Yuletide polling detritus

A Tasmanian state poll, issue salience and COVID management polling, and a voting intention data dump from Essential Research.

Unless Roy Morgan is feeling ambitious, we’re unlikely to see new polling until mid-to-late January, although The Australian should have Newspoll’s quarterly breakdowns immediately after Christmas. If breakdowns are your game, Essential Research now provides a mother lode of them for all its polling going back the start of 2020, with voting intention broken down by (mainland) state, gender, age cohort, work status and region (categorised as inner metro, outer metro, provincial and rural). With the availability of this data, it will become worth my while to again provide state-level polling trends in BludgerTrack, as was done before the 2019 election. So stay tuned for that. For the time being, Essential’s state and gender results are now included in my poll data archive.

A few other polling morsels to report:

• The latest EMRS poll of state voting intention in Tasmania snuck out last week without me noticing. It found little change on the last poll in August, with the Liberals steady on 49%, Labor down two to 26% and the Greens steady on 13%, which in turn differed little from the March election result of Liberal 48.7%, Labor 28.2% and Greens 12.4%. Peter Gutwein’s 59-28 lead over Rebecca White as preferred premier is likewise hardly changed from 59-29 last time. The poll was conducted November 28 to December 5 from a sample of 1000.

• JWS Research has released its latest True Issues survey on issue salience. Ratings for the government’s performance across a range of 20 issues are down across the board by zero to five points since July, with defence, security and terrorism and immigration remaining its strongest suits and cost of living and environment/climate change its weakest. Among many findings about COVID-19, the federal government is deemed to have performed well by 40% and poorly by 28%, while state and territory governments in aggregate are on 60% and 12% respectively, with both maintaining downward trends from a peak late last year. Cost of living and health are rated effectively equal as the issue the government should be most focused on, with 59% and 58% respectively including them among five choices out of a list of 20. The survey was conducted November 22 to November 24 from a sample of 1000.

• Recommended reading: Kevin Bonham on “the overrated impact of party preferencing decisions” and Alan Kohler on the Australian Electoral Commission.

Morgan: 54.5-45.5 to Labor

Labor maintains its strong lead in the latest Roy Morgan federal poll, while EMRS finds the state Liberals still well on top in Tasmania.

Roy Morgan published its regular fortnightly (for so it now seems) federal voting intention poll on Wednesday, which recorded an incremental improvement for Labor on their already strong previous result. Labor was credited with a lead of 54.5-45.5 on two-party preferred, out from 54-46 last time, from primary votes of Coalition 37.5% (steady), Labor 38.5% (up one), Greens 11.5% (down one) and One Nation 3% (down half).

Two-party state breakdowns are included as usual, showing Labor leading in New South Wales with 53% (a swing of about 5% compared with the 2019 election, and a gain of one point since the previous poll), in Victoria with 59.5% (a swing of about 6.5%, and a loss of half a point), in Western Australia with 51% (a swing of about 6.5%, and a loss of three-and-a-half points), in South Australia with 57.5% (a swing of about 9%, and a gain of three points) and in Tasmania with 63.5% (a swing of about 7.5%, and a gain of six-and-a-half points. The Coalition’s only lead is in Queensland with 53.5%, a gain of 1.5% since the previous poll but a swing to Labor of around 5% compared with 2019.

The poll was conducted over the past two weekends from a sample of 2735. Assuming this was divided between the states in proportion to population, sub-samples would have ranged from nearly 900 in New South Wales to less than 100 in Tasmania.

Speaking of Tasmania, the first EMRS poll of voting intention in that state since the May election was published yesterday, although it does not capture the impact of the latest developments in the David O’Byrne saga, having been conducted from August 7 to 9. The result is almost identical to that of the election, with the Liberals on 49% (48.7% at the election), Labor on 28% (28.2%) and the Greens on 13% (12.4%). Newly restored Labor leader Rebecca White trails Peter Gutwein 59-29 as preferred premier, compared with 61-26 in the pre-election poll in February. The poll was conducted by phone from a sample of 1000.

Liberals by any other name

Electoral law changes rammed through parliament, New South Wales state boundaries finalised, and some by-election news.

Significant electoral developments of the past few days:

• The federal government’s package of four electoral bills, which were explained in this earlier post, whizzed through parliament this week with the support of Labor (UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that one of the four, dealing with the threshold for registering as a political campaigner, was in fact not considered). Most contentiously, this will give the Liberal Party exclusive rights to the word “liberal” in their registered party name, with the effect that the Liberal Democrats and the New Liberals will have to change names before the next election. It is unclear what the former plans to do, but Victor Kline, leader and registered officer of the New Liberals, says the party will simply identify itself as TNL.

