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.

Did the CoryTories save Batman from the Greens?

The Australian Conservatives are currently on 6.41% of the vote.  This isn't especially impressive given that the Liberals normally poll about 20% in the seat.  However, it is better than the votes polled by the lead right-wing micro-party in most other by-elections that the Coalition has declined to contest in the past few decades. (In some other such cases there were multiple well-known right-wing parties contesting for the Coalition vote - Family First, Christian Democrats, One Nation etc). 

The Conservatives have been trying to claim credit for the Greens' defeat based on their decision to preference Labor on their how-to-vote cards.  In fact, this only works if both the following are true:

1. A sufficient portion of the Conservatives voters actually preferenced Labor ahead of the Greens for the Conservatives preferences to have decided the result. At present, the required portion is 84.6%; the formula is (L+C)/2C, where L = Labor's two-party vote (presently 54.43) minus 50, and C = the Conservative vote.  At present Labor have 64.7% of all preferences, so it is plausible the Conservative votes might have just split this strongly, but we'll need to wait for the final figures to see if this is so.


2. Enough of the Conservatives voters preferencing Labor ahead of the Greens only because the party's How-To-Vote card (and/or media publicity) told them to, when otherwise these voters would have preferenced the Greens or voted informally or not at all.  To turn a 50-50 split into an 84.6-15.4% split would require that 17.3% of the Conservatives voters were swung from preferencing the Greens by the How-To-Vote card (or replace any portion of this with twice as many voters who were convinced by the party to vote formally and preference Labor instead of not voting formally at all).  This is really rather unlikely since normally for micro-parties, only a very small percentage of voters follow the card.  It's also unlikely because the rather low Conservatives vote suggests that mostly those voting for the party were hard-core right-wing types who would not have preferenced the Greens anyway.

Unfortunately 2 isn't easily testable (since the Conservatives are hardly likely to preference the Greens in a similar situation in future).  But I rather doubt that 2 is true.

Only the smallest of flesh wounds

A very strange piece of denialism was seen in a statement from the Victorian Greens Co-Convenors:

"Despite an amazing [sic] campaign, the Greens have fallen short of a win in the Batman byelection, missing out on our second seat in the House of Representatives by the smallest of margins."

I really don't know why people say stuff like this when it is so ludicrously untrue.  The Greens were decisively beaten in this by-election with a 3.4% swing against their 2016 near-win.  They are over seven thousand votes behind! Looking at the actual seat results from 2016, this by-election was less close than 38 seats if the measure of closeness is final two-candidate preferred result, or less close than 39 if the measure of closeness is margin in votes.  Herbert had a margin of just 37 votes and on current figures was over 200 times closer than the Batman by-election!

Where the swing happened

Ben Raue has an excellent map here showing which booths swung to Labor and which to the Greens.  The Greens did very well at the far north end of the electorate (in the Labor-voting end) but went backwards in every booth in the Northcote electorate area south of Bell Street, the part where Labor was supposed to have become demographically uncompetitive.

Now, I don't want to claim too much wisdom of hindsight on this one.  Before the Bhathal dossier revelations I thought the Greens were the slightly more likely winners, and after that I was so busy with Tasmania that I only got as far as putting that assessment on hold, oh and telling one Greens supporter on Twitter that I now thought that Labor would win.  The magnitude of the win is such that maybe Labor were going to win anyway (whatever their internals supposedly said otherwise).  

The booth pattern could be read as saying that only those south of Bell Street were inclined to switch their vote to reward Labor for switching from Feeney to Kearney.  Except Feeney had been copping swings against him all over the electorate.  The swings south of Bell Street may partly reflect Labor's improved targeting of issues affecting voters in that area (something they have been working on) but overall it seems to be at least in part some kind of rejection of the Greens campaign.   It's hard to say to what extent that rejection is of (i) the candidate (ii) the infighting (iii) the lack of focus on issues affecting voters personally (iv) the party's general stance (v) some combination of the above (vi) other.  

