Western Australian election minus one week

Highlights from the penultimate week of a campaign that has failed to catch the imagination.

The campaign continues to be light on for news, with no published polling since Newspoll a fortnight ago, a deadening of interest arising from the certainty of the outcome, and rape allegations in the federal sphere sucking up much of the news media oxygen. This week’s assembly of campaign highlights accordingly casts the net a little wider than it ordinarily might:

• Mark McGowan was reckoned to have presented the Liberals with their first real opportunity of the campaign on Tuesday, when he suggested COVID-19 border control measures might be extended beyond the end of the pandemic. McGowan soon scotched the notion that this might mean maintaining the GTG (“good to go”) passes that require interstate visitors to disclose personal details when visiting the state, but said police might remain stationed at border crossing points due to their positive side-effect of preventing importation of methamphetamine.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reported last week on “long-running rumours” that Bill Marmion would make his seat of Nedlands available for Zak Kirkup if he lost his own marginal seat of Dawesville, which Kirkup denies. That assumes Nedlands, the party’s fifth safest seat, is not lost as well – which can’t be taken for granted if either Newspoll or second-hand accounts I’ve heard of Liberal internal polling are any guide, both suggesting the Liberal seat count could fall as low as four. Eliza Laschon of the ABC looks at the potential for the Liberals to lose their status as the official opposition and/or a parliamentary party.

• Joe Spagnolo offers a much rosier assessment for the Liberals in today’s Sunday Times, based on “the vibe I am getting from both Labor and Liberal camps”. Spagnolo suggests the Liberals will lose “three or four seats at worst”, with Hillarys and Riverton most likely to fall, Darling Range a “line-ball call” (though so apparently is Riverton), Labor-held Kingsley “an interesting one to watch”, and Zak Kirkup predicted to retain Dawesville.

• Low-level candidate issues continue to dog the Liberal Party campaign. The candidate for Collie-Preston, Jane Goff, has complained of Zak Kirkup’s failure to consult her over his keynote policy of closing Collie’s coal-fired power stations by 2025; and Jandakot candidate Mihael McCoy’s involvement with the Kings Chapel Church, which is run by his father, has tied him to viewpoints fully as extreme as those of the Republican Party and The Australian’s editorial page cartoonists. On the other side of the fence, an unidentified Labor candidate reportedly considered withdrawing over the dismissal of one of Deputy Premier Roger Cook’s electorate officers.

• The Sunday Times reports more than 210,000 pre-poll votes have been cast and 311,676 postal vote applications received, which compares with slightly more than 200,000 pre-polls and postals combined in 2017.

• You can hear my reading of the situation on last Tuesday’s edition of RTR-FM’s The Swing program here, starting at the 26:20 mark.

Western Australian election minus two weeks

As pre-poll voting centres open to brisk business, Zak Kirkup waves the white flag.

Notable developments of the past week:

• Zak Kirkup conceded on Thursday that the Liberals would not win the election, and indeed that he held a “fear that we could be decimated”. Liberal campaign material implicitly acknowledges the certainty of the defeat by promising to “hold Labor to account by keeping the important checks and balances”. State political observers with long memories may recall Geoff Gallop doing much the same on the eve of the 1996 election, which was not reckoned at the time to have done Labor any favours.

• With the opening of pre-poll voting on Wednesday, The West Australian conducted a straw poll of 335 voters at centres in Scarborough, Mandurah, Hillarys and Riverton. While this exercise is obviously highly unscientific, it’s surely worth noting that 70% said they were voting Labor. There were 94,379 pre-poll votes cast between Wednesday and Friday, with The West Australian reporting an expectation (it does not say whose) that 60 to 70 per cent of all votes will be postals or pre-polls.

• Antony Green’s Legislative Council election calculators are now in business. Kevin Bonham observes that they show a particularly strong potential for a preference snowball to deliver a seat to Bass Tadros of the flaky Health Australia Party in Agricultural region.

Newspoll: 68-32 to Labor in Western Australia

The most authoritative poll yet to emerge from the Western Australian campaign suggests Labor could be headed for the biggest election win in the country’s history.

A Newspoll in today’s Australian is remarkable in two ways: for being only the second media-commissioned poll of statewide voting intention in Western Australia to appear anywhere since the 2017 election, and for what may be the most lopsided result of any opinion poll this site has ever reported on.

Labor is credited with nothing less than a lead of 68-32 on two-party party preferred, a swing of 13.5% on their already commanding win in 2017, from primary votes of Labor 59% (!), compared with 42.2% in 2017; Liberal 23%, down from 31.2%; the Nationals 2%, down from 5.4%; the Greens 8%, down from 8.9%; and One Nation 3%, down from 4.9% (presumably the question was only posed in the 40 seats where the party is fielding candidates).

Mark McGowan’s personal ratings are in line with other pollsters at 88% approval and 10% disapproval, but Zak Kirkup’s ratings would be particularly disappointing to the Liberals, at 29% approval and 41% disapproval, with McGowan leading 83-10 on preferred premier. The poll was conducted from last Friday to Thursday from a sample of 1034.

Elsewhere:

• The Liberals may perhaps take solace in the finding of the finding of new-pseph-website-on-the-block Armarium Interreta that state polling has historically skewed to incumbents, although there is some evidence the effect has moderated over time. Then again, the site’s election forecast model rates the most probable seat outcome as 50 for Labor, five for Liberal and four for the Nationals. A new post explains how the model has reacted to the apparent peculiarity of the Newspoll result, namely by boosting Labor’s expected two-party vote from around 60% to 63% and widening the range of uncertainty.

• I’ve been provided with breakdowns from the Online Research Unit poll that was covered in the previous post. These suggest age effects will be relatively subdued at this election: applying crude preference estimates to the primary vote results, I get Labor’s two-party leads gently sloping down from 62-38 among the 17-24 cohort to 56-44 among the 65-plus. By comparison, Newspoll’s most recent federal breakdowns had Labor leading 61-39 among the 18-34 cohort and trailing 62-38 among the 65-plus.

• Peter Law of The West Australian (no link that I can find) relates a prediction by Glenn Druery that Labor will fall just short of a Legislative Council majority with 17 out of 36 seats, with the Greens almost certain to hold the balance of power if they fail. The Nationals are campaigning on the likelihood that a left-dominated Legislative Council will reduces or eliminate the chamber’s rural malapportionment: the Greens are open in their advocacy for one-vote one-value, but Labor is fudging the issue by saying the question is “not on our agenda”.

• On the subject of Glenn Druery, his network’s preference arrangements are as usual specifically to the advantage of particular parties in designated regions: the Liberal Democrats in South Metropolitan (where Aaron Stonehouse is trying to win re-election for the party); the Daylight Savings Party in Mining and Pastoral (notwithstanding that daylight saving is a largely metropolitan enthusiasm); Liberals for Climate in North Metropolitan; the Western Australian Party in East Metropolitan; the Health Australia Party in Agricultural; and Sustainable Australia in South West.

Western Australian election minus three-and-a-half weeks

A rare whiff of voting intention polling from Western Australia, plus a deep dive into the group voting tickets for the upper house.

UPDATE: The West Australian now reports on a further poll, this one conducted by uComms for the Conservation Council of Western Australia, giving Labor a 61-39 lead on two-party preferred statewide poll. The primary votes are Labor 46.8%, Liberal 27.5% and Nationals 5.1%, Greens 8.3% and One Nation 6.9%, after inclusion of a forced response follow-up for the 5.3% who were initially undecided. There was also apparently a separate poll targeting the northern suburbs marginals of Joondalup, Hillarys and Scarborough, which showed “Labor’s primary vote at 46.1 per cent and the Liberals at 31.9 per cent, followed by The Greens (8.8 per cent) and One Nation (3.8 per cent)”.

The West Australian has details of a poll conducted by something called the Online Research Unit for an unspecified political party, encompassing all of the state except for the Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral upper house regions, which is to say all but the nine most far-flung of the state’s 59 seats. Labor is credited with 49% of the primary vote, up 6.8% on the 2017 election, with the Liberals down 7.2% to 24%, The Greens little changed on 9%, the Nationals down from 5.4% to 3% and One Nation down from 5.4% to 3%. The poll was conducted from a sample of 1546 “in the week before the five-day lockdown”.

Numbers are also provided for upper house voting intention, though respondents do not traditionally do a good job of answering this question accurately: Labor 45%, Liberal 25%, Greens 11% and One Nation 2%, the latter comparing with 8.2% in 2017. On the subject of the upper house, yesterday saw the publication of group voting tickets, which are neatly laid out by Antony Green on the ABC site. We await his calculators to help us determine where the chips are most likely to land, but I offer impressionistic summaries of each party’s approach over the fold.

Continue reading “Western Australian election minus three-and-a-half weeks”

Western Australian election minus four weeks

The closure of nominations reveals a glut of candidates, as parties frantically negotiate ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for upper house preference tickets.

The Poll Bludger election guide has now been updated will full lists of candidates for every seat, after Friday’s closure of nominations and ballot paper draw. This revealed an over-supply of candidates for both houses, calculated by Antony Green at 7.8 per lower house district (463 across 59 seats) compared with 7.1 in 2017 and 4.9 in 2013, and 54.2 per upper house region (325 across six regions), compared with 50.3 in 2017 and 27.5 in 2013.

