Sydney and the bush

Poll findings and preselection news ahead of a New South Wales state election now eight months away.

The Guardian reported on Saturday in disagreeably vague terms about an Essential Research poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, which finds the Coalition on 37% of the primary vote (42% among men, 32% among women) and Labor on 33%, compared with 41.6% and 33.3% at the 2019 election. Dominic Perrottet was on 49% approval and 35% disapproval, while Chris Minns was on 39% approval and 22% disapproval. I’m guessing the poll was conducted for an unidentified private client and not for The Guardian, which would have made a bigger deal out of it otherwise. It was conducted in “over five days after the release of the state budget last week”, which I guess means June 22 to 26, from a sample of 700.

Further election-related news from the premier state:

• Gabrielle Upton, who has held blue-ribbon Vaucluse for the Liberals since 2011, has announced she will not contest the next election in March. The Sydney Morning Herald reports possible contenders for Liberal preselection include Daisy Turnbull, teacher, author and daughter of Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and “journalist turned executive” Kellie Sloane, who unsuccessfully contested the preselection to succeed Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby. The Daily Telegraph further throws in Woollahra mayor Susan Wynne, Export Council director Cristina Talacko, and two Woollahra councillors, Mary-Lou Jarvis and Richard Shields. There is clearly a view among party hardheads that the candidate should be a woman, although local preselectors ignored a similar sentiment when choosing a successor to Gladys Berejiklian in Willoughby.

Max Maddison of The Australian earlier reported that Vaucluse was one of a number of seats where the Liberals are concerned about prospects for teal independents, together with Willoughby, Lane Cove and Wakehurst. Willoughby was rated most at risk, with Wakehurst having the potential to join it if its member, Health Minister Brad Hazzard, opted to retire. However, Liberal sources said they believed the challenge would be blunted by “campaign funding caps, optional preferential voting and the ‘Matt Kean effect’”. Community group North Sydney’s Independent, which activated Kylea Tink’s successful federal campaign, have identified Lane Cove, North Shore and Willoughby as potential targets, with the former offering the opportunity to capitalise on discontent with local member Anthony Roberts’ decisions as Planning Minister.

• The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the New South Wales Liberal Party’s state executive has set a target of 40 per cent of seats to be contested by women at the March election. Max Maddison of The Australian reports the state executive has opened preselections for seats specifically identified as targets at the election, including Opposition Leader Chris Minns’ seat of Kogarah, where the redistribution has cut the Labor margin from 1.8% to 0.1%. The others are Leppington (newly created in the redistribution with a notional Labor margin of 1.5%), Londonderry (Labor margin down from 6.5% to 3.0% in the redistribution), The Entrance (Labor margin of 5.3%), Bega (Liberal margin of 6.9% at the election, Labor margin of 5.1% at the February by-election), although another unnamed insider says only Leppington was a serious prospect.

Linda Silmalis of the Sunday Telegraph reports that Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone, a key backer of Dai Le’s successful independent campaign in Fowler, could now run as an independent in the corresponding state seat of Fairfield. This threat has complicated a Labor plan to deal with the redistribution by moving Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk to Fairfield, Fairfield MP Guy Zangari to Cabramatta and Lakemba MP Jihad Dib to Bankstown. Concerns that Mihailuk might go the way of Keneally have prompted suggestions she should be cast aside in favour of Tu Le, whose ambitions for Fowler were thwarted by the anointment of Kristina Keneally. Another possible contender is Khal Asfour, the mayor of Bankstown.

Home alone (open thread)

New research suggests home ownership together with age were the distinguishing cleavages of the recent federal election, plus post-election blame games on both sides of politics.

There are posts above on state politics in New South Wales and below on the slow motion demise of Boris Johnson. This one covers local electoral news relevant to (mostly) the federal tier:

• In an article for The Monthly by George Megalogenis, Shaun Ratliff of the University of Sydney relates research suggesting home owners were nearly twice as likely to vote Coalition than non-home owners after controlling for income. However, there was a marked exception for those under 35, who were twice as likely to vote Labor and Greens than the Coalition, which played a major role in the latter’s disastrous showing in the big cities. The Coalition had just 16% support among renters, compared with 38% for Labor and 35% for the Greens. Home owners were only half as likely to vote for the Greens as renters, while distinctions among Labor were more modest. This was based on the Australian Cooperative Election Survey, conducted during the campaign from a sample of around 5800 by YouGov and various universities, which we will be hearing a lot more from in future.

