The New South Wales election again

The dust has settled on the lower house count, but we must wait until Friday to learn if, among other things, David Leyonhjelm’s career in politics will continue beyond the end of the week.

I haven’t had much to contribute on late counting in New South Wales for two reasons, the first of which is that I’ve been busy labouring over my federal election guide (stay tuned). The second is that the process hasn’t excited much interest – the result of the election was clear on the night, almost down to the last seat; that result involved remarkably little change on 2015, with Labor gaining just two seats (Coogee and Lismore), and another two lost by the Nationals to Shooters Fishers and Farmers (Barwon and Murray); and there were no late count surprises, the nearest exception being an unexpectedly close final result in comeback, where Labor candidate Cameron Murphy can now add a 429-vote losing margin to go with the 372-vote one he suffered in 2015.

Seventy-three out of the 93 seats produced Labor-versus-Coalition results at the final count, and their combined result showed a two-party swing to Labor of just 1.0%. We will require a full accounting of preference data to know the final result for certain (and these are, eventually, produced with exquisite detail in New South Wales), but as the final result in 2015 was Coalition 54.32% to Labor 45.68%, we can presumably expect it land somewhere around 53.3-46.7. This is solidly better for the Coalition than was generally anticipated – the last Newspoll had it at 51-49, although it did well enough at predicting the primary vote (41% for the Coalition compared with an election result of 41.6%; 35% for Labor compared with 33.3%; 10% for the Greens compared with 9.6%).

All that remains now is to determine the final result for the Legislative Council, on which the button will be pressed on Friday. The best places to look here are Kevin Bonham’s regular updates and the Twitter account of Ross Leedham. Even at this late stage, it would seem that the raw primary vote figures are an unreliable guide, because most of the outstanding votes are either absents or concentrated in non-Sydney seats or some combination of the two. Furthermore, Antony Green has related from party sources that twice as many voters have taken the effort to go beyond a first preference vote at this time, and we can only guess at this stage where they are likely to go.

Based on the progress primary vote totals, you would think the most likely result was seven seats apiece for the Coalition and Labor, two each for the Greens and One Nation, and one each for Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Liberal Democrats and the Christian Democratic Party. However, Ross Leedham’s efforts to fill the gaps in the count suggest the Coalition should win an eighth seat, and the experience of preference flows in 2015 suggests Animal Justice should be well in contention as well. Keep Sydney Open seem to my eye to dropped out of contention, but it appears the current numbers may be selling them short as many of the outstanding votes are absents, most of which come from the party’s home turf in Sydney.

As to who might get squeezed out, my reading of the situation is that preferences should ensure Labor’s seventh seat; that One Nation’s second candidate should make it, based on my presumption that their high name recognition will translate into a solid flow of preferences; and that the last seat is a three or maybe four horse race in which David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats is the front-runner, ahead of the Christian Democrats, Animal Justice and, maybe, Keep Sydney Open. However, there’s a fair bit of speculative guesswork in all this, so only time will tell.

The table below shows the latest raw results from the progress count, in percentages and quotas; the most recent projection from Ross Leedham; Kevin Bonham’s calculation of how many quotas the various contenders gained on preferences in 2015, where party-equivalent figures are available, and keeping in mind that we can apparently expect about 60% more of these this time; party seat counts for 19 seats that seem definite to me (it’s possible that I’m being generous to Labor here); and a marker for parties in contention to win the two final seats.

Phony war communiques

A pre-campaign assembly of polling and scuttlebutt about the respective parties’ prospects for an election that must surely be called very soon.

The window for a May 11 election has passed, which would seem to narrow it down to May 18 or May 25, with the former seeming more likely given concerns expressed in the past about the latter. Some details on where things may or may not stand:

• Roy Morgan has published its weekly face-to-face poll result, normally available only to subscribers, but occasionally sent out in the wild when its proprietor has a point to make. This time, it’s that the government’s position has improved post-budget, with the Labor lead not at 52.5-47.5, from 55-45 last week (it may be observed that the organisation wasn’t duly excited by any of the results that got Labor to that position in the first place). On the primary vote, the Coalition was up 2.5% to 37%, Labor down 1.5% to 35%, the Greens up 1% to 13.5% (Morgan sharing Ipsos’s apparent skew to the Greens) and One Nation up half a point to 4%. The poll was conducted on the weekend from a face-to-face sample of 829 respondents.

