South Australia: Cheltenham and Enfield by-elections

By-elections today to pick successors for Jay Weatherill and John Rau, and a general opportunity to discuss South Australian matters if that takes your fancy.

Live commentary

Cheltenham live results page
Enfield live results page

10pm. Final Enfield booth now in on primary and two-party. I gather there are no declaration votes counted on the night.

9.14pm. Back online now. Still one laggard booth in Enfield, but all done in Cheltenham; no declaration votes yet (which are reported as a single lump sum by ECSA, and not broken down by pre-poll, postal and absent).

8.08pm. All booths reported in Cheltenham, but still a bit to come from Enfield. There will be a delay of half an hour or so before I next update the results pages.

7.43pm. Most booths in on the primary vote in Cheltenham, half still to come in Enfield. The situation seems to be that much of the SA Best vote has gone to Labor and the Greens rather than independents, except to an extent in Enfield where Gary Johanson is on nearly 20%.

7.32pm. Three booths in now from Enfield, where Labor’s projected primary vote swing has moderated to 3.9%.

7.24pm. Five booths in now on the primary vote from Cheltenham, still only one from Enfield.

7.19pm. Clearly not going to be much to report here. Labor are looking at primary vote swings of 5% to 10% based on five booths that are in, and have a 75-25 lead over the Liberal Democrats from three booths in Cheltenham.

7.15pm. Results pages are looking good now. There are four booths in on the primary vote in Cheltenham, and Labor’s vote is well up in all of them. One booth in from Enfield, ditto.

7.05pm. Now there are actual results in, I’ve hit a glitch where my booth results display isn’t working. Should be fixed soon enough. The rest of it is working though, and it suggests Labor is handsomely up on the primary vote in both electorates and shouldn’t be troubled in either.

6.40pm. No results yet, but my election results pages are open: Cheltenham and Enfield. ECSA is conducting two-candidate preferred counts between Labor and the Liberal Democrats in Cheltenham, and Labor and independent Gary Johanson in Enfield.

6pm. I have posted profiles for the two by-elections: Cheltenham and Enfield. Live results will be posted on the site from about 6:30pm Adelaide time, which should be good enough since these are suburban electorates with no small booths that report early. My results reporting facility will be drawing the results from the ECSA media feed and calculating booth-matched primary vote swings for Labor and the Greens, which are the only apples-for-apples comparisons that are available in the context of by-elections being forfeited by the Liberals.

Earlier

There are two state by-elections for traditionally safe Labor seats of Cheltenham and Enfield in South Australia today, following the resignations of former Premier Jay Weatherill and Deputy Premier John Rau. I haven’t been following any of this too closely, but I will have live reporting of the results this evening, and will knock up some electorate profiles later today if I can find the time. The candidates in Enfield include former Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson, who has made a number of runs for seats in Adelaide’s inner north as an independent, and came within 2.9% when he ran in Port Adelaide at a by-election in February 2012. Labor’s candidates are Joe Szakacs in Chelthenham, secretary of SA Unions, and Andrea Michaels in Enfield, a commercial lawyer, who respectively won preselection with the backing of the Left and the Right.

Other than that, it’s been a long time since there was a thread on South Australia, with Steven Marshall’s government still waiting for its debut published opinion poll almost a year after it came to power at the state election last March. So feel free to use the opportunity of this post to weigh in on state political matters more generally. One point worth discussing might be the question of the looming electoral redistribution – always a matter of great sensitivity in South Australia, particularly with the Labor government’s abolition last term of the contentious “fairness clause”. Daniel Wills of The Advertiser offers an overview of the situation.

Davenport by-election thread

A thread for discussion of a South Australian state by-election that has sadly fallen off my radar, thanks to the distraction of Queensland.

A South Australian state by-election will be held tomorrow in the electorate of Davenport, to be vacated by Liberal veteran Iain Evans. I would love to be able to tell you more about it, but you know how it is. My review of the electorate from before last year’s election can be read here. Here is a thread for those wishing to discuss the matter.

Fisher by-election live

Live coverage of the count for South Australia’s Fisher by-election.UPDATE: Which Labor has won by 23 votes at the final count.

#
%
Swing
2PP
Swing
Heidi Harris (Liberal)
7416
36.0%
-0.1%
49.9%
-7.4%
Jeanie Walker (Independent)
195
0.9%
Nat Cook (Labor)
5502
26.7%
+10.2%
50.1%
+7.4%
Rob de Jonge (Independent)
810
3.9%
Bob Couch (SPGN)
271
1.3%
Dan Woodyatt (Independent)
4791
23.3%
-15.9%
Malwina Wyra (Greens)
710
3.5%
-0.8%
Dan Golding (Independent)
880
4.3%
FORMAL
20575
96.1%
Informal
825
3.9%
Counted (of 25,829 enrolled):
82.9%
Booths reported out of 9:
9

Monday 9.30pm. The indefatigable Tom Richardson relates that the final margin in favour of Labor after the preference distribution came down to just nine votes: 10,284 to 10,275.

Monday 7.30pm. Tom Richardson tweets that the conclusion of adjudication of informal votes has ended, and that the result after finalisation of the preference distribution will be a 13-vote win to Labor. There would appear to be a good chance of the Liberal Party will seek to have the Court of Disputed Returns revise the ballot paper rulings that went against them.

Monday 2.30pm. The recount that was granted to the Liberals, somewhat surprisingly, is now under way. Nine’s Tom Richardson relates on Twitter that reassessment of informal votes has caused nine formerly informal votes to be admitted, resulting in the Labor margin to narrow from 23 votes to 20, with the “validity of several to be adjudicated”.

Saturday 7.30pm. ECSA has published the preference distribution. Woodyatt needed a 24.75% greater share of preferences than Labor in the three-party preferred count, but could manage only 16.92%. The differentials at the Greens and Democrats exclusions were actually 17.04% in Labor’s favour, compared with 27.26% in Woodyatt’s favour among the other candidates. Slightly less than a quarter of the preferences went to the Liberals.

