new south wales

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

Mark Latham and Filling NSW Legislative Council Vacancies

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith reports on a plan by One Nation’s NSW Leader Mark Latham to resign from the Legislative Council half way through his current term and contest fresh election to the NSW Legislative Council next March.

This would give Latham a new eight-year term and allow One Nation to nominate a replacement for the four-year balance of Latham’s current term.

Let me quote Smith’s article to explain the plan –

One Nation MP Mark Latham is planning to quit the upper house to run again at the top of the ticket in the March election, in a bid to boost the number of MPs the party has in the Legislative Council.

Latham, who is half-way through his eight-year term, wants to recontest a new position in the upper house in order to “renew his mandate”.

A replacement One Nation candidate would be found to fill his casual vacancy.

One Nation secured two upper house spots at the last election – Latham and retired detective Rod Roberts. However, Latham is eager to increase the party’s representation to at least four MPs.

Latham believes that the party could repeat its 2019 performance in March, particularly if he heads the ticket.

Is this allowed?

The answer is almost certainly yes. Legislative Council members have resigned to contest lower house seats and federal elections in the past, and sometimes been re-appointed if they miss out on election. There seems to be nothing in the Constitution or standing orders that suggest the same rule wouldn’t apply to resigning for a Legislative Council election.

It seems that an MLC elected to an eight-year term can resign after four years to contest election for the alternate Legislative Council term. The member would effectively be elected to two over-lapping positions in the Council created by their two elections, though it would be impossible for one person to hold both positions.

Mr Latham would have to resign before the close of nominations. If elected in March, he could be sworn into a new seat in the Legislative Council and be free to nominate his own replacement at the joint sitting that would follow.

If he were unsuccessful, Mr Latham could be re-appointed to his vacancy after the election. So successful or not, Mr Latham could remain in the Council.

There is probably nothing the NSW Parliament can do to stop the plan. After the election, there would have to be a Joint Sitting of the two houses to elect a replacement, and One Nation is responsible for nominating a replacement without a vote

Yet if a party tried the same tactic for a Senate casual vacancy, a vote would be required to accept the replacement. The Commonwealth Constitution and the standing orders require a vote of approval on the candidate to fill the vacancy. And as the Tasmanian Parliament showed in 1987, a state Parliament can refuse to appoint a replacement.

That’s not an option for Legislative Council vacancies.Read More »Mark Latham and Filling NSW Legislative Council Vacancies

What to Watch for with the NSW By-elections

It’s Saturday 12 February 2022, by-election day in NSW.

It’s not often you get four by-elections caused by such high profile departures from parliament, three former party leaders including a former Premier, Deputy Premier and Opposition Leader, and a former senior cabinet member.

The four by-elections with links to my ABC election guide for each are

I’m involved in the ABC’s live coverage of the results from 6pm on ABC news channel. You can also follow the results at the ABC elections site where I will add some relevant commentary when I’m not too busy with the television coverage.Read More »What to Watch for with the NSW By-elections

A Quick Guide to the Monaro By-election

The resignation of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has understandably triggered changes at the highest levels of the NSW government. This includes Deputy Premier John Barilaro announcing his decision to resign as Minister, Nationals Leader and Member for Monaro.

I’ve removed my blog post for the Monaro by-election as it has now been published on the ABC elections page. I’ve left this post here as a stub rather than break links on Google searches.

I also wrote a piece at the time of the resignations for ABC news on what’s happening with the by-elections.Read More »A Quick Guide to the Monaro By-election

A Quick Guide to the Bega By-election

The resignation of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has understandably triggered changes at the highest levels of the NSW government. This includes Transport Minister Andrew Constance announcing that he will resign from state parliament as member for Bega “later this year” to contest pre-selection for the Federal seat of Gilmore.

I’ve removed my blog post for the Bega by-election as it has now been published on the ABC elections page. I’ve left this post here as a stub rather than break links on Google searches.

