Sticky wicket (open thread)

Schemes hatched by WA Liberals seeking a quick path out of the wilderness; a new Tasmanian state poll; nothing doing on the federal poll front.

I was hoping Newspoll might be back in the game three weeks after election day, but it seems normal service is yet to resume. Presumably Essential Research will have numbers of some sort tomorrow, but it remains to be seen if they will encompass voting intention. I hope to have more to offer shortly on whether other pollsters are still in the game in the immediate term, or whether they have pulled stumps for the time being. That just leaves me with the following miscellany to relate by way of a new open thread post:

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reported yesterday on a plan within the Western Australian Liberals to have former test cricketer and national team coach Justin Langer lead the party into the next state election in 2025. The suggestion is that the current leader, David Honey, might be persuaded to relinquish his seat of Cottesloe, one of only two lower house seats the party retained at the 2021 election. It is an any case “widely accepted that Dr Honey won’t lead the WA Liberals to the next election”, with Vasse MP Libby Mettams “his likely replacement” – indeed his only possible replacement out of the existing ranks of the Liberals’ lower house contingent.

Katina Curtis and Shane Wright of the Sydney Morning Herald have taken the trouble to compile the results of the 75,368 telephone votes cast by those in COVID-19 isolation, finding that Labor, Greens or independents candidates out-performed on them on two-candidate preferred relative to the overall results in all but eight lower house seats. Kevin Bonham is quoted in the article noting that infections are more prevalent of left-leaning demographics, namely the young and those employed in exposed occupations, though I also tend to think there may be a greater tendency for those on the right of politics to keep their illnesses to themselves.

• One bit of poll news at least: the latest quarterly Tasmanian state poll from EMRS has been published, the first since Jeremy Rockliff succeeded Peter Gutwein as Premier. It finds the Liberals down two points since March to 39%, Labor down one to 30%, the Greens up one to 13% and others up two to 18%. Rockliff leads Labor’s Rebecca White 47-34 as preferred premier, compared with Gutwein’s lead of 52-33 in March. The poll was conducted May 27 to June 2 through telephone interviews from a sample of 1000.

Lydia Lynch of The Australian reports that Julie-Ann Campbell, Queensland Labor’s outgoing state secretary and now associate partner with consultancy firm EY, is “expected to run for federal politics” – specifically for the seat of Moreton, which Graham Perrett has held for Labor since 2007.

There’s a fair bit going on at the site at the moment, so here’s a quick run-through the subjects of recent posts with on-topic discussion threads, as opposed to the open thread on this post:

• The future direction of the Liberal Party, with debate raging as to whether it should focus on recovering blue-ribbon seats from the teal independents or cutting them loose and pursuing a new course through suburban and regional seats traditionally held by Labor;

• The three state by-elections looming in the Queensland seat of Callide, the South Australian seat of Bragg and the Western Australian seat of North West Central;

• The ongoing count from the federal election, which remains of interest in relation to several Senate contests, with the pressing of the button looking reasonably imminent in South Australia and the two territories.

By-elections three

A quick run through the three state by-elections shortly to be held in Liberal and Nationals seats in Labor-run states.

There are now three state by-elections on the way, one imminent, another three weeks away, and a third on a date yet to be determined. I have election guides for the first two of these, linked two below. In turn:

Callide. A by-election will be held for this rural seat in Queensland on Saturday to replace Liberal National Party member Colin Boyce, who has now gone federal as the member for the corresponding seat of Flynn. Labor has not gone the usual path of forfeiting a seat in which it has never been competitive, at least notionally setting up a contest between LNP candidate Bryson Head and Labor’s Bronwyn Dendle. However, there seems at least as much chance that final count will be between the LNP and One Nation, whose candidate Sharon Lohse achieved as much when she ran in 2017. Lohse was also the party’s candidate in Flynn at the recent federal election. For whatever reason, the party sat it out in the seat at the 2020 state election. Also in the field are Legalise Cannabis, Katter’s Australian Party and Animal Justice – but not the Greens, who tend not to trouble the scoreboard much in this part of the world.

