Casuarina by-election live

The first of our two by-elections today is for the Northern Territory seat of Casuarina, which is being vacated by the retirement of Labor’s Kon Vatskalis.

Election count

7.51pm. The Nakara 2PP was also better for Labor than my projection, so their raw two-party margin is now 5.1%. I’m projecting it to come down to 3.0%, but it will probably be a bit higher than that because there are no absent votes at a by-election, which is always a difficulty when you’re trying to project general election results on to a by-election. So I’m certainly calling it for Labor, but with a fairly solid swing to the CLP. Although that may tell you about Kon Vatskalis’s personal vote more than the overall standing of the parties.

7.38pm. The Tiwi 2PP result was better for Labor than my projection: 722-548, rather than 694-576. I’m now posting a 2.0% margin for Labor, but it should probably be slightly higher than that given that I’m still using the old preference projection for the Nakara primary vote result.

7.30pm. Actually, the 3.4% just cited is Labor’s raw lead. I’m actually projecting them winning by 1.5%. Which, with actual 2PP numbers not yet in and some postals and such still outstanding, means you wouldn’t quite write the CLP off yet.

7.22pm. Primary votes are now in from the two main booths, and based on my rough preference calculation (which gives Labor 80% of Greens preferences and 40% of everybody else’s), the large Nakara booth has swung to the CLP by 9.6% (2026 votes), and the smaller Tiwi booth has swung 3.9% (1270 votes). All told, I’m projecting a Labor win by 252 votes, or 3.4%, from a 7.8% swing. But the CLP wouldn’t be conceding yet.

7.03pm. When I said a 7.9% swing just now, that was only referring to the postals. Combining postals and the Darwin pre-poll, I make it 6.4%.

7.00pm. The 2PP from those postals is 64-62 in favour of CLP, not 67-59 as per my projection. Those three votes make a big difference to the swing calculation, putting it at 7.9% rather than 10.3%.

6.55pm. Ha! My preference distribution guesstimate from the Darwin pre-poll booth was exactly right: 127 votes to CLP, 124 to Labor. We’ve now also got 126 postals, and they’re very interesting – a 10.3% swing to the CLP, going off the preference distribution that served me so well last time. Given the 9.3% margin, this could prove very close indeed if the pattern is followed at the two main booths.

6.42pm. Antony Green has the swing at 4.6%, but we’re both guessing at this stage.

6.37pm. The Darwin pre-poll booth has reported its 251 votes, and it has Labor’s primary vote down about 14% on the election — although that’s partly because there were only two candidates at the election, and the 10.4% Greens vote in particular had to come from somewhere. The CLP vote is about unchanged, and based on my back-of-envelope preference calculation, there is a two-party swing to them of 3.7%. That wouldn’t be enough for them to win the seat, but it would be better for them than they might have expected.


Two by-elections today: one for the Western Australian seat of Vasse (on which you can read my thoughts here, as well as here if you’re a Crikey subscriber), where polls will close at 9pm eastern standard time; and one in the Northern Territory seat of Casuarina, where polls close at 7:30pm EST. Casuarina is being vacated by the retirement of Kon Vatskalis, the Labor member since 2001. It covers Darwin’s northernmost coastal suburbs of Tiwi and Brinkin, along with Alawa and Nakara immediately inland.

Casuarina has existed as an electorate since the parliament was established in 1974, and was held by the Country Liberal Party for the entirety of its history until Vatskalis’s victory in 2001. The member from 1974 to 1994 was Nick Dondas, who went on to federal parliament for a term after winning what was then the single Northern Territory electorate in 1996. The vacated seat was contested at the 1994 election by television newsreader Peter Adamson for the CLP and ABC Radio presenter Clare Martin for Labor. Adamson prevailed, and Martin would instead find a way to parliament in the Fannie Bay electorate in 1995.

