Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Happens In Kim Booth's Recount?

Tasmanian Greens leader Kim Booth suddenly announced his resignation from parliament on Wednesday. This decision follows the very recent death of Booth's father, but with family time and party regeneration cited as motivating factors.  (Some have suggested he was jumping before he was pushed as leader, but if so he did well at acting happy about having decided to go.) As with Christine Milne there are now many effusive tributes to Booth's career flowing, as well as trolling from the odd party-pooper, and a few joyful if slightly unhinged celebrations of the party's (supposed) impending demise.

Booth's headkicking style has contributed many memorable moments to Tasmanian politics, most notably the "shredder" affair in which he brandished a reconstructed shredded document in Parliament shortly after its existence was denied, removing a Deputy Premier.  His bad-boy purist-rebel image was such that Greens' advertising at the last election showed Booth (who was often at risk of losing his seat) grinning with the slogan "There's only one thing worse than having Kim Booth in Parliament, and that's not having Kim Booth in Parliament".  And now, we'll find out just what that is like.  I suspect there will be many of my readers who greatly admire his contribution, and others who cannot stand him and will be pleased to see him go. For my own part, I've enjoyed the few times I've talked with Booth in person during his 13-year career in state politics.

Unlike with Milne, at the moment I don't have the time to write a long analysis of Booth's tenure as leader, and there's not that much to say anyway.  Booth is the first Tasmanian Greens leader not to actually take the party to a state election - they only contested one Upper House seat and local councils on his watch - and their popularity seems to have stayed at about the level of the 2014 state election, or maybe recovered very slightly.  (More on this from EMRS very soon).

The situation with the Greens suddenly perhaps losing two of their three MHAs and taking two lowish-profile incumbents into the next election is being painted as a crisis for the party, but with almost three years til the next state election the timing could have been much worse.  I think their biggest challenge in Bass is not the loss of Booth's profile, but the fact that they were lucky to win in 2014 with the vote that they had at all, and a big swing from Liberal to Labor could cost them that seat unless their own vote goes up quite a lot.

The crisis might also be an opportunity - a chance for the party to put the purist/pragmatist divisions of the previous term (between Booth and the rest) a bit further behind them.  (There has been some speculation that Nick McKim might reconsider his Senate bid, but at this stage I am unaware of any substance to it.)

What has had my phone running unusually hot is the question of Booth's countback.  Hare-Clark recounts (unfortunately the legislation uses the ambiguous word "recount" instead of the much better "countback") are quite complex and this one is unusually difficult to call, especially by the standards of recounts involving the Greens.  Booth's seat will be filled by one of his fellow Greens (assuming they contest the countback) but it is not so clear which one, with the most likely chances Amy Tyler and Andrea Dawkins.

I warn that the following discussion of Hare-Clark recounts is quite complex (about Wonk Factor 4/5 in places).  There is just no way I'm aware of to spell this stuff out simply.  Or if that didn't scare you off, perhaps this will:



The basics of Hare-Clark recounts

(See also Greens Change Leaders and replacing Milne as Senator.)

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the Booth recount I just want to explain some general things about how casual vacancy recounts in Hare-Clark work.  Hare-Clark is a proportional representation system and so it wouldn't be fair to have by-elections whenever someone resigns, since that would often result in a different party winning, affecting the proportional nature of the House.  Also, a minor party MHA would probably not quit their seat if it was going to go to another party, even if there were very good reasons for that MHA to quit.

The basic principle of the system is that the people whose votes elected the retiring member decide who should replace that member.   It is not about how many primary votes the unsuccessful candidates got at the previous election, nor is it about how close they came or did not come to getting elected.  The votes that elected the retiring member are what matter.

The votes of the retiring member are allocated to candidates who are contesting the recount (which can be anyone who wasn't elected at the original election who agrees to contest, even if they've left the state).  Often one candidate will have more than half the recount votes and win immediately.  Otherwise there is a simple pattern of exclusion of the candidate with the least votes, and passing their votes along to the next person on them, until someone wins (like a single seat election for federal politics).

