Batman by-election: March 17

As the timetable for the by-election is laid out, a look at the implications of the Liberals’ likely no-show.

It was announced today that the Batman by-election will be held on March 17, which is the same day as the state election in South Australia (not to mention the by-election being held in Western Australia to replace Colin Barnett in Cottesloe, although that’s a Liberal lay-down-misere that is unlikely to consume much of our attention). The timeline runs as follows:

Close of rolls: Wednesday, February 14
Close of nominations: Thursday, February 22 (noon)
Declaration of nominations: Friday, February 23 (noon)
Start of early voting: Tuesday, February 27
Polling day: Saturday, March 17
Return of writs deadline: Friday, May 18

The Greens have resolved the internal dispute that raised doubts as to whether Preston social worker and five-time candidate Alex Bhathal would again be their candidate. Liberal state president Michael Kroger has not ruled out fielding a candidate if the party learns of links to anti-Semitic activity on Bhathal’s part, though it’s probably a safe bet that this won’t happen.

Implicit in Kroger’s comments, and indeed much of the other commentary surrounding the by-election, is that the Liberals will boost the Greens’ chances if they stay out of the race. The main reason to think this would be so is that Liberal voters would no longer be guided by the party’s how-to-vote cards, which have lately had Labor ahead of the Greens. With the Greens ahead of Labor on the Liberal card, the Greens got 91.8% of Liberal preferences in Batman in 2007, and 80.9% in 2010; when it was reversed, they got 32.6% in 2013 and 36.4% in 2016. All told, around a third of the electorate’s Liberal voters seem to make a conscious decision to favour the Greens over Labor, while 10% to 20% do the opposite, which will presumably continue to inform their behaviour at the by-election.

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Batman by-election guide

Introducing the third in an ongoing series of by-elections arising from the Section 44 imbroglio.

The text is a work in progress, but I have a Batman by-election page up, which will keep score ahead of the by-election initiated by David Feeney’s resignation announcement yesterday. This is replete with the full English of charts and maps detailing past results and the electorate’s demographic characteristics. The highlights for my money are a chart showing the rather extraordinary progress of the primary vote since the Greens first fielded a candidate in 1996, and a booth results map that shows the neat precision with which Bell Street divided the booths the Greens won in 2016 from those won by Labor. If you would like more of my thoughts on the subject of the Batman by-election, there will hopefully be an article on the subject from me in Crikey today.

Bennelong by-election live

Live coverage of the count for the Bennelong by-election.

Robinson (ALA)
Folitarik (SPP)
Jansson (FUT)
Alexander (LIB)
Keneally (ALP)
Platter (APEP)
Alick (GRN)
Ziebell (AAHP)
Fels (NCP)
Richa (ACP)
Cao (CDP)
Golding (AUP)
Booths reporting on primary vote (out of 41)
Booths reporting on two-party preferred (out of 41)
Formal votes counted as % of enrolment (106,582)


All I have to add at this stage is the chart below, which seeks to give some insight into how well by-election swings have worked historically as pointers to the next election result – to which the answer is, not very well at all. Featured are all federal by-elections contested by both the Coalition and Labor back to the Whitlam government, with the by-election swing to the government (nearly always negative) recorded on the horizontal axis, and the subsequent election swing (usually negative as well) on the vertical. As such, all by-elections for a given parliamentary term have the same result on the vertical axis. I have also included a line recording the correlation between the two variables, but only for by-elections that were not held in the first nine months of the parliamentary term, which are usually a lot more favourable for the government. However, the predictive power of the underlying equation is very poor (the r-squared result is 0.0655), as it could hardly fail to be, given the government recorded a favourable swing of 7.4% in New England a fortnight ago.

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Galaxy: 51-49 to Liberal in Bennelong

Another poll points to a cliffhanger in the make-or-break Bennelong by-election.

A Galaxy poll for the Daily Telegraph has John Alexander clinging on to a 51-49 lead ahead of tomorrow’s Bennelong by-election, after a poll at the beginning of the campaign had it at 50-50. On the primary vote, Alexander is down two to 40% and Kristina Keneally is down one to 38%, with the Greens on 8%, Australian Conservatives on 7% and Christian Democratic Party on 3%. The sample is only 524, but the result is in line with a similar poll conducted by the same company but badged as Newspoll for The Australian earlier in the week.

ReachTEL: 53-47 to Liberal in Bennelong

The latest Bennelong by-election poll suggests John Alexander is set to hold on in the face of a solid swing to Labor.

The Sydney Morning Herald today has results from a ReachTEL poll for the Bennelong by-election, which credits John Alexander with a lead of 53-47 on respondent-allocated preferences – a swing to Labor of nearly 7%. The primary votes, after allocating a forced response follow-up from the (unusually small) 2.4% who initially professed themselves undecided, are 41.3% for John Alexander (down 9.1% on the election), 36.3% for Kristina Keneally (up 7.8%), 7.5% for the Greens (down 1.6%) and 14.9% for the rest. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 819. This is the second ReachTEL poll of the campaign, the first being conducted a month ago and showing Alexander leading 54-46. The other two published polls, a Galaxy poll at the start of the campaign and Newspoll this week, both had it at 50-50. Multiple reports suggest party polling has been nearer to ReachTEL’s findings.

For all the background you could want, my Bennelong by-election guide is now updated and much expanded.

Essential Research: 54-46 to Labor; Newspoll: 50-50 in Bennelong

Labor records an unexpectedly strong showing in a Newspoll from Bennelong, and maintains a big national lead from Essential – although the latter also records a lift in Malcolm Turnbull’s personal ratings.

The Australian has a Newspoll survey of Bennelong ahead of this Saturday’s by-election, and while the sample is a very modest 529, the results area a turn-up: a 50-50 tie on two-party preferred and a 39% tie on the primary vote, with the Greens on 9%, Australian Conservatives on 7%, the Christian Democratic Party on 2% and others on 4%. The two-party total would appear to be based on an allocation of at least 80% of Australian Conservatives and Christian Democratic Party preferences to the Liberals, presumably based on the latter’s preference flow in 2016. By contrast, The Australian reported last week that Liberal internal polling had them with a 54-46 lead.

Courtesy of The Guardian, the latest reading of the Essential Research fortnight rolling average has Labor’s national two-party lead at 54-46, down from 55-45. However, the monthly leadership ratings record a substantial improvement for Malcolm Turnbull, who is up four on approval to 41% and down five on disapproval to 44%, while Bill Shorten is up a point to 36% and down there to 45%. Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister increases from 40-28 to 42-28. Other questions related in The Guardian involve sexual harassment and energy policy. More on this, along with primary vote numbers, when Essential publishes its report later today.

YouGov-Forty Acres: 50-50

The relatively volatile YouGov series for Fifty Acres is at 50-50 this fortnight, after Labor recorded a rare 53-47 lead last time. As usual though, this is based on very strong respondent-allocated preferences to the Coalition. The primary votes look relatively normal this time, with Labor up three on the primary vote to 35%, the Coalition up two to 34%, the Greens up one to 11%, One Nation down three to 8% and the rest down three to 13%. Other questions include a finding that 40% think Malcolm Turnbull should “stand down and let someone else take over”, compared with 39% who say he should remain.