VIC22 – Point Cook – Analysis of Preferences

Point Cook was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system. Point Cook had 15 candidates, and as explained in my Melton post, this presented difficulties for the VEC in conducting manual re-checks so data entry was used.

Point Cook, previously known as Altona, was a closely watched seat in 2022 despite its very safe 12.3% Labor margin. Sitting MP for Altona and former senior minister Jill Hennessy was retiring, and new Labor candidate Mathew Hilakari had only recently moved into the area. Point Cook is a rapidly growing seat of new housing estates classed as outer suburban and one of the few western Melbourne seats thought to be at risk for Labor.

Dr Joe Garra was one of the 15 candidates. Garra is a local GP who had been campaigning for years on inadequate hospital facilities on Melbourne’s south-west. He had finished second to Labor contesting Werribee in 2018. He chose to contest Point Cook after his home suburb, Werribee South, was transferred from Werribee to Point Cook by the redistribution. He had a disappointing result, finishing third with only 6.9% of the first preference vote. He was passed by the Greens during the distribution of preferences.

With 15 candidates, Werribee saw a very high informal vote at 10.2%. Only 33.0% of votes were cast on polling day, 51.5% were Pre-polls, 10.2% Postal votes and 4.5% Absent votes.

The two major parties attracted only 64.7% of the vote between them, Labor 40.0%% and the Liberal Party 24.7%. But the other 35.3% was split across 13 candidates with no other candidate passing 7%.

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston, Hawthorn, Brighton and Melton, this post will use of the electronic ballot papers to analyse preference flow statistics and also to look at the influence of candidate how-to-votes.

The key findings for Point Cook are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in 70.2% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. Note that Liberal preferences were not distributed.
  • For the 12 Point Cook candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 22.9% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. Labor at 30.5% and Liberal 27.2% had the highest rate of ballot paper concordance with how-to-vote recommendations. Few voters for the plethora of minor parties and independents followed a how-to-vote.
  • In the two-party preferred count, a relatively low 51.9% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal.

More detail with tables inside the post.

Liberal Preference flows

In mid-November when the Liberal Party announced it would list the Greens ahead of Labor on how-to-votes, I went through past evidence on Liberal preferences in this post that examined state and federal election results in Victoria since 2006.

In the case of Point Cook, data on Liberal preference flows would never normally be available. The Liberal Party was one of the final two candidates, as in 2018, so we would never normally see data on Liberal preferences.

The existence of data entered ballot papers makes it possible for the first time to calculate Liberal preferences flows in Point Cook. Overall 70.2% of Liberal voters directed preferences to the Greens and only 29.8% to Labor. In all seven districts where the electronic ballot papers are available, Liberal preferences followed the party recommendation and favoured the Greens.

Labor versus Liberal Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows

The Labor versus Liberal preference flows from other candidates favoured Labor 51.9% to 48.1%, a low flow rate to Labor compared to other seats. More than three-quarters of Green and Victorian Socialist preferences favoured Labor, more than three-quarters of Freedom Party and Family First preferences favoured the Liberal Party. Independent Joe Garra’s preferences favoured Liberal 63.5%.

Labour DLP preferences flowed 51.6% to Labor despite a how-to-vote recommending preferences to the Liberal Party. 21.6% of DLP voters gave Labor their second preference. For a party generally seen as anti-Labor, it has become common for DLP preference to favour Labor since the DLP began to appear on ballot papers as Labour DLP. In the absence of how-to-votes, it seems that voters who rely entirely on ballot paper cues, rather than knowledge of parties, seem to assume that Labour DLP and the Australian Labor Party must be related.

Point Cook – Two-Party Preferred Preference Flows
Ball First Prefs Prefs to ALP Prefs to LIB
-Pos Candidate (Party) Votes Pct Votes Pct Votes Pct
15 Garra (IND) 2,712 6.9 989 36.5 1,723 63.5
3 Khan (GRN) 2,657 6.8 2,031 76.4 626 23.6
1 Cronkwright (FFV) 1,496 3.8 369 24.7 1,127 75.3
6 McAulay (VS) 1,399 3.6 1,053 75.3 346 24.7
14 Hanman (DLP) 1,369 3.5 707 51.6 662 48.4
4 Zhao (IND) 814 2.1 503 61.8 311 38.2
2 Beech (AJP) 804 2.1 426 53.0 378 47.0
11 Abdulovski (FPV) 571 1.5 136 23.8 435 76.2
13 Grimley (DHJP) 514 1.3 227 44.2 287 55.8
12 Sawant (IND) 469 1.2 255 54.4 214 45.6
8 Law (HAP) 383 1.0 204 53.3 179 46.7
9 Chaudhary (ND) 358 0.9 152 42.5 206 57.5
7 Gatti (TMP) 245 0.6 101 41.2 144 58.8
Total 13,791 35.3 7,153 51.9 6,638 48.1

How-to-Vote Concordance

Twelve of the 15 candidates registered how-to-votes. The table below shows the percentage of each candidate’s first preference votes that exactly matched the candidate’s registered how-to-vote sequence. The table shows the percentage of ballots papers that matched the sequence to preferences 2 to 5, along with a final column showing the percentage of ballot papers that matched the how-to-vote for the full 15 preferences.

