Sunday, December 31, 2017

Best Prime Minister Of The Past 45 Years: Round 5

File:Whitlam Lingiari Image 3.jpg
(image source, licence)
"A conservative government survives essentially by dampening expectations and subduing hopes. Conservatism is basically pessimistic, reformism is basically optimistic."

Excluded: John Howard (13.9%)

I chose this particular quote from the primary vote leader of round 4 of my multi-month best PM Not-A-Poll as a send-off by said leader to the last eliminated Liberal contestant.  Given the left-wing bias of this site's readership and consumers of psephology in general, Howard has actually done pretty well to make it this far, but overachieved by somehow edging out Bob Hawke in round 3, and his elimination in this round always looked extremely likely.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

Queensland 2017: Final Results And Polling Accuracy

Queensland: ALP 48 LNP 39 KAP 3 PHON 1 GREEN 1 IND 1
2PP Estimate 51.2 to Labor (+0.1 from 2015)

It's taken a while but I've finally found some time to put up something about the final results of the 2017 Queensland state election.  I try to always put something out on Christmas Day, though last year nasty weather interfered with that plan.

In a nutshell, the 2017 Queensland election was one where a great many dramatic things could have happened, but virtually none of them did, as the following sections explain:

Hardly any seats changed hands

You don't turn 89 seats into 93 without breaking a few eggs, but the level of seat transfer between the parties at this election was remarkably low.  On a notional basis and ignoring retirements and mid-term defections, just nine seats changed hands at this election, most of them marginal anyway.  The Liberal National Party lost Redlands (1.2%), Gaven (2.8%) and Aspley (3.2%) to Labor, and would have lost Maiwar (3.0%) to Labor as well but the Greens snatched it instead.  Labor lost Bundaberg (0.5% and which was a freak win last time anyway) and Burdekin (notionally theirs by 1.4% but LNP-occupied) to the LNP, and might have lost Mirani (3.8) to the LNP had not One Nation helped itself to its only win.  The LNP also dropped Noosa (6.6) to independent Sandy Bolton, and Hinchinbrook (3.4) to KAP's Nick Dametto.  In Hinchinbrook, Dametto (who according to his party had only been campaigning for four weeks) pulled off a duplicate of Andrew Wilkie's Denison 2010 winning method of coming third and getting everyone's preferences.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Poll Roundup: 2017 Year In Review

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (-0.4 since last week, -0.8 in three weeks)
Labor would easily win election "held now"
Average for 2017 53.3 to Labor
By last-election preferences, Labor won all 93 polls this year

The polling year has just about come to an end so it's time for the annual roundup.  Should any further national polls appear I will edit in any necessary changes.

Since the last roundup things have improved slightly for the Turnbull federal government.  Following a brace of 55-ish results to Labor around mid-November, we've had two 53s from Newspoll, a run of 54-54-55-54-53 from Essential, 53s from ReachTEL four weeks back and Ipsos two weeks back (but the ReachTEL 53 came out at 54.7 by last-election preferences), and results from YouGov that came out to 53.1 and 54 by last-election preferences from YouGov.  (As noted further below, YouGov's 2PPs are wacky, so let's ignore them.)  The two 53s from Newspoll and today's 53 from Essential all looked like they were probably rounded down, and so my aggregate now sits at 53.4 to Labor.  Here's the (slightly) smoothed tracking graph:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bennelong Live: Majority On The Line (Plus Post-Count)

Bennelong: John Alexander (Lib) vs Kristina Keneally (ALP)
2016 margin: Liberal 9.7%

CALLED: Alexander (Lib) retains - government retains its majority


Here's a graph of the 2016 vs 2017 booth swings in Bennelong.

This is quite a strong relationship with 47% of variation explained.  Some booths (see the Tally Room map to see where they were) swung big and some didn't move much at all.  However those that swung big were mostly those that had swung big to Alexander in 2016 and the swing was just returning to sender.  This is suggestive of a sitting member having successfully worked certain communities that Labor either neglected or failed to appeal to in 2016, perhaps because the seat wasn't in play, but targeted more competitively this time.  It would be worth looking at data from other seats to see if the Coalition performed strongly in booths with large Chinese populations in competitive seats in 2016.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Senate Section 44: The Term Lengths Issue Is Back

Once upon a time, a young chap in the Senate discovered that he was a dual New Zealand citizen and resigned.  Back in those quaint, far-off days (it was actually July this year), the fact that he was the holder of a six-year term was one of the most intriguing things about the situation.  With Ludlam's resignation merely the start of a citizenship issue that has now claimed eight MPs, with two more currently referred and questions about many others, the term lengths issue has been on the sidelines.  The High Court following Re Canavan simply appointed Jordon Steele-John to Ludlam's vacant place and it was assumed that that was all, perhaps because there wasn't an alternative.  But it turns out that was all because nobody suggested otherwise, and following a mention of the question by amicus curiae ("friend of the court") Geoffrey Kennett in the Fiona Nash case, the issue is back.

Firstly, although Steele-John is listed on Senate documents as having a term expiring in 2022, the WA Greens conducted a preselection (which he won) on the assumption that he would be facing the voters again in 2019.  Secondly, the issue has now been brought to the High Court's attention in cases dealing with the replacement of Senators Nash, Parry and Lambie (who all had six-year terms) and in the Lambie case it impacts on the future party makeup of the Senate.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

EMRS Says The Wheels Are Falling Off

EMRS (Tas State) December: Lib 34 ALP 34 Green 17 JLN 8 IND/Other 7
Appears to be lowest Liberal primary for 11 years
Interpretation (based on historic skew) Lib 35.5 ALP 37.5 Green 14 JLN 8 Others 5

Modelled seat results based on this poll if election "held now": hung parliament with 10-10-4-1 (Liberal, Labor, Green, JLN) with next most likely outcome 9-11-4-1
Rolling aggregate of all state polls 12-10-3-0 
Rebecca White increases Preferred Premier lead over Will Hodgman to 13 points

If the December EMRS poll is to be believed (see also the helpful trend tracker), the Hodgman Government is currently headed for a Campbell Newman-like reversal of fortune at the 2018 Tasmanian state election.  Having won a massive victory from Opposition at the 2014 state election, the current poll suggests Hodgman's government, much like Newman's, could be going straight back where it came from and that election night could be carnage with incumbents losing all over the place - to Labor, the Greens, the Lambie Network and their own party.  On a like for like basis (which is rather difficult to follow through old EMRS poll reports) this seems to be the Liberals' lowest primary in an EMRS poll since August 2006.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

New England Washup and Bennelong By-Election Preview

I've decided to combine some post-result comments about New England with an overdue preview of the Bennelong by-election, which will be updated for any further polls that are published.  It's really not possible to talk about Bennelong now without talking about the former and whether anything seen in New England does or does not apply.

New England: Barnaby Bolts Back In

While Barnaby Joyce's re-election was always extremely likely given the lack of serious opposition, the scale of it surprised me.  Currently Joyce has 64.6% of the primary vote, a 12.3% swing to him, and a 73.6% two-party vote against Labor, a 7.2% swing to Joyce.  It seems that Labor are second, although in theory independent Rob Taber might overhaul the 4.4-point gap on the 17.2% of minor-candidate preferences.  Even if he does, his two-candidate result against Joyce won't be much better than Labor's.

My pre-election expectation was that Labor would not get much 2PP swing and that there would probably be a modest 2CP swing away from the result achieved by Tony Windsor in 2016, but that the gaggle of candidates running against Joyce might be able to take him to preferences and delay the result.  Instead Joyce has picked up a primary vote swing compared even to his 2013 result, when Tony Windsor wasn't on the ballot paper.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years, Round 4

Image result for gough whitlam image
(Image: Flickr:Gostalgia licence)

"The main sufferers in Australian society — the main victims of social deprivation and restricted opportunity - have been the oldest Australians on the one hand and the newest Australians on the other. " 

Three months ago, I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  Each round, one Prime Minister (sometimes more) is given the boot until someone gets over 50% and wins.  Each round runs for about a month, so you can vote for different candidates from month to month if you want to.  Multiple voting is in theory banned, but still readily possible at low levels; adjustments may be made if required.  It is what it is, but at least it's preferential in a way, unlike, say, Australian bird of the year.