Bragg. This blue-ribbon Adelaide seat goes to the polls on July 2 to choose a successor to former Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman, who displeased her party by pulling the plug on her political career shortly after the March election defeat. Here too Labor is gamely taking the field in a seat it has never held, but given the Liberals’ form in comparable seats at the federal election and its all-time low margin of 8.2% after the state election, it’s easier here to see why they might think it worth a roll of the dice. The Liberals could have had particular trouble if disgruntled political staffer Chelsey Potter had followed through on her threat to don the teal independent mantle, but it seems she was persuaded not to. The by-election thus pits Liberal candidate Jack Batty, who until recently worked at the High Commission in London, against Labor’s Alice Rolls, head of policy and strategy at the Australian Pro Bono Centre. The Greens and Family First have also announced candidates; nominations close on Friday.

North West Central. One of only six seats out of the 59 in Western Australia’s lower house not held by Labor, North West Central is shortly to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. Catania began his political career with Labor as a member of the Legislative Council in 2005, transferred to the Legislative Assembly in 2008, defected to the Nationals the following year and comfortably retained it through to 2021, when he held out by 1.7% against a swing of 8.4%, one of the lowest in the state. Although anything would seem possible given the loss of Catania’s personal vote, which is of particular significance in a seat where only 8000 voters were cast at the last election, the consensus seems to be that Labor will not field a candidate as it fears a backlash over its one-vote one-value reform to the Legislative Council, expects the seat to be abolished at the next redistribution and already has more MPs than it knows what to do with. The seat could potentially develop into a contest between the Nationals and the Liberals, but the odds on the latter would presumably be rather long.

Ends and odds

Recent matters to report that aren’t state poll results.

It’s been a big couple of days for state opinion polls: a shock Newspoll from South Australia three weeks out from the election, a YouGov poll showing Labor still in front in Queensland, and a Resolve Strategic finding that Labor is back in the game in New South Wales. As well as all that, I can offer the following summary of miscellaneous developments to hang a new open thread off:

• The Age/Herald has related that the small sample of 170 Western Australian respondents from the recent Resolve Strategic poll had 64% supporting Mark McGowan’s decision to scrap the originally proposed date of February 5 for reopening the state’s border, with only 32% opposed. This compares with 39% and 47% respectively from the national sample of 1604.

• The Liberal National Party candidate for the Labor-held marginal seat of Lilley in Brisbane, Ryan Shaw, has announced his withdrawal. Shaw is an army veteran who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, and said he had made the decision to focus on his mental health.

• Lara Alexander will become one of the three Liberal members for Bass in the Tasmanian state parliament after winning the recount to succeed Sarah Courtney. This involved counting the ballots that elected Courtney at the election last May, which found Alexander prevailing over rival Liberal candidate Simon Wood by 5671 votes (52.9%) to 5051 (47.1%).

• The Poll Bludger, individually and collectively, was greatly saddened to hear of the death of Zoe Wilson, a.k.a. Lizzie, an unfailingly civil contributor to the forum of long standing, as was related yesterday in comments by Zoomster.

Polls: federal Liberal leadership and Mark McGowan approval

One poll offers a new take on Scott Morrison’s declining standing, while another finds Mark McGowan’s approval down from phenomenal to outstanding.

No further national voting intention polls this week after the weekend Newspoll. Presumably this means the monthly Resolve Strategic will be along next week in the Age/Herald. Roy Morgan has for some time come along fortnightly and did not report last week, but the manner of its reporting is notoriously hard to predict. Together with the ongoing New South Wales by-elections count, which is covered in the post below this one, that just leaves the following:

• Roy Morgan did have an SMS poll of 1080 respondents conducted on Monday and Tuesday which found Josh Frydenberg favoured to lead the Coalition by 38.5%, ahead of Scott Morrison on 31% and Peter Dutton on 12.5%. The question specifically asked, “if you were a Liberal or National Party voter and helping to choose the Coalition Leader for the next Federal Election, who would you prefer”.

• The West Australian had a poll by Painted Dog Research on Wednesday which found Mark McGowan’s approval rating in Western Australia had fallen from 77% to 64% since December, having peaked at 91% in September 2020, with disapproval up from 14% to 25%. The poll was conducted Friday to Tuesday from a sample of 654.

