal National Party’s preselection for the November 28 federal by-election in Groom, which was the subject of my previous post on federal matters, was won by mining engineer Garth Hamilton. Party hardheads are presumably relieved that arch-conservative David van Gend was headed off in the final round of the count, by what the Toowoomba Chronicle reports was a “very close” result, although Hamilton too is seen as part of the right. Van Gend led after leading in the first round thanks to “an automatic 100 votes from the Christian lobby”, according to an LNP source quoted by the Chronicle, from a total of 290 attendees. Support then consolidated behind Hamilton with the elimination in turn of Daniel Cassidy, Andrew Meara, Sara Hales, Rebecca Vonhoff and Bryce Camm.

Two polls and a by-election date

Daniel Andrews continues to keep his head above water, despite waning patience with Victoria’s lockdown measures.

Opinion poll and by-election developments:

• Roy Morgan has published another of its SMS polls from Victoria, which records little change on state voting intention from a fortnight ago: Labor leads 51.5-48.5 on two-party preferred, as they did last time, from primary votes of Labor 40% (up one), Coalition 36% (down one) and Greens 9% (down one). Daniel Andrews records a 59-41 approval/disapproval split, in from 61-39 last time. However, support for existing lockdown measures is fast dissipating: there is now a 73-27 split in favour of allowing visits to immediate family members (out from 59-41 last time and 55-45 three weeks previously); 62-38 in favour of allowing table service (56-44 in favour last time and 63-37 against the time before); and 72-28 in favour of relaxing the five kilometre rule (61-39 in favour last time, 50-50 the time before). The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday from a sample of 899 for voting intention and 1163 for the lockdown questions.

• The Australian had results from a further question on the weekend’s Newspoll yesterday, which found 54% were more concerned about moving too quickly to relax lockdowns and restrictions, down two from mid-September, and 43% were more concerned about moving too slowly at the expense of the economy, jobs and mental wellbeing (up four).

• The date for the Groom by-election has been set at November 28.

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.

Eden-Monaro by-election live

Live commentary on the counting for the Eden-Monaro by-election.

Projected ALP swing Projected 2PP ALP win probability

Thursday evening

As the Liberals conceded defeat today, the count slipped still further away from them, mostly on account of a recheck of the Tumut pre-poll booth showing up a fairly substantial error, the correction of which caused Labor to gain 80 votes and the Liberals lose 94. A further batch of provisionals went 32-24 to Labor, and Labor even won today’s postals by 313-310. That leaves Labor’s lead at 907, out from 719, and increases their margin to 0.5%.

Wednesday evening

Fiona Kotvojs had her best day on postals yet, breaking 447-354 her way, with a larger number processed than yesterday for some reason. Other than that, rechecking cost Labor a net seven votes and Liberal zero, and provisional votes were added to the count – 759 of these were rejected, the remainder breaking 61-56 to Labor. There are still 90 envelopes listed as awaiting processing, of which a small handful will presumably be added eventually. Other than that are maybe 1000 more postals that will trickle in over the next week, along with a couple of hundred declaration pre-polls. None of which gives Kotvojs room to chase down a Labor lead that now stands at 719, down from 814 yesterday.

Tuesday evening

Rechecking was again to the Liberals’ disadvantage today, costing them 189 votes compared with 105 for Labor. That more than cancelled out their gain from the 263-217 split on the rapidly diminishing postal vote count. The blind and low vision facility also reported its five votes today, which was technically the last outstanding polling booth. That leaves Labor’s lead up from 775 to 814; my model and projection continue to assume there are around 2000 postals still to come together with 600 to 700 declaration pre-polls and provisional votes, but the rate of decline in the numbers of postals being added with each day of counting suggests the former figure is inflated.

Monday evening

Today’s batch of 1157 postal votes behaved similarly to the previously counted 10,364 in breaking 608-549 in favour of the Liberals, amounting to in an inadequate 59-vote dent in the Labor lead. The Liberals also got the worst of today’s polling booth and pre-poll re-checking, which cost them 194 votes and Labor 97, thereby extending Labor’s lead by 97 votes. Taken together, Labor’s lead increased from 737 to 775. Rosie Lewis of The Australian reports Liberal sources saying Shooters preferences split around 50-50 and the Nationals around 80-20. The latter was not so radically different from the 87-13 split at the 2019 election, but with so close a result it was enough to be decisive. If you’re a Crikey subscriber, you can read my post-match account here.

Sunday evening

Developments earlier today required Labor to put the champagne on ice, and not just because of curious determination from parts of the Murdoch empire to call the result for the Liberals. The AEC’s efforts were spent on rechecking and formally processing the available postal votes, the latter of which was the subject of an informal advisory last night that Labor had 2394 and Liberal 2464 on the progress two-party count. This was a surprisingly strong result for Labor, notwithstanding the qualifications in the section immediately below, and appeared to put the issue beyond doubt. But for whatever reason, the result was not borne out with today’s progressive addition of postals in four batches, totalling 9207 votes altogether, with Labor receiving 46.3% rather than the initially reported 49.3%.

