Tasmanian upper house elections: Huon and Rosevears

A look at the two contests to be decided on Saturday for seats in Tasmania’s Legislative Council.

Live commentary

Final for night. Labor’s Bastian Seidel appears headed for a comfortable win over independent incumbent Robert Armstrong in Huon, who he has outpolled 31.4% to 19.0%, with the Greens on 17.2% and conservative independent Dean Harriss on 16.3%. According to Kevin Bonham in comments, preferences from the Greens are flowing to Labor with such force that preferences overall are likely to increase rather than reduce Seidel’s existing margin. Conversely, Rosevears, which is being vacated by a retiring independent, might be won either by Liberal candidate Jo Palmer, on 41.4%, or independent Janie Finlay, on 30.8%. Labor’s candidate made no impression, polling 9.1%, with the Greens on 7.3% and the remainder divided between two independents.

9.25pm. The postals are in from Huon, and independent incumbent Robert Armstrong has moved to second place with 19.0%, with the Greens on 17.2% and Dean Harriss on 16.3%, but Labor’s Bastian Seidel still well in the lead on 31.4%. Presumably that will mean a final count between Seidel and Armstrong, with the former’s lead still looking insurmountable.

9.19pm. That pretty much is all the pre-polls actually, except out-of-division ones, which will be negligible.

9.13pm. The promised batch of around 5000 postals has been added in Rosevears, and both seats have had pre-polls added, though I’m presuming not all of them. These have only slightly improved Liberal candidate Jo Palmer’s lead over independent Janie Finlay in Rosevears, which is now at 41.4% to 30.8%. Voters in these elections can number as few as three boxes, so around 10% of preferences exhaust. That leaves Finlay needing a bit more than 70% of allocated preferences, which seems doable, although Palmer may be more popular with minor party voters than the average Liberal. The pre-polls in Huon haven’t changed the situation much.

8.00pm. All booths now in from Rosevears, Palmer’s lead at 30.0% to 16.4%.

7.52pm. Kevin Bonham, who follows all this a lot more closely than I do, says around 5000 postals will be added in each seat later tonight, which should add around a third to the vote totals when they happen. Postals tend to favour major parties, so Jo Palmer (Rosevears) and especially Bastian Seidel (Huon) should still be rated the front-runners. Still one more booth to report from Rosevears.

7.43pm. All but one booth now in from Rosevears — my contention that the Launceston booths might favour Janie Finlay isn’t being borne out, with Jo Palmer now leading 40.3% to 30.7%.

7.38pm. All booths are now in from Huon, and the situation is much as per my last update, except that Labor are back above 30% now. A point I’ve been failing to emphasise throughout this is that there has been a big increase in postal and pre-poll voting. I can’t see that changing the dynamic in Huon, but Rosevears remains up in the air.

7.33pm. Only Blackmans Bay remain to be added in Huon. Labor’s vote is now inside 30% at 29.4%, and the Greens are inside 20% at 19.7%, while little separates incumbent Robert Armstrong and conservative independent Dean Harriss, both a bit below 17%. I would guess that one of the latter two will make it to second place on the other’s preferences, but Greens preferences would then have to behave very strangely to deny Labor a win.

7.30pm. Eleven booths in now from Rosevears, with another two to come (both in Launceston and probably quite big), and Palmer’s lead has actually widened to 41.8% to 30.7%.

7.28pm. Sixteen out of 19 booths in from Huon, situation there much as before.

7.21pm. Now eight booths in from Rosevears, and there has been a significant break in favour of Liberal candidate Jo Palmer, who leads independent Janie Finlay 40.2% to 32.3%. However, the outstanding booths are mostly in Launceston, which is Finlay’s council turf. Too close to call.

7.11pm. A fifth booth in from Rosevears brings a slight narrowing in Jo Palmer’s lead, now at 37.3% to Janie Finlay’s 36.1%, meaning the latter still looks a likely winner to me.

7.04pm. Fourteen booths out of 19 now in from Huon, Greens now down to 19.7% but otherwise only small changes.

7.00pm. With 10 booths in out of 19, the order in Huon is now Labor (30.7%), Greens (21.2%), Armstrong (16.2%), Harriss (14.8%). It may be that Armstrong is appreciating as the urban end of the electorate comes in, but it’s still hard to see how he overcomes the combination of Labor and any normal-looking preference flow from the Greens.