• The new laws also mean that parties will need to have 1500 members to maintain their registration unless they have a sitting member of parliament, which by the reckoning of Kevin Bonham could affect as many of 24 out of the 45 currently registered parties. Those privy to the sitting member exemption include Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, thanks to former Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s decision join, along with the Centre Alliance, Jacqui Lambie Network, Katter’s Australian Party and Rex Patrick Team.

• The state redistribution for New South Wales has been finalised, without much change to the draft boundaries that were published last November. Antony Green has a pendulum with estimated margins for the final boundaries.

Two minor by-elections coming up:

• For the Northern Territory parliament: a by-election will be held on September 11 for the Darwin hinterland seat of Daly, where Country Liberal Party member Ian Sloan has retired due to ill health a year after an election at which Labor was returned to power. Sloan held out against Labor by 1.2% at the election, at which he succeeded retiring CLP member Gary Higgins. The CLP’s candidate is Kris Civitarese, a Barkly councillor; Labor’s is Dheran Young, a former advisor to Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

• For the Tasmanian Legislative Council: a by-election will be required for a yet-to-be determined date early next year for the seat of Huon, encompassing the southern edge of Hobart and its hinterland, after Labor member Bastian Seidel announced he would quit parliament at the final sitting for the year in December. Seidel has complained of a “toxic environment” and “obvious problems” in the party, which would appear to refer to the sexual harassment allegations against David O’Byrne, who was compelled to resign as party leader in July after just three weeks in the job and is now facing calls from within the party, including leader Rebecca White, to quit parliament.

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.

Old, new, borrowed and blue

The AEC contentiously green-lights a party called the New Liberals, plus the resolution of the Tasmanian state election and Upper Hunter by-election.

Four entirely unrelated items of electoral news after a week without new poll results:

• The Australian Electoral Commission has approved the registration of a party called the New Liberals. In doing so it rejected a 55-page Liberal Party submission that included CT Group polling to support its argument that voters would confuse the new party with the old. The judgement cited the similarly unsuccessful bid to deny Liberals for Forests in 2001, in which it was determined that a ban on words as generic as “liberal” and “labour” demanded “clear language” from the Electoral Act – although it conceded the name New Liberals landed “much closer to the line”. The Howard government’s dissatisfaction with the 2001 ruling resulted in a new clause targeting names implying a “connection or relationship” with an existing party, but the AEC has ruled this doesn’t catch the New Liberals. The judgement also expressed reservations about the CT Group survey, in terms implying a dubious attitude to much of the modern practice of opinion polling. The Liberals can now apply for an internal review, followed by an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

• The count for the Upper Hunter by-election has been finalised, confirming a 5.8% winning margin for Nationals candidate David Layzell and a two-party swing to the Nationals of 3.3%. Antony Green crunches the ballot paper data (a welcome feature of NSW election counts) to determine how each candidate’s preferences divided between Nationals and Labor, which in aggregate was very similar to the 2019 election.

• Resolution also for the Tasmanian state election, which had a post-script after elected Adam Brooks was charged with firearms offences the day after his election was declared, prompting him to decline his seat. This was resolved through Tasmania’s recount procedure for lower house vacancies using the ballots that elected the outgoing member, which naturally went overwhelmingly to other Liberals. The result was a win for Felix Ellis, a member of the previous parliament who initially failed to win re-election, finishing the distribution with 5881 votes (53.4%) to Stacey Sheehan’s 5132 (46.6%). The party numbers remain Liberal 13, Labor nine and Greens two, with one independent.

• I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the recently launched Australian Polling Council’s new code of conduct. Both council and code draw inspiration from the British Polling Council, though to my own disappointment it does not follow the British example in requiring members to publish full breakdowns and weighting bases for each poll. However, pollsters will be required to publish a range of other detail that is often absent from media outlets’ reporting of polls they commission, including margin of error calculations that account for demographic imbalances in the sample. The nine pollsters who are members of the council include most of the familiar names, but not Resolve Strategic and Roy Morgan.

Month of May miscellany

A number of Queensland preselections fall into place as both parties jack up preparations for a federal election that may be held as soon as October.

In addition to Saturday’s Upper Hunter by-election in New South Wales, the results and aftermath of which you can discuss here, I have the following electoral news to relate, much of it involving federal preselections in Queensland:

James Massola of the Age/Herald reports that “Liberal MPs believe an early election is increasingly likely after Josh Frydenberg’s well-received third federal budget”, although “much will depend on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout”. An early election may still mean next year rather than this: according to an unnamed Liberal MP quoted in the report, “the thinking was it would be May 2022, now it’s February-March or maybe even October-November”.