Saturday 2pm. The ABC reports that Labor has secured its parliamentary majority of 24 seats out of 47, having somewhat outperformed expectations in the preference distribution. Labor’s victory over the Liberals on the two-party count will take effect after its candidate Nat Cook survived the last exclusion ahead of independent Daniel Woodyatt by, according to Tom Richardson on Twitter, 226 votes. It appears the preference distribution process turned up another two votes for the Liberals and one for Labor, such that the latter’s winning margin at the final count is now 23. Hopefully the full preference distribution should be published shortly on the ECSA site. I’ve changed the time stamp on this post to bump it to the top of the page.

Friday 4.30pm. Rechecking ends with Labor 24 votes in the clear, so the Liberals are out. The issue between Labor and Dan Woodyatt will be decided at the preference distribution to commence from 9am tomorrow.

Friday 1pm. It seems the preference distribution will be conducted tomorrow. Well-connected observer Independently Thinking relates in comments that Labor appears pessimistic about its chances of staying ahead of Woodyatt, although clearly there will be very little in it. He also passes on an entertaining account of the Liberals’ confusion on election night by Nine Network reporter Tom Richardson at InDaily.

Friday 12.30pm. The last postals have been counted, of which there were only 30, and they have made no difference at all to Labor’s 21-vote lead. So unless anomalies emerge in the preference distribution or any recount that might be conducted, we can now say that the Liberals have not won the seat. Rather, the issue is whether it’s Labor’s Nat Cook (5501, 26.7%) or independent Dan Woodyatt (4794, 23.3%) who survives at the last exclusion. This is down to the 2861 votes cast for other candidates, how they split between Liberal, Labor and Woodyatt, and whether Woodyatt’s share of that total is 708 votes (24.75%) more than Cook’s. Woodyatt’s observation of the count has reportedly been that a “conservative” projection would bring it down the wire, suggesting he rates his own chances as better than even.

Wednesday 4.30pm. ECSA advises it will knock over whatever postal votes arrive in the available time frame of the next two days on Friday. These votes will be small in number, but given the lateness of their arrival they will almost certainly be coming from overseas, so it should not be assumed they will follow the same pattern as today’s batch which came in on Monday and Tuesday. The provisional votes have already been counted, contrary to what I stated earlier, so Labor is not awaiting upon the small boost that such votes invariably provide it.

Wednesday 11am. I should probably know better than to find anything about this count surprising by now, but that is undeniably where I stand after today’s batch of 194 postals behaved very unlike those that preceded in breaking 113-75 to Labor and putting them 21 votes ahead. As related on Twitter by Haydon Manning, today’s primary votes are 52 each for Labor and Liberal, 47 for Woodyatt, 17 for Golding, nine for the Greens, seven for De Jonge, four for Couch and nothing for Walker. By my reckoning, Labor’s two-party lead is now 10,282 to 10,261. The numbers are yet to be updated to the ECSA site, but it’s all accommodated in the table above (UPDATE: ECSA now updated).

Part of the surprise of the Liberals’ late count recovery was a dramatic improvement in their preference share, which was 34.6% on ordinary votes, 43.9% on the first batch of postals and 44.9% on pre-polls. But on this batch of postals, it was 27.4%. On this form, you would suggest that the late-arriving postals are behaving very differently from the early ones, and that the wind should stay at Labor’s back for the rest of the count, particularly if provisionals await to be added. But by this stage, the only thing it would seem prudent to expect is the unexpected.

Tuesday 4pm. The shocks keep rolling in: pre-polls, while slightly less favourable to the Liberals than postals, have gone to them with sufficient strength (2519-2051) to give them a 17-vote lead. Since there will presumably be about 200 postals still to trickle in, the likelihood now is that the Liberals will pull the iron out of the fire, unless a distinct trend in outstanding postals together with provisionals can yet save the day for Labor. Then there’s the fact that Dan Woodyatt’s deficit compared with Labor is down to 3.4% – probably bigger than he can overcome on preferences, but not definitely.

Tuesday 11:30am. Daniel Willis of The Advertiser tweets: “Told early indications from small sample of Fisher pre-polls shows same trend as ordinary ballots cast on Sat. Labor position strengthens.”

Monday afternoon. Things have taken another turn with the first 1217 postal votes flowing very heavily to the Liberals, to the extent of offering them a glimmer of hope. The votes have split 679-504, or 57.4-42.6, and in doing so cut the lead from 626 to 451. If all of the declaration votes were to divide thus, the Liberals would end up winning by around 250 votes. However, it’s all but certain that they will do less well on the pre-polls, of which around 4650 will be counted tomorrow. Of postals, there should be perhaps around 300 more to come in through the rest of the week. Kevin Bonham has been holding on to the idea of Dan Woodyatt still taking the seat after getting ahead of Labor in late counting, but suggests this is conditional on the 5.4% gap on polling booth votes being narrowed to around 3% on late counting. So far he’s pared it back to 4.6%, and if that trend continues it would fall below 2%. In short, a lot of election night prognostications were premature, although the likelihood still remains that Labor will win the seat. Tomorrow’s counting should clarify the situation.

Sunday evening. The recheck indeed confirmed the anomaly in Aberfoyle Park, which together with other rechecking puts Labor’s lead at a formidable 7614 to 6988, or 626 votes (1.2%).

Close of the evening. Multiple reports are circulating to the effect that there is an anomaly in the published numbers detailed above, and that its correction will confirm a stunning result that tips Labor over the line to a parliamentary majority of 24 seats out of 47. The ECSA score has Labor’s lead at 7384-7115, giving them a fragile margin of 269. But it seems there is an anomaly with the Aberfoyle Park High School result, where Labor has received only 48% of minor party and independent preferences compared with a fairly consistent 65%-67% elsewhere. Two stories have emerged on Twitter as to what has gone wrong here: David Washington of InDaily relates via an unnamed source that the two-party result from a booth was entered the wrong way around, and Kaurna MP Chris Picton indicates that 200 votes have been assigned to the wrong pile. In either case, Labor’s preference share from the booth would be well in line with the overall trend. Their lead would be 599 votes (2.1%) on the former scenario, or 669 (2.3%) on the latter. Nine Network reporter Tom Richardson splits the difference by tweeting the word from a “VERY seasoned” Labor source that their lead is in fact at 638.

