Friday, September 19, 2014

Hobart City Council Elections Candidate Guide and Preview 2014

Introductory Waffle

I hope this piece will be a useful resource for readers in the Hobart (Tasmania) area.  Along similar lines to my state election and Legislative Council candidate guides, this guide is intended as a list of candidates known or believed to be running for Hobart City Council in 2014.  It includes a description of their past electoral form (if any known) and an assessment of prospects.  Obviously there is far more known form for the incumbents.  For this reason I've decided to split the guide into three sections - firstly the candidate list, then the form guide, then an assessment of prospects.  All these will be updated regularly.   Alas I don't have time to do the same for every council, as some of the others are probably more interesting!

During the campaign period voters will receive official statements by the candidates, with photos and web addresses supplied by them.  Those may be much more useful than my efforts here, which are mainly for the interest of those who do not want to wait that long before they know who might be running.

I am trying to keep this guide fairly neutral without it being totally boring or bereft of humour. There are a few biases that may sneak through (or be overcompensated for) but I've been following this scene (from a distance) for a long time and have become more interested in providing a resource than in trying all that hard to skew the outcome.  I find that I can see where different aldermen of a lot of different positions are coming from, and that I don't really dislike anyone all that much anymore. If there is one suggestion I would send to voters though, it is to not just automatically vote for all the same old names. Some voters just pick all the names they've heard of, and this makes it a little bit harder for new entries than it should be. 

This year we have a new election system with all twelve aldermen facing the people at once and hence a much lower quota but also a much more competitive election.  We're also electing a Mayor and Deputy for the next four years instead of two.  These changes will mean the election is harder to predict, and I aim to post a lot about the counting when it happens.

For some background to the voting patterns of existing aldermen, see Hobart City Council Voting Patterns 2011-14. By way of a quick summary, while most aldermen are technically independent, and even the party-endorsed candidates don't vote the same way as each other all the time, I've often found that most aldermen belong to two loose clusters of generally likeminded aldermen.  I refer to these as the "greens" (who are typically The Greens) and the "blues" (who usually favour the interests of commerce and development.).  While the blues dominated Council after the last election, infighting between them has seen Council become a much less predictable place, and some aldermen are voting very differently to how they used to. 

(Note for candidates: Most candidates are sensible but there are always a few who seem to think that because I am voluntarily covering the election they are running in that somehow makes me their slave.  Almost as annoying are those who think that if they fail to put information somewhere where I'd find it, that's my fault.  Hence the following: any candidate may contact me once to have their main link changed and/or links added, or to supply extra bio information (no I will not include your whole CV or go beyond a few background lines per candidate).  Requests that contain complaints about the existing coverage or that blame me for not unearthing information will result in that candidate getting no links at all! 

Oh and some advice to candidates - most of you have hopeless SEO! A person looking for general information about Hobart City Council candidates finds David Edwards' page from 2005 faster than most of yours!  I hope this page helps overcome that.

Anyone may of course advise me of any clear factual errors in my comments and I will fix these, but please do not stretch the concept of factual error to include differences of opinion in this process.  All feedback about this guide is on the public record.)


Candidates for Lord Mayor and Deputy

At this stage the following candidates for Lord Mayor and Deputy Mayor have been publicly announced.  All are incumbent aldermen.

Lord Mayor
Burnet, Helen
Cocker, Phil
Hickey, Sue
Thomas, Damon (incumbent)

Deputy Lord Mayor
Briscoe, Jeff
Christie, Ron (incumbent)
Harvey, Bill
Ruzicka, Eva
Sexton, Peter
Zucco, Marti

The intentions of the following incumbent aldermen concerning higher positions have not yet been publicly announced:
Foley, Leo
Freeman, John

No candidates who are not current aldermen have announced they are running for either Hobart position. A prospective DLM tilt by radio host Dave Noonan is believed to have been abandoned.

Candidate info, links and form guides for all the above appear below.

Candidates for Councillor (12 to be elected)

The following candidates are either incumbent councillors (all of whom are assumed to be recontesting unless they announce otherwise) or else new candidates who have been publicly announced as contesting.  Any party endorsement appears after the candidate's name.

Andrew, Rachel (Tasmanian Greens) - "physiotherapist who works with people with neurological issues and in women's health", former AUSAID volunteer. Other link: Facebook

Briscoe, Jeff - incumbent alderman, college teacher of maths, computing and chemistry (see student reviews here!), credit union director.  Main link goes to 2011 LM campaign site. Other links: Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Zoominfo

Burnet, Helen (Tasmanian Greens) - incumbent alderman and former Deputy Lord Mayor. Podiatrist at Royal Hobart Hospital, volunteer on range of non-profit boards.  Other links: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter

Burnett, Simon (Tasmanian Greens) - postgrad teaching student, former soldier, wrote commentary for ielect at 2010 state election

Christie, Ron - incumbent alderman and current Deputy Lord Mayor, former radio and TV host, marketer and Eisteddfod president.  Other links: Facebook, Twitter

Cocker, Philip (Tasmanian Greens) - incumbent alderman, "has run small businesses and worked in Law Enforcement". Other links: Greens candidate page, Twitter

Cong, Rebecca - restaurater (Written On Tea) Other links: candidacy announcement, Twitter

Cooper, Suzy - writer/editor/proofreader/communicator/designer (business website), also "former-geologist-turned-stand-up-comedian" Other links:  FacebookTwitter.

Ding, Mao - 25 years old, wants to see more multicultural events in city (source: Mercury). Campaign launched by Christie (image)

Foley, Leo - incumbent alderman, President of Council of Hobart Progress Associations and former President of Lenah Valley Progress Association, land tax reform advocate with economics background.  Other link: Twitter

Freeman, John - incumbent alderman and former Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor.  General surgeon, arts figure through Freeman Gallery formerly run by wife Jill.

Harvey, Bill (Tasmanian Greens) - incumbent alderman, English teacher, formerly involved in Malaysian/Chinese business college and boutique wine delivery.  (Insert obligatory polar bear joke). Other links: Facebook, Twitter

Hastings, Matthew -  Self-proclaimed "proudly progressive candidate", hair stylist at Jakadjari, marriage equality advocate and prospective participant, involved with union issues through United Voice. 