• Recommended viewing and listening: Antony Green explains the dark art of election night results projection, while pollsters Peter Lewis and John Utting discuss the even darker art of opinion polling on 2SER’s Fourth Estate program.

Polls: leadership ratings, WA border closure, Australia Day

Scott Morrison’s ratings continue to head in the wrong direction, all and sundry sinking on COVID-19 management, WA voters supportive of the protracted border closure, and the regular annual Australia Day barrage.

Nothing on voting intention, but there’s a bunch of polls around the place, the most useful from my perspective being the first fortnightly Essential Research survey of the year, as it includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings. Scott Morrison is at 46% on both approval and disapproval, respectively steady and up two since last month, which is the first time he has failed to record a net positive result since immediately before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Anthony Albanese is likewise equal on approval and disapproval, in his case at 39%, with approval down one and disapproval up three. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 42-34, in from 42-31 last month and likewise his weakest result since March 2020.

There’s more bad news for Morrison on COVID-19 management, with the federal government recording a net negative result for the first time, its positive rating down six to 35% and negative up six to 38%. There has also been a sharp decline in the positive ratings for every state government except Victoria, most noticeably in the case of Western Australia, where the positive rating is down twelve to a new low of 66%. This remains nineteen points higher than nearest rival Victoria, up four points to 47%. New South Wales is down seventeen to 37%, now the lowest of the five, with Queensland down eleven to 46% and South Australia down fourteen to 43%. The results for the smaller states especially should, as always, be treated with caution here, but the near-uniformity of the sharp downward turn is impressive.

Respondents were also asked if various matters related to COVID-19 were likely to influence their chances of voting Coalition, an exercise I’m dubious about since it’s clear that many party loyalists respond without regard to the fact that their vote choice isn’t in doubt. For what it’s worth, 37% rated themselves less likely on account of Scott Morrison’s recent performance and 19% more likely; 30% and 15% ditto because of recent case numbers; 38% and 12% because of the shortage of rapid antigen tests (note the perversity of being more likely to vote Coalition on this basis); 22% and 19% because of reduced border restrictions; and, in the one net positive result, 23% and 27% for the Novak Djokovic affair.

The poll also finds 37% believe the choices of those who wish not to be vaccinated should be respected versus 63% who don’t, of whom 41% consider the unvaccinated ill-informed and 22% selfish. It was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1062.

Various other polling around the place:

• A poll by Painted Dog Research for The West Australian recorded a 71-29 split in favour of the McGowan government’s indefinite postponement of the reopening of the state’s border. Respondents were also offered a poorly framed question as to whether they “agree the McGowan government could have done more to prepare to open up on February 5”, to which 51% agreed and 29% at least purported to disagree, notwithstanding the obvious absurdity of such a position. The poll had a sample of 637 Western Australian respondents; no field work date was provided, though obviously it was done after Thursday’s announcement.

• YouGov has conducted a poll for the News Corp tabloids that covers an extensive range of issues, but not voting intention, results for which are seemingly being published bit by bit (the full questionnaire is here). There have been two reports from this that I’m aware of, one dealing with state government COVID-19 management. Thirty-five per cent of New South Wales respondents rated their government’s performance positively, 28% neutrally and 34% negatively; Victorians, 42%, 21% and 36%; Queenslanders, 61%, 20% and 19%; Western Australians, 85% positively, 6% neutrally and 8% negatively; South Australians, 48%, 29% and 21%; and Tasmanians, 65%, 21% and 11%. Another report related results on election issue salience, in which respondents were asked to pick two issues out of eight, with 58% choosing cost of living, ahead of 37% for health care, 34% for the economy and 32% for climate change. The poll was conducted December 27 to January 10 from an overall sample of 2297, with state sub-samples ranging from 257 in Tasmania to 507 in New South Wales.

The Conversation reports on a Deakin Contemporary History Survey of “a representative, random sample of more than 5,000 Australians” finding that 60% overall believe the current date of Australia Day should be maintained, but with a clear age effect in which 53% of those born 1986 or later felt otherwise, with 46% favouring no change.