The winner of each round gets a photo and a quote on the top, except for the final round when photos of both candidates will go up together.  And there is an obscure rule that if there is a new Prime Minister voting stops for a month to give the new PM time to establish themselves as incredibly brilliant and win the contest. I mention that because there's chatter about that the incumbent (eliminated in last place in this contest with a ridiculously small vote) might not even last the coming sitting week.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 Queensland Election Postcount (Main Thread)

Labor has won the election

Final result ALP 48 LNP 39 KAP 3 ONP 1 IND 1 GREEN 1 

Pumicestone won by LNP
Cook assumed won by ALP
Rockhampton won by ALP
Gaven won by ALP
Maiwar won by Greens
Hinchinbrook won by KAP
Macalister won by ALP
Burdekin won by LNP
Townsville won by Labor

This thread will follow the 2017 Queensland election post-election-day count in those seats that remain up in the air.

I'm in no real doubt now that Labor has won the election, in some form or other, but that form (majority or not, and if not with what numbers) remains to be clear.  They have 44 wins that I am regarding with some trepidation as solid, and one more ( Gaven) that I think they have probably won.  There are two more that appear to be going to "the left" in some form (Maiwar and Rockhampton), a close one in Townsville, and it is also worth noting that the indie who appears to be winning Noosa preferenced Labor. A vast amount has to go wrong from there before an LNP-ONP-KAP-indie government could be seriously considered, and even then it's not clear which way KAP would go.

This thread will follow the seats that I consider to be in significant doubt.  Where time permits and a seat greatly interests me, it may be given a breakout thread.  Seats appear in alphabetical order but when a seat is no longer considered of interest it will be moved to the bottom of the thread.  It will take me some time today to add all the seats.  Updates on specific seats will be added as time allows, but because of work commitments this is only likely to happen in the evenings, and probably not all of them.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Queensland 2017 Live

Labor appears to have won the election, but majority status is touch and go.

Approx Labor 43 LNP 38 KAP 2 ONP 1 IND 1 Unclear 8 (including one ALP vs Green)

(From base of Labor 49 LNP 42 KAP 2:)
Labor Gains from LNP: Redlands, Aspley
Very likely Labor/Green Gain from LNP: Maiwar
LNP gains from Labor: Bundaberg and probably Burdekin (notional ALP)
Very likely ONP gain from Labor: Mirani
Likely IND gain from LNP: Noosa

Complicated: Hinchinbrook (LNP), Mundingburra (ALP - Labor favoured), Thuringowa (ALP - Labor favoured), Macalister (ALP - Labor favoured), Rockhampton (ALP)

Unclear ALP vs LNP: Pumicestone (ALP leads in ALP seat), Gaven (ALP leads in LNP seat)

Queensland: The Election Polls Forgot

Queensland Aggregate: Labor 35.9 LNP 33.9 One Nation 13.3 Green 9.6 Other 7.3
2PP off this aggregate: 52.5 to Labor
Seat projection off this aggregate: Labor 51 LNP 37 PHON 3 KAP 2 
(Greens may win 1-2 seats instead, but not enough reliable evidence re Greens' chances)
Uncertainties: limited polling dominated by a single pollster, change in preferencing method and likely preferencing behaviour

Nearly three years ago an incumbent Queensland government was leading about 52-48 in the polls and polling analysts generally though that it might lose but would probably be returned.  We were wrong; it did very narrowly lose, mainly because of a radical shift in preferencing behaviour by voters for minor parties.

Three years later, some of the problems are the same.  A radical shift in preferencing behaviour is possible in theory, because Pauline Hanson's One Nation was just a minor presence last election but is now gathering a double-digit vote.  Moreover, some polls have showed One Nation voters as much more likely to preference the conservative side of politics than they used to be - a situation consistent with the party attracting a lot of ex-Coalition supporters.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Latest Senate Section 44 Cases

Time for another - and I doubt it will be the final - roundup of the issues created by ineligible Senators (or in one case, a Senator-who-never-was).  I have had many questions about the Lambie situation but today's resignation of Skye Kakoschke-Moore also requires detailed comments.

Hollie Hughes (Candidate, NSW - disallowed)

The High Court's decision that Hollie Hughes should not be seated in place of Fiona Nash (apparently because of her intermediate holding of an office of profit while the original election was still open, though reasons are yet to be released) creates a new issue.  Hughes was eligible at the time of the original election but her subsequent employment renders her ineligible to fill the position vacated by Fiona Nash.  The Commonwealth is waiting to see whether the court rules that Hughes was incapable of being chosen, or capable of chosen but incapable of sitting.  If the former, Hughes will be replaced by a special count (resulting in controversial Abbott backer Jim Molan becoming a Senator) but if the latter there is some thought (I'm not convinced) that it might be a casual vacancy.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Queensland: A Hard Election To Model

Primary vote aggregate Labor 34.7 LNP 32.8 Green 8.8 One Nation 17.3 Other 6.4
If Newspoll/Galaxy preference assumptions are correct Labor should just win majority on current numbers (Projection: Labor 50 LNP 37 PHON 4 KAP 2)
If ReachTEL preferences are accurate LNP may win, though ReachTEL released 20 Nov is less clear on this

Note: Live comments on Queensland elections here on Saturday night.

It's taken me until the week before the election to get around to posting any analysis during the campaign for the 2017 Queensland election.  This is partly because of an unusually severe version of the usual problem: I've been extremely busy and there are just not enough of me to do everything I'd like to do.  It's also because this election's very challenging to model.  And, as I noted previously, the big picture isn't much help either.  The government has been chaotic, but the federal Coalition's turmoil is a massive burden for Tim Nicholls' LNP opposition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Poll Roundup: Citizenship Chaos Sends Government To New Term Low

2PP Aggregate: 54.2 to Labor (+1 point in a week) - highest reading of term
Labor would win election "held now" with a large margin
Government has lost majority (for now) with two MPs recontesting their seats in by-elections

This week we've seen a highly unusual event in Australian political history: a federal government has lost its majority partway through a term.  This last happened in 1931.  The one-term Scullin government began its term with a robust 46 seats out of 75, but a by-election loss and defections to the opposition UAP and the Lang Labor split saw it whittled down to 35, following which it collapsed before the year was out.  What has happened to the Turnbull government, so far, is much less dramatic - two of its seats are vacant pending by-elections, and the government will recover majority status if Barnaby Joyce is returned, although it would then lose it again if John Alexander is defeated.

However, as the Section 44 eligibility issues continue to unfold (with the tabling of required evidence by December 1 expected to be the next step), we could well see more by-elections early next year in some much more difficult government seats.  The prospect of the government slipping into permanent minority, or perhaps even losing enough seats that it can no longer govern, is a real one.  There may also be by-elections in Labor and crossbench seats, but no incumbent government has gained a seat from an opposition in a federal by-election since 1920 so there would not be too much optimism regarding chances of gaining seats there.  My legally unqualified view, incidentally, is that the "hesitators" (those who filed to renounce UK citizenship too late for the process to complete by the close of nominations) are in trouble.  The references in previous cases to the taking of all reasonable steps as sufficient refer to a context in which a member cannot reasonably renounce an overseas citizenship, not one in which a candidate was needlessly slow about it.

How Accurate Was The Same-Sex Marriage Polling?

The abrogation of responsibility and waste of resources that was the Marriage Law Postal Survey has now concluded with a Yes vote of 61.6%, based on a very high turnout of 79.5%.  Every Australian poll on same-sex marriage in the last ten years has shown more voters supporting same-sex marriage than opposed, with the exception of a single fledgling ReachTEL in 2011, so this has been seen initially as another good result for Australian polls.  In contrast, non-polling "big-data" approaches based on social media analytics failed completely, with the EqualityPulse site mostly favouring the No vote until after the polls had closed and a Griffith University study bombing embarrassingly.  (Be wary of anyone who claims their methods predicted Trump would win - most who predicted him to win did so because they wrongly expected him to win the popular vote.)

This is being taken as another strong result for Australian polling, but the reality is not so snazzy, and more consistent with experience elsewhere.  Below are all the final poll results by each pollster that I could find.  (Some pollsters conducted several polls, typically finding little variation through the survey period.) The polls vary in methods - some asked about results based on those who had voted, some asked about the votes of those who intended to vote and some just asked a basic question about support or opposition to same-sex marriage.  One (Ipsos) appears to have asked about voting intention among those certain to vote only.  In many cases, inadequate public documentation means that it is not entirely clear what the pollster did.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pembroke By-Election: Live And/Or Post-Count

CALLED: Reliable scrutineering reports on Sunday that Siejka (ALP) will win easily with Walker narrowly beating Chipman for 2nd.


