Plunge taken

Readers who think they’ve seen it all are invited to take a fresh look at the Poll Bludger’s South Australian election guide, which is now equipped with a number of exciting new features. The main point of interest for most readers is the predicted outcomes for each seat, an exercise in which I continue to indulge against my better judgement. At the risk of putting myself off side with my most trusted South Australian advisers, I have (at least for now) succumbed to the psephological herd mentality and backed a worst-case scenario result for the Liberals. That means a uniform 5 per cent swing that will see off all the seats held by less than that margin, namely Hartley, Stuart, Light, Mawson, Morialta and Bright – although the Liberals’ $150 million Victor Harbour Highway promise might yet save Robert Brokenshire’s bacon in Mawson.

Despite the retirement of the sitting member, I have tentatively given the Liberals the benefit of the doubt in Newland (held by 5.5 per cent), while going out on the opposite limb in Unley (held by 9.1 per cent). The latter judgement is made without confidence, but the Advertiser poll showing Labor ahead 51-49 remains the best intelligence available, and I have also heard corroborating reports of panic in the Liberal camp. I expect Karlene Maywald to retain Chaffey for the Nationals, and for independent members Bob Such and Rory McEwen to be returned in Fisher and Mount Gambier, although the latter may be a wild card. With the departure of independent member Peter Lewis (and even without it), the Liberals should have no trouble gaining Hammond.

Also new to the guide is a feature called "Parish Pump", devoted to the type of local level information that passes under the radar of the mainstream media. Admirers of the guide are invited to marvel afresh at the entries for Norwood, Adelaide, Giles, Napier, Cheltenham, Port Adelaide, Hartley, Stuart, Light, Mawson, Heysen, Morphett, Schubert, MacKillop, Flinders, Mount Gambier and Chaffey. I have also maintained my tradition of appending electorate-specific blog snippets under the "Campaign Update" banner, although this time the entries are identified by what is known in the newspaper trade as a dinkus – which, unlike that for Parish Pump, was not pinched from another website.

Over on the Poll Bludger’s side of the continent, the Victoria Park by-election to replace retired Premier Geoff Gallop will be held tomorrow, and this site will offer its usual up-to-the-minute (well, up to about two minutes anyway) updates of the booth results as they come in, complete with swing calculations based on comparison of booth results with those from the 2005 election. A big round of applause is in order for all who have contributed to the comments threads (here and here), which have possibly been the most productive in this site’s history. Clearly the electorate is not wanting for civic virtue – I challenge to the good people of Gaven in Queensland to at least try and match their efforts in their forthcoming by-election campaign.

Lucky numbers

Our good friends at Upperhouse.Info have done their bit to inform speculation on the likely election outcome for the South Australian Legislative Council with a nifty, easy-to-use election calculator. Just plug in your guess of each party’s total vote, and it chews through the mind-numbingly complicated preference flows (based on the almost-accurate assumption that everyone will vote above the line, thereby accepting their favoured party’s order of preferences) and spits out the result, quick as a flash.

Playing favourites

The preference tickets for above-the-line upper house votes are now available courtesy of the South Australian Electoral Office. Antony Green has crunched the numbers and concluded that Family First’s Dennis Hood is looking good; that the Greens and Democrats are in direct competition for a place that will almost certainly go to the former; and that a preference swap between the two means No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon must do well enough on the primary vote plus preferences to reach a quota before the swap comes into play (unless the Greens do well enough to get elected early, in which case he will get Democrats preferences). Xenophon’s only direct sources of preferences are from the minor candidates who appear on the second row of the ballot paper, who Antony tells us accounted for less than 0.2 per cent of the vote in 2002. That number should be higher this time due to the the crop of former and current major party MPs who are contesting as independents, of whom Peter Lewis and Ralph Clarke are sending preferences straight to Xenophon.

Antony’s calculations are built on broad assumptions about the overall vote outcome, of which the only one that is inconsistent with my expectations is that Xenophon will poll "around 1-3%". No doubt Saturday’s Advertiser poll showing No Pokies on 10 per cent was way off the mark, but Xenophon’s popularity seems genuine enough that he should poll at least at the higher end of Antony’s scale. Antony is also sticking with the likely outcome of five seats for Labor and four for Liberal while countenancing the unlikely possibilities of one extra in each case. If I am correct in my hunch that Xenophon will get through on his own strength, someone will have to miss out somewhere – either the fifth Labor candidate, the fourth Liberal, the stronger performer out of the Greens and the Democrats, or Family First.

