South West Coast and Polwarth by-elections: October 31

Challenges to the Liberals from the Nationals have added a certain amount of zest to two Victorian state by-elections being sat out by Labor.

Two state by-elections will be held in Victoria on Saturday, for the neighbouring western Victorian seats of South West Coast and Polwarth. This follows joint retirement announcements on August 31 by Denis Napthine, the former Premier, and Terry Mulder, the former Public Transport and Roads Minister. Both seats are safely conservative, to the extent that Labor is not fielding candidates. The seats will, however, be contested by the Nationals – a threat the Liberals are taking seriously enough to be running advertising on regional television. The Liberals are having preferences directed to them ahead of the Nationals by the Greens, the Australian Country Party and Animal Justice; the Democratic Labour Party is favouring the Nationals; and Australian Christians are having two bob each way, favouring the Liberals in South West Coast and the Nationals in Polwarth.

South West Coast

South West Coast is centred on the coastal towns of Portland and Warrnambool near the South Australian border, and also encompasses 5800 square kilometres of surrounding rural territory. It was created at the 2002 election, prior to which Portland and Warrnambool had been separate Liberal-held seats, respectively held by Denis Napthine since 1988 and John Vogels since 1999. The new electorate was bequeathed to Napthine, while Vogels moved to the upper house.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Rodney Van De Hoef (Independent). A Warranambool businessman who is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Roma Britnell (Liberal). The vice-president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Britnell won a September 20 preselection vote ahead of Donna Petrovich, a former Northern Victoria region MLC who abandoned her seat for a narrowly unsuccessful run in the federal seat of McEwen in 2013. Petrovich’s decision to run had been described by Denis Napthine as “inappropriate”, since she “has not much in common with the local area”. Others in the field were Denis Napthine’s 24-year old son, Tom Napthine, who works at MacKillop Family Services in Warrnambool; Anita Rank, a Glenelg Shire councillor; Jacinta Anderson, who ran a fashion boutique in Warrnambool before opening a Melbourne outlet; and Deborah Keiller, who runs an accountancy firm in Portland.

Roy Reekie (Independent). Reekie is a solicitor who ran for Labor in the Warrnambool electorate in 1999, and again in South West Coast in 2002 and 2006. He is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Jim Doukas (Australian Country Party). Macedonian-born Doukas has been on Moyne Shire Council since 2002, and served as mayor from 2010 to 2013.

Michael Neoh (Nationals). The mayor of Warrnambool, and a councillor locally for 12 years, Neoh won Nationals endorsement after initially announcing his intention to run for Liberal preselection.

Pete Smith (Independent). Smith has variously worked for BlueScope Steel, AWB, Australia Post, the army and the navy.

Thomas Campbell (Greens). A 24-year-old education student at Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, who also ran at the 2014 state election.

Swampy Marsh (Independent). Allan “Swampy” Marsh is a Purnim chicken farmer whose efforts to save Middle Island’s penguin population are the subject of the feature film Oddball.

Jennifer Gamble (Animal Justice).

Lillian Len (Australian Christians).

Michael McCluskey (Independent). McCluskey is a Warrnambool veterinarian who polled 1.6% as an independent candidate at the 2014 election.

Polwarth

Polwarth covers over 100 kilometres of the Great Ocean Road coast west of Melbourne, from Bells Beach and Anglesea through Lorne, Apollo Bay and Cape Otway to Peterborough, and extends inland through 12,500 square kilometres of rural territory to encompass Colac and Camperdown. Party support is finely balanced in the Great Ocean Road centres, but the rural interior keeps the seat safely conservative. The Liberals have held the seat since gaining it from the Country Party in 1949, and it has never been in Labor hands in an uninterrupted history going back to 1889.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Joe Miles (Greens). A disability support worker from Apollo Bay.

Carmel Kavanagh (Democratic Labour Party). According to the party website, Kavanagh “operates a charity providing advocacy, housing and resettlement assistance for asylum seekers and refugees”.

Melinda Cass (Australian Country Party).

David O’Brien (Nationals). O’Brien held an upper house seat in Western Victoria region from 2010 and 2014, when he lost it to James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs, and was previously a Supreme Court barrister.

Brendan Eckel (Independent).

Meredith Anne Doig (Australian Sex Party). Doig is a leading figure in secularist and voluntary euthanasia advocacy groups, and has been a board director with the Port of Melbourne Corporation and Bakers Delight. She is currently on the council of Federation University Australia, and a director of the Federation Training TAFE.