Late-Breaking Poll

In a fairly unusual move the Australian Forest Products Association has released some details of a commissioned ReachTEL it did of Batman, but has done so only after the by-election (which is a shame if it was as accurate regarding voting intentions as it sounds).  The reported details include that the Adani mine ran just behind health and education as issues most cited by voters.  There was a partisan divide with over 60% of Labor supporters nominating health and education and even more Greens supporters (66%) nominating Adani or refugees.  

The conclusion drawn by the commissioning source is that Labor can win just by running on its core issues and that Labor does not need to court Green issues to win.  I think a better test of that theory would arise when their opponents made a bigger effort to contest Labor's turf.  In fact Labor did court the Adani issue during the by-election campaign.  

I'll have more to add about Batman when all the numbers are up, or when someone else says something foolish or interesting about it that I think is worth commenting on.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tasmania 2018: How Woodruff Won Franklin

It's been a hideous few weeks for the Greens - they lost votes and a seat in Tasmania, were thumped in the Batman by-election and were remarkably anonymous in South Australia.  The party is now facing serious internal recriminations over these poor results.

However there was one rather nifty save amid all this, and before I move on to the other house of the Tasmanian parliament (there are two Upper House seat contests coming up in May) I want to post the instructive Hare-Clark details of how Rosalie Woodruff (Green) managed to retain her seat in a very close contest with Nic Street (Liberal).  This article is naturally rather mathsy and has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5.

Had the Liberals succeeded in Franklin the Greens would have been reduced to one seat.  (Note that this would not have actually stopped Cassy O'Connor from having motions debated - she's advised me that the House of Assembly doesn't require seconders for motions - but I expect it would have been a miserable time for the party anyway.)  As a result of not quite getting there, the Government has only a one-seat majority, so had better hope there are no backbench rebellions in this term!

Given what the government was polling last year, it's pretty amazing that they got as close to holding this seat as they did.  The seat was on a 2014 margin of 2.6% over Labor, but the Labor vote rose to over two quotas, meaning that the only way the Liberals could win the seat was by taking it from the Greens.  In 2014 the Liberals had been very nearly two quotas up on the Greens, so they needed the Green primary to fall and to do so by enough to compensate for the inevitable leakage off Premier Hodgman's massive personal vote.  It turned out that the Green vote in Franklin actually did fall more than the Liberals, but they were able to hang on anyway.

On election night, it appeared to me that while it was going to be extremely close, Street was slightly the more likely of the two to win.  The Liberals had a lead of around 500 votes on party quotas (after deducting their two quotas needed to elect Will Hodgman and Jacquie Petrusma) and while they were obviously going to lose a lot of votes from Will Hodgman's surplus, they were also going to gain nearly as much on preferences from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.  Beyond that point, they were a little more exposed to leakage in terms of the number of votes likely to be thrown from their minor candidates, but also Liberal votes don't tend to leak as much as Green votes, so it seemed that the Liberals should still win by 100-200 votes.  But it didn't turn out like that.

As shown by the scrutiny sheet, this is how the battle panned out through the various exclusions and surpluses:

(The count moves from left to right and the numbers on the bottom are just different events - surpluses, exclusions, and part-exclusions.)

The Liberal tally started ahead but initially dropped because of leakage from Will Hodgman's surplus.  Leakage from minor Greens candidates put the race back to even before the Shooters preferences propelled the Liberals to a 672 vote lead.  However, this was mostly lost immediately on leakage from the other remaining Liberal, Claire Chandler.  After the exclusion of Labor's Kevin Midson, Street then led Woodruff by three votes, but the final throw (Alison Standen's surplus off preferences from Midson) gave Woodruff victory by 226.

Another way of looking at it is in terms of the battle between candidates Street and Woodruff:

Street was effectively the third Liberal on a ticket lead by the Premier so his starting primary vote was a lot lower than Woodruff's.  Here the main gains are for surpluses and exclusions from each candidate's own ticket (so the Hodgman surplus and the Chandler exclusion are Street's biggest gains while the exclusion of second Green Richard Atkinson's is Woodruff's).  Although the Liberal Party had a sizeable lead after the Shooters preferences, that vote was split between two Liberal candidates.

