Unholy Sabbath polling

After last night’s sort-of-triumph in the Victoria Park by-election, the morning has brought two opinion polls to warm the Labor supporter’s heart. After a quiet week on the polling front from the previously prodigious Advertiser, its News Limited stablemate the Sunday Mail has published a survey of 607 voters showing Labor with 45 per cent of the decided vote against 37 per cent for the Liberals, for a two-party lead of 55-45 – which fits in nicely with this site’s election guide predictions.

In Tasmania, the Launceston Examiner has published the second EMRS poll of the campaign showing Labor’s statewide vote up on the previous survey from 40 per cent to 44 per cent, with the Liberals down from 33 per cent to 28 per cent and the Greens down from 22 per cent to 18 per cent, with 10 per cent undecided. I will ferret around to see if I can locate a table, so stay tuned.

Victoria Park by-election live

. Primary Swing 2PP Swing
LABOR 49.4 -8.1 60.5 -5.5
LIBERAL 31.0 3.0 39.5 5.5
Greens 8.4 0.2
Christian Democratic 3.5 -0.2
One Nation 2.8 0.1
Family First 1.0
Others 4.0 87% COUNTED

9.15pm. To wrap up for the evening, some recent historical perspective. In Queensland last year, Labor lost Chatsworth with a 13.9 per cent two-party swing and Redcliffe with an 8.3 per cent swing. In Chatsworth, Labor’s primary vote was down 13.8 per cent and the Liberals’ up 13.3 per cent. In Redcliffe, Labor was down 10.5 per cent and the Liberals up 5.6 per cent. Of last year’s four New South Wales by-elections, only one was contested by both parties – the safe Labor seat of Macquarie Fields, where they won easily despite an 11.4 per cent swing. Labor’s primary vote was down 10.8 per cent and the Liberals were up 7.1 per cent.

8.53pm. The WAEC has Labor’s notional two-party preferred vote at 61.2 per cent, meaning preferences favoured them slightly more than last time. Presumably some of the 8.1 per cent of the primary vote that went missing came back via minor candidate preferences.

8.45pm. Bug located. In my hurried patch-up job to include pre-polls and postals in the table, the numbers got left out of the total primary vote calculations. So it looks like Labor will definitely have to go to preferences.

8.40pm. The WAEC has the Labor primary vote at 49.4 per cent, so either they know something I don’t or there might be a little bug in my calculations. There are a few smaller deviations in our numbers for the other parties.

8.36pm. And I believe that might be it for the evening. I gather you don’t have absent votes at by-elections (correct me if I’m wrong), which just leaves provisional votes (are these declaration votes?) of which there were a grand total of nine at the 2005 election. Stay tuned though for a bit though, I might find something to write about before 9pm.

8.34pm. Homestead Seniors Centre is in, and Labor’s primary vote is back below 50 per cent.

8.32pm. That’s with just the Homestead Seniors Centre booth and absent votes to go, which as you might expect were slightly less favourable to Labor than others at the last election.

8.28pm. So I guess the big question is – will Labor need to go to preferences? Of only psychological importance, but a nail-biting back-and-forth struggle for those looking for excitement from the count.

8.27pm. East Victoria Park Primary School (9 per cent) is now in.

8.25pm. Special Institutions, Hospitals and Remotes votes (all 84 of them) are now in.

8.23pm. Gibbs Street Primary School (worth 3 per cent) is now in.

8.19pm. The WAEC now has a notional two-party preferred figure with Labor on 61.11 per cent, based on almost as many votes as are included in the table above. So the non-major party preference split was almost identical to last time.

8.16pm. I missed Lathlain Primary School (worth 9 per cent of the electorate total) when the flood came in. Added now.

8.14pm. Table updated to include pre-polls and postals.

8.01pm. As predicted, a big flood all at once lifts the count from 7 per cent to 50 per cent, with just four large booths still to go. The swings haven’t changed much, which shows you what a useful tool booth-by-booth comparison is.

7.51pm. Pre-poll and postal votes, which accounted for about 7 per cent last time, are up earlier than I had reckoned on. Labor are down 57.1 per cent to 45.0 per cent on the primary vote and the Liberals are up from 29.8 per cent to 36.7 per cent. Unfortunately, I can’t factor that into the table at this stage.