Analysis: Still awaiting margins for the two scenarios. As Brad Stansfield has said on Twitter, it's a bit much to be saying first that the Liberals' attack on Chipman wouldn't work at all, then after the result that it worked too well. But if working means getting near winning, it was only a pyrrhic success. It seems that far from generate a sympathy vote for Chipman, the tactic actually worked in driving votes away from him and to Walker, but at the cost of driving Chipman preferences (in droves as predicted by Pete Lawler on Twitter last night) and possibly primaries to Siejka. The Liberals needed to make the final two to have any on-paper chance, but did they cause enough voters to switch their preference from Chipman ahead of Siejka to the other way around to the extent that they caused Siejka rather than Chipman to win ? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years: Round 3

Image result for gough

"The Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Sir Billy Snedden, has broken his promise: the promise he made to me before the election. He promised not to tell any lies about me, if I didn't tell the truth about him."*

Two months ago I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's visitors' choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  The idea is that each month the Prime Minister in last place is eliminated and the rest continue until someone gets over 50% and wins.  There are rules permitting multiple exclusions in certain cases, to speed up the process a bit.  Each round runs for a month, so you can vote for different candidates from round to round if you want to. Multiple voting is in theory banned and adjustments may be made if I detect it, but there will probably be a lot of low-level multiple voting I can't detect or prevent. Comments about the merits of the contestants are welcome.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Section 44: Could Parry Peril Unelect McKim?

Warning:  Section 44 has now reached Wonk Factor 5/5.  

The Section 44 citizenship crisis affecting the Federal Parliament has reached a new level of electoral law murkiness today with the news that a Tasmanian Senator, Senate President Stephen Parry, is investigating whether he may be a UK dual citizen by descent.  Parry's father was born in the UK but moved to Australia as a child.  If it turns out Parry is ineligible, he is expected to resign from the Senate immediately, and following a referral the High Court would presumably follow the precedents set in Re Canavan regarding Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash and give him the flick.

That might all be the straightforward end of proceedings.  The possibility of a special count for Parry's seat (a recount of all votes as if the departing Senator had died before the poll) creates new problems in dealing with the replacements for ineligible Senators.   The reasons for this concern two unusual features of the Tasmanian Senate count: the very high rate of below-the-line voting and the extremely close result for the final seat.  Incumbent Nick McKim (Green) held off Kate McCulloch (One Nation) by just 141 votes.  McKim should have been re-elected easily but the Greens vote was damaged by the successful campaign to save Lisa Singh, who had been dumped to a normally unwinnable position by her party.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

New England By-Election: Prospects And Polls

Seat: New England (Nat vs Ind 8.5%, Nat vs ALP 16.5%)
By-Election 2 Dec 2017
Incumbent: Barnaby Joyce (Nat)
Main opponents likely to include Rob Taber (IND) and ALP candidate
Former incumbent and 2016 opponent Tony Windsor (IND) not contesting
Outlook: High chance of comfortable Nat retain

With the date of the New England by-election set it's time for a general prospects and polls post that I will update through the campaign as opportunities arise.  I may be pretty slack about this as Queensland will be a higher priority and I have a lot of other stuff on at the moment.  I won't be doing live coverage on the night because of previously booked air travel, but there will be a postcount thread if it is needed.

Circumstances and history

The New England by-election follows the disqualification from office of incumbent Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, who was found to be in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution because he was a dual citizen of New Zealand by descent, despite having been born in the electorate of New England.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Section 44 Strikes, But The Government Hasn't Lost Its Majority Yet

Many news sites have now claimed that, in light of today's dramatic Section 44 disqualification of Barnaby Joyce from Parliament by the High Court, the beleagured Turnbull government has now lost its majority.

This is an exciting claim, but it isn't actually correct.

Pending the holding of a by-election for the seat of New England, the government will, when the House of Representatives next sits, hold 75/149 seats, with one vacant.  74 seats will be held by other MPs.  75 is larger than 74.  75 is larger than half of 149.  75 divided by 149 is 0.5033557... .  It is more than 0.500000.

The government's new and very temporary position is no different mathematically to that of the Cook Liberal government in 1913, which won 38/75 seats.  The Cook government is widely referred to as having had a one-seat majority.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Glenorchy: What Happens If Most Of A Council Quits While It's Suspended?

Welcome to Glenorchy City Council.  You can be checked out any time they like, but you can never leave.

That was the vibe following recent developments in an already strange and long-running Tasmanian local government dispute, one that is daily creating newer and more exotic flavours of political-law popcorn for electoral ambulance-chasers like me.  My sympathies are with the poor ratepayers of Glenorchy, who are becoming literally poorer ratepayers as they are required to support this niche entertainment as it drags on into season after season.

To begin partway through about book six of Glenorchy Game of Thrones, the GCC has long been wracked with factional strife and hackery (which has often crossed state party lines in odd ways) despite having, at times, some very well regarded Mayors.  The 2014 election saw a team headed by then one-term alderman Kristie Johnston run on an agenda to "clean up Glenorchy and clean out the council".  They were endorsed by Denison federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie - not normally one to put his name to anybody else's bid - who denounced the existing Councillors in no uncertain terms.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fifth anniversary!

Today is the fifth anniversary of me, as one observer had it, "ragequitting" Tasmanian Times and starting this site.  This Blogger site was something I set up just to make sure I had a new home right away, but as it's turned out, as basic as Blogger is in some regards, I haven't seen a compelling reason to move.

Sometimes people ask me why this site just bears my name, rather than being called something snazzy like "The Poll Bludger" or "The Tally Room".  I have simply not come up with any alternative name that I am happy with.  At one stage I was tempted by "The Morning Mist", after a fantastic old quote from Sir Joh about polls that "come and go like a morning mist".  But it occurred to me that people would then start unkindly calling it The Morning Missed whenever I got something wrong, and besides the name would have at least one unsavory connotation in German.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Marriage Law Survey Turnout Is High ... But Not That High!

(This article is being progressively updated through the survey - KB)

The first release of turnout estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the same-sex marriage postal survey has created some interest.  The ABS estimates that as of Friday 29 September, 9.2 million survey forms have already been received, 57.5% of all enrolled voters.

The ABS notes that this is an estimate only.  It may not represent the received yes/no vote as not every single one of the forms submitted will be valid (some small percentage may be posted back deliberately blank, for instance, or even with both boxes ticked.)  It is also unclear to me whether this estimate is based in some sense on a count of forms or on a count of envelopes, since there could well have been some cases of multiple forms being posted back in the same envelope, or of empty envelopes being posted (heck, I used to do this to junk-mailers who included a reply-paid all the time).  It also doesn't include anything that has been posted but was still on its way to ABS as of Friday.  So the figure is likely to be at least a few percent short of the number who have now voted.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Legislative Council 2017: Pembroke By-Election

This is my preview article for the by-election for the Legislative Council seat of Pembroke.  Incumbent Vanessa Goodwin resigned the seat today, Monday 2 October, and already we have two declared candidates, one possible candidate and at least one party likely to endorse a candidate.  The by-election will be held on Saturday November 4, with nominations closing on October 12 and announced the next day.  The winner will have the seat for just 18 months before they will need to defend it.  (I am unsure yet if I will have live coverage of this by-election on the night, as it clashes with a field trip.)

My most recent piece about the voting balance in the Legislative Council was here, but since that was written, Labor's Sarah Lovell unseated "independent liberal" Tony Mulder in Rumney.  As a result, three Labor MLCs and four left-wing independents now have a blocking majority in the Legislative Council.  Throw in a couple of relatively centrist MLCs who only vote with the government a shade more often than not, and the government is having great trouble getting its most contentious legislation through.  It's not all doom, gloom and obstruction for them though, with a bill to speed up the kunanyi/Mt Wellington cable car assessment process recently sailing through with only one vote against.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Divergence In The Queensland Polls Is Caused By Preferences

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, ReachTEL 52-48 to LNP - what gives?

A Queensland state election is coming soon, possibly very soon.  Electoral history tells us little of what to expect here. First-term state governments are usually returned, as are state governments that are of the opposite party to the party in power federally.  However, the former might not apply when the government was elected almost accidentally, and the latter is most at risk of falling over when a government has been a messy minority regime.  But if we turn to polling for the answers, whether the Palaszczuk government is cruising or crashing depends on which pollster you ask.