The boom in candidate numbers over the past two elections partly reflects the lure of preference harvesting as organised by Glenn Druery, whose machinations will become clearer after Legislative Council group voting tickets are lodged at noon tomorrow. One Nation and Shooters Fishers and Farmers are contesting a similar number of seats this time as in 2017 (up from 35 to 40 in the former case and down from 19 to 15 in the latter). The decline of Christian minor parties is interesting to observe: Australian Christians are down from 45 lower house candidates to 29 and Family First is not contesting for the first time since 2001. No doubt this reflects the diversion of religious conservative energies into the Liberal Party, a notable example being party powerbroker Nick Goiran, whose mother Madeleine Goiran is again running for Australian Christians.

A number of parties who were in the Glenn Druery network in 2017 have rebranded themselves for 2021, including the former Flux the System! party, which once promised a revolution in digital direct democracy but now purports to represent “Liberals for Climate”. It will thus join the Liberal Democrats as a second l-word minor party that will gain a small dividend from confused Liberal supporters, particularly where they are in an opportune position on the ballot paper. Only in Agricultural and North Metropolitan regions is the Liberal Party the first party so named in the ballot paper order. However, Aaron Stonehouse, whose opportune ballot paper placement helped him win a South Metropolitan seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2017, has been a good deal less fortunate on this occasion.

The party that ran in 2017 as Julie Matheson for Western Australia is now the Western Australia Party, which I’m guessing has heard its fill of WAP jokes by now. The party has secured a seat in parliament by recruiting former One Nation MLC Charles Smith, but it pitches itself as a centrist concern that hopes to take a leaf from Nick Xenophon’s book. Matheson herself, who is on Subiaco City Council, is only running this time as second on the Mining and Pastoral ticket behind Dave Grills, who held a seat in the region for the Nationals from 2013 to 2017. Taking the cause of regional particularism a step further is the secessionist WAXit Party, which has recently merged with a party that contested the 2017 election as the Micro Business Party.

Further developments:

• Despite the disastrous response to its preference deal with One Nation in 2017, the Liberals show no inclination entertain Labor demands that they put the party last on how-to-vote cards and group voting tickets. Joe Spagnolo of The West Australian reports One Nation’s member for Mining and Pastoral region, Robin Scott, is likely to behind only the Nationals in the Liberal preference order (which is at least a step down from the 2017 deal, which put One Nation ahead of the Nationals), and that it is “widely speculated” that One Nation will direct preferences to Liberal ahead of Labor.

• Labor is also putting a “No Mandatory Vaccination” party behind the Liberals and Nationals in second last place. The party is competing for the same corner of the electoral market as the Health Australia Party, which contested the 2017 election as Fluoride Free WA.

Peter Law of The West Australian reports Labor is negotiating a deal that will give Shooters Fishers and Farmers preferences ahead of the Greens in the Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral upper house regions, in exchange for directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals and Nationals in the lower house. The Greens were unlikely to win a seat in Agricultural region in any case, but Greens member Robin Chapple, who is now retiring, narrowly held out against Shooters at the 2017 election.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports emergency plans are being drawn up in case a COVID-19 outbreak requires the election to be delayed, which could be done to as late as April 3 (although I note the Electoral Act says “no extension of the time for taking the poll shall be made … later than seven days before the time originally appointed”. Another COVID contingency is that every voter will get a free pencil, since these are not to be reused, unless they follow the WAEC’s advice and bring their own writing implement. This should not include a highlighter pen – apparently Sharpies are okay.

The West Australian had a Painted Dog Research poll on Monday showing Mark McGowan on 88% approval and 7% disapproval. Zak Kirkup is on 17% satisfied, 24% dissatisfied, 42% neither and 17% don’t know (suggesting the 5% balance in McGowan’s results included both neither and a presumably very low “don’t know” reading. The poll had a sample of 804, with field work dates not provided.

Western Australian election minus five weeks

A summary of recent developments in the Western Australian state election campaign, which officially began with the issue of the writs on Wednesday.

The Western Australian election campaign is now officially under way following the issue of the writs on Wednesday, with red letter days as follows:

Friday, February 12. Close of nominations and ballot paper draw.
Monday, February 15. Lodgement of group voting tickets for the Legislative Council.
Monday, February 22. Start of postal voting.
Wednesday, February 24. Start of pre-poll voting.
Saturday, March 13. Election day.

