Saturday, July 30

The preference distribution process in Higgins has resulted in tiny changes, never more than one vote in either direction per polling booth, that have collectively added three votes for Labor and taken three from the Liberal National Party, increasing the Labor margin from 35 to 41. The last word from the AEC was that this would be finalised tomorrow.

In other late counting news, One Nation candidate Lynette Keehn has overtaken Labor to reach the final count in the regional Queensland seat of Maranoa. This is a feat no party candidate other than Hanson herself was able to achieve at the party’s high-water mark election of 1998. However, the Nationals-aligned Liberal National Party candidate, David Littleproud, has 49.2% of the primary vote and will easily win the seat, which is vacated by the retirement of Bruce Scott. Labor edged One Nation on the primary vote by 18.3% to 17.8%, but One Nation pulled ahead after distribution of preferences. The Greens achieved in a similar feat in Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah, pulling ahead of Labor after trailing 14.8% to 12.2% on the primary vote, with Tony Abbott on 51.6% and independent James Mathison on 11.4%. A two-party count has now been completed in the seat, giving Abbott a winning margin over the Greens candidate of 11.6%.

In seats where non-traditional two-party outcomes were correctly anticipated by the AEC, we are now at the stage where Labor-versus-Coalition preference counts are being conducted, which will ultimately allow a national two-party preferred result to be determined. Such counts have been completed for Denison (a 15.3% margin for over Liberal) and Kennedy (a 6.9% margin for the Liberal National Party), and are in progress in the three Labor-versus-Greens seats in Victoria, Melbourne, Batman and Wills (barely started in the first case, nearly finished for the second and third).

Both factors have caused an illusory surge for Labor in the published national two-party preferred tally published by the AEC. Warringah and Maranoa are excluded from this tally for the time being, but we know the results favoured the Coalition by 52,923 to 33,743 in Warringah and 60,771 to 29,228 in Maranoa, and that these numbers will ultimately be added back into the count. Furthermore, the seats awaiting to be counted on a Coalition-versus-Labor basis are almost all conservative (Barker, Grey, Higgins, Indi, Mayo, Murray and New England), the sole exception being Grayndler. When all votes are added to the count, the Coalition should have a final two-party preferred total approaching 50.5%.

Thursday, July 28


• The early stages of the preference distribution in Herbert, which is expected to be completed over the weekend, has resulted in Labor losing a vote at the Kelso booth and the LNP losing one at Riverside, leaving the Labor lead unchanged at 35 votes.

• I’m hearing that the button the Senate count in Western Australia will be pressed on Monday.

• Psephologists are having a field day with the publication of complete preferences for all Senate ballot papers from Tasmania, my own contribution being a paywalled Crikey article observing patterns of voter behaviour and their implications for yet-to-be-determined counts in other states. Money quote:

Particularly striking is the failure of voters to have followed how-to-vote cards, even in the case of the major parties who had the base of volunteers needed to disseminate them … fewer than one-in-ten Liberal voters chose to be guided by the party’s card — which, remarkably, recommended a sixth preference for Labor — while the share of Labor voters that did so barely even registered. It should not be presumed, however, that voters reluctant to toe the party line instead gave expression to finely calibrated rational choices. Ballot paper ordering had a substantial influence on preferences, leading to a kind of “soft” donkey voting, in which those who find their favoured party near the front end of the ballot paper tended to remain there when allocating subsequent preferences.

Part of my homework for the article included the development of this spreadsheet (note there are separate worksheets for the total result, above-the-line votes only and below-the-line votes only) which identify the frequency with which voters for each party (in rows) included each other party (in columns) in their top six. Kevin Bonham has put precise figures to the meagre rate of how-to-vote card adherence for the various parties, and David Barry has a nifty tool for exploring preference flows with greater precision than my own spreadsheet.

Wednesday, July 27: Tasmanian Senate result

The Tasmanian count ended with Richard Colbeck dropping out, and the final result being determined in favour of Nick McKim over One Nation by 141 votes. Result: 1.Abetz (Lib), 2.Urquhart (ALP), 3.Whish-Wilson (GRN), 4.Lambie (JLN), 5.Parry (Lib), 6.Polley (ALP) 7.Duniam (Lib), 8.Brown (ALP), 9.Bushby (Lib), 10.Singh (ALP), 11.Bilyk (ALP), 12.McKim (GRN).

