Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Poll Roundup: What Is Going On With Newspoll Preferences?

2PP Aggregate (Last-election preferences): 52.4 to Labor (-0.4 since last week,  -1.2 points in five weeks)
With One Nation adjustment, 51.8 to Labor 
Closest position since May last year
Labor would very probably win election held "right now", but would probably have a small to moderate majority

[Updated on 26 April at bottom of post]


Normally I issue Poll Roundups every second Newspoll. Since the last one there's been the slight distraction of the Coalition's 30th consecutive 2PP Newspoll loss. This week's Newspoll was number 31 in a row, just two shy of equalling the longest losing streak held by Labor under Julia Gillard, but it was more significant for the discussion it has sparked about (i) Newspoll's preferencing methods (ii) the prospect of a Coalition recovery.  So firstly, a detailed discussion of the preferencing issue, and then a slightly shorter discussion of where things now stand in federal polling.

Newspoll as a brand name linked to a standard set of questions has a 33-year history in Australia.  However, in 2015 the company previously doing Newspoll for the Australian was wound up.  The Australian retained control over the brand, but its operation was contracted out to Galaxy Research (which in turn was recently acquired by YouGov).  While the questions didn't change when Galaxy took over, the methods did, with a mixture of robopolling and online polling replacing the old Newspoll's landline-only live phone polling, and an increase in average sample size.

Over time it's been apparent that it's not only the methods that have changed, but also some properties of the polling.  In the leadup to previous federal elections, Galaxy's polls (which were very accurate) had been noted for their uncanny lack of volatility.  Once Malcolm Turnbull's honeymoon bounce as PM was out of the way, it soon became clear the new Newspoll shared this characteristic.  As former Nielsen pollster John Stirton mentioned, Newspoll has been so steady (with an average poll-to-poll 2PP change since the election of just 0.7%) that it has been hard to avoid speculating Galaxy does something to reduce the risk of rogue results to below what would be expected randomly.

But now, there's more, because it appears to be the case that Galaxy has taken Newspoll away from the purely last-election-based preferencing method that the brand had used continuously from 2005.  This follows similar behaviour by the pollster in the leadup to the 2017 Queensland election, in which Galaxy-run statewide polls used averages of preference flows from multiple previous elections to try to predict how preferences might flow.  One consideration here was the unusually pro-Labor behaviour of Others preferences in Queensland in 2015, and another was that Queensland had switched from optional to compulsory preferencing.  The changes helped, but they were generally not very clearly documented.

Here's a graph of the 33 federal Newspolls this term so far in sequence showing the difference between the published Coalition 2PP (which is rounded to the nearest whole number) and the preferences that I get if applying the 2016 election preferences to the published primaries to two decimal places:

The first two Newspolls in this sequence were taken before the 2016 election preferences were available, and when the third was taken they were only just available.  After those three, the average difference was a probably trivial 0.11 in favour of the Coalition until Newspoll number 26 (early December 2017).  From number 26 onwards, the average difference has been 0.77 points.

On a poll-by-poll basis, even differences of up to 1.2 points between the published 2PP and the expected 2PP off the published primaries may not mean anything. This was discussed in microscopic detail in this Wonk Central piece.  Say the published primaries in a poll would normally give 52.1 to Labor, but the published Labor and Green primaries had actually been rounded up by nearly half a point, and the published Coalition and Others primaries had been rounded down by the same amount.  That could mean the 2PP from the unpublished, pre-rounded, primaries was really 51.45, and on that basis the published Labor 2PP would be 51.

What we have in the case of the current Newspoll, is published primaries that would normally give a 52.4% 2PP for Labor, but a published 2PP of 51.  Rounding can't account for a gap quite this large by itself, but at a big stretch some combination of rounding and state-by-state preferencing impacts might do it.  Even so, it would be an extremely rare event (and that's assuming any pollsters still use state-by-state preferencing, and I cannot say for sure that any do).

What's happened since December is a sudden series of mostly large differences in the Coalition's favour, commencing immediately after the Queensland election at which One Nation preferences flowed strongly to the Coalition.  (Also, commencing the week before it was announced that YouGov had acquired Galaxy, for anyone who might think there could be anything in that.)  As William Bowe notes, what we've seen is what we would expect to see if Galaxy had suddenly changed the One Nation preference allocation from 50.5% to Coalition (the 2016 value) to something like 60%.  That also exactly matches my average difference estimate above.  I have seen reports that Dennis Shanahan said Newspoll had actually switched to respondent preferences, but at this stage I doubt it has.  Indeed I've had what I am taking as a degree of informal confirmation that there has just been a change in the allocation of One Nation preferences.

Could this run of bullish published 2PPs for the Coalition off the primaries as published have happened by chance?  Seems hugely unlikely, but I had a quick go at simulating it.  I ran a Monte Carlo of 2150 randomised Fakepolls with the same average primaries as the current Newspoll and a sample size of 1621 fake voters each, and only 8% of the Fakepolls had differences over 0.7 in the Coalition's favour in this regard.  Yet this has now happened in seven in the last eight real-world Newspolls, which would come out as about a one in 10,000,000 chance at that rate.  Throw in weighting, special modifications, scaling, state preferencing and whatever else you like and you could knock a couple of zeros of that, maybe, but it's still going to be a very unlikely event.

(Note: Initially this exercise had a sample size of 1797 per poll but that seems to be somewhat on the large side given recent Newspoll sample sizes.  So I redid it with a more representative sample size, which made no difference to speak of.)

And by the way, the average poll-to-poll published-2PP shift in my Fakepolls is 1.2 points, nearly twice that in Newspoll, even though nothing whatsoever happened in underlying voting intention in the 110 fake years I ran them over.  This further confirms that the current Newspoll is under-dispersed, as Essential was in the 2010-3 term.

Why might such a change have happened?

The behaviour of One Nation preferences at the 2016 election in the House of Representatives was unusual.  The party contested very few Lower House seats, and in one of those (Longman), One Nation decided to blow up the career of the LNP's Wyatt Roy, who they labelled "a little leftie".  (Roy got only 43.5% of One Nation preferences as a result, needing 52% to win.)