Casuarina was among the seats gained by Labor for the first time when Martin led the party to its first ever victory in 2001, Kon Vatskalis prevailing with a 3.5% margin after an 11.4% swing. Katskalis consolidated with another big swing of 15.5% in the 2005 landslide, which was dented only slightly by successive swings of 4.8% in 2008 and 4.9% in 2012, leaving Labor with its current margin of 9.3%. Given the comfortable margin and the troubled history of the CLP government, the expectation is that Labor will retain the seat. The two by-elections held so far this term, in the Darwin seat of Wanguri and the Palmerston seat of Blain, have both produced double-digit swings to Labor.

Labor’s candidate is 27-year-old Lauren Moss, a 27-year-old health campaigner and youth advocate. Moss won the support of the locally dominant Right, which was seen as a snub to Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie, who favoured Darwin alderman Kate Worden. Also in the field was Matthew Gardiner, an organiser with United Voice, who was disadvantaged by his alignment with the Left. The CLP candidate is Harry Kypreos, a general practitioner from Lyons. Moss and Kypreos are joined on the ballot paper by a further five candidates, making for one candidate per 783 voters: Michael Connard of the Greens, Trudy Campbell of the Citizens Electoral Council, and independents George Mamouzellos, Trevor Jenkins and Jack Childers Henderson.

Updates on the results will be added to this post as they are published. Reflecting the small size of the territory’s electorates, there are only two polling booths for the by-election: Nakara Primary School and Dripstone Middle School, which are located within half a kilometre of each other.

Blain by-election live

Will the Northern Territory’s Country Liberal government still have its majority by the end of the evening? Find out here.

7.35pm. Now, all in one hit, we’ve got both primary and pre-poll results from all three ordinary polling booths, together with results from the Darwin pre-poll booth. The raw two-party result shows the CLP leading by 3.2%, and my projection is hardly different at 3.7%, a swing to Labor of 9.5%. I have the CLP primary vote down 15.8% on a booth-matched basis, or 45.5% in raw terms, but Labor is up only 3.2% to 37.5% thanks to the 8.3% vote for independent Matthew Cranitch. The Greens and Citizens Electoral Council, who did not field candidates in 2012, are respectively on 7.3% and 1.4%. So to summarise: the CLP has suffered a large swing, but not sufficient to cost them the seat given the extent to which it was absorbed by candidates other than Labor.

7.22pm. “I think we’ve won,” says CLP president Ross Connolly, as related by Nine reporter Kathleen Bruyn on Twitter. However, I still have nothing more to go on than the aforementioned Palmerston pre-poll booth primary votes.

7.20pm. The media feed being deployed by Antony Green is evidently running ahead of the result being published on the NTEC website, as it has a two-party result from those pre-polls. These suggest that my preference guesstimates were spot on, or at least that the errors cancelled out. There’s also talk on Twitter that the Rosebery booth is likewise recording a big-but-not-big-enough swing to Labor.

6.55pm. 521 pre-poll primary votes have been added, and based on my very crude preference distribution, in which Labor gets 80% of Greens preferences and 40% of independents and CEC, the result is a 9.1% swing off a margin of 13.2%.

6pm. Booths – all three of them – have closed. I guess we might see a first result in 45 minutes or so.

Blain by-election: April 12

The Northern Territory’s Country Liberal government will fight to keep its parliamentary majority intact at Saturday’s by-election to replace former party leader Terry Mills.

UPDATE (Friday 11/4): The Northern Territory News has published a poll from a small sample of 200 voters, which going on past form I presume to have been conducted in-house with help from the Adelaide Advertiser. This suggests a very close result, with the Country Liberal Party leading 51-49 on two-party preferred from primary votes of 40.8% for the CLP, 39.2% for Labor and 12.5% for independent Matthew Cranitch.

