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108 responses to “Queensland State Election 2012: The Greens, Katter and Independents”

  1. wpd

    A great post. All bases covered. Looking forward to the next effort.

  2. John D

    Mark: I suspect most Green voters are sophisticated enough to use their preference unless they are completely pissed off with Labor. If the KAP voters are largely ex one nation I suspect they are more likely to let their preferences exhaust. The greens might just get up. At the last council by election the Green’s primary was better than Labor’s on the West side of Mt Coutha.

  3. Kim

    John D – if you follow the first link to an Antony Green post, about 45% of Greens voters allocated no preferences in 2009.

  4. Darryl Rosin

    “Mr Seeney, if Campbell Newman isn’t elected, will you be the Premier?”


  5. Kim

    Mr Borg might have something to say about that! And Mr Nicholls. And…

    I wonder how much money the LNP is going to spend in Ashgrove. And where it’s coming from. And if the circus will have a counter-productive effect.

  6. PinkyOz


    Thanks for the post, very insightful as always.

    I know it’s a little off track, but is there much that the greens could do to leverage their better results in central seats to squeeze out a win at this election, or is it just a matter of waiting and building. You did mention that a few of those seets would be looking good for the LNP, would they be better targets for the greens in 2015?

    Is this also the point where the Queensland ALP start giving up their ‘just vote one’ strategy to try to corall some of the minor/Independent votes?

  7. Lefty E

    It’s worth pointing out that an ALP loss is probably the preferred outcome for Gillard and federal ALP …

  8. Mat

    @LeftyE 11:

    Why? I am curious to hear your reasoning in this matter.

  9. BigBob


    The reasoning is that if you get rid of an aging ALP government that is not popular, that the Federal protest vote against the ALP in that state will decrease.

    Hasn’t worked that way in NSW to date, so I wouldn’t be banking on any post election Federal ALP bounce occuring.

  10. Geoff Henderson

    I notice that the general thread of this article and commentary is SEQ biased.

    That’s not a complaint, rather an observation. For some time now though, the “regions” have felt left out of things. The perception (in my view and that of my cohorts) is that SEQ gets all the attention, all the (govt) jobs and the majority of funding. Some of that is understandable and fair, but not all.

    Especially odoriferous is the arrogant “top-down” policy expressions from Brisbane, the never-ending unfunded impositions upon local government and ever-increasing regulation of daily living. The “amalgamation” of local government still wrankles strongly in many minds. Associated with the amalgamations is the political progression of minister Fraser and his seeming “born-to-rule” arrogance.

    The touted benefits of the mining boom seem to evapourate away from the regions, and despite a massive tourist industry, huge agriculture and mineral resources larger than land mass in the British Isles, our State seems forever under-funded.

    To see Fraser as Premier – clearly he is already Premier-in-waiting – frightens me witless.
    The election will come whenever Ms Bligh or her drivers tell her; but I am so fearful of her return that I might even go to church and make a plea…

  11. Paul Norton

    I think part of Lefty E’s reasoning is that (a) he knows what past National/Coalition governments in Queensland have been like; (b) there is no particularly good reason to believe that an LNP government will not revert to type on a range of issues and/or that authoritarian elements within the state and civil society will not start behaving on the presumption that the ancien regime has been restored; (c) this will have a salutary effect on the Federal voting intentions of Queenslanders who have forgotten, or have never experienced, life under a Tory government and its cops.

  12. Sam

    what past National/Coalition governments in Queensland have been like

    What was so terrible about the Borbidge/Sheldon Government of 1996-1998? I don’t recall any particular outrages, but my memory might be faulty.

  13. Paul Norton

    Sam @15, to start with environmental policy went backwards, and a start was made on unravelling the Fitzgerald reforms. There were other mooted or actual reversals of Goss era reforms which probably weren’t all that widely publicised, and didn’t go all that far, but were real enough. A combination of being in minority government and only being in office for little over two years constrained the Coalition government from greater excesses.

  14. Paul Norton

    Not to mention the Borbidge government’s hostility to Native Title and its strongarming of the Century Zinc Mine project against the wishes of the region’s indigenous people.

  15. Sam

    Paul, it was not exactly Bjelke Petersen/Hinze by the sounds of it.

    I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that a Campbell Newman Government will not:

    • give the Special Branch carte blanche to be a law unto itself
    • outlaw all gatherings of more than 3 people
    • demolish the Bellevue Hotel (equivalent) in the middle of the night
    • be as corrupt as its National party predecessor once removed
    • appoint a Police Commissioner who could get a place in the Guinness Book of Records in the Most Corrupt Cop category
    • give any and every developer licence to raze the coastline as they see fit.

    A Newman Government will be a bog standard conservative state government. Public sector workers will cop a beating (apart from the cops who will get a truly excellent rimming) but not much else will happen.

  16. Darryl Rosin

    “Queensland has not traditionally been fertile territory for The Greens, in part because in a state with a unicameral legislature and a massive metropolitan Council, they have, until recently, been unable to build a base of elected representatives.”

    I’d make one slight tweak to this. It’s not the unicamerality, nor the size of the BCC that has hindered the Greens. It’s that there is no proportional representation in local or state government. There have been no Greens elected as Greens anywhere in Qld, except for the Senate, which is the only proportional contest in the state.

    If the BCC had any proportionality at all, under any system with almost any boundaries, there would be multiple Green councillors.


  17. Mark Bahnisch

    For sure, Darryl, but conversely, if we had smaller Councils in Brisbane, there’d be Greens on some of them, elected in single member wards. But the larger point holds true.

  18. