Victorian federal redistribution finalised

Finalised federal boundaries for Victoria affect the delicate between Labor, Liberal and Greens in two inner urban seats. Later today: new draft boundaries for Victoria’s state electorates.

In a remarkable display of synchronicity, yesterday saw the announcement of finalised new federal electoral boundaries for Victoria, which will be followed today by the publication of draft new boundaries for Victorian state boundaries, the result of an entirely separate process. While the former release is limited to written descriptions of the changes that have been made to the draft that was published in March, with maps and geospatial data not to be published until July 28, I have taken the effort to conduct a full analysis of the final boundaries, which you can read about below. I hope to be able to provide an analysis of the state boundaries later (probably much later) today.

The federal redistribution gives effect to an increase in Victoria’s representation from 38 House of Representatives seats to 39, at the expense of Western Australia, which is down from 16 to 15 and has accordingly undergone its own redistribution which was finalised a fortnight ago. The final boundaries in Victoria make changes to the draft boundaries affecting 20 electorates, by far the most significant of which is the abandonment of a major adjustment that was proposed for the boundary between Macnamara and Higgins in Melbourne’s inner south, an area of particular interest to the Greens.

N.B.: I am a little confused by the assertion of the AEC release that a remnant of the change remains in that most of Windsor has been transferred to Higgins, as it seems to me that both draft and final boundaries have this suburb remaining entirely in Macnamara. This analysis proceeds on the assumption that this statement is in error, but I may well be missing something. Ben Raue’s maps of the draft boundaries at The Tally Room are instructive here. (UPDATE: This has finally penetrated my skull — Windsor will indeed be transferred to Higgins, with effects that do little to disturb my overall analysis. The spreadsheet linked to at the bottom of the post has been revised to reflect this).

The practical upshot of the reversal is that the Greens are now less likely to take Macnamara from Labor, but the chances of them rather than Labor taking Higgins from the Liberals has increased, without much affecting the Liberals’ overall chances of losing the seat. The draft proposed a straight north-south boundary along Williams Road, resulting in Macnamara gaining territory around South Yarra at the northern end, while an area around Caulfield in the south was to go the other way. This would have boosted the Greens in Macnamara by around 2% from their 24.2% at the 2019 election, drawing in roughly equal measure from the Liberal and Labor vote. Just a few days ago, this prospect had the Greens talking up their chances of taking the seat from Josh Burns, who retained it for Labor when Michael Danby retired in 2019.

Macnamara, which was known prior to the 2019 election as Melbourne Ports, has been in Labor hands since 1906, but has lately evolved into a tight three-way contest involving the Liberals, who came within 2.2% of winning the seat in 2016, and the Greens, who would almost certainly win if they were able to reduce Labor to third place. This they fell 5.8% short of doing so in 2019, when they were excluded at the second-last count with 27.33% of the vote to Labor’s 33.2%. Greens preferences then flowed heavily enough to Labor to secure a comfortable 6.2% margin for Josh Burns, despite the Liberals outpolling him by 37.4% to 31.8% on the primary vote. The changes proposed by the draft boundary would have brought the Greens’ shortfall to around 3%, in a seat where their primary vote had steadily escalated from 15.0% to 24.2% since 2007.

However, the Greens’ gain in Macnamara would have been balanced by a weakening in Higgins, which on my analysis would have cut their primary vote by 1.6% while boosting Liberal and Labor by 0.7% each. Higgins has also developed into a three-cornered contest in recent years, a particularly notable fact in a seat that the Liberals have held since its creation in 1949, with members including John Gorton and Peter Costello. The Greens came closer to taking second place in Higgins in 2019 than they did in Macnamara, being excluded from the count with 24.3% to Labor’s 26.2%. However, the Liberals only fell just short of a majority at this point with 49.5%, and would have picked up enough stray preferences after the final exclusion to have retained the seat in any case.

Preference flows in Melbourne’s inner urban seats in 2019 suggest the Liberals would be slightly more likely to lose Higgins if Labor rather than the Greens made the final count, since flows from the Greens to Labor were slightly stronger than vice-versa — particularly in Macnamara, where Greens preferences split 87.5-12.5. However, the distinction seems to blur in areas where the Liberal vote is stronger, with Greens preferences in Higgins splitting 83.4-16.6, which was equal to how Labor preferences split between the Greens and the Liberals after they finished third in Kooyong.

