Update on looming elections, by-elections and redistributions

March will be a big month for elections. It’s keeping me very busy.

The biggest election in terms of voter numbers is Brisbane City Council, followed by the Tasmanian state election.

There is also a Federal by-election in Dunkley, two Queensland state by-elections and one South Australian state by-election.

Over the horizon beyond Easter are the Cook federal by-election, and now an announcement on the start to the Northern Territory federal redistribution.

I have ABC websites and blog posts being updated on all these electoral events. This post is an opportunity to highlight the on-going work I’m doing on each of these events, as well as pointing out some of the most recent updates.

Dunkley By-election – 2 March

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be hoping he can celebrate his 61st birthday in style on 2 March with victory in the Dunkley by-election. Dunkley lies in Melbourne’s outer south-east and takes in the City of Frankston on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay. The by-election has been triggered by the death through breast cancer of Labor MP Peta Murphy.

You can find my detailed preview of the Dunkley by-election at this link. A full results service will be published on the page next Saturday and in the days that follow. I’ll be working that evening doing live coverage of results on ABC News channel.

I’m also updating a running blog post on the pre-poll and postal vote numbers for Dunkley.

The main update to my guide page in the last week has been to add how-to-vote material for all candidates. In summary the Greens, Animal Justice Party and Victorian Socialists have recommended preferences for Labor ahead of Liberal, while the Libertarian Party (formerly Liberal Democrats) and Independent Darren Bergwerf put the Liberals ahead of Labor. The Australian Democrats have published a split ticket open preference recommendation.

There was some consternation in Labor circles when Animal Justice initially issued a how-to-vote recommending preferences to the Liberal Party. This decision was made as a protest at the state Labor government’s refusal to ban duck shooting. Discussions followed and Animal Justice has reversed its initial decision.

There are unsourced comments on the result from both sides backgrounding that there will be a swing against Labor but the government will hold the seat. At last year’s Aston by-election all the backgrounding was that the Liberal Party would hold the seat, (Labor won), so make what you will of backgrounding for Dunkley.

One thing to watch for in Dunkley is what happens to support for small right-wing parties. At the 2022 election, One Nation, United Australia and the Federation Party polled 8.5% of the first preference vote. The Liberal primary vote was down 7.4%, those three parties up 6%.

With all three parties skipping the by-election, much of the vote should boost the Liberal primary vote though the Libertarians and Darren Bergwerf may also benefit. The test in Dunkley is what the Liberal two-party preferred percentage and swing is, not what happens to its first preference support. A big drop on Labor’s first preference support would also be significant.

Brisbane City Council Elections – 16 March

Campaigning is underway for Brisbane Lord Mayor and the 26 councillors to represent the city’s wards.

You can find my ABC website for the elections here including details on the 2020 elections and analysis of what recent rising support for the Greens in Brisbane at state and federal elections might mean for the council election. The election result could be a pointer to the Queensland state election in October this year.

The election site has full details on candidates for each contest. A full results service will be run on election night with live results published on each guide page.

The main campaign news this week has concerned the LNP disendorsing its candidate for Deagon ward and the release of preference recommendations by all parties.

The LNP’s Deagon candidate, Brock Alexander, was the last selected by the party, and very quickly became the first dumped. As this occurred after the close of nominations. Alexander remains on the Deagon ballot paper with LNP endorsement.

There are a swirl of claims about his candidacy, who told who what about his past criminal record, when they did it and how. The accuracy of his police check and what online activity he has been involved in have also been raised. Either way, it is embarrassing for the LNP that a pre-selection failure in an unwinnable seat has made the party look like amateurs. The LNP had little chance of winning Deagon and being forced to dump its chosen candidate has been exactly the sort of campaign distraction the LNP didn’t want. I have more detail on the candidate dumping on the Deagon ward profile.

Dumping the candidate has also had a consequence for registering how-to-votes. The LNP has lodged how-to-votes with joint recommendations for Lord Mayoral and Councillor in 25 wards. Deagon is currently missing, presumably while a new how-to-vote without a recommendation for Deagon is designed.

Published how-to-vote material reveals that the LNP, Labor and Greens have each made exactly the preference recommendations you would expect.