Richard Riordan (Liberal). Riordan is owner-operator of Colac Hire and Riordan LPG. The Warrnambool Standard reports he won a preselection vote on the first round from a field that included Adam Jenkins, president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria; Stephen Hishon, a Lorne real estate agent and former Ballarat councillor; and Jennifer Cromarty, operator of a Geelong public relations firm.

Geoff Rogers (Australian Christians).

Gippsland South by-election: overview and live coverage

A quick run-through of today’s by-election to choose a successor to former Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan, in which the Nationals are being challenged by the Liberals but not Labor.

Live coverage

Midnight. No fewer than 10,291 pre-polls have been added to the count, together with the outstanding booths. This leaves the primary vote totals at 45.4% for the Nationals, 26.5% for the Liberals and 15.6% for the Greens.

8.10pm. Only two laggard booths are outstanding, with the Nationals on 45.1% and likely on my estimation to rise a little, the Liberals on 25.3%, and the Greens on 16.6%.

7.21pm. The Sale booths are in and they had the Nationals in the low forties and the Liberals in the low thirties. We seem to be looking at a Nationals vote of 47% with the Liberals in the upper twenties, and the Greens third on around 15%. There are 33 booths out of 46 in overall, with 13,500 votes counted.

7.10pm. Exactly half the 46 booths are now in, and I now have the projected Nationals primary vote up to 48.1%.

7.03pm. Sixteen booths now and 3339 counted. The raw Nationals vote is 50.2%, from which I make an 11.3% swing on a booth-matched basis for a projected total of 46.0%. The Liberals are 23.3% on the raw vote, but maybe that will increase when votes from Sale and Leongatha come in. Even so, there’s no reason to think the Nationals are in trouble.

6.48pm. The VEC preference throw is Nationals-versus-Greens, which is … not what I would have done.

6.45pm. I’ve now got the drop in the Nationals vote up to 14.3%, from which I’m projecting 43.1%. The Liberals are matching it with them in the larger centres, but the Nationals are polling over 70% in rural booths.

6.40pm. Five booths in on the primary vote, adding up to 649 counted, and the raw vote has the Nationals on 60.1%. I make that to be an 11.7% drop on November in these rural and heavily pro-Nationals booths, pointing to an overall result of 45.6%. With no reason to think preferences will favour the Liberals, that shouldn’t bother them unduly. The Liberals and Greens are so far matching it on around 16.5% of the primary vote, with nobody else registering.

6pm. Polls have closed. The electorate is peppered with very small booths that should conduct their counts very quickly, so we should start seeing results in little more than half an hour.

Overview

A minor Victorian state by-election is being held today in the seat of Gippsland South, which has been vacated after Peter Ryan, who led the Nationals during the period of the Baillieu-Napthine government, bowed out in the wake of the November election defeat. Labor has predictably given the by-election a miss, so the main point of interest is presumably whether a Liberal candidate gains any traction.

Gippsland South extends from Leongatha and Korumburra in the west to Sale in the east, encompassing a 200 kilometre stretch of coastline that includes Wilsons Promontory. It has existed without interruption since 1859, and has never been held by Labor. Sir Herbert Hyland first gained the seat for the Country Party in 1929, and retained it through an epic parliamentary tenure that ended with his death in 1970. It then fell to Liberal candidate James Taylor, who was defeated in 1973 and would later return as a member for the local upper house province. Neil McInnes then held the seat for the Country/National Party until he defected to the Liberals in 1980, for which he was rewarded with defeat at the next election in 1982. The Nationals have held the seat ever since, Peter Ryan succeeding Tom Wallace as member in 1992.

The Nationals candidate is Danny O’Brien, who has held a seat for the Eastern Victoria region in the Legislative Council since March last year, when he filled a casual vacancy created by the retirement of Peter Hall. He retained the seat at the election last November from second place on the joint Coalition ticket. O’Brien started his career as a journalist for WIN Television, and was later an adviser to the then federal Nationals leader, Mark Vaile, then chief-of-staff to Barnaby Joyce and Peter Ryan. The Liberal candidate is Scott Rosetti, described by the ABC as a “Wellington Shire councillor and high-profile Sale businessman”. Also in the field are four independents (Warren Sanders, Viv Pepper, Deb Meester and Gerard J. Donohue) and candidates of the Greens (Andrea Millsom) and the Liberal Democratic Party (Jim McDonald).