• According to an AAP report, a CoreData survey of 1292 respondents finds more than 80% of those under 26 and more than 70% of those aged 27 to 41 “support moving the date for the sake of improving relations with the Indigenous population” – a formulation that presumably elicits a more favourable response – which plummeted to “just over 30%” among the 56 to 75 cohort and 25% of those over 75. All that’s revealed of those of in the middle is that “the majority still supported keeping the holiday on its current date”.

• A Roy Morgan SMS poll of 1372 respondents posed the not-all-that-useful-to-my-mind question as to whether as to whether January 26 should be identified as Australia Day or Invasion Day, breaking 65-35 in favour of the former. Cross-tabs here if you’re interested.

Western Australian Legislative Council reform plan announced

Western Australia’s Legislative Council set to lose its system of six six-member regions under a new proposal for one-vote one-value.

The Western Australian government has declared its hand on reform for the state’s Legislative Council, with the release today of the report of the Ministerial Expert Committee on Electoral Reform. It recommends abolishing the state’s system of six six-member regions and having the entire chamber elected at large, similar to the situation that applies in the New South Wales and South Australia, but without their staggered eight-year terms.

Whereas the system currently allocates half the members to the metropolitan area and half to the non-metropolitan area, despite the former claiming roughly three-quarters of the state’s population, the proposed reform offers “one-vote one-value”. It naturally does so at the expense of existing regional representation, and is sure to alienate country voters who were repeatedly told by Mark McGowan before the March election that such reform was “not on our agenda”.

With the government apparently also planning to increase the number of members from 36 to 37 (it doesn’t say this in the report, but Attorney-General John Quigley said this was the plan at his press conference today), this means the quota for election will be a mere 2.63%, compared with the 14.28% quota that applies under the existing system, as well as at half-Senate elections; the 7.69% quota that applies for the Senate at double dissolutions; the 4.54% quota in New South Wales has when electing half its 42 members of the Legislative Council; and the 8.33% quota in South Australia when electing half its chamber of 22.

However, the report also predictably recommends the abolition of group voting tickets, so we may at least be assured that parties elected on small vote shares will be the most popular of their kind and not simply beneficiaries of preference harvesting, as was notoriously the case with Wilson Tucker of the Daylight Saving Party, who won a seat in the Mining and Pastoral region at the March state election from 98 votes.

As was done in the Senate, this will be complemented by optional preferential voting, so that abolishing the group voting ticket option does not oblige voters to number ever box on what threatens to be a very large statewide ballot paper. Whereas the Senate ballot paper advises voters to number a minimum of either six boxes above the line or twelve below it, while actually allowing as few as one or six respectively to constitute a formal vote, the recommendation is to direct voters to number any number of boxes above the line or at least 20 below it.

To mitigate against the dramatic expansion that looms in the size of the ballot paper, there are recommendations that the hurdles should be raised for parties wishing to seek election: a $500 registration fee; a requirement that parties be registered for more than six months before the election; tightening the requirement that parties have at least 500 members by requiring that none of them be members of other registered parties; hiking the nomination fee from $250 per candidate to $1000; requiring 200 electors to nominate independent candidates; and requiring at least three candidates for above-the-line groups.

This must all now go through parliament, and while it is more than possible the details will be refined during the process, Labor’s massive parliamentary majorities ensure that it is unlikely to amount to much.

Western Australian Legislative Council endgame

Running commentary on the resolution of the Western Australian Legislative Council results.

Update: 8/4

The preference distributions are available from the WAEC here. Of note:

Agricultural. The final seat in Agricultural ended with second Nationals candidate, Martin Aldridge, elected with 13,310 and Stuart Ostle of Shooters Fishers and Farmers defeated on 11,329.

East Metropolitan. Brian Walker of Legalise Cannabis prevailed because their candidate remained in the count at what the ABC calculator identifies as Count 19 by a margin of 12,403 to 11,712 over the Western Australia Party — a margin of 691, a fair bit more comfortable than the 212 projected by the ABC.