What follows is a simplified guide to the preferences of the various players (listed in ballot paper order), stripped of marginal candidates and obfuscations. Of the latter there are relatively few, with only Peter Lewis’s ticket sending numbers all over the shop. I have excluded all lists with only one candidate, with exceptions made for current and former MPs Peter Lewis, Ralph Clarke and Terry Cameron. Speaking of minor players, I am very surprised to discover that the No Rodeo Cruelty group is not in the race – on my recent visit to Adelaide I was struck by the extent of its poster coverage, which was almost comparable to the major parties, but a lack of political nous has apparently led it to concentrate its efforts on the lower house where it will wield little or no influence.

One Nation: Shooters Party; Family First; Peter Lewis; No Pokies; Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Democrats; Greens; Terry Cameron; Ralph Clarke.

Family First: Nationals; One Nation; Shooters Party; Peter Lewis; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Liberal; No Pokies; Labor; Ralph Clarke; Democrats; Greens.

Labor: Greens; Family First; Dignity for Disabled; Shooters Party; No Pokies; Democrats; Nationals; Ralph Clarke; Liberal; Peter Lewis; Terry Cameron; One Nation.

Liberal: Family First; Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; Democrats; No Pokies; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke; Labor; Greens; One Nation.

Nationals: Family First; Liberal; Democrats; No Pokies; Shooters Party; Labor; Greens; Ralph Clarke; Dignity for Disabled; Peter Lewis; One Nation; Terry Cameron.

Shooters Party: Family First; One Nation; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Labor; Liberal; Greens; No Pokies; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Ralph Clarke; Democrats.

Greens: Ralph Clarke; Peter Lewis; Democrats; No Pokies; Labor; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Nationals; Shooters Party; Liberal; One Nation; Family First.

No Pokies: Ralph Clarke; Dignity for Disabled; 50% Greens, 50% Democrats; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Family First; One Nation.

Democrats: Dignity for Disabled; Greens; No Pokies; Ralph Clarke; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Family First; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; One Nation.

Dignity for Disabled: Democrats; Shooters Party; Family First; No Pokies; Greens; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Terry Cameron; One Nation.

Terry Cameron: Family First; Democrats; No Pokies; Greens; Dignity for Disabled; Shooters Party; Liberal; Labor; Nationals; One Nation; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke.

Peter Lewis: Nick Xenophon (No Pokies); Family First; One Nation; Shooters Party; Ann Bressington (No Pokies); Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; Democrats; Greens; Ralph Clarke; Terry Cameron; Liberal; Labor.

Ralph Clarke: No Pokies; Labor; Greens; Democrats; Dignity for Disabled; Peter Lewis; Shooters Party; Nationals; Terry Cameron; Liberal; Family First; One Nation.

Family affairs

Family First’s preference recommendations for the South Australian lower house have proved kinder to Labor than might have been expected, with split tickets (in which how-to-vote cards contain two sets of preferences, one favouring Labor and the other Liberal, with voters instructed to take their pick) to be offered in four important seats. Antony Green has more in today’s Crikey email:

The Advertiser heads up this morning’s story on Family First’s preferences with the headline "Family First gives Kerin leg up in 8 key seats". Nice spin by Family First, which the paper appears to have fallen for, but to all intents and purposes, a load of nonsense … the real story was in the fifth par and went without comment. "In four other key seats, the party will offer split tickets, leaving it up to the voters to decide whether the preferences go to Labor or Liberal. They are all Liberal seats – Morialta, Light, Mawson and Newland". Now the Advertiser has published more polls in this election campaign than any paper I can remember. Those polls have consistently shown a big swing to Labor, putting in doubt a string of Liberal seats including, wait for it, Light (2.3%), Morialta (3.3%), Mawson (3.6%) and Newland (5.5%). Also relevant is that all four seats saw above average Family First primary votes in 2002, 6.9% in Newland and 4.5% in Light, in both seats delivering three-quarters of preferences to the Liberals. So the fact that Family First are splitting their preference in these seats could be disastrous for the Liberal Party and a much bigger story than what Family First is doing in more marginal seats.

Of the eight seats with preferences to the Liberal, four are Labor held. Norwood (0.5%) and Adelaide (0.6%) may be Labor’s most marginal seats and make up the 606 votes that Mike Rann keeps repeating are all that lie between him and defeat. But these two seats also saw Family First’s lowest votes in 2002 and there is little doubt, given the polls, that Labor will win both seats easily. Preferences are also against Labor in Florey (3.6%) (where Family First could hardly preference Labor given member Frances Bedford’s stance on gay and lesbian issues – PB), but in 2002 Family First polled an above average 6.6% and delivered 65% of preferences to the Liberals. How much better can Family First do than that?