What Votes Will Be Used In The Recount?

Hare-Clark recounts are governed by Schedule 6 of the Tasmanian Electoral Act 2004.

In the 2014 Bass election, Kim Booth was fifth elected with 9330 votes, but never reached the quota of 10744.  The reason he did not reach quota was that a situation was reached in which Michelle O'Byrne (9584 votes). Booth (9330) and Brian Wightman (8296) were the only remaining candidates.  At that point Wightman was sixth and was excluded, leaving O'Byrne and Booth as winners but short of the quota.

It may seem to those who have grasped the basics that it is just Booth's 9330 votes that will determine the recount, but it is actually a little bit trickier than that, and the reason can be found in the fine print of section 4.(2) of Schedule 6.  Because Booth was elected without a full quota, Wightman's votes are thrown to attempt to get Booth up to a quota for the recount.

In this throw of Wightman's votes, up to 1414 votes worth could in theory end up in the Booth recount.  The only other choices for them are O'Byrne and exhaust.   If this happened at a normal election count, they would go heavily to O'Byrne and put her over quota, creating a surplus (and causing even votes that had Booth last to in some cases reach him!) but I can find no indication that this happens.  On my reading (and I'm not absolutely sure on this, so if it's wrong I will correct it), only those votes from Wightman that would have gone next to Booth (instead of O'Byrne or exhaust) play any role - and there won't be too many of those; probably a lot less than 1414 anyway.

So the votes used in the recount will be:

* 6661 primary votes for Kim Booth. (At least 62% of total)
* 2669  votes worth of preferences that reached Kim Booth from the 16 exclusions and three surpluses that happened prior to him getting elected. (At least 24.8% of total)
* Up to 1414 (but probably much less) votes worth of preferences from Brian Wightman thrown to attempt to get Booth up to quota. (At most 13.2% of total).

The expression "votes worth of preferences" refers to the fact that there will be some ballot papers at less than full value - I am giving the total value in whole vote terms of the ballot papers at each stage.

What do we know about where these votes will go in the recount?

In the case of the at-least-62% of 1 Booth votes, we know nothing from the cutup about where they will go in the recount.  As these votes were never distributed, there is no official information on how they flow. The Greens may have done some scrutineering sampling for the chance this would someday occur, but it would also be a challenging thing to sample.  If I obtain any such data I will post it.

There is some official information on where all the other votes came from, from the cutup.  As well as the up to 1414 votes Booth may gain from Wightman to bring him to quota, he gained 800 from fellow Green Andrea Dawkins, 283 from fellow Green Amy Tyler, 184 from fellow Green Anna Povey and 75 from fellow Green Ann Layton-Bennett.  346 votes came from the Liberal ticket when their last candidates were excluded and elected, and the remainder comes in small trickles from various unsuccessful Labor, PUP, Australian Christians, Liberal and Ungrouped candidates, and from the surpluses of Michael Ferguson and Peter Gutwein.

Each of these votes then goes back to the highest-listed candidate on the original vote who is standing in the recount.  But that isn't always the candidate they came to Booth from, so the numbers just given can mislead.  Suppose someone voted 1 Povey 2 Dawkins 3 Booth.  Then their vote would be one of the 800 that went to Booth when Dawkins was excluded, but it would actually go to Povey first.  Since around half of Dawkins' votes came to her from other sources, she wouldn't actually get anything like all those 800 back right away.

A more useful way of looking at it is that of the Greens' candidates primaries (Dawkins 467 Tyler 369 Leyton-Bennett 334 and Povey 339), each candidate gets back whichever of those primary votes ended up with Booth rather than leaking to Sarah Courtney, Michelle O'Byrne or exhaust.  There is some evidence that Dawkins' votes might be a bit more likely to leak than the others, so Dawkins' advantage over the other Greens on this part of the count is very small.