Whichever it might be, it would take something quite miraculous to reverse the result in late counting. The check vote will be conducted tomorrow, which will presumably get to the bottom of the Aberfoyle Park anomaly. There will follow counting of postals on Monday and pre-polls on Tuesday.

9.00pm. All primary and 2PP booth counts are in, and that’s apparently it for the evening – except there is talk that ECSA has the 2PP numbers in the wrong way around for one booth, for which the likeliest candidate is Aberfoyle Park High School. If that’s the case, Labor’s lead is actually 7549 (52.1%) to 6950 (47.9%), in which case they’re pretty much home and hosed. Will keep you posted on that one. I’ve rejigged the chart to feature the Labor-versus-Liberal 2PP result.

8.37pm. The outstanding booth on 2PP, Aberfoyle Park North, was mid-range in terms of primary vote swings, so presumably won’t make difference to the knife-edge 2PP projection.

8.34pm. All booths now in on the primary vote.

8.18pm. Two more booths reporting on two-party, and Antony’s projection now has Labor 0.8% ahead. A big week of pre-poll and postal counting awaits.

8.06pm. There’s now a sixth booth in on the Liberal-versus-Labor 2CP, and whichever one it’s been, it’s a bad result for Labor, such that Antony now has the Liberals nudging into a 0.3% lead on his projection. But it looks to me like Reynella East was a particularly good result for Labor in a very large booth, so my feeling is that that will put them back in front when it reports.

8.01pm. Reynella East has now reported, and it’s left that last entry of mine looking pretty good. Woodyatt now well behind Labor, who would probably be getting a bit excited around about now.

7.57pm. The two booths outstanding are Aberfoyle Park North, which was a good booth for Such (45.9%), and Reynella East, a bad one (30.0%). But the Woodcroft booth, which was Such’s worst (22.2%), isn’t in use this time, and the nearest booth is Reynella East, so expect that booth to hit pretty Woodyatt hard.

7.53pm. And sure enough, the Happy Valley West booth puts Labor ahead of Woodyatt on the primary vote.

7.48pm. Interestinger and interestinger. A big fly in Woodyatt’s ointment is that the outstanding booths were far Such’s weakest part of the electorate, and if that flows through to him he has little chance of finishing ahead of Labor. And according to Antony’s projection, Labor now have a 1.3% lead on the Liberal-versus-Labor two-party count with five booths counted. So it appears a gravely underestimated their chances a few posts ago.

7.38pm. Aberfoyle Park booth added. With each booth my projection continues to look better for Woodyatt, who has also inched further ahead of Labor on the raw primary vote. I’ve just fixed a bug in my primary vote percentages.

7.33pm. I should observe that my primary vote swings are based on booth matching, so this looks a rather poor result for the Liberals, who are hardly making any headway in Such’s absence, whereas Labor are up around 10%.

7.30pm. Antony projecting 2.2% Liberal lead on the Liberal-versus-Labor count, based on three booths. A Labor win is thus not impossible if they indeed finish second, but the odds appear against them on both counts.

7.13pm. Aberfoyle Park Central booth pushes projected Woodyatt lead out to 4.5%, but he’s only just clear of Labor in second place.

7.10pm. Aberfoyle Park South puts Woodyatt’s nose in front. But I must again stress that this is based on a highly speculative preference allocation.

7.09pm. According to my calculations, Clarendon implies a Liberal win probability of 68%, but in Cherry Gardens it’s 26%.

7.07pm. I’ve cleaned a bug that was causing my 2PP projection to be based entirely on the Clarendon result. Revised verdict: very interesting.

7.05pm. Raw results suggest Woodyatt should finish ahead of Labor. Using the Such-versus-Liberal preferences from March, I’ve got an 11.9% swing to Liberal compared with a 9.6% margin from Clarendon, but a 6.4% swing in Cherry Gardens.

7.00pm. Mixed signals coming through. Labor MP Michael Atkinson pessimistic, but Daniel Wills of The Advertiser apparently hearing Woodyatt looking good. Both booths in so far are very small, so the the later results might change the picture.

6.57pm. Second booth in, Cherry Gardens, and it looks like this was the one Antony was referring to. So we’ve now got two unexpectedly good results in from the Liberals, who I’m projecting to win quite comfortably.

6.53pm. The Clarendon booth primary votes are in – I’ve been a bit slow passing it on because I’ve had bugs to iron out. Antony reckons the Libs vote is up 6.8% but my output says higher, so I might have to look at this.

6.40pm. There’s quite a bit coming through on Twitter about how the count is progressing. My live coverage will be strictly concerned with published results, but you’ll find the diligent PB community relating the Twitter info in the comments thread.

6.38pm. A further point of explanation: the swing figures shown for Woodyatt will be compared with the result for Such at the election. Sorry if this seems to suggest that I’m buying into Woodyatt’s campaign pitch, but it does seem the most instructive way of going about it.

6.30pm. ECSA will be conducting a Liberal-versus-Labor two-party count. Here however you will find something different – a Liberal-versus-Woodyatt count based on the assumptions that preferences will split between the two in the same way as they did between Liberal and Bob Such in each individual polling booth at the elections.

6pm. Polls have closed in South Australia’s Fisher by-election, which you can read all about in the post below. This being a suburban seat with large booths, I’m guessing we won’t see any numbers for about an hour or so.

Fisher by-election preview

Tomorrow’s by-election to pick a successor for the late independent veteran Bob Such offers the Liberals an opportunity to recover a seat it considers its own, but a new independent may yet thwart them.

A state by-election will be held in South Australia tomorrow in the electorate of Fisher, a naturally Liberal-leaning seat which has been in independent hands since 2000, and looks a strong chance of remaining so after tomorrow. The electorate encompasses suburbs around the Happy Valley Reservoir on the inland edge of southern Adelaide, including O’Halloran Hill to its west and Aberfoyle Park to its east, and extends eastwards into lightly populated Adelaide Hills territory from Coromandel East south to Clarendon. The seat has been vacated by the death on October 11 of Bob Such, who came to the seat as a Liberal in 1989, but quit the party in 2000 and retained the seat as an independent thereafter.

