Victorian election minus nine days

Upper house preference ticket controversy, physical altercations on the campaign trail, and suggestions that Labor’s internal polling is quite a bit less promising for them than media polls.

Various developments on the Victorian election front:

• Antony Green’s eagerly awaited Legislative Council calculators are open for business.

• Today’s Herald Sun leads with a video conference recording showing micro-party preference negotiator Glenn Druery plying his trade. While most of its “bombshell” revelations are old hat, it does show Druery discussing a deal ahead of the 2018 election in which the CFMEU scored preferences for Andy Meddick of Animal Justice and micro-parties got Labor preferences ahead of the Greens, and describing the Restore Democracy Sack Dan Andrews Party as “one of mine”. It was noted here on Monday that the latter party’s preference tickets were not appreciably harsher towards Labor than the Coalition, although both are consistently near the bottom of the pile. Druery was also in the news this week after Animal Justice reneged on deals with his network to instead direct preferences to Labor, the Greens, Reason, Legalise Cannabis and Victorian Socialists.

• Further detail from the RedBridge Group poll published in the Herald Sun on Monday: 73.3% rate that the health system is in crisis, with only 14.5% actively disagreeing; 54.7% think “Matthew Guy and the Coalition” better placed to fix it, strikingly far ahead of Daniel Andrews and Labor on 24%;, 64.9% support the Coalition’s plan to delay construction of the Suburban Rail Loop to divert the money to the health system, with only 18.5% opposed; and 36.4% rated cost-of-living pressures the most important determinant of vote choice, ahead of health on 15.5%, climate change on 10.6% and COVID health and management on 7.8%. It needs reiterating here that the poll’s voting intention question showed Labor on track to win the election. The field work dates, which I said in my previous post were not provided, turned out to be October 31 to November 6.

Bianca Hall of The Age reports disquiet in the Liberal Party over its decision to direct preferences to the Greens ahead of Labor in Northcote, Richmond and Albert Park. A member of the party’s administrative committee, Ian Quick, blamed the decision on Matthew Guy, party president Greg Mirabella and state director Sam McQuestin. The Age reported on Tuesday that the Liberal candidate for Richmond, Lucas Moon, had bucked the directive by handing out how-to-vote cards with Labor ahead of the Greens, but “later switched to handing out the party’s official how-to-vote cards with Labor last”.

Neil Mitchell of 3AW related on Tuesday that “leaked” Labor polling had the party “very edgy”, expecting to lose Hawthorn and Oakleigh to the Liberals, Albert Park to the Greens and Point Cook to an independent. Tim Pallas was said to be in danger of losing Werribee (to whom is unclear); and Daniel Andrews would survive only narrowly in Mulgrave, where independent Ian Cook is said to be gaining traction; and there was a “swing against the government” across regional areas. (UPDATE: Kos Samaras is not convinced).

Clay Lucas of The Age reports Melissa Lowe and Sophie Torney, teal independent candidates in Hawthorn and Kew, are preparing legal challenges against a Victorian Electoral Commission determination that election material directing supporters to make up their own mind beyond the first preference fell foul of the law against misleading voters in relation to the casting of their vote. A VEC spokesperson told The Age that “visuals of blank boxes next to candidate names” could “mislead the voter to cast an informal vote”, whatever the material’s actual intention.

The Age reports the Liberal candidate for Ashwood, Judah Asher, appears to be behind a how-to-vote card advocating a first preference for an independent and a last preference for Labor, while how-to-vote cards being circulated in Northcote direct Liberal supporters to put Labor ahead of the Greens, contrary to the party’s official recommendation.

• Police are investigating an incident in which a Labor activist’s leg was broken during an alleged assault by an opponent of the government’s COVID measures in Wodonga, and both parties to an incident at a Werribee pre-poll booth involving Treasurer Tim Pallas and Freedom Party candidate Mark Strother have lodged harrassment complaints.

• The Victorian Electoral Commission’s site records that just over 400,000 votes have been cast in the first three days of pre-polling, compared with a total of 1.36 million in 2018. The VEC is actively encouraging early voting due to concerns about COVID, with plans to allow those who had tested positive to vote by telephone having been scuttled when the state’s remaining isolation rules were lifted.

Victorian election: Redbridge poll and upper house tickets

A Redbridge poll comes at the narrow end of the Victorian election polling scale, plus a look at the group voting tickets that were unveiled yesterday.

