elections

The Secular Decline in Support for the NSW Christian Democrats

While the term is normally limited to use in finance and economics, ‘secular decline’ is an apt description for the downward trend in support for the NSW Christian Democrats over four decades, as well as being an irresistible play on words.

The Call to Australia was formed from groups that were active in the late 1970s campaigning against pornography, abortion, homosexuality and various issues that were often lumped together as “victimless crimes”. The Call to Australia campaigned to enter parliament.

Which it did at the 1981 NSW election when Call to Australia Leader, the Reverend Fred Nile, was elected to the NSW Legislative Council. The party polled 9.1% of the vote, 1.46 quotas, and might have elected a second member were it not for leakage of preferences.

After several previous announcements over many years that he would leave the Legislative Council, Rev. Nile is finally calling time on his parliamentary career after nearly 42 years. Nile will not contest the 2023 election. Instead he will put forward his second wife, Silvana Nile, to fill his spiritual void on the ballot paper.

Mrs Nile faces a difficult task. Support for the Christian Democratic Party has declined since its glory days in the 1980s. Even worse, the party has been de-registered at both state and federal level, so the Nile ticket will have no party label at next year’s state election.

Since party names were first printed on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers in 1991, no unlabelled group has ever elected an MLC. Pauline Hanson running as an Independent coming closest from 2.4% in 2011.

There is also another oddity. Often retiring members will vacate their seat in favour of their replacement, the NSW Constitution requiring that the replacement be from the same party.

But the Christian Democratic Party has not only been de-registered. It was actually wound up by the courts, so does not even exist as an unregistered party. The NSW Parliament has not previously filled a vacancy for a party that has ceased to exist, and appears to have no intention of doing so before next March.

The graph below shows the party’s decline in support since its first election in 1981. The party elected a member at every election until missing out in 2019.

Read More »The Secular Decline in Support for the NSW Christian Democrats

Record Minor Party Vote at the 2022 Senate Election and how the Senate’s Electoral System Performed

The 2022 Senate election marked a new high point in support for minor parties and Independents. The long term trend of declining support for major parties continued and passed a new milestone. For the first time both major parties were outpolled by the combined vote for minor parties and independents.

Senate ‘Other’ vote reached 35.7% against 34.2% for the Coalition and 30.1% for Labor. Senate non-major party support has been higher than Labor’s vote at every Senate election since 2013, but 2022 was the first where it was also higher than the Coalition.

In the House of Representatives, minor party and Independent support remained in third place though at a record level. The Coalition polled 35.7% in the House, Labor 32.6% and all other candidates 31.7%. While support for ‘Others’ reached record levels in both chambers, the gap between support in the two chambers narrowed.

The one-third splits in Senate support did not translate into one-thirds representation. The Coalition elected 15 Senators, Labor 15, and all other parties 10. Within vote for others, the Greens elected six Senators with 12.7% of the vote while the 23.0% support for the rest elected only four Senators.

This discrepancy is down to the nature of the Senate’s electoral system. Support for the Coalition, Labor and the Greens was confined to a single ticket in each state and territory. (There was a second but very low-polling National ticket in SA.) Support for non-Green ‘Others’ may have been at 23.0%, but it was spread across 126 groups plus numerous ‘ungrouped’ candidates. As smaller parties were excluded, their preferences did not always flow to other smaller parties.

Under the group voting ticket system abolished in 2016, party negotiated deals allowed small parties to aggregate their vote. The abolition of tickets returned control over preferences to voters, and three elections since the change have revealed that voters make different preference choices to those produced by the now abolished tickets. The new system has essentially diminished the influence of preferences and made the system more proportional to the level of first preference vote in each state.

The Senate’s electoral system now effectively operates like list proportional representation with final seats allocated to groups with the highest partial quotas on first preferences. The election of Independent David Pocock in the 2022 ACT Senate race shows that preference can still determine who is elected. But such exceptions don’t undermine the basic nature of the Senate’s reformed electoral system – it advantages parties with primary votes over parties that rely on preferences.

Inside this post, I take a closer look at the national voting patterns, and also assess how the electoral system translated votes into the seats.
Read More »Record Minor Party Vote at the 2022 Senate Election and how the Senate’s Electoral System Performed

2022 Post-Federal Election Pendulum

With 16 members elected to the crossbench in the new House of Representatives, drawing up a new electoral pendulum based on the 2022 Federal election result strains the traditionally used two-sided format.

However, I’ve gone with the traditional format with the non-major party seats separated bottom right on the opposition side of the pendulum. However, the expanded size of the crossbench means this group of seats deserves more attention than its bottom of the table position suggests.

Inside this post I provide a post-election pendulum for the House of Representatives, along with some general comments on the overall result.Read More »2022 Post-Federal Election Pendulum

Loophole allows Liberal Democrats to Retain their Party Name

(7:15pm – this post has been updated to clarify some points of law.)

Last year Labor and the Coalition combined to pass legislation that prevented parties from having registered names that were too similar to those of already registered parties.

It was clear the target of the legislation was the Liberal Democratic Party. Last November, after applications by the Liberal and Labor Parties, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) gave notice that the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Labour Party would be de-registered if they did not change their names.