6.56pm. Four booths in from Rosevears, which is very much a two-horse race between Liberal candidate Jo Palmer on 39.6% and independent Janie Finlay on 37.1%. Palmer would need the gap to be wider than that to hold out what will presumably be a strong flow of preferences to Finlay.

6.52pm. Seven booths in now from Huon, and Labor has softened to 30.1%. Greens candidate Pat Caruana doing well with 23.7%, though presumably not well enough. My guess is that there will be reasonably tight preferences between Robert Armstrong and Dean Harriss, both of whom are a bit below 15%, such that one or the other will finish second, but that Greens preferences will ultimately decide the contest for Labor. However, there will be a lot of variables in play requiring local knowledge that I’m not on top of.

6.46pm. First results from Huon are no less surprising, and in this case far happier for Labor. With five booths in, independent incumbent Robert Armstrong is running fourth on 14.9%, and the Labor candidate is well in the lead with 35.4%. Pat Caruana of the Greens is second on 16.5%, Liberal-friendly independent Dean Harriss third on 15.4%.

6.43pm. Two booths in from Rosevears (Kelso and Prospect), showing remarkably weak results for Labor, who are on all of 9.0%. This looks like a contest between the Liberal candidate, Jo Palmer, and independent Janie Finlay, who are on 40.5% and 36.0% respectively.

6.08pm. Make that 45 minutes, because the TEC advises that COVID-19 measures should delay results by around 15 minutes.

6pm. Polls have closed. I guess we’ll get results from some of the smaller booths in Rosevears in about half an hour — this is the more interesting of the two contests for mine, as in the absence of any reason to think differently, I would expect Robert Armstrong to win comfortably in Huon. I’ve got a spreadsheet set up to calculate projections in Rosevears by comparing booth results with equivalents from the federal election, inclusive of a two-party projection, assuming the Labor and Liberal candidates are indeed the ones that make it to the final count.

Overview

The periodical elections for Tasmania’s Legislative Council, normally scheduled for early May but held off on this occasion due to COVID-19, will finally be held on Saturday. The members of the 15-seat chamber are elected annually two or three seats at a time over a six-year cycle. A related feature of the chamber is that it is dominated by independents, with elections often having more of the character of local government elections than highly charged partisan affairs. The Liberals have generally been more relaxed about this state of affairs — as Kevin Bonham puts it, the party “doesn’t run against incumbents who don’t annoy it”. Labor currently holds four seats in the chamber, all of them in and around Hobart, and the Liberals hold two regional seats.

The two seats up for election tomorrow are both held by independents, one of whom is seeking re-election and the other is retiring. Both major parties are contesting the vacant seat, but the Liberals are leaving the field free to the incumbent in the other.

Huon

Candidates in ballot paper order: Debbie Louise Armstrong (Independent); Robert Armstrong (Independent); Garrick Cameron (Shooters Fishers Farmers); Pat Caruana (Greens); Dean Harriss (Independent); Bastian Seidel (Labor).

Huon covers the southernmost parts of Tasmania including Blackmans Bay and Margate on Hobart’s southern outskirts, small towns to the south including Huonville and Cygnet, and the unpopulated southern part of the World Heritage area in the state’s south-west. Seeking re-election is independent Robert Armstrong, who came to the seat at the previous election in May 2014 after being mayor of Huon Valley since 2001.

The seat was vacated in 2014 after Peter Harriss, who had held the seat since 1996 as an independent, was elected as a Liberal for the lower house division of Franklin at the state election the previous March. The highest profile candidate in 2014 was the endorsed Liberal, Peter Hodgman, the 67-year-old uncle of Will Hodgman and the younger brother of his father, the late Michael Hodgman. Hodgman led the primary vote from a field of seven candidates with 26.1%, but preferences flowed to Armstrong with sufficient strength to give him a 6.9% winning margin at the final count, off a primary vote base of 20.4%.

Kevin Bonham’s monitoring of parliamentary votes leads him to conclude that Armstrong is a “conservative independent who usually votes with the Liberal Party”, which no doubt explains the party’s decision not to field a candidate. This leaves Armstrong facing Bastian Seidel of Labor, a general practitioner; Pat Caruana of the Greens, a former journalist and current staffer to Senator Nick McKim; Garrick Cameron of Shooters Fishers Farmers, a rough-as-guts social media celebrity; and two rival independents. The latter are Dean Harriss, a Huonville builder and the son of Paul Harriss, and Debbie Armstrong, a Huonville hairdresser and distant relative of the incumbent.