Through 2017 there has been a major divergence between the media-commissioned polls of ReachTEL and those by the Galaxy stable (sometimes branded as Galaxy, sometimes as Newspoll).  Three media ReachTEL polls have all shown the government trailing in the two-party-preferred contest (47% in February, 49% in June and 48% just now.)  Three Galaxys and a Newspoll have all shown the government ahead (51% February, 52% May, 51% August, 53% July-September quarterly).  On average, that's a 3.75-point two-party difference between the two stables, way too large over so many polls to be explained by chance or fluctuations from month to month in support.  Either the truth is somewhere in the middle and an election now would be extremely close, or somebody is right and someone's wrong.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years - Round 2

EXCLUDED IN ROUND 1: Turnbull, Fraser
Rudd continues only because of irregular voting patterns for Abbott

Round 2 voting open in sidebar til 6 pm AEDST, 31 October

A month ago I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's visitors' choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  The idea is that each month the Prime Minister in last place is eliminated and the rest continue until someone gets over 50% and wins.  There are rules permitting multiple exclusions in certain cases, to speed up the process a bit.  Each round runs for a month, so you can vote for different candidates from round to round if you want to. Multiple voting is in theory banned and adjustments may be made if I detect it, but there will probably be a lot of low-level multiple voting I can't detect or prevent. Comments about the merits of the contestants are welcome.

Technical note: If you wish to vote on a mobile, switch to "View web version" at the bottom of an article.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Poll Roundup: The Clock Strikes Twenty

2PP Aggregate: 53.6 to ALP (+0.2 since last week)
Labor would easily win election held "right now"

This will be a rather brief Poll Roundup by my standards, because apart from same-sex marriage polling (covered in a separate rolling post) there isn't all that much around to see!  We're five weeks on from my previous roundup, and in terms of the prospect of the government recovering before the next election, that's another five weeks down the drain.  Predictively, that doesn't mean a lot, but it is bad news for one particular member of the Coalition: the PM.  He edges another two Newspolls closer to matching the metric of 30 consecutive Newspoll 2PP losses that he used to justify the removal of Tony Abbott.  Just ten to go ...

Precisely what happens if these ten are all lost and the Coalition are still down the tube nobody knows.  Would the whole "thirty Newspolls" thing take on a life of its own in public perception of Turnbull's fate, contributing to even worse Newspolls, or would it only be of interest to the beltway and political junkies, and shrugged off as irrelevant by everyone else?  For it to be game over the very same week, while logical and fair, would seem too obvious, too artificial.  These bad polls seem so set in, and the Galaxy-run Newspoll so remorseless, that it's hard to see just what would end it.  A personal triumph on same-sex marriage? Worth some bounce surely, but enough for 50-50 after such weakness on the issue? War with North Korea? Maybe, though whether the more likely mechanism there is a rally round the flag or Newspoll being hit by an errant missile meant for Guam is not clear either.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Recent Polling On The Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey

The national ABS postal "survey" on whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex marriage in Australia is now in its second week.  A number of pieces of polling have been published or alluded to since my last general polling update, but what do they really tell us about the outcome and how reliable are they?  At this stage there is still much that we do not know.  It is too early to be certain Yes has it in the bag, but the widespread narrative that support for Yes is crashing rapidly and that this is another Trump or Brexit coming is so far not that well supported by the evidence.

Public Polling: Ipsos

Firstly, the public polling.  Last week saw an Ipsos poll which buoyed some worried Yes supporters with a 70-26 Yes response, one of the highest Yes votes ever recorded in a poll in Australia.  Indeed, as far as I'm aware, this score has only been exceeded in a few commissioned polls and one Morgan-SMS (a suspect polling method) which did not use an undecided option.  The Ipsos also found a 70% Yes response among the 65% of voters who rated themselves as certain to vote, and found a gender gap with 72% of women and 59% of men saying they were certain to vote.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Free Speech Problem With Marriage Law Survey Safeguards

Advance Summary

1. This article raises concerns about specific "hate speech" prohibitions in the Government's Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017.

2. This article argues that Sections 15(1)(a) and (b) place unreasonable constraints on free speech by making political opinions attributes that are protected from "vilification", contrary to the normal practice of anti-vilification laws.

3.The ability to express strong criticism of people who present offensive or unfactual opinions serves as an important deterrent against expressing such opinions in the first place.

4. Many aspects of the proposed Sections and the limited exemptions available are insufficiently clear to a lay reader and involve a novel area of Australian anti-discrimination law.

5. Sections 15(1)(a) and (b) should be amended so that they apply only to intimidation and threats and not to "vilification". 

6. If this does not occur, then the debate surrounding the postal survey is not an adequately and clearly free and fair environment for the frank exchange of opinions and criticism.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Response From ABS to Marriage Law Postal Survey Questions

On 16 August I sent the ABS a list of fourteen questions regarding the conduct of the Marriage Law Postal Survey, in particular regarding count quality assurance issues.  Some of the questions were answered in subsequent public debate.  The response below was received today, September 11, from Michael Wilson of ABS and is reproduced in full.  My questions as sent are in italics.  My thanks to the ABS for their detailed responses at this busy time.

I have added some comments of my own below the responses, and may add more later.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Thylacine: Specimen Or It Didn't Happen

This week a group of Tasmanians (press conference hereclaimed to have seen and to have footage of a living thylacine, a species which has not been confirmed to exist since the last known specimen died in captivity on September 7, 1936.    No zoologist has yet accepted this extremely blurry footage as being of a thylacine, and many wildlife observers consider it is very likely to be a spotted-tailed quoll.

You can see a longer video here.  It contains unconvincing (compare actual accounts) "barking", the video above, something unidentifable nosing the camera, and a bunch of Where's Wally pics in which you can just make out what might be the eyes of something if you try very hard.  When I slow down the main video frame by frame I can see blurry paler patches on the animal consistent with the spotting on a spotted-tailed quoll.  The most interesting thing about the videos is actually the large number of lyrebirds (introduced to Tasmania) that they show.

I thought it might be of some interest to someone out there to outline my position regarding this poor animal the thylacine, and the intermittent circus of alleged "sightings", "photos" and "videos" surrounding it.  As usual, I am expressing my own view and not necessarily the view of any organisation I belong to or any employer I from time to time work for.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years

(Round 1 has closed.  For results see Round 2.)

Round 1

Now and then we see newspaper polls rating the best PMs of the last few decades, or in the case of one Essential poll last week, the best government of the last ten years.  John Howard is a persistent "winner" of the first class of polling, but I've always believed he has an unfair advantage.  He tends to get a very high share of the Liberal vote with other Liberal PMs hardly getting any, while the Labor vote tends to be split up more between Hawke, Keating, Whitlam, Rudd and Gillard.  For that reason it's not clear whether Howard would beat all the Labor PMs on a head-to-head basis, although it looks like he probably would.

I've decided to run a similar Not-A-Poll exercise here in the sidebar just for fun over a period of several months.  The basic rule is that we keep going eliminating one PM at a time (perhaps more) until someone has over 50% at the end of a month.  The more complicated rules are:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

ReachTEL: Bob Brown Foundation Peddles A Poll Porky

ReachTEL (commissioned) Liberal 41.2 Labor 33.3 Green 13.1 PHON 4.4 Ind/Other 8.0
Interpretation Liberal 41.2 Labor 37.1 Green 10.4 Other 11.3
Most likely seat result based on this poll 12-10-2 plus one seat undecided between the three main parties
Disclaimer: Polls are snapshots not predictions.

I may get taken off their media mailing list for saying it, but the Bob Brown Foundation have released a grossly deceptive claim concerning their current ReachTEL poll to the Tasmanian press.  Question two of their poll and its results are as follows:

The question design is a bit odd, but I think it is OK.  The results are 38.3% support, 44.7% oppose and 17.1% don't know/not sure.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Poll Roundup: Newspoll Moves! It Is Alive! (includes same-sex marriage polling)

2PP: 53.5 to Labor (+0.3 since last week)
Labor would win an election "held now" with a large majority

Time for another roundup of the state of play in federal polling.  This week's exciting development was that Newspoll, after a record six consecutive 2PPs of 53-47 to Labor, finally moved by a whole point to 54-46!  I am especially excited by this because had this week's result been another 53-47, I was going to lead off with a mock Death Certificate, and now I do not have to.