The full 3-person Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the original de-registration notice from November on 9 February., so the Liberal Democrats were de-registered under their existing name.

On 9 March the High Court upheld the new law by which the party had been de-registered. It looked like game, set and match for the Liberal Democrats.

But no, the Liberal Democrats are free to contest the 2022 election under the name Liberal Democrats despite the law and despite the High Court.

It all comes down to a clever loophole in the law that someone in the party spotted.
Read More »Loophole allows Liberal Democrats to Retain their Party Name

Why the 2022 House and Senate Elections will be held on the same day

Last year I wrote a post on possible elections dates. In the post I wrote “There is a highly improbable option for a half-Senate election by 21 May 2022 and a separate House election as late as 3 September 2022.”

This improbable option keeps being re-cycled as a real possibility.

It isn’t.

If the government doesn’t call a May election for the House in conjunction with the required half-Senate election, it would be an admission by the government that it is too frit to face the electorate. There is no constitutional or public administration reason to hold separate elections for the House and half-Senate in 2022. Separating the elections would be because the government saw some electoral benefit.

In my view there is no benefit for the government in splitting the elections. In fact, splitting the election would be a terrible re-election strategy. Forcing the electorate to vote twice at most only 15 weeks apart would be deeply deeply unpopular and almost guarantee the government’s defeat.

No Australian Prime Minister has ever called a separate half-Senate election at a time when a House election was due. No Prime Minister has ever delayed a House election beyond its normal term by creating two elections 15 weeks apart. Prime Minister Morrison is not going to the first Prime Minister to engage in the folly of splitting the two elections in this way. He didn’t do it in 2019 and he is not going to do it in 2022.

The only people peddling this split election nonsense are people on twitter who hate the government. Splitting the elections would guarantee defeat. The government is not going to select the option that is its worst possible option for winning re-election.

So having vented my irritation that this nonsense is still being peddled, let me explain why the elections can be split.Read More »Why the 2022 House and Senate Elections will be held on the same day

Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

Opponents of the Morrison government’s VoterID bill, currently being debated by Parliament, have regularly pointed out that some groups of voters will be disadvantaged by the new law if passed.

The argument is that some groups of electors are less likely to have the forms of identification set out in the bill, meaning they will be disproportionally represented amongst those denied access to an ordinary vote.

The group most often mentioned is Indigenous voters, in particular remote Indigenous voters, and the electoral division where this will have the most impact is Lingiari, the sprawling outback Northern Territory seat.

According to the 2016 Census, 40% of the division’s residents are Indigenous. But because remote voters are not included in the national automatic enrolment program, and because of cuts in remote indigenous enrolment programs, indigenous voters make up less than 40% of enrolled electors in Lingiari.

In Lingiari, remote postal services are largely non-existent and the electorate has the nation’s lowest rate of postal voting at 2.9%. As a proportion of electors, this figure is even lower in comparison to other divisions because Lingiari consistently has the nation’s lowest turnout. The turnout in Lingiari at the 2019 election was 72.9% compared to the national figure of 91.9%.

Turnout is low because remote Indigenous voters have little access to election day polling places used by other Australians, and because pre-poll ordinary voting is generally only available in Alice Springs, Katherine, and around Greater Darwin.

Most Indigenous votes are collected by remote mobile polling teams that travel around the electorate visiting communities for as little as one hour on a single day.

One of the key campaign jobs of candidates in Lingiari is making sure communities know when a mobile team is turning up, and making sure community members are around to vote when it arrives. Many miss out.

So Lingiari is central to the debate on voter ID. Remote indigenous electors are already the category of Australians least likely to be enrolled, least likely to have the opportunity to vote, and due to this new law, may become the group least likely to be allowed to cast an ordinary vote.Read More »Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

John Alexander’s Retirement opens up the contest in Bennelong

The announcement today that Liberal MP for Bennelong John Alexander will retire at the 2022 election prompts an obvious question – will it hurt Liberal prospects in the seat?

It is strange to suggest that a seat with a Liberal margin of 6.9%, that has been won by Labor only once in its 73 years of existence, could be put as risk by Alexander’s resignation.

But that Labor victory in 2007, when Maxine McKew defeated Prime Minister John Howard, lives on as one of the most remarkable moments in Australian election night history.

Mention Bennelong and Labor true believers dream the seat can deliver another magic moment for them.

But how vulnerable is Bennelong? Here’s my mini-guide to the seat.Read More »John Alexander’s Retirement opens up the contest in Bennelong

My Analysis of the 2021 Western Australian Election has just been published

For the last three decades I’ve been producing statistical publications on Western Australian elections and redistributions for the WA Parliamentary Library.

My latest in the series, summarising the results of the 2021 WA election in March, has just been published by the Library.

You can find the full series and the 2021 publication at this link.

Most of the publication is tables and statistics. Inside this post I’ve included the publication’s introduction where I set out the statistical highlights (if you are a Labor supporter) or lowlights (for Liberal supporters) from the 2021 results.Read More »My Analysis of the 2021 Western Australian Election has just been published