7.42pm. Actually, it’s probably more likely the ABC are referring to the primary vote when they say there is a 7 per cent swing. Two-party is looking more like 4 per cent.

7.40pm. Okay, the Queens Park Primary School booth – slightly larger than the Bentley one – is up. The swing against Labor is slightly lower here so presumably the rumoured 7 per cent swing is coming from somewhere else.

7.39pm. The commenter also says there is a 7 per cent swing with 30 per cent counted. I will remember where I heard it first.

7.33pm. Another commenter notes that Ben Wyatt has declared victory on the ABC News, though to be honest that was never in doubt. What matters is the swing and its impact on Matt Birney’s fragile leadership, on which those of us who aren’t in contact with the scrutineers are essentially none the wiser. Ready when you are, WAEC …

7.23pm. Dum-de-dum-de-dum. I had hoped booth results would come in one at a time and not in three or four rushes, as has been the case in NSW by-elections, but it looks like this hope will not be realised.

7.17pm. Vic Park Local notes in comments that turnout in the Bentley booth was down from 661 to 471 – pretty steep even for a by-election.

7.09pm. Still waiting. Daylight saving is evidently an idea whose time has not yet come in WA – the Daylight Saving Party is on one vote out of 463. Also, as Kenny Everett used to say, the revolution has had to be postponed – zero votes for John Tattersall of the Socialist Alliance.

6.57pm. Now I think of it, the 2PP figure would be better off being based on relative booth results as well – this too has been amended. No other booths in yet.

6.49pm. Okay, a bit of a correction is in order – the primary vote swings were supposed to be comparing like booths and not the total result. They are doing so now.

6.45pm. First figures are in from the Bentley Community Centre. This is the smallest and most Labor-friendly booth in the electorate – for the latter reason, the figures above show Liberal well down on the primary vote but improving on two-party preferred.

6.25pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live online coverage of the Victoria Park by-election. Figures in the above table will be updated within about a minute of booth results appearing on the Western Australian Electoral Commission website. The columns show the raw percentage of the primary vote and a two-party preferred figure that will be based on the assumption that non-major party votes will divide the same way as at last year’s election (58 per cent Labor, 42 per cent Liberal) until notional preference figures become available, and swing figures based on comparison of the available by-election figures with those from the same booths at last year’s election. Based on past experience, the first results should be in at around 6.45pm.

Plunge taken

Readers who think they’ve seen it all are invited to take a fresh look at the Poll Bludger’s South Australian election guide, which is now equipped with a number of exciting new features. The main point of interest for most readers is the predicted outcomes for each seat, an exercise in which I continue to indulge against my better judgement. At the risk of putting myself off side with my most trusted South Australian advisers, I have (at least for now) succumbed to the psephological herd mentality and backed a worst-case scenario result for the Liberals. That means a uniform 5 per cent swing that will see off all the seats held by less than that margin, namely Hartley, Stuart, Light, Mawson, Morialta and Bright – although the Liberals’ $150 million Victor Harbour Highway promise might yet save Robert Brokenshire’s bacon in Mawson.

Despite the retirement of the sitting member, I have tentatively given the Liberals the benefit of the doubt in Newland (held by 5.5 per cent), while going out on the opposite limb in Unley (held by 9.1 per cent). The latter judgement is made without confidence, but the Advertiser poll showing Labor ahead 51-49 remains the best intelligence available, and I have also heard corroborating reports of panic in the Liberal camp. I expect Karlene Maywald to retain Chaffey for the Nationals, and for independent members Bob Such and Rory McEwen to be returned in Fisher and Mount Gambier, although the latter may be a wild card. With the departure of independent member Peter Lewis (and even without it), the Liberals should have no trouble gaining Hammond.

Also new to the guide is a feature called "Parish Pump", devoted to the type of local level information that passes under the radar of the mainstream media. Admirers of the guide are invited to marvel afresh at the entries for Norwood, Adelaide, Giles, Napier, Cheltenham, Port Adelaide, Hartley, Stuart, Light, Mawson, Heysen, Morphett, Schubert, MacKillop, Flinders, Mount Gambier and Chaffey. I have also maintained my tradition of appending electorate-specific blog snippets under the "Campaign Update" banner, although this time the entries are identified by what is known in the newspaper trade as a dinkus – which, unlike that for Parish Pump, was not pinched from another website.