The Herald Sun today has a statewide poll from Redbridge Group, but I’m unclear if the newspaper commissioned it or if the pollster just provided it to them. If the 10.4% undecided are distributed according to who they are leaning towards, the primary votes from the poll are Labor 36.7%, Coalition 35.5%, Greens 13.2%, independents 8.5% and others 6.0%. Labor is credited with a two-party lead of 53.5-46.5, which is slightly narrower than my own estimates would come up with. The poll had a sample of 1181, but no field work dates are provided.

The big news on the electoral front is that the group voting tickets were published yesterday, which are available in the most digestible form from Antony Green, who says his calculators will “hopefully be published by mid-week”. My own take is that, aside from those I identify as the “main players” – Labor, the Coalition and the Greens – the myriad contenders can be grouped into three categories: the left; adopters of the Glenn Druery approach, who have the main players last or very close to it, on the principle that one small player is almost certain to win in any given region if they ignore their differences and preference each other; and a distinct network of right-wing and/or anti-lockdown parties who are directing preferences to each other, but taking a more clearly ideological approach than the Druery crowd as to who they have last or near-to-last.

The main players

Labor‘s tickets generally have small left-wing parties followed by the Greens, though here and there the Greens are also behind Shooters, Transport Matters and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Behind the Coalition in all regions are Family First, Angry Victorians, the DLP, Health Australia, New Democrats, Freedom Party, Restore Democracy, the United Australia Party and One Nation. A theme that will emerge in how other parties are dealing with Labor is that a number have treated Labor unusually well in Northern Metropolitan region, perhaps have been persuaded that Labor can serve as a bulwark there against Fiona Patten and the Greens.

Coalition tickets have Labor last and punish no one for being too far to the right. One Nation are second or third on regional tickets, but behind United Australia, the DLP, Family First and the Freedom Party in metropolitan regions. The Greens have left-wing contenders plus Transport Matters consistently ahead of Labor, mostly centrists in the middle, the Coalition next along, and the obviously right-wing small parties along with the Companions and Pets Party towards the end. Interestingly, Angry Victorians are in every region one place higher than the Coalition.

The left

Legalise Cannabis leads with left-of-centre parties, with the Greens ahead of Labor everywhere but Eastern Victoria and Northern Victoria. Angry Victorians are something of an exception to the rule, having been placed between fourth and seventh – ahead of the Coalition in all cases, the Greens in two (Northern Victoria and Western Victoria) and Labor in one (Western Victoria). After the Coalition comes a long tail of small parties mostly but not entirely of the right.

Fiona Patten’s Reason Party have left-of-centre parties at top in varying orders, with the Greens favoured over Labor everywhere except Eastern Victoria and Northern Victoria. Animal Justice have left-wing parties at the top end of the tickets, with the Greens mostly but not exclusively ahead of Labor. Labor is largely followed by combinations of Sustainable Australia, Health Australia, Transport Matters and, oddly once again, Angry Victorians, followed by the Coalition, with mostly right-wing minor parties in the bottom half.

The order of Victorian Socialists tickets is left-wing minor parties, Labor, centrist minor parties, the Coalition and right-wing minor parties (the latter taken to include the Companions and Pets Party, for reasons that may become clearer shortly). The Freedom Party is last across the board.

The Glenn Druery approach

Angry Victorians and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party have the main players dead last, with Justice making an exception in Northern Metropolitan where Labor are second. Angry Victorians have the Coalition ahead of the Greens and Labor and tend to have smaller left-wing parties towards the end, with some exceptions. The Democratic Labour Party have left-of-centre minor parties as well as Labor and the Greens behind the Coalition, but otherwise front-load micro parties, particularly those of the right.

Shooters Fishers and Farmers and Health Australia Party both have small left-wing parties mostly sharing the last places with the major players, whereas Transport Matters have right-wing parties (mostly the United Australia Party, One Nation, the Freedom Party and the Family First) at the very end, with Labor, the Coalition and the Greens just above. Both Health Australia and Transport Matters have made exceptions for Labor in Northern Metropolitan, respectively putting them second and third.

Despite their name, Restore Democracy Sack Dan Andrews Party are scarcely less punitive against the Coalition (and the Greens) than Labor, with right-wing small parties mostly dominating the top end. New Democrats has the major players consistently low if not always last, excepting that the Greens are placed fairly high in Northern Metropolitan.

The anti-lockdown right

One Nation favours Angry Victorians, United Australia Party, Family First, Freedom Party, putting them in various orders ahead of the Coalition everywhere except Western Metropolitan and Western Victoria, where the Coalition are respectively second and third behind Angry Victorians. The United Australia Party has either the Coalition or One Nation second, followed in most cases by the Freedom Party and Family First, and then in various orders the Health Australia Party, Liberal Democrats, Shooters and Restore Democracy.