Fisher was created with the redistribution that followed the electoral reform of 1970 and held for the Liberals for its first 15 years by Stan Evans. The redistribution ahead of the 1985 election markedly changed its complexion by moving it into the suburbs of Adelaide, turning it from a safe Liberal to a marginal seat. This caused Evans to take his business to neighbouring Davenport where he challenged future Premier Dean Brown first for Liberal preselection, and then successfully at the election as an independent Liberal candidate. Fisher meanwhile was won for Labor by Philip Tyler, who was unseated at the following election in 1989 by Bob Such.

After strengthening his grip on the seat in the 1993 landslide, Such became Employment and Training Minister in the new government, but was dumped when John Olsen deposed Dean Brown as leader in November 1996. In early 2002 he quit the Liberal Party citing general disillusionment over the Olsen government’s style, but he was said to have been particularly put out by a lack of party support when challenged for preselection by former federal Kingston MP Susan Jeanes, who went on to win the Liberal endorsement in his absence. Such easily prevailed at the March 2002 election with 34.6% of the primary vote against 30.9% for Jeanes, a gap that widened to 13.1% after Labor preferences. In what may have proved a costly mistake, the Liberals had issued a punitive preference ticket which put Such behind Labor.

When the election left the three independents holding the balance of power, Such won favour with his constituents by issuing questionnaires seeking advice on how he should handle the situation. Given that Hammond MP Peter Lewis had decided to back Labor, voters overwhelmingly favoured Such lining up behind the Rann government for the sake of stability. The Kerin government was ultimately brought down by Such’s decision to abstain from a confidence motion when parliament resumed in March 2002, obviating the need for Peter Lewis to exercise his casting vote as the newly appointed Speaker.

Rann proved keenly sensitive to the importance of good relations with Such during the government’s first term, sending him on a trade mission to Paris shortly after the election and eventually securing him the Deputy Speaker’s position. In April 2005 he went one better, replacing fellow independent Peter Lewis in the Speaker’s chair when Lewis resigned pending a no-confidence motion. Like Lewis, Such had long coveted the job as a Liberal MP, having accepted Labor’s nomination when the Olsen government lost its majority at the 1997 election. When the prospect was raised of Lewis being removed from parliament altogether, Such declared he would not back a change of government if the Liberals recovered Lewis’s seat at a by-election. Such nonetheless lost the position after Labor secured a clear majority at the 2006 election, when he was succeeded by Playford MP Jack Snelling.

Together with fellow independent Geoff Brock, member for the Port Pirie-based seat of Frome, Such’s re-election at the March 2014 election resulted in a hung parliament with Labor on 23 seats and the Liberals on 22. Less than a week after polling day, with the outcome of the election still unresolved, Such announced he was taking leave to receive treatment for what proved to be a brain tumour. This left Brock with little choice but to support Labor to remain in government, notwithstanding the blow to their legitimacy caused by the Liberals’ 53-47 win on the statewide two-party vote.

Any prospect that a win for the Liberals in a Fisher by-election might cause the matter to be revisited was negated when former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith quit the party to take up a position in the ministry. Furthermore, a poll published in The Advertiser on Tuesday suggested that the Liberals face in a formidable challenge from independent candidate Daniel Woodyatt, who was on 30% of the primary vote against 34% for the Liberals and 21% for Labor, suggesting he would win the seat on Labor preferences.

My more in-depth view of the by-election’s political context can be found in today’s Crikey. The candidates in ballot paper order:

Heidi Harris (Liberal). Harris is a former hotel manager and staffer to Liberal front-bencher Duncan McFetridge, member for the Glenelg-based seat of Morphett, who ran unsuccessfully in Elder at the 2002 election. She also ran for preselection in Fisher before the March election, but was defeated by Sam Duluk, who had the backing of Iain Evans and the Right faction. According to InDaily, Such’s desire to keep the seat out of the faction’s hands, a product of emnities going back to the time of his departure from the Liberal Party in 2000, motivated him to seek another term at a time when he might otherwise have retired. This partly explained Harris’s victory in the preselection ahead of the Right-backed Helen Ronson, described as a “local community worker”.

Jeanie Walker (Independent Australian Democrats). Walker has used the three words South Australia’s electoral legislation allows independents to identify their cause to signal her association with a party that no longer even has registration in South Australia.

Nat Cook (Labor). Cook is the executive director of the Sammy D Foundation, which “encourages youth to reach their maximum life potential”.

Rob de Jonge (Independent).

Bob Couch (Stop Population Growth Now).

Dan Woodyatt (Independent Continue Such’s Legacy). Woodyatt is a 35-year-old lawyer at the Crown Solicitor’s office. While he carries a certain amount of baggage as a former active ALP member, he has crucially received the public endorsement of Such’s wife, a point smartly emphasised by his self-description on the ballot paper.

Malwina Wyra (Greens).

Dan Golding (Independent Honest True Local).

By-elections: Port Adelaide, Ramsay, Niddrie

I’ve been a bit lax on the by-election coverage front lately, so here’s a post for discussion of the forthcoming events, including tomorrow’s two South Australian by-elections which will as always be covered live on Poll Bludger tomorrow evening. All three are for safe (or reasonably safe) Labor seats and none will be contested by the Liberals.

• Two by-elections will be held in South Australia tomorrow, to fill the vacancies created by the retirements of former Premier Mike Rann and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley. The more interesting contest is for Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide, where Labor has a weaker primary vote (49.9 per cent in 2010) and faces some reasonably solid opposition from independents. A poll of 402 respondents in The Advertiser last week had Labor candidate Susan Close on 44 per cent, independent Liberal Sue Lawrie on 18 per cent, independent and Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson on 14 per cent and the Greens on 12 per cent. There are nine candidates in the field all told.

• The by-election for Ramsay, where Rann polled 57.9 per cent in 2010, is unlikely to present any trouble for Labor candidate Zoe Bettinson, who faces six other candidates.