Considerably more detail is as always available courtesy of Antony Green. Live coverage of the count will be featured here from the close of polls at 6pm.

Lyndhurst by-election live

Live coverage of Victoria’s Lyndhurst by-election, where anything other than a clear win for Labor’s Martin Pakula will come as a rude shock for the party.

8.10pm. All the polling booths have reported, but I gather we’ll get some postals or pre-polls before the night has done. The current Labor primary vote of 40.5% is south of home-and-hosed territory under some circumstances, but here the minor vote is divided enough between left and right candidates that he will almost certainly get over the line. His primary vote position should also improve in late counting. Nonetheless, it’s a much closer result than Pakula and Labor would have liked.

7.50pm. All but three booths now in on the primary vote and the situation is little changed, with Labor remaining stuck on 40.1%, Family First second on 16.6% and a crowded field jostling for third: Hung Vo on 10.5%, the DLP on 9.5%, the Sex Party on 9.2% and the Greens on 8.9%. The VEC is conducting a Labor-versus-Greens preference throw, which is unlikely to prove too illuminating.

7.40pm. Antony Green: “Labor needs only half of Green and Sex Party preferences to win, and that is much much more likely than the preferences of both reaching Family First. So Labor looks set to win. I would also expect Labor’s vote to increase on pre-poll and postal votes, areas where minor parties and independents traditionally poll poorly.”

7.35pm. The Greens, who don’t seem to have much luck in Victorian by-elections, are now in sixth place, behind the DLP and the Sex Party as well as Pakula, Vo and Family First.

7.30pm. The Lyndhurst booth is another very poor one for Hung Vo, who is now on 12.5% to Family First’s 16.4%. Martin Pakula’s vote is little changed.

7.20pm. Five more booths have reported on the primary vote, and Labor has struggled up to 40.1% (down 17.9% on a booth-for-booth basis) – still short of what would assure Martin Pakula of victory. However, Hung Vo’s vote turns out to be wildly variable through the electorate, and he’s now fallen behind Family First on 14.9% to 15.3%. My best guess is that Family First and other conservatives would get Pakula over 50% if a “left” candidate finishes second, and left preferences will do so otherwise.

7pm. Very strong result for independent Hung Vo at the Southvale booth, accounting for 472 votes. Vo has polled 21.6% of the vote against 35.6% for Pakula, compared with 4.7% for Vo at the 2010 election and 59.6% for Labor. If the Labor vote stays that low, Pakula could well be in trouble. The Greens are up 6.2% to 12.3%, and Family First 5.4% to 11.4%. The Sex Party, which didn’t run last time, is on 11.9%.

6pm. Polls have closed for the Lyndhurst state by-election in Victoria, wherein Labor’s Martin Pakula is expected to be confirmed in his move from the upper to lower house following the retirement of Tim Holding. There are seven other candidates, none of whom are from the Liberal Party. First results should probably be in in an hour or so.

Lyndhurst by-election: April 27

A by-election for a safe Labor Victorian state seat has not attracted a Liberal candidate, and there are no indications Labor’s Martin Pakula will be troubled in his bid to move from the upper to the lower house.

A Victorian state by-election will be held on April 27 for the south-eastern Melbourne seat of Lyndhurst, to be vacated by former Bracks-Brumby government minister Tim Holding. Lyndhurst covers residential areas at Lyndhurst and Hampton Park in the south and Keysborough and Springvale in the north, with industrial areas separating the two. The electorate was created at the 2002 election upon the abolition of Springvale, which was won by the Liberals on its creation in 1976 before passing permanently into Labor’s hands in 1979. Now very safe for Labor, it will not be contested at the by-election by the beleagured Liberals.

Eddie Micallef held Springvale from 1983 until 1999, when he lost preselection to 27-year-old Tim Holding. This marked a win for Holding’s National Union of Workers sub-faction of the Right at the expense of the Socialist Left, of which Micallef was convener. Holding entered the ministry after the Bracks government’s landslide re-election in 2002, winning further promotion to police and emergency services in January 2005. He hit trouble later in the year after failing to stay on top of a security breach involving confidential police files, and was shifted to finance, tourism and information technology after the 2006 election. He made national headlines in August 2009 when he went missing during a solo hiking expedition in Alpine National Park, putting his Army Reserve survival skills to use over two nights before being located by a police helicopter.

