new south wales

2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

7 June – updated with the list of five nominated candidates.

In NSW the Minns government will face its first electoral test on June 22 at the Northern Tablelands by-election.

Or to be more correct, could have faced its first by-election test because Labor looks unlikely to nominate a candidate. (Confirmed – Labor has not nominated.) Based in the state’s rural north, Northern Tablelands is the Coalition’s safest seat, the Nationals polling a huge 83.8% of the two-party preferred at last year’s state election. At the 2011 election, the Labor vote was so low its candidate lost their deposit!

The only interest will be if an Independent candidate nominates, trying to tap into local Independent support that saw Richard Torbay win Northern Tablelands at four elections from 1999 to 2011 and helped Tony Windsor win the Federal seat of New England in the same period.

I’m publishing a profile of the by-election on my personal blog as I will be overseas for the by-election and not have access to the ABC website. I will try and update this page while overseas. I will not be providing result commentary on 22 June as I will be otherwise engaged in Budapest.

2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

Party Status: Very Very Safe National 33.8%

Date – Saturday 22 June 2024

The by-election has been caused by the retirement of National Party MLA Adam Marshall.

The by-election writ will be issued and rolls close on Friday 31 May. Nominations close Thursday 6 June with announcement of candidates and draw for ballot position on Friday 7 June. Postal vote application open Monday 20 May, Pre-Poll voting starts Saturday 15 June. Further information on the by-election can be found at the NSW Electoral Commission’s website.

Read More »2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in NSW

Caveat 27 July – This post was one I was unable to complete before I left for overseas at the end of June. I am publishing it here in partly completed form as I believe the changes to state representation in the House of Representatives could be released as early as today. I hope to update this post next week after I return from overseas.

In brief – The determination of House seats to be released by the Electoral Commissioner in the next week will see NSW lose a seat at the next Federal election, reduced from 47 to 46 seats. High growth rates on Sydney’s south-west fringe makes it likely a seat will be abolished in Sydney’s middle distance suburbs, possibly on the North Shore where all seats are well under quota. Abolishing a Sydney seat would draw the seat of Hume into south-west Sydney.

Another possibility is that two seats will be abolished, one in Sydney, one in the country with Hume pulled out of the metropolitan area and a new seat created on Sydney’s south-west fringe.

The redistribution will have major political consequences for both sides of politics as well as the independents.

For the Liberal Party, Bradfield (Paul Fetcher), Berowra (Julian Leeser) and Mitchell (Alex Hawke) will undergo major boundary changes, and one of these seats may even be abolished. Hughes (Jenny Ware) in Sydney’s south may be moved significantly into Sydney’s south-west suburbs. The rural seats of Farrer (Sussan Ley) may undergo major changes, and there is a chance that Hume (Angus Taylor) could be pulled into outer Sydney suburbs around Campbelltown. In between these two seats, the National seat of Riverina (Michael McCormack) may be forced to adopt new boundaries.

For Labor, any seat abolished on Sydney’s north shore would have major implications for Bennelong (Jerome Laxale), Parramatta (Andrew Charlton) and Greenway (Michelle Rowland).

North Sydney (Kylea Tink) is certain to have major changes flowing on from adjustments required to increase enrolments for the coastal seats of Mackellar (Sophie Scamps) and Warringah (Zali Steggall). Distance from the coast mean that the boundaries for Fowler (Dai Le) are likely to undergo major change.
Read More »Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in NSW

ABS Population Statistics confirm WA to gain a new House seat, Victoria and NSW to lose seats

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released state population figures this morning that confirm a change in seat numbers for three states at the next Federal election.

New South Wales representation will be reduced from 47 to 46 seats, Victoria reduced from 39 to 38 seats, while Western Australia will gain a seat, increasing from 15 to 16 seats.

Other jurisdictions remain unchanged, Queensland with 30 seats, South Australia 10, Tasmania five, Australian Capital Territory three and Northern Territory two.

The next election will be for a 150 member House of Representatives, down one from the current 151 seats.

The current elected members per state remain unchanged until the next election, due between August 2024 and May 2025. Redistributions will take place in the three affected states to bring the number of electoral divisions in line with the change in allocated members.

The change in numbers will become official in the last week of July, one year after the first sitting of the current House of Representatives, when the Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers issues a formal determination of House representation by state and territory.

Commissioner Rogers has no personal choice in making the determination as the method is strictly defined in law. For states the Commissioner will apply the formula set out in Section 24 of the Constitution. For the Territories the Commissioner will use the formula set out in the Electoral Act. The Constitution also states that the Commissioner will use the “latest statistics of the Commonwealth”, a phrase the High Court and Parliament has determined will be the quarterly population statistics, that is today’s ABS release.

The precise calculations around how seats are allocated is explained inside this post.

Once the new numbers are officially announced at the end of July, redistributions to implement the changed seat numbers will get underway in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. Based on past redistribution timelines, the process of drawing new boundaries should be completed by early July 2024, in time for use at the next election.

The changes in Victoria and Western Australia reverse changed numbers that first applied at the 2022 election.