• Michael Koziol of the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the weekend of Liberal polling that was “diabolically bad” for Tony Abbott in Warringah. Abbott’s primary vote is said to be down 12% on his 51.6% in 2016, which would indeed leave him a fair way short of competitive. Nonetheless, Liberal sources quoted by Koziol were optimistic Abbott would hang on, in part because of “a $1 million war chest from fundraising and his Advance Australia lobby group allies”. Whether that confidence remains intact now they have had a look at how Advance Australia plans on spending that money is not yet known.

• Other than that, the Liberals appear upbeat about their prospects in New South Wales. The Sydney Morning Herald reports optimism Kerryn Phelps’s win in Wentworth will prove to have been a one-off, now that voters there have vented their spleen about the removal of Malcolm Turnbull. Furthermore, the Sydney Morning Herald report says the Liberals believe they are in front in Lindsay – a claim that is both corroborated by Labor sources, and fleshed out in a report yesterday by Andrew Clennell of The Australian, which says the party’s polling credits them with a lead of 53-47. Clennell’s Liberal sources were particularly bullish, claiming leads in Dobell – on which Koziol’s source was more circumspect – and also to have the lead in their existing seats of Reid, Gilmore and Robertson. A Nationals source cited in Clennell’s report believes the party to be “marginally ahead” in their Mid North Coast seat of Page.

• Nonetheless, Labor is reportedly hopeful of maintaining the status quo in New South Wales, considering that Gilmore or Reid might balance a loss in Lindsay (apparently not rating a mention is Banks, which I for one would have thought vulnerable). Beyond New South Wales, Labor “believes it will win at least nine – and probably more – elsewhere”. Ben Packham of The Australian reported on the week end that Labor feels too secure in Victoria to devote resources to any of its own seats, and will target five held by the Coalition with “full field” campaigns: Dunkley, Corangamite, La Trobe, Chisholm and Deakin.

The Australian reports Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance will only field candidates in Mayo, which is held for the party by Rebekha Sharkie, along with Grey and Barker, where they have respectively endorsed Andrea Broadfoot and Kelly Gladigau. The party’s predecessor, the Nick Xenophon Team, polled 21.3% across South Australia in 2016, and finished second in Grey, Barker and Port Adelaide (the latter now abolished).

Jamie Walker of The Australian notes that Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, which has endorsed candidates in more seats than any party other than Labor, has nonetheless left open its Queensland Senate ticket and the Townsville-based seat of Herbert. Palmer earlier maintained he would run in Herbert, but few now expect that to happen, given the certainty he would fail there.

• There’s a redistribution in train in the Northern Territory, which Ben Raue at The Tally Room is on top of if you’re interested.

Essential Research: 52-48 to Labor

A positive reception to the budget fails to move the needle on Essential Research’s voting intention reading. Also featured: a closer look at the budget response results from Newspoll.

As reported by The Guardian, Essential Research has provided the third post-budget poll, and it concurs with Newspoll in having Labor leading 52-48, but in not in finding the Coalition’s improved, since 52-48 was where Essential already had it a fortnight ago. Both major parties are down a point, the Coalition to 38% and Labor to 35%, the Greens are up one to 11% and One Nation is down two to 5% – which means the residue is up fairly substantially, by three points to 10%.

The poll also agrees with Newspoll and Ipsos in finding a positive response to the budget, which was rated favourably by 51% and unfavourably by 27%. Respondents were presented with a list of budget measures and asked yea or nay, with unsurprising responses: strongly positive for infrastructure spending, tax relief measures aimed at those on low and middle incomes and the projection of a surplus, but much weaker on flattening tax scales. Also featured was an occasional question on best party to handle various issues, which does not appear to have thrown up anything unusual. Full detail on that will become available when the full report is published later today.

UPDATE: Full report from Essential Research here. The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1069.

Backtracking a little to the weekend’s Newspoll numbers, I offer the following displays covering three of their measures in two charts, placing the results in the context of the post-budget polling that Newspoll has been conducting in consistent fashion since 1988. The first is a scatterplot for the questions on the budget’s anticipated impact on personal finances and the economy as a whole (net measures in both cases, so positive effect minus negative effect), with last week’s budget shown in red. Naturally enough, these measures are broadly correlated. However, respondents were, relatively speaking, less convinced about the budget’s economic impact than they normally would be of a budget rated so highly for its impact on personal finances.