The order of Family First tickets consistently runs Freedom Party, DLP, One Nation, United Australia, Shooters, Liberal Democrats, Angry Victorians, Restore Democracy, Sustainable Australia and Health Australia Party, Coalition and Labor, followed by various small parties of the centre and left with the Greens, Victorian Socialists and Reason at the end. Freedom Party are also consistent across the regions, leading with Family First, One Nation, Angry Victorians, United Australia Party and Coalition. After that parties are placed in descending order by leftness, with the curious exception of Transport Matters being dead last behind Victorian Socialists.

Companions and Pets Party preferences are feeding straight into the Coalition in all eight regions, of which you can make what you will. Right-wing minor parties do very well after that, and Animal Justice and the Greens notably badly.

Victorian election minus two weeks

Candidates finalised and ballot paper draws conducted; preferences lined up ahead of Sunday’s publication of group voting tickets; and Roy Morgan joins the campaign poll consensus of a big Labor win.

Ballot paper draws were conducted yesterday, to be followed on Monday by the start of two weeks of early voting. The Poll Bludger election guide pages now feature full candidate lists for the lower house in ballot paper order, and will be further updated in the odd idle moment over the fortnight to come. As always, Antony Green has a summary of candidate nominations which startlingly illustrates the record-smashing 740 lower house candidates, 454 upper house candidates and 178 upper house groups. Some noteworthy points: Daniel Andrews will be among a field of 14 in Mulgrave, although little or nothing became of businessman Andrew King’s plan to enlist 50 independents, beyond King nominating himself; Catherine Cumming, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party-turned-independent upper house member for Western Metropolitan, will run with the Angry Victorians party; and former Greens MLC Nina Springle is the Reason Party candidate for North-Eastern Metropolitan region.

The next big event will be the publication of group voting tickets on Sunday. The Liberals it seems have abandoned their practice over the past three elections of directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens, and will at least be doing the reverse in the Northcote, Richmond and Albert Park. When the Liberals switched to putting the Greens last, the Greens share of overall preference flows fell from about three-quarters to two-fifths, suggesting the move could boost their two-party share compared with last time by well over 5%. The Australian reported on Tuesday that “some Labor figures” were looking to prod the Liberals into such a move by directing preferences to them ahead of teal independents in Kew and Hawthorn, albeit that the notion had been met by “internal reluctance”.

Finally, Roy Morgan has an SMS poll showing Labor leading 57-43 on two-party preferred, from primary votes of Labor 40%, Coalition 29%, Greens 11.5%, “teal independents” on 4.5% and fully 15% scattered among various other contenders. Forced response leadership questions had Daniel Andrews at 58.5% approval and 41.5% disapproval and leading Matthew Guy as preferred premier by 65.5-34.5. The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday from a sample of 1030.

Freshwater Strategy: 56-44 to Labor in Victoria

Another Victorian state election poll fails to corroborate Newspoll’s finding of a narrowing gap. Also: the Poll Bludger election guide expands to cover the Legislative Council.

The Financial Review has a poll from Freshwater Strategy, which made its debut for the paper three weeks ago with a New South Wales poll, that credits Labor with a lead of 56-44, from primary votes of Labor 37%, Coalition 34%, Greens 14% and others 15%. Daniel Andrews is on 39% approval and 48% disapproval, Matthew Guy is at 32% aod 48%, and Andrews leads 40% to 28% as preferred premier. We are also told that Jacinta Allan’s rating is neutral, Tim Pallas is at minus 12, the Labor brand is at plus 10 and the Liberals are on minus six. “Close to 60 per cent of Victorians” including 39% of Labor voters, believe they were locked down too long.The highest ranked issue by far was cost of living, followed by “health and social care” and “managing the Victorian economy”. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1000.

Also:

• The Poll Bludger state election guide now comprehensively covers the Legislative Council, including an overview and the usual thorough guides to each of the eight regions. The upper house contest happens to be in the news today following Adem Somyurek’s announcement that he will seek re-election in South-Eastern Metropolitan as the candidate of the Democratic Labour Party. Somyurek’s, whose DLP colleagues include Bernie Finn in Western Metropolitan, tells the Herald-Sun he will represent the “sensible centre of Victorian politics”.