Family First is directing preferences to the Liberal Party in its two most marginal seats, Hartley (2.1%) and Stuart (2.1%). Family First did not contest Stuart in 2002, and it is hard to see how the party can do well in such an enormous outback electorate. But Family First polled 4.6% in Hartley last time with 70% of preferences to the Liberals, so against a swing to Labor this time, the question again has to be asked, what help will Family First’s preferences be anyway? Minor parties have to work enormously hard to deliver more than 70% of preferences one way or the other. It takes lots of troops on the ground delivering how-to-vote cards. Given the polls, the Liberals need lots of Family First preferences to hang on to a string of its own seats. That Family First says it is issuing open tickets in Light, Morialta, Mawson and Newland is a further blow to the Liberal campaign, a very different story to the headline delivered by the Advertiser.

Personally, I expect these preferences to still flow 60% to the Liberal Party. At the 2004 Federal election, directing preferences against an open lesbian Liberal candidate in Brisbane, Family First only delivered 54% of preferences to Labor. Attempts to direct preferences against pro-choice Liberals Don Day and Kym Hames at the 2005 WA election also produced only even splits. But still, the fact Family First aren’t out there helping the Liberals is the bigger story. Some in the Labor Party view Family First as little more than the Liberal Party at prayer. The decision it has made in these seats suggests that Family First is slightly more pragmatic than some give it credit.

In other news, the parties’ preference tickets for above-the-line votes in the upper house are due to be published round about now, but no word on them just yet – not that I would have time to deal with them right away if they were. Also on the back-burner is the reupholstering of the election guide, although when it’s done (hopefully tomorrow) you’ll hardly recognise it. Among the new snippets of electorate-level info:

Hartley (Liberal 2.1%): Writing in last week’s Weekly Times Messenger, Christian Kerr suggested Liberal member Joe Scalzi might defy the pundits and retain his seat due to his efforts to "make land tax an issue in his patch and among people who came to Australia from Europe in the ’50s and ’60s". The local importance of the latter group is indicated by Labor’s efforts to stress that their candidate, Grace Portolesi, is also of Italian heritage.

Morialta (Liberal 3.6%): Also from Christian Kerr, this time in today’s Crikey email, comes this observation: "What was sitting MP Joan Hall doing at the humble Howard hoe-down to celebrate his 10 years last week. Has she given up?".

Kaurna (Labor 10.8%): Labor member and Environment Minister John Hill received a vote of confidence last November when the health portfolio was temporarily added to his responsibilities upon the resignation of Little Para MP Lea Stevens, to avoid the need for a cumbersome pre-election reshuffle. The talk is that he will maintain health after the election, with environment to be assigned elsewhere.

Enfield (Labor 15.9%): Dennis Bertoldo of the Standard Messenger (an old Perth work colleague of the Poll Bludger’s, unless I’m much mistaken) reports that Labor member John Rau has extracted a grovelling retraction and apology from 18-year-old Liberal candidate Samuel Joyce, who had issued a press release that criticised Rau over a delivery of contaminated soil to a Housing Trust development site. Joyce craftily stated that he was "indebted to Mr Rau’s lawyers for mentioning the sum of $65,000 in damages plus costs" and noted the burden this would add to his "still accumulating HECS debt", which to the Poll Bludger’s mind makes Rau look like of a bit of a bully. Rau denied threatening to sue Joyce for this sum, saying he had merely called his attention to the precedent of Mitchell MP Kris Hanna’s successful action against outgoing Bright MP Wayne Matthew.

Mawson (Liberal 3.5%): The intensity of the contest in this seat was demonstrated last week when Labor matched a Liberal promise to build an ambulance station at the Southern Districts War Memorial Hospital in McLaren Vale. Tanya Westthorp of the Southern Times Messenger reports that Mike Rann announced $800,000 would be spent on its construction and $970,000 a year contributed towards operating costs.

Norwood (Labor 0.5%): Labor’s most marginal electorate will host the party’s major campaign rally on Sunday.

Hammond (Independent 2.3% vs Liberal): A poll of 200 voters conducted by the Murray Valley Standard before independent member Peter Lewis withdrew his nomination had Liberal candidate Adrian Pederick on 36.5 per cent, Labor candidate James Peikert on 17 per cent and Lewis on 15 per cent. The high rate of undecided voters is a sadly typical feature of non-professional opinion polling.

