Some musings on Senate prospects for micro-parties, plus a few recent updates to the seat-by-seat election guide.
I’m running the above headline essentially because I have no new poll to trumpet for the following assortment of bits-and-pieces. The latest addition is yesterday’s large-sample ReachTEL poll, which was a relatively good result for Labor taking into account the past lean to the Coalition in this series. Its inclusion caused a 0.6% shift in Labor’s favour without affecting the seat projection, mostly because the improvement was concentrated in Victoria where there are few marginal seats. This isn’t the first time recently that the addition of a ReachTEL result has caused BludgerTrack to move in Labor’s favour, which raises the possibility that the series is not as pro-Coalition as it used to be. If so, the addition of the result with out-of-date bias adjustments attached might be causing the present BludgerTrack numbers to flatter Labor slightly. There has apparently been, for the second evening running, a poll conducted overnight by ReachTEL which will have been unveiled on Seven Sunrise by the time most of you are reading this.
(UPDATE: A less good result today for Labor, and another good one for the Palmer United Party. Labor’s primary vote is down to 32.7% and the Coalition’s up to 43.6%, with the Greens on 10.0% and Palmer on 6.1%. Two-party preferred is 53-47 to the Coalition. ReachTEL also has a very ugly result for Labor from the Tasmanian seat of Bass, courtesy of the Launceston Examiner, with Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic on 51.8% and Labor member Geoff Lyons on 26.6%.)
Now to those bits and pieces. First, I address what looks to be one of the election’s most significant imponderables: the share of the vote that will go to micro-parties in the Senate. Much hinges on the answer, given the tightness of the preference arrangements between micro-parties and the extremely limited value of polling as a guide to the smaller details of Senate voting patterns. Tim Colebatch of Fairfax has run reports over the past week based based on what Antony Green’s Senate election calcalators come up with when seemingly plausible vote share scenarios are plugged into them, which have been partly inspired by simulations conducted by Poll Bludger commenter Truth Seeker (who details them on his own blog).
One particularly headline-grabbing observation was that Pauline Hanson might succeed in her bid for a New South Wales Senate seat at the expense of Arthur Sinodinos, who has the number three position on the Coalition ticket in New South Wales. Since Labor, the Coalition and the Greens all have Hanson last on their preference order, this can only happen if she and the various parties feeding her preferences collectively amount to more than a quota (14.3%). Colebatch argues that this is highly plausible: “In 2010, 29 micro-parties won 14 per cent of the vote between them. This time there will be 41 of them, and disillusioned Labor supporters could swell their collective vote to 20 per cent – easily enough for a Senate quota.”
This appears to assume that collective vote share of micro-parties will continue to expand as more of them enter the field. Evidence from the last three elections, which provide a common footing in that the Democrats and One Nation had faded from minor to micro-party status, provides some support for this. Excluding the unusual circumstance of South Australia in 2007, when Nick Xenophon polled a full quota in his own right, there are 17 state-level observations for modelling the relationship between the number of Senate groups and the vote share for micro-parties (which I take to mean everyone other than Labor, the Coalition and the Greens). The model I have derived is 0.243+(0.283*A)+(0.681*B), where A is the number of Senate groups and B is the “others” vote in the House of Representatives from the state in question. This has an R-squared of 0.517 and a p-value of 0.006, which is to say that the model explains 51.7% of the variation in these 17 results and has a 99.4% chance of being better than no model at all.
With unprecedented numbers of Senate groups at this election ranging from 23 in Tasmania to 44 in New South Wales, this suggests “others” votes ranging from 12.9% to 20.5% (going off the BludgerTrack projections for the lower house “others” vote), which is well in line with Colebatch’s expectations. However, there’s a considerable theoretical problem with the model in that it presumes the relationship to be perfectly linear. If this were so, the major party vote would disappear altogether if only enough micro-parties took the field. In reality, the rate of increase has to taper off, and the meagre sample of observations available offers no insight as to point at which it does so. My own guess though is that it kicks in fairly sharply before we reach the stage where we can start talking of an aggregate micro-party vote approaching 20%.