Only 50.5% of One Nation preferences flowed to the Coalition nationwide, but this is lower than the flow at past federal elections (generally in the mid to high 50s) and much lower than at the WA and Queensland state elections (into the low 60s).  With One Nation regularly polling around 7%, and with disgruntled Tony Abbott supporters still attracted to the party, no-one seriously believes that One Nation preferences would flow anything like that weakly in an election held "right now".  Election day when it comes about could be a different story.

So it can well be argued that last-election preferences are currently a bit favourable to Labor and that a more accurate predictive model should adjust for this at least for the time being.  This should be argued with some caution, because the track record of last-election preferences is incredible. And the example of Queensland 1998 (with a much stronger One Nation preference flow to the conservatives than seen at federal elections around that time) should show that state elections aren't always good models for federal preference flows.

But changing the One Nation preference allocation is at least a reasonable and perhaps even a good methods decision.  It is quite silly to say such a change would have been made to advantage the Coalition, and if anything a pollster that continued using only last-election figures without any acknowledgement of the One Nation issue at all might be accused of stacking the deck against the Government.  (Certainly, using exact last-election preferences for so long was no help in breaking the "30 losses" streak).

So what's the problem then?

The problem here is the lack of public detail - rather typical of an Australian polling industry that is remarkably and increasingly opaque.  The Australian continues to publish Newspoll with a statement that preferences are based on preference flow at the 2016 election.  It appears that in the case of One Nation, this may not be technically true and may not have been so for  months.  Especially in the context of a sudden return to competitive polling via the Coalition's first 2PP above 48% since 31 polls ago, conspiracy theorists on Twitter have alleged that a change has been made at the behest of the Murdoch empire to break the Turnbull losing streak.  Some Twitter partisans have also alleged that the change was made for this poll specifically, when it seems to have started eight polls ago (the cause of the one-point change from the last poll being that the Greens are down a point on primary vote, plus rounding.)

Normally, I find it depressing to be of the same species as those who entertain Newspoll conspiracy theories.  But in this case, while the conspiracy theories are as clueless as ever, I feel that someone out of The Australian, YouGov or Galaxy, or some combination of the three, may have brought this situation on themselves.  While announcing the change (whatever exactly it was) at the time publicly would have caused some people to claim the change was being made to try to help PM Turnbull break his losing streak before it got to 30, it would have been a better look than making a publicly undocumented change which would sooner or later be inferred from the evidence anyway.

The state of play

The minor controversy about Newspoll preferences (and the lack of detail concerning them) comes at a mildly interesting time in federal polling - the Coalition seems to be recovering significantly.  However it is not unusual for struggling governments to get a run of more benign polling at some stage only to regress to the mean or worse thereafter - eg Labor in late 2012.  So it remains to be seen if there is any substance in this shift or if it is just another modest resurgence like the one early last year.

In aggregating Newspoll, I'm assuming for the time being that all they've done is altered the flow of One Nation preferences, and on that basis I've come up with a rather complex method for finding a last-election 2PP for Newspoll.  So for the current poll, the primaries would normally imply, on average, 52.4 by last-election preferences.  But even after changing the flow of One Nation preferences, they would still convert to something that rounds to 52.  This implies that the primaries are actually a little stronger for the Coalition than the rounded version, and that Newspoll were probably looking at something around 51.3 which they then rounded to 51.  (Of course, if they've actually switched to respondent preferences, all of this is irrelevant).  So on that basis I've fed the Newspoll into my aggregate at 52.1 to ALP.  In terms of primary votes, the main reason that this poll rounded to 51 instead of 52 by whatever methods Newspoll now uses is that the Greens are down a point.

The only other new poll so far this week is Essential, which in its usual fashion contradicts the vibe and goes in at 53.1.  The polls from two weeks ago all went in somewhere in the 52s, so it's a few weeks since the last really lopsided poll (the ReachTEL).  My aggregate is also throwing the Coalition a little morsel on account of the demise of YouGov (meaning that I think the remaining pollsters on average lean to Labor very slightly) so my current aggregate is 52.4 (51.8 with One Nation adjustment).  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

(A reminder that my aggregate continues to run on 2016 preferences, but it's the One Nation adjusted figure that I'll use for seat projections should One Nation still be a serious force by the time of the campaign.)

The overall trend is more important than the one-point shift in the latest Newspoll. The Coalition is in its best position for fifty weeks - things were last this mediocre for them just before the 2017 Budget.  The 2017 Budget was supposed to free the government from bad polls thanks to the powers of the mighty "budget bounce", which the Coalition placed great hopes in despite the evidence that budget bounces are very rare events.  In fact the Budget marked the end of a brief rally and things got gradually worse for the rest of the year.

It's amazing what difference a single competitive Newspoll makes.  Only last fortnight the Prime Minister was dissing Newspoll and saying it couldn't be trusted after failures in recent elections (one of the examples being Tasmania, where it actually wasn't in the field at all!)  Now suddenly "the political contest in Australia is very close".  There is even talk that the government might scoot off to an election a year early to avoid the worst of the redistribution should its Budget succeed in producing a bounce.  (Has nobody heard that you can't bounce an election?  Or what voters think of being dragged to the polls a year early for no remotely fathomable reason?) We are also starting to see waffle about the mythical concept of polling "momentum", and journalists have even invented the concept of a "pre-budget bounce" (spare me).

On net satisfaction, PM Turnbull is up eight points to -17 (36-53) and Bill Shorten is up five to -20 (34-54).  Neither has cracked 40% satisfaction since the election, and the 33-poll streak of sub-40 results for both leaders at the same time is the second longest ever.  (Gillard and Abbott had 44 in a row like this.)  Turnbull's lead as better PM (38-35) is now rather meagre given the Coalition's improved 2PP, contrary to his past habit of polling large leads while the 2PP was bad.

Other Polling

Issues polling this week had a strong focus on immigration issues.  Essential found a marked increase in the level of concern about immigration compared to in 2016 (bearing in mind that Essential tends to show higher levels of concern compared to some other polls, as noted by the Scanlon Foundation (PDF)).  Overall, Essential found 64% thinking there had been too much immigration in the last 10 years and only 5% too little.  In Newspoll, 56% said Australia's current target level was too high and 10% said it was too low.

Essential also found the curious result that Greens supporters were a little less fussed about population growth than the major parties. Although the sample of Greens voters would be small and the differences hence not significant, it's not that long ago that Greens supporters tended to be the first to argue strongly against population increase - especially in Australia which they argued to be a fragile continent - on environmental grounds.  What has happened there within the green movement is that the old zero-growth or negative-growth approach has largely come to be seen as synonymous with low immigration and hence with anti-refugee attitudes.  Supporting refugees is these days a strong marker of difference among Greens politicians and supporters so they're nowhere near as likely to complain about population growth as they used to be.