The Labor preselection has kept the seat in the National Union of Workers fold with the endorsement of Martin Pakula, former state secretary of the union and an MLC for Western Metropolitan MLC since 2006. Pakula entered the political stage in 2005 with a determined but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to the preselection of Simon Crean in Hotham. On entering the state parliament the following year he was immediately made a parliamentary secretary, and won further promotion to Industry, Trade and Industrial Relations Minister in December 2008 and then to the troublesome public transport portfolio in January 2010. He currently holds the shadow Attorney-General, gaming and racing portfolios.

The by-election has attracted eight candidates, the ballot paper order running Martin Leahy (Australian Sex Party), Nina Springle (Greens), Hung Vo (Independent), Bobby Singh (Independent), Stephen Nowland (Family First), David Linaker (Independent), Martin Pakula (Labor), Geraldine Gonsalvez (DLP). Profiles of some of the candidates are available courtesy of Antony Green.

Melbourne by-election live

# % Swing 2PP (proj.) Swing
Ahmed (IND) 1160 4.2%
Fenn (FFP) 830 3.0%
Schorel-Hlavka (IND) 64 0.2%
Nolte (IND) 1293 4.7%
Perkins (IND) 140 0.5%
Kanis (ALP) 9221 33.3% -2.3% 51.4% -4.8%
Collyer (IND) 161 0.6%
O’Connor (IND) 153 0.6%
Murphy (DLP) 525 1.9%
Toscano (IND) 205 0.7%
Mayne (IND) 1308 4.7%
Borland (IND) 203 0.7%
Whitehead (IND) 168 0.6%
Patten (SEX) 1822 6.6% 3.7%
Oke (GRN) 10072 36.4% 4.5% 48.6% 4.8%
Bengtsson (AC) 345 1.2%
TOTAL 27670
Booths counted 14 out of 14
Votes counted 61.6% of enrolled voters

Monday

Rechecking and a little over 400 more postal votes have nudged Labor’s lead up from 754 to 772. Here’s a piece I had in Crikey yesterday:

Notwithstanding the Greens’ unduly stubborn refusal to concede defeat, it is beyond doubt that Labor is over the line in the Melbourne byelection. Its candidate, Jennifer Kanis, holds a 754-vote lead over Cathy Oke of the Greens, with only a few thousand votes outstanding and the tide of late counting running in Labor’s favour.

The result has surprised election watchers, national newspapers and, most memorably, Sportsbet, which went a step too far with its regular publicity stunt of paying out on sure-thing election results before the actual event.

As is often the case in byelections, there are enough intricacies in the result to allow interested parties to craft narratives to suit, be they Christopher Pyne comparing Labor-versus-Greens apples with Labor-versus-Coalition oranges, or Adam Bandt claiming a slight rise in primary vote share meant the electorate had “gone green”.

My own take on the result is that the Greens fell victim to an unexpectedly strong determination of Liberal supporters to deprive them of their votes.

One recourse was absenteeism, which saw turnout slump from 86.9% at the 2010 general election to no more than 67%. Another was informal voting, the rate of which shot up from 3.8% to 8.7%. Given the intensity of media interest, and the electorate’s high levels of educational attainment and civic engagement, these are remarkable figures.

Clearly some Liberal supporters managed to struggle their way through the ballot paper, but few seem to have given their support directly to the Greens, who have actually polled about 750 votes fewer than at the state election. That they were able to increase their overall share probably has more to do with relatively high turnout among their supporters than votes shifting in their favour.

Liberal votes instead scattered among the crowded field of minor candidates, of whom the best performers were Fiona Patten of the Australian S-x Party (6.6%), Stephen Mayne (4.7%), conservative independent David Nolte (4.7%) and the three Christian parties (6% combined), all of whom showed at least some tendency to poll most strongly where the Liberal vote had been highest in the past. Reflecting the pattern of Liberal preferences when they were directed against the Greens in 2010, these votes (which would have included a share of left-leaning supporters of Patten and Mayne) flowed about 60-40 to Labor.

Past state byelections had given the Greens cause to expect better. When the Liberals sat out the Marrickville byelection in inner-city Sydney in 2005, the Greens vote shot up 10.5%. In the Western Australian seat of Fremantle in 2009, Adele Carles claimed the seat for the Greens in the absence of a Liberal candidate by adding 16.5% to the party’s primary vote — and turnout actually increased.

That things were so different in Melbourne may well suggest that conservative voters are feeling more hostile to the Greens than they were a few years ago.

The result also fits a pattern of the Greens underperforming at state level in Victoria relative to federally. When Bandt won the federal seat of Melbourne in 2010, he polled 37.6% in the booths covered by the state electorate. This was almost exactly what Oke polled on Saturday, when the Liberals’ 28% share of the vote was up for grabs, and well above the 31.9% they polled at the 2010 state election. While this may partly reflect the fact that the hot-button issues for the Greens are most salient at federal level, it could equally be a reflection on a state parliamentary party that lacks a strong media performer.

As for Labor, while it can’t take too much joy at having dropped 3000 votes from the general election, it has room certainly for relief and perhaps even a flicker of satisfaction. Its primary vote has fallen 2.4%, which is about what pseph blogger Poliquant calculates as par for the course at byelections where the Liberals don’t field a candidate.

It is also clear that the 4.2% vote for independent Berhan Ahmed came largely at Labor’s expense, having been concentrated in a small number of booths where the Labor vote was correspondingly down (Stephen Mayne relates that Labor received about 80% of his preferences).

Certainly there are bad signs for Labor in the result as well, but they are nothing it didn’t already know about: that half its primary vote in Melbourne has vanished over the past decade, and that it is  becoming increasingly reliant on preferences in stitching victories together. However, it has equally been reminded that such victories can indeed be achieved, and that however calamitous things might be for it in Queensland and New South Wales, in Victoria the ship remains more or less afloat.

Sunday

Apologies for the Crikey-wide outage that appeared to kick in at about 11.30 last night. The VEC has announced on Twitter there are only 1000 postal votes to come, although it would surprise me if the current count of 3728 pre-poll votes were the final story, given there were 6268 of them in 2010. However, even if there are a few thousand votes still outstanding, they will offer the Greens no prospect of overcoming a 754-vote Labor lead that will widen further with the addition of the remaining postals.

I have reset the above table so it just shows raw results, in doing so removing what was projected as a 0.5% lead to the Greens. This reflected a 6.7% swing to the Greens on booth votes, compared with an overall margin of 6.2% from 2010. The projection went on to be buried by the addition of 3000 postal votes, which the VEC unusually decided to get stuck into on election night (together with 3728 pre-polls, which behaved more in line with the polling booth votes and thus made little difference to the overall picture). The postals split 59.6-40.4 Labor’s way, and while this actually represented a swing to the Greens of 1.6% compared with postals in 2010, the effect was to drag the overall swing below 5%. Another factor was that the Greens did extremely well on absent votes in 2010, which by-elections don’t have.

Labor’s win has come as a surprise to me, and I know I’m not alone in pseph-dom in this count. I had expected to see a pattern similar to that in the 2009 by-election for Fremantle, which had supported Labor, Liberal and the Greens in similar proportions to Melbourne in the past, and where homeless Liberals appeared to fall in behind Labor’s rival by way of taking a kick at the main enemy. Besides the result, the most radical difference between the two elections was turnout. Very unusually for a by-election, turnout in Fremantle (which I am measuring in terms of formal votes cast) actually increased, from 79.6% to 83.5%. Even on a favourable projection, turnout in Melbourne appears to have slumped from 83.7% to around 63%, a result interestingly similar to the South Brisbane by-election held a few months ago to replace Anna Bligh.

This makes it instructive to consider the election in terms of raw numbers of votes rather than percentages. There are roughly 45,000 voters on the Melbourne electoral roll, of whom about 7500 can be expected not to vote at a general election. Normally this could be expected to increase at a by-election to around 11,000, but this time it shot up to 15,000. No doubt Liberal voters were over-represented here, and its tempting to contemplate how different things might have been if the Greens had chosen a candidate as attractive to Liberal supporters as Adele Carles proved to be in Fremantle. However, it should not be assumed that the collapse in turnout can be entirely understood in terms of Liberals sitting it out, as there were also 3000 fewer votes for Labor as well as 750 fewer for the Greens.