The Guardian reports Senator Andrew Bragg is pushing for changes to the New South Wales Liberal Party’s rules at its annual general meeting later this month to allow preselections to proceed without the involvement of the leader’s representative in the nomination review process. This seemingly arcane point lay at the centre of the long-running logjam in its preselection process before the federal election, when Scott Morrison’s centre right faction ally Alex Hawke persistently failed to show at meetings to move the process forward. Factional rivals said this was a deliberate effort to force the national executive to intervene to protect centre right incumbents from preselection defeats. Bragg’s proposal has been criticised by Hollie Hughes, Liberal Senator and centre right member, who instead blames reforms championed by Tony Abbott that required the concurrence of 90% of state executive members to certify factional deals that would have broken the deadlock.

Matthew Knott of the Sydney Morning Herald reports members of Labor’s Cabramatta branch have reacted to Kristina Keneally’s parachute malfunction in Fowler by calling for those who “white-anted” her to be disciplined. This included passage of a motion calling on the party administration to consider expelling Tu Le, whose own aspirations for the seat were thwarted by the Keneally manoeuvre. Local sources cited by Knott said members were “peeved by the presumption Le would have won a rank-and-file ballot given she had only moved to the electorate a year earlier herself and was not well-known in the area”.

• Poll Bludger regular Adrian Beaumont has a piece in The Conversation on the performance of the polls at the federal election, which I mean to get around covering myself in depth eventually.

• Matt Martino of the ABC drew upon my supposed expertise in a fact check on claims made by Barnaby Joyce about the federal election result. I rated him no pinocchios, but told him to watch it anyway.

• Late counting has shown the Liberals’ performance in Saturday’s Bragg state by-election in South Australia to have been a bit less bad than it appeared on the night. There has actually been a 2.8% swing in their favour on postals and pre-polls, compared with a 6.0% swing on the election day votes that were all we had to go on on Saturday. This leaves the Liberal margin at 5.5%, down from 8.2% at the March election (and 16.8% at the election before).

Boris totters

Boris Johnson digs in, but the consensus view is that the crisis of his leadership is in its terminal phase.

7:29pm AEST by Adrian Beaumont: Boris Johnson is to resign, but wants to remain caretaker PM until a new Conservative leader is elected this northern autumn.  Will this be acceptable to Conservative MPs, or will they demand he resign immediately with a caretaker PM taking over until the election of a new leader?

Conservative MPs vote in rounds with the lowest polling leadership candidate eliminated each round, until there are just two left.  Those final two go to the right-wing Conservative membership, which votes by mail.  To be certain to make the final round, a candidate needs one-third of the MPs’ vote.  The membership is more right-wing than MPs, so if a right-wing candidate makes the final two, that candidate could win.

William Bowe’s original post

As of very early morning Australian time, the situation in Britain as I understand is that 34 ministers and aides have resigned citing lack of confidence in Boris Johnson as Prime Minister — including two of the most senior cabinet ministers in Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary — and that a delegation of about seven of the 23 cabinet ministers have confronted him to demand his resignation, one of whom is freshly minted chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. At least some of these have told Johnson that they will resign if he doesn’t.

Johnson is nonetheless refusing to go, and the Conservative Party’s governing 1922 committee has decided not to change rules prohibiting two leadership votes within a year, after he narrowly survived one a month ago. A second delegation of members of parliament has also gone to 10 Downing Street to urge him to fight on, which reportedly included Zahawi, determined to have two bob each way. However, elections for a new executive of the 1922 committee will be held next Monday, which could produce a result that will revisit the question of rewriting the party rules, potentially forcing Johnson out.

There have been suggestions that Johnson might seek a way out by calling a snap election, on which he is apparently sending mixed signals. It would seem to me that this would put Her Majesty in a difficult spot, since she ought not grant a dissolution to a Prime Minister who does not hold the confidence of parliament if a new administration can be formed without one. My guess though is that it won’t ultimately come to that.

YouGov: 50-50 in Queensland

A new poll finds the Greens the chief beneficiary of a significant drop in support for Queensland’s Labor government, though Annastacia Palaszczcuk continues to be viewed favourably.

The Courier-Mail has results from a YouGov poll of state voting intention in Queensland showing Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government and the Liberal National Party opposition tied on two-party preferred. This compares with a result of 53.2-46.8 in Labor’s favour at the October 2020 election, and 52-48 in Labor’s favour at a similar poll in February. The primary votes are Labor 34% (down from 39.6% at the election and 39% at the February poll), LNP 38% (up from 35.9% and steady), Greens 14% (up from 9.5% and 10%) and One Nation 10% (up from 7.1% and 8%).