Losing Streaks

Lastly, I recently collaborated with RMIT ABC Fact Check who put out a little graphic showing the longest streaks of Newspoll 2PP losses by leader, including estimates for polls for which no 2PP was published.  With all the focus on consecutive losses, I also thought the non-consecutive loss rates would be of interest, so here they are by PM, updated for this week's poll:

Hawke* 30/85 (36%)
Keating* 77/109 (71%)
Howard* 129/294 (44%)
Rudd 9/66 (14%)
Gillard 52/67 (78%)
Abbott 35/39 (90%)
Turnbull 35/51 (69%)

(* = includes estimated 2PPs)

It should be noted that Howard is slightly disadvantaged by Newspoll's use of respondent preferences around the 2004 election.  If these are replaced with estimates, his loss rate drops to about 123/294 (42%).  For the purposes of all this stuff and to keep attribution simple for the Fact Check folks I recalculated my own last-election 2PPs for all the Newspolls from before 2005.  These are generally similar to Peter Brent's dataset that I have used a lot in the past, but here and there there's a point or two of difference.

Update 26 April: 

We finally have some comment from Galaxy, which has tweeted:

"A quick comment about the issue of minor party preference flows. Our longstanding policy has been to look at previous election preferences and use those to calculate 2PP figures. This has not changed."

"The 2PP figure is determined based on the mix of the minor parties and their preference behaviour at recent elections. This is entirely the prerogative of YouGov Galaxy and not any other organisation. Our track record at federal and state elections speaks for itself."

The reference to "recent elections" (plural) confirms as suspected that Galaxy's preferences in this instance are not based solely on the 2016 federal election, as has been falsely claimed by The Australian for what appears to be at least the last five months.  The tweets also confirm that the speculation about Newspoll being switched to respondent preferences was (fortunately) wrong.

The tweets do raise the question of whether the preferences used in Newspoll since 2015 might have included any other adjustments that created departures from last-election preferences that were too small to be easily detected.  I also suspect the same approach could be taken regarding Australian Conservatives (a new party) or whatever NXT are calling themselves this week (60-40 to Labor at 2016 federal, but only 50-50 as SA-BEST in the SA state election.)

Friday, April 20, 2018

How Could The Tasmanian Legislative Council Be Reformed?

In the leadup to Legislative Council elections for Prosser and Hobart, the fact that the current Legislative Council has a left-wing majority that seems likely to make life difficult for the re-elected Hodgman Liberal Government has been receiving some attention.  Since the balance of power in the LegCo is not likely to move much to the right this year at least, this raises the age-old questions of whether it is too easy for the Legislative Council to obstruct an elected Government, and if so what might be done to change it.

As I mention this is a very old debate, but the novelty in the present situation is having a left-wing LegCo overseeing a right wing government. Up until the late 1990s, malapportionment meant the other way round was much more common.  Discussion quickly turns to the unusual features of Tasmania's upper house system.  The system was designed to check perceived short-term democratic excesses and members are elected on a rotational basis with two or three of the fifteen seats coming up for their scheduled election every year.  There is no mechanism for a government that finds its legislation or even its budgets blocked to force the Legislative Council to an election, and the Legislative Council can never be dissolved all at the same time.  This makes it extremely powerful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Disassociation From Tasmanian Times

Until yesterday there was an image link to this website in the sidebar of Tasmanian Times (which I ceased writing for in 2012).  Such as it was (I'm no graphic designer!), it looked like this:

However I have now decided to disassociate this site from Tasmanian Times to the maximum extent possible.

The nature of this decision is as follows:

1. It is no longer possible to reach this site via the sidebar on TT as the link has been removed at my request.

2. I have asked the TT editor to cease promoting and linking to my site on TT.

3. Barring a major improvement in TT moderation or other satisfactory solution, I will not post any more comments to TT in the future at all.  (Since leaving the site as a writer in 2012 I have only commented there rarely anyway.)

4. All future links to TT that I may post here in the course of my coverage or debate will be to a Wayback Machine version of the content only.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Newspoll Number 30: Rolling Comments

"The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott's leadership"

Normally I am now doing federal polling roundups every second Newspoll (here's the latest) but the event that is very likely to happen demands its own thread.  In polling history, this is something very novel - a Prime Minister who seems about to meet the same standard of polling failure that he used as a justification for removing his opponent.  Judge for yourself from the link above how central a justification it was, but I reckon it was more than an aside.

Once we have the Newspoll result I will update this article and there are likely to be comments on various claims that are made as a result.  One remarkably silly false claim circulating on social media is that Abbott's 30 Newspolls plus Turnbull's 30 Newspolls will equal 60 consecutive Newspoll losses.  Turnbull did not start losing every poll immediately; his losing streak commenced 21 polls in.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poll Roundup: Number 29

2PP Aggregate: 53.3 to ALP (-0.3 since last week)
Labor would easily win election "held now"

This week's federal polling coverage was dominated by Malcolm Turnbull slipping another Newspoll closer to the dreaded number 30.  Although there may be minor signs of improvement, it would be highly surprising to see the Coalition's 2PP jump to 50% in two or three weeks' time.

Since the last poll roundup, we've had two Newspolls (both 53-47 for Labor), three Essentials (53-54-52 for Labor), and two ReachTELs, one in late February and one today.  The ReachTEL was 54-46 by respondent preferences, but I estimated 55.5-44.5 by last-election preferences, which made it the single worst poll of this government's term in my aggregate (though not by much).  The March ReachTEL was also 54-46 but in this case I got 54.2-45.8 as a last-election estimate.  Oh and there's also, to my great surprise, been a Morgan, and that gets a section of its own below.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Prosser

As noted in my Hobart preview, I'm getting busy early on my Legislative Council previews as there are quite a few declared candidates already.  There is one preview thread for each seat and I may have other threads should campaign issues warrant them.  I expect to have live comments on the evening of Saturday 5th May.  For more on Legislative Council voting patterns see my 2014-8 voting patterns thread.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

Seat Profile

Prosser is a fairly large rural and satellite-town seat in the midlands, east and south-east of Tasmania (see map).  Its largest population centres are Brighton, Dodges Ferry and Sorell (all in the south) and other significant centres include Bagdad, Bicheno, Campbell Town, Swansea, Triabunna, Nubeena and Oatlands.  Industries include farming, fishing and what remains of forestry, but around Sorell there has been a rapid increase in young commuting families.