Liberal voters made their impact felt in a a 7500-vote increase for “others”, most of which was garnered by (religious) conservatives and liberals. The latter were particularly prevalent around the CBD, where the Liberals have a considerable constituency. The standout example was David Nolte, who polled around 10% in Docklands and East Melbourne and also at the university end of Carlton, but very weakly elsewhere. Another independent with strong localised support was African community leader Berhan Ahmed, who polled 15.9% in Hotham Hill, 10.5% in Carlton and 10.1% in Flemington, but only 4.2% overall. There was a corresponding drop in the Labor primary vote in these booths. The other minor candidates to recover their deposits will be Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party, who is on 6.6% overall and reached double figures in and around the CBD, and Stephen Mayne, who failed to crack 5% but has a notable base of support in East Melbourne (11.3%).

Saturday

11.22pm. While I’ve had my eye off the ball, the VEC has caught me off guard by adding huge numbers of postal (3066) and pre-poll (3975) votes, the former of which have, as far as I’m concerned, decided the result for Labor. Labor has received 1702 postals to just 1156 for the Greens, a split of 59.5-40.5: 1702 (59.5%) to 1156 (40.5%). Pre-polls have slightly favoured the Greens, 1914 (51.3%) to 1814 (48.7%), but the overall result is an unassailable lead 754-vote (1.4%) to Labor.

8.49pm. Examination of the results from 2010 shows up a very telling point: the Greens did exceptionally well on absent votes, scoring 54.4% on 2PP. However, absent votes are those cast in polling booths outside the electorate – which is to say that they don’t exist at by-elections, because there are no polling booths outside the electorate. That would seem to suggest that my projection is flattering to the Greens.

To those who are confused by all this – and in particular by the disparity between my figures and the VEC’s – what I have done here is calculated the swing on the booth results, which are all we have at the moment, and that swing is 6.6%. Labor scored 57.4% on booth votes in 2010, and 50.7% today. After other votes were added in 2010, Labor’s vote came down to 55.8% – so on that basis, a 6.6% swing would suggest they are headed for a narrow defeat. But as just noted, the reason they came down was that the Greens did so well on absent votes. The non-existence of such votes at this by-election puts a rather different complexion on things.

8.45pm. Flemington 2PP added, so the projection is final for the night.

9.35pm. With all but one booth now in on 2PP, my projection now leans a little further to the Greens. BUT … at this point, that matters less than what the dynamic of pre-polls and postals is going to be. There could be any number of reasons why they might be a little more favourable to Labor (in relative terms) than they were at the state election, and that’s all it would take. I’ll have a think about that and get back to you, but with the negligible exception of the one outstanding 2PP result, my projection has achieved all it’s going to achieve this evening, which is to say that it’s too close to call.

9.29pm. Still awating Docklands, Flemington, Melbourne and South Kensington on 2PP, remembering that all this is likely to do is nudge the preference share slightly in one direction or the other.

9.27pm. Final primary vote result in (Flemington), and it tips the Greens into the lead on my projection.

9.15pm. The addition of eight 2PP results in one hit didn’t change the complexion of things any: Labor’s share of minor preferences changed from 60% to 61%.

9.14pm. I’m back. We’ve now got 10 of 14 booths on 2PP and 13 of 14 on primary (Flemington the holdout), and it’s as close as close can be.

9.07pm. South Kensington and Melbourne have reported, but my spreadsheet’s crashed. With you in a minute or two …

9.00pm. Half-hourly results dump any moment now …

8.50pm. I’d say the VEC site is providing half-hourly updates, and we’ll get another blurt of results in about 10 minutes.

8.45pm. At North Melbourne booth, Stephen Mayne reports Labor got 32.5% of his own preferences, 92% of Nolte’s and 57% of the Sex Party’s.

8.38pm. Still to come: Flemington, Melbourne and South Kensington, and 11 of the 14 booths’ two-party counts.

8.37pm. Carlton Central and East Melbourne primaries added, and my projection is staying lineball.

8.31pm. The VEC has published 2PP results from three booths, which suggest my preference splits were exactly right after I made the adjustment just noted to Sex Party preferences.

8.28pm. After half an hour of silence, the VEC has just unloaded seven booths in one hit. Poor effort. My figures now align what ALP sources just told James Campbell. On intelligence from Stephen Mayne, I’ve adjusted Sex Party preferences from 70-30 to Labor to 50-50.

8.23pm. So the ALP has results from seven booths, but the rest of us only have two.

8.20pm. Sunday Herald Sun reporter James Campbell tweets: “ALP sources say vote it will come down to preferences but with almost half the booths reporting 1st preferences they are behind.”