Rosevears

Candidates in ballot paper order: Jack Davenport (Greens); Janie Finlay (Independent); David Fry (Independent); Vivienne Gale (Independent); Jess Greene (Labor); Jo Palmer (Liberal).

Rosevears includes the western suburbs of Launceston, which provide about 60% of its voters, and extends north-westwards to the coast through rural territory on the western bank of the Tamar River, encompassing the mining town of Beaconsfield and nearby Beauty Point. It will be vacated at the election with the retirement of Kerry Finch, who came to the seat in 2002 after building a high profile in 24 years as a local ABC Radio presenter. The 2014 election was a two-horse race between Finch and Liberal candidate Don Morris, but the latter’s attempt to portray Finch as being “just like the Greens” failed to prevent Finch winning re-election with 60.3% of the vote.

In Finch’s absence, each of the three main players in Tasmanian party politics are in the field: Jo Palmer, former Seven Network newsreader, for the Liberals; Jess Greene, West Tamar councillor and Community and Public Sector organiser, for Labor; and Jack Davenport, a social worker, for the Greens. There are three independents: Janie Finlay, who has been on Launceston City Council since 2000, and was mayor from 2002 to 2005; David Fry, a Cricket Tasmania administrator who held a lower house seat in Bass as a Liberal from 2000 to 2002; and Vivienne Gale, a self-storage business owner with conservative political views.

Newspoll state leaders and coronavirus polling

Persistent high ratings all round for state Premiers and the Prime Minister amid the coronavirus crisis, but signs the current Victorian outbreak may have cost Daniel Andrews some shine.

Courtesy of The Australian, Newspoll offers a repeat of an exercise conducted two months ago in which a large national sample is polled to produce state-level results on the popularity of premiers as well as the Prime Minister, both generally and in their dealings with the coronavirus. While the results are positive all round, they find Daniel Andrews falling from a top tier that continues to include Peter Gutwein, Mark McGowan and Steven Marshall, bringing him about level with Gladys Berejiklian but still clear of Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Andrews was down eight on approval to 67% and up ten on disapproval to 27%, while Berejiklian was down one to 68% and up three to 26%. Allowing for small sample sizes in the smaller states, Peter Gutwein took the lead (up six on approval to 90% and down three on disapproval to 8%) from Mark McGowan (down one to 88% and up three on 9%). Despite continuing to trail the pack, Palaszczuk recorded the best improvement with a four point increase in approval to 59% and a four point drop on disapproval to 35%.

However, Palaszczuk remains the only Premier with a weaker net approval rating in their state than Scott Morrison, who according to the poll has strengthened in Queensland (by five on approval to 72%, and down four on disapproval to 24%) but weakened everywhere else (approval down six to 61% and disapproval up five to 35% in New South Wales; down seven to 65% and up four to 30% in Victoria; down three to 67% and up two to 29% in South Australia; down three to 70% and up three to 26% in Western Australia; down four to 60% and up six to 37% in Tasmania).

Andrews’ deterioration on approval is more than matched on the question of handling of coronavirus, on which he now trails out of the Premiers with 72% for well (down 13 points) and 25% for badly (up 14). This pushes him behind Berejiklian (up two to 79% and down two to 16%), Palaszczuk (up four to 76% and down one to 22%) and Marshall (up five to 87% and down two to 9%). Still clear of the field are McGowan and Gutwein, who are tied at 93% well (down one for McGowan, up four for Gutwein) and 5% badly (up one and down three). Scott Morrison’s ratings on this score are little changed, and remarkably consistent from state to state — Queensland and South Australia are his best with 84% well and 14% poorly apiece, but his weakest result, in New South Wales, is still 79% well and 18% badly.

The poll was conducted from a national sample of 2949, ranging from 526 in Victoria to 309 in Tasmania.

The week that was

Party turmoil in Victoria and Queensland, state and territory seat entitlements for the next federal parliament determined, and more polling on attitudes to demonstrations in the United States.

After a particularly eventful week, a whole bunch of electorally relevant news to report:

• The last official population updates have confirmed next month’s official determination of how many seats each state and territory will be entitled to in the next parliament will cause the abolition of seats in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the creation of a new one in Victoria for the second consecutive term. Antony Green offers detailed consideration of how the redistributions might look, suggesting Victoria’s will most likely result in the creation of another safe Labor seat in Melbourne’s outer north-west, while Western Australia’s could either mash together Hasluck and Burt in eastern Perth, or abolish the safe Liberal south-of-the-river seat of Tangney, with knock-on effects that would weaken Labor’s position in Fremantle and/or Burt.