The parliamentary majority of Northern Territory’s Country Liberal Party government will be on the line on Saturday when voters in the Palmerston seat of Blain go to the polls to choose a successor to Terry Mills, who led the CLP to victory at the August 2012 election only to be deposed by his party less than seven months later. The CLP won 16 seats out of 25 at the election, after indigenous candidates fielded by the party emerged surprise winners in four remote electorates. However, last week the party lost the services of three of those members – Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier – who had been at loggerheads with their colleagues since the Tourism Minister, Matt Conlan, reportedly told Anderson during a party room meeting to “do us all a favour and f**k off you c**t”. They will now sit on the cross-benches, putting the parliamentary numbers at 13 for the CLP and eight for Labor with four independents. Should Blain fall on Saturday, Adam Giles’ government will be reduced to minority status, although it will presumably be able to rely on the support of Gerry Wood, the long-serving independent member for the pastoral electorate of Nelson. While the CLP margin in the seat is 13.2%, swings in the Northern Territory tend to be large due to the small size of the electorates (about 5000 enrolled voters each) and consequent importance of sitting member effects.

Palmerston is a fast-growing satellite city located about 20 kilometres east of central Darwin, and is serviced by three electorates in the Northern Territory parliament. Blain covers its southern end, including the suburbs of Woodroffe, Moulden, western Rosebery and the new development of Bellamack. It has been held by the CLP since its creation in 1997, but the margin fell to 3.3% at a by-election held in 1999 after the mid-term retirement of Barry Coulter. It was thereafter held comfortably by Terry Mills, who had two stints as party leader – from November 2003 to February 2005, when he stood aside admitting he “wasn’t up to the job”, and from January 2008 when he emerged at the head of a party room that had been reduced to four members by the 2005 election debacle. His position was secured by a 9.2% swing to the CLP under his leadership at the 2008 election, which was followed by a 5.1% swing in 2012. However, his hold on the loyalty of the party room remained shaky, and a 12.4% swing to Labor at the Wanguri by-election in February 2013 was enough to precipitate his demise.

The CLP’s candidate for the by-election is Nathan Barrett, a port worker and former high school teacher. Labor is again fielding its candidate from 2012, police officer Geoff Bahnert. Running as an independent is Matthew Cranitch, the president of the territory branch of the Australian Education Union, which is not affiliated with the ALP. Cranitch has dealt Labor a blow by putting Barrett and ahead of Bahnert on his how-to-vote card. Other candidates are Palmerston councillor Sue McKinnon for the Greens and former naval officer Peter Flynn of the Citizens Electoral Council.

BludgerTrack: 54.7-45.3 to Coalition

The Poll Bludger’s federal poll aggregate has recorded little change since the previous result a week ago. Also featured: preselection argybargy, changes to electoral legislation, a new Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, and a by-election result.

In recognition of the quickening tempo as the federal election draws nearer (let’s continue to presume it will indeed be on September 14), my mid-week update to the BludgerTrack 2013 poll aggregate will henceforth get its own thread. This means that in the normal course of things there will be three more-or-less evenly spaced federal politics post a week: one hanging off the main poll release on Sunday or Monday, the regular “Seat of the Week” on Friday or Saturday, and the BludgerTrack update in between.

The latest update throws the latest results from Nielsen and Essential Research into the mix, producing little change after the slight recovery for Labor last week. However, the state relativities have changed slightly with the addition of data from Nielsen, one of only two pollsters which provides state breakdowns with any consistency. The swing recorded for New South Wales is now higher than for Victoria, as most commentary suggests it should be. As noted in the previous post, the weekly Morgan result is being excluded from the calculation for the time being until there is enough data from its new “multi-mode” methodology to allow for a credible bias measure to be determined with reference to the overall polling trend.