This briefly took my aggregate to an equal term high 53.8 to ALP (I tweeted this as 53.9 but later found a very small error) but then Essential moved back a point the other way after two 54s, and the primaries in YouGov didn't do a lot, so I currently have it at 53.5 to ALP. That was the Coalition's winning lead in the 2013 election, and also just shy of what Labor had when Tony Abbott was removed.  

The strange 2PP results of YouGov continue to baffle - this week it has the Coalition with a 51-49 lead off primaries that would normally imply something like 53.1% to Labor.  I discussed this issue last time, and the average difference between YouGov's 2PPs and the last-election 2PPs for their primaries is now running at a massive 2.9 points.  As noted last time, it's possible that the current last-election 2PPs are overstating Labor's lead, especially because of One Nation issues, but it's highly unlikely that they're doing so by three points.  Much more detail on the YouGov mystery from William Bowe here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Questions To The ABS Re Marriage Law Postal Survey

(Admin note: I have just made a change to the comments screening on this site.  If you have problems submitting comments but haven't had problems in the past please email me at .  Where people have trouble submitting comments I am happy to accept them by email provided it is clear which article they are to be posted to and that they are for public posting.)

I have just sent the ABS the email below regarding the upcoming (unless the High Court decides otherwise) same-sex marriage postal survey. It raises various questions about quality assurance.  The email is exactly as sent except that I have removed my telephone number.  (I am happy for journalists who have or can find my number to call me at any reasonable time, but I do not want phone calls from time-wasting randoms.)

Also see Michael Maley's consolidated compendium of plebisurvey issues.  The entertaining issue of 16-17 year olds voting has now, alas, been knocked on the head by a fresh directive from Minister Cormann.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Will "Hate Speech" Be Illegal In The "Plebiscite"?

Things are moving fast in the Government's attempt to conduct a national voluntary postal vote on same-sex marriage.  Although we won't get to the High Court challenge against the "survey" until September 5-6 - meaning we might be a month away from knowing if the thing is on at all - a lot of questions are being raised and in cases answered about how exactly the plebiscite will be conducted, if it does proceed.  A major problem with the exercise has been that since it is not an Australian Electoral Commission process authorised by an act of Parliament, normal election requirements (authorisation, fraud and vote-buying protections and challenges) do not exist unless separately provided for.  In Thursday's instalment (Electoral Process, But Not As We Know It: Postal Plebiscite V2) I mentioned that at least regulation would be needed to get around these problems.  However the regulations available under legislation concerning the ABS are very limited concerning penalties.

In a welcome move, acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann has flagged the stronger possibility of special legislation to impose AEC-election-like conditions for the, er, whatever it's called.  This would create the really strange situation of the Senate approving laws governing a postal vote that the Senate had itself not approved and would have blocked if asked to approve it.  Such laws might themselves be subject to challenge.  The most important aspect of this debate for me, though, is the incorrect impressions of the impact of such possible laws that we are seeing in the media.  The SMH and ABC have referred to them as "ground rules for a fair and respectful debate on same-sex marriage", rules that would "stop hateful advertising material being distributed" and as protections against "malicious publications".  It isn't so.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

EMRS: White Lead Is A Big Problem For Liberals

EMRS August Lib 37 ALP 34 Green 16 Ind 6 JLN 5 Other 1
Interpretation Lib 39 ALP 38 Green 13 Others 10
Modelled seat result based on this poll if election held now: Liberal 11-12 seats Labor 10 Green 3-4 
Warning: Polls are snapshots, not forecasts
Preferred Premier Rebecca White leads Will Hodgman 48-37

A new EMRS poll of state voting intentions is out.  Also see the trend tracker. The party breakdown shows scarcely any change from the May result but the startling outcome is that Rebecca White leads Will Hodgman as preferred premier by the thumping margin of 48% to 37%.

Let's put that in the historic context drawn from other states.  It's very simple: preferred premier is an indicator that usually strongly favours incumbents.  When established state premiers trail as preferred leader in Newspoll (never mind by eleven points), they either lose the next election or are removed by their own party.  EMRS is not Newspoll, and it's possible its continued devotion to landline polling (which I strongly believe to be not fully randomised) has meant its results have become total rubbish.  But if that's not the case, the government should be rather worried.  The suggestion is that so far negative attacks on the new Opposition Leader have either not worked at all or even backfired.  

Opposition Leaders don't lead by eleven points just because people like them.  Historically this sort of imbalance happens when governments are in deep trouble or their leaders are unpopular, or both. Federal governments sometimes recover from it; state governments historically don't. The large lead for Rebecca White is probably also a sign that among the voters who EMRS flags as undecided, or as intending to vote for a minor candidate, there are probably a lot who are leaning towards Labor or likely to direct preferences Labor's way.  It should be noted, for contrast and a bit of sobrietry, that the recent ReachTEL had only a small White lead from a format that doesn't skew to incumbents, so perhaps this EMRS is an outlier.  I am also aware of an unpublished commissioned poll showing Hodgman with a small lead using similar question design to EMRS.

Electoral Process, But Not As We Know It: Postal Plebsicite V2

An article I wrote about the serious defects of a postal plebiscite (back on the annual day reserved for silly jokes) has for some unfathomable reason more than doubled its hit tally in the last 24 hours.  Now that a postal plebiscite (but run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, not the Australian Electoral Commission) has been announced by the government, it's time to update certain aspects of my commentary.

What it appears we will have (unless it is disallowed by the courts) is something so bizarre that it was not anticipated in any of the many polls about a plebiscite.  Effectively, it is a national vote on whether the government will allow a conscience vote to be brought on in the parliament.  (If the plebiscite proceeds and the "no" side wins, then the government will block a conscience vote, presumably ending any prospects for same-sex marriage for so long as the Coalition stays in power.  This rather heavy-handed approach appears to be an attempt to prevent a mass boycott from working.)

Is it constitutional?

I don't know, but we'll probably find out soon enough.  At least two sets of campaigners against the proposed plebiscite are filing for injunctions against it.  Section 83 of the Constitution requires that appropriations must be supported by law, and no law has been passed for this plebiscite.  However there are various standing general-purpose appropriations that governments have flexibility to use for the ordinary running of government, and also in emergencies.  The question will be whether an appropriation for this purpose is valid.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

More Section 44 Cases In Spotlight

A very long time ago now two Greens Senators resigned after discovering they were dual citizens.  The Senate will refer their cases to the Court of Disputed Returns (typically the High Court) which will determine whether they were eligible to have been elected in the first place and, assuming that they weren't, will initiate a "special count" to fill their places.  In the weeks since then, however, many more MPs have come under the spotlight of the dual citizenship rule in Section 44 of the Constitution, and it's unlikely it has claimed its final victim yet.

The Constitution is very black and white about dual citizenships - section 44 says that if you are a citizen of another country, you are not eligible to be chosen or to sit in Parliament.  It doesn't seem to allow any ifs or buts about all that.  However, the High Court in Sykes v Cleary [1992] found that the Constitution was unrealistic and had to be "read down".  After all, if it were that straightforward then another nation could maliciously impose citizenship on Australian MPs and refuse to withdraw it.  Alternatively, for a given citizen of a given nation, procedures for getting rid of an unwanted citizenship might be unrealistically expensive, time-consuming, slow, dangerous, unreliable or unreasonable.

The Sykes v Cleary judgement is a difficult one to apply to the many examples now being discussed because there are five separate statements of decision (one by three judges and four individual statements).  Basically, all the judges agreed that there was a need to "read down" the Section 44 requirement, but they did not all agree on how far to go.  Two of the seven considered that a statement under Australian law renouncing all other allegiances (eg during a naturalisation ceremony) was potentially enough by itself (with various qualifiers); the other five disagreed.  The other five went for various versions of "reasonable steps" or "all reasonable steps" to renounce citizenship by application to the overseas country as the test.

Those applying some version of a "reasonable steps" test (beyond naturalisation oaths) did not spell out the minimum conditions for the test to be met.  They merely made it clear that if someone had taken all reasonable steps to renounce citizenship before contesting,  then that person did not need to have succeeded in that attempt to have passed the test.

There are so many MPs who were either born overseas or may have inherited dual citizenship that it isn't practical to comment here upon them all.  Many cases may appear suspicious, but it may simply be that the MP has well and truly renounced and has yet to publish proof.  At this stage there are three cases that have been referred and two that realistically could be.  I may add to the list below as and when more facts come out about others.