• In the wake of the 60 Minutes/The Age expose on Adem Somyurek’s branch stacking activities on Sunday, Labor’s national executive has taken control of all the Victorian branch’s federal and state preselections for the next three years. Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin have been brought in to serve as administrators until January, and an audit of the branch’s 16,000 members will be conducted to ensure that are genuine consenting members and paid their own fees.

• Ipsos has published polling on the recent demonstrations in the United States from fifteen countries, which found Australians to be supportive of what were specified as “peaceful protests in the US” and disapproving of Donald Trump’s handling of them, although perhaps in slightly lesser degree than other more liberal democracies. Two outliers were India and Russia, which produced some seemingly anomalous results: the former had a strangely high rating for Trump and the latter relatively low support for the protests, yet both were uniquely favourable towards the notion that “more violent protests are an appropriate response”.

• The Tasmanian government has announced the periodical Legislative Council elections for the seats of Huon and Rosevears will be held on August 1, having been delayed from their normally allotted time of the first Tuesday in May.

In Queensland, where the next election is a little over four months away:

• After floating the possibility of an election conducted entirely by post, the Queensland government announced this week that the October 31 state election will be conducted in a more-or-less normal fashion. However, pre-poll voting is being all but actively encouraged, to the extent that Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath says there will be an “election period” rather than an election day. This will mean “more pre-poll locations, longer pre-poll hours, and more pre-poll voting days in the two weeks prior to the election”.

• The Liberal National Party opposition was thrown into turmoil last week after the Courier-Mail ($) received internal polling showing Labor leading 51-49 in Redlands, 52-48 in Gaven, 55-45 in Mansfield and 58-42 in inner urban Mount Ommaney. The parties were tied in the Sunshine Coast hinterland seat of Glass House, while the LNP led by 52-48 in the Gold Coast seat of Currumbin, which it recently retained by a similar margin at a by-election. Frecklington’s supporters pointed the finger at the state branch president, Dave Hutchinson, who was reportedly told by Frecklington that his position was untenable after Clive Palmer hired him as a property consultant in January. The party room unanimously affirmed its support for Frecklington on Monday, as mooted rival David Crisafulli ruled out a challenge ahead of the election.

• The Queensland parliament this week passed an array of electoral law changes including campaign spending caps of $92,000 per candidate and limitations on signage at polling places. The changes have been criticised ($) by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party, who complain that union advertising will now dominate at polling booths, and that the laws was pushed through with indecent haste on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Newspoll state leadership polling and Essential Research coronavirus latest

State-level polling finds the coronavirus tide lifting all boats — but none so far as Mark McGowan in WA, whose numbers may be without precedent.

The Australian ($) today provides Newspoll findings on state leaders’ handling of the coronavirus, from samples of around 520 for each mainland state plus 309 for Tasmania. The poll finds all concerned riding high, including three who strongly outperformed Scott Morrison’s ballyhooed 68% approval and 28% disapproval on the weekend. These are WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan, at 89% approval and 6% disapproval; Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein, at 84% approval and 11% disapproval after three months in the job; and Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, at 75% approval and 17% disapproval.

Morrison was also matched on approval and bettered on net approval by NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian (69% approval and 23% disapproval) and SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall (68% approval and 21% disapproval). Only Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who faces an election in October, was below the prime ministerial par (55% approval and 39% disapproval). With due allowance for small samples, I believe McGowan’s ratings may be a record for Newspoll, or indeed for any other Australian pollster, and that Gutwein’s might have been too if not for McGowan’s.

The leaders record even stronger ratings on the specific question of handling the coronavirus outbreak: 77% rate Berejiklian as having done well, compared with 18% for badly; Andrews is at 85% and 11%; Palaszczuk is at 72% and 23%; McGowan is at 94% and 4%; Marshall is at 82% and 11%; and Gutwein is at 89% and 8%. Equivalent results are also provided for the Prime Minister, and here too Western Australians are most positive, at 73% approval and 23% disapproval, with 85% rating Morrison had handled coronavirus well compared with 14% for badly. In New South Wales, Morrison scored 67% approval and 30% disapproval, and 82% well and 16% badly for coronavirus; in Victoria, 72% approval and 26% disapproval, 83% well and 14% badly; in Queensland, 67% approval and 28% disapproval, 81% well and 17% badly; in South Australia, 70% approval and 27% disapproval, 83% well and 15% badly; and in Tasmania, 64% approval and 31% disapproval, 81% well and 18% badly.