A breakup of the different preference types is very instructive concerning what kinds of votes contributed to the result.  Here I refer to a preference vote as "leaking" if it comes from one candidate in a party, could go to another candidate from the same party, but instead goes to another party or exhaust.  Where there is no remaining candidate from the same party, I simply refer to it as a "preference".  So, for instance, the votes from Kevin Midson that did not flow to Alison Standen "leaked" out of the Labor ticket, while those that flowed from Midson to Standen may not have included all five Labor candidates (and might even have originated somewhere else), but at least stayed within the ticket at that point.

The rates at which votes leaked from both the Green and Liberal tickets were not unusual.  What was unusual was the very small share of the leakage that went from each of these party slates to the other.  10% of all Greens leakage in Franklin went to the Liberals; this compares with 19% in 2014 and 42% in 2010.  14% of all Liberal leakage went to the Greens; this compares with 21% in 2014 and 20% in 2010.

With so few leaks from the Liberals going to the Greens and vice versa, the leaks had to go somewhere.  And with only one fourth-party candidate in the mix (and not for all that long) where they went was overwhelmingly to Labor.  This had the effect of continuing to push up Labor's excess over their second quota, such that Labor started just 738 votes over their second quota, but by the exclusion of Midson they were 2193 up (768 was from Hext (SFF) and 687 was net gain on leakage from other parties.)  As a result, votes coming out of the Labor ticket became much more important than they seemed at the start of the count.

Woodruff gained 395 over Street on the Labor votes (including both leaks and the preferences at the end) and won by 226, so had Labor gone substantially backwards on net leakage, she probably wouldn't have made it.  But she also benefited from a change in the behaviour of those Labor votes.

As I noted on the postcount thread, in most cases in the past where Labor preferences have been thrown at the end of a count they have advantaged the Liberals over the Greens. The same is true for Labor leakage in Franklin - over the last four elections almost three quarters of Labor exclusions have seen more leakage to the Liberals.  Yet at this election leaks from all three excluded Labor candidates (Barnsley, Chong and Midson) favoured the Greens over the Liberals.

This probably has a bit to do with what kinds of candidates they were - Barnsley and Chong were both female candidates who are extra-likely to appeal to Green-ish voters (Barnsley from her public service and anti-smoking background, Chong from local government), while Midson, while male and of the Right, is also young.  Indeed, Chong was the one Labor candidate at the 2014 election from whom leaks favoured the Greens.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Just as Labor's pokies policy and generally left-wing campaign took primary votes directly from the Greens, so I believe there would have been plenty of voters who mixed and matched from the Labor and Greens tickets, rather than voting for all of one then all of the other.

The other thing notable here is that Street really struggled through the count to consolidate the Liberal votes under his own name.  A lot of votes (including Liberal votes) were pooling with Chandler rather than Street, and this meant they got another opportunity to leak when Chandler went out.  Partly this reflects the struggle that MPs elected mid-term on recounts often face in getting their profile high enough by the next election. In this case Woodruff was in the same position, but she had had a bit more prior profile-building, eg as the party's federal candidate in 2013.  There was a view that Street's social issue views (as demonstrated for instance in his excellent sheep speech) might get him over the line, but those views most often would have appealed to those with strongly left-wing views who were too committed to the destruction of the Hodgman government to preference any Liberal.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 South Australia Election Wrapup And Postcount

In doubt Mawson (ALP leading)

Expected result 25-19-3 (or 26-18-3 if Mawson is lost)
Expected Legislative Council result 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 SA-BEST, 1 Green

This thread will provide some general comments on the South Australian election and will also follow the post-counting in the few seats in doubt.  The post-counting comments will not be updated all that regularly as I took three days off work to follow the Tasmanian post-count and should probably get back to earning some money.  I'll try to check every day or so to see if there's anything worth noting.

The Liberal Opposition led by Steven Marshall has won the election, and is more or less certain to have an outright majority.  If it did fall short in a seat somewhere because of some freakish postcount result, Troy Bell could be counted on for support.

This is only the seventh case since 1969 of an Opposition winning an election while the same party is in power federally; for the previous six see here.  On the other hand, it confirms two other historic patterns: that governments no longer seem to go on forever (it is now 32 years since any state or federal government older than 16 years was returned) and that unpopular state premiers don't get re-elected.