• Another former Deputy Premier, this time Rob Hulls in Victoria, is also headed for the departure lounge, citing a health scare late last year. The by-election will be held on March 24. Most frequently mentioned in relation to Labor preselection have been Ben Carroll, a ministerial staffer; John Sipek, an aircraft maintenance engineer; and Jaclyn Symes, a former staffer to Hulls. VexNews respectively describes the first two as “highly regarded” and “popular”, which I take to mean they’re from Labor Unity; the latter like Hulls is presumably from the Socialist Left (UPDATE: Shows you how much I know – Hulls is from Labor Unity too, as is Symes. The Moonee Valley Leader notes factional arrangements will ensure the seat stays with Labor Unity.) The Age also mentions Hawker Britton lobbyist Danny Pearson. Despite the government’s one-seat majority and a reasonably modest Labor margin in the seat of 6.9 per cent, the Liberals announced this week they will not be fielding a candidate, prompting a slew of negative headlines.

Port Adelaide and Ramsay by-elections: February 11

Nominations closed today for South Australia’s Port Adelaide and Ramsay by-elections (UPDATE: Apologies – Antony Green points out nominations for Ramsay are in fact open for another week), which will be held on February 11 to fill the respective vacancies of Deputy Premier Kevin Foley and Premier Mike Rann. The Liberals are not fielding candidates in either seat. It doesn’t say much for the Libs’ confidence if they won’t back themselves in Port Adelaide, where the margin of 12.8 per cent is half what the Liberals were getting in by-elections in NSW and even in the ballpark of the Victorian Liberals’ 12.3 per cent swing in Altona. Sitting out Ramsay is a lot more understandable, as the margin there is 18.0 per cent.

Port Adelaide appears the more interesting of the two constests by virtue of the candidacy of Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson, who according to a poll published by The Advertiser today has 23 per cent support compared with 48 per cent for the Labor candidate, 14 per cent for a LDP that clearly stands to gain from homeless or just confused Liberals, and 9 per cent for Sue Lawrie (the sample was a small 475 and the margin of error a high 4.5 per cent; a larger sample poll in September which included the Liberals as an option had Labor leading 55-45 on two-party preferred). Port Adelaide has attracted a hefty nine candidates, who are in ballot paper order:

Sue Lawrie (Independent): The Liberal candidate from 2010.

Colin Thomas (Independent Ban Live Animal Exports): Beneficiary of SA’s law allowing indepenents five words to explain themselves on the ballot paper.

Bob Briton (Independent Communist Australia): Un-independent communism no longer being enough of a concern to achieve registration.

Elizabeth Pistor (Democratic Labor Party).

Grant Carlin (One Nation).

Susan Close (Labor). Department for Environment and Natural Resources executive and Left faction convenor.

Justin McArthur (Greens).

Gary Johanson (Independent): See above.

Stephen Humble (Liberal Democratic Party).

Ramsay has attracted only four candidates, with not only Liberal but also the Greens declining to enter the fray (UPDATE: As noted above, nominations hadn’t closed when I wrote this – but they have now, on January 26, so the following list is complete and in ballot paper order).

Mark Aldridge (Independent Voice of the Community): You can learn more about him in this post’s comments thread.

Ruth Beach (Greens).

Trevor Grace (Independent Trevor Grace Save the Unborn): Anti-abortion, would be my guess.

Zoe Bettison (Labor): Former state director for Labor’s public affairs firm (some prefer “spin doctors”) of choice Hawker Britton. Antony Green relates she has also been party secretary in the Northern Territory and a ministerial adviser in the NT government, government relations manager at Great Southern Rail, and that she got her start with the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association.

Chris Walsh (One Nation).

Mark Lena (Free Australia).

Christopher Steele (Liberal Democrats).

More detail available from Antony Green.

Essential Research: 54-46 to Coalition

Essential Research’s rolling fortnightly average continues to swing between 54-46 and 55-45, this week’s move of the pendulum being in Labor’s favour. Labor is up a point on the primary vote to 35 per cent, with the Coalition down one to 47 per cent and the Greens down one to 9 per cent. Also featured are questions on the outlook for 2012 for the economy, the parties (good for Liberal, very poor for Labor and the Greens), political leaders (poor for Tony Abbott, very poor for Julia Gillard, about neutral for Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull) and respondents personally. Most interestingly, only 26 per cent expect Julia Gillard will still lead the ALP in 12 months’ time against 55 per cent who think she won’t. The respective figures for Tony Abbott are 41 per cent and 34 per cent. Thirty-two per cent expect a federal election in the coming year, against 42 per cent who don’t.

Also:

• Newspoll reports that supplementary questions in its December 2-4 poll had 14 per cent expecting their financial position to improve over the next year (up two from last year), 57 per cent expected it to stay the same (up six) and 28 per cent thought it would get worse (down seven). Coalition voters were solidly more pessimistic than Labor supporters.

• A Liberal Party preselection vote on Saturday for Craig Thomson’s central coast NSW seat of Dobell was won by Gary Whitaker, former Hornsby Shire councillor and managing director of a local educational services company. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Diary reports this as a defeat for Chris Hartcher, state government minister, Terrigal MP and local powerbroker, as his preferred candidate had been WorkCover public servant Karen McNamara. Also reportedly in the field was Matthew Lusted, managing director of a Central Coast construction company.

Michelle Grattan of The Age reports Russell Broadbent, the Liberal member for the western Gippsland seat of McMillan, is likely to pay for his ideological moderation with a preselection challenge. However, Broadbent is thought likely to prevail, as the conservative forces being marshalled against him (“local Catholic members” apparently featuring prominently) will largely be ineligible to participate in the preselection because they have not been party members for two years. Any preselection vote is likely to take place in February and involve 300 local branch members.

• Brett Worthington of the Bendigo Advertiser reports Greg Westbrook, director of legal firm Petersen Westbrook Cameron, has nominated for Labor preselection in Bendigo, to be vacated at the next election by the retirement of Steve Gibbons. Lisa Chesters, a Kyneton-based official with United Voice (formerly the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union), is also rated a possible starter.