Mount Gambier (Independent 25.0% vs Liberal): That said, the Murray Valley Standard are masters of the art compared to the Border Watch, whose "straw poll" of 100 voters – presumably conducted at the Mount Gambier Arms just before closing time – failed to get an answer out of 51 of them. Of the remainder, 23 backed independent incumbent Rory McEwen against 11 for Labor and 10 for Liberal. The accompanying article draws attention to this intriguing insight from Antony Green:

There are reports the CFMEU is putting considerable effort into Labor’s campaign in this seat. This would be unlikely to elect a Labor MP, but it might be enough to defeat McEwen by squeezing his primary vote, as suggested by the Advertiser’s opinion poll. Given Mike Rann has promised that McEwen can stay in Cabinet if Labor is re-elected, there will be a few Labor factional leaders who realise that one way of creating a cabinet vacancy is to defeat McEwen. If there is a vigorous Labor campaign in Mount Gambier, it is more about internal Labor politics in the formation of the next cabinet than realistic hopes of Labor winning Mount Gambier.

I see red

The Advertiser has today published a poll of South Australian upper house voting intentions taken from the same sample as yesterday’s lower house poll, which was conducted on Wednesday night. The most striking result is the 10 per cent recorded for No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon, who was elected in 1997 from 2.9 per cent of the vote. As remarkable as this may be for a micro-party candidate, it is consistent with the popularity and profile Xenophon has built as a media-savvy adjudicator between the major parties, a position that was emphasised after each of the lower house independents came to various accommodations with the Labor government. An extra 1 per cent can be added to this score after distribution of the undecided, putting Xenophon almost 3 per cent clear of the quota required for election – enough to put his running mate Ann Bressington (described in The Advertiser as a "drug rehabilitation pioneer") into contention in her own right.

Of particular interest is the wide gap between the collective non-major party vote in the two polls, which is at 17 per cent for the lower house and 32 per cent for the upper house. The respective figures at the 2002 election were 22.1 per cent and 26.2 per cent. While the genuine popularity of Xenophon will no doubt widen the gap (the No Pokies ticket polled 1.3 per cent in his absence in 2002), a degree of scepticism is in order here. For one thing, survey respondents will be more likely to give different answers to questions about lower and upper house voting intention for fear of appearing unsophisticated. Furthermore, undecided voters tend to be politically disengaged and are unlikely to make distinctions between the houses when they determine their vote. A similar exercise on Senate voting intention conducted by Roy Morgan before the 2004 federal election (note their less-than-prescient headline, "L-NP Could Lose Up To Three Senate Seats and Greens Gain Four") put the non-major party vote at 26.5 per cent, which compared with the actual result of 20.0 per cent.

Consequently, there is reason to be cautious about The Advertiser’s estimation that Labor will win only four of the available 11 seats, contrary to the general expectation that they are set to win five. Similarly, the smart money should remain on a fourth seat for the Liberals, which the poll suggests is in jeopardy. It is certainly possible that one party or the other will fall short of their final seat, but surely not both. That will leave two or three seats remaining for the minor parties, and whatever other reservations might be raised about the Advertiser poll, it seems clear that one of these will go to Xenophon. That leaves the remaining one or two seats as a lottery between various minor party candidates, for which there is little point in making predictions until the parties’ preference allocations for above-the-line votes are made available on Tuesday. When this happens, readers would do well to pay a visit to Upperhouse.Info, which will feature a ticket calculator that will convert votes into seat outcomes based on the enormously complicated preference flows. As well as Bressington, contenders for the final one or two seats will include the leading candidates for the Democrats (Kate Reynolds), Greens (Mark Parnell) and Family First (Dennis Hood). For what it’s worth, The Advertiser’s poll provides encouragement for the struggling Democrats, who are on 5 per cent, and a disappointment for the up-and-coming Family First, whose 3 per cent compares with the 4.1 per cent they scored at the 2002 election.

Also in The Advertiser’s poll is a question on attitudes towards the Legislative Council, which Mike Rann proposed to abolish in November pending a referendum to be held in conjunction with the 2010 election. The results were exactly as would be expected – widespread support for an end to eight-year terms and a reduction from 22 members to 16, but little enthusiasm for either abolition or the status quo.