Senators Scott Ludlam (Green, WA) and Larissa Waters (Green, Qld)

Status: Resigned and referred

These Senators have already resigned and it is expected that the High Court will find them to have not been validly elected in the first place, and therefore order special counts (see the earlier article).  The High Court in Sykes v Cleary showed little if any sign of caring whether or not an MP knew they were a dual citizen, with the taking of steps to remove dual citizenship being seen as the key test.  Neither Ludlam or Waters took any steps, so it appears they are in exactly the same boat as Phil Cleary's two ineligible opponents in his disallowed by-election win.  The High Court would have to substantially revisit Sykes v Cleary to allow the Greens to fill either of these positions by casual vacancy.

Electoral ramifications were covered in the earlier article.

Senator Matt Canavan (LNP, Qld)

Status: Referred, resigned from Cabinet, not voting

Canavan has resigned from Cabinet and his case will be referred.  Canavan was born in Australia but is recorded as an Italian citizen, according to him through an application made by his mother without his knowledge or consent.

On the surface, Canavan is in very serious trouble because he also took no steps to renounce.  If the leading judgement in Sykes v Cleary is followed, then his diminished connection to Italy compared to someone born there could mean the "reasonable steps" required are less onerous, but it doesn't remove the requirement to do something.  So Canavan is relying on something like the following happening:

* The High Court creates a new exception for cases where a person acquires citizenship of another country without their knowledge.
* The High Court rules that "reasonable steps" are not required for citizens by descent who passively acquire citizenship but have made no actual use of it.
* There is some determination that the application in Canavan's name to be an Italian citizen was invalid in the first place and hence that he was actually never a citizen.

In the event that Canavan is disqualified, his special count instead elects recent former Senator Joanna Lindgren (see Grahame Bowland's simulations).  This situation raises similar Section 282 problems (earlier article, again - and see discussion in comments) to the Scott Ludlam countback in that Lindgren would appear to get a six-year term, despite being lower on the original ballot than Senators Macdonald and O'Sullivan (who each got three year terms.)

If Canavan is found to have been validly elected, he will be free to continue his career and may well be restored to Cabinet.

Senator Malcolm Roberts (One Nation, Qld)

Status: Referred

Warning: this section has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5 on the grounds of containing discussion of obscure points of electoral law.

At the time of writing Roberts has not yet been referred to the High Court although referral looks likely (UPDATE 9/8: Roberts has now been referred) given that it has sufficient crossbench support that only one major party would need to support the referral for it to pass.  Roberts' situation based on material in the public domain so far (some of it only his own claims) appears to be:

* he appears to have been a British citizen by descent because his father was born in Wales
* he contacted the British consulate enquiring as to whether he was a British citizen from May 1 2016
* he contacted the British consulate on June 6 2016 (three days before the close of nominations) advising that if he was a citizen of Britain, then he renounced it
* after further correspondent - the nature of which is unclear - he received confirmation of renunciation in December 2016, five months after the election.

Roberts has displayed a very strange attitude to legal correspondence before so it should not be assumed that things are necessarily as they seem.  His position might be much stronger or much weaker than he makes out.  The large number of contradictory statements he has so far made suggests the latter, but we'll see.

If the above is all accurate then Roberts did at least take steps to renounce before the election (unlike Canavan), but the court would have to consider whether these steps were sufficient to count as "reasonable".  In particular, does Roberts' June 6 contact even count as a formal attempt to renounce (there is no indication it was on the proper form)?  Assuming the steps that Roberts took were adequate in isolation, does taking all reasonable steps to renounce citizenship also entail that those reasonable steps are taken far enough in advance of the election to succeed before nominations close?  Or does this place too much of a burden on candidates in terms of how far ahead of an election they need to commit themselves to running?

If Roberts is found to have been ineligibly elected, his seat at a special count would, all else being equal, won by third One Nation Queensland candidate Fraser Anning.  The fact that Anning polled a massive nineteen primaries (second-last on the entire Queensland ballot) is irrelevant as in this case Anning would get Pauline Hanson's surplus.  An Anning victory, however, creates further complications because, as discovered by @swearyanthony on Twitter (which somehow qualifies as a Fairfax "exclusive"), Anning is currently facing bankruptcy proceedings (with a hearing as soon as August 22).  If Anning becomes bankrupt, he will lose the right to sit in the Senate while that is the situation.

Depending on the pace of the various cases, one possibility would be Anning winning the special count, serving for a short period, and then creating a casual vacancy to be filled by the party (including potentially by Roberts ... or for that matter James Ashby) The murkier prospect is if Anning becomes bankrupt before the HCA has finished with the Roberts matter.  Antony Green has said that a vacancy for Anning in this case would be treated as a casual vacancy (Section 15), and certainly this seems most intuitively consistent with what would normally happen with a mid-term vacancy.  However in this case Anning's position would be vacant not during his term of service but before it commenced.  Stephen Murray has written a very detailed piece giving many reasons why the Court could decide to exclude an ineligible candidate from a special count.

The transcripts of the Day case concerning Lucy Gichuhi may also be of some interest here.  Mr Kirk (appearing for Anne McEwen (ALP)) argued that if the High Court does seat an ineligible Senator as a result of a special count, then the decision appears to be final and beyond challenge; therefore, the court should assess challenges to ineligible prospective Senators before allowing them to win special counts.  Justice Nettle acknowledged that this was a possible issue, before disallowing the challenge to Gichuhi's eligibility from the McEwen team on the grounds that the challenge had been made too slowly and in any case appeared to have no prospect of success.

It's clear that a candidate who is not eligible at the original election is also not eligible for special counts  arising from it - indeed if they were, then in theory Rod Culleton could patch up his eligibility and have himself returned to the Senate on the special count for Scott Ludlam.   What is less clear is whether a candidate who has become ineligible in the meantime can contest a special count when they are not even eligible to sit in the Senate - and whether the High Court should treat it as analogous to a casual vacancy case or by special count if they cannot.  I think that remedying it as if a casual vacancy for the ineligible special count winner would be fairest in terms of respecting the will of the voters in the original election based on their view of the candidates who were then eligible to stand.

Simulations by Grahame Bowland have confirmed that even if the special count process leads to a countback that is minus four (!) candidates, One Nation's last line of defense Judy Smith would win Roberts' seat.  An oddity of the simulation is that although candidates Roberts and Anning polled only 96 below the line votes between them, removing both makes Smith's final position a whopping 2877 votes' weaker than Roberts'.  Moreover, this isn't just a case of voters marking Roberts' box and then stopping or making a mistake rather than following on to Anning and Smith - most of these lost votes are "leaking" to candidates outside the One Nation list before, in most cases, exhausting.  This is also happening on preferences arriving with Roberts from across the board - and mostly not One Nation votes.  I would not be too surprised if there is some form of geometric proximity-preferencing at work here, such that voters voting below the line who vote across parties for known names are more likely to stay high in the party lists rather than preferencing those well down them.  There may also be some horizontal "donkeying" at work.

Barnaby Joyce MHR (Nat, New England)

Status: Referred

Nationals leader and Deputy Premier Barnaby Joyce's father was born in New Zealand and preliminary advice is that he "may be" (ie probably is) a citizen of New Zealand by descent.  There is no indication he was aware of this or has taken any steps to either register that citizenship or renounce it.  Joyce has been referred by the House of Representatives to the High Court although the Government claims to be confident that he will retain his position.  On what basis they are so confident I am not sure.  If Joyce is declared ineligible, there will be a by-election for his seat, in which he fairly comfortably defeated independent former MP Tony Windsor last time.

Update: Contrary to advice from the earliest media enquiries, Joyce was found to be a citizen of New Zealand, though he has now renounced.  He will be reliant on the High Court creating some new exception, possibly following the Deane minority judgement precedent.

Senator Fiona Nash (Nat, NSW)

Status: To be referred

Nash's position appears to be similar to Joyce in that she has a Scottish father and therefore appears to be a UK citizen by descent.  Nash, like Joyce, is refusing to stand aside from the ministry but it will be interesting to see how that flies in the Senate where the Coalition doesn't have the numbers.

If Nash is ineligible, her countback will elect Liberal Hollie Hughes.  Nash was third on the Liberal-National combined ticket and has been elected for a six-year term.  If Nash is forced to vacate her seat, then if Hughes served out her term that would mean the Nationals lost a seat to the Liberals, who would gain a six-year seat (well, what's left of it) in the process.  The same would also apply if a revised order of election were preferred, except in this case Concetta Fierravanti-Wells would be upgraded.