With optional preferential voting in use, the LNP has adopted a ‘Just Vote 1’ strategy, advocating a ‘1’ for the LNP with no further preferences required. Perfectly understandable for the LNP whose candidates are likely to have the highest primary vote in most contests.

A ‘Just Vote 1’ message is not aimed at LNP supporters. It is aimed at Labor and Green voters. It is in the interest of the LNP to plant a message in the minds of Labor and Green voters that they can just vote 1 with no preferences. Every vote for Labor or Green candidates completed without preferences makes it easier for a leading LNP candidate to win without being passed during the distribution of preferences.

In contrast, registered Labor and Greens how-to-vote material shows full preferences with all squares numbered in every contest. Both parties’ how-to-votes put the LNP last.

As mentioned in my Brisbane election guide, there are wards where Labor and the Greens will be competing with each other to finish second on first preferences to the LNP. The lower the rate of exhausted preferences, the higher the chance that one of Labor or the Greens can catch and defeat LNP candidates leading on the primary vote.

Are the Labor and Green recommendations a grubby preference deal or just mutual self-interest, the obvious thing for both parties to do? Where you fall in that argument comes down to your political opinion.

Inala and Ipswich West By-elections – 16 March

There are two state-by-elections being held the same day as Brisbane City Council’s election. Former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has vacated her untra-safe south-west Brisbane seat of Inala, while a little further west, there is a second by-election in the relatively safe Labor seat of Ipswich West.

Profiles for both seats can be found embedded in my Brisbane City Council site. A full results service for both by-elections will be provided at the same time as the Brisbane results.

The by-elections are conducted under full preferential voting so parties and candidates cannot advocate exhausting preferences. If a candidate doesn’t make a preference recommendation, they must at least issue an open ticket with no recommendation but an instruction to number all the squares.

Labor faces LNP challengers in both seats, but the LNP may not be Labor’s main competitor. There is some support behind Independent Nayda Hernandez and her candidacy may eat into Labor’s vote. Hernandez is known locally for her past employment through a local Labor councillor’s office. In Ipswich West the possible alternate challenge comes from One Nation.

Labor’s how-to-vote puts the LNP last in Inala and second last in Ipswich West, last spot there reserved for One Nation. Hernandez has been placed second last on Labor’s Inala how-to-vote. It is highly unlikely that Labor will finish out of the top two in either seat so preferences on Labor votes will not be distributed.

The LNP how-to-votes list Hernadez at two in Inala and One Nation at two in Ipswich West. It would be embarrassing for the LNP for its vote to drop so far that the party’s candidates have their preferences distributed, but the how-to-votes might help hide the red faces if they create a tighter contest for Labor.

Tasmanian Election – 23 March

Tasmania goes to the polls a week after Brisbane. Despite Brisbane City Council having more than twice as many electors as Tasmania, Brisbane’s slot in the third tier of Australian government will ensure that Tasmania receives more national attention.

Trying to pull together results databases and organising parsers for result data files has rather got in the way of me updating my ABC website for the Tasmanian election.

I have managed to get the names of all announced candidates, and found pictures, added campaign links and written potted biographies of most candidates. There are more than 140 candidates listed across the five electorates.

You can find links to the more than 30 candidates contesting each district at this page.

Hopefully a diminution of work pressures will give me time to add a few analytical pieces this week. But in the meantime, marvel at the panoply of prospective candidate I’ve compiled for your reading pleasure.

Nominations for the Tasmanian election close on Thursday 29 February with ballot draw on Friday 1 March. All five pages will be updated after the draw with groups in correct left to right order. While column order is fixed on Tasmanian ballot papers, candidate order within columns is randomised and varies from ballot paper to ballot paper.

We will know once the ballot listings are released which Independents managed to attract the required 100 nominators to be allocated their own column on the ballot paper. Already it is clear that the 2024 election will see a record number of Independents with their own column on ballot papers.

Dunstan By-election – 23 March

The resignation of former Liberal Premier Steven Marshall has triggered a by-election for his seat of Dunstan in Adelaide’s inner-east. It is the Liberal Party’s most marginal seat, Marshall’s narrow victory at the last state election leaving the Liberal Party a buffer of just 0.5%.