Wightman could also get back hundreds of votes because of the complication mentioned above, but it won't make any difference if he does.

What can we infer about the #1 Booth votes and where they go?  
The at-least-62% of votes that are 1 Booth will largely flow to other Greens.  We have three reasonably recent examples of the preference flows of #1 Green candidates on a ticket:

* In 2010 Nick McKim (Franklin) achieved a surplus and 83.2% of it flowed to a fellow Green
* In 2006 Peg Putt (Denison) achieved a surplus and 89.7% of it flowed to a fellow Green
* In 2002 Peg Putt (Denison) achieved a surplus and 83.2% of it flowed to a fellow Green

So we can be confident right away that at least, say, three-quarters of this tally (probably more like 80-90%) is going to another Green. Also, when unsuccessful Greens are excluded during the recount cutup, these votes will tend to stay within the ticket.  The proportion of Booth voters who have voted for all five Greens before anyone else should alone be almost enough to ensure a Green wins the recount, with the votes that came to Booth from the other Greens making it certain.

The question is what we can know about where these votes will go between the four Greens.  The 2002 Denison case is not useful because in that case the Greens did not recommend a ticket order for their minor candidates.  But in the 2006 Denison and 2010 Franklin cases, the Greens did recommend a ticket order.

2006 Denison was an example of what happens when the Greens have a very obvious #2 candidate.  Cassy O'Connor was high-profile mainly because of her role in the Save Ralphs Bay campaign, and also had some profile as a former TV journalist.  Of the votes from Peg Putt that went to another Green, 65.8% flowed to O'Connor, meaning that O'Connor would easily win Putt's recount (and in fact did).

2010 Franklin was at the other end of the scale.  Activist Adam Burling was not a very high profile name (although he was a local councillor at the time) and was a risky choice as endorsed #2 because of his hardline reputation.  Indeed, he was outpolled by ticketmate Wendy Heatley.  Of the votes from Nick McKim that stayed within the ticket just 36.4% went to Burling.  Had McKim resigned in the 2010-2014 term, it is not even completely clear that Burling would have beaten Wendy Heatley in the recount, although he would have started it with a large lead.  We'll never know.

Because there are no how-to-vote cards in Hare-Clark, it is very difficult to make party voters follow a certain order.  A specific order can be publicised in fliers or online, but voters often will not follow it.  The Greens ticket order, as shown by the screenshot below (click for larger version), was 1 Booth 2 Tyler 3 Dawkins 4 Povey 5 Layton-Bennett.



The questions are really:

* what proportion of Greens voters in Bass just followed the ticket as publicised?
* are there any reasons to think any of the other Greens candidates will do especially well on Booth's votes?

As for the first, it would be surprising if the flow was much weaker than the Franklin 2010 case, but Tyler's low profile at the election causes me to suspect it would at least not be much stronger.

As for the second, it seems from her higher primary vote and better preference performance that Dawkins had a slightly higher profile than Tyler or the others at the election.  However, the red herring here is that Dawkins is now a Launceston councillor so some have assumed that would help her in this recount.  It doesn't, because she was elected to Council after the state election.  Dawkins' slightly higher profile comes mainly from her running a Launceston cafe.

Overall I doubt Dawkins' advantage on profile is massive, otherwise she would have got more primaries compared to the other three.  I think it's most likely that although most Booth voters won't follow the ticket, enough will do so to give Tyler a solid advantage on the #1 Booth votes.  There is also a link between Booth and Tyler through Tyler being a staffer for Booth, that may cause Booth voters to preference her.

So who will win?

One of the four Greens will win the countback assuming some of them contest it, and I think it's most likely between Dawkins (slightly the higher profile) and Tyler (the #2 ticket candidate).  It's not impossible one of the other two Greens could get it, but I think they are less likely chances as there is no obvious reason why either might win.