This is still 3.1% better than Labor did on postals last year, but the uncovering of a further error on rechecking means it’s not quite enough to definitively slam the door shut. This related to the two-party result from the Merimbula pre-poll booth, the correction of which cut a further 310 votes from the Labor margin. So whereas Labor had a 1718 vote lead on the raw count when the Narooma pre-poll finally reported its two-party result early this morning, it’s now down to 737, altbeit with a lot fewer votes left to come. The projections featured in the bottom rows of my full results display are now working on the basis that 3651 postals will be added in diminishing increments over the next fortnight, of which Fiona Kotvojs will need around 60%. There are also around 700 provisionals and declaration pre-polls to come, although they are more likely to give Labor a slight boost.

It is presumably on the basis of such calculations that Kristy McBain claimed victory this afternoon, with Labor sources quoted saying they were now “100% confident”. My own model only goes so far as 88.0%, down from its 96.5% peak late last night. All will be revealed over the coming days, and the Poll Bludger results page will be there to reveal it, providing near-instantaneous updates of the results and projections as the latest data comes through from the AEC.

Sunday morning

UPDATE AT 8:30am: The Narooma pre-poll two-party result is in, and proved less helpful to the Liberals than suggested below, breaking 1697-1632 their way.

The count ended last night with Labor leading by 1685 on the AEC’s official count, which did not include a two-party tally of postal votes it published showing 2464 going to Liberal and 2394 to Labor, reducing the lead to 1563. Only primary votes have been published from the Narooma pre-poll voting centre, which should reduce the Labor lead by another 200 to 250 votes when it reports its two-party result. Beyond that there should be another 8000 postals along with 700 votes’ worth of scraps, the latter of which should if anything favour Labor a little. That leaves the Liberals needing around 60% of the outstanding postals to win, an unforeseaable reversal on the progress of the postal count so far.

My results display has now moved into late counting phase, during which it attempts to project results for the outstanding votes, notwithstanding that the actual number of the latter is not precisely known. This shows up as three new rows at the bottom of the booth results table showing projections for provisionals, declaration pre-polls and postals. The first two are based on swing differentials from the election, while the latter assumes the outstanding postal votes will behave the same as those already counted, as they more or less did in Eden-Monaro through the 2019 election count. All of this adds up to a projected Labor margin of 1566, although as noted it doesn’t include the Narooma pre-poll which I expect will shave it back to around 1300.

Note that the aforementioned two-party postal count has been added to these results, but it won’t show up in the AEC results until the morning. This is a little messy on my end as it means there are more than two-party than primary votes in the system, which is not how things are supposed to work. Hopefully the AEC’s update will include the primary votes, and my system will be able to handle the transition back to normality when it does (since I won’t be awake for it).

Some further observations on the result:

• I said ad nauseam through the evening that projections might be thrown out by a surprise on postals, surprise in this case meaning a swing substantially different from the ordinary votes. In retrospect though, it stands to reason that a COVID-19 driven increase in postal voting should make the postal voter base more representative, and thus less conservative. AEC figures also show that Labor’s postal vote campaign also elicited 4447 applications compared with the Liberals’ 2908. In any case, the Liberals’ 50.8% two-party share of the postals counted thus far compares with 57.1% at the federal election, which compares with a picture of near-perfect stability on the two-party vote in polling booths (a 0.1% swing to Liberal) and pre-polls (what I’m projecting to be a 0.2% Liberal swing when the one straggler booth reports its two-party result).

• The outstanding fact of the result is that Labor achieved it with a stronger flow of preferences than last time, from roughly 50-50 overall to 57-43 (inclusive of preferences from the Nationals as well as minor parties and independents). This was despite the minor party preference pool being seemingly more conservative than last time: Shooters polled 5.4% after not contesting last time without costing the Nationals, while on the left, the Greens’ drop was cancelled out by gains for HEMP and the Science Party. It will be very interesting to see how much of Labor’s surprisingly strong preference flow was down to the Shooters, who directed preferences to Labor, and John Barilaro, who was accused of encouraging Nationals voters to do the same. We will get some idea when the full preference distribution is conducted in about a week, and a more exact one when the preference flow figures are published further down the track.

• The Liberal line on the result is that Labor’s 3.0% drop on the primary vote is disastrous for Anthony Albanese, since by-election swings to oppositions are par for the course in non-disastrous contexts. But as Peter Brent has calculated, there is actually very little historic tendency for oppositions to pick up swings in their own seats at by-elections, when they are suffering from the loss of the incumbent’s personal vote and, in most cases, an element of resentment that the member resigned. There is also the highly salient fact that there were eight candidates at the election and fourteen at the by-election, such that the Labor vote last year included a cohort who would have voted for Shooters or HEMP if given the chance. Nonetheless, the swing comes off an already low base and the result can’t be described as any better than mediocre for Labor.

Election night commentary

Continue reading “Eden-Monaro by-election live”