Over on the Poll Bludger’s side of the continent, the Victoria Park by-election to replace retired Premier Geoff Gallop will be held tomorrow, and this site will offer its usual up-to-the-minute (well, up to about two minutes anyway) updates of the booth results as they come in, complete with swing calculations based on comparison of booth results with those from the 2005 election. A big round of applause is in order for all who have contributed to the comments threads (here and here), which have possibly been the most productive in this site’s history. Clearly the electorate is not wanting for civic virtue – I challenge to the good people of Gaven in Queensland to at least try and match their efforts in their forthcoming by-election campaign.

Lucky numbers

Our good friends at Upperhouse.Info have done their bit to inform speculation on the likely election outcome for the South Australian Legislative Council with a nifty, easy-to-use election calculator. Just plug in your guess of each party’s total vote, and it chews through the mind-numbingly complicated preference flows (based on the almost-accurate assumption that everyone will vote above the line, thereby accepting their favoured party’s order of preferences) and spits out the result, quick as a flash.

Tasmanian election: Braddon form guide

The electorate of Braddon covers the north-western coastal areas of Tasmania plus King Island in the Bass Strait, and is dominated by Burnie and Devonport. Smaller centres include Currie, Penguin, Savage River, Smithton, Stanley, Ulverstone, Waratah and Wynyard. This is an electorally mixed area in which timber and mining industries that traditionally provided a solid working-class base for Labor were balanced out by conservative small towns and farming districts. The economic decline that buffeted the area’s industries, along with the political upheaval caused by the Franklin Dam controversy, dramatically tilted the balance in the Liberals’ favour in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Recent years have seen a return to the good old days from Labor’s perspective, barring the 2004 federal election when a backlash against Mark Latham’s conservationist forestry policy returned the seat to the Liberals with a 7.0 per cent swing. As this result indicates, this is a relatively weak area for the Greens who have uniquely failed to win seats in the two elections held since the number of members in each electorate was cut from seven to five. It has also raised Liberal hopes that they might gain a seat from Labor, despite the lengths gone to by the state party to quarantine themselves from Latham’s policy.

As Antony Green notes, the electorate’s diversity encourages parties to "balance their tickets with candidates from different areas":

In 2002, Burnie-based MPs Steve Kons and Bryan Green pulled in most of Labor’s vote in Burnie and areas to the west, while Devonport’s Brenton Best and Mike Gaffney from Latrobe helped Labor’s vote in the east of Braddon. Based in Sassafras, Jeremy Rockliff similarly dominated the Liberal vote in the east of the electorate, while Burnie based Brett Whiteley polled well in Burnie and surrounding councils.

Bryan Green is a member of Labor’s Left faction with a background in the Forestry Union, and is reckoned by Greens leader Peg Putt to be a "dyed-in-the-wool" advocate for the industry. He assumed ministerial responsibility in this area when he was promoted from Primary Industries Minister to Infrastructure, Energy and Resources Minister in the reshuffle after Treasurer David Crean’s retirement in February 2004. Green achieved a personal victory at the 2002 election when he outpolled Steven Kons to become the electorate’s strongest performing candidate (after polling 7.3 per cent to Kons’ 17.6 per cent when both were first elected in 1998), and he was mentioned as a potential rival to Paul Lennon when talk of a leadership challenge briefly surfaced after the 2004 federal election debacle. Shortly after Jim Bacon’s retirement, Ellen Whinnett of The Mercury reported that "the generally good-humoured Green has been anointed Labor’s hard man after Paul Lennon became Premier and began to soften his image", prompting the Liberals to label Green as Labor’s "attack puppy". Whinnett listed Green’s strengths as being a "charismatic parliamentary performer, excellent public speaker (and) rising Labor star", while his weaknesses were that he was "easily provoked, prone to intemperate comments (and) perceived as unyielding".