• “Prominent Melbourne art collector” Andrew King says he will pay the $350 nomination fees of the first 50 people who come forward to run against Daniel Andrews in Mulgrave. King’s theory is that this will divert voters from Andrews “by reducing his first preference vote, diverting votes away from him, and increasing the likelihood of informal votes”. On what remains of Twitter, Antony Green relates that the total number of candidates could exceed 600, compared with an already over-stuffed 507 in 2018, boosted by Family First’s determination to run candidates in all 88 seats.

• In a Twitter thread, Kos Samaras of Redbridge Group argued that the anti-lockdown parties, including Angry Victorians and the Freedom Party together with the United Australia Party, complicated Liberal ambitions in seats like Melton as they like were competing for the same demographic turf of asset-owning white voters with trade qualifications and incomes of over $100,000 a year. Labor’s voters in such areas tended to be newer arrivals with lower incomes and mortgages, many of them migrants.

Newspoll: 54-46 to Labor in Victoria

Various happenings from the first official week of the Victorian state election campaign.

Three weeks out from the election, The Australian today has a Newspoll state poll for Victoria showing Labor with a two-party lead of 54-46, in from 56-44 at the last such poll in August. Labor and the Coalition are tied at 37% on the primary vote, respectively down four and up one, with the Greens steady on 13%. Daniel Andrews is down three on approval to 51% and up three on disapproval to 44%, while Matthew Guy is respectively steady on 32% and up three to 52%. Daniel Andrews leads 52-33 on preferred premier, little changed from 51-34 last time. The poll was conducted Monday to Thursday from a sample of 1007.

The formal campaign period began with the issuing of the writs on Tuesday: enrolments close next Tuesday; nominations close on Friday (a day earlier for those endorsed by registered parties), with ballot paper draws to follow immediately after; early voting begins the following Monday, November 14; and the big day is November 26. Registration of parties closed last week, so the full list of eligible parties is here. My election guide is here – I hope for the Legislative Council guide to be added to it at some point over the weekend.

Further developments:

• There was a late retirement last week from Jaala Pulford, who holds a Legislative Council seat for Labor in Western Victoria region and was seat to lead the party’s ticket. There has been no specific reporting on what this might mean for the party ticket, but the Herald Sun reported Pulford’s place was likely to be taken by a female candidate of the Right, and in particular to one associated with Richard Marles.

• A report in the Herald Sun on October 13 noted discontent in some Labor quarters that recent spending commitments have focused on Melbourne’s outer east and south-east and have ignored the north and west. Those pushing the story expressed concern over Melton, Werribee, Point Cook, South Barwon, Bellarine and Yan Yean. In a similar vein, a report from Rachel Baxendale in The Australian on Wednesday cited unidentified Labor sources complaining that the northern and south-western corridors, which “probably need an additional new hospital each”, were being neglected to indulge Brunswick, where eight level crossings are being removed, and Bayswater, which has been targeted with commitments including a $60 million train station.

• Another Labor source, or possibly the same one, has briefed Kieran Rooney of the Herald Sun on preference negotiations with the Greens which would “sell out” the party’s own upper house members and “allies”, the latter seemingly referring to micro-party cross-benchers. Presumably the concern is that Labor’s own lower order candidates would be endangered if the party dealt itself out of negotiations with micro-parties for the sake of a deal with the Greens, the quid pro quo for which would be the Greens direct preferences to Labor in lower house seats. The report also speaks of “internal angst about the idea of preferencing the party in regional areas with coal and logging industries”.

• The contest for the outer western Melbourne seat of Melton is proving a source of particular fascination for the media, with a profile on the seat appearing in the Sunday Age and Virginia Trioli hosting a candidates’ forum on ABC Radio yesterday. The seat has traditionally been safe for Labor, but it dramatically bucked the trend at the 2018 election in recording a 6.9% two-party swing to the Liberals as voters abandoned both major parties for a huge field of independent and minor party contenders. Infrastructure has not kept up with growth in the area, and there is particular bitterness locally on lack of progress for a promised hospital. The strongest performing of the independents, Florey Institute brain scientist Ian Birchall, is again taking the field at this election.

Resolve Strategic: 59-41 in Victoria

Another poll suggesting Victorian Labor is set to equal if not exceed its 2018 landslide.