At the moment I slightly prefer Tyler's chances, but this is not a very confident assessment, and it would be really useful to hear of any scrutineering info.  I'll be waiting with interest to see who comes out ahead and by how much when the recount is done.

I understand that it will take at least ten days from Booth's resignation being formalised for the recount to be held.

Update (Thursday 21st): Brian Wightman has been reported by The Examiner as saying he won't bother nominating.  This doesn't affect the throwing of his votes as discussed above, but it does mean instead of going back to Wightman they would go back to whichever contesting candidate was highest on them.

ABC TV News reported they hadn't been able to contact Tyler and were not sure if she was going to contest.

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And What Happens If Dawkins Wins? (May 22)

With mystery still surrounding whether Amy Tyler will claim her potentially winning golden ticket, but with Dawkins clearly a starter, I've had a lot of questions about what happens to Dawkins' Launceston City Council seat if she gets the job.

This gives me an opportunity for a sequel ("Fifty Votes Darker"?) to the above "#politas nerd erotica" and I promise readers this one will have you just as tied up in plot twists as the first.

In the event that Dawkins wins the Booth recount and takes the state seat, she then has one year to resign from Council, otherwise her Council seat becomes vacant.  Whether she resigns or it becomes automatically vacant, the outcome is the same: a countback similar to Booth's to determine her replacement, based on the votes she had when she was elected.

It would be easy (as with Rosalie Woodruff on Huon Council should Woodruff take Nick McKim's state seat) to just look at who the other Green candidates are and assume that one of them would get it.  But in Dawkins' case, the first complication is that although she ran as a Green in the 2014 state election and is now seeking to win a Green seat on a countback, in between those two things she was elected to local council as an independent.  This has no impact on her ability to run for Booth's recount and she does not even need to still be a Tasmanian Greens member to do so, nor to even serve as a Green if elected - it seems that just as the Upper House used to be stacked with closet Liberals, so also Green-turned-independent is a more successful path to a council seat than straight Green.

The second complication is that even if we assume Dawkins' Green background would rub off in the recount, there are no Greens for it to rub off on; the sole endorsed Green for LCC, Emma Williams, was elected.

There are thirteen candidates who could nominate for Dawkins' vacancy, and the votes distributed at the recount would be:

* 796 (46.4%) votes of Andrea Dawkins primaries.
* 839.73 (48.9%) votes worth from 11 of the 13 unsuccessful candidates and the surpluses of seven elected candidates, at the value they had when first distributed.
* 81.27 (4.7%) votes worth of votes from the candidate whose votes put Dawkins over quota, Karina Stojansek.  These votes were worth 304 votes, but are reduced in value in Dawkins' recount because most of their value went somewhere else in her surplus.

This disadvantages Stojansek in this recount, but that's arguably fair since her votes have been in part used to elect others.  The even less lucky candidate is Tony Peck, who was not only voted off after decades on Council but is also the only recontesting candidate who would not get any of his primary votes back (because he was still in the race when Dawkins was elected).  A #1 vote for any of the other twelve that was 2 for Dawkins makes it into the recount, but a 1 Peck 2 Dawkins doesn't.

(Unfair?  Yes.  Easy to find a better alternative to? Not at all. You're welcome to try - but please don't suggest redoing the whole count, since that can dis-elect people who won first time around, or result in a candidate being replaced by an opposing party who the candidate's party narrowly beat).

Looking at the cut-up the biggest source of Dawkins' votes was actually Kyle Barrett (200.41 votes), but Barrett is a prominent Launceston UTAS Young Liberal whose campaign was endorsed by Robin Gray!  Most likely a lot of these preferences are not Barrett's #1 votes but just votes that pooled with him through the cutup.  The same point applies to Barrett as applies to Dawkins in Booth's recount - if a vote is 1 Ellison 2 Barrett 3 Dawkins then while it appears to have come from Barrett, it actually goes back to Ellison in the recount.