At least on the figures for the classic (Labor vs Liberal) seats, the Weatherill government appears to have received a small swing back to it from its somehow winning 2014 2PP of 47%.  On raw figures the swing back is 1.7% but after declaration votes I expect it to drop back to around 1.2% (I may attempt a 2PP estimate at that time). However, much of the swing to the government was wasted in safe seats such as Croydon, Elizabeth, Kaurna, Playford and Reynell.  As a result the swing back does not seem to have delivered any net seat gain at all.

Much will be said about the failure of the SA-BEST party, which started off polling incredibly well but continued to tank through the campaign and has won at most one seat.  Following a similar failure by One Nation in Queensland the issue will be whether minor party uprisings are failing because of mistakes by the parties in campaigning, or whether the two-party system is so stacked against them when it comes to single-seat contests that they have no chance.

Poll Accuracy

This was a rather bad election for opinion polling.  The final Newspoll had the Liberals on 34% but the Liberals are currently on 37.4% and likely to finish close to 38% should postcount patterns from 2014 hold.  While the continual sliding in the SA-BEST vote meant that SA-BEST was probably still shedding votes even after the final poll was taken, the Newspoll overestimated third parties generally, also having the combined Greens and Others vote around three points too high.

Whether the final ReachTEL was any better is hard to say.  Perhaps it was, but the innumerate presentation of the poll by clueless Sky News presenters lumped the ReachTEL "undecided" vote (in reality voters with a soft preference for a party who should be allocated to that party) in with Others.  Had they not done this, it's possible the poll would have shown a more accurate picture of the total major party vote, though it is unlikely it would have had the major party gap any more accurate.  Once upon a time ReachTEL used to promptly publish full details of its media polling on its site and it's a pity this is generally no longer done.

As for seat polling, the YouGov-Galaxy series during the campaign did correctly predict the winner in nine out of eleven polls taken.  (I count a 50-50 2PP as correct if the margin lands within two points either way.)  However some of these were easy targets and the average error on the winner's 2PP is currently running at just over four points.  These errors aren't confined to the non-classic contests affected by the SA-BEST nosedive, with 5-point errors also in Lee and Morphett.    The less said about the pre-campaign seatpolls, the better.

As for statewide 2PP polling, I can't comment on it because there wasn't any.  One would have thought this was a fine opportunity for someone to test whether respondent preferencing could obtain an accurate outcome; apparently not.


ECSA is expediting postcounting in Adelaide, Mawson, Newland and Heysen, so we should get progress on them on Monday; for the rest things won't get serious until Tuesday.  The most important thing to know here is that post-counting in SA typically favours the Liberals.  In 2014 their 2PP rose by an average of 0.5 points per seat.  There were only six classic seats where it fell at all, and in four of these the drop was trivial (Light with 0.5% was the largest Liberal fall).  There were some seats where the Liberals gained greatly on the 2014 postcount, such as Giles where they gained three points.

In a few seats - but fewer than I feared - the ECSA has the wrong pair of candidates for the two-party count and will have to realign the two-party count (when this will happen I don't know).  This is the case in Gibson and Morialta, and possibly in Hartley where Nick Xenophon could be overtaken by Labor on Greens preferences.  Looking at the 2016 federal election, I've found that Labor candidates gained on Xenophon candidates using Green preferences in most but not all cases, with the maximum gain rate being about 0.4 votes/preference.  In some cases, Xenophon candidates gained (Greens voters aren't big card-followers), so Xenophon isn't certain to be overtaken.  In Heysen it's unlikely on that basis that Labor would get into second.

Seats that I - at some stage -  consider to be in any significant level of doubt (or just interest) will be listed individually with comments below.  Because of the large size of the postcount and the potential for the redistribution to interfere with post-count patterns it is possible new seats will be added to this list.


This seat was barely mentioned all night but finished with Rachel Sanderson (Lib) leading Jo Chapley (ALP) by just 67 votes (50.22% 2PP).  In 2014 the Liberals gained by 0.77 points in the postcount so if anything like that happens again they will win easily.