I also wrote a piece at the time of the resignations for ABC news on what’s happening with the by-elections.Read More »A Quick Guide to the Bega By-election

A Quick Guide to the Willoughby By-election

The resignation of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her intention to resign from parliament means there will soon be a by-election for her safe seat of Willoughby.

I’ve removed my blog post for the Willoughby by-election as it has now been published on the ABC elections page. I’ve left this post here as a stub rather than break links on Google searches.

I also wrote a piece at the time of the resignations for ABC news on what’s happening with the by-elections.Read More »A Quick Guide to the Willoughby By-election

WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

The McGowan government in Western Australia has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee to recommend changes to the electoral system for the state’s Legislative Council. (You can find the Committee’s website here.)

The Committee has a number of issues to examine. Some are controversial, such as whether to change the state’s zonal electoral system. I wrote on the zonal electoral system and its unequal enrolments two weeks ago.

The proposal that has attracted least criticism is the abolition of group voting tickets (GVTs). GVTs were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were introduced as a solution to a chronic high rate of informal voting and designed to make voting easier while retaining full preferential voting.

What has not been fully appreciated is that the tickets sped up voting and also simplified the counting process. GVTs meant that less than 10% of ballot papers needed to be examined for formality and re-examined for preferences during the count. The rest of the ballot papers were ticket votes, and all ticket votes for a party being the same, could be treated as block votes.

These benefits have since been outweighed by the manipulation of results produced by GVTs giving parties almost total control over between-party preferences.

For major parties, GVTs strengthened the strong flow of preferences that parties had previously achieved through influencing voters with how-to-votes. But GVTs gave the same power to small parties that previously struggled to influence preferences due to lack of members distributing how-to-votes. Even the smallest micro-parties that didn’t bother to campaign suddenly had total control over their preferences. Over time, as participants learnt how to use GVTs strategically, the system began to elect candidate from parties with tiny votes who would never been elected had voters controlled preferences.

Three jurisdictions have now abolished GVTs. In this process, great attention was paid to ensuring voters did not have to revert to the pre-1984 situation of completing vast numbers of preferences. But a price of abolishing GVTs has been to make counting more complex. It has required a switch to scanning rather than hand counting and data entering ballot papers. Complexity has also been increased by changes to formulas calculating transfer values for surplus to quota preferences.

As the Ministerial Expert Committee searches for a replacement Legislative Council electoral system, it has the advantage of being able to draw on experience with abolishing GVTs for elections to the NSW and South Australian Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

Two models for electing the WA Legislative Council are being discussed. One retains regions, a four region model with each electing nine members the most discussed. The second is a switch to a single state-wide model.

The state-wide model in particular requires careful design. Careful thought needs to be given to ballot paper design, voter instructions, and the counting method.

Without careful design, using a single electorate to elect the WA Legislative Council could end up producing a ballot paper that is unprintable or uncountable.Read More »WA Legislative Council Reform – The Problems of Ballot Paper Design and the Number of Preferences

NSW State Redistribution – Draft Electoral Boundaries

UPDATE – the final boundaries determination by the Redistribution Panel was published on 26 August 2021. My analysis of the new boundaries can be found in my updated post here.

The NSW Electoral Districts Redistribution Panel released draft state electoral boundaries on Monday, bringing enrolments for all 93 electorates back within the permitted variations from state average.

The major change brought about by the new boundaries is the abolition of Lakemba, an ultra-safe Labor seat in Sydney’s inner south-west, and the creation of a new and marginal Labor seat called Leppington on Sydney’s south-west fringe. The new boundaries for the southern Sydney Liberal seat of Heathcote transform it into a marginal Labor seat, and the margins in several other Liberal held seats have also been cut.

Update – my analysis of the new boundaries has been published by the NSW Parliamentary Library. You can find it at this link.
Read More »NSW State Redistribution – Draft Electoral Boundaries