For a great deal more on the subject of the election, check out the Poll Bludger election guide if you haven’t already. Some recent developments of note:

• The Liberals are seeking a new candidate for the safe Labor seat of Baldivis in Perth’s outer south after the original nominee, Andrea Tokaji, was prevailed upon to withdraw last week over a piece she wrote for a conservative website that posed the question on everyone’s lips: “is there a correlation between the current roll-out of 5G technology and COVID-19?”

• A report in The West Australian on Tuesday drew attention to comments made in 2019 by Rod Henderson, Liberal candidate for the key marginal seat of Swan Hills, who told a Swan City Council meeting in 2019 that climate change had been “totally dispelled” and, particularly puzzlingly, that NASA and the CSIRO had both come round to this point of view.

• The return of Clive Palmer’s familiar yellow-and-black advertisements to newspapers this week has encouraged speculation that he may change his mind about his United Australia Party not contesting the election, as per his announcement a month ago. The latest advertisements aimed their fire on Mark McGowan and Attorney-General John Quigley over the lockdown, the puzzling inclusion of the latter likely reflecting his role in fighting Palmer’s unsuccessful High Court challenge against border closures last year. His party’s chances of making even an indirect impression on the result are non-existent in any case.

Western Australian election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s painstaking and voluminous guide to the March 13 Western Australian state election.

After more hours of labour than I care to think about, the Poll Bludger’s guide to the Western Australian election is now open for business. I like to think these guides are always pretty good, but some are better than others and this, I am quite sure, is my best ever. The historical scope of the profiles of each of the 59 lower house seats and six upper house regions is without precedent and has, I like to think, been accomplished without sacrifice to clarity and readability. Also featured is a beginners’ guide to the election reviewing the electoral terrain and the political state of play over the past four years.

All of the familiar bells and whistles are present, including charts and tables detailing past results and, best of all, interactive maps showing polling booth results from the previous election. These include an exciting (to me at least) new feature: when you click on one of the polling booth icons that indicate the winning party and size of their two-party vote, a pop-up appears with a table neatly displaying full results on primary vote and two-party preferred.

I’ve also done a lot of work improving the coding and general architecture, which may not be immediately noticeable to the general reader but will greatly reduce the amount of time I have to devote to technical work on election guides to come. If all this is of any professional or entertainment value to you, I encourage you to consider rewarding my efforts through a donation, which you can do by clicking the “become a supporter” button at the top of the page or the bottom of the post.

Kelly’s zeroes

Mutterings about the security of Craig Kelly’s tenure, a federal LNP vacancy in regional Queensland, and some minor state poll findings from Western Australia.

News remains thin on the ground over the summer holiday period, although we may possibly hopefully see the polling cycle crank up again as of next week. Two pieces of federal preselection news to relate:

• A report in The Australian today raises further doubts about the security of Craig Kelly’s preselection in Hughes – not for the reasons you would hope, but because he has failed to raise any campaign funding for head office since July 2019, according to leaked party documents. He is not alone in this distinction, however, with Farrer MP Sussan Ley, Robertson MP Lucy Wicks and Lindsay MP Melissa McIntosh likewise having come up empty. Kelly was saved from preselection challenges by prime ministerial intervention before both the 2016 and 2019 elections, and a Liberal source cited in The Australian says “there’s no appetite in the party to save him a third time”.

• Ken O’Dowd, who has held the central Queensland seat of Flynn for the Nationals since 2010, announced on January 5 that he will retire at the next election. Queensland Country Life reports that Colin Boyce, who holds the partly corresponding seat of Callide in the state parliament, will contest the preselection. The report quotes Boyce complaining about the failure of David Crisafulli, who replaced Deb Frecklington as Liberal National Party leader after the October state election, to have promoted him to the front bench. It also suggests he may face competition in Flynn from Gladstone councillor Glenn Churchill, who was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for the seat in 2007 and challenged O’Dowd for preselection ahead of the 2019 election.

With the Western Australian election now two months away, two bits of data have emerged from a Painted Dog Research poll conducted for The West Australian in mid-December, which as always do not encompass voting intention:

• Three weeks after Zak Kirkup replaced Liza Harvey as Liberal leader in late November, the poll found him with a 19% approval and 14% disapproval rating. While this compares favourably with Harvey’s 10% and 37% from September, but is obviously remarkably mostly for the 67% uncommitted rating. The poll also found 36% saying Kirkup would be a better leader than Harvey and 11% saying otherwise, with 53% uncommitted.

• With Ben Wyatt to bow out at the election, the poll found 21% favouring Health Minister Roger Cook to succeed him as Treasurer, with Rita Saffioti on 9%, Bill Johnston on 8%, “someone else” on 13% and 49% uncommitted.