Hickey, Sue - incumbent alderman, businesswoman, former director Slick Promotions, Rotary board member and former state President.  Former TV presenter, Miss Tasmania 1979, Tas Businesswoman of the Year 2007. Other links: Linkedin, Twitter

Peelman, Ben - violin tutor and local promoter (live music, festivals, sports - see website)  Self-describes as "green libertarian".

Penny, Tim - architect (business website) and contemporary art gallery director. Facebook page suggests local football connections.

Reynolds, Anna (Tasmanian Greens) - CEO of Multicultural Tasmania, policy and campaign consultant, climate change issues advocate, former International Adviser to national Greens leader.   Other links: Facebook, Twitter, Pozible

Ruzicka, Eva - incumbent alderman and former Deputy Lord Mayor, University of Tasmania PhD student writing thesis about "why reform of local government in Tasmania is so difficult". Other links: Linkedin, Facebook.

Sexton, Dr Peter - incumbent alderman, G.P., Chair of Tasmanian medical board, President and Chair of National Heart Foundation, Museum Trustee, cricket medico.   Other link: Linkedin

Stansfield, Philip - has worked as State Government lawyer and policy officer and also electorate officer and ministerial adviser (for David Crean), appears Labor-connected.  Other link: Facebook

Thomas, Damon - incumbent alderman and current Lord Mayor. Head of Red Shield Appeal, Korean consul. Formerly: Crown Solicitor, Ombudsman, CEO of Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Other links: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter

Zucco, Marti - incumbent alderman, businessman, veteran restaurateur (believed recently retired), serial candidate for state and federal politics, headline generator, horse race sponsor  Other links: Twitter, Facebook


Form Guide

This section includes a summary of past election performances (where any known) including histories of any known party or quasi-party involvements.  This one is in reverse alphabetical order, just for a change.  Most new candidates have no previous known electoral form, but this section isn't about saying that more or less electoral form is good.  It is mainly for the purpose of saying how people have gone in the past for those interested (like me) in trying to guess how they'll go in the future.

Zucco, Marti - First elected to Council in 1992, Zucco's record is of always being re-elected comfortably without ever having polled quota and with some tendency to crawl on preferences.  Missed out for Deputy in 2011 when beaten by Ron Christie by six votes at key exclusion point; not competitive in previous leadership tilts.  Independent candidate for Legislative Council a few times (best result 25% in Newdegate 1993).  Unsuccessfully sought preselection for Liberal Party for 2010 state election, attempt exterminated by pro Elise Archer forces (and probably others), quit party.  Palmer United Party candidate for Franklin 2013 federal election polling very respectable 6.1%.  Involved in dispute with Jacqui Lambie, quit party and ran as independent for Denison polling 788 votes (more than any Denison PUP candidate).  My assessments have cosistently shown Zucco to be one of the most hardline pro-commerce ("blue") aldermen on council.

Thomas, Damon - First elected to Council in 2009 polling 8.7% of the aldermanic vote and finishing fourth after preferences.  Then won Lord Mayor at first attempt defeating Helen Burnet narrowly on preferences with 51.5% two-candidate preferred.  My assessments have shown Thomas as a fairly middle of the road member of the pro-commerce ("blue") aldermanic grouping on council.

Sexton, Peter - First elected to Council in 1999 on a recount after John Freeman temporarily resigned.  Third elected in 2005 and 2009, each time with relatively modest primary votes (6.6% and 5.5%) but very high shares of preferences from other candidates, especially Rob Valentine.  Ran for Deputy Mayor in 2005 (beaten 46:54 by Eva Ruzicka) and 2009 (beaten by Helen Burnet by 77 votes.) Ran for Lord Mayor in 2011 but disappointing 18.6% in field of four. My assessments have shown Sexton to be consistently a moderate member of the pro-commerce ("blue") aldermanic grouping on council.

Ruzicka, Eva - First elected to Council in 1999, polling 4.1% and beating the Greens' Cath Hughes by just under eleven votes (votes are distributed in hundredths).  Polled comfortably over quota with 19.9% in 2002 and 17.7% in 2007, winning Deputy Lord Mayor three times with wins over Lyn Archer, Peter Sexton and Helen Burnet, all around the 54:46 range.  Did not recontest DLM in 2009 citing study commitments, re-elected as alderman 2011 with reduced vote share (8%).  In very distant past (early 1990s) minor candidate for pre-party Green Independents, also ran as an independent with links to the now defunct Extremely Greedy 40% Extra Party in Queenborough in 1995.  In the last three Council terms I have assessed Ruzicka as roughly in between the "greens" and "blues" on council and as the alderman whose voting patterns are least similar to any of the others.

Reynolds, Anna - Drew the short straw as Greens candidate running against Andrew Wilkie in 2013 federal election.  This was always a hiding to nothing since Wilkie agrees with the Greens on many issues dear to their supporters, but would probably still have expected more than 7.92% .

Peelman, Ben - Stood at 2011 election polling 145 votes.

Hickey, Sue - Hickey was initially preselected for the Liberal ticket for Denison in 2010 but subsequently withdrew because of Constitution Act issues, and unsuccessfully sought preselection for the 2013 Senate ticket.  Hickey was famously confronted by Elise Archer at the Taste of Tasmania in 2010 after making a comment that there were too many lawyers in politics.  Despite announcing her candidacy only as nominations closed, Hickey was elected to Council at the first attempt in 2011 polling 14.5% (over a quota), easily the strongest performance at a first attempt in recent years.  Hickey initially voted very similarly to Damon Thomas and was, as expected, a member of the "blue"grouping, but as conflict between the two developed her voting behaviour has become less predictable, and together with Briscoe and Christie she is no longer recognisably in that group.