Nonetheless, the standout fact is that the budget was very well received overall – the personal finances response was the second highest ever recorded, and economic impact came equal seventh out of thirty-two. There are, however, two grounds on which Labor can take heart. First, the one occasion when the personal finances result surpassed this budget was in 2007, immediately before the last time the Coalition was evicted from office. The second is provided by the question of whether the opposition would have done better, which if anything came slightly at the high end of average. For Labor to hold its ground here in the context of a budget that had a net rating of plus 25 on personal impact, compared with plus two last year, suggests voters have revised upwards their expectations of what Labor might do for them financially.

Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor; Ipsos: 53-47 to Labor

Newspoll and Ipsos offer very mixed signals on the question of whether the government has enjoyed a rarely sighted “budget bounce”.

Two post-budget polls are in – Newspoll from The Australian, Ipsos for Nine Newspapers – and they offer contrasting pictures as to whether support for the government has gone up or down in the wake of last week’s budget.

Newspoll produces an encouraging result for the Coalition in showing Labor’s two-party lead at 52-48, rather than 54-46. Ordinarily I would point out that a two-point movement from Newspoll is a rare occurrence, which close observers of the polling industry suspect is down to Newspoll smoothing its numbers with some variety of rolling average, in which the results of the previous poll are combined with those of the latest. However, the last Newspoll was, very unusually, four weeks ago, the delay being down to the New South Wales election a fortnight ago and a desire to hold off until the budget last week. So it would not surprise me if things were different this time, and the result was drawn entirely from this week’s survey, which will have been conducted from Thursday to Sunday (UPDATE: as indeed it was, from a sample of 1799).

The report currently up on The Australian’s website is a bit sketchy, but it tells us the Coalition is up two on the primary vote to 38% and Labor is down two to 37%, with One Nation down one to 6%. Scott Morrison’s approval rating is up three to 46% and Bill Shorten’s is up one to 37%, but there is no word yet on disapproval ratings, preferred prime minister, the Greens primary vote and the sample size. The report also rates the budget has scored the highest since the last Howard government budget in 2007 on impact on personal circumstances and cost of living. Stay tuned for further detail.

UPDATE: The Greens primary vote is steady at 9%; Morrison is down two on disapproval to 43%; Shorten is steady on disapproval at 51%; Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is out from 43-36 to 46-35.

The post-budget Ipsos poll for Nine Newspapers, which is the first since mid-February, records an actual deterioration for the Coalition on the last since last time, albeit that that was an anomalously strong result for the Coalition (the one that had The Australian proclaiming “Morrison’s Tampa moment” across its front page headline). The two-party headline in the poll is 53-47 in favour of Labor, compared with 51-49 last time, which I’m guessing applies to both respondent-allocated and two-party preferred preference measures since the reports don’t specify. Ipsos’s primary votes are as usual on the low side for the major parties and well on the high side for the Greens: the Coalition are down a point to 37%, Labor is steady on 34% and the Greens are steady on 13%. If it might be thought odd that such small primary vote movement should produce a two-point shift on two-party preferred, it would appear that rounding favoured the Coalition last time and Labor this time.

On the budget, the poll finds 38% expecting they would be better off and 24% saying worse off, which is around the same as last year. Forty-one per cent thought it fair and 29% unfair. Leadership ratings are, as usual, more favourable from Ipsos than other pollsters, but otherwise notable in recording increased uncommitted ratings across the board. Scott Morrison records 48% approval and 38% disapproval, both down one from last time; Bill Shorten is is down four on approval to 36% and one on disapproval to 51%; and Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister shifts from 48-38 to 46-35.

Reports on the poll, possibly paywalled, can be found at the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1200.

Another night before Christmas

Doubts the election is quite as imminent as all that, and a slightly dated poll result showing business as usual pre-budget.

Or maybe seven nights. According to Anthony Galloway of the Herald Sun, “speculation intensified yesterday about whether Mr Morrison will call the election tomorrow for May 11, or wait until the end of next week for a May 18 poll”. The latter would suit me better, if he’s reading. Liberal sources say the Prime Minister might be considering holding off “in the hope of a poll bounce after this week’s Budget”, which would be optimistic of him.