• The Liberal National Party’s candidate for the Brisbane seat of Lilley is Ryan Shaw, an army veteran who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, and the unsuccessful LNP candidate for the corresponding seat of Nudgee at last year’s state election. The Prime Minister visited the seat with Shaw in two last week to promote the government’s HomeBuilder program. Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review reported the seat was one of two in Queensland that the LNP was “making a play for” – notwithstanding that “the Coalition is acutely aware that the huge swing towards it in Queensland at the last election could easily go the other way next time … without the red hot issue of the Adani coal mine, the Bob Brown convoy and an unpopular leader in Bill Shorten”.

• The second of the two Queensland seats the Coalition hopes to add to its pile is Blair, which Shayne Neumann has held for Labor since 2007. This is one of two seats which have been the subject of speculation surrounding former state Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, whose state seat of Nanango largely corresponds with it. The other is the rather more attractive prospect of Flynn, which will be vacated with the retirement of LNP incumbent Ken O’Dowd. Michael McKenna of The Australian reports Frecklington has “denied she had considered running for Flynn, but has not responded to questions about a possible preselection bid in Blair”. Another nominee for the LNP’s Flynn preselection is Colin Boyce, who has held the state seat of Callide since 2017. Labor announced last week that its candidate for the seat would be Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett.

• In Capricornia, another theoretically winnable seat for Labor in regional Queensland that inflicted a blowout swing on the party in 2019, Labor has endorsed Russell Robertson, who works at the Goonyella coal mine.

• Labor in Tasmania will conduct a ballot of party members as part of its process to choose a successor to Rebecca White, who resigned as leader after last month’s election defeat. The contestants for the position are David O’Byrne, a figure of considerable influence in the Left faction, and Shane Broad, whose profile is rather a bit lower. The membership vote will constitute 50% of the total, with the other half consisting of a ballot of the party’s state conference. I believe this will be the third such party membership vote for a parliamentary leader in Australia, after the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese after the 2013 federal election, and that between Jodi McKay and Chris Minns after the 2019 state election in New South Wales (readers may correct me in comments if I’ve missed something).

Tasmanian election endgame

A regularly updated post on the resolution of the Tasmanian election, which will occur as the preference distributions are conducted through the remainder of this week.

Wednesday night

The count was completed today in Clark, confirming that the Liberals won two seats in the division and 13 seats overall, and will thereby govern with a majority. Former Labor member Madeleine Ogilvie was the winner of the second Liberal seat, recording 5591 votes to Simon Behrakis’s 5249 before the final exclusion. The distribution of Behrakis’s preferences left Ogilvie with 10,145 votes, just short of a quota of 10,626, but comfortably clear of the only remaining candidate, former Liberal independent Sue Hickey, who had 8716. The full preference distribution can be viewed here.

In Braddon, Roger Jaensch ended the day with a 205 vote lead over Felix Ellis in the race for the third Liberal seat, after see-sawing fortunes throughout the day. Jaensch’s 27-vote lead at the end of counting yesterday turned into a 364-vote deficit after the exclusion of the first Liberal to drop out, Stacey Sheehan, and the remaining Shooters candidate; but he pulled ahead again with the next Liberal exclusion, Lara Hendriks. Next comes the exclusion of Labor’s Justine Keay, whose preferences will overwhelmingly flow to the two remaining Labor candidates, Shane Broad and Anita Dow; followed by independent Craig Garland, whose exclusion should add around 1500 votes to the Liberal tally if the 2018 election is any guide. So Ellis’s hopes likely rest on him scoring a significantly bigger share of those votes than Jaensch.

Tuesday night

The Liberals still look almost certain of gaining the second seat they need in Clark, although such is the spread of votes among candidates that none have yet reached a quota, despite the distribution of preferences from two Labor candidates, two of the five Greens, the Animal Justice, Shooters and Federation Party candidates, and the three ungrouped independents. Further Liberal, Labor and Greens exclusions will surely elect Elise Archer, Ella Haddad and Cassy O’Connor respectively, and whichever of independents Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey drops out will elect the other.

The Liberals have built up from a collective 1.91 quotas on the primary vote to 1.97, and taking exhausted votes into account, this would be comfortably enough to win them a second seat if it was sustained through to the final count. The question is whether that will reduce significantly when the three weakest Liberals are excluded from the count, and a proportion of their votes transfer to non-Liberal candidates as preferences.