Harvey, Bill - Harvey was elected to Council at the third attempt in 2007, polling over 600 primaries and performing strongly on preferences.  In 2011 Harvey was the strongest-polling Green, getting more than half the Green ticket vote and being easily re-elected while fellow incumbent Cocker struggled.  However Harvey was unsuccessful in his run for Deputy Lord Mayor, topping the primary count with 37% but losing 46:54 after preferences to Ron Christie.    Harvey ran as a heavily promoted second candidate for the Greens in Denison at the 2013 state election, and seemed an outside chance to get elected based on some polling, but ultimately the Green vote was not that high and he polled 1614 votes. While Harvey forms a voting cluster on HCC with his fellow Greens Burnet and Cocker, there is no party discipline between the three and I have consistently assessed him as the most moderate of the Greens aldermen.

Freeman, John - John Freeman has been on Council three times (1988-99, 2000-2009, 2012-present).  He was elected Deputy Lord Mayor in 1990 but narrowly beaten by Pru Bonham after two terms in 1994.  He was then elected Lord Mayor fairly narrowly in 1996 after the late Doone Kennedy retired, but narrowly beaten by Rob Valentine after a single term.  Briefly quitting Council he then returned in 2000 and still polled over a quota, but was thrashed in his attempt to recapture the Mayoralty (a public denouncement by Kennedy late in the campaign not helping). In 2005 Freeman's aldermanic vote crashed from 20% to 6.8% and in 2009 it fell further to 4.3%, costing him his seat.  Freeman however returned on countback when Valentine stood down to run for the Legislative Council.  Freeman was in the past a Liberal Party campaign director, especially associated with the late Michael Hodgman, and at one stage the party state vice-president.  My understanding is he has not been associated with the party now for many years.  I've consistently assessed Freeman to be a rather staunch member of the "blue" grouping on Council, and a quite hardline one in the last two years especially.

Foley, Leo - Leo Foley won election in 2011 at the fourth attempt, polling 5.6% of the primary vote and holding off incumbent Eric Hayes and Simon Monk (ALP) on preferences.  Prior to that he had finished ninth three times (polling between 3.4% and 5.7% and coming close to being elected in some of these attempts).  Foley eventually won the seventh seat, which was supposed to be for a two-year term, but electoral changes stretched his term to three years, while shortening those of the aldermen elected alongside him. Contested Denison as an independent in the 2014 state election but polled only 207 votes.  Despite my initial assessment that he would be less "blue"-friendly than the late Darlene Haigh (whose former voter base he probably shares to some degree), Foley has tended to side with the "blues" against the Greens during this term of council, though not by enough to count him as a member of their cluster.

Christie, Ron - Christie was elected to Council for a two-year term in 1999.  He then lost his seat at the 2000 election but returned in 2002, when he was fifth elected.  He was almost defeated in 2007, surviving a fight with fellow incumbents Lyn Archer and Eric Hayes by nine votes after reportedly clearing his desk in the belief that he had lost.  In 2011 he created some surprise (and some embarrassment for this psephologist) when he polled much more strongly than before, being third elected as an alderman and becoming Deputy Lord Mayor after beating Zucco by six votes at the crucial exclusion. Christie has generally been one of the most hardline and at times even idiosyncratically extreme members of the "blue" cluster of pro-commerce aldermen, but in the last two years his voting behaviour has radically changed, making him merely "blue-leaning" and far more likely to side with the Greens than used to be the case.

Cocker, Philip - Cocker was elected to Council for a two-year term in 2005, getting a strong flow of preferences from Helen Burnet despite a very low primary vote.  In 2007 he polled 18.4% as the lead Green candidate and was elected on first preferences.  In 2011 he was outpolled by fellow Green alderman Harvey and came within 104 votes of losing his seat to first-time Green candidate Madeleine Charles.  Cocker also ran for Denison on the Greens ticket at the 2014 state election but polled 695 votes, again less than half of Harvey's tally.  Cocker is one of three Greens on Council, forming a voting cluster with the other two (Harvey and Burnet) although there is no party discipline and they vote more independently of each other than some pairs of "independent" aldermen.

Burnett, Simon - Contested the 2014 state election for the Greens in Franklin as a minor candidate, polling 454 votes.

Burnet, Helen - Helen Burnet has a long history of strong electoral performance for the Greens. She came within about 200 votes of beating the party's endorsed ticket-leader to a seat at her first attempt in 2002, then was easily elected in 2005 with 14.6%, which rose to 19.2% in 2009.  After a competitive loss to Ruzicka for the Deputy Lord Mayor position in 2007, Burnet defeated Peter Sexton by 76 votes to win it in 2009, to date the Greens' only leadership position victory in Hobart.  Burnet ran for Lord Mayor in 2011 losing narrowly to Damon Thomas with 48.5% two-candidate preferred.  She also polled over 3000 primaries as #2 Denison Green candidate in the 2010 state election, but was narrowly excluded behind Andrew Wilkie in the cut-up (with Wilkie nearly winning on her preferences).  Burnet contested the Greens' process to replace retiring Senator Bob Brown, but they preselected Peter Whish-Wilson instead.  She was preselected #2 on the Greens' Senate ticket behind Whish-Wilson but the Greens did not manage even one quota in their own right.  For comments re the Greens voting cluster see Cocker above.

Briscoe, Jeff - Jeff Briscoe was very narrowly elected as an alderman in 1994 and has consistently increased his primary vote at every election since, to the point that he topped the aldermanic poll in 2011 with well over a quota.  Two mayoral runs against Rob Valentine were unsuccessful (polling 28% and 25%) but his run for Lord Mayor in 2011 produced a reasonable third place with 21.6%.  Briscoe was initially elected on a ticket linked to local residents' groups and progress associations but soon switched to the "blue" side of Council.  I've generally assessed him as a member of the "blue" cluster over the past nine years, but the recent collapse of that grouping has seen him, along with Christie and Hickey (who he is supporting for Lord Mayor) becoming less predictable. Briscoe contested the Legislative Council seat of Hobart for the Greens in 1994 (polling 23%) but a falling-out with the party over preselection order saw him quit the ticket and run as an independent for Denison (state) in 1996, polling 551 votes.  He later joined the Liberal Party and contested Franklin for it in 2002 polling just 787 votes.  I believe he is no longer associated with any party.