Annastacia Palaszczuk nonetheless retains net positive personal ratings of 45% approval (down five since February) and 39% disapproval (up three), while Opposition Leader David Crisafulli is up five on approval to 31% and down five on disapproval to 23%, with the uncommitted remainder of 46% suggesting an ongoing weakness in name recognition. Palaszczuk leads Crisafulli as preferred premier by 41-28.

Further questions on Palaszczuk, some tailored to reflect lines of criticism she has received recently (particularly from the News Corp papers), find 50% agreeing and 19% disagreeing that she “enjoys the high life” and 35% agreeing and 32% disagreeing that she is “easily influenced” (presumably by lobbyists). However, 52% agree that she works hard and 60% that she cares about Queensland, compared with 27% and 25% who disagree.

The poll was conducted from June 23 to 30 from a sample of 1044.

UPDATE: Further results from the poll in Thursday’s Courier Mail include a finding that Annastacia Palaszczuk is rated best Queensland Premier of the twenty-first century by 21%, compared with 20% for Peter Beattie, 17% for Campbell Newman and 12% for Anna Bligh. Asked who they would favour as Labor leader if Palaszczuk became unavailable, the runaway winner was uncommitted on 57%, followed by “someone else” on 17%. That left 11% for Steven Miles, 7% for Cameron Dick, 5% for Yvette D’Ath and 3% for Shannon Fentiman. After being required to accept the proposition that Queensland has a “health crisis”, 54% included state government mismanagement as a factor to blame, with COVID-19 and the flu on 52% and underfunding of aged care and disability places on 39%.

Monday miscellany (open thread)

Return of the vexed question of expelling elected members of parliament, an improbable set of state voting intention numbers from Victoria, and more.

I would guess that Newspoll will return on the eve of the resumption of the parliament, which is still three weeks away. This is an off week for Essential Research; there may be a Roy Morgan poll, or there may not. Until then:

• Kylea Tink, the newly elected teal independent member for North Sydney, says she believes a new federal integrity commission should have the power to sack parliamentarians for sufficiently serious breaches of a parliamentary code of conduct; David Pocock, newly independent Senator for the Australian Capital Territory, says he would have “real concerns about an unelected body being able to dismiss elected representatives”. The federal parliament denied itself of the power to expel representatives through legislation passed in 1987, such power only ever having been exercised in 1920, when Labor MP Hugh Mahon made “seditious and disloyal utterances” regarding British policy in Ireland. Mahon then re-contested his seat of Kalgoorlie but was narrowly defeated, which remains the only occasion of a government party winning a seat from the opposition at a by-election.

• If you can’t wait another three years for my 2025 federal election guide, Robin Visser offers an online geospatial tool for examining polling booth results at the recent federal election.

Victorian state news to go with that related in last week’s dedicated post on the subject:

• Roy Morgan has results of a “snap SMS poll” of state voting intention in Victoria, showing Labor with a rather inplausible two-party lead of 59.5-40.5 from primary votes of Labor 43.5%, Coalition 29.5%, Greens 12%, United Australia Party 2% and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party 1%. The poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1710. A similar poll in November produced the same two-party result.

• Morgan’s result is at odds with a detailed assessment of the state of play by pollster Kos Samaras, who expects Labor to struggle to maintain its majority in the face of four to five losses to the Liberals, two to the Greens and others yet to independents. However, it’s also “extremely difficult to see how the Coalition get anything north of 38 to 40 seats” in a chamber of 88.

• Jane Garrett, who held a seat in the Legislative Council for Eastern Victoria region, died on Saturday of breast cancer at the age of 49. Garrett moved to the chamber from the lower house seat of Brunswick at the 2018 election, which duly fell to the Greens. She resigned from cabinet in 2016 after a dispute with the United Firefighters Union in her capacity as Emergency Services Union brought her into conflict with Daniel Andrews. Garrett announced last December that she would retire at the election. Labor’s ticket in Eastern Victoria will be headed by incumbent Harriet Shing, who was last week promoted to cabinet, and Tom McIntosh, a former electrician and (at least as of 2019) electorate officer to federal Batman MP Ged Kearney, who is presumably well placed to fill Garrett’s casual vacancy in the interim.