The only other change to the finalised boundaries that might potentially have a bearing on the election result involves Chisholm, Higgins’ eastern neighbour, which Gladys Liu retained for the Liberals in 2019 by 0.6% after a 2.3% swing to Labor. The seat will be reoriented southwards with the redistribution, which by my reckoning added 0.2% to the Liberal margin on the draft boundaries — although Antony Green’s calculation was that it had in fact gone 0.4% the other way. My assessment is that the minor adjustments made in the final boundaries boost the Liberals by a further 0.3%.

You can find my party vote share estimates for the new boundaries, together with detailed accounting of how they were arrived at, here for Victoria and here for the Western Australian redistribution.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor

Labor edges back into the lead on two-party preferred, but very little change overall from the latest Newspoll.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has Labor returning to a 51-49 lead on two-party preferred after a tied result last time, from primary votes of Coalition 41% (steady), Labor 37% (up one), Greens 11% (steady) and One Nation 3% (steady). Changes on leadership ratings are likewise very modest, with Scott Morrison up a point on approval to 55% and down two on disapproval to 41%, while Anthony Albanese is up two to 40% and down two to 45%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is barely changed at 53-33, compared with 53-32 last time. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1513.

UPDATE (29/6): The Australian has published further results from the poll relating to COVID-19, including a fourth go at the question of how the Prime Minister has handled the situation. This series records a pattern of decline since his debut result of 85% good and 14% poor in April last year, to a current showing of 61% good (down nine over the last two months) and 36% bad (up nine points). Satisfaction with the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout is down three to 50% compared with two months ago, with dissatisfied up three to 46%. A new question on whether Labor would have done better turns up a neutral result, with 25% saying better, 36% no difference and 27% worse.

Roy Morgan: 50.5-49.5 to Labor

Another pollster with another tight voting intention result, plus preselection latest from federal seats in Perth.

Roy Morgan has produced its second federal poll in a fortnight, and will hopefully make a regular habit of this going forward. The poll credits Labor with a bare lead of 50.5-49.5 (Morgan’s rounding being done to increments of half a percentage point), down from 51-49 last time. On the primary vote, the Coalition is up 1.5% to 41.5%, Labor is down half a point to 34.5%, the Greens are up half a point to 12% and One Nation is up half a point to 3.5%. State two-party breakdowns have the Coalition leading 51-49 in New South Wales, 56-44 in Queensland and 52-48 in Western Australia, but with Labor leading 55-45 in Victoria, 52-48 in South Australia and 57-43 in Tasmania.

The poll was conducted by telephone and online surveys over the previous two weekends from a sample of 2782. Since we will presumably be hearing more from Morgan in future, it’s worth pointing out that the company is not a member of the Australian Polling Council, and thus does not observe the standards of transparency demanded of its code of conduct.

Other news:

Peter Law of The West Australian reports that Labor’s candidate for the key Perth seat of Swan will be Zaneta Mascarenhas, an engineer who runs an energy management consultancy. This comes after the state party’s Left-dominated administration committee blocked the nomination of the only other contender, former South Perth councillor Fiona Reid, on the grounds she had run as an independent candidate at the 2017 state election, to the displeasure of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Mascarenhas is aligned with the Left faction Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. The West’s report also relates that Tania Lawrence, a manager at Woodside who ran unsuccessfully for Labor in Darling Range at a state by-election in 2018, is the party’s only nominee in the seat of Hasluck.

• Pollster John Utting has told The West Australian that his recent polling leads him to expect that Labor will win Swan and possibly Pearce. He also believes that Labor will “probably” win the election off the back of wins in Chisholm, Boothby, Longman and potentially Leichhardt, Braddon and Bass, although they could potentially lose Eden-Monaro and Macquarie. Utting has polled extensively for Labor and provided polling for The West Australian five months out from the March state election that had the measure of the eventual result.

Roxanne Fitzgerald of the ABC reports a complaint has been lodged with the Human Rights Commission accusing the Australian Electoral Commission of discrimination against indigenous voters, having failed to provide sufficient polling facilities to remote communities and directly enrol people who do not receive mail at a residential address. The complainants are Matthew Ryan, mayor of West Arnhem Regional Council, and Ross Mandi, chairman of Yalu Aboriginal Corporation in Galiwinku, with the support of the Maritime Union of Australia and the United Workers Union.

Essential Research and Redbridge Group Victorian poll

One pollster records nervous attitudes towards China, another a modest lead for the Labor government in Victoria.