Guten Morgan, Herr Rann

Today’s South Australian Roy Morgan poll has Labor support at the organisation’s usual absurdly high levels – 50.5 per cent on the primary vote and a 60.5-39.5 lead on two-party preferred. An 11.5 per cent swing, as predicted by the poll, would just about send Rob Kerin off to Centrelink (he holds Frome by precisely that margin) and leave the Liberals with fewer seats than Labor won at the 1993 wipeout. Bless Morgan’s heart, but they do some funny things – like including the Nationals in the "Independent/Others" column, an indignity they do not even visit upon One Nation. This should be borne in mind when assessing the even more frightening primary vote result of 33 per cent for the Liberals, which is actually up 1 per cent on the previous poll. If anyone was wondering, the graph of Morgan results in this earlier post features Coalition primary vote figures that were arrived at by adding 1.5 per cent to the Liberals’ results, that being the statewide Nationals vote at the 2002 election.

In other poll news, the indefatigable Oompa-Loompas in the basement of the Advertiser building have produced their third survey in as many days. This time it’s a statewide poll of 657 voters conducted on Wednesday, which shows the Liberals improving on their position at the previous poll by a fairly meaningless 1 per cent at Labor’s expense, on both primary and two-party. Labor now leads 42 per cent to 33 per cent on the former measure and 56-44 on the latter.

Barrier draw

Nominations for the South Australian election have closed and the ballot paper rankings have been set in place. The Poll Bludger’s election guide tables have been amended accordingly – tip of the hat to Antony Green, who has made the information available more promptly than the South Australian Electoral Office. Some of the information in the electorate summaries is now out of date, but this will be set to rights in reasonably short order.

In the marginal seats, the donkey vote will favour Labor in Norwood, Hartley, Morialta and Bright (UPDATE: Gus notes in comments that every one of these is a double whammy for the Liberals, who drew a higher position than Labor in each case in 2002), while the Liberals have drawn the higher position in Adelaide, Stuart, Light, Mawson and Newland. In the seats that this site has identified as roughies, the draw has favoured Tom Playford of Family First in Kavel and Nationals candidate Kym McHugh in Finniss, while Liberal candidate David Pisoni will head the ballot in Unley.

With all cards now on the table, the following can be revealed:

Hammond (Independent 2.3% versus Liberal): Independent MP Peter Lewis, who appeared headed for certain defeat, will not even attempt to hold the seat and will instead run for the upper house. Lewis ran under the banner of the Community Leadership Independence Coalition in 2002, and this time he has adopted the even more cumbersome handle of Principles People Reform Before Parties. Nothing has come of reported moves to disendorse Liberal candidate Adrian Pederick following last week’s revelation that his mother took out a restraining order against him 15 years ago.

Mitchell (Labor 4.8%): Voters of an environmentalist persuasion have a smorgasbord of options available to them – sitting member Kris Hanna, who became South Australia’s first Greens MP after defecting from Labor in 2003, only to quit his new party in January; Travis Gilbert, a party member who is running as a "True Green for Mitchell"; and Jeffrey Williams, the official Greens candidate. Not bad for a seat the Greens didn’t even bother to contest in 2002.

Unley (Liberal 9.1%): Outgoing Liberal MP Mark Brindal, who was effectively defeated for preselection by David Pisoni, has decided against running as an independent, which he was threatening to do as recently as yesterday.

Little Para (Labor 7.1%) and Taylor (Labor 17.9%): Nothing has come of talk that respective members Lea Stevens and Trish White might step aside for Salisbury mayor Tony Zappia.

Noteworthy entrants for the Legislative Council include Ralph Clarke, the former Labor member for Enfield, who is running under the "Buy Back ETSA" banner. The Poll Bludger understands he will be feeding preferences to popular No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon, who is likely to be frozen out of preferences by both major parties. Former Labor MP Terry Cameron, who quit the party and formed the now-defunct SA First which fielded candidates in 2002, will attempt to hold his seat as an independent.

The one and Unley

The Advertiser’s opinion pollsters don’t muck around – I hope for the sake of News Corporation’s fragile budgetary position that they’re outsourcing this stuff to India. Anyway, today the paper has run a poll of 516 voters from a seat identified in Tuesday’s post as a potential upset Labor win, the inner city electorate of Unley which the Liberals hold with a margin of 9.1 per cent. The poll indeed suggests that the Liberals are in big trouble – their controversial candidate David Pisoni leads Unley mayor and Labor candidate Michael Keenan 45 per cent to 40 per cent on the decided primary vote, but trails 51-49 on two-party preferred. If that sounds like a big primary vote gap for Labor to narrow, it should be noted that the Greens dominate the minor party vote with Family First barely registering. The Advertiser also reports that the sitting Liberal member Pisoni effectively ousted for preselection, Mark Brindal, was still not ruling out standing as an independent. Nominations closed at noon, so we shall find out soon.