Prospects: Lord Mayor

At the time of writing there are four candidates: Burnet, Cocker, Hickey and Thomas.  Of these based on his recent performances relative to Harvey and Burnet I believe Cocker cannot win, though running may assist his profile for re-election as alderman. Whether the odd strategy of running two Green candidates for Mayor helps much with preference flow or just confuses voters is to be seen but I expect it to be more of the latter.

In considering a contest between Thomas and Hickey I would point out that while Thomas is the incumbent, he has only been in for one term, thus it remains to be seen to what extent he has converted his presence in the role into a personal vote.  It's also significant that while Thomas's performance in getting elected to Council at the first attempt was strong, Hickey's in the next election was stronger.  On the basis of Hickey's debut in 2011 it must be considered that Hickey is a serious opponent for Thomas and has a real chance of winning.  Hickey notably carries the final endorsement of the late Doone Kennedy, though Sexton's failure to win the mayoralty last time showed that that was no guarantee of victory.  Some observers consider Hickey the slight favourite.

There is quite a high chance that Burnet can poll over (or close enough to) a third of the vote after Cocker's preferences and thereby make the final two.  I am not certain this will happen, because the Greens are not travelling well in Tasmania lately, but they did still poll 33% within Council boundaries in the state election.  This could therefore end up like the DLM contest in 2011, with whichever of Hickey and Thomas beats the other then having to beat Burnet on the other's preferences.  I don't completely rule out Burnet winning, especially if the Hickey-Thomas contest gets messy, but I think it's unlikely this time around. 

Prospects: Deputy Lord Mayor

This looks like being a very open and unpredictable contest with a long cut-up.  Any of the declared candidates could win it but on my early assessment (based mainly on recent aldermanic election form) the strongest chances are the incumbent Christie and Briscoe.  An ability to attract both primaries and preferences is likely to be important in this contest - as candidates at opposite ends of the spectrum Zucco and Harvey may succeed on the first but struggle on the latter.

Sexton is likely to gain preferences from everywhere so can't be written off but may not get a high enough primary to avoid exclusion early in the piece.  Ruzicka is a three-time winner of the position so also has to be given some chance, but I am not sure her profile has been high enough lately.  Foley, if he runs, would be the longshot of the field.  At this stage it is generally not expected that Freeman will contest this position.

Prospects: Councillors (12 to elect)

The following candidates will be re-elected easily and probably each with much more than a quota (the reduced quota for this election is only 7.7%): Hickey, Thomas, Burnet.

At this stage, depending on the final field, I very strongly expect the following candidates to also be re-elected easily, perhaps with more than a quota or perhaps on surpluses from those with more than a quota or soon after the surpluses: Briscoe, Christie, Harvey, Zucco.  The smaller quota should suit Zucco as he tends to attract a "cult" support base who are not so likely to switch to other aldermen.

I expect Sexton to be returned, depending on the strength of opposition, but probably in the bottom half of the winners' list.  His primary vote may again be weak but his preference attracting abilities are very strong.  There are likely to be a lot of surplus votes to assist him.  At this early stage (19 September) I do not think the crop of new candidates is strong enough to unseat him even if his primary vote is low.

Ruzicka could be considered at risk on the basis of the sharp decline in her primary vote from 2007 to 2011.  I believe that as a candidate with a relatively distinct political identity compared to other sitting aldermen she should be advantaged by the smaller quota, but that the most likely outcome is she will be re-elected a fair way down the list.

Foley is an unknown quantity as this is his first re-election attempt.  He is coming off a low base compared to most other incumbents but first-term aldermen tend to build support over that term, and are usually re-elected.  He also has a relatively distinct voter base which may assist with the reduced quota.  He may be vulnerable if the field of new candidates turns out to be very strong (which remains to be seen.)

Cocker is at significant risk on two fronts - firstly the possibility that there won't be enough Green votes for three of them (though I think there should be) and secondly the risk of being bumped off by another Green, most likely Reynolds because of her fairly high profile and Denison run.  I do think the risk of that is less this time because Charles, who nearly beat him last time, was the only female Greens aldermanic candidate.  This time Greens voters who prefer a female candidate may well vote for Burnet.

Freeman lost his seat in 2009 and his historic connection to the times of his major successes on Council is fading.  He is coming off the lowest base of all, and faces the most difficult task to be returned.

It is too early for me to say which of the new candidates are most likely to get up.  Overall I  expect to see from one to three sitting aldermen defeated, but this is a new system and there will be some surprise outcomes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Polling on the Mt Wellington Cable Car Proposal

The only cable car I expect to be going up any time soon - Fjellheisen, Tromso, Norway (image: Franklin Henderson)

Advance Summary

1. A new poll - the first to examine the issue credibly - shows statewide figures of 59% support 24% opposition for the proposed Mt Wellington cable car project.

2. Although these figures represent strong support statewide, they are weaker than those claimed for the proposal on the basis of a previous opt-in survey and a previous commissioned poll.

3. The likely main reason for weaker support in this poll is that it did not use a one-sided preamble likely to have skewed the poll results.

4. While the poll shows support in all electorates, opinion is most divided in Denison.

5. Modelling taking into account differences in party support across Denison suggests that within the crucial Hobart municipal area, public sentiment on the proposal is likely to be very closely divided.

6. On this basis while the project is generally welcomed statewide as a potential job creator and tourism opportunity, it will continue to encounter significant opposition in the area in which it is to be built.


Cable cars have been proposed for Mt Wellington/kunanyi (near Hobart, Tasmania) since before there was even a road up it.  The idea has come and gone over at least 109 years, and has often generated a lot of noise for and against, but it has been difficult to tell where the public overall stood on the issue.

In one of the more popular pieces published here last year, Public Opinion And The Mt Wellington Cable Car Proposal, I took a very sceptical look at the claims of the current proponent to have used a massive opt-in survey to have proven very strong support for the proposal.  The opt-in survey reported results of 78% in favour, 19% against, from respondents who were almost entirely Tasmanian.  No specific breakdown was given by electorate but for the electorate the proposal concerns, Denison, it looks like about 66% of responses were supportive.