8.17pm. Stephen Mayne reports East Melbourne booth primaries are ALP 466, Greens 436, Mayne 175, Sex 151, Nolte 144 – which suggests to me little or no swing, which would be an excellent result for Labor.

8.10pm. That RMIT booth has apparently gone 55-45 to Greens, which suggests a swing of about 7-8% – further encouraging the idea that it’s going to be close.

8.04pm. So in a nutshell, the Greens’ raw primary vote lead gets closed on my 2PP projection because a) the better performing minor candidates are preferencing Labor, and b) these two booths collectively were relatively strong for the Greens in 2010.

7.58pm. Twitter reports “catering situation at ALP HQ has improved”.

7.56pm. Keep in mind also I’m assuming 70% of those voting for minor candidates favour the party favoured on the how to vote card. The better performing candidates are tending to be those favouring Labor. If they show more (or less) independence than I’m presuming, the projection could be off.

7.47pm. Very similar swings in booth booths. Labor basically steady on primary vote, Greens up 6% and 4% respectively. Both booths broadly representative of the electorate as a whole as well, North Melbourne East a little above average for the Greens (remembering that the swing calculations take that into account).

7.45pm. North Melbourne East and Parkville booths added, and my word it looks tight …

7.40pm. Slowest count ever.

7.24pm. Conversely, more Twitter talk is of lineball results in Carlton, which is the Greens’ best area. Some actual results would be helpful …

7.21pm. Twitter talk is of 3% swing away from Labor and 7% to Greens – assuming this is off the primary vote, it points to a Greens win in the 55-45 vicinity.

7.13pm. Word on Twitter is that the Greens won the RMIT booth with 489 votes to Labor’s 300, which would be more than encouraging for them if so.

6.47pm. The fact that there are 16 candidates on the ballot paper might cause the count to be a little slower than usual.

6.25pm. Some further technical detail while you wait. Until booths begin reporting two-party preferred results, preferences will be distributed on the basis of 70-30 splits according to their how-to-vote cards, or 50-50 where no recommendation was made. When two-party booth results become available, the preference splits from booths which have reported two-party results will be projected on to the ones that haven’t.

6pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the eagerly awaited Melbourne by-election count. Polls have closed, and the first results should be in in around three quarters of an hour. The table above will be display both raw and projected figures as the 14 booths progressively report. The first two columns will provide raw primary votes and percentages. The third “swing” column will show the primary vote swing for those parties which contested both this election and the 2010 election (Labor, Greens and Australian Sex Party), calculated by comparing the booths which have reported with the same booths at the election (which required some tinkering in one or two cases where booths have moved or are not being used). The two-party preferred swing will do the same. The latter will be compared against the total result from the 2010 election to project the outcome shown in the “2PP (projected)” column.

Melbourne (state) by-election: July 21

NOTE: With less than a week to go until polling day, I have changed the time stamp on this post to return it to the top of the page.

Wednesday, July 18

John Ferguson of The Australian reports the ReachTEL poll mentioned in the previous entry produced the following results on the primary vote, with minor candidate preferences said to be evenly divided between Labor and the Greens:

Cathy Oke (Greens): 38.1%
Jennifer Kanis (Labor): 36.5%
Fiona Patten (Australian Sex Party): 6.1%
Stephen Mayne (Independent): 4.3%
Ashley Fenn (Family First): 3.8%
Others: 11.2%

The sample on the poll was 400, resulting in a margin of error approaching 5%. However, we are also told that 25% of those who voted Liberal in 2010 were backing Stephen Mayne and 17% were backing Family First, which raises a difficulty: given the Liberals polled 28% at the election, it should lead us to expect at least 7% for Mayne and 5% for Family First. (UPDATE: Nick Adams from ReachTEL responds in comments. In fairness to them, recollections of past voting behaviour are notoriously unreliable.) The poll also reported that 70% would be influenced one way or the other by the performance of the federal government, and that 50% expressed opposition to the Baillieu government’s East West Road Tunnel project against 28.3% who supported it.