Senator Nick Xenophon (NXT, SA)

Status: To be referred

Xenophon's father was born in Cyprus while it was a British colony and travelled to Australia on a British passport.  His mother was born in Greece and Xenophon has renounced Greek and Cypriot citizenship but not British, as he was not aware he had it.  If he is found ineligible his six-year term (absent of any rearrangement by the Senate) would go to the NXT number four candidate Tim Storer.  It is in theory possible given Xenophon's large below-the-line vote that this recount could unelect Lucy Gichuhi. I'm confident it doesn't, but a full simulation would confirm that it doesn't.

Xenophon's overseas citizenship is according to him "useless" in terms of actual benefits conferred that are not already available as an Australian citizen.  That Xenophon's father was apparently fleeing British control but doing so on a British passport makes the case especially bizarre.

Justine Keay MHR (ALP, Braddon)

Status: Not yet referred

At the time of writing Keay has not been referred to the High Court and no discussion of intention to refer her (which the Government could do alone using its numbers in the lower house) has been seen.  Based on material made public on Wednesday, Keay's situation appears to be:

* she appears to have been born with British citizenship through her late father
* she sent the appropriate renunciation form and passport on 13 May, it was delivered on 23 May and officially receipted on 31 May (all 2016)
* however the UK did not register the renunciation of citizenship until 11 July (apparently meaning she was still a dual citizen at the time of the election)

Keay's position appears to be much stronger than Roberts' in terms of having completed her end of formalities properly well prior to the close of nominations.  The only, but perhaps serious, question remaining in her situation (if the facts are as stated) is whether the Court might still rule that a candidate must take all reasonable steps to renounce their citizenship in time, and that this includes applying in enough advance to allow for normal processing time at the other end.

If any MHR is declared ineligible subject to Section 44, this triggers a by-election for their seat, which they can recontest if they are eligible.  It is received wisdom that electors disapprove of by-elections based on technical grounds and respond by returning the disqualified MP.  However, this has not been tested often, and the best-known test (Jackie Kelly) came at a time when the new government was riding well above its election result in the polls.  It is extremely improbable that Labor would lose any by-election to the government in such a case, but independent raids could be another matter.

A note re Julia Banks MHR (Lib, Chisholm)

In the above cases we know there is an arguable case of ineligibility - how strong or weak it might be being beside the point. I've wavered about giving Banks a section on a similar level to the others but decided that I'll only include MPs in the main list above if there is a clear basis for an argument for ineligibility - not just speculation.  There are many MPs who have not yet proven they are eligible by releasing documents.

Banks was born in Australia but her father was born in Greece.  People in this circumstance acquire Greek nationality (though at one point it is translated as citizenship) but have to apply for registration as citizens to become a "Greek Citizen".  The language is all rather baffling - it seems one can be a Greek Citizen who hasn't exercised a Right to Citizenship.

The Banks matter seemed to have been defused by a Liberal Party statement that the Greek embassy had said "that according to records, Julia Banks is not registered as a Greek citizen and also is not entitled as a Greek citizen".  However the language "entitled as a" is a bit odd and the statement has led to Labor questions about whether/when Banks renounced her supposed entitlement.  Also, all language used in these matters is being scrutinised for what it doesn't say more than for what it does - the statement doesn't establish that Banks has never been a Greek citizen or entitled to be one, only that she isn't one now.

The entitlement part comes from Section 44 including the words "entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power", raising questions of whether someone is "entitled" to those rights if they would need to go through a process to activate them but, as apparently in Banks' case, haven't done so.  There is also the question of whether one can renounce an entitlement that isn't active (and what happens if one later wants it back).  These questions are outside my expertise.

MPs The Coalition Has Threatened To Refer

On Monday 14 August, Prime Minister Turnbull asked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten if he was willing to cooperate for the sake of convenience by referring any Labor MPs over whom doubts exist, allowing the High Court to hear all cases together.  Shorten refused, and during Question Time Labor moved that Barnaby Joyce not be heard and then also moved that standing orders be suspended to deal with the matter of Joyce not standing aside from cabinet.  (Both motions failed.)

As well as Keay, Leader of the House Christopher Pyne has now threatened that the government could refer other Labor MPs to the High Court if Labor continues trying to exploit the Joyce situation.  Those named are:

* Susan Lamb (Longman, Qld) - British father
* Tony Zappia (Makin, SA) - Born in Italy
* Maria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Vic) - Born in Greece
* Brendan O'Connor (Gorton, Vic) - Born in UK

No positive evidence that any of these MPs could be ineligible is known to me, however they have also not proved that they renounced dual citizenships before the election.  (See statement from Zappia.)

A note re Senator Nick McKim (Greens, Tas)

Senator Nick McKim (Greens, Tasmania) will presumably be taken off all reasonable suspects lists because he has presented evidence that his form was received by the Home Office in August 2015. He has not revealed exactly when his citizenship was formally cancelled, but even if the Home Office somehow then took most of a year to process the form, it could hardly be said he had not taken all reasonable steps to be available for the 2016 election.  In fact, McKim undertook these steps in preparation to serving a casual vacancy created by the retirement of Christine Milne, and his form was received five days before he commenced serving in the Senate.  All that is irrelevant now since it is only his place in the Senate as a result of winning in the last election that can still be referred.

McKim's eligibility is scarcely surprising, but will nonetheless be a relief to the Greens who could ill afford to lose any more Senators, but particularly not this one.  Because of the high rate of below-the-line voting in the Tasmanian Senate and the extremely close final seat result, it is very likely (although this hasn't been confirmed by testing) that a special count for either of the two Tasmanian Green Senators would see a seat lost to One Nation.  Indeed, the Greens would have reason to be nervous about any eligibility issues involving non-Green Senators elected in Tasmania, because it is in theory possible that a special count for some other Tasmanian Senator could "unelect" McKim.  (What the High Court would make of that is anyone's guess).  However, it does not currently appear (the huffing and puffing of an army of wishful "Abetz birthers" notwithstanding) that any Tasmanian Senators have eligibility issues.

A note about the government's majority

One of the government's MPs, David Gillespie (Nat, Lyne), is already facing challenge under another part of section 44 relating to conflicts of interest.  This, together with fleeting speculation about the citizenship of Julia Banks (Lib, Chisholm) (edit: and now Joyce) has led to more and more references to the government being at risk of collapsing should it lose a seat in the Reps.

In fact, such an event would be embarrassing, but almost certainly not fatal by itself.  In the days after the last election, the government received understandings on confidence and supply from three of the five crossbenchers - Bob Katter, Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie.  Even if these assurances were withdrawn (Update 14 Aug: Katter's has now been withdrawn, for Wilkie see below), it seems unlikely the crossbench would unanimously decide to bring down the government and force an election. Such an election would see a landslide Labor win would consign the crossbench to irrelevance (quite aside from the ramifications for some of their own seats).

(Note: Wilkie's assurance on confidence and supply was qualified - he said he would not vote against confidence and supply unless "clearly warranted").

Moreover, looking at the voting record of the crossbench thus far, there would be relatively few issues of substance on which the loss of one seat would cause the government to lose the vote.  In theory, a crossbench gangup might see a bill pass through the House of Representatives and Senate against the government's wishes, most likely on banking reform, but if this only happened because the Speaker did not have a vote then there would be some case for advising the Governor-General not to sign the bill anyway.

There is, however, potential for the crossbench to exert pressure to bring about Joyce and Nash standing aside from the ministry until their status is resolved.

Section 44 Suspects (Other Than Citizenship)

Status: Gillespie being sued by "common informer"

I mentioned Gillespie above - he is being sued by his Labor opponent as a "common informer", which if successful entitles the plaintiff to a princely $200 for each day the ineligible member sits.  There is some unclarity about whether success necessarily unseats that member.  A by-election in Lyne could be unpleasant as it is in theory a safe seat but was formerly held by independent Rob Oakeshott.

Senator Barry O'Sullivan (Queensland) has also been the subject of media reports concerning business investments that may breach conflict of interest provisions, especially following the Day case and its unwinding of the Webster case from the 1970s.  If Canavan and O'Sullivan were both scratched, LNP number 7 out of 8, lawyer Dan Ryan, would step up to the plate.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Poll Roundup: Are Malcolm's Newspolls Worse Than Tony's?