None of the candidates seem to have a big advantage on the 921 votes that are not Dawkins primaries.  Someone (maybe Mandie Austin) might get slightly over 100 of them, but no-one would get that many more.  The advantage would not be large enough to stop someone with a large chunk of Dawkins primary votes from winning.  My suspicion is that despite the disadvantage of having her primary votes in the recount reduced in value, Stojansek could still get the seat.  This is based on her being one of the highest-polling defeated candidates, being female (female-to-female preference flows in local government are strong) and having a similar Green-linked-independent appeal, including as widow of the late Jeremy Ball.  If Stojansek didn't get it, the next most likely would probably be Austin, but I wouldn't completely write off Peck, Barrett (as politically absurd as that would be) or even others.

It's all academic if Dawkins doesn't win the recount, but there it is, anyway!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Is Independent Australia Independent Of?

Quality control, consistency, accuracy and editorial skill.

At least, if my own encounters with its opinion-polling coverage are any guide.

According to its "About Us" page, Independent Australia is "a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the environment, Australian politics and Australian identity".

Further on:

"IA supports quality investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of voices.  It believes Australians are short-changed by the mass media - and so dedicates itself to seeking out the truth and informing the public.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future.  A country that is fair and free".

Which all sounds well and good, as troubled as the often pretentious use of the term "progressive" in the left has often been.  IA also claims to support independent candidates and oppose partisanship, though the waters here are slightly muddied by its endorsement of the curious so-called "Australian Independents" party.  But the real problem starts when we get to this:

"IA also features an exclusive weekly column by the Australian literary legend Bob Ellis".

Now, it's great to be featuring columns by literary legends if those columns are about literature, or better still are literature.  But Ellis's (which IA pays for) mostly aren't, although some are certainly fiction.  The vast majority are political; according to a list of his articles on the site, it's been a few years since he namedropped a writer in the headline of one of his IA pieces for a reason other than making political points.

It would be one thing if our hero stuck to his continual attacks on Abbott, Morrison, Hockey etc, political thoughts which clearly interest a lot more people than mine, and are probably no more biased or ridiculous than those of some on the right who do much the same thing for major pay.  But  Ellis also runs his usual side-line of pollster-bagging - typically, calling pollsters (excluding Morgan) crooks who deserve to be imprisoned, and doing so on the basis of comically error-riddled claims about polls.

I gave an example of just how many factual errors can be found in a single Ellis polling article in Bob Ellis: Embarrassment To The Left.   My interest here is not primarily in chopping up another one, but in the publication of this guff by a source that claims to support good reporting and informing the public, but that does not fact-check comments about polls pre-publication.  Even publishing such pieces at all shows that IA betrays its claimed journalistic principles on a regular basis, but I was curious about how they would react if some errors in one of these pieces were pointed out.

In a recent IA piece, "Today's Ipsos and Newspoll" Ellis made the following claims:

"Ipsos showed a tie. To understand how they did this – give Labor 400,000 fewer votes than Newspoll – one must look at their fool methodology. As I understand it, their machines rang 80,000 people, of whom 1,403 took the call. These were people prepared to talk to a machine – the old, the mad, the loveless, the paranoid, the paupered, the resentful, society’s grumps and invalids – on three nights, when half the adult population were out of the house, in cinemas and restaurants, their mobiles with them, unrung by by either pollster."

Ignoring the question of how many of Ellis's eight insults after "machine" could be fairly applied to himself, the problem here is that Ellis has assumed Ipsos is a robopollster that only rings landlines. Both these claims are false.  In the case of the claim that mobiles were "unrung by either pollster", one can just go to Ipsos's Australian website, go to their Press Centre and find the report of their latest poll.  Right there at the bottom, "31% of sample comprised mobile phone numbers".