The Age yesterday had a Resolve Strategic poll of Victorian state, following up on a similar poll a month ago. Labor retains a commanding lead over the Coalition of 38% to 31% on the primary vote, although this compares with 42% to 28% last time. All other players are unchanged, with the Greens on 12%, independents on 12% and others on 6%. Labor leads the Coalition 41% to 27% among women, compared with 35% apiece among men. The pollster hasn’t traditionally produced two-party results, but this one comes advertised as 59-41 to Labor. Daniel Andrews holds a 49-29 lead over Matthew Guy as preferred premier, out from 46-28 last time. A question on issue salience found “keeping the cost of living low” towering above the pack, followed by health, environment, economic management and integrity. The poll was conducted October 20 to 24 from a sample of 800.

Roy Morgan last week published results from a somewhat dated phone and online poll conducted from 1379 respondents at unspecified times during September. It showed Labor with a 60-40 lead, out from 58-42 at the last such poll in August, from primary votes of Labor 42% (up five-and-a-half), Coalition 28% (down one) and Greens 14.5% (up half), with 15.5% scattered among an array of minor party and independent options.

Victorian election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s guide to the November 26 Victorian state election.

The Poll Bludger’s guide to the November 26 Victorian state election is now open for business, featuring comprehensive detail on all 88 lower house seats – their histories, boundaries, demographics, redistribution effects and main candidates, together with interactive booth results maps from 2018 and tables and charts summarising past election results – and an overview page. All that’s missing is a guide to the Legislative Council, which will follow in due course. If this is of any value to you, a reward for the extensive effort involved in the form of a donation would be much appreciated – these can be made through the “become a supporter” button at the top of this page.

To summarise the situation, I repaste below the “redistribution and electoral arithmetic” section from the overview page:

The parliament has ended its term with the same party representation in the lower house that it started with, as an otherwise highly eventful four years passed with no by-elections or party members moving to the cross bench. The results at the 2018 election were 55 seats for Labor, 21 for the Liberals and six for the Nationals, three for the Greens, and three for independents. However, the election will see no fewer than thirteen of Labor’s lower house members retire, and while few of these are in seats that represent strong opportunities for the Liberals, they will complicate Labor’s efforts to defend Richmond and Albert Park from the Greens and Bellarine from an independent. The four seats where Liberals are retiring include highly marginal Hastings and historically blue-ribbon Kew, where the departure of Tim Smith has probably done the Liberal cause more good than harm in the face of the teal independent threat.

After two terms and eight years on the same set of electoral boundaries, the election will give effect to an extensive redistribution that has abolished three seats in Melbourne’s stagnant eastern suburbs and created new ones in the city’s west, outer north, and outer south-east. While two seats held by Labor and one held by the Liberals have been replaced by corresponding numbers of notional Labor and Liberal seats, the changes are to Labor’s advantage in that two of the new seats are highly safe for Labor while the abolished Labor-held seat of Mount Waverley is a normally Liberal-leaning marginal. The redistribution has also produced notional Labor margins in four Liberal-held seats (Hastings, Caulfield, Ripon and Pakenham, the latter having replaced Gembrook), while sending only two seats the other way (Bayswater and Bass).

Another complication to the arithmetic arises from the retirement of Russell Northe, one of the chamber’s three independents. Northe’s Latrobe Valley seat of Morwell gave Labor 54.0% of the two-party preferred vote in 2018 against the Nationals, such that it can be treated as a notional Labor seat in his absence. Adding this to its net gains and losses from the redistribution, Labor goes into the election with a notional 58 seats compared with the 55 it won in 2018, while the Liberals are down from 21 to 19. The Nationals remain on six, each on margins safer than any enjoyed by the Liberals, while Mildura and Shepparton are held by independents who will re-contest their seats.

On the assumption of a uniform swing and no change to the status quo in terms of minor parties and independents, a Coalition majority government would require a daunting gain of 20 seats and a swing of 10.4%. While the Greens could make inroads into the Labor majority, with the inner-city seats of Richmond, Northcote and perhaps Albert Park rated as strong possibilities, a uniform two-party swing to the Coalition of nearly 10% would still be needed to cut deeply enough into Labor’s numbers to reduce it to a minority.

The federal election result has also inspired a wave of candidates hoping to follow in the footsteps of the teal independents, many drawing support from the same local networks and the fundraising efforts of Climate 200. As at the federal election though, where teal independents cost the Liberals the Melbourne seats of Kooyong and Goldstein, the risk here is largely on the Liberal side of the ledger. Seats where independent campaigns have enjoyed substantial media attention include Kew, Brighton and the country seat of South-West Coast, which respectively correspond largely or entirely with Kooyong, Goldstein and Wannon, the latter also having produced a strong result for an independent at the federal election. However, well-organised independent campaigns have also emerged in the Labor-held seats of Hawthorn and Bellarine.