Kevin Bonham’s assessment is that the only potential threat involves Madeleine Ogilvie losing her current lead over Simon Behrakis as the second placed Liberal, and her background as a Labor and independent member being reflected in a “ridiculously” high leakage of around 35% of her preferences to non-Liberal candidates. The reduction would need to be sufficient to cancel out whatever preferences flow to the Liberals with the exclusion of three more unsuccessful Labor candidates and two from the Greens, though this won’t amount to much.

Of the two independents, Kristie Johnston polled 11.0% of the primary vote to Sue Hickey’s 9.8%, a gap that has been little changed with the preferences distributed so far, which have respectively increased them to 11.9% to 10.7%. Hickey will need strong preference flows from soon-to-be-excluded Liberal, Labor and Greens candidates, and the one Labor and two Greens exclusions so far offer little indication that that’s going to happen. As such, Hickey’s only hope is that the Liberals will indeed be reduced to a single seat and a parliamentary minority, with the last seat going to her instead.

There was a noteworthy development in Braddon where three Liberal candidates are fighting it out for the party’s second and third seats, following the distribution of leading candidate Jeremy Rockliff’s large surplus. This went well for Adam Brooks, who now looks entrenched for the second seat, and also for Roger Jaensch, who chased down a 6.9% to 8.9% deficit against incumbent Felix Ellis. Jaensch led by 55 after Rockliff’s exclusion, which reduced to 27 after later exclusions. The result will likely come down to the as-yet-undistributed preferences of the two clearly unsuccessful Liberals: Lara Hendriks with 2788 votes and Stacey Sheehan with 2343. Also remaining to be distributed are two of the three unsuccessful Labor candidates, whose preferences will mostly stay in ticket and elect the party’s two winners; independent Craig Garland; and the lead candidates of the Greens and Shooters.

The Bass count did nothing to deter the assessment below that the Greens would not poach one of Labor’s two seats. A note of technical interest emerged when the overwhelmingly dominant Peter Gutwein’s surplus was distributed, and it favoured Sarah Courtney over Michael Ferguson to such an extent that Courtney was elected first despite having trailed Ferguson 5.7% to 3.3% on primary votes. The Lyons count dispelled any doubt that the second seat would go to Jen Butler rather than Janet Lambert, with Butler extending her lead as White’s preferences not unexpectedly favoured her fellow incumbent.

Also completed today were the preference distributions for the two Legislative Council contests. Windermere was confirmed as a Liberal gain upon the retirement of independent Ivan Dean, with Nick Duigan recording a 4.1% margin at the final count over the Labor candidate, former federal Bass MP Geoff Lyons. Duigan recorded 37.8% of the primary vote to Lyons’ 27.0%. Preferences from the three independents, Will Smith (21.2%), Rob Soward (9.7%) and Vivienne Gale (4.2%) favoured Labor by an insufficient 53.9% to 46.1%.

Labor’s Craig Farrell ended up being re-elected in Derwent with a 5.7% margin over Liberal candidate Ben Shaw, having fallen just short of a majority on the primary vote with 49.2% to Shaw’s 40.8%. The balance of 10.0% went to Animal Justice, whose preferences favoured Labor by a ratio of around two to one. This puts the numbers in the chamber at Labor five (steady), Liberal four (up one) and independents six (down one), which is a record high for the major parties.

Monday night

The count for the Tasmanian election reaches a milestone this morning with the cut-off for arrival of postal votes. My live results facility continues to offer exquisite detail on the vote totals here, but the game now is the complicated procedure of Hare-Clark preference distributions. These are done manually, in contrast to the procedures for the Senate and state upper houses, and will accordingly be take some time to complete — with results from the distribution, I gather, to be published piecemeal as the process unfolds (I must confess to never having paid this much attention to the late stages of a Tasmanian election count). This post will be updated with the details as they emerge.

Electoral commissioner Andrew Hawkey tells The Mercury he expects the all-important count for Clark to be resolved “late Wednesday or Thursday morning”, with Braddon, Franklin and Lyons to follow Thursday afternoon or evening and Bass not to be finished until Friday. To briefly summarise the situation:

Clark. This is presumably being prioritised in the count because it is on this Hobart-centred electorate that the result hinges, with the Liberals to secure a majority of 13 seats out of 25 if it can win a second seat, and Premier Peter Gutwein committed to resigning if the party falls short. Ella Haddad of Labor, Elise Archer of the Liberals, Cassy O’Connor of the Greens and an independent — either Kristie Johnston or Sue Hickey — are each assured of a seat, leaving the last seat as a race between a second Liberal and whoever remains out of Johnston and Hickey. With the Liberals on 1.91 quotas and Johnston and Hickey on 1.25 quotas between them, it will take extremely tight flows of preferences from Labor, the Greens and minor parties to cost the Liberals the second seat. The second Liberal would either be former Labor member Madeleine Ogilvie or Simon Behrakis.