2PP Aggregate: 53.2 to ALP (-0.2 since last week)
ALP would easily win election "held now"

Five weeks since the last Poll Roundup, things have not improved for the Turnbull government in opinion-poll horse-racing land. If anything, things have got worse.  We've had twin 53-47s to Labor from Newspoll and an Essential run of 52-53-54-54-53.  Closer 2PP readings from ReachTEL (52 then 51 for ALP) have arisen only because of the use of respondent preferences, and new entrant YouGov has produced a 49-51 followed by a 52-48 lead by a new respondent preferencing method off primaries that offer the government no more joy than the others.  (More on that later).  I'm not aggregating YouGov until later this week after its third poll has arrived, but my overall read of the others comes out at 53.2 to Labor this week.  Here's the smoothed aggregate:

The rot looks increasingly set in, with no large or lasting movement away from 53-47 since the start of the year.  As with the Gillard government, voters so far do not give this government credit for passing legislation or policy announcements. In polling terms, everything the government sends out comes back dead.  History doesn't say this position can't be won from, but it will probably need something large and unexpected to rebound in the government's favour.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Reachtel: It's All About Lyons

Mercury ReachTEL Lib 43 ALP 32.9 Green 13.4 Other 10.7 (after redistributing "undecided")
Interpretation Lib 43 ALP 36.7 Green 10.7 Other 9.8
Most likely result right now based on this poll would be hung parliament (12-10-3) closely followed by narrow Liberal majority (13-10-2)
New aggregate of all polling: Liberal majority (13-10-2) with hung parliament (12-10-3) next most likely.

A Mercury ReachTEL of state voting intention is now out with a sample size of a whopping 2817 voters.  My initial comments on it will be very brief because I am playing in a chess tournament this weekend and also so that the Mercury get good commercial value for their polling data, which I expect can be found in full in the Sunday Tasmanian.  More detailed comments may be posted on Sunday night.  There was also a commissioned poll of Lyons this week - see Fishy Prospects In The Seat Of Lyons.

This new poll again presents a story that I have repeated so many times in state polling coverage over the last two years that presumably something entirely different will happen and it will all be wrong!  The overall picture of polling for some time has shown the Hodgman Government's majority hanging by a thread, given the virtually certain loss of a seat in Braddon and the likely loss of another in Franklin.  With the Greens struggling to hold their seat in Bass, the key question then is whether the Greens (or somebody) can knock off one of the three Liberal MPs in Lyons.  If that happens the majority goes, and it could be that the government goes with it.  There are a number of possible fourth-party/independent wildcards, but at this stage none of them are known to have their acts together.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fishy Prospects In The Seat Of Lyons

ReachTEL Lyons: Lib 42 Labor 30.4 Green 12.4 Lambie Network 10 SF+F 2.7 Others 2.5
ReachTEL polls in Tasmania have in the past skewed against Labor and to the Greens
Seats that would be won based on this poll: Liberal 3 Labor 2 (status quo)

The Australia Institute has released a large-sample ReachTEL of the state seat of Lyons.  Lyons has long looked like the most crucial seat in determining whether the Hodgman Government can maintain a majority at the next state election, as on a more or less uniform swing to Labor, the third Lyons seat is the third to fall.  Polling has long appeared touch-and-go as to whether the party is likely to hold three seats there or lose one to the Greens or maybe someone else.

The commissioned ReachTEL also covers fish farms, which are seen as a significant environmental issue in the leadup to the next election.  I am satisfied that the poll has not been selectively released and also that ReachTEL have a good record in not letting commissioning sources tweak the primary vote polling design.  So while all commissioned polls are to be treated with some caution, and all seat polls always require special care, I'll have a look at what the data from this poll suggest.

As usual with ReachTEL the data require a lot of unpacking.  ReachTEL use a different format to most other polls, by initially giving voters a set of options that includes "undecided", and then allowing those who are "undecided" to say which party they are leaning to.  However the "undecided" in ReachTEL polls would be included in other polls' headline figures, while the truly undecided voters (those not even leaning to any party) are excluded, as they are by other pollsters.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Scott Ludlam Mess Scores Four Bob Days Out Of Five

Well here we go again.  After the departures of Senators-who-sort-of-never-were Rod Culleton and Bob Day we've lost another one.  After nine years in the Senate, one of the sharper minds in the place, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, has suddenly realised he has been a dual New Zealand citizen all along and was never validly elected in the first place.  That sound you heard all afternoon was at least 200,000 Greens supporters banging their heads on the nearest available tree in disbelief.  As for me, I was so distracted by this situation that I needlessly got off a bus in the middle of Hobart city, forgetting it continued past a common stopping point to much closer to home.  No problem though, since I then managed to beat the bus to its next stop on foot and catch the same bus again.  Ludlam's path to getting his seat back, should he want to, would be rather less straightforward.

For the most part this one is a familiar situation.  Although Ludlam has resigned, the fact that he has raised eligibility issues as his reason for doing so should prompt an immediate referral to the Court of Disputed Returns (the High Court in theory though it may well get kicked downstairs to the Federal Court if there are no new legal issues) to determine whether Ludlam was validly elected in the first place (to which the answer is evidently no) and to supervise the filling of the vacancy.  The vacancy will be filled by a recount (called a "special count") as with the vacancies for Day and Culleton.  The Greens won two seats in the original election and in the Culleton recount, beating the WA Nationals' Kado Muir by 25175 votes in both cases.  The recount could shave a few thousand off this (about 2800 personal votes for Ludlam leak out of the Greens ticket based on the original counts) but there's no doubt the Greens would keep two seats.  One of these will be their other existing Senator, Rachel Siewert, and the other will be the third candidate on the original ticket, Jordon Steele-John.

However this recount does raise some new ground. Firstly it's the first time a state will have had to be recounted for two disqualifications from the same election, meaning that the new count will be without both Culleton and Ludlam. Secondly and more interestingly, it creates previously unseen complications with the original allocation of three and six year terms. Scott Ludlam was elected third in 2016 with Rachel Siewert elected 12th.  In the special count to replace Ludlam, Siewert will be elected third and Steele-John will be elected 12th.  So if Steele-John replaces Ludlam and serves out Ludlam's term, then this will create a bizarre situation of the candidate second on the Greens ticket being a Senator for three years while the third candidate on the ticket is a Senator for the balance of six, clearly not the preference of the party's voters.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Often Are Federal Newspolls Released?

A humble little subject, but I just thought I'd put up a resource piece about how often federal Newspolls are released and have been released over time.

The timing of federal Newspolls is frequently a subject of discussion, much of it clueless or biased.  One fairly prominent claim links the switch to federal Newspolls in the early 1990s with the frequent turnover of major party leaders, although there is actually no evidence that this is true at all.  On social media, Newspolls are eagerly awaited and considered "due" every second Sunday, mostly by one-eyed Labor supporters.  If Newspoll fails to appear this is claimed to be evidence that it is being "hidden" because the results are bad for the Coalition.  If this were actually the case, Newspoll would skew towards the Coalition compared to other polls (it doesn't), Newspoll would have gone AWOL during obvious Coalition low points like the Hockey budget, the Prince Philip knighthood and even the collapse of Malcolm Turnbull's "utegate" attack on Kevin Rudd (it didn't), and Newspoll conspiracy cranks would be able to post reliable advance predictions of when Newspoll would come out (they don't.)  But those tweeting these nonsense never let the facts get in the way of their inane barracking.

This week I saw a new strain of the viral dumbness that is Newspoll truthism - a claim that Newspoll was becoming less frequent in order to string out the time it would take for the Coalition to lose 30 consecutive Newspolls on Malcolm Turnbull's watch.  (Turnbull has lost 14 in nine months, while Abbott's 30 spanned sixteen months, making Newspolls 17% more widely spaced so far during Turnbull's losing streak.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

All Polling On The Plebiscite Has Problems

In the last few weeks we've seen some new polling results concerning the Coalition's proposed plebiscite on legalising same-sex marriage (or as it is more accurately described, marriage equality).  It is extremely well-established in polling that a clear majority of voters support legalising same-sex marriage, but whether voters support deciding the matter by plebiscite or parliamentary vote has been less obvious.  The very inconsistent results from various polls on this subject are causing a fair degree of interest and confusion.

In this article I suggest that the range of results we are seeing on the question of a plebiscite vs a parliamentary vote is largely a result of differences in design between different polls.  Which poll is right and which poll is wrong?  My view is that all of them are suspect.   The question is a difficult one to poll and none of the polls offered thus far have even got close to a design that accurately reflects the choices the parliament, voters and activists face.