The fortnightly Essential Research poll offers questions on foreign relations that include the finding that 51% believe Australia should become less close to China, down three points since December, with 24% believing relations should stay the same and only 12% believing they should get closer. By contrast, respondents were positive about relations with, in ascending order of enthusiasm, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Further questions record a surge for the influence of the United States since May last year and the intervening presidential election result.

An occasionally recurring question on climate change also found 56% believing it to be caused by human activity against 27% for normal fluctuation, suggesting a slight shift to skepticism since a few years ago. Forty-five per cent rate that Australia is not doing enough on climate change compared with 30% for enough and 12% for too much. Assessments on this question appear to have become more lenient since the onset of COVID-19, prior to which “not doing enough” was at upwards of 60%. A series of related questions record enthusiasm for renewable energy and a zero emissions target. The poll was conducted online from Wednesday to Sunday with a sample of 1087.

We also had a Victorian state poll yesterday in the Herald-Sun from Redbridge Group, which is run by former Labor operatives Simon Welsh and Kosmos Samaras. The primary votes are solidly better for the Coalition than last week’s Resolve Strategic poll in The Age, showing them with a lead of 41% to 37%, but Labor is nonetheless credited with a lead of 52.4-47.6 on two-party preferred, reflecting a Greens vote of 12% compared with Resolve Strategic’s 9%. These come with regional breakdowns that can be viewed here.

The poll also has a preferred premier question had Daniel Andrews at 42.4%, Michael O’Brien on 23.1% and neither on 28.2%; Andrews leads James Merlino 67.5% to 32.5% in a head-to-head question on preferred Labor leader, and O’Brien trails his predecessor Matthew Guy by 63-37. The poll was conducted June 12 to 15 from a sample of 1484.

Spillover effects

Another Nationals leadership spill may be brewing, amid growing discontent with low-key incumbent Michael McCormack.

A big but not necessarily good weekend for former and current Nationals leaders:

• Moves to topple Michael McCormack as Nationals leader could come to a boil at today’s party room meeting, which The Australian reports could see a spill or no-confidence motion being moved against him. Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud and Keith Pitt are all identified as potential successors, though presumably the latter is a long shot. The Australian reports Littleproud will not challenge McCormack directly, meaning he will only nominate if the motion passed is one of no confidence, which would exclude McCormack from contention. Samantha Maiden of News Corp says she “can count to ten votes” for Joyce, which is one fewer than he needs. A spill motion moved by Joyce’s backers in February last year was unsuccessful.

Andrew Clennell of Sky News reports former Nationals leader John Anderson has failed in his bid to return to politics, having lost a preselection vote for the New South Wales Senate ticket to former state party director Ross Cadell by a margin of 42 to 39.

On the other side of the fence:

• Labor’s national executive has endorsed former state party secretary Sam Rae as its candidate for the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe, after a process which had been delayed by a Supreme Court injunction and may yet be overruled should the court strike down the national executive takeover of the state party’s preselection process. The Herald-Sun reports that Rae won 18 votes against three for rival candidate Sarah Carter, a former mayor of Maribyrnong.

• Labor’s leadership selection process in Tasmania, which was determined half by party members and half by state conference delegates, has been won by David O’Byrne, a powerful figure in the Left faction. Adam Langenberg of the ABC reports O’Byrne easily defeated rival candidate Shane Broad with 72% of the votes from the ballot of more than 1200 party members and 75% of the state conference votes. A similar process in New South Wales did not proceed after Michael Daley withdrew from contention, leaving Chris Minns to be elected unopposed.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 40, Labor 36, Greens 10

Another poll finds Scott Morrison’s personal ratings on a downward trajectory, but still very little in it on voting intention.

The Age/Herald yesterday brought us the third result in its monthly federal polling series from Resolve Strategic, which had the Coalition on 40% (up one), Labor on 36% (up one), the Greens on 10% (down two) and One Nation on 3% (up one). This series doesn’t provide a published two-party result, but based on the last election this suggests a Labor lead of 50.5-49.5, down from around 51-49 last time. Scott Morrison has taken a hit on his personal ratings, down five on approval to 48% and up two on disapproval to 40%, while Anthony Albanese is down a point on both, to 31% and 44% respectively. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 46-23, unchanged in magnitude from 48-25 last time.

Full results from the poll, which was conducted last Tuesday to Saturday from a sample of 1600, can be viewed here. This includes the poll’s usual results for leader attributes and best party to handle various issues, as well as breakdowns for all major questions by region and gender. After last month’s poll unusually found Labor doing better in New South Wales than Victoria, this result reverts to normal. The pollster has also been up and down in its gender breakdowns, having found Labor doing better among women in the second poll a month ago, but little gender gap in the first poll and the third.