• There is mounting talk that Lara Giddings’ tenure as Tasmanian Premier is in jeopardy just a year after she replaced David Bartlett. Matt Smith of The Mercury has reported that David O’Byrne, who entered parliament at the March 2010 election, fancies himself as the apple isle’s answer to Kristina Keneally, and has secured backing from party room colleagues Michelle O’Byrne (his sister), Scott Bacon, Graeme Sturges, Brian Wightman, Craig Farrell and Brenton Best. This leaves only Michael Polley and Doug Parkinson in Giddings’ corner, while Bryan Green and Rebecca White remain on the fence. Bruce Montgomery, a former state political reporter for The Australian, writes in Crikey that public sector unions have been angered by Giddings’ pursuit of job cuts to balance the budget, and are hopeful of a more sympathetic hearing from O’Byrne, a former state secretary of the LHMWU. Kevin Harkins of Unions Tasmania, Chris Brown of the Health and Community Services Union and Tom Lynch of the Community and Public Sector Union are identified as critics of Giddings by The Mercury. However, O’Byrne has more recently denied any plans for a challenge.

• With former SA Treasurer Kevin Foley officially resigning from parliament, a by-election in his seat of Port Adelaide has been set for February 11. There is an expectation that Mike Rann’s resignation will follow shortly so that a by-election can be held for his seat of Ramsay on the same day.

Frome by-election live

ALP NAT LIB GRN ONP BROCK COUNT
PRIMARY 5041 1267 7576 734 134 4557 19309
% 26.1% 6.6% 39.2% 3.8% 0.7% 23.6% 100.0%
Swing -16.4% -7.6% 0.7%
PORT PIRIE 2157 181 1344 129 29 2480 6320
% 34.1% 2.9% 21.3% 2.0% 0.5% 39.2% 100.0%
Swing -23.5% -11.7% -0.8%
REMAINDER 1368 735 4292 478 70 757 7700
% 17.8% 9.5% 55.7% 6.2% 0.9% 9.8% 100.0%
Swing -8.6% -6.2% 1.9%
DECLARATION 1516 351 1940 127 35 1320 5289
% 29.2% 6.5% 35.7% 2.3% 0.7% 25.5% 100.0%
Swing -9.2% -13.9% -1.9%
3CP 5532 8215 5562 19309
28.6% 42.5% 28.8%
2CP (FINAL) 9322 9987 19309
48.3% 51.7%

Thursday, January 28

Malcolm Mackerras muses on this and other recent by-elections in the Canberra Times.

Wednesday, January 27

Electoral commissioner Kay Mousley has officially rejected the Liberals’ request for a recount, on the basis that specific concerns about the counting of votes had not been identified. The mere closeness of the result was deemed insufficient grounds for a recount. Below is the piece I wrote for yesterday’s edition of Crikey, previously available to subscribers only. Martin Hamilton-Smith’s office has been in touch to dispute the claim that the “super Saturday” concept referred to below was seriously considered, saying it came down to “one MP” who had been “canvassing the notion to media”.

For psephologists and related species of political tragic, by-elections can’t happen often enough. But for normal people, forced mid-term visits to the polling booth rank somewhere around brain surgery on lists of favourite things. No political operative should ever need reminding of this, but it appears the South Australian Liberal Party did – and now has been, in terms it won’t forget in a hurry.

Saturday’s preference count for the Frome by-election, held a week earlier upon the retirement of former Premier Rob Kerin, gave the Liberal Party the rudest of shocks three days after it had issued a press release claiming victory. Both Liberal and Labor scrutineers were convinced that Liberal candidate Terry Boylan had survived an early scare, thanks to Nationals voters who ignored the party’s recommendation to direct second preferences to independent candidate Geoff Brock. It was believed this would prevent Brock from getting ahead of Labor’s John Rohde, resulting in his exclusion at the second last count. That being so, the State Electoral Office’s indicative two-party count pointed to an unconvincing final Liberal margin over Labor of 1.7 per cent.

However, it seems scrutineers obsessing over the Nationals had neglected to consider the actions of Greens voters, who in the absence of guidance from the party’s how-to-vote card were thought to have followed their normal practice of putting Labor second. In fact, 42 per cent of Greens preferences flowed to Brock against 37 per cent to Labor – enough for Brock to emerge a bare 30 votes ahead of Rohde, before storming home on Labor preferences to defeat Boylan 9987 votes to 9322.

Before the evening was through, a Liberal Party that could previously be heard expressing nothing but warm goodwill about their good mate Kero suddenly found voice to complain about the “obscure” reasons given for his retirement, which had “fuelled resentment” among voters. However, this was clearly wisdom after the event.

Last June, The Advertiser’s Greg Kelton reported that “senior Liberals” were “hatching a plan which would force the Rann Government to face a ‘super Saturday’ of by-elections on the growing political row over changes to country health services”. This would involve the simultaneous retirement of Kerin (who was quoted saying the idea had been “mentioned a few times”) along with fellow Liberal veterans Graham Gunn and Liz Penfold, initiating by-elections in the country and outback seats of Frome, Stuart and Flinders. As bad as Frome has been for the Liberals, it appears that only the reluctance of Gunn and Penfold to bring forward their retirements has spared them a self-inflicted triple-barrelled disaster.

For all that, Labor shouldn’t get too cocky (and reports from The Advertiser that “gleeful Labor MPs have run off copies of Mr Hamilton-Smith’s ‘Liberal victory’ press release to hold up when State Parliament resumes next month to goad the Liberals” do not bode well in this regard). The two-party swing Labor would have picked up if Brock had run third had less to do with voters’ conscious preferences than with their adherence to how-to-vote cards, which in Brock’s case had Labor third and Liberal fourth. The 16.4 per cent of voters who deserted Labor might very easily find less benign ways to register their evident displeasure with the government when the next election is held in March 2010.

Labor MPs would do well to acquaint themselves with a forgotten episode of Western Australia’s recent political history known as the Peel by-election, which in February 2007 gave Labor a morale-boosting 1.0 per cent two-party swing from a strong performance on the primary vote – for all the good that did Alan Carpenter 18 months later.

Tuesday, January 27

Crikey subscribers can read my by-election post-mortem here.