Other news:

• Four nominees have emerged for the Labor preselection in the Sydney seat of Barton, to be vacated upon the retirement of former Attorney-General Robert McClelland. They do not include former NSW Premier Morris Iemma, who may have had his factional association with Eddie Obeid to consider, together with the extreme difficulty any Labor candidate will face defending the seat. Paul Osborne of The Australian reports the contest is effectively between Shane O’Brien, Rockdale mayor and NSW Public Service Association assisant secretary; Kirsten Andrews, “former state and federal ministerial adviser”; and Steve McMahon, former Hurstville mayor who “made a name for himself when he sold the mayoral car to build a children’s playground”. O’Brien is “widely seen as the frontrunner”; Another nominee, state upper house MP and former Rockdale mayor Shaoquett Moselmane, withdrew his nomination after two days, choosing instead to make headlines with a parliamentary attack on Israel. Murray Trembath of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader earlier reported that Moselmane’s run was thought to be “a lever to seek a more secure position on Labor’s upper house ticket for the next election”. The Liberals have endorsed Nick Varvaris, accountant and mayor of Kogarah.

• A day after the Financial Review reported he had received assistance from Eddie Obeid as he sought to enter parliament in 1999, independent state MP Richard Torbay has dropped a bombshell by announcing his withdrawal as Nationals candidate for Tony Windsor’s seat of New England. The Nationals’ state chairman, Niall Blair, confirmed Torbay was asked to stand aside after the party received unspecified information “of which we were not previously aware”. Barnaby Joyce has expressed interest in the past in using the seat for a long-desired move to the lower house, and there were immediate suggestions he might take Torbay’s place.

Troy Bramston of The Australian reports Tim Watts, Telstra executive and former adviser to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and former Victorian Premier John Brumby, is the front-runner to succeed Nicola Roxon as Labor candidate for the safe western Melbourne seat of Gellibrand.

• With John Forrest bowing out at as member at the next election, the Nationals preselection for Mallee has attracted 10 candidates. Those named in an ABC report are Horsham farmer Russell McKenzie, former Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad, Buloke Shire mayor Reid Mather and Swan Hill deputy mayor Greg Cruickshank. Liberal party sources quoted by Terry Sim of the Weekly Times said the Liberals were “unlikely to field a candidate”. Labor has endorsed Lydia Senior, chief executive of the Lower Murray Medicare Local.

Megan Gorrey of the Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser reports Laurie Ferguson effortlessly saw off a preselection challenge from Damian Ogden, by a margin of 132 to 11.

• Legislation which completed its passage through federal parliament earlier in the month has raised the bar for prospective election candidates by increasing nomination deposits (from $500 to $1000 for the House of Representatives and $1000 to $2000 for the Senate) and requiring of independent candidates more supporting signatures on nomination forms.

Top End corner:

• The Northern Territory had a change of Chief Minister last week, with Adam Giles emerging as the first indigenous leader of an Australian government. Terry Mills, whom Giles ousted as leader just seven months after he led the Country Liberal Party to victory at the polls, was informed of his ill fortune by text message while on government business in Japan.

The present leadership crisis began a fortnight ago when deputy leader Robyn Lambley stood aside for Giles with a view to healing a long-standing rift, only for Giles to up the ante by indicating he would move to replace Mills as leader unless further conditions were met. In this he had hoped for support from Alison Anderson, the most senior of the CLP’s complement of indigenous MPs, but she instead publicly blasted Giles for refusal to accept the deputy leadership and threatened to take her “bush coalition” of four MPs (the cohesiveness of which is disputed) to the cross-benches or even into coalition with Labor. The turmoil coincided with the period of a Newspoll survey for the Northern Territory News targeting 437 respondents in the CLP-held seats of Sanderson, Blain and Brennan, which showed a 22% against the CLP on the primary vote and 14% on two-party preferred. Mills’s personal ratings were at 26% approval and 67% disapproval, compared with 39% and 38% for Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie (whom Mills nonetheless led 38-37 as preferred Chief Minister).

The situation was transformed the following week when Anderson and the bush MPs were persuaded to put the previous week’s acrimony behind them and throw their support behind Giles, with Anderson telling Amos Aikman of The Australian the decision was made to forestall a rival challenger she declined to identify. The victory for the Giles camp was confirmed when his key supporter, Fong Lim MP and former federal Solomon MP David Tollner, was installed as deputy leader and Treasurer. Mills meanwhile is widely expected to head for the exit in fairly short order, promising to initiate a challenging by-election in his seat of Blain.