Prosser is a new seat created by the recent redistribution.  About 44% by population was previously in Rumney, 40% in Apsley and 16% (the Brighton area) in Derwent, and a lucky 26 voters also added from Western Tiers can consider themselves very special.

The very different histories of these component seats show it's hard to say what sort of political animal Prosser is going to be.  Apsley and its precursor seats have always been held by independents, usually conservative.  Derwent has been held by Labor for the past 39 years, while Rumney is a swing seat between Labor and conservatives.

At the 2018 state election, booths in Prosser returned votes of 46.1% Liberal, 37.7% Labor, 6.9% Green, 4.5% Lambie Network and 4.4% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.  This places Prosser to the left of the 2018 Lyons average by about five points.  In the north of Prosser, the Liberals mostly exceeded 50% of the vote (see Ben Raue's maps of booth votes and swings), but they were outpolled by Labor at Dodges Ferry, Dunalley, Forcett, Nubeena, Primrose Sands and Taranna (all booths in the south-east, on or near the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas).  The south-eastern corner saw modest swings against the government with an outlier of 15 points at Orford (probably caused by fish farming).  Elsewhere the government generally held steady or gained.

Voters in Prosser will be mostly well used to the sound of the LegCo trumpet by now.  Apsley voters went to the polls in 2016 and Rumney voters did so just last year.

Declared Candidates

Nominations closed on April 12 and will be announced on April 13.  Vacant seats often attract large fields.  This is the largest field since there were also 13 in Mersey 1990 and the equal second largest of all time.  Huon 1986 with fifteen is the all time record holder.  Only six of the 13 candidates are based within the electorate.

The field includes, at least:

* Three former state MPs and another six former state candidates
* Two current and four former local councillors and another two former council candidates

Major parties

Jane Howlett (state election party pageFacebook, Linkedin) is the endorsed Liberal candidate.  Howlett contested the seat of Lyons for the party in 2006, 2010 and 2018, increasing her vote each time.  She was reasonably close to election with 4497 votes in 2010, and in 2018 polled 5259 votes but was unable to beat any of the Liberal incumbents as their votes were too close together.  Howlett was also the party's candidate for Franklin at the 2010 federal election.  Howlett, who grew up in Richmond just outside the Prosser boundary, performed well in booths within Prosser at the state election, polling 23% of the Liberal vote within these booths compared to 15% for Lyons overall.  She did especially well in the south-west of Prosser where she polled over 30% of the Liberal vote at some booths. She was the highest-polling Liberal at Bagdad, Brighton, Campania and Kempton.

Howlett's Linkedin page lists her as a senior adviser to Lyons Liberal MP Guy Barnett, and also as a sales manager for Hair Care Australia.  She was formerly state business development manager for Proctor and Gamble and a director for Variety.  Little is known to me of Howlett's political views but her ACL response refers to "strong Christian values" and opposition to euthanasia. It does not appear Howlett currently lives within Prosser as the TEC listed her as being from Battery Point.

Janet Lambert (Facebook, candidacy announcement, state election party page) is the endorsed Labor candidate.  Lambert is another Lyons 2018 recyclee, having polled 1783 primaries on a Labor ticket dominated by leader Rebecca White. In the end Lambert missed out in a within-party contest with Jen Butler by 347 votes.  In general Lambert was at least the equal of Butler on primaries and preferences, but Butler outperformed her on the preferences of the two male Labor candidates.  Lambert polled a lower proportion of the Labor vote in Prosser than elsewhere in Lyons, but this is mostly explained by Rebecca White dominating the Labor vote in southern Lyons.  With the White factor removed, Lambert polled best in the northern midlands (including more than half the non-White Labor vote at Campbell Town), and also quite well in some coastal booths.

Lambert was elected to Northern Midlands council at the third attempt in 2011 and was re-elected fourth out of nine in 2014 with a quota in her own right (ahead of Michael Polley!) She is also a teacher with 25 years' experience and an electorate officer.  Lambert is also a prominent recreational fisher and has been involved in anti-supertrawler campaigns.  Like Howlett, Lambert also doesn't appear to currently live in Prosser, as the TEC listed her as being from Devon Hills near Launceston, but the electorate does include a large part of her Council area.

Well-known independents

Independent Tony Mulder (website, Facebook, Twitter) appears to be running for the seat for several months, based on various sightings of a car with Mulder branding in the electorate and other information.  Mulder was a Clarence councillor from 2005 and fairly narrowly unsuccessful as a state Liberal candidate for Franklin in 2010.  He then contested Rumney as an "independent liberal" (case sensitive); for more on the tangled history of Mulder's status vis-a-vis the Liberal Party see my Rumney preview from last year.   Mulder defeated Labor's trouble-plagued incumbent Lin Thorp in 2011 (53.1-46.9 after preferences) but was in turn unseated by Labor's Sarah Lovell after one term in 2017 (52.3-47.7).

A police commander prior to his political career, Mulder earned a reputation as a forthright and sometimes grumpy contrarian with small-l liberal tendencies (see his ACL questionnaire response) and a penchant for politically incorrect comments.  During the Rumney campaign, comments he had made about domestic violence were used against him (again see my Rumney article).  In recent times there have been on-and-off tensions between the Mulder camp and the Liberal Party, for instance over their fast decision to squeeze him out by endorsing James Walker for the by-election caused by the resignation of the late Vanessa Goodwin.  The endorsement of Howlett for this seat appears to be more of the same.  Mulder has denied that he wanted to be preselected by the Liberals, but would at least prefer to have had a clear run without competition from them.

Mulder appears to have been running an organised but little publicised campaign for this seat for much of the last year. The TEC gives his residence as Howrah, which is outside the electorate, however he has represented the Tasman Peninsula and Sorell-Dunalley areas in his time as member for Rumney.