As the mayor of Burnie, Steven Kons brought a high profile to parliament upon his election in 1998 when he achieved a quota in his own right on debut. Kons is a member of the Right faction and is known to have frosty relations with factional opponent Bryan Green – The Mercury reported in June 2004 that "it was common knowledge that before the last election, former premier Jim Bacon and his former chief of staff had spoken to the pair over their bickering". Kons was promoted to the front bench with the primary industries and water portfolio in the reshuffle that followed Treasurer David Crean’s retirement due to ill health in January 2004, which occurred a month before Jim Bacon quit in similar circumstances.

Brenton Best of the Left faction was first elected at the 1996 election with 4.4 per cent of the vote and has been a consistent improver since, lifting to 7.3 per cent in 1998 and 10.6 per cent in 2002. However, Labor’s overall strength on the latter occasion meant he only won narrowly over a party colleague, Latrobe deputy mayor Michael Gaffney. In May 2002 Best became the third Tasmanian MP in one month (after former Labor-turned independent Senator Shayne Murphy and Rumney Labor MLC Lin Thorp) to be charged with drink driving, recording a blood-alcohol reading of 0.13 after side-swiping a parked car. Labor has copped heat at Best’s end of the electorate over the removal of accident and emergency and obstetric services from Mersey Hospital; he was spared having to vote on a Liberal motion calling for their reinstatement because he was acting as Speaker due to David Polley’s absence from the chamber, a circumstance his opponents found more than a little convenient.

The newcomers on Labor’s ticket are Peter Hollister, who served as mayor of Devonport from 2002 to 2005 when he lost the position to Lynn Laycock, and Leonie Batchelor, a staffer to Senator Nick Sherry. Antony Green argues that Hollister presents a particular threat to Brenton Best, who was able to dominate the Devonport vote in 2002.

At the 2002 election, neither of the sitting Liberal members (Carole Cains and former Premier Tony Rundle) sought re-election. With the Greens failing to get a member up, they succeeded in maintaining their two seats despite a 9.2 per cent dive on the primary vote. The star performer was 32-year-old Jeremy Rockliff, whose family have been farmers in the Sassafras area for 150 years. Rockliff was the state Young Liberals president from 1994 and 1995 and now holds the shadow primary industries, water and environment and arts portfolios. He was elected with 13.1 per cent of the primary vote, by far the strongest showing of the five Liberal candidates.

The other successful Liberal candidate was Brett Whiteley, a Burnie councillor and state party vice-president, who polled 7.4 per cent. Whiteley might not have recovered from a charge laid against him for breaching the Electoral Act during the 2002 campaign, after he issued his own Liberal how-to-vote cards that listed and pictured the party candidates in his own order of preference. Defeated Liberal leader Bob Cheek later wrote that he had "never seen four men so angry" as when he discussed the matter with the other Liberal candidates, each of whom considered taking it to the Court of Disputed Returns (which was considered unlikely to succeed). Whiteley pleaded guilty and was placed on a 12 month good-behaviour bond by the court and fined $5000 by the Liberal Party, whose Devonport branch called for his expulsion. However, Ellen Whinnett of The Mercury wrote in June 2003 that his promotion from Shadow Infrastructure Minister to Shadow Police Minister followed strong parliamentary performances, and was "the clearest sign yet that he has been forgiven".

The enormous amount of adverse publicity generated by Whiteley’s bungle has created an opportunity for rivals within the party. The likeliest candidates from this remove appear to be John Oldaker, a farmer, Vietnam veteran and Circular Head councillor who polled a respectable 21.2 per cent as an independent candidate at last year’s election for the upper house seat of Murchison, and Leon Perry, a staffer to Senator Richard Colbeck who Antony Green says is "very well known in Devonport as coach of the East Devonport Swans". Rounding out the ticket is Heather Woodward, a hairdresser from Smithton (which produced the biggest anti-Labor swing of any booth in the country at the 2004 federal election).

Paul O’Halloran, an assistant principal at a Devonport college, is rated as the best chance to end the Greens’ lockout in Braddon. The ABC reports that the remaining candidates are "youth worker Scott Jordan, physiotherapist Andrea Jackson, artist Di Ransley and activist John Coombes".