• All of which nicely leads into my belated results summary for last month’s Wanguri by-election, which delivered a bloody nose for the CLP and a morale-boosting result for Labor, which had suffered a 7.7% swing in the seat when Paul Henderson contested it as Chief Minister at the election on August 25.

February 16, 2013

				Votes 	% 	Swing 	2PP 	%	Swing
Nicole Manison (ALP) 		2,428 	65.2% 	+8.2% 	2,585 	69.4%	+12.4%
Rhianna Harker (CLP)		1,059 	28.4% 	-14.6% 	1,139 	30.6%	-12.4%
Peter Rudge (Independent) 	237 	6.4% 			

Formal 				3,724 	96.4% 	-1.6% 		
Informal 			86 	3.6% 	+1.6% 		
Enrolment/Turnout 		4,984 	77.5% 	-11.6%

Wanguri by-election live

The by-election to fill former ALP Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s northern Darwin seat in the Northern Territory parliament is a three-candidate, two-polling booth affair.

8.27pm. On the final figures for the night there have been 3663 formal votes cast compared with 4239 at the general election, with probably only a handful still to come.

7.27pm. Leanyer and Wanguri have both reported, and it really has been a cakewalk for Labor, who have picked up double-digit swings at both booths and also on postals and pre-polls. Surprisingly high turnout as well – possibly even higher than at the election. Labor has 69.7% of the two-party vote which pans out to a swing of 12.7%, whether going off raw or booth-matched figures. The primary vote totals are 65.5% for Labor, 28.1% for the CLP and 6.4% for Peter Rudge.

7.08pm. 120 postals have been added, and it’s another encouraging indication for Labor breaking 75-45 their way. The CLP scored a slight majority on postal votes at the election. Peter Rudge is on 6.8%.

7.05pm. The independent turns out to be Peter Rudge, who made a splash when he ran in Nightcliff at the election.

7.00pm. The NTEC site has been intermittently blocking the results page to “unauthorised” access, and is doing so at present. Most unhelpful.

6.50pm. Turns out I was wrong about there only being two candidates: there’s also an independent called Rudge. The Darwin pre-poll booth has reported, and it splits 129-58 to Labor, which is much better than they did on pre-polls at the election. The other pre-poll booths was in Alice Springs and presumably didn’t do much business.

5.50pm. Polls close in ten minutes for Northern Territory’s Wanguri by-election, held to replace the outgoing former Chief Minister Paul Henderson. As was the case at the general election last August, the seat has attracted only two candidates: Labor’s Nicole Manison, a former Henderson government media adviser, and the Country Liberal Party’s Rhianna Harker, a former president of the Young CLP. The electorate covers the northern Darwin suburbs of Leanyer and Wanguri, together with part of the new suburb of Lyons, which are each accommodated by a single polling booth. The local breakdown of last August’s election result is as follows:

		Votes	ALP	Swing
Leanyer		1840	57.4%	-5.4%
Wanguri		1412	59.6%	-7.3%
Other		987	52.5%	-14.3%

		4239	57.0%	-7.4%

Wanguri was held by the CLP’s Don Dale from its creation in 1983 until his retirement in 1989, subsequently falling to Labor’s John Bailey at a by-election. Bailey nearly lost the seat against the trend of a general pro-Labor swing at the 1994 election, which some blamed on CLP push-polling. Bailey’s retirement in 1999 precipitated a by-election in which Paul Henderson picked up an 11.5% two-party swing. Despite a redistribution turning it into a notional CLP seat, Henderson was comfortably returned in 2001 with 55.3% of the primary vote, to which he added a further 15.5% in 2005. The air from that balloon went out to the tune of 5.9% in 2008 and a redistribution-adjusted 7.4% in 2012.