Independent Doug Parkinson (candidacy announcement, parliament page) is the former Labor MLC for Hobart. Parkinson unseated conservative incumbent Jean Moore (who had held the seat for just two years following a by-election) with 52.3% of the two-candidate vote.  He then twice retained the seat with lopsided margins and the Greens as his main opposition before retiring in 2012.  He has not been a party member since retiring.  From 2006 he was Leader for the Government in the Legislative Council.  He has decided to contest Prosser citing concern about the government's gun laws and water issues on the east coast.  Parkinson's place of residence is given as North Hobart but he says he spends a lot of time in Nubeena (which is within Prosser).

Independent Jim Playsted (websiteFacebook) contested Lyons in 2010 for the Liberals, polling just over 4,000 primaries.   Recently however Playsted has appeared as an opponent of local fish-farming (more here) and has also disagreed with Liberal policies on pokies and the Taswater takeover.  He also cites social issues including same-sex marriage and euthanasia as causing him to feel "lonely" within the party, which he left in the last few years.  He describes himself as a "social democrat" and is campaigning with red signs.  Playsted lives within the electorate at Orford, and has extensive business experience in mining and industry equipment supplies. Playsted currently works for Hobart real estate firm Knight Frank.

Independent candidate Steve Mav (candidacy announcement - may be paywalled) contested Apsley in 2004 (placing third out of ten with 15% of the vote) and then scored another third place last year in Rumney with 18.6%, including a booth win at Primrose Sands.

Once a struggling Young Liberal student union and state Liberal candidate, Mav struck political paydirt with a campaign to rid Glenorchy pensioners of an Argentine ant infestation, and was elected to Glenorchy council in 2000, fourth out of six with almost a quota in his own right.  A similar vote saw him returned third in 2005. He resigned from the council four months after contentiously starting to work outside the state in mid-2008.

That work was in Western Australia, where Mav attracted much controversy as Chief Executive Officer for the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation.  See hereherehereherehere and many others. Mav describes the accusations against him as "Fake News" on account of the discontinuation of proceedings against him.  While in WA Mav also found time to run for office under his full name Mavrigiannakis, placing second in the 2015 mayoral contest for Victoria Park.  He states that while in WA he supported Labor.

In 2017 Mav chose to run an old-fashioned grassroots-style and sign campaign without any online presence, and he seems to be doing the same thing again this time.  We won't get websites or Twitter or Facebook, but he gave a typically Trumpian all-caps performance at the ABC radio debate.  Mav's nomination gives his place of residence as Orford, within the electorate (after being listed as from Cambridge when running for Rumney last year.)

Mav states that he will be a "pro-government independent" and that he will aim to help the government fulfill their election mandate to get things happening, and will support "most" government legislation.  He has also picked up on my suggestion to reform the LegCo chairmanship conventions.

Independent John The Duke Of Avram is a former state MP and Sorell councilor. The Duke became famous as founder of his own micronation which had a tourism "bank" in Strahan. He was elected to the state parliament as a Liberal for a single term in 1989, with the result being widely attributed to the primitive nature of Robson Rotation at the time favouring him on the preferences of Robin Gray.  The Duke was defeated at the next state election but was later briefly Deputy Mayor of Sorell.  He has no recent party involvements. In 2002 he ran for the position of Mayor but was not even elected as a Councillor, and he has since made unsuccessful attempts to get his Sorell council seat back.

Other independents and minor parties

Independent Kim Peart (Twitter, candidacy announcement) contested (in a technical sense) Lyons at the state election, polling 158 votes of which 33 came within the electorate of Prosser.  In a smaller field he'll do a lot better this time, but that's not saying much.  Peart, a visual artist from Ross, was once included in a list of Tasmania's 200 movers and shakers by someone who had overestimated how many movers and shakers Tasmania has.  That was on account of his bushland conservation work in the Clarence area, despite which he finished second last at the 2007 Clarence council election.  Peart is a frequent contributor of some very odd material to Tasmanian Times including not one, but yes, two articles complaining about my five-word description of him in my Lyons guide.  At this election Peart is on unusually orthodox territory, focusing mainly on housing issues.

Independent Scott Wiggins (Facebook, Linkedin) is a former Southern Midlands councillor from  1996 until a narrow defeat in 2002.  He has worked as a vehicle fleet manager and driver for the state government (including the current Leader, I take it he means Leonie Hiscutt) and has also managed a livestock farm. Wiggins is listed as living in Howrah which is just outside the electorate.

Independent Kelly Spaulding (Facebook) is the Deputy Mayor of Tasman Council.  He was first elected to the Council in 2002 for a single term, then next contested in 2014 when he was elected Deputy from off the council.  He is a lifelong resident of the Highcroft area, which is within the electorate.  His Facebook page lists him as owner of Lucky Ducks Cafe, Nubeena.  He has also worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism.  He is attempting to campaign by word of mouth and without election signage or pamphlets on the grounds of voters being sick of election season.

Independent Jo Bain (Facebook, Twitter) has a background in heritage conservation, environmental planning and agriculture and has served in the Army Reserve and as a volunteer firefighter.  Bain states she has "only become politically engaged in the last four or five years" and has campaigned against fracking.  She was the endorsed Greens candidate for Southern Midlands council in 2014, polling 3.8% (11th out of 12) but her membership of the Greens lapsed eighteen months ago.  Her place of residence is listed as Parattah, which is within Prosser.

Colin Harriss, a rural and remote social worker from New Norfolk (outside the electorate), is a candidate for the Tasmanians 4 Tasmania Party (Facebook), which contested two seats at the state election with a spectacular lack of success. Harriss has worked widely across the country and within rural Tasmania. To the best of my knowledge he's the only candidate who has not previously run for elected office in Tasmania.

Lorraine Bennett (announcement, SFF state election page) is the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate.  Bennett is a former recruitment consultant and Human Resources and recruitment manager.  Bennett is the party's state secretary and recently contested Denison at the state election, polling 1.8% in an electorate the party always polls badly in.  At that election her place of residence was given as Granton, which is slightly outside Prosser.

Campaign and Issues

Population growth in the Sorell area in southern Prosser has created traffic and transport issues which were effectively canvassed by Sarah Lovell in winning Rumney.  The Liberal government covered off on these, announcing a series of upgrades and reconstructions in the leadup to the state election, but it was not enough to stop a swing against it in the area.

Concern about fish farms was much hyped in the state election leadup but proved to be a total fizzer in issues polling and outside of directly affected booths.  Overall, the state election found the Liberals' employment, economy and majority government message resonating across most of Prosser.  Howlett has stated that if elected she sees her role to be helping the government deliver its mandate, a contrast to the typical concept of the Legislative Council as the house of review.

