Sunday, February 19, 2017

Not-A-Poll Results: Best And Worst Tasmanian Ministers

For amusement and interest, in the last couple of months I have been running two reader Not-A-Polls in the sidebar concerning Tasmania's current Liberal ministry.  As the usual disclaimer goes, these not-a-polls are completely unscientific and represent only the opinions of those site readers (or random ring-ins) who may have chosen to participate.  Polldaddy has more advanced protections against multiple voting than the native polls on the Blogger site that I used to use, but I suspect they could be routed around if anyone was truly determined.  Also, this kind of exercise is especially prone to a word-of-mouth stack, where someone tells a bunch of their friends who would not normally read this site to vote on it.

Indeed there seemed to be something of that sort going on in the final week when there were sudden large gains for both Will Hodgman as best and Guy Barnett as worst.

Anyway, the following are the results for the Best Minister poll (in order), the Worst Minister poll (in reverse order) and a final ranking based on net scores (best minus worst) with position difference (best minus worst, 9 points for best on each scale to 1 for worst) used as a tiebreaker.  Had I used position difference to rank the results with net scores as the tiebreaker, the final order would have been the same.

So the final ranking with some comments (in order):

1. Jeremy Rockliff
(Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Training, Primary Industries and Water, and Racing)

Rockliff has won the not-a-poll by a solid margin after leading all the way with both the highest Best rating and the lowest Worst rating.  His moderate leanings and support for same-sex marriage doubtless endear him to this site's (on average) left-leaning reader base, but it's not just that. Rockliff is widely seen as a quiet achiever who gets on with the job without causing his government problems.

2. Vanessa Goodwin
(Attorney-General, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Justice, Minister for the Arts, Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council)

The sole Legislative Councillor in Cabinet, Goodwin probably also gets brownie points from this site's readers for being seen as at the socially moderate end of the spectrum.  However I think that she is also seen as competent and efficient in handling legal and legislative business, even if at times required to implement populist policies and juggle a clearly conflicted set of portfolio priorities.

3. Will Hodgman
(Premier, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Minister for Tourism, Hospitality and Events)

Hodgman's podium position here comes with an asterisk as there was a surge of perhaps coordinated late voting for him without which he would have placed fourth.  In general, what indirect (real) polling evidence has been available suggests that the Premier remains fairly popular after three years in office.  In his "events" portfolio Hodgman seems more willing than the stereotypical conservative to ride the MONA wave, the politics of which might be worth an article of its own sometime.

4. Peter Gutwein
(Treasurer, Minister for Planning and Local Government)

Gutwein's performance as Treasurer has received strong reviews in the print media, which has seen his budgets as responsible and having improved the state's fiscal position.  Recently he has also been more prominent in his local government role, dismissing one strife-ridden council and suspending another.

5. Rene Hidding 
(Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management)

Hidding has not attracted too much attention either way in his portfolio areas as such, and most publicity surrounding him has involved a bullying claim by Ruth Forrest MLC, which hasn't hurt Hidding's ratings in this Not-A-Poll as much as it might have.  In his fire/emergency portfolio, the state getting through last summer's bushfire shocker without loss of life and little loss of property would have been seen as a good result.

6. Michael Ferguson
(Minister for Health, Minister for Information Technology and Innovation, and Leader of Government Business)

Health is frequently a thankless portfolio, especially in Tasmania, and Ferguson's indifferent ratings in this Not-A-Poll should be viewed in this context.  Ferguson has been especially involved in a revamp of the Royal Hobart Hospital that has been not without problems. As IT Minister he probably got some credit for banging heads together during the widespread Basslink cable-related service failures.

7. Matthew Groom
(Minister for Energy, Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Minister for State Growth)

Twelve months ago as dams ran nearly dry, generators were imported amid the Basslink energy crisis and some wilderness areas burned, Groom was widely described as "embattled" and was a frequent target for the opposition parties.  Early in the Not-A-Poll he had about 50% of the "worst" votes, but either he polarises opinions or else his mates and staffers have been much more organised about stacking this exercise than everyone else's.  As a result he has received the most votes for worst but also the fourth-most votes for best.  I suppose the case for the positive would be keeping the lights on (contra South Australia) and his Parks portfolio's position as a part of Tasmania's tourism success.

8. Jacquie Petrusma
(Minister for Women, Minister for Human Services)

Whereas Groom polarised voting, Petrusma came in last on the "best" votes list and third last on the "worst" list (after running second-last on the latter for most of the period.)  Petrusma has been involved in two significant scandals in this term - one involving the disregarding of child protection orders and one involving Safe Pathways.  Admittedly she is not the first Tasmanian child protection minister to wind up at the head of a shambles.

9. Guy Barnett
(Minister for Building and Construction, Minister for Resources)

In fairness to Guy Barnett (yes you will see those words on here, sometimes ...) he has been stiffed here by an apparent stack by green heathen socialists in the final days of voting!  (But for that he would have placed seventh.) As a relatively new Minister he has had little time to build a reputation in his role and hence is disadvantaged in the poll.  I suspect the votes against him here arise from a combination of concerns about his past track record on social issues and his positions on forestry matters.  (I share the former, but on the latter, I was pleased to see him denounce the unscientific farce behind the High Conservation Values assessments in the previous government's "peace deal".)