Election day: September 14

Regardless of her motivations, the Prime Minister has done us all a good turn by advising well in advance of her plans to hold the election on September 14.

The Prime Minister has performed us all the service of advising well in advance that she will call the federal election for September 14, to be formally initiated by a visit to the Governor-General and the issue of the writs on August 12 (remember where you heard it first). Professional strainers for things to say have criticised the move, but not on any reasonable basis that I can see (the rather esoteric concern of the date coinciding with Yom Kippur aside). It’s a bit trite to complain of a decision about election timing being driven by political considerations, which will self-evidently be the case wherever politicians are given discretion over the matter. The salient point is that the public and the political system at large have gone from not knowing something important to knowing it, which can only be a good thing. Antony Green (see video embed at 2:47pm) has more, including the observation that the practice of ambushing the opposition with an announcement five weeks out from the date is a modern development, and a very obviously unhelpful one at that.

Some recent political odds and ends:

• Labor’s national executive has confirmed the endorsement of Nova Peris, who became the first Australian Aboriginal to win an Olympic gold medal as a representative of the women’s hockey team in 1996, as its Northern Territory Senate candidate. Peris’s endorsement occurred at the initiative of the Prime Minister, who was seen to be reacting against the party’s record of failure in securing Aboriginal representation in the federal parliament, and the backlash against Labor in remote areas at last August’s Northern Territory election and the presumed threat to the corresponding federal seat of Lingiari. Local preselection processes were contentiously overridden in seeing off the incumbent of 16 years, Trish Crossin, who had been a supporter of Kevin Rudd’s bid to return to the leadership. Vocal critics of the move included two former Labor Deputy Chief Ministers, Marion Scrymgour and Syd Stirling, along with Senator and Left faction powerbroker Doug Cameron. Scrymgour nominated for the national executive vote along with another former Territory minister in Karl Hampton, who was among those to lose his seat at last year’s election. It was was reported that “at least two” of the 24-member national executive voted against the Prime Minister’s wishes.

• Robert McClelland has announced he will bow out at the federal election after 17 years as member for the Sydney seat of Barton, which Labor holds on a margin of 7.7%. Another backer of Kevin Rudd, McClelland served as Attorney-General from the government’s election in 2007 until his demotion to emergency management in 2011, and was dropped altogether last March in the wake of Rudd’s failed leadership bid. He was seen to have undermined Julia Gillard last June by making an oblique reference in parliament to the AWU affair, which was invoked as validating the subsequent blizzard of news reports into various details of the matter. McClelland’s most widely discussed potential successor as Labor candidate is Morris Iemma, who succeeded Bob Carr as NSW Premier in August 2005, led his party to victory at the 2007 election, and was deposed in September 2008 in a move which doesn’t seem as clever now as it apparently did at the time. Reports have quoted sources saying Iemma is “likely” to put his name forward. Others mentioned have been Shane O’Brien, mayor of Rockdale and official with the Public Service Association of NSW, and Kirsten Andrews, a former staffer who now works with the National Heart Foundation.

• Paul Henderson, who led Labor to defeat in last year’s Northern Territory election, has announced he is bowing out of parliament. This will cause a by-election to be held on February 16 for his northern Darwin seat of Wanguri, where his margin was clipped from 14.4% to 7.0% last August. Labor has preselected Nicole Manison, a former Henderson government media adviser who had backing from both Henderson and his successor as Labor leader, Delia Lawrie. The Country Liberal Party has again endorsed its candidate from last year, Rhianna Harker, a former president of the Young CLP.

UPDATE: Morgan has published a result from its face-to-face polling of the past two weekends, which has Labor down half a point to 36%, the Coalition down 2.5% to 39% and the Greens up 1.5% to 12%. This pans out to a 50.5-49.5 lead to the Coalition on respondent-allocated preferences, and 50.5-49.5 to Labor when preferences are allocated as per the result of the last election.