Mining and Pastoral. The decisive point in the count here was where, in the race for the last two seats, Wilson Tucker of the Daylight Savings Party had 6007 votes, Neil Thomson of the Liberals had 5304, Jacqui Boydell of the Nationals had 5211 and Matt Priest of Shooters Fishers and Farmers had 4473. Because it was Shooters that fell out at this point, their own preferences boosted Daylight Savings Party and Australian Christians and One Nation preferences flowed on to the Liberals over the Nationals. If the Nationals had dropped out, the last two seats would have gone to the Liberals and Shooters; if the Liberals had done so, they would have gone to the Nationals and the Shooters.

North Metropolitan. The second elected Liberal, Tjorn Sibma, had 52,748 votes at the final count, with defeated Greens member Alison Xamon finishing on 41,512.

South Metropolitan. This came down to which out of the elected Greens candidate, Brad Pettit, or the fifth Labor candidate, Samantha Helps, survived the second last exclusion, at which Pettit held out by 27,942 votes to 27,032, a margin of 910. With its assumption that all votes behaved as above-the-line, the ABC projection had him 60 votes behind.

South West. When Rick Mazza of Shooters Fishers and Farmers was excluded, Sophia Moermond of Legalise Cannabis, James Hayward of the Nationals and fourth Labor candidate John Mondy were the three remaining candidates in the race for the last two seats. The distribution of Mazza’s preferences pushed Moermond and Hayward just clear of the 29,300 vote quota with 30,724 and 29,307 votes respectively, with Mondy just missing out on 27,590.

Update: 6/4

The results for the three metropolitan regions have been finalised, and related on Twitter by Antony Green. Both the close races went against Labor, who were thus denied extraordinary fifth wins in East Metropolitan and South Metropolitan. This meant in the former case a second seat for Legalise Cannabis, and a result of four Labor (Alanna Clohesy, Samantha Rowe, Matthew Swinbourn and Lorna Harper), one Liberal (Donna Faragher) and one Legalise Cannabis (Brian Walker).

South Metropolitan has narrowly returned the Greens’ only member, leaving the party with fewer seats than Legalise Cannabis. The result there is Labor four (Sue Ellery, Kate Doust, Klara Andric and Stephen Pratt), one Liberal (Nick Goiran) and one Greens (Brad Pettit). North Metropolitan played out as anticipated, with four for Labor (Pierre Yang, Martin Pritchard, Ayor Makur Chuot and Daniel Caddy) and two for Liberal (Peter Collier and Tjorn Sibma).

Final result: Labor 22, Liberal seven, Nationals three, Legalise Cannabis two, Greens one, Daylight Saving Party one. The WAEC will hopefully publish preference distributions for all six regions shortly.

Original post

Buttons are being pressed on the three non-metropolitan regions for the Western Australian Legislative Council this afternoon, with the metropolitan regions having to hold out until Tuesday. If I’m reading the WAEC website correctly, none of the preference distributions will be published until all of them are, which means next week. Hopefully though they will be informally doing the rounds sooner than that.

Note that you can view my Legislative Council election results display here, which features party vote totals broken down by lower house electorate, together with my Legislative Assembly results here. These are up to date with the WAEC website and media feed, but presumably aren’t final based on what Antony Green is saying about the Daylight Saving Party’s winning vote tally.

To be updated as more information becomes available:

South West

Antony Green tweets that South West has gone three for Labor (Sally Talbot, Alannah MacTiernan and Jackie Jarvis) and one each for Liberal (Steve Thomas), Nationals (James Hayward) and Legalise Cannabis (Sophia Moermond). There was some doubt as to whether Legalise Cannabis would jump through the required hoops and win a seat off 2.11% of the vote, as per the ABC projection, but it’s happened, with knock-on effects that gave the last seat to the Nationals rather than a second Liberal.

Mining and Pastoral

As expected, this has produced the group voting ticket system’s most perverse result yet, with four for Labor (Stephen Dawson, Kyle McGinn, Peter Foster and Rosetta Sahanna), one for Liberal (Neil Thomson) and one for the Daylight Saving Party (Wilson Tucker), the latter elected off a base of 98 votes, or 0.2% of the total.


The pressing of the button was in this case a formality, confirming a clear result of three Labor (Darren West, Shelley Payne and Sandra Carr), two Nationals (Colin de Grussa and Martin Aldridge) and one Liberal (Steve Martin).