With both major parties contesting, the question of party members in the Legislative Council  has come under scrutiny.  The Liberals are claiming that Lambert would be just another Labor blocker while Labor will portray Howlett as just a rubber stamp.  Mulder, Mav, or any other effective independent, may well argue both of these things (Mulder with the neat line that "you can't mark your own homework", and Mulder has even been saying that "the conservatives" are more dangerous than Labor, though his own voting pattern has been conservative at times in the past.  Windermere MLC Ivan Dean, who I currently consider to be marginally to the right of the Liberal Party, has said it would be "a tragedy" if Labor won another seat.  Parkinson - in another of the strange adventures in mandate theory we've seen in Tasmania in the last few months - has claimed that the government has no mandate for its policies on poker machines on account of it having a one-seat majority.

Gun regulation is an issue in an electorate which includes farmers keen to control browsing wildlife, but also includes the sites of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.  The day before the state election, the government was revealed to have made undertakings to firearms groups concerning relaxation of some restrictions, but not to have made this public policy.  Opponents of the policy allege the proposed relaxation is dangerous while supporters maintain that the current restrictions are unnecessarily strict.  Tony Mulder supports the government's push to relax the laws, as does Mav who attacked "trendies in Hobart" over the issue.

In addressing criticism over the gun policy, the government stated that it had a large number of policies that had been disclosed to interest groups but not published.  (In political circles this is being referred to as their "200 secret policies" though one account suggested there were actually 170).  Labor have correctly said that full details of these "policies" have still not been released (what has been released is a list of questionnaires and similar requests to which the government responded, and also a list of projects funded).  Labor leader Rebecca White has said Labor wants to make sure the Upper House "isn't a rubber stamp" for policies that were not taken to the election.  My view is that the "200 secret policies" matter is of interest to politics junkies only and is unlikely to influence the result.

In early April, corflutes for Howlett, Lambert, Mulder and Mav were seen along the Midlands Highway, with Howlett's by far the commonest.  This doesn't necessarily mean anything, as Liberal corflutes outnumbered Labor's heavily at the 2016 federal election in the same area but the Liberals' result in that one was poor.  There have been reports of Mav waving signs on causeways around Sorell.

There has been some sparring between Mulder and Mav with Mulder calling Mav a "maverick" and highlighting Mav's Gumala issues, while Mav has called Mulder a "fake independent".  Mav has also described Playsted's views on fish farming as "Greens policies".

The government's proposed takeover of TasWater is supported by Mulder, Mav and (obviously) Howlett and opposed by Lambert and Playsted.

Howlett raised my eyebrows at least by being absent from the ABC Mornings radio debate on 26 April, as were Bennett and Spaulding. 17 minutes after the debate concluded, Howlett's Facebook page was updated with a call for mandatory sentencing for "paedophiles" (complete with petition), though it is unknown to me whether she posted it or someone else.

Overall, should the government fail to win the seat themselves, they could probably work with Mav or (after sufficient fence-mending) Mulder, but a win by Lambert or Parkinson would be a disaster for the government and they would also have major concerns about Playsted.


If the 2018 state election results were repeated, the Liberals would narrowly win after preferences, but majority government won't be a factor in an Upper House contest.  There is also the aversion of some voters for voting for party candidates in the Legislative Council at all, though that hasn't really been on display in the south of this electorate recently.

In 2014 the Liberals sought to turn the honeymoon effect from their win from Opposition into Legislative Council seats, as Jim Bacon's ALP had done before them, but they got a very rude surprise.  They failed to win the vacant seat of Huon or make a contest of it with Kerry Finch in Rosevears.  Was there anything systematic in the voters' rejections of the Liberal candidates, or were these results were really down to the nature of the specific contests?  Was Finch too entrenched for a relatively low-profile Liberal opponent to beat, and was Peter Hodgman coming out of long retirement to join his nephew's team a bridge too far for Huon voters?  In this case we know Howlett has polled well in this electorate this year, so if she doesn't win we can assume the anti-party or at least anti-government backlash in LegCo voting is too strong for a Liberal candidate to win in this electorate.

With the new electorate being neither especially right- or left-wing it seems to be an ideal stage for a high-profile populist or conservative independent.   Of the two long-standing prominent contenders, Mulder has the edge in profile from having served nearly half the electorate's voters as an MLC.  Mav is also known to these electors as a recent candidate who polled reasonably well, but the question will be his success level at building his profile across the electorate.  Both Mulder and Mav are controversial personalities, but Mulder at least has been campaigning for a very long time.

Playsted is less personally controversial and is quite well known within the electorate (indeed he is the most prominent contender who lives in it!), one question being whether he can build enough primary vote support in a four-week campaign. He is certainly trying.  Another question with Playsted is what voters will make of the change in his issues positions since the former Liberal now opposes the Government across a wide range of issues likely to come before the Council.

With a similarly late announcement I am not sure whether Parkinson is still high-profile enough to pose a threat (especially having formerly been an MP for an entirely different electorate), but it will be interesting to see how the pro-Labor vote splits between him and the endorsed ALP candidate Lambert.  The remaining independents and minor party candidates don't have much profile between them and I doubt any of the remainder will break 10%.  Spaulding deserves a brief mention here because at least he can actually win his local council seat (unlike a few of the others), but that said his council is a small one.

It would be a really odd result if Labor were to win Prosser after being trounced in the state election, but it shouldn't be dismissed too readily.  Prosser is more Labor-friendly than Pembroke, which Labor won in 2017, and Labor may be suited by the campaign spending limits (which favour volunteer ground campaigns) and by the majority government issue no longer being in play. 

With a very large field of candidates there will be large swings "against" the major parties compared to the state election, and probably a long preference distribution to establish the winner as it is unlikely anyone will poll anything remotely near 50% on primaries. If either major party is eliminated their preferences will flow to whatever independents remain in the race over the other major party, which might allow a lead of, say, 10% for the other major party to be closed down, but if it ends up being Labor-vs-Liberal then preferences might not do all that much.