Unfortunately there was not a lot of Tasmanian political or polling news to cover on this site during the two months the poll ran over so the number of voters was smaller than it might have been.  I may repeat this exercise in future.  For a similar previous exercise see the Not-A-Poll on Best Tasmanian Premier.  Thanks to all who voted.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Queensland Galaxy Says Game On For PHON Balance Of Power

Queensland Galaxy: Labor 31 LNP 33 PHON 23 Green 8 KAP 3 Other 2

A Queensland state poll by Galaxy, published in the Courier-Mail, tells a story that should have both major parties quite concerned.  If this poll is correct and typical, it is 1998 all over again and a bit more.  Perhaps the current One Nation polling bubble will burst before an election that is possibly still most of a year away.  If it doesn't, then a weakened minority government facing an unpopular opposition presents a dream scenario for Australia's number one nineties nostalgia party to break through at state level and obtain some serious power there.  Whether it would manage to remain remotely united this time if it did, nobody knows. 

 The high One Nation vote should be considered no surprise following polls showing the party at 16% in Western Australia, 16.3% in NSW and 9.4% in Victoria.  Queensland always was the party's strongest state.  It's possible even that the figure is an underestimate, but I am not that convinced that One Nation voters are all that shy anymore.

Sample size issues aside (and I haven't seen the sample size for this poll yet) there is one big reason to treat this poll with unusual caution.  It comes during a lousy news cycle for the government following the resignation of Transport Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe in response to a damning report on the failings of Queensland Rail.  I would expect that event to be deflating Labor's primary vote, and everything I say below should be taken with that caveat.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sir David's Snail Is Not A New Species

Yes and no!
This is only slightly related to politics - in the sense that it is a good example of how media coverage often misreports and sensationalises environmental stories - but I thought I should just correct the record on the prominent announcement of a "new" Tasmanian snail.  It isn't a new species and it wasn't discovered in December 2016 as many sources are claiming.  What has happened is that an existing species has been moved into a new genus.

Sometime in the late 19th century, pioneering Tasmanian land snail expert William Frederick Petterd collected some snail specimens near Eaglehawk Neck.  Doubtless noting that some of them were much larger than a species considered  widespread through the state, Petterd left an enigmatic (and for me at least illegible) note with the specimens, but did nothing further with them.  Live specimens of the snail were first collected in the early 1970s resulting in the description of the new species Helicarion rubicundus by Dartnall and Kershaw in 1978.  At the time this was treated as a fresh discovery of a new species, Petterd's earlier specimens having not been noticed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Poll Roundup: Feeble In February

2PP Aggregate: 53.5 to Labor (+1.1 since last 2016 reading)
Labor would comfortably win an election "held now"

It is one of nature's most amazing seasonal events.  As wildebeest migrate in vast numbers, as salmon throw themselves up rivers then spawn and die, so each February on the continent of Australia, a federal government disintegrates.  At least it seems this way, with polling for the incumbent government of the time having gone pearshape around this time in six of the last seven years.  Usually the causes for the downturn have been extremely obvious.

In the longer term this hasn't been such a thing, with average 2PP polling in February since 1986 (49.4% for the government) being only a point worse than those polls taken in January (50.4%) and no worse than polls taken in June and September.  But just in recent years there is something about the annual reopening of Parliament that tends to bring with it the smell of chaos.  What is happening with the current government is not (yet) as bad as the Week From Hell experienced by the Gillard government in 2013, but yet again we find a government under assault on multiple issues at once.

Friday, February 3, 2017

WA: Grim Newspoll For The Barnett Campaign

By any normal measure the Colin Barnett Liberal government in Western Australia is in its final weeks.  A weak economy, long incumbency, federal drag (and from an unpopular federal government at that), disunity, a disliked Premier and bad 2PP polling would together spell "GAME OVER".  It's actually not easy to find electoral precedents for a government with quite so many things against it all at once.

The close nature of some recent 2PP polling, however, has given some (but not all) Liberals serious hope that they can sandbag their way back into power, especially if they can get One Nation preferences.  The latest Newspoll has, for now, pretty much pulled that rug out from underneath their feet.  It's much too early to say that it's all over, but things do not look good.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Unicameral By Stealth: Tony Abbott's Senate Referendum Call

The Australian (Tony Abbott calls for Senate referendum, warns 'we are turning into Italy') reports that relevance-deprived ex-PM Tony Abbott has called for a referendum to reduce the power of the Senate to obstruct government legislation.

As outlined, the plan would allow for a deadlock between the Houses to be broken by a joint sitting of both Houses without the need for a prior double-dissolution election.  It appears that this follows one of two options outlined in this 2003 discussion paper on resolving deadlocks.  These options were:

1. A joint sitting can be convened after a bill has been rejected twice with three months between rejections
2. A joint sitting can be convened after every election for the full House and half the Senate, rather than requiring a double dissolution

It appears Abbott favours the first option, but this is not yet totally clear.  The 2003 proposals were killed off based on a finding that they would not pass a referendum.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Hobart Council's Leaders Have A Batman Problem

Not quite your average fetish-goth website
If you look for Hobart City Council on Facebook, and you haven't done so before, you're in for a big surprise.

The page you might expect to be the council's Facebook page (linked for information only, not as an endorsement) is in fact a derogatory spoof page full of fictitious material and political attacks on aldermen and run by an anonymous person who often uses the alias "Batman".  Reactions to this site from its primary targets have been front page news in Hobart in the last few days.  The site has become not just a commentary on Council political issues but a Council political issue in itself, one that is becoming a serious distraction.

I normally only cover council politics in the leadup to an election, but I've decided to make an exception for this one, which may be of interest to audiences of council politics nationwide as a study in social-media (mis)management.  At the last election, Alderman Sue Hickey, a well-known business figure and former Liberal preselection aspirant, ran for the mayoralty against the then Lord Mayor Damon Thomas.  Hickey beat Thomas, and seemed set to follow the pattern of previous long-term mayors Doone Kennedy and Rob Valentine in that if you are popular enough to wrest the office from an incumbent mayor who rubbed people up the wrong way, the job is basically yours for life.