So I put a post in comments to the article pointing out just some of the errors of this Ellis piece.  When I checked back today, it was gone:



Whether because of my comment or not, the site did add an asterisk to Ellis's "As I understand it" with a note that "In fact, it appears the Ipsos surveyors are human."  But Ellis's false claim that Ipsos do not call mobiles - without which pretty much his whole argument against Ipsos falls over - remains uncorrected on the article.

I think it especially worthwhile that this matter be set straight, because Ipsos is currently Coalition-leaning compared to other pollsters.  It would be easy for someone who has been suckered by Ellis's rants about Newspoll not calling mobiles to deduce from that that Ipsos has a bias caused by not calling mobiles.  But the fact is that Ipsos call a lot of mobiles and have put a lot of energy into trying to get their mobile phone sampling right.    Those looking for reasons why Ipsos produces more Coalition-friendly results than the other five major active pollsters clearly need to look elsewhere. 

So I think this is very poor form by IA to remove a comment that corrects two errors in an article, but not to even clean up both of the errors properly.  

As to why it was deleted (other than the site perhaps being overprotective of its star fiction writer) I can only guess.  Perhaps the "then there wouldn't be much left" was deemed to have stepped on the toes of the IA comments policy, under which they may remove comments that are "inflammatory".  But on that matter, the IA comments policy* is so nebulous that almost anything could be said to disobey it, and so foolish that to breach it in a case like this verges on duty.  

Bob Ellis is permitted to routinely defame opinion pollsters (and both he and IA would go down screaming if the directors sued claiming they'd been personally defamed by implication).  He's permitted to inflame discussion by accusing pollsters of corruption.  He's permitted to "close down debate" by asserting that those he disagrees with are crims and crooks and otherwise contemptible. Yet if you want to be even a little bit snarky in response to him, your comment may be deleted at whim with no guarantee of consistency about what is deleted and what isn't (and no correspondence entered into either, supposedly).  This is all a blatant double standard.  Rather than allowing an article writer to brazenly flout the standards applied to comments, IA should realise that if you want your commenters to maintain a certain tone and manner, then you should ensure that your authors do too.  They, after all, set the scene.   

Anyway, at least so far as opinion polling is concerned, "Independent Australia" is a website that betrays its own stated principles by publishing an author who continually churns out false claims, that is sloppy about correcting factual errors even when advised of them, and that wants to publish material about polling but isn't remotely serious about the rigour needed to do that sort of discussion adequately.

Independent Australia claims to comply with the MEAA Code of Ethics.  It doesn't say whether it's a member.  The articles by Ellis that it publishes are in blatant breach of item 1, and in my view also breach item 4. IA isn't serious (yet) about item 12 in this instance either.

Any site that wants to be an alternative to the mass media short-changing readers must stop short-changing them itself.

(* For those who were wondering, this site has no comments policy, though I've co-authored comments policies on other sites.  I've considered having one here, but I am not convinced it's needed based on my aims in running the site and the very small number of posters who create problems. If I moderate something and someone doesn't like it, I can explain why; if someone wants to know if I'd accept something contentious they can ask.  Indeed, I've only modded about four five posters since this site began.)

Just after this piece was written I noticed another par-for-the-course howler.  Ellis claims "Both surveys got Queensland wrong by two percent".  In fact, Ipsos did not even do polling for the Queensland state election!

Oh, and it looks like the Managing Editor of IA is just as bad as his attack dog on these matters:



Does he even know what push-polling is?

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The above ends the article as such.  The updates below are just Twitter flamewar stuff with the chap running IA and his lone (so far) online mate, following this article.  For those not into such things, you can safely stop now.

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Update (Wednesday): In a hole, Donovan immediately starts digging:



Ah, so apparently in Donovan's world it is not rude to call people crooks on the basis of accusations that are demonstrably false and where no attempt has been made to check facts, just passing them off on the basis of handwaves like "as I understand it".  It is apparently not rude in Donovan's world to mislead his own readers by publishing untrue claims about polling and failing to fix them when corrected.  And it is apparently not rude in Donovan's world to suggest that I "can GFH".  