Also in the paper today is a rather unusual bit of opinion polling from YouGov Galaxy, which was conducted pre-budget – last Monday to Thursday, to be precise – from a large sample of 2224. The interesting bit is that Labor leads 53-47 on two-party preferred, discouraging the notion that the New South Wales election might have changed anything. However, the larger purpose of the exercise is to burrow down into voters’ perceptions of the party leaders, taken to include Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer as well as the usual suspects. I don’t find this stuff particularly interesting myself, but there’s a lot of detail in the report linked to above, if you can access it.

UPDATE: The poll appeared not to provide the usual forced response follow-up for the initially undecided on voting intention, thus includes an undistributed 8% “don’t know”. The remainder went Labor 34%, Coalition 33%, Greens 9%, One Nation 8%, United Australia Party 3% and Australian Conservatives 2%. Excluding the don’t know component, this becomes Labor 37%, Coalition 36%, Greens 10% and One Nation 9%.

Jerusalem/England’s green and pleasant land

Latest Brexit despatch from Adrian Beaumont, also featuring a look at the imminent election in Israel.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

On April 1, four indicative votes were held that would have softened Brexit, and all four failed again.  Conservative MPs were given a free vote with the Cabinet abstaining.  A customs union lost by 276-273 (271-265 on March 27), a confirmatory referendum on a Brexit deal lost by 292-280 (295-268 previously), a Norway-style Brexit lost by 282-261 (283-189 previously), and revoking Article 50 to prevent no-deal lost by 292-191 (293-184 previously).

The Commons has 650 members.  Owing to non-voting members, about 320 is needed for a majority.  Commentator Stephen Bush says that none of the options received anywhere near 320 votes.  Had the Cabinet voted and Conservative MPs been whipped, these options would have lost by more.  There was some bickering between soft Leave and second referendum supporters, but in the four motions the most Conservatives to vote Yes was 36 on the customs union.  The most responsibility for the failure of these motions lies with the Conservatives.

On April 2, much to the disgust of hard Leavers, Theresa May said she would attempt to negotiate a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn.  Any deal that is acceptable to Labour would be softer than May’s original deal, and would probably require a confirmatory referendum.  Even if May sincerely wants to negotiate with Corbyn, it is unlikely they can come to an agreement in the time remaining.  May proposed extending the Brexit deadline to May 22 from its current April 12, but this has little appeal to the European Union without a commitment to hold EU elections from May 23-26.

There will be an emergency EU leaders’ summit on April 10, two days before the current Brexit deadline.  Unless May agrees to participate in EU elections, it is unlikely a further extension will be granted.  It is possible that May wants this outcome, and that her move to negotiate is only intended to drain time that could be used to prevent no-deal.  May does not want a no-deal Brexit, but she wants her deal passed.  If the EU rejects her extension request, there would be just two days with only three plausible options: no-deal, revoke Brexit or May’s deal.  If revocation failed again, many Labour MPs would face a difficult decision.

On April 3, a bill to require May to ask for a long extension if her deal is not approved by April 12 passed the Commons by just one vote – 313 to 312.  As this is legislation, it must also pass the Lords.  The bill does not require May to hold EU elections, and any extension must be approved by the Commons.  A motion for more indicative votes on April 8 was exactly tied 310 votes each, and the Speaker broke it in favour of the government on the basis of precedent.  It was the first Commons tie since 1993.

On April 4, a by-election occurred in the Labour-held seat of Newport West.  Labour won it with 39.6% (down 12.7% since 2017), followed by the Conservatives at 31.3% (down 8.0%), the UK Independence Party at 8.6% (up 6.1%), and four pro-Remain parties had a total of 17.2% (up 11.5%).  With both major parties losing votes to more pro-Remain and pro-Leave parties, it will be even more difficult for May and Corbyn to come to a Brexit agreement.

Netanyahu likely to be re-elected at Israeli election

The Israeli election will be held on April 9, with polls closing at 5am April 10 Australian Eastern Standard Time.  All 120 Knesset seats are elected by proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold.  Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been PM since March 2009, will be attempting to win his fourth successive election.

As no party will come close to a majority, it is better to look at overall right-wing vs non-right wing parties’ support.  Recent polls give the overall right between 62 and 67 of the 120 Knesset seats.  The strongest parties are Netanyahu’s Likud, with 26 to 31 seats, and the left-leaning Blue & White, with 27 to 32 seats.  Even though Blue & White is about tied with Likud, Likud has more potential allies, and it is thus likely that Netanyahu is re-elected.