Since then, two things have happened.  The first is the appearance, on the Mt Wellington Cable Car Company website, of a commissioned poll conducted by the previous proponent in 2009.  The second, far more significantly, is the publication of a new ReachTEL poll on the subject commissioned by The Mercury.

The 2009 Poll

I'll start with the fishy 2009 poll because it is another good example of the kind of dubious evidence concerning public opinion that has been present in the debate to date.

The November 2009 survey was conducted by regular Tasmanian phone pollster EMRS for a previous cable car proponent and is published on the MWCC page here.  It is included there under the heading "Independent Poll Results" but it was funded by a project proponent.  (The current ReachTEL, on the other hand, is truly independent).  The result of the poll was: 50% strongly support, 28% somewhat support, 6% somewhat oppose, 9% strongly oppose, 7% unsure, but only after respondents' brains had first been marinated in the following preamble, doubtless at the behest of the commissioning source:

 A group of private investors are proposing an aerial tramway for Mt Wellingon [sic]. It would be entirely funded by the private sector and the public would be able to subscribe to shares in the operating company.
Under this proposed scheme, the take-off point would be in South Hobart or Lenah Valley. The Pinnacle terminal would be located below the access road near the WIN TV tower and contain a viewing area, restaurant, cafe, function rooms and other public amenities. The tramway system would be located and designed to minimise visual impact and would not be readily visible from the city.
The developers say that the tramway would provide a world class facility designed to accommodate more than 500,000 patrons each year, the existing access road would remain open and the pinnacle terminal would be open to all. 

This is a classic example of how the use of a preamble can create or amplify a favourable poll response.  The poll purports to show very strong support for a cable car.  In fact it at best shows that level of support only on the conditions that:

* the scheme is entirely funded by the private sector
* the public could subscribe to shares in the operating company
* the terminal would support a viable restaurant, cafe, function rooms and so on, open to all
* the system would minimise visual impact and not be readily visible from Hobart
* the facility would be "world class"
* the facility would be used by more than 500,000 patrons
* the current pinnacle road would stay open
* the unstated condition: there is nothing wrong with the project that would have been relevant to mention if known

A respondent might well support the proposal if all of these things are true, but consider one or more individual items on the list above, or perhaps even all of them, to be non-negotiable.  So what we're talking about is a kind of temporary in-principle support that becomes less relevant as soon as any one of these items falls over.  It is not even correct to think of this as a firm expression of conditional support, because the same person when exposed to the other side of the argument might change their view.

Another interesting aspect of this poll is the use of the term "aerial tramway".  Although the term means the same thing as "cable car", some local respondents would not know this, and might picture something different.

But above all, the problem with this sort of thing is skewing.  In everyday public debate, people who take positions for or against a proposal are not necessarily familiar with all the facts about a proposal, and while some will be familiar with statements made on behalf of a proposal, they may also be familiar with statements made against it.  Measuring what respondents say when they have just heard a preamble giving one side of the story doesn't replicate the state of the debate when the poll is taken, and also isn't a fair representation of what the debate will look like in the future. Project proponents can't dictate how the community receives the debate.  What would happen if they could is quite irrelevant, because they never will.

The 2009 poll was a skew-poll using similar tactics to those often used by green activist groups to create poll results that exaggerate public opinion.  Fortunately we now have a neutral and valid poll to compare it with.

The 2014 Poll

The recent poll (Mercury write-up) was a robopoll conducted by ReachTEL with a sample size of 2646, and was taken on the night of 11 Sep 2014, following questions about voting intention, preferred premier, the state budget, job creation, school retention and tourism development in national parks.  Discussion of results for the first four questions was published in ReachTEL: Liberals With Solid Lead.  Compared with the stew served up to respondents of the EMRS developer-commissioned poll and MWCC opt-in, the ReachTEL poll question is as follows:

"Do you support the proposal for a cable car project on Mt Wellington?"

Options were support, oppose or undecided.  However the polling method would have excluded any respondents who were persistently unable to pick a party they had even a slight leaning for, or pick a preferred Premier from a choice of three.  It is likely many such respondents would have been undecided on this question too.

To start with, the raw state results:
The poll shows the proposal to have strong support statewide, including a majority of respondents in four of the five electorates.  However, the overall 59-24 response (71-29 excluding undecided) is weaker than the 78-15 (83-17 excluding undecided) response of the 2009 EMRS survey.  While someone might argue that support for the proposal has declined by 19 points in five years, it is much more likely that support was simply never as high as in the EMRS poll to begin with and the EMRS poll exaggerated support because of the use of a skewed preamble. Indeed, the worsening of the Tasmanian economy since 2009 provides one reason why support should have increased.

The electorate of Denison is an important comparison point because Denison is the electorate in which the cable car is proposed to be built, and in which its visual impacts (if any) and impacts on road traffic would be most significant.  The Hobart City area is especially significant because the cable car is likely to be built within the Hobart City boundaries, with Hobart City Council a significant decision-maker.  The samples above show 57% support in Denison after removing the undecideds, which is already lower than the c.66% rate for mostly inner-city suburbs in the MWCC opt-in data.  But I think we can use the party support figures to go a little further.

Supporters of both major parties tend to support the proposal while Greens supporters tend to oppose it, but perhaps not as heavily as some people might expect.  (I calculate that supporters of other parties or independents were supportive by about 56% to 30.) Here it's important to bear in mind that not all those who say they vote Green in such polls are actually "greens" ideologically.  Some pick the Greens as a token rebellion against major parties, or because of the Greens' positions on social or economic issues.  Anyway the Green result is quite a contrast to the MWCCC opt-in findings (which had Greens supporters in favour), probably for the reason I suggested: Greens supporters who oppose the project would often not fill in an opt-in survey by its proponent in the first place.

A useful aspect of the breakdowns above is we can use them to look at the electorate figures with more detail.  In the case of Denison, if party preference perfectly predicted views on the cable car then a result of 56% support 27% oppose should be expected, not the actual 48-36.  So there's a tendency for Denison voters to be more anti-cable-car irrespective of their political positioning, and this makes 8-9 points of difference to the Denison results.