Donovan's extremely peculiar and selective conception of rudeness aside, he's just plain wrong.  If Ellis says he understands something to be true, he is claiming that it is true, just as if I was saying "I understand Dave Donovan is a poor editor of polling articles", I would be claiming Dave Donovan was a poor editor of polling articles.  Donovan's claim that my comment was inaccurate is therefore false, and suggests that he is also a poor moderator.

And meanwhile, Donovan continues allowing his readers to be deceived into believing that Ipsos doesn't call mobiles.

Thursday: Donovan has made another tweet (language warning) insulting me again in a puerile and braindead if especially harmless fashion, but that's all we've heard from his towering intellect on the matter.  Meanwhile an evident ally of Donovan, the ranting Twitter nutcase Frank Calabrese (@frankscan65), a former problem poster on Poll Bludger, has been defaming me at high volume in vaguely similar style to Bob Ellis, but even more repetitive (and with a big CAPS LOCK problem to boot).  I did feed the troll until it had burst a few dozen times (a pet hobby) but have now put Calabrese on mute to stop his tweets flooding my notifications, so I won't necessarily see all his Twitter nonsense (and won't always bother replying).  The only part worthy of refuting here is that Calabrese falsely claims I threatened to sue him for defamation - in reality I just said I was thinking about blocking him for it.

Thursday evening: more DD insults (again showing DD will throw mud but refuses to engage with the core issue of his site publishing false statements about polls and failing to correct them while claiming to inform the public and correct errors).  Among the latest rubbish is that DD declares I am only a "psephologist" in my head.  Alas for him, the label was in fact conferred on me by Tasmanian Times, a site which he should regard as authoritative since its stated aims so resemble his own, its audience is just as infested with the lunatic end of the left, and its moderation policies are almost as bad.  But at least TT is run by someone who genuinely cares about informing the public about electoral issues.

Friday morning: The sheer stupidity and belligerence of Calabrese is best shown by the following.  Calabrese claims to be an ALP supporter.  His Twitter feed has this pinned tweet:



So I sent him some anti-ALP tweets, one of them saying the problem with Labor was it didn't expel people like him, and another accusing Labor of trying to destroy free speech in Tasmania.

He retweeted them!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Poll Roundup: 2015 Budget Polling

2PP Aggregate: 51.8 to Labor (-0.5 in a week, closest since last October)
Labor would probably win election held "right now", with small majority or in minority

Apologies for the boring heading.  I was going to call this piece "Poll Roundup: Budget Less Than Random Noise" but passing judgement on a week of polling with only four of the six polls released would have been risky, and thus it proved once Morgan came out.  With two polls implying a budget bounce to the Coalition and three implying no change, my aggregate moves to its best position for the government since the week of 20 October last year.

It's possible that there is really no bounce and that the two good polls are just down to sample noise, but the results are consistent with a slight Coalition gain from a budget that has been fairly well received by voters.  Still it is nothing so far as dramatic an impact as the usual storm of Budget-poll-fuelled commentary might suggest.

This isn't unusual at all; last year's shocker was the exception that proves the rule.  Budget polling is a vast source of excitable nonsense but most budgets aren't a big deal immediately to the average voter; see Mark Graph's first and second laws of budget analysis for more of this.

That's not to say that the noises surrounding the Budget are necessarily meaningless in the long term, and this week we did get some insight into possible election strategies concerning economic management.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greens Change Leaders And Replacing Milne As Senator

Christine Milne resigned last week as leader of the Australian Greens, and was replace by Richard Di Natale before anyone could blink.  Di Natale looks like the safe choice and the one most likely to push for mainstream respectability and continue the trend towards inner-city gains while also pushing for a broad policy focus.  It was all done so quickly - and as usual for the Greens, opaquely - that any public commentary on the best replacement would have been irrelevant.   In my view the most viable and perhaps the only other really viable - and more exciting but also more excitable and hence riskier - choice would have been Scott Ludlam. Others are too low-profile, at too much risk of losing their seats, or at least seen as too far along one end of the moderate/radical spectrum.