This is the most open LegCo race in many years in terms of the number of candidates who are capable, if they campaign well and things go right for them, of winning.  However perhaps it is too open for the indies - the sheer number of them could make it hard for any of them to poll a big enough primary vote to win.  This matters because while there will be some pooling of preferences between the indies, preference flows in the LegCo these days are not terribly strong. Also, since voters are only required to number three boxes there will be a significant exhaust rate.  Probably, the winning candidate will only need to reach a total vote of around 43% after preferences to be sure of crossing the line.

(A historical note here: Robert Armstrong's victory in Huon in 2014, overturning a Liberal Party lead of 5.7% on primaries, was the largest lead overturned since 1966.  However early in the 20th century there were several cases of double-digit leads being overturned on preferences.)

Readers of this site have Howlett favourite, strongly. She has a good chance of polling a primary vote that is ahead of Lambert and too far ahead of the indies for any of them to catch her. It's conceivable that Howlett will bolt in, but it's also conceivable that enough voters will plump for independence, her primary won't be that high and there will be a long and very messy cutup to determine the last one standing. 

Also see

Tally Room guide
ABC Mornings Prosser debate (candidates start at 39:40)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Legislative Council 2018: Hobart

I'm getting in a bit earlier than usual with the Legislative Council guides this year as there are quite a few declared candidates already.  I will have one preview thread for each seat and I expect to have live comments on Saturday 5th May.  There may also be other threads if any campaign issue warrants them.  For more on Legislative Council voting patterns see my 2014-8 voting patterns article.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.

Seat Profile

As its name suggests Hobart is mostly inner-city Hobart.  It falls entirely within the state electorate just contested under the name Denison (henceforth to be Clark at both state and federal levels.)  It includes most of the Hobart City Council area with the exceptions of the relatively wealthy Sandy Bay and Mt Nelson areas in the south, and some parts of the far north of New Town and Lenah Valley.  At the recent redistribution Hobart lost the latter areas to Elwick, but gained Tolmans Hill, Ridgeway, Fern Tree and a small part of Dynnyrne from Nelson.

Hobart (my home electorate) is mostly left-wing middle suburbia, with two relatively affluent suburbs (Battery Point and Tolmans Hill) and the very Green areas of Fern Tree and Ridgeway on the fringes of Wellington Park.  However in recent years, the nature of its leftness has been fluid.  Once one of the Greenest areas in the country, Hobart was the centre of Andrew Wilkie's Denison win as a left-wing independent in the 2010 federal election.  At the 2016 election it was the centre of the successful below-the-line campaign to save left-wing Labor Senator Lisa Singh from an otherwise unwinnable ticket position.  Finally at the 2018 state election, Hobart booths saw swings of 10 to 19 points to Labor and 3 to 11 points against the Greens, as Hobart voters responded strongly to Labor's more left-wing campaign and display of social conscience over poker machines.

At the state election, Labor won 41.4% of the primary vote at booths within Hobart, compared to 28.5% for the Liberals and 28.4% for the Greens.  In the process Labor topped all booths in the electorate except for Battery Point (Liberals) and Fern Tree and Cascades (Greens).  My own booth, South Hobart, was among the most extreme with an 18-point swing to the ALP and a 10-point swing against the Greens.  (If you want to play around with booth swings, Ben Raue has a great page here.)

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries there was a larger seat of Hobart which returned three MLCs in a bizarre rotation of single-seat elections for the same seat.  This seat was then split in three in 1946, creating the modern seat, which has had various boundary changes since.  From 1952 until 2012 the modern seat was usually owned by Labor, except for an interruption from 1982-1994.  During that interruption it was held firstly by Hank Petrusma (uncle of Jacquie's husband), a somewhat populist independent and high-profile real-estate agent, and then briefly by conservative independent Jean Moore after Petrusma's attempt to enter the Lower House with his Advance Tasmania party failed dismally.


Rob Valentine (website election page, Twitter) won the contest to replace Doug Parkinson (ALP) on his retirement in 2012.  In a field of six, Valentine polled a primary vote of 37% to 22.6% for Penelope Ann (Greens) and 19.2% for Labor's Dean Winter (now a Kingborough councillor).  After preferences Valentine defeated Ann 62.5-37.5.  Ann's performance was not bad given that she lived well outside the electorate, but following the election the Greens were found to have illegally advertised in The Mercury on polling day.  For far too much detail on the 2012 results see my writeup on Tasmanian Times.

Valentine's voting on particular motions can be quite individual and he doesn't have a very strong tendency to agree with any other specific MLC.  Overall, however, he has always been among the more left-wing Legislative Councillors (indeed he has been ranked the most left-wing in all my reviews of the Council's voting patterns until this year.)  His politics as an MLC therefore bear some broad comparisons to Wilkie's, but his style is less combative and more conversational. Prior to winning the seat in 2012, Valentine was Hobart's longest-serving Lord Mayor.  An alderman since 1992, initially elected on one of a series of residents'-group tickets of the time, he became Lord Mayor in 1999 when he narrowly defeated one-term incumbent John Freeman.  He then retained the position four times by very large margins. Valentine has no known current or remotely recent party connections, but did contest the 1992 state election as a minor Green Independent (without being a party member).

Political disagreements of opinion aside, Valentine's first term as an MLC has been without any controversy, and has even been praised by a formerly harsh critic, the Mercury's Greg Barns.

Declared Challengers

Of the declared challengers only Behrakis and Griggs live within the electorate.

Simon Behrakis (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) is the endorsed Liberal candidate for Hobart.  Behrakis has a degree in economics and is a federal Small Business Outreach Officer and parliamentary researcher.  He is also assistant manager of Hobart grocery chain Salamanca Fresh.

Behrakis was an endorsed Liberal candidate for Denison, polling a reasonable 2317 votes on a ticket dominated by Elise Archer and Sue Hickey.  His best booths both in terms of raw total and his share of the Liberal vote were mostly the wealthier booths, of which only Battery Point falls within the Hobart seat.  Behrakis appears to be a keen culture warrior and in his Australian Christian Lobby questionnaire did his best to collect the full set by attacking progressive history, Safe Schools, gender theory and Change The Date (all in his "top two priorities" section!)

Richard Griggs (independent) (website, Facebook, Twitter) is a lawyer and board member of the Hobart Community Law Service.  He is state Director of Civil Liberties Australia and a former state public service advisor and policy officer.  He was fairly briefly head of office for Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor in 2015-6 and is also a former advisor to the ACT Greens' Shane Rattenbury. He is not currently a member of the Greens but clearly enjoys support from many Greens (eg based on poster sites).