Sunday 4:45: Antony Green has tweeted that Labor are now 125 ahead, following corrections during checking including a significantly incorrect figure at one booth. That lead would be unlikely to survive the postcount based on past patterns.

Monday night: Sanderson has gone to a 539 vote lead (51.5%) and while that doesn't include absents yet so while there is some room for recovery that is pretty much the end of that one.


This is a greatly redistributed seat where Leon Bignell (Labor) is trying to hang on despite it having a notional Liberal margin of 4.2%.  As widely expected he's given it a very good shake and at the end of election night leads by 387 votes (51.19% 2PP).  That might sound enough but the difficulty for Bignell is that his seat includes redistributed parts of the seat of Finniss, where there was a 1.4% shift in post-counting in the Liberals' favour in 2014.  I suspect that one particular ex-Finniss component that is now in Mawson, Kangaroo Island, might have had a lot to do with that.  This one is worth keeping an eye on to see what the postcount shift is in 2018 with the possibility of it being enough to turn around Bignell's lead.

It is easy to project this as an easy win to the Liberals' Andy Gilfillan if one assumes that a larger post-count means a larger swing to the Liberals, especially given the areas now included in the electorate, but generally in my experience this assumption is unsound.  Postals are the main cause of Liberals gaining in post-counting, but it is actually prepolls that continue to increase.

Monday night: The gap closed to 189 votes (50.5%) for Bignell on postals and prepolls that have been counted - that should be the worst of it but doesn't necessarily mean that he is safe yet.

Tuesday: Bignell lead cut to 90 votes today.

Wednesday: Counting of absents improved Bignell's lead to 198 (50.5% again) which may well be enough as there shouldn't be that much left to throw.  However I don't know how many votes are left.


This is another redistributed seat where religious conservative Labor MP Tom Kenyon has had his seat turned into a notional Liberal marginal.  At the end of election night Kenyon trails Richard Harvey (Lib) by 298 votes (50.93% to Liberal) and the ABC coverage reported he had conceded.  However, conceding doesn't affect the count.  In 2014 the Liberals made a 0.3% gain on the 2PP during the postcount; one expects something similar this time as well and that the Liberals will win the seat easily, but just in terms of the reasonably close margin I'll keep an eye on it in case Labor makes any progress.

Update Sunday evening: addition of "ticket votes" (these are votes that would otherwise have been informal but are saved by the savings provisions) has boosted Harvey's lead by 90 votes, eliminating any remaining chances here.


There was briefly a glitch in the ECSA computer display that had SA-BEST flipping from 52-48 behind to 52-48 ahead on Saturday but it has now been reverted.

Legislative Council

Figures in the Legislative Council race currently stand at: Liberal 3.779 quotas Labor 3.562 SA-BEST 2.268 Green 0.720 Conservatives 0.423 Lib Dems 0.291 Animal Justice 0.256 Dignity 0.239 (etc).  Eight of the eleven seats will be decided by full quotas.  Then the remainder will be decided by partial quotas unless somebody can catch somebody else on preferences.  But there's no reason to believe the Conservatives could catch up to Labor on preferences on the current numbers.

The current lead for Labor's fourth seat over the Conservatives is 1.16%.  While this is likely to come down on post-counting it is highly unlikely to be reduced to zero.  On that basis it is very likely the result will be 4-4-2-1, with the Conservatives losing the seat they won under the name Family First.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018 South Australian Election Night Live


From base of notional 25-19-3 seat distribution:
Apparent Liberal gain: King
Possible Labor gain: Mawson (in some doubt)
In doubt: Adelaide (Lib ahead), Newland (Lib ahead)
Outcome: Liberals have won, almost certainly in majority, most likely result 25-19-3 or 26-18-3.