To offer some historic guidance as to the sorts of numbers you should be punching into the Senate calcalators, the table below displays the vote for micro-parties of various kinds in each state. “Religious” includes the Democratic Labour Party, although they no doubt occupy something of a grey area. The “right” category is exclusive of the “religious” one. “Left” is defined broadly to incorporate the Democrats and all environmentalist concerns, even ostensibly conservative ones. There were also parties and independents that were deemed not to fall into any of these categories, so the “total” column is not simply an aggregate of the other three.
2010 Relig. Right Left Total NSW 3.63 5.55 3.37 13.82 Victoria 5.35 3.83 3.28 13.2 Queensland 4.31 7.59 3.61 16.43 WA 3.71 2.66 2.81 9.92 SA 5 2.65 2.55 11.11 Tasmania 1.69 2.24 0.66 5.36 TOTAL 4.16 4.81 3.18 13.13 2007 NSW 3.83 3.35 2.44 10.17 Victoria 3.77 1.24 3.16 8.72 Queensland 2.76 6.73 3.04 13.08 WA 3.57 1.1 1.84 7.04 SA 3.97 1.68 1.68 22.25 Tasmania 2.67 0.19 0.78 4.38 TOTAL 3.48 2.97 2.57 10.71 2004 NSW 3.17 3.73 3.88 12.17 Victoria 4.16 1.55 4.18 10.98 Queensland 3.37 9.34 4.09 18.05 WA 2.73 2.82 3.05 9.22 SA 3.98 1.53 3.95 10.02 Tasmania 3.03 0.16 0.82 7.04 TOTAL 3.42 2.93 3.84 12.22
Now to some scattered bits of news for around the traps that I have recently used to supplement the seat-by-seat election guide:
Indi (Liberal 9.0%):Liberals have been telling journalists of serious concerns for Sophie Mirabella’s hold on Indi, where she faces a well-organised challenge from independent Cathy McGowan. The Guardian reports on widespread opinion polling being conducted in the electorate; the Weekly Times reports that Labor are campaigning strongly to boost McGowan; and The Australian reports some in the Liberal Party have been urging Tony Abbott to visit the electorate. The contest is another source of friction between the coalition parties, with former state Nationals MP Ken Jasper among those who are throwing their weight behind McGowan.
Melbourne (Greens 6.0% versus Labor): The Greens have been spruiking a poll of 400 respondents conducted for them by Galaxy showing Adam Bandt’s primary vote up 4% since the 2010 election, with “as many as four in 10” Liberal voters in the seat planning to ignore the direction of their party’s how-to-vote card that voters should favour Labor ahead of the Greens in their preference allocation. This is actually in line with the 35% rate of leakage in inner Melbourne when the Liberals likewise directed preferences against the Greens at the 2010 state election, which nonetheless wasn’t high enough to win them any of the seats they were anticipating. But taken together with the purported primary vote swing, it suggests a very close result.
McMahon (Labor 7.8%): The Liberal candidate for Chris Bowen’s western Sydney seat, Liverpool area police superintendent Ray King, has been defended by a series of police figures and corruption investigators after Labor claimed he had a “close friend” in Roger Rogerson, the notorious detective who was imprisoned in 1990 for perverting the course of justice. The claim has been denied by Rogerson as well as King, with retired assistant commissioner Geoff Schuberg complaining of a “grubby, baseless smear campaign”.
Forde (Liberal National 1.6%):The Australian reports that Forde MP Bert van Manen, who is fighting off a challenge from Peter Beattie, was the half-owner and recently resigned director of a financial planning firm which owed creditors more than $1.5 million when it collapsed last year. The report says administrators KPMG had told creditors of “unreasonable director-related transactions” behind the collapse. A Liberal spokesperson was quoted saying van Manen had personally settled with the main credtior, Westpac, but no comment was offered on $325,000 owed to three further creditors.
Greenway (Labor 0.9%): The Sydney Morning Herald observes a “systemic” silence among Liberal candidates in Sydney, “with multiple examples emerging of candidates pulling out of events or interviews”. The low profile assumed by Greenway MP Jaymes Diaz has been particularly widely noted, after he failed to show for a candidates forum in Blacktown last week.
Herbert (Liberal National 2.2%) and Dawson (Liberal National 2.4%): Sid Maher of The Australian identifies marginal seats on the central Queensland coast as the main targets for the Coalition’s promised curtailing of marine protected areas, a pitch at commercial and recreational fishers. A similar promise before the 2010 election was “credited with delivering the seat of Dawson”, by persons unidentified.