For NSW, the reduction to 46 continues a long term trend. When the parliament was increased in size in 1984, 51 of the 148 seats were in NSW. The state lost seats at the 1993, 2007, 2010 and 2016 elections.

The latest changes have come about because of changes in relative state populations. The populations of NSW and Victoria have been growing more slowly than other state, meaning both states declined relative to other states. In large part this has come about because of the two year halt to immigration, ending the usual large migrant inflow to the nation’s two largest states. Despite closing its state border in the same period, over three full years Western Australia has been a beneficiary of internal migration from other states.
Read More »ABS Population Statistics confirm WA to gain a new House seat, Victoria and NSW to lose seats

Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

On the night of the 2023 NSW election, I along with most other observers had expected that Labor would achieve majority government.

After midnight I turned off the ABC’s predictive tools and assessed every seat solely on the votes counted. The tally I came to had Labor on a certain 45 seats, ahead in another four seats, and based on past trends had a reasonable chance of winning three seats where the Coalition was ahead on votes.

The next morning I rang the Sydney news room suggesting that news reports refer to Labor winning but step back from stating Labor had achieved a majority. On the seats remaining in doubt, you would have expected Labor would win at least two of the doubtful seats to achieve majority government. That was the position I reported on ABC news on the Sunday night.

This did not happen. Labor won only the 45 seats I had marked down as definite Labor wins on my Sunday morning check. In the four seats where Labor was ahead, and every other seat that was close, Labor went backwards with each day’s counting.

On Monday 27 March, the uncounted pre-poll centres were added to the count. A trend against Labor emerged and on the Monday evening I tweeted that Labor would probably miss out on a majority and win 45 or 46 seats. In seat after seat the addition of pre-poll votes on Monday had revealed a consistent decline in Labor’s position.

That trend went even further on the Saturday after polling day when the largest batches of postal votes were added in key seats. For the first time the Liberal Party pulled ahead in Ryde and moved even further ahead in Terrigal. Both seats had looked like Labor gains on election night.

As an election analyst, such post election night shifts set you up for criticism. You are accused of not taking into account that pre-polls and postals would favour the Coalition.

Actually, the model I use builds in a correction for postal and pre-poll voting trends. The model factors in the postal and pre-poll vote trends from the last election.

What happened in 2023 is that the 2023 pre-poll and postal vote results turned out to be very different to the election day results. The trend to the Coalition in post-election counting was much larger than in 2019.

There were also many more pre-poll and postal votes in 2023. The early vote broke more strongly for the Coalition than previously, and the impact of these votes was amplified in the final result by their greater weight of numbers.
Read More »Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election

In 2000 New South Wales became the first state to abolish Group Voting Tickets (GVTs), the system then generally used to elect state Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

The NSW decision followed the 1999 Legislative Council election and its infamous “tablecloth” ballot paper. Confusion combined with labyrinthine preference deals made a mockery of any claim that the filling of the final vacancies reflected the will of the electorate.

The system adopted abolished GVTs and introduced a new form of voting above-the-line (ATL) where voters could direct preferences to other parties on the ballot paper by numbering ATL boxes. A single ‘1’ ATL vote was still formal, but a voter could direct preferences to others groups with an ATL voting square by indicating ‘2’, ‘3’ etc to other groups.

With Senate elections continuing to use GVTs where only a single ATL preference counted, few voters made use of the new ATL voting option at Legislative Council elections. At four elections from 2003 to 2015, more than 80% of Legislative Council ballot papers continued to be completed with a 1-only ATL vote and only around 15% of voters indicated further ATL preferences.

When the Commonwealth followed NSW in abolishing GVTs ahead of the 2016 election, it adopted different instructions on how to complete an ATL vote. Senate ballot paper instructions, and advice from ballot paper issuing officers, suggested a minimum of 6-ATL preferences be completed.

The Senate reforms included generous savings provisions permitting ballot papers with fewer than six ATL preferences to remain formal. At three Senate elections since 2016, more than 95% of ballot papers have had six or more preferences, around 80% having exactly six.

Experience with the new Senate ballot paper has clearly encouraged more voters to indicate preferences on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers.

As the chart below shows, only around 15% of voters completed ATL preferences before the Senate changes. At two NSW elections post the Senate changes, 27.6% of NSW voters completed ATL preferences at the 2019 Legislative Council election, and after experience at two further Senate elections in 2019 and 2022, the percentage of ballot papers at the 2023 Legislative Council election completed with ATL preferences rose to 39.2% .Read More »Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election

2023 NSW Election – the Race for the Final Legislative Council Vacancy

Final result: Final votes by group, the names of elected candidates and final composition of the new Legislative Council can be found on the Legislative Council Page at the ABC website.

I had intended to write something more detailed here about the final result but other pressing work intruded so just a few points at this stage.

Liberal Rachel Merton won the 21st seat defeating Animal Justice’s Alison Waters by 10,628 votes. Preferences did not change the order of election and the 21 elected candidates were the ones that could have been predicted based on first preferences at Count 1. Merton led Waters by 0.07 quotas on first preferences, a lead that was narrowed to only 0.05 quotas after preferences.