Griggs is a prominent campaigner for a state Human Rights Act, a proposal which is supported by Labor and the Greens but rejected by the current Liberal government.  He has stated that if elected he intends to assess legislation based on "evidence, human rights benchmarks and the interests of future generations".  Griggs was also highly critical of the government's failed attempts to revise the Anti-Discrimination Act, and has stated that he supports a Tarkine National Park.  Griggs' campaign is authorised by his father, land surveyor and property developer Nick Griggs, who ran for Hobart City Council in 2014 on a campaign endorsed by Legislative Council president Jim Wilkinson, but I'm not inclined to read anything political into that indirect connection.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Brendon Hext (SFF state website) is an armoured truck operator and gun owner from Rokeby (outside the electorate).  Hext polled 2.9% of the vote in Franklin at the recent state election but this vote was doubtless bolstered by being the only candidate in Franklin outside of Liberal, Labor and Green.  The otherwise mysterious candidate became a household name to Hare-Clark junkies as his preferences became very significant to the contest there, lifting Liberal Nic Street well ahead of the Greens' Rosalie Woodruff before Street went on to be defeated anyway.

Christopher Simcox (Animal Justice Party) is the first AJP candidate to contest a state election for the party in Tasmania.  Simcox has frequently appeared in media as a spokesman for Animals Tasmania and its precursor Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania.

Alan Barnett (Tasmanians 4 Tasmania) is a "Consultant, semi-retired" (unsure in what yet), who ran for alderman in the recent Glenorchy election polling 113 votes (<1%) and then also for Denison polling 347 votes (c. 0.5%).  This was consistent with a general lack of success for this new party.

Not Running

Labor has announced that it will not endorse a candidate

Socially conservative one-term Labor MHA Madeleine Ogilvie was considering whether to run as an independent or not.  (There is, incidentally, nothing to prevent independents from running as "Independent Labor", with or without tacit party approval.)  Ogilvie, who lives in the electorate, was unseated by within-party challenger Ella Haddad this month, the only MP unseated in this way at the 2018 state election.  Ogilvie's performances within Hobart were typical of her results across Denison as a whole.  Matt Lyons in comments refers to a Facebook post March 21 where Ogilvie has said she is not running (I haven't seen this post.)  Ogilvie confirms in comments below (April 11) that she isn't running.

Campaign and issues

Legislative Council elections used to be dominated by parish-pump style local campaigning but in recent years there has been more focus on state issues in Legislative Council campaigns.

The Hobart electorate is significantly affected (by Tasmanian standards) by traffic congestion.  Griggs has called for free Metro buses in peak hour, leading to some Twitter debate about costings.

The proposed Mt Wellington cable car could appear on the campaign trail.  Polling suggests the proposal is supported by Tasmanian voters generally, but that within the Hobart electorate opinion is probably about evenly divided.  Valentine's was the lone dissent on the Cable Car Facilitation Bill 2017 (on the grounds of claimed bypassing of normal planning process rather than necessarily opposition to the project); Griggs has stated he is "skeptical" about the cable car.

Housing affordability/availability and any possible link to Airbnb expansion was an issue during the state election campaign in this area, although it was difficult to detect any impact of it on the result.  Valentine has supported a call from Rosemary Armitage MLC for an inquiry into the matter.  Griggs is lobbying for 10% of the housing built at Macquarie Point to be affordable housing.

Further notes on the campaign and issues will be added as it develops.


Incumbent Legislative Councillors are returned about 80% of the time and had a dream run from 2004-15 with only one incumbent losing in all that time. However two incumbent losses in the last two years, and a rather close call for a third, will have all recontesting MLCs on their toes.  Overall though Valentine is a good fit for his electorate and should be very hard for any opponent to beat provided that he campaigns sufficiently. 

In my view Behrakis and Griggs are the only challengers likely to poll substantial votes; I will be surprised if any of the others are close to double figures.  The seat is simply too left-wing for the Liberals to be likely to win and if they can finish second (breaking the run of three progressive vs Green results) then that will be a respectable outcome provided that they poll above, say, 20%.  Griggs as a Greens-like candidate running as an independent, and making quite an effort, is a more intriguing prospect and it will be interesting to see how he goes, however he is at a large profile disadvantage compared to Valentine.

For the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers this is another very unsuitable seat.  They polled below 1.5% at every booth at the state election and below 1% at all bar three.  They should do better than that in a smaller field but with the state election over, it's surprising that they're running.

Also see

Tally Room guide

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Legislative Council Voting Patterns 2014-8

Advance summary:

1. This article presents a revised analysis of voting patterns in the Legislative Council (the upper house of Tasmanian Parliament) based on contested divisions involving the current MLCs in the last four years.

2. Although there is a degree of independence in all Legislative Council voting, the Council continues to have a fairly clearly defined "left wing" consisting of the four Labor Party MLCs, and independents Mike Gaffney, Ruth Forrest, Kerry Finch and Rob Valentine.

3. Excepting Rosemary Armitage and Tania Rattray (and Jim Wilkinson, who does not vote) the remaining MLCs (independents Ivan Dean, Robert Armstrong, Greg Hall, and Liberal Leonie Hiscutt) can all be clearly placed in a strongly-defined right-wing cluster.

4. A possible left-to-right sort of the Council is Forrest, Valentine, the four Labor MLCs (Farrell, Lovell, Siejka and Willie in no particular order), Gaffney, Finch, Armitage, Rattray, Hall, Armstrong, Hiscutt (Liberal), Dean.  However some of the exact positions in this list are debatable.

5. Going into the 2018 elections, the left holds an absolute majority in the current Legislative Council, although the fact that four of the left MLCs are independents means it will not necessarily be realised on every specific issue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Batman Bits And Pieces

There are a few points of interest I thought were worth commenting on quickly following Labor's drubbing of the Greens in the Batman by-election.

The 34% swing that wasn't

It has been widely reported that the Northcote West booth swung to Labor by 34 points.  This is incorrect; the actual two-party swing in that booth was 9%, which was still one of the largest in the electorate.  It was quite obvious based on the primary votes that the AEC had accidentally transposed the Labor and Green 2PP figures during data entry.  This kind of thing happens now and then and it is best to check cases where one booth says something off the scale before commenting further.