Note: I will try to clear comments tonight but don't expect replies

Updates (Refresh for latest)

11:42: The ABC has turned off the projection, meaning that some seats that were projected as easy wins have dropped back into in-doubt status.  Of these Adelaide is the closest with a current real margin of just 67 votes.  Here in 2014, booth votes went 51.6% to Liberal but declaration votes went 54.5% to Liberal.  So while the seat can be projected to about 51-49 we have to wait and see if the pattern repeats.  Some doubt can also be entertained about Newland, where we have a 50.9-49.1 margin on booth votes, but in 2014, declaration votes were overall weaker for the Liberals than booth votes, and this time there will be a greater proportion of declaration votes that are prepolls.  Note that in each of these cases I am not necessarily matching exactly the same voting areas, which creates some further issues.

2018 Batman By-Election Live

Note: I will try to clear comments tonight but don't expect replies

Summary: CALLED - Kearney (ALP) retains

Updates (Refresh for latest)

11:56 Ben Raue has essential reading on the pattern I pointed out earlier, with one of the more dramatic booth swing maps we will see - the Greens made good gains north of Bell Street in Labor heartland, but Labor made gains south of Bell Street in the areas where Labor was supposed to be demographically extinct.  Successful Labor campaign or Green self-sabotage?

2018 SA Election Late Polls And Other Comments

SA: Newspoll and ReachTEL 34-31 on primary votes to Liberal
No predicted winner - too close to call

On Saturday night I will be attempting to live-comment the SA state election and the federal Batman by-election at the same time starting from 6:30.  Really this shouldn't be too hard, since Batman is just one seat, so I hope it will be useful.  They will be on separate threads and I will be trying to give each about equal attention to start with, though if Batman can be called quickly I will wind it down and switch to focusing purely on South Australia.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Keating Aggregation 1990-1993

A bit of a special feature for today ...

25 years ago today Paul Keating's Labor government won re-election against the odds, having battled a recession and fallout from the mid-term removal of the previous Prime Minister Bob Hawke.  Among all Australian elections, 1993 stands out as an oddity, the one that breaks almost every predictive election model that can be thrown at it.  If you want to get a feeling of just how unexpected it was, check out Lateline from a couple of nights before.

It is easy to forget that in office Keating was a very unpopular Prime Minister, widely considered arrogant and abrasive, and blamed for comments about "the recession we had to have".  He did not poll a single positive Newspoll netsat in 109 consecutive Newspolls on the job.  Yet history has been kind to him, in part because of this alleged electoral miracle.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

SA Election: Some General Modelling Comments

Note to media of all kinds: this long weekend (10-12 March) I am not available for in-person interviews.  My phone will be switched off most of the long weekend - you may be able to get me on Saturday morning or Monday night, or if you leave a message with an after-hours number I may be able to return your call at night on Saturday or Sunday.

Note to posters: Comment clearing may be slow and replies slower for the next few days.


The two-week gap between this year's Tasmanian and South Australian elections means I will at least be able to do live comments on South Australia.  However, the Tasmanian campaign hasn't done wonders for my ability to devote energy to the SA contest.  I may be able to do another piece with more detailed modelling on South Australia next week, but I'm not sure I will have time for this yet.  This piece just makes a range of general comments that I think are important to trying to model the outcome.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tasmania 2018: But What Does It All Mean?

Undecided: Franklin - Liberal vs Green - tossup
Undecided: Bass - Labor vs Green vs Liberal - Labor slightly favoured, Liberal chance remote

After the last Tasmanian election, I saw no need to unpack possible meanings of the result, as I thought it was all obvious to anyone who had followed the state's politics through that time.  This one, however, is different, though I certainly won't claim to have all the answers.  A government that seemed to be sleepwalking to a loss of majority has rebounded to the point of suffering just a trivial swing against it.  The Labor opposition did rebound to a degree, but mostly at the cost of the Greens.

Some facts and stats

A few facts about the election first.  For the first time since the 1970s, and the first time for a conservative party since 1912-3, the Liberal Party has topped 50% of the primary vote for a second election in a row.  The charge was led by Premier Hodgman, whose 38.3% is the highest candidate vote since Robin Gray in 1986.  (Hodgman will also break Doug Lowe's 1979 record for the largest number of votes recorded by a candidate, though this record is somewhat meaningless because of population growth. Lowe's record for the highest candidate percentage, 51.2%, may very well never be beaten - and I don't think the fact it was achieved before Robson Rotation really makes much of a difference.)