The City of Hobart has quite different voting behaviour to Denison as a whole - it has a very high Green vote and a low Labor vote (at booths within Hobart City last election, the Greens got 33% and Labor 25%, compared to 21.6% to 34% in the electorate as a whole).  On that basis alone, the split within Hobart City would be expected to be down to about 46-38, but that's assuming the drag created by the NIMBY factor is the same across the whole electorate.  Almost certainly that drag factor is much stronger in the Hobart part of the electorate than the Glenorchy part (if it even exists in the latter). So while we can be quite confident on these results that Glenorchy voters support the cable car, it's probable on these results that Hobart City voters are very closely split, and possible even that they are on balance very slightly opposed.  

Little wonder then that Glenorchy aldermen are keen to grab the project for their city while even some of the usually pro-development aldermen on Hobart City Council (see also Hobart City Council Voting Patterns) are pretty cautious about it.

The Cable Car: The State Of Play

Nothing in the ReachTEL findings is hugely surprising.  I was expecting to be asked to predict these results and was going to say (if so challenged) that I expected the project to have majority support in electorates other than Denison, with Denison being harder to predict.  After all, for other electorates the project is a potential job creator that could make a trip up the mountain easier while ducking into Hobart. Voters outside Denison are not otherwise affected by it, and do not have the same aesthetic and psychological ties to "the mountain" as some Denison voters.

In the time since I wrote last year's article, there has been a lot of noise about the proposed cable car, but material progress towards its approval has been slow.  (You can see the developer's view on the state of play on the MWCCC site and the main opposing group's at Residents Opposing the Cable Car.) While there has been progress on the removal of developmental vetos affecting the project, it still requires landowner consent from the Hobart City Council to progress on its intended route.  At present there exists a stalemate between the developer and the Hobart City Council in which the developer doesn't want to go to a formal application stage without in-principle approval, and the Council won't provide in-principle approval without a formal application. 

The new Liberal government, while in principle supportive of the project, seems so far to have learnt from the mild embarrassment the issue caused the last state Liberal regime, and doesn't want to do the project's work for it in the absence of a concrete development submission either.  (That said, after seeing the general support for breads and circuses in the first Gutwein Budget, I'll not be surprised should the government be begging to splash out in some way if the project reaches a more concrete stage.)

 Meanwhile, the colourful online debate about the scheme has turned to such things as the identity of fictitious or at best pseudonymous cable car proponent "Nathan Carswell", and the alleged leaking of documents being considered by Hobart City Council (methinks any alderman who opposed the project enough might have done it).

The term "social license" is frequently heard in major development debates.  The idea is that it makes a project's path to success much easier if the project achieves not merely grudging acceptance from the community, but also trust and strong support.  At this stage, although the project has strong support outside the impacted area, opinions within the impacted area are divided closely enough that it is likely the proposal will always have a fight on its hands - court cases, protests and so on.  I have not actually seen any empirical analysis of the "social license" concept and how reliably it predicts the success rates for contentious projects, but for the time being the project remains some way short of clear local acceptance.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

ReachTEL: Liberals With Solid Lead

ReachTEL (Tas State) Lib 48.1 ALP 28.7 Green 16 PUP 3.7 Other 3.4
Interpretation Lib 49.2 ALP 32.2 Green 13 PUP 2.7 Other 3
Outcome if election held now based on this poll: Liberal Majority (approx 14-8-3)
Current state "nowcast" aggregate of all polling: Liberal 14 Labor 9 Green 2

Since the Hodgman government's emphatic majority victory six months ago, two Tasmanian state polls have been seen.  The first EMRS (No Honeymoon For Liberals) showed very little difference to the election result, while the second (Closest Gap In Four Years) was underwhelming for the Liberals, though it still showed them in majority-winning territory.

Now a new ReachTEL robopoll published in today's Sunday Tasmanian, with a sample size larger than the two EMRS polls combined, provides some further evidence that Labor support is rebuilding, while suggesting the second EMRS could have been an outlier.  The poll is rosier for the Government than the second EMRS - on basic voting intentions - and suggests that much of the ALP rebuild is coming at the expense of Palmer United.  The poll also provides fairly good results for the Government's first Budget, but an indifferent response on job creation.

Voting intention

First, the basic primary figures:

I'm about to explain why we shouldn't take these at exactly face value, but if we did, the result of an election "held right now" would be a majority win for the Liberals with 14 seats to 7-8 for Labor and 3-4 for the Greens.  The Liberals would lose their fourth Braddon seat to Labor, the Greens would gain a seat from Labor in Lyons, and the Greens would be at risk of losing their new leader's seat in Bass to Labor.

We should bear in mind not only that each of the individual seat results has its own margin of error (in most cases about 3-4%) but also that with 25 individual seat results being measured at once, it's much more likely than not that at least one of them is out by more than that MOE.  Of these the two that leap out as likely to be victims of random sample error are the Labor vote in Lyons and the Greens vote in the same electorate.  It makes no sense that the Labor vote would have gone down still further in Lyons while going up in the state in general.  It also makes little sense that the Greens vote in Lyons would be above the state average having been 2.4 points below it at the election, and now with the party lacking an MHA in the electorate.  So I would not take the apparent recapture of a Green seat in Lyons seriously yet.

What did the state election tell us about ReachTEL?

The state election provided an important opportunity to get some information concerning the "house effect" of ReachTEL polling at state level.  A ReachTEL poll was released on the weekend prior to the election (ReachTEL: The Campaign Has Changed Nothing).  On election day the Liberal vote was 3.8 points higher, the Labor vote 3.7 points higher, the Green vote 4.4 points lower, the PUP vote 1.7 points lower and the vote for others 1.4 points lower, than that final ReachTEL poll.

I believe that there was some vote movement from the Greens to Labor in the final week, based on a feeling that the election was a done deal and concern that Tasmania might be left with a hopelessly split or uncompetitive Opposition.  However, if it was as much as four points then it must have come extremely late, since Newspoll also underestimated Labor and overestimated the Greens (as did EMRS, but that's business as normal for them.)