Tuesday, July 17

George Hasanakos at Poliquant offers a very handy analysis of the by-election, including a table laying out the various candidates’ preference recommendations, present or former party affiliations, and, where applicable, shares of the lower and upper house vote at the 2010 election. The post further evaluates past by-elections where the Liberals did not field a candidate, federally and across all mainland states, going back as far as 2005. It finds that on average the Labor primary vote fell slightly while the Greens went up 7.4%, with other candidates taking up the 20.9% balance. Projecting that on to the 2010 results for Melbourne points to a lineball result: assuming minor candidates’ preferences will flow 70-30 in favour of the preferred party on their how-to-vote card, results range from 52-48 in favour of the Greens to 53-47 in favour of Labor, depending on how votes spread among minor candidates of the left and right.

However, this strikes me as being at the high end for Labor, as it assumes the Greens’ yield from a Liberal absence to be unrelated to its base level of support in the relevant electorate. In fact, experience indicates the Greens tend to stay becalmed in by-elections held in Labor’s low-income heartland, whereas they mount strong challenges in seats behind the proverbial latte curtain. This is borne out if the results from the 11 relevant by-elections are charted to show the relationship between the Greens vote at the previous election (the x-axis) and the swing to them at the by-election (the y-axis).

This shows a statistically significant relationship (though statisticians would no doubt quibble that there are too few observations) in which every percentage point of existing support for the Greens is worth about half a point of swing to them at a Liberal-free by-election. On that basis, a “par for the course” primary vote result for the Greens would be in the mid-forties (as it was in the by-election for Fremantle which I keep going on about, which is represented as the top right data point on the scatterplot), rather than the 38% calculated by Poliquant. Like Poliquant, I should stress that this is intended to illustrate what result might be considered “par for the course”, rather than an actual prediction.

For that, we are better served by opinion polls. On that note, Andrew Crook of Crikey reports ReachTel conducted an automated phone poll of the electorate last night, to be published in an undisclosed newspaper over the next few days – remembering that ReachTel’s last by-election poll, for South Brisbane, had a small sample and overstated the Labor vote. Josh Gordon of The Age further reports that a poll conducted, for some reason, by the Liberal Party in late May suggested a very close race: the Greens had 40% of the primary vote compared with 39% for Labor, with 21% for others or undecided. It is interesting to note that whereas supposed Labor polling suggested Julia Gillard was an encumbrance for them, supposed Liberal polling found her to be very popular in the electorate. Daniel Andrews on the other hand was said to be recognised as Labor leader by only two-thirds of respondents.

Sunday, July 15

The by-election campaign having been sucked into the vortex of national politics, Canberra press gallery journalists have been having their overheated way with its federal implications. Geoff Kitney of the Australian Financial Review writes: “The idea that the toxic unpopularity of the Gillard government has seeped so deeply into the Labor brand that it could lead to the loss of an iconic state seat to the Greens will add urgency to debate about Gillard’s leadership and about the challenge Labor faces from the Greens.” Similar themes were pursued by Michelle Grattan in The Age under a piece headlined, “A byelection defeat will cause shock waves in Canberra”.

Certainly the loss of a seat which has been in Labor hands since 1908 (outside of an interruption during the 1955 split) would be a significant electoral milestone. However, as the Greens came within 2.0% in both 2002 and 2006 before being poleaxed by Liberal preferences in 2010, the suggestion that a win this time should in and of itself cause “shock waves” is pure hyperbole. As I noted at the start of proceedings, this by-election has a lot in common with that in Fremantle in May 2009, in that it confronts a state ALP still recovering from an unexpected election defeat with a struggle to retain a once-safe seat where the rise of the Greens has changed the game. The results at the preceding general elections were very similar in both cases: in Fremantle, 38.7% for Labor, 30.2% for Liberal and 27.6% for the Greens; in Melbourne, 35.7%, 28.0% and 31.9%. Then as now, the decisive factor was how homeless Liberal voters would divide between Greens and Labor. In the case of Fremantle, the split was sufficiently in the Greens’ favour to deliver them a 4.0% win after preferences – with nary a word from anyone about implications for a federal Labor government which enjoyed towering opinion poll leads at the time.

Weeks before elements of the ALP launched their rhetorical offensive against the Greens at federal level, a small-sample Morgan poll of Melbourne voters found the Greens headed for a very similar result to the one they enjoyed in Fremantle, which has been consistently reflected in the betting markets. It therefore seems a bit rich for Michelle Grattan to crash the party at this late stage with claims a Greens win would amount to “an existential moment for the deeply depressed federal Labor Party” – something which is being served up on a weekly basis by the polls in any case.

Continue reading “Melbourne (state) by-election: July 21”