I also have a page for the Dunstan by-election on the ABC election website.

I hope to be able to provide a Dunstan by-election results service on the 23 March, but it will depend on some technical issues in getting two election results services to run with different result feeds from different Electoral Commission servers at the same time. I also hope to get more information onto the guide page this week.

Close of nominations and ballot paper draw will take place on Friday 1 March, the same day as Tasmanian ballot draws are released. And the day before Dunkley votes.

So it looks like a busy day next Friday. I should manage to get all the ballot draw lists up in the afternoon.

Cook By-election – date yet to be announced

Former Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he will resign from the House of Representatives at the end of February. That timetable means next week, though Morrison may wait until after the Liberal Party’s soon to occur pre-selection vote. A date for the by-election cannot be announced until Morrison resigns but it is most likely to be in late April.

Again, I have a guide page up on the ABC’s election website for Cook.

At this stage it is not clear that the Labor Party will contest the Cook by-election. After a poor result at the by-election in the safe Liberal/LNP seat of Fadden last year, Labor may decide that contesting an equally safe seat in Cook is not worth the expense of running a campaign.

Northern Territory Redistribution

The AEC fired the starter’s pistol on the Northern Territory federal redistribution last week. The announcement gave an improbably long timetable for the redistribution given it only requires an adjustment to the boundary between the NT’s two seats, Lingiari and Solomon.

I wrote a post last month explaining enrolment trends for the two NT seats and explaining that Solomon must gain a few thousand voters from Lingiari. The exact number must await the release of projected enrolment data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As the number of NT seats is unchanged, an early election would not require a mini-redistribution to change the number of members to be elected. An early election would put the redistribution on hold with the election to be fought on the existing boundaries.

4 thoughts on “Update on looming elections, by-elections and redistributions”

  1. What would the problem be with getting two different feeds at the same time for Dunstan? You did SA and Batman well in 2018, what’s stopping you from having Tasmanian and Dunstan results? Anyway, thanks for the post.

    COMMENT: In theory there is nothing to stop taking two feeds at the same time. The ABC effectively did that at the last Tasmanian election with separate upper and lower house feeds. In practice, the questions is whether I and one or two other key people have time in the three days before the election to get a set-up correct and tested for the Dunstan by-election as well as the Tasmanian state election. The ABC’s election computer is being set-up to support a five hour live television coverage of the Tasmanian election and work on that will take priority over a by-election. At this stage I have no information on what the Electoral Commission will be providing for the Dunstan by-election.

    The ABC has replaced its computer system since 2018. As I said, there is no technical reason why the new system cannot take two feeds. The programmer responsible for the feeds is currently working full time on the Brisbane City Council feed which provides data in three different formats. Once deciphering that feed is working, and once I can guarantee everything works for a live broadcast of the Tasmanian election, I will try and make sure there will also be an on-line results service for the Dunstan by-election.

    Everything works in theory. In practice you always have contingencies.

  2. For which of these elections will we get to see your visage on our screens?

    COMMENT: I’m doing television for the Dunkley by-election on 2 March and the Tasmania state election on 23 March. Coverage of the Brisbane election and Queensland by-elections will be on-line with some local radio crosses on 16 March.

  3. Hello Antony – re the forthcoming Dunkley byelection. It seems to me that most political commentators have missed the main point. The result is of major importance for the ALP. If the seat is lost Albanese’s majority is reduced form 4 seats to 2 seats – perilously close to hung parliamet territory! Regards, Laurie Hook

    COMMENT: The Labor Party won 77 of the 151 House seats at the 2022 Federal election, a majority of three. Labor gained Aston at the 2022 by-election increasing government numbers to 78 and a majority of five. A loss in Dunkley would restore the position of Labor in the House to how it was when first elected. The government would be in the same position as the Morrison government in 2019 (77 seats) and more comfortable than the Turnbull government in 2016 (76).

    The main difference is the size of the crossbench. If Labor loses the Dunkley by-election then the major party numbers (I’ll ignore party resignations here) will be Labor 77, Coalition 59 and a crossbench of 15. That is a very different political position to the Gillard government 2010-13 when Labor had fewer members than the Coalition and there was a much smaller crossbench.

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