The full distribution of preferences can be viewed here. Above-the-line votes alone were enough to elect the top three Labor (Anne Urquhart, Helen Polley, Carol Brown) and Liberal (Eric Abetz, Stephen Parry, Jonathan Duniam) candidates, and the lead candidates for the Greens (Peter Whish-Wilson) and the Jacqui Lambie Network (Jacqui Lambie) had a quota when their first preference below-the-line votes were added to the above-the-line total. That left four seats outstanding, which were not determined until the final stages of the count, which are summarised thus:


Richard Colbeck’s below-the-line support wasn’t quite enough to keep him ahead of One Nation’s Kate McCulloch after preferences. Colbeck began the count with 13474 votes to McCulloch’s 8641, but McCulloch was the direct beneficiary of above-the-line preferences to One Nation, whereas above-the-line preferences to the Liberals were soaked up by David Bushby, who held the place above Colbeck on the Liberal ticket. By the key point in the count, McCulloch’s vote had swollen to 18136, whereas Colbeck had to rely entirely on below-the-line preferences to reach 16918, 1218 astern of McCulloch. Colbeck’s exclusion then unlocked a flood of preferences that were easily enough to elect Bushby, but also to just push Lisa Singh over the line with a gain of 2171 – evidently she garnered substantial support even from right-of-centre below-the-line voters.

Then came the distribution of the fairly substantial Liberal surplus, from which Labor did remarkably well, gaining 4412 votes compared with 2242 for One Nation and 1269 for the Greens, with 2816 exhausting. Presumably the Liberals’ remarkable decision to recommend a sixth preference to Labor had a fair bit to do with this. However, this was not decisive, and purely influenced the size of Catryna Bilyk’s margin over Nick McKim and Kate McCulloch in taking the eleventh seat (notably, fourth-placed Bilyk was elected later in the count than sixth-placed Singh – fifth-placed John Short lost out altogether). That left the twelfth seat as a race between McKim and McCulloch that began with McKim leading by 43 votes, ahead of the distribution of Labor’s 593-vote surplus. Those votes went 234 to McKim and 136 to McCulloch with 221 exhausting, and McKim carried the day by a margin of 141.

Tuesday, July 26

The recount of the primary vote and the indicative two-party count has now been completed with the latter showing Labor 37 votes ahead, after adjustments to nine polling booths cut Labor back by 34 votes while reducing the LNP by one vote; the pre-poll count added four for the LNP and reduced Labor by three; and two was added to Labor’s total on postals. Now the count will proceed to a full distribution of preferences, beginning with the last placed Palmer United, who were pretty bold fielding a candidate given the local circumstances (he polled 316 votes, or 0.36% of the total). In theory, this should end by confirming the result of the indicative count, but the process of reviewing preference votes will surely turn up further minor anomalies. Should Labor’s win be confirmed, the Coalition is gearing up for a legal challenge based on suggestions up to 85 defence personnel stationed in the electorate were deprived of a vote because insufficient voting facilities were provided during an exercise being conducted South Australia, and 39 Townsville Hospital patients were denied a vote when they attempted to do so during the final hour of what should have been the polling period on election day. Michael Maley, a former Australian Electoral Commission official, has noted in comments that Section 367 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act would set a high bar on the defence personnel issue especially. The hospital issue could prove more problematic, depending on what the circumstances prove to have been.

Equally excitingly, it appears we are now finally to get to the business end of Senate counting, with Kevin Bonham hearing informally that the button will be pressed on the Tasmanian result tomorrow afternoon – although the AEC is being a little more circumspect publicly. The intricacies of the count have been explored in headache-inducing detail on Kevin’s blog – to cut a long story short, there look sure to be five Labor, four Liberal, one Greens and Jacqui Lambie, with the last seat up for grabs. He deems, without huge confidence, the order of likelihood for the final seat to be a second Green, a fifth Liberal, and One Nation. It appears almost certain that below-the-line votes will overturn the order of Labor’s ticket to deliver a seat to sixth-placed Lisa Singh at the expense of fifth-placed John Short. Richard Colbeck, the fifth-placed Liberal candidate, has also benefited from a backlash against his party’s ticket order, but not to the extent of overtaking fourth-placed David Bushby. However, it’s on the strength of his own votes that Colbeck will linger to the final stages of the count and leave the Liberals in the hunt for a fifth seat. The question is whether he finishes ahead of the One Nation candidate, in which case he could potentially end up ahead of the second Green, Nick McKim, if a generally right-of-centre pool of micro-parties preferences favour him with sufficient force – although it would be a tall order. If Colbeck drops out, it comes down to McKim versus One Nation, to be determined mostly by Liberal preferences, which would need to flow massively to One Nation for McKim to be defeated.

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