On exclusions from the point where the second Green was elected, 72.1% of preferences exhausting. 7.5% of preferences flowed to Animal Justice, 6.4% to the Coalition, 5.7% to Legalise Cannabis, 4.3% Liberal Democrats and 4.1% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. Merton’s lead fell to under 4,000 votes before increasing to the final margin after receiving 10.2% of One Nation preferences on the exclusion of Tania Mihailuk.

At several exclusions, preferences that might have flowed to Animal Justice instead flowed to Legalise Cannabis. Animal Justice received a boost with a reasonable flow of preferences from Christian conservative Lyle Shelton, almost certainly due to donkey votes where voters preferenced left to right from Shelton in Column A to Animal Justice in Column C.

Original post inside.Read More »2023 NSW Election – the Race for the Final Legislative Council Vacancy

Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

I’ve prepared a preview publication on the NSW Legislative Assembly election for the NSW Parliamentary Library.

I won’t claim its an exciting publication. It’s a reference work that tabulates, for each electorate, results at the four elections from 2007 to 2019, plus references to the 2015 and 2021 redistributions.

The period covers four elections, beginning with a comfortable Labor victory in 2007, then tracking results through the landslide Coalition victory in 2011, then the 2015 and 2019 elections where Coalition support ebbed away.

Leaving the finely balanced Legislative Assembly that faces the electorate on 25 March.

You can find the publication at this link.

The analysis uses the four elections to categorise 2023 electorates as being safe for the Coalition or Labor, or the sort of electorates that change sides.

Unsurprisingly, the categories of electorates line up with the 2023 electoral pendulum.Read More »Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

Summary of Candidates and Parties Contesting the 2023 NSW Election

A total of 852 candidates have nominated for the NSW election, down from 914 in 2019. In the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, nominations are down from 568 in 2019 to 562 in 2023, while the Legislative Council is down from 346 candidates to just 290 in 2023.

The record number of lower house candidates was 732 candidates in 1999, and the record for the Legislative Council was 394 in 2015.

The number of columns on the Legislative Council ballot paper has risen from 21 to 22, both totals including one ‘Ungrouped’ column. Of the 21 groups on the 2023 ballot paper, six have nominated fewer than 15 candidates which means these six groups will not have an ‘above the line’ group voting square. It is effectively impossible for a group to elect a member without a group voting square.

At this stage I only have Assembly total numbers. Details of candidates will not be released until ballot paper proofing is complete.
Read More »Summary of Candidates and Parties Contesting the 2023 NSW Election

The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

As mentioned in my previous post, New South Wales is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional rather than compulsory or full preferential voting for single member lower house elections. It is also the only state that data enters all lower house ballot papers and publishes the data for outside research.

Optional preferential voting (OPV) means that voters do not have to number a preference for every candidate on the ballot paper. A ballot paper requires only a first preference to be formal. All further preferences are optional.

If during the distribution of preferences, a ballot paper for distribution has no preference for a candidate remaining in the count, the the ballot paper is put aside as having “exhausted” its preferences. Exhausted ballot papers have no direct involvement in determining the winning candidate, but they have an indirect role in altering the winning post a candidate must pass to win. As explained below, OPV works in favour of leading candidates over trailing candidates.

This can be explained by comparing the maths of full versus optional preferential voting.

  • Under full preferential voting, the winning candidate must achieve 50% of the formal vote after the distribution of preferences. The winning post of the votes needed to win is set at the start of the count and does not change.
  • Under optional preferential voting, the winning candidate must receive a majority of the votes remaining in the count, that is the formal vote minus exhausted preferences. The winning post is lowered with each exhausted preference making it easier for the leading candidate to win by making it harder for the second placed candidate to catch and pass the leader.

The chart below shows the two-party preferred preference flows for minor parties and Independents at the 2019 NSW election.

I'll explain the political implications of the above graph inside the post. But if you want more detail of the preferences flows by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I've prepared.
Read More »The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election

New South Wales is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional rather than compulsory or full preferential voting for single member lower house elections. It is also the only state that data enters all lower house ballot papers and publishes the data for outside research.

Over the next few days I’ll publish more information on lower house preference flows, but this first post concentrates on preference completion rates.

For this analysis, all ballot papers have been categorised into one of three categories.

  • Single – ballot papers that counted with only a single preference.
  • Full – ballot paper with all squares filled completing a formal sequence of preferences.
  • Partial – formal preferences between 2 and (Max Candidates -1).

Overall 64.3% of ballot papers counted as 1-only votes and had no further preferences. 23.7% of ballot papers counted with all preferences correctly completed, and a further 12.0% had partial preferences. The median number of preferences completed was 1, the average 2.4.

The rate of completion varied substantially by party and also varied from electorate to electorate. This variation in rate is clearly related to published and distributed how-to-vote material. As I don’t have access to the how-to-votes, this post won’t include analysis based on recommendation.

But if you want to see the numbers by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I’ve prepared.

Read More »Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election