Braddon. The result here will be three Liberal and two Labor, with only the identity of the second and third elected Liberals in doubt. Jeremy Rockliff has overwhelmingly dominated the Liberal ticket with 27.5% of the vote, with the preferences from his 10.8% surplus to decide who wins out of Felix Ellis (8.9%), Adam Brooks (also 8.9%) and Roger Jaensch (6.9%).

Franklin. A formality: Liberal members Jacquie Petrusma and Nic Street will be re-elected, Labor newcomer Dean Winter will join incumbent David O’Byrne as one of Labor’s two members at the expense of incumbent Alison Standen, and Rosalie Woodruff will be re-elected for the Greens.

Lyons. The Liberals will win three seats, with incumbents Guy Barnett, Mark Shelton and John Tucker to be re-elected; Labor will win two, with Rebecca White dominating the ticket and her preferences to decide the result between incumbent Jen Butler and non-incumbent Janet Lambert — very likely the former, since incumbent preferences tend to flow to other incumbents.

Bass. The vague prospect that the Greens would poach one of Labor’s two seats having faded, the result here will be three Liberal (Peter Gutwein, Michael Ferguson and Sarah Courtney) and two Labor (Michelle O’Byrne and Janie Finlay).

Affirmative inaction

Federal preselection season keeps rumbling on, with the Queensland LNP settling a keenly fought Senate contest on the weekend.

Before proceeding with the latest preselection news, I have a still-active post with daily updates on the progress of Tasmanian state election count; a live results feature that I can’t promote often enough, since it remains by some distance the most detailed source of results data available; and a lengthy plea for cash from Friday from which I’m still vaguely hopeful of squeezing another donation or two.

On with the show:

• The long-awaited Liberal National Party Senate preselection has allocated top position on the Queensland ticket to James McGrath while relegating Amanda Stoker to third, maintaining an impressive bipartisan run of preselectors never getting anything right. Michael McKenna of The Australian relates that McGrath secured a sweeping 212-101 win from the “biggest ever turnout for a State Council Senate vote”. The second position is designated to the Nationals, and is duly a lock for Matt Canavan.

Paul Starick of The Advertiser reports that Leah Blyth, who has the backing of the South Australian Liberal Party’s conservative faction to replace the retiring Nicolle Flint in the Adelaide seat of Boothby, may be poleaxed by the Section 44 of the Constitution. Blyth’s efforts to renounce a dual British citizenship even this far out from the election could fall foul of extended processing times arising from COVID-19, although others quoted in the report express doubt that it will really be a problem. Rival contenders include Rachel Swift, moderate-aligned proprietor of a health consultancy firm, and Shaun Osborn, a police officer who ran in the seat of Adelaide in 2019. However, Osborn is hampered by the optics of putting a man forward to replace Flint, whose experiences have been a key element in Liberal efforts to parry suggestions that disrespect for women is particularly a problem on their own side of politics.

John Ferguson of The Australian reports dissension within Victorian Labor over the likelihood that former state secretary Sam Rae will secure preselection for the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe. The report says a draft preselection agreement reserves the seat for the Right faction Transport Workers Union, which remains associated with party powerbroker and former Senator Stephen Conroy. While Conroy evidently backs Rae, “other parts” of the Right are said to favour the position going to a woman, specifically Natalie Hutchins, the Andrews government Corrections Minister and member for the seat of Sydenham.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian reported last week that “wholesale ALP federal intervention” loomed for the party’s Tasmanian branch, “barring a shock win for the party” at Saturday’s state election – which, for those of you who have just joined us, didn’t happen. The concern is that Left unions use their excessive weight within the branch’s affairs to do foolish things like deny preselection to Dean Winter, who was able to achieve his thumping win in Franklin on Saturday only because the national executive intervened to give him a place on the ticket. This would appear to be relevant to Labor’s preselections for the federal seat of Bass and Braddon, which it lost at the 2019 election, and also to the fate of twice-defeated state leader Rebecca White. The aforesaid Left unions are apparently keen on replacing her with David O’Byrne, who was outpolled in Franklin on Saturday by the aforesaid Dean Winter.

• The Liberal Party has done tellingly extensive research for its submission opposing the registration of a party under the name New Liberals, which included CT Group polling indicating that 69% of respondents believed a party thus named sounded like it had a connection with the other Liberal Party.