2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

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. 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

Projected Enrolment Data released for NSW Federal Redistribution

The first step in the redistribution of NSW federal electoral boundaries began yesterday with a call for submissions and the release of base enrolment data.

The major scale of boundary changes required has been revealed by the released projected enrolment figures.

NSW is losing a seat at the next Federal election, the state’s representation reduced from 47 to 46 seats.

In addition, with seven years having passed since the last redistribution, enrolments by electoral division have diverged widely from the state average.

Abolishing a division while bringing all divisions back within the permitted variation from quota will require major surgery to some electorates.

And boundary changes will almost certainly have big political consequences.

Several electorates in the state’s west are well below quota and require major changes. Seats in Sydney’s west and south-west are well over quota, in contrast to under quota Sydney seats closer to the coast.

Evening out the enrolment numbers across the Sydney basin will not be easy. Sydney’s many bays and inlets give the city a distinctive political geography. Wholesale boundary changes are going to jumble the electoral margins of many seats.

In the immediate firing line are the four ‘teal’ Independent seats in Sydney’s east.

The seats of Wentworth (Allegra Spender), Mackellar (Sophie Scamps), Warringah (Zali Steggall) and North Sydney (Kylea Tink) are all well under quota. All these seats must increase their enrolment, eating into the territory of seats to their west.

Sydney’s Liberal heartland north of the Harbour looks certain to lose a seat, possible forcing a Liberal MP to nominate against one of the ‘teals’.

There will be a new seat created in Sydney’s outer south-west and the possible abolition of a seat further east. This creates a complex electoral jigsaw that the redistribution commissioners will first have to unpick and then re-assemble.

Inside the post I have maps highlighting the enrolment variations and provide analysis of how new boundaries might be drawn.

In a previous post on NSW redistribution prospects, I looked only at what current enrolment numbers could tell us about the redistribution. In this post I am using the more important projected enrolment numbers.

(And I’m happy to receive and publish suggestions on how the new boundaries might be drawn.)

Read More »Projected Enrolment Data released for NSW Federal Redistribution

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

How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

Unlike the Commonwealth and every other mainland state, NSW uses optional preferential voting (OPV) to elect its lower house of parliament. OPV was adopted by the Wran Labor government in 1980, the only state where a Labor government implemented what at the time was party policy. The Whitlam government tried and failed to implement OPV for Federal elections.

Labor’s embrace of OPV followed the Labor Party’s experience with losing seats to the Coalition on DLP preferences between 1955 and 1972. There was also a desire to make it harder for the Coalition to win seats where both parties nominated candidates.

The Wran government not only introduced OPV, it entrenched it in the state’s Constitution. OPV can now only be repealed by referendum. I doubt that a referendum to repeal OPV would pass.

Labor’s hope for advantage from OPV has failed to live up to expectations. The Coalition has largely abandoned three-cornered contests to avoid losing seats. The emergence and growth of the Greens as a left-wing competitor has cut into Labor’s first preference vote and left the party more reliant on preferences to win seats. Labor regularly comes from behind to win at Federal elections under full preferential voting, but come-from-behind wins are harder under OPV at NSW state elections.

At recent NSW elections it has been the Coalition advocating ‘Just Vote 1’ and the Labor Party encouraging voters to complete more preferences.

I explained more about the political impact of OPV in this post published before the NSW election.

Inside this post I’ll look at the results of the 2023 election and the seats where preferences determined the winner. Many seats had preference distributed, but only six seats saw preferences change the result by allowing a trailing candidate to win.

Using preference flows from last year’s Federal election where full preferences were required, I look at several state seats where there might have been a different result had full rather than optional preferential voting been used.

My conclusion is the Liberal Party probably won four three extra seats due to OPV, two at the expense of Independents (Pittwater, Willoughby), and two at the expense of Labor (Ryde, Terrigal). (A few people are arguing that Willoughby should not be included in this list. They have a reasonable argument. When the result is final it may just be a matter of the result narrowing substantially rather than changing.)
Read More »How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

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