Western Australian election: late counting, week two

Counting for the Western Australian election nears its resolution, with final determination of the upper house results still a few days away.

Click here for full results for the Legislative Assembly and here for the Legislative Council.

Monday evening update

I’m told buttons will be pressed on the Legislative Council counts today and/or tomorrow. The WAEC’s electorate results pages now have preference distributions for, I believe, all seats, and are headlined with two-candidate preferred totals, although these remain absent from the media feed and hence from my own results pages (for now at least).

Original post

As you can see above, I am now publishing results for the Legislative Council as well as the Legislative Assembly, although not a great deal remains to be counted in either case. The former exclusively features tables in which the ordinary votes are grouped by lower house electorate, which I hope someone out there finds useful. I have also restored to the Legislative Assembly display the two-candidate preferred counts that the WAEC removed from the system last week, which they did for all but a handful of seats (still excluded are eight other seats whose two-candidate preferred counts got pulled at an earlier time). Among other things, this means my statewide two-party preferred projection is now nearer to what should be the final result.

I’m not sure if there are any votes at all remaining to be added to the count for the Legislative Assembly, or if there are a few handfuls of postals still to come, but in no case is the result in doubt. There are 1,410,357 formal votes in the count for the Assembly, compared with 1,386,398 for the Council, suggesting there are only around 24,000 votes still to be added to the tallies for the latter.

With the few outstanding votes unlikely to change the party vote tallies, the greater point of interest is whether the 5% or so of ballot papers with below-the-line preferences end up overturning the ABC’s projections, which assume all votes to be above-the-line with preferences duly following the parties’ group voting tickets. That will not be known until the WAEC completes its data entry and presses the button on the preference distribution, which will be at the end of the week at the earliest.

The ABC’s projections will assuredly not be overturned in Agricultural region (three seats to Labor, two to the Nationals and one to the Liberals), Mining and Pastoral (four Labor, one Daylight Saving Party, one Liberal) and North Metropolitan (four Labor and two Liberal). That leaves some doubt over the following:

East Metropolitan. The ABC projection is five Labor and one Liberal, due to Legalise Cannabis dropping out at Count 19 with 3.16% to the Western Australia Party’s 3.22%. The question is whether Legalise Cannabis can close the gap through the below-the-line preferences of everyone other than Labor, Liberal, the Greens and Australian Christians: fifteen minor parties and independent groups who between them account for 8.48% of the vote, reducing to maybe about 0.7% when reduced to the below-the-line votes. If so, Labor’s fifth seat goes to Legalise Cannabis instead. Antony Green thinks this more likely than not, since preferences inflate the Western Australia Party from a primary vote of 0.80% to 3.22% at Count 19, whereas Legalise Cannabis goes from only 2.49% to 3.16%. This means there is a lot more potential for the projected WAP vote to leak away through below-the-line votes behaving differently from group voting tickets.

South Metropolitan. Brad Pettitt of the Greens has dropped out on the ABC projection, which has him excluded at Count 27 by the tiniest of margins: 6.67% to Labor’s 6.68%. That would produce a result of five Labor and one Liberal. However, the Greens typically outperforms projections that exclude consideration of below-the-line preferences, and Antony Green’s assessment is that Pettitt will more likely than not get up.

South West. I have been portraying this count as a game of musical chairs between Legalise Cannabis, the Nationals and Labor at Count 25 on the ABC projection, in which the loser will drop out and the last two seats will go to the other two. On that basis, Labor’s fourth candidate looks set to miss out, with the three parties’ vote shares at 14.72%, 14.29% and 13.76% respectively, producing a result of three Labor, one Liberal, one Legalise Cannabis and one Nationals. However, since the projection has Legalise Cannabis snowballing from a base primary vote of just 2.11%, there is considerable potential for the preference accumulation to dissipate through below-the-line votes. So much so indeed that Antony Green countenances not only the possibility of Legalise Cannabis dropping out at Count 25, in which case a fourth seat would go to Labor, but even for it to drop out at Count 23 behind Shooters Fishers and Farmers and the Greens. Should Legalise Cannabis go under at this point, the Nationals as well as Legalise Cannabis will miss out, and the result will be four Labor, one Liberal and one Shooters Fishers and Farmers.