Morgan poll, redistribution and preselection latest

Roy Morgan concurs with Newspoll in finding little separating the major parties on two-party preferred.

It was a fairly busy week for federal polling by recent standards, with Newspoll, Essential and Morgan publishing results of one kind or another. We may or may not get the monthly federal Resolve Strategic poll from the Age/Herald next week, from which we are also past due for a result on state voting intention in Victoria.

• Roy Morgan this week published results from its regularly conducted but infrequently reported federal voting intention series, showing Labor with a 51-49 lead on two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 40%, Labor 35.5%, Greens 11.5% and One Nation 3%. Two-party breakdowns are provided at state level, showing Labor with leads of 50.5-49.5 in New South Wales and 53.5-46.5 in Victoria and the Coalition with leads of 53-47 in Queensland, 51-49 in Western Australia and 50.5-49.5 in South Australia. The poll was conducted over the previous two weekends from a sample of 2817.

• The federal redistribution for Western Australia has been finalised, although maps and accompanying data will not be published until August 2. For now we have a media release detailing the adjustments that have been made to the original draft published in March, which was covered here. The biggest of the six revisions is that the 3000 voters of the Shire of Waroona south of Perth will not now be transferred from Canning to Forrest, a fact of interest to the seats’ respective Liberal members but not to the nation at large. Revisions in Perth target areas that don’t currently have many residents but will do later, and the transfer of the Shire of Wiluna from Durack to O’Connor affects a lot of land but not many people. The finalised Victorian redistribution should be along fairly shortly.

The Age reports a Victorian Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday lifted the injunction on the process by which Labor’s national executive is preselecting federal election candidates in the state, bypassing the usual procedure which includes a vote of party members. However, national executive preselections may yet be invalidated if the court ultimately rules against the intervention. This effectively amounts to a battle over the new seat of Hawke, which appears set to go to former state party secretary Sam Rae if the matter is left to the national executive. Rae’s principal backer is federal MP Richard Marles, who is struggling for dominance over the Victorian Right with rival powerbroker Bill Shorten, an opponent of the intervention.

• Emma Dawson, executive director at the Per Capita think tank, appears set to win Labor preselection to take on Greens MP Adam Bandt in Melbourne. The Age reports Dawson’s backers include “academic Janet McCalman, prominent employment lawyer Josh Bornstein, Rhodes Scholar and venture capitalist Josh Funder, and former deputy prime minister Brian Howe”.

Essential Research: leadership ratings and COVID management

Downward trends continue for federal leaders’ ratings and perceptions of COVID-19 management at both federal and state level.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which finds Scott Morrison’s approval down one to 57% and disapproval up four to 36%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively steady on 39% and up one to 36%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 48-28, narrowing from 50-24 last time. The pollster’s regular question on the handling of COVID-19 gives the federal government its weakest result since the beginnings of the series in March last year, with its good rating down five to 53% and its poor rating up six to 24%.

The trends for the leadership ratings are COVID-19 questions are worth noting: the former can be found at BludgerTrack, which no longer registers a recovery for Morrison after his slump in May, but also now records Anthony Albanese in net negative territory for the first time; the latter is shown in the chart of the Essential Research series below.

However, it’s not just the federal government that Essential Research finds to be down from its earlier peaks on COVID-19 management: the Victorian government’s good rating is down 15% amid the state’s latest lockdown to 48% (the federal government is also down 15% in the state, to 42%), and recent results for the other state governments are all down around six points from where they were at the start of the year, ranging from 65% for Queensland to 75% for Western Australia.

The poll also finds 40% view the federal government less favourably than they did a year ago, compared with 25% for more favourably and 35% for the same; 43% of the view that the vaccine rollout is being conducted efficiently (unchanged since April), 67% that is is being done safely (up four) and 54% that it will be effective at stopping the virus (up two); and 55% agreeing the Victorian government is raising valid concerns about the federal government’s vaccine rollout performance compared with 45% for the alternative option that it is seeking to shift the blame.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1104. This being Essential’s first result since the launch of the Australian Polling Council code of conduct, it comes with a separate disclosure statement containing detail of the poll’s response options for voting intention, from which we learn that state and Senate voting intention questions were included even if we may never see the results, and that the poll is weighted for age, gender, location and party identification (a somewhat contentious practice in the latter case).