What makes this tricky is that in the federal election (but with different question design via the inclusion of an Undecided option) Tasmanian ReachTELs overestimated the Liberal vote, even though it probably increased between when they were taken (which in most cases was well out) and the election.  And in general federal polling, ReachTEL showed relatively little divergence from other polls.

What we do know is that in all these different cases, the Green vote was overestimated, as it is by almost every other pollster, especially of Tasmanian state politics.

Trying to estimate how Tasmanian state ReachTELs relate to underlying electoral reality is a complex and inexact task, but using their state (weighted most heavily), Tasmanian federal, and overall federal polling (plus a degree of stability weighting for the possibility that observed shifts largely reflected campaign events) I've come up with the following working adjustments: Liberal +1.1, Labor +2.6, Green -2.5, PUP -0.9. 

Applying these to the current poll the result looks like this:

As noted above, the third Green seat shouldn't be taken for granted.

Voting intention aggregate

In the EMRS articles I presented a state voting intention aggregate based on those two polls and the state election result.  It's time to throw my interpretation of this ReachTEL into the mix.  I don't want either EMRS or ReachTEL data to over-dominate the aggregate, but the ReachTEL data are both fresher and based on a larger sample size (albeit sampled on a single day.)  I've therefore weighted the new poll at 60%.  Here's the new aggregate:

In this version of the aggregate the Lyons sample puts the Greens in what looks like a winning position in Lyons, but based on preference flows at the last election it is actually more likely Labor would get the seat.  In Bass the Greens would have the same problem as discussed in the last EMRS piece: that unless their primary vote lifts to much closer to a quota, they can lose their seat simply because of changes in the Labor vote.  In Franklin the Liberals would be at great danger of dropping a seat because of leakage, but with three incumbents to Labor's one (rather than 2-2 at the last election) it might be as much of a problem for Labor.

13-10-2 would be a possible outcome on these figures, but a convention I'll be adopting is that when I call a seat seriously unclear, I'm assuming it retains its existing pattern as far as possible.  Thus my seat "nowcast" (a statement of where the cards would fall based on current voting intention, and not a prediction) at this very early stage is 14 Liberal, 9 Labor, 2 Green.  It means nix predictively so far from the next election, but the danger for the Greens in Bass is real.  They shouldn't hide behind rosy scenarios and ignore the evidence that polling in this state almost always shows them doing better than they are.  If they cannot lift their primary vote substantially from the 2014 result, they will likely lose another seat.

The PUP Bubble

This poll provides further evidence (if any was needed after the derisory 1% in the EMRS survey) that PUP are tracking below their state election result in Tasmania.  I have read any number of interstate commentaries claiming that Jacqui Lambie is the new Brian Harradine and implying she is set to be a major player.  It doesn't seem anyone writing this stuff is bothering to talk to Tasmanians about their views of the Senator or seeing any need to have a look at PUP's polling in the state.  While there are differences between state and federal voting, if Lambimania was really sweeping the island one would expect the PUP vote at state level to be booming, yet it is doing anything but.  This could change down the track if Lambie can produce more real achievements for the state and temper her proneness to media accidents and shrill Hansonesque outbursts, but let's wait til that happens before calling it. 

Preferred Premier

Here are the ReachTEL Preferred Premier scores:

And by party:

These are not hugely different to the two EMRS results thus far (54-22 and 51-25, Hodgman-Green in each case) but there are two methods differences to consider.  The EMRS question allows respondents to be undecided, but the ReachTEL question allows a Booth option and disallows an undecided response.  Comparing the Greens voters responses between the two, it turns out that they're more likely to pick Kim Booth if he's an explicit choice, than when they're just at first asked to pick between Hodgman and Green.   It also looks like there are voters for both majors who will pick their man if forced to make a pick, but otherwise refuse to pick one.  The constant theme across both polls is that about a fifth of ALP voters prefer Will Hodgman as Premier to Bryan Green.  This is still not unusual for a new Opposition Leader against a new Premier who was very well known prior to coming to the job.  However, I normally find that the advantage to incumbents on these questions is lower in robo-polling than phone polling, so Labor would want to see that figure coming down over time.  A strong result for Hodgman then, but not all that surprising.

The Budget

If you add up the Very Goods and the Goods on one side, and the Poors and Very Poors on the other, you get a net -1.4, but ReachTEL polling doesn't really work like that.  The use of "Satisfactory" as a middle option tends to attract a 50-50 mix of mildly positive and neutral/indifferent sentiment, and this can be seen by comparing ReachTEL approval ratings with those of other pollsters.  To get a net rating for a ReachTEL poll I count half the Satisfactory results as positives, and on that basis I get a statewide +13.2 rating for the Budget. (By electorate Bass +14.8, Braddon +9.1, Denison +3.5, Franklin +17.9, Lyons +20.7).  So I think this poll shows a fairly positive response to the budget.

By party there's a certain level of indifference from each, but otherwise the response is very partisan:

Job Creation

The job creation question however, even allowing for my comments above about the "Satisfactory" option, isn't so pretty for the new government.  The converted net rating comes out at -4, though this mostly results from more than half the Denison respondents giving a Poor or Very Poor rating.  While it's tempting to conclude that this is because public servants in Denison are angry about job cuts, I think the main explanation is partisanship.  Denison voters are more likely to vote Labor or Green and Labor and Green voters statewide have very negative views of the government's job creation performance.  It turns out that alone just about explains the Denison figures:

Most likely very few public servants concerned about losing their jobs would be Liberal voters anyway.

On this question Liberal voters are more likely to pick "satisfactory" than Labor and Green voters, who tend to have strongly negative views of the government's perfomance already.  The electorate that is giving the government a bad rap here even taking the party breakdown into account is Lyons, where employment problems resulting from the near-total local collapse of the timber industry remain severe.

I've not copied most of the demographic breakdown stats because they largely tell us what we already know - older voters are conservative, male voters are more likely to vote Liberal or PUP and female voters Labor, Green or other, and under-35s are a little more pro-Liberal than 35s-50s. 