Playing favourites

The preference tickets for above-the-line upper house votes are now available courtesy of the South Australian Electoral Office. Antony Green has crunched the numbers and concluded that Family First’s Dennis Hood is looking good; that the Greens and Democrats are in direct competition for a place that will almost certainly go to the former; and that a preference swap between the two means No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon must do well enough on the primary vote plus preferences to reach a quota before the swap comes into play (unless the Greens do well enough to get elected early, in which case he will get Democrats preferences). Xenophon’s only direct sources of preferences are from the minor candidates who appear on the second row of the ballot paper, who Antony tells us accounted for less than 0.2 per cent of the vote in 2002. That number should be higher this time due to the the crop of former and current major party MPs who are contesting as independents, of whom Peter Lewis and Ralph Clarke are sending preferences straight to Xenophon.

Antony’s calculations are built on broad assumptions about the overall vote outcome, of which the only one that is inconsistent with my expectations is that Xenophon will poll "around 1-3%". No doubt Saturday’s Advertiser poll showing No Pokies on 10 per cent was way off the mark, but Xenophon’s popularity seems genuine enough that he should poll at least at the higher end of Antony’s scale. Antony is also sticking with the likely outcome of five seats for Labor and four for Liberal while countenancing the unlikely possibilities of one extra in each case. If I am correct in my hunch that Xenophon will get through on his own strength, someone will have to miss out somewhere – either the fifth Labor candidate, the fourth Liberal, the stronger performer out of the Greens and the Democrats, or Family First.

What follows is a simplified guide to the preferences of the various players (listed in ballot paper order), stripped of marginal candidates and obfuscations. Of the latter there are relatively few, with only Peter Lewis’s ticket sending numbers all over the shop. I have excluded all lists with only one candidate, with exceptions made for current and former MPs Peter Lewis, Ralph Clarke and Terry Cameron. Speaking of minor players, I am very surprised to discover that the No Rodeo Cruelty group is not in the race – on my recent visit to Adelaide I was struck by the extent of its poster coverage, which was almost comparable to the major parties, but a lack of political nous has apparently led it to concentrate its efforts on the lower house where it will wield little or no influence.

One Nation: Shooters Party; Family First; Peter Lewis; No Pokies; Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Democrats; Greens; Terry Cameron; Ralph Clarke.

Family First: Nationals; One Nation; Shooters Party; Peter Lewis; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Liberal; No Pokies; Labor; Ralph Clarke; Democrats; Greens.

Labor: Greens; Family First; Dignity for Disabled; Shooters Party; No Pokies; Democrats; Nationals; Ralph Clarke; Liberal; Peter Lewis; Terry Cameron; One Nation.

Liberal: Family First; Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; Democrats; No Pokies; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke; Labor; Greens; One Nation.

Nationals: Family First; Liberal; Democrats; No Pokies; Shooters Party; Labor; Greens; Ralph Clarke; Dignity for Disabled; Peter Lewis; One Nation; Terry Cameron.

Shooters Party: Family First; One Nation; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Labor; Liberal; Greens; No Pokies; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Ralph Clarke; Democrats.

Greens: Ralph Clarke; Peter Lewis; Democrats; No Pokies; Labor; Dignity for Disabled; Terry Cameron; Nationals; Shooters Party; Liberal; One Nation; Family First.

No Pokies: Ralph Clarke; Dignity for Disabled; 50% Greens, 50% Democrats; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Family First; One Nation.

Democrats: Dignity for Disabled; Greens; No Pokies; Ralph Clarke; 50% Liberal, 50% Labor; Nationals; Peter Lewis; Family First; Terry Cameron; Shooters Party; One Nation.

Dignity for Disabled: Democrats; Shooters Party; Family First; No Pokies; Greens; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Terry Cameron; One Nation.

Terry Cameron: Family First; Democrats; No Pokies; Greens; Dignity for Disabled; Shooters Party; Liberal; Labor; Nationals; One Nation; Peter Lewis; Ralph Clarke.

Peter Lewis: Nick Xenophon (No Pokies); Family First; One Nation; Shooters Party; Ann Bressington (No Pokies); Dignity for Disabled; Nationals; Democrats; Greens; Ralph Clarke; Terry Cameron; Liberal; Labor.

Ralph Clarke: No Pokies; Labor; Greens; Democrats; Dignity for Disabled; Peter Lewis; Shooters Party; Nationals; Terry Cameron; Liberal; Family First; One Nation.