Sunday, January 25

Electoral commissioner Kaye Mousley refuses a recount. Mousley argues that “the final difference between the two candidates is some 600 votes with the distribution of preferences”, although the point surely is that Brock survived the second last exclusion by 30. That would leave the Court of Disputed Returns as their only recourse. However, the Electoral Act empowers the court only to anoint a different winner or order a new election, and I’m not aware of any basis on which such an order could be made.

Saturday, January 24

7.15pm. The last trickle of 265 postal votes had little bearing on the result: 147 (55.5 per cent) went to the Liberals, 47 (17.7 per cent) to Labor, 37 (14.0 per cent) to Brock, 23 (8.7 per cent) to the Nationals, 10 (3.8 per cent) to the Greens and 1 (0.4 per cent) to One Nation. In other words, they added 10 votes to the hurdle faced by Brock to overtake Labor. Meanwhile, the Poll Bludger has maintained its dismal record in predicting by-election results with this clanger from January 9: “Despite a preference swap between independent Port Pirie mayor Geoff Brock and Nationals candidate Neville Watson, there seems little reason not to think Terry Boylan will easily retain the seat for the Liberals.” That said, there’s plenty of humble pie to go round.

6.55pm. The Advertiser now has a full report, which tells us “Liberal officials say they will be ‘seeking clarity’ on the count from the State Electoral Office”. Also:

Liberal MP for Morphett Duncan McFetridge partly blamed Mr Kerin for the loss, saying he had given obscure reasons for leaving politics which fuelled resentment by voters towards the by-election.

True enough, but I hadn’t heard anyone in the Liberal Party complain before. Indeed, it seems they were happy to bring on the by-election because they were expecting Labor to suffer a bloody nose over the country health plan. In June we were hearing this idiotic talk emanating from the Liberal camp (courtesy of Greg Kelton of The Advertiser):

SENIOR Liberals are hatching a plan which would force the Rann Government to face a “super Saturday” of by-elections on the growing political row over changes to country health services … The move would involve three Liberal MPs in rural seats – who are all due to retire at the next election – stepping down to force by-elections. The MPs, Rob Kerin in Frome, Liz Penfold (Flinders) and Graham Gunn (Stuart), have all been outspoken in their criticism of the Government’s planned changes to rural health services … Mr Kerin told The Advertiser the by-election idea had been “mentioned a few times’” but he had not spoken to anyone about stepping down in Frome which he holds with a 4.2 per cent margin. He said he would not rule out the idea … (Gunn) ruled out stepping down to force a by-election in his seat of Stuart which, with a 0.4 per cent margin, is the most marginal Liberal seat in the state. Ms Penfold, whose vast Eyre Peninsula seat of Flinders is the safest Liberal seat in the state, said normally she would not support any moves for a by-election. “But this is such an important issue I will reserve my judgment,” she said.

6.45pm. The surprise packet was the flow of Greens preferences to Brock – 41.7 per cent against 36.6 per cent for Labor and 13.4 per cent for the Liberals. The estimates I was using in my preference calculation were 30 per cent, 50 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. The reason Brock was being written off was the high number of Nationals voters who were defying the HTV card and preferencing Boylan. The Nationals preference distribution I eventually arrived at based on Antony’s reports of what scrutineers were saying was pretty much accurate: 48.0 per cent to Brock (I had 45 per cent), 37.8 per cent to Boylan (I had 40 per cent, which admittedly was the low end of what Antony was expecting) and 14.1 per cent to Rohde (I had 15 per cent). No doubt the page on the Liberal website on Wednesday claiming victory will be removed shortly, so I’ve preserved it for posterity here. That said, we may yet get a recount.

6.20pm. Wasn’t looking hard enough – SEO preference distribution here. The amazement lies in the second last exclusion: Boylan 8215, Brock 5562, Rohde 5532. With Rohde excluded, preferences give Brock his 1.7 per cent victory.

6pm. BROCK SHOCK! Nothing yet on the SEO or Antony Green’s site, but The Advertiser reports that the preference distribution has defied expectations by giving victory to Geoff Brock – according to Brenton in comments by 9987 votes (51.7 per cent) to Terry Boylan’s 9322 (48.3 per cent). Evidently those Nationals preferences were kinder to Brock than scrutineers believed.

Wednesday, January 21

11pm. Antony Green in comments: “The Labor scrutineers have been watching National preferences all week to work out where they are going. They’re flowing to the Liberals, which is why everyone’s given up on Brock closing the gap. Once the Liberals get half of the National preferences, there aren’t enough votes left to get Brock ahead of Labor.”

4pm. Based on Antony’s feedback, I have changed the minor party preference estimates as follows. Nats: Brock 45, Liberal 40, Labor 15. Greens: Labor 50, Brock 30, Liberal 20. One Nation: Liberal 50, Brock 30, Labor 20. That leaves Brock in third place, 1.2 per cent behind Labor.

3pm. With the addition of 3288 pre-poll votes, only a handful of postal votes remain to complete the primary vote count. These have made things interesting: coming mostly from Port Pirie, where the main pre-poll booth was located, they have split 1094 (33.9 per cent) to Brock, 1033 (32.0 per cent) to Labor, 868 (26.9 per cent) to Liberal, 179 (5.3 per cent) to the Nationals), 50 (1.5 per cent) to the Greens and 14 (0.4 per cent) to One Nation. Brock’s primary vote deficit against Labor has narrowed from 3.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent and, if my preference estimate is correct, he will just barely edge ahead of Labor on preferences and ultimately win the seat. BUT – please read this before commenting – these estimates are completely unscientific (see my 8.16pm entry from Saturday) and are evidently different from the calculations of Antony Green, who has spoken to scrutineers. He says: “Brock could yet pull ahead narrowly and win on Labor preferences, but it would require stronger flows of preferences to him from the National and Greens candidates than I think can be delivered. Not impossible but I would say it is unlikely.”