As reported in The Guardian, the weekly Essential Research coronavirus poll provides us with a third set of small-sample findings on mainland state governments’ handling of the crisis, ranging from about 80 respondents in South Australia to 320 in New South Wales. The latest results produce combined very good and good ratings of 77% for the Victorian and South Australian governments, 76% for Western Australia, 67% for Queensland and 63% for New South Wales. The table below records the progress of this series over its three weeks, together with an averaged result which again shows Western Australia highest at 77%, followed by 74% for Victoria, 72% for South Australia, 61% for Queensland and 60% for New South Wales.

Essential Research also finds confidence in the federal government’s handling of the crisis continuing to rise, with 70% rating it good or very good, a measure that earlier progressed from 45% in late March to 65% last week. Seventy-three per cent now say they consider themselves unlikely to catch the virus, compared with 57% at the peak of concern at the end of March. In response to a list of options for budget repair, 64% supported preventing companies in offshore tax havens from receiving goverment support, but only 32% favoured removing franking credits and negative gearing, and 18% supported death duties.

On the COVIDSafe app, the weekend’s Newspoll found 21% saying they would definitely take it up, 33% that they would probably do so, 21% that they would probably not, and 18% that they would definitely not. Apart from the lower uncommitted rating, this is broadly in line with an Australia Institute poll of 1011 respondents on Thursday and Friday which had 45% saying they would and 28% that they wouldn’t. Essential Research also weighed in on the question, and found 53% saying it would limit the spread of the virus, and 46% that it would speed removal of distancing restrictions. A full set of results from Essential Research should be with us later today.

UPDATE: Full Essential Research report here.

What the papers say

Random notes on coronavirus and opinion poll response rates, election postponements and a call to give counting of pre-poll votes a head start on election night.

No Newspoll this week it seems – which is unfortunate, because a report in New York Times ($) suggests coronavirus lockdowns are doing wonders for opinion poll response rates:

Even in online surveys, pollsters have also seen an increase in participation over the past few weeks. At the Pew Research Center, which does most of its polling through the online American Trends Panel, many respondents filled in a voluntary-comments box in a recent survey with expressions of gratitude.

It is inferred that “a wider variety of people are willing to tell pollsters what they think, so it’s more likely that a poll’s respondents will come closer to reflecting the makeup of the general population.”

Coronavirus is rather less conducive to the staging of actual elections, the latest casualty being the May 30 date that was set for Tasmania’s Legislative Council seats of Huon Rosevears, which was itself a postponement from the traditional first Saturday of the month. The government has now invoked a recently legislated power to set the date for a yet-to-be-determined Saturday in June, July and August. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission has expressed the view that a fully postal election, as some were advocating, did not count as an election under the state’s existing Electoral Act.

Tasmania and other jurisdictions with elections looming on their calendars might perhaps look to South Korea, which proceeded with its legislative elections on Wednesday. As reported in The Economist ($):

All voters will have their temperature taken before entering their polling station (those found to have fever or other symptoms will be directed to a separate polling booth). They will also have to wear a face mask, sanitise their hands and put on vinyl gloves before picking up a ballot paper and entering the booth. Election stewards will ensure people keep away from each other while queueing and voting. Door knobs, pencils and ballot boxes will be sterilised often.

Other than that, I can offer the following in the way of recommended reading: Antony Green’s post calling for pre-poll votes to be counted under wraps on election day starting from 2pm. This would address issues arising from the huge imbalance between election day booths, only one of which processed more than 4000 votes at the May 2019 federal election, and the three weeks’ accumulation of votes cast at pre-poll booths, of which 901 cleared 4000 votes, including 208 that went above 10,000 and ten with more than 20,000 (UPDATE: Make that 370 of more than 4000 and 208 of more than 10,000 – turns out the numbers in the table are cumulative). The result is that the largest pre-poll booths are not reporting until very late at night, many hours after the last trickles of election booths runs dry.