• As detailed at length on my live commentary thread, South Australia’s Liberals copped a 6.0% swing in Saturday’s Bragg by-election to add to the 8.8% one they suffered at the March state election, leaving about 2% intact from a margin that was 17.4% after the 2018 election, and had never previously fallen below 12.8%. The next by-election off the rank is for the Western Australian state seat of North West Central, to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. The Nationals last week preselected Merome Beard, proprietor of Carnarvon’s Port Hotel, whose BLT comes strongly recommended. Labor is considered unlikely to field a candidate, but the Liberal state council voted last week to call for nominations.

Bragg by-election live

Live coverage of the count for South Australia’s Bragg by-election.

Click here for full Bragg by-election results updated live.


4.50pm. A large batch of 4356 formal declaration votes just got unloaded into the count, and it’s caused my Liberal win probability to go from a shade under 95% to 100%. As compared with the total declaration votes from March, these have actually recorded a 0.6% swing to the Liberals. However, that might well be because these are largely or entirely postals rather than pre-polls, and that the declaration vote swing will move around quite substantially as different types of vote are added to the count.

End of Saturday

Liberal candidate Jack Batty ends the night with a lead of 6531 (50.9%) to 6289 (49.1%), which should be enough — it amounts to a 6.0% swing to Labor on the election day vote, whereas the overall margin is 8.2%. Rechecking will be conducted tomorrow, with the counting of the declaration votes — 5377 pre-polls and what will eventually be about 3500 postals — to begin on Monday. Declaration votes at the March state election favoured the Liberals by 60.1-39.9, compared with 57.0-43.0 for polling booth votes. This included absent votes, which are not a factor at a by-election, but their exclusion isn’t likely to make them any more favourable to Labor. South Australia uniquely does not report different types of declaration vote separately, one of many ways in which its electoral arrangements are badly in need of an overhaul. Another is that pre-polls are still counted as declaration rather than ordinary votes, which is why none of them could be counted this evening.

Election night

8.53pm. All booth results are now in. The swing to Labor is now up to 6.1%, but the Liberals have a raw lead of 0.9%, which will almost certainly increase on postals.

8.09pm. A sixth TCP booth result, not sure which, has nudged the raw Liberal vote up to 51.1%, a little closer to my projection.

8.03pm. All eight booths are in on the primary vote, with three more to come on two-party, which should be all we get for the evening.

7.57pm. Now the projection is behaving as it should be, but a flurry of new results has meant the Liberal scare has passed, at least so far as my projection is concerned. They have their nose in front on the raw count, and postals should increase it.

7.55pm. My projection is still stuck, but the raw TCP result has the Liberal margin down to 0.7%, where is about where it should be.

7.48pm. I believe I’ve worked out the problem, and it should fix the next time I get a results update. For the time being, whereas my projection has the Liberals ahead by 3.2%, it should have them ahead by just 0.4%.

7.45pm. There’s now a TCP result in from Burnside, and whereas I was projecting Labor to get 69% of all preferences, here they have landed 77%, such that Labor has very narrowly won the booth. Unfortunately, my projection is still working off my estimates for some reason. I’ll look into this.

7.30pm. Rose Park now in on the primary vote, making it six out of eight, with the situation otherwise unchanged. The Liberal win probability is creeping up towards 90% as the vote count increases, without the projection of a 3.2% winning margin changing.

7.24pm. Linden Park is the fifth of eight booths in on the primary vote, and it hasn’t changed my projection. Still waiting for a two-party result to give some indication of how accurate my preference estimates are.

7.14pm. Burnside and Glen Osmond primary vote results moderate my projected swing to 5.0%. This is still based on preference estimates though, which are giving the Liberals 20% from the Greens, 70% from Family First, 75% from the Liberal Democrats and 50% from an independent who I don’t know anything about. These will continue to be used until one of the booths reports at two-party preferred result.

7.06pm. Second primary booth result in from Tusmore, and it’s a bit better for the Liberals, with their primary vote down 6.8%.

7.03pm. The Wattle Park booth is in on the primary vote, and the result is big enough to make things interesting: I have the Liberals down 10.5% on the primary vote, which translates to a 7.0% swing to Labor off an 8.2% margin assuming my preference estimates are correct. The Greens are well up on the primary vote, and the other candidates are barely registering.