Results And Polling Under Milne's Leadership

Christine Milne took over leadership of the Australian Greens from Bob Brown in April 2012.  As shown in this graph of the Greens primary vote by Phantom Trend, the Green's polled vote shed around three points in the first year of Milne's leadership, but the plunge started reversing a few months before the 2013 federal election.  The Greens' result in that election was very disappointing in primary vote terms (down from 11.76% in the House of Representatives to 8.65%) but acceptable in seat terms with the party retaining its House of Representatives seat and gaining one Senate seat.  Since then the party has rebuilt vote share in polling and is currently in a similar position to where it was when Milne took over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Do Proposed Senate Reforms Advantage The Coalition?

Advance Summary

1. Concerns have recently been reported that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' proposed optional-preferencing Senate system may advantage parties other than Labor, especially the Coalition parties.

2. The reality is that Labor performs poorly under the current system and sometimes loses seats it deserves to win under it.

3. There is no historical, and no convincing theoretical, evidence that the Coalition loses more seats to micro-parties under the current system than Labor.

4. If anything there is some argument that the proposed changes improve the chances of Labor and the Greens acquiring at least a blocking majority in the Senate.

5. That argument, however, assumes that parties would attract the same vote shares under the new system, when the choice of that new system would actually discourage the scattering of much of the right-wing vote among a huge number of micro-parties.

6. All up there is no evidence that the proposed reforms disadvantage anyone, other than removing chances to be elected from micro-parties that don't deserve those chances anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Poll Roundup: The End Of Newspoll (As We Know It)

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to ALP (-0.6 since last week, closest for nearly half a year)
Labor would win election held "right now" with small to moderate majority

There is major news in Australian opinion polling this week with the announcement that the joint venture company that owns Newspoll is to be wound up.  The joint venture's shareholders, News Corp and Millward Brown, are pulling the plug because the business is considered "unsustainable".

Newspoll will continue as a brand, but the surveys released under that brand will soon start being conducted by Galaxy.  This is a kind of full circle, since Galaxy's Managing Director David Briggs was General Manager of Newspoll from its inception in October 1985 until April 2004.

What we know so far is that Newspoll will continue to be released about as frequently as now, but how much the new version (which it is tempting to nickname either Galapoll or Newsaxy) will differ in survey design - if at all - is as yet unclear.  I very much hope it will continue asking the same regular questions with the same wording, for the purposes of historical comparison.  However, William Bowe in today's Crikey email has reported that the "telephone component" of the new offering will be conducted by robopolling, suggesting also that there will be a non-telephone component. [Edit: confirmed, online as per current Galaxy federal polling - see comments.] It looks like we are set for not just new management of the Newspoll brand but also fundamentally new methods, such that it should be treated as a new poll.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Legislative Council 2015: Windermere, Mersey and Derwent Live And Post-Count

Derwent: CALLED (6:45 pm): Craig Farrell (ALP) re-elected
Mersey: CALLED (6:47 pm): Mike Gaffney (IND) re-elected
Windermere: CALLED (9 pm): Ivan Dean (IND) re-elected on preferences

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Tuesday night: There was quite a lot of silly spinning on election night from various political staffers and so on on Twitter, but not much has made it into wider circulation.  One example that has is this Greens' on-the-night press release, which really has me scratching my head as I try to find a single claim in it that's true.

The first problem with it is the sheer number of errors in the claimed swings, which are actually meant to be from the 2014 state election, although in one place it says 2010.  The press release claims gains in 15 booths and swings against in 1 (I make it actually 11 gains and 5 losses).