This has sometimes caused election counts to take on different complexions at the end of the evening — to some extent at the Victorian state election in November 2018, which ended a little less catastrophic for the Liberals than the election day results suggested, and certainly at the Wentworth by-election the previous month, when Liberal candidate Dave Sharma briefly rose from the dead in his struggle with the ultimately victorious Kerryn Phelps. It is noted that pre-poll votes in New Zealand are counted throughout election day itself, which is made practical by a ban on any election campaigning on the day itself, freeing up party volunteers for scrutineering who in Australia would be staffing polling booths.

Antony also argues against reducing the pre-poll period from three weeks to two, for which there has been quite a broad push since last year’s election, as it will lead to greater demand for the less secure option of postal voting, stimulated by the efforts of the political parties.

Also note my extensive post below on recent events in Wisconsin – you are encouraged to use that thread if you have something to offer specifically on American politics.

Of plagues and houses

Results finalised on Queensland’s two status quo state by-election results, and COVID-19 question marks over looming elections in New Zealand, the Northern Territory and for two Tasmanian upper house seats.

Counting has concluded for the Currumbin and Bundamba by-elections of a fortnight ago, with Laura Gerber retaining Currumbin for the Liberal National Party by a 1.5% margin against a 1.8% swing to Labor, and Lance McCallum retaining Bundamba for Labor by a 9.6% margin ahead of second-placed One Nation (UPDATE: Make that a 1.2% margin in Currumbin and 9.8% in Bundamba). As noted previously, the flow of Greens preferences to Labor in Currumbin was relatively weak, though not quite decisively so. Deep within the innards of the ECQ’s media feed, it says that Greens preferences were going 1738 to Labor (72.8%) and 651 (27.2%), though this can’t be based on the final figures since the Greens received 2527 rather than 2389 votes. Had Labor received 79.17% of Greens preferences, as they did in the corresponding federal seat of McPherson last May, the margin would have been pared back from 567 (1.5%) to 215 (0.5%).

I have three tables to illustrate the results in light of the highly unusual circumstances of the election, the first of which updates one that appeared in an early post, recording the extent to which voters in the two seats changed their behaviour with respect to how they voted. Election day voting obviously fell dramatically, as voters switched to pre-poll voting and, to only a slightly lesser extent, outright abstention. What was not seen was a dramatic increase in postal voting, which will require investigation given the considerable anecdotal evidence that many who applied for postal votes did not receive their ballots on time — an even more contentious matter in relation to the mess that unfolded in Wisconsin on Tuesday, on which I may have more to say at a later time.

The next two tables divide the votes into four types, polling places, early voting, postal and others, and record the parties’ vote shares and swings compared with 2017, the latter shown in italics. In both Currumbin and Bundamba, Labor achieved their weakest results in swing terms on polling day votes, suggesting Labor voters made the move from election day to pre-poll voting in particularly large numbers, cancelling out what had previously been an advantage to the LNP in pre-poll voting. This is matched by a particularly strong swing against the LNP on pre-polls in Currumbin, but the effect is not discernible in Bundamba, probably because the picture was confused by the party running third and a chunk of its vote being lost to One Nation, who did not contest last time.

In other COVID-19 disruption news:

• The Northern Territory government has rejected calls from what is now the territory’s official opposition, Terry Mills’ Territory Alliance party (UPDATE: Turns out I misheard here – the Country Liberal Party remains the opposition, as Bird of Paradox notes in comments), to postpone the August 22 election. Of the practicalities involved in holding the election under a regime of social distancing rules, which the government insists will be in place for at least six months, Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison offers only that “the Electoral Commission is looking at the very important questions of how we make sure that in the environment of COVID-19 that we do this safely”.

• After an initial postponement from May 2 to May 30, the Tasmanian government has further deferred the periodic elections for the Legislative Council seats of Huon and Rosevear, promising only that they will be held by the time the chamber sits on August 25. Three MLCs have written to the Premier requesting that the elections either be held by post or for the terms of the existing members, which will otherwise expire, to be extended through to revised polling date.

• The junior partner in New Zealand’s ruling coalition, Winston Peters of New Zealand First, is calling for the country’s September 19 election to be postponed to November 21, which has also elicited positive noises from the opposition National Party. It might well be thought an element of self-interest is at work here, with Peters wishing to put distance between the election and a donations scandal that has bedeviled his party, and National anticipating a short-term surge in government support amid the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be softening in her opposition to the notion, saying earlier this week it would “depend on what alert level we are at”. There has regrettably been no polling of voting intention in New Zealand in two months, although the government recorded enormously encouraging results in a Colmar Brunton poll on handling of the pandemic in New Zealand and eight other countries, conducted last week.