Tuesday, January 20

12.30pm. Antony Green has added 1795 postal votes which aren’t yet appearing on the SEO site, and they are very encouraging for the Liberals. Only 189 (10.5%) are for Brock, whose total vote has fallen from 23.1 per cent to 21.7 per cent, increasing his deficit against Labor from 2.0 per cent to 3.3 per cent. However, Antony notes that the 3000 pre-poll votes remaining to be counted mostly come from Port Pirie, which might at least staunch the flow. Terry Boylan has received 925 votes (51.5 per cent), increasing his vote from 40.2 per cent to 41.5 per cent and perhaps increasing his slim hope of winning even if Brock overtakes Labor. My table now includes a section for provisional votes, with a “votes counted” figure based on an educated guess that the final total will be 4500. Note that the preference projection now has Brock finishing in third place.

Monday, January 19

My general overview of the situation can be read at Crikey. Dovif in comments: “As for the scrutineers, the ALP will be trying to kick out as many ALP 1s as possible, while the Libs will be trying to increase the ALP vote. That would be fun to watch.”

Sunday, January 18

The Advertiser reports the Liberals are “confident” of retaining the seat, while conceding a “slight possibility” of defeat. The report says “almost 5000” postal and early votes were cast by Friday.

Saturday, January 17

9.00pm. I have evidently not been giving enough weight to the possibility that Brock will fail to get ahead of Labor. He trails by 2 per cent on the primary vote, which he would be able to close on preferences – but as Antony Green points out, independents traditionally do poorly on pre-poll and postal votes and the primary vote gap can be expected to widen. Antony deems it unlikely that the Liberals can win if Brock stays ahead.

8.16pm. That’s us done for the evening, with the result still up in the air. My preference estimate has Brock leading 7208 to 6837. I have distributed the minor players as follows: Nats: Brock 60, Liberal 30, Labor 10. Greens: Labor 55, Brock 35, Liberal 10. One Nation: Liberal 55, Brock 35, Labor 10. I have then taken the Labor vote, including those votes Labor received as preferences from the aforementioned, and given 80 per cent to Brock and 20 per cent to the Liberals. It was reported on Wednesday there had been 1700 early votes and 2200 postal applications, which can be expected to favour the Liberals quite solidly. Stay tuned over the next week or two.

8.11pm. Clare has indeed given Liberal candidate Terry Boylan the result he needed – 59.0 per cent (though down 7.9 per cent from 2006) against only 6.2 per cent for Brock.

7.49pm. Port Broughton and Tarlee now added – relatively good results for the Liberals, bringing my margin estimate below 5 per cent. If Clare can cut that further, the result will be truly up in the air.

7.47pm. Port Broughton has kind of reported, but the SEO is having more of those data entry issues (Brock on zero).

7.44pm. Just taking my first look at Antony Green’s site – his assessment is about the same as mine.

7.42pm. Still to come: Clare (2432 votes in 2006), Port Broughton (good Liberal booth, 849 votes in 2006) and Tarlee (259 votes). The Liberals will need very good results here, a good show on the many outstanding declaration votes and better preferences than I’m crediting them with.

7.40pm. Port Pirie booth of Solomontown gives Brock a slightly below par 35.4 per cent. The Liberals will be hoping for a big result in the very large country booth of Clare.

7.35pm. Three rural booths plus Port Pirie West now in – another plus 40 per cent result for Brock in the latter. My preference calculation now has him opening up his lead, so my summation from three entries ago may have been askew.

7.33pm. These are my preference estimates – would be interested if anyone disagrees. Nats: Brock 55, Liberal 35, Labor 10. Greens: Labor 55, Brock 35, Liberal 10. One Nation: Liberal 55, Brock 35, Labor 10. Labor: Brock 80, Liberal 20.

7.31pm. Unfortunately, the SEO is doing an irrelevant Liberal-versus-Labor preference count. Brock will clearly finish ahead of Labor.

7.30pm. Here’s roughly how I see it. Frome is evenly divided between Port Pirie and the rural remainder – the former is breaking 66-34 to Brock over the Liberals, and the latter’s doing the opposite. That suggests it should be very close, but this is based on my very rough preference guesses which if anything probably flatter for the Liberals. The locally knowledgeable Michael Gorey is calling it for Brock in comments.

7.28pm. Crystal Brook (rural) and Port Pirie South both in, another 40 per cent result for Brock in the latter.

7.21pm. Risdon Park South replicates Risdon Park East, with Brock’s primary vote around 40 per cent – my slapdash preference calculation now has him in front.

7.19pm. Three more booths in including a very exciting result for Brock in the Port Pirie booth of Risdon Park East – assuming it’s not a glitch, because the SEO has no percentage figures next to the raw results.

7.12pm. 2CP error corrected.

7.10pm. Five more booths in, including the first from Port Pirie – which Geoff Brock narrowly won ahead of Labor. That shuts out any notion of Brock failing to pass the Nationals, and could yet make things very interesting as more Port Pirie booths come in. Apologies for the 2CP error in the table – will get to work on it.

6.55pm. I’ve now removed Brinkworth’s alleged 14 Labor votes from my count.

6.53pm. Some explanations about the table. The “3CP” result assumes the last three standing will be Labor, Liberal and Brock, although Brock is well behind the Nationals on the basis of small rural booths. The “count” figure has been devised so it will add up to 100 per cent when all votes are in, whereas other media normally just show you the number of votes counted divided by number of enrolled voters.

6.50pm. Two more small rural booths, Brinkworth and Manoora, now in – although something’s obviously gone awry with Brinkworth, which has 14 votes for Labor and nothing in any other column, including the total.

6.39pm. As Judith Barnes notes in comments, the absentee vote could be over 20 per cent.

6.37pm. Two country booths reporting, Georgetown and Lochiel – excuse the mess in the Port Pirie entries in the table, it will correct when I have figures in. Only a small amount counted, but Geoff Brock might have hoped for more, remembering of course that Port Pirie is his stronghold. In noting the drop in the Liberal vote, it needs to be remembered there was no Nationals candidate last time.

6.15pm. Please excuse the messiness in the table above – I’m still sorting it out. The numbers there are test results rather than real figures.

6.00pm. Polls close. Official results here. First figures should start to come in around 6.30pm, by which time I should have my act together with my results table.