With 15 candidates on the ballot paper, the chances of a voter guessing the correct 15 number sequence is unlikely. The final column can therefore be seen as a reliable measure of how many voters followed each candidate’s how-to-vote. A low percentage suggests most voters did not see a how-to-vote for the party.

Voters might guess the first two or three preferences, but the percentage of ballot papers matching the how-to-vote to each preference number quickly converges on the value for the full 15 preferences.

The percentage of Liberal ballot papers that exactly matched the Liberal how-to-vote sequence was 27.2%, Labor 30.5%, Victorian Socialists 18.7%, Zhao (IND) 15.6%, Garra (IND) 13.6% and Greens 10.5%. The rest look like random noise suggesting few people saw a how-to-votes for the other nine candidates.

Point Cook – Pct of Ballot Papers Following How-to-Vote
Matched How-to-Vote to Preference Number
Candidate (Party) 2 3 4 5 15
Hilakari (ALP) 35.1 32.5 31.8 31.3 30.5
Newhouse (LIB) 32.0 28.5 28.1 27.9 27.2
McAulay (VS) 44.0 26.3 22.4 20.2 18.7
Zhao (IND) 22.1 16.3 16.2 15.7 15.6
Garra (IND) 30.7 15.7 14.4 14.2 13.6
Khan (GRN) 24.2 11.6 11.3 11.2 10.7
Chaudhary (ND) 12.3 10.6 9.8 9.5 9.5
Sawant (IND) 19.0 10.7 8.5 7.2 6.2
Abdulovski (FPV) 28.5 9.6 5.1 5.1 4.6
Cronkwright (FFV) 13.9 6.1 4.7 4.5 3.9
Hanman (DLP) 15.1 5.6 3.9 3.7 3.7
Beech (AJP) 6.7 3.9 2.9 2.7 2.5
Total 30.6 24.8 23.9 23.5 22.9

Second Preferences

Low rates of how-to-vote concordance are normal given many voters never see the how-to-vote of their first choice candidate. Parties achieve higher concordance rates on early preferences if they are obvious, that is for another party for which voters see some natural political affinity.

The table shows the highest rates of second preference flows. The highlighted entries are the rates to parties that appeared second on a party’s how-to-vote.

A high rate of Labor how-to-vote distribution is suggested by Zhao (IND) receiving 35.1% of Labor’s second preferences. That is a high flow rate for a candidate who only received 2.1% of the first preference vote and who would not be an obvious second choice for Labor voters. Few would have voted that way in the absence of a how-to-vote. 15.0% of Labor voters plumped for the Greens second, the more obvious choice for many Labor voters.

As usual Green voters favoured Labor with their second preferences despite a different suggestion on the how-to-vote.

There were three Independents on the ballot paper and the second preference data suggests a pattern I’ve noticed before in preference data. It appears that many Independent voters give preferences to other Independents in the absence of how-to-vote material. In the case of Zhao and Garra, the suggestion followed the how-to-vote. With Sawant and New Democrat candidate Chaudhary, the Indian heritage of both candidates may have played a part in their second preferences.

Family First’s candidate at the top of the ballot paper had 291 votes that were top to bottom ‘donkey’ votes.

Point Cook – Pct Second Preferences by Party
Candidate (Party) Second Preferences to (over 10%)
Cronkwright (FFV) Animal Justice 34.6% (donkey vote), Freedom Party 13.9%, Liberal 11.4%, Greens 10.4%
Beech (AJP) Family First 25.7%, Greens 25.7%, Victorian Socialists 6.7%
Khan (GRN) Labor 30.6%, Victorian Socialists 24.2%, Animal Justice 11.6%
Zhao (IND) Sawant (IND) 22.1%, Labor 21.9%, Liberal 11.5%, Greens 10.9%
Newhouse (LIB) Freedom Party 32.0%, Family First 11.3%, Labor 10.9%
McAuley (VS) Greens 44.0%, Labor 16.5%
Gatti (TMP) Health Australia 17.1%, Family First 15.1%, Labor 11.4%, Liberal 10.2% (No HTV)
Law (HAP) Family First 17.8%, Transport Matters 16.7%, Animal Justice 10.4% (No HTV)
Chaudhary (ND) Sawant (IND) 25.7%, Labor 16.8%, Garra (IND) 12.3%, Liberal 10.9%
Hilakari (ALP) Zhao (IND) 35.1%, Greens 15.0%, Liberal 12.0%, Labor DLP 10.2%
Abdulovski (FPV) Family First 28.5%, Liberal 13.5%
Sawant (IND) Chaudhary (ND) 31.6%, Garra (IND) 19.0%, Labor 11.1%
Grimley (DHJP) Liberal 13.6%, Family First 13.2%, Labor 13.2%, Animal Justice 10.9% (No HTV)
Hanman (DLP) Labor 21.6%, Family First 21.5%, Liberal 15.1%, Garra (IND) 10.8%
Garra (IND) Sawant (IND) 30.7%, Liberal 17.2%, Labor 12.4%

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