6pm. Polls have closed for South Australia’s Bragg by-election. Results will appear as they come in on the page linked to above, which features neat and tidy tables and charts, exclusive booth-level swings and a booth results map. There were only eight polling booths in operation today, with three from the March election that were split booths with neighbouring elections out of commission. Since these are all suburban booths that will have traded in large numbers of votes, it will probably be an hour or so before we start to see results. I also have a guide to the by-election profiling the electorate and main candidates and outlining how the by-election came about.

Donation drive

Every two months, this site sends out an appeal to its readers for donations, which can be made through the “become a supporter” button at the top of the page. This is usually accompanied with a spiel about how especially deserving I am at this particular point in time. On this occasion I need only point to the immense amount of work I’ve been putting in of late, having composed 32 posts in the 40 days since the federal election, very few of which simply involved rattling off poll numbers. While I probably won’t keep up exactly that level of productivity forever, it does reflect a determination going forwards to maintain a steady flow of substantive posts with issue-specific discussion threads.

Even amidst the post-election poll drought, Australian politics should provide no shortage of material in the coming months, with two or maybe even three state by-elections in the offing, and what promises to be one of the most interesting state elections in recent history in Victoria come November. A by-election for the South Australian seat of Bragg will be held this Saturday, allowing another workout for my now finely tuned live results facility (last seen in action a fortnight ago at Queensland’s Callide by-election, and of course last month at the federal election), which will also be in action at the Victorian election.

Coming to our census

Some insights on electoral demographics from this week’s census data release, plus a look at how states’ House of Representatives seat entitlements might look when the matter is determined next year.

The first and best tranche of data from the 2021 census was released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, prompting an article by me in Crikey yesterday in which I examined how the demographics of various electorates had changed over the past two five-year census cycles, with an inevitable focus on the teal independent seats (which have actually changed very little in demographic terms, some reporting and conservative rhetoric to the contrary) and other seats that turned against the Coalition. The latter tended to be notable for having few old people and, in many cases, large Chinese populations.

For the purposes of this exercise, I supplemented the new census data for federal electorates with comparable figures from the 2011 and 2016 census, aggregating finely granulated Statistical Area 1 results to produce numbers based on current boundaries. From this I further offer the tables below, the first two of which identify the fastest and slowest growing electorates in population terms over the past ten years. The majority of the former are on the outskirts of Melbourne and, in one case, Geelong — although as will be noted below, the underlying population boom this reflects has hit the skids since the onset of the pandemic. The latter include fully urbanised seats in the big cities and remote electorates that tend to be stagnant at the best of times, but have particularly come off since a resources development boom that peaked over a decade ago.

The tables in the Crikey article show which electorates have changed the most in terms of age, income and multiculturalism. Those below simply list those which rank highest and lowest on these measures, and where they placed on the rankings based on the 2011 data. It is notable that all ten of the bottom ranked seats by household income, as well all being in regional areas, are held by the Coalition – this was not the case ten years ago, when Lyons, Richmond and Gilmore featured. Labor’s near lock on the most multicultural seats, marred only by the loss of Fowler, has been assisted by the gain of Reid, which in turn was symptomatic of the swing against the Coalition among voters of Chinese heritage. Bennelong and Chisholm are placed twelfth and fourteenth on the list, and first and second for Chinese language speakers. The “growth” figures are as compared with the 2016 census.

Talk of federal electorates and population growth naturally leads on to the important question of how House of Representatives seats will be apportioned between the states and territories after the next election, which will be determined on the basis of the latest available population figures in the middle of next year. This is a little hard to call at the moment given growth hit a wall in the year after the onset of the pandemic, the impact of which fell so heavily on Victoria that its population actually fell by 1.5% over 2021, but a compensating recovery is now projected by people whose business it is to project such things. With that in mind, the following table shows how the determination would have looked based on population figures from the end of the past three years.

So steep has been the fall of Victoria’s share of the national population that it would appear to be headed for an unprecedented loss of two seats, although I would presume that with the return to normal conditions it will now bounce back and in fact lose only one. New South Wales is also presently teetering on the cusp of 46.5, below which it will lose a seat. By contrast, population growth in Queensland and Western Australia proceeded apace over the past three years, such that Western Australia looks like it will recover the sixteenth seat it lost last time — a fact that would once have boded ill for Labor, but seemingly no more — while Queensland would gain a thirty-first if its quota growth rate were maintained. It’s also not impossible that South Australia will arrest over three decades of declining representation to gain an eleventh seat. Constitutional limits and vagaries of the calculation formula ensure the status quo will be maintained in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.