Other questions

The poll also includes a question on extending state schools to Years 11 and 12, which has strong support from Liberal voters and weaker support from the other parties, with all electorates supportive (low-retention Braddon least so, partisan breakdowns notwithstanding.)  Matt Smith (Sunday Tasmanian) has detailed discussion of this question with responses from a range of commenters on education and employment matters.

Finally, a question on development in national parks and a question on the Mount Wellington cable car have results likely to be published later this week.  I have seen the results but they are embargoed until published.  The cable car poll is of great interest to me because while public opinion on it has been "surveyed" in various ways, none of them have ever been credible polls, and most of them have not been polls at all.  100+ years after the idea was first mooted, we finally have a real poll on it!
A full article on the cable car poll should appear here in the upcoming week.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Poll Roundup: One Year On / The Magic Of Newspoll Rounding

2PP Aggregate: 51.7 to ALP (+0.1 since last week after no change in previous week)

The Government's First Year In Polling

This week's polling marks the end of the Abbott Government's first year in power.  In summary, the Government has spent most of that year behind in the polls.  Of the seven first-term governments for which polling exists, it is the first to spend most of its first year trailing in the 2PP vote, and only the second known to have been behind at all.  However, it ends its first year in arguably better shape than the Whitlam government did.  At the end of its first year the Whitlam government trailed 43-50 on primaries (equivalent to about 46:54 2PP) in a single Morgan poll, and while there was probably a bit of bouncing in that particular poll, it had been behind for a couple of months prior to that too.  Less than six months later, Whitlam's government went to an early election and was returned.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hobart City Council Voting Patterns 2011-2014

Advance Summary

1. Traditionally, the Hobart City Council is loosely divided between "pro-development" aldermen and aldermen who stress environmental issues and/or the interests of impacted residents. 

2. The current term of Council was expected to be dominated by the "pro-development" grouping which I refer to as the "blues".

3. The first half of the current Council term supported this expectation, with seven aldermen displaying a blue voting pattern and an eighth displaying a tendency to support them.

4. An ordering of aldermen from "greenest" to "bluest" up til the end of 2012 was: Cocker, Burnet, Harvey, Ruzicka, Foley, Freeman, Thomas, Sexton, Hickey, Briscoe, Zucco, Christie.

5. In the 2013-4 half of this term of Council voting behaviour changed, with both the Green and the blue voting clusters becoming much less cohesive, so that it is not even accurate to classify some aldermen as still in the blue cluster.

6. An especially notable shift in this period was that both Jeff Briscoe and Ron Christie moved away from the "blues" and became much more Green-friendly than before, while John Freeman became more hardline.

7. An ordering of aldermen from "greenest" to "bluest" since the start of 2013 is: Cocker, Burnet, Harvey, Ruzicka, Foley, Christie, Briscoe, Sexton, Hickey, Thomas, Freeman, Zucco.

8. Some of these changes are explained by changes in the issues mix, but by no means all.  Positioning for the upcoming Mayoral contest may explain some of the others.

(This article is long and some bits are technical.  However the really scary stuff has been shuttled off to a PDF link buried in the dark recesses of Tasmanian Times.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

EMRS: Closest Gap For Four Years

EMRS: Liberal 46 ALP 33 Green 16 PUP 1 Ind/Other 4
Interpretation: Liberal 46.5 ALP 35.5 Green 14 Others including PUP 4
Likely outcome based on this poll "if election held now": Liberal majority win (approx 13-10-2)
Note: If swing distributed unevenly, these figures could produce hung parliament (12-10-3).
New aggregate of all Tas polling: 13-9-3

A new EMRS poll of Tasmanian state voting intention has been released today.  On the headline rate the Liberals are down three to 46 (a 5% swing since the election), Labor are up eight to 33 (up six points on the election), the Greens are down five to 16 from a highly suspicious reading of 21 in the last poll (but still up two on the election) and it doesn't look like Jacqui Lambie's recent antics have produced any joy for Palmer United, with the party polling only 1%.

EMRS has a long history of producing results that overpredict the Green vote and underpredict Labor's, so it is possible that the improvement in Labor's position is even greater than shown and the Greens have not made any real gains since the election.  However, while my "interpretation" score sees the Liberals down five points since the election and the ALP up eight, if such a swing was anything like evenly distributed then the Government would cede only two seats to Labor (one in Braddon and one in Franklin) and retain government with a one seat majority (about 13-10-2 with Labor also taking a seat in Bass from the Greens).  However if such a swing was disproportionately focused in Lyons, and went more to the Greens than Labor, then a 12-10-3 hung parliament would also be quite possible on these figures (as would a range of other figures in these sorts of ballparks).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Senate Preferencing Reform: Reply To Electoral Reform Australia

Advance Summary 

(Note: This article has had content added at the bottom, and one wording correction, following further debate.)

1. Electoral Reform Australia, the NSW branch of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, has recently sharply criticised various psephologists and lawyers for their input into Australian Senate reform.

2. Some of these criticisms are invalid in that they suggest that psephologists did not provide reasons for proposals when in fact sound justifications were - in some cases - presented.

3. The critique proposes a version of full optional preferential voting (without above the line boxes) and a method of dealing with exhaust that is used, for instance, in NSW, the ACT and Ireland.

4. However the jurisdictions in which that method of dealing with exhausting votes is used differ from the group's Senate reform proposals in various ways, including (i) in NSW, having a very low BTL voting rate (ii) in the ACT, instructing voters to number a certain number of squares (iii) in the ACT and Ireland, having a long history of use of Hare-Clark in that system, as well as small enrolment sizes per electorate.

5. Criticising alternative reform proposals as "just plain wrong" when they are defensible is an unhelpful distraction from the consensus among serious electoral observers that exhaustive group ticket preferencing must go, and that any of a wide range of alternatives (including ERA's, despite its risks) would be better than it.

Warning: the rest of this article is long, and probably about Wonk Factor 3 4 out of 5. 

Update 3/9: ERA have now responded to this article.  Their response and my comments appear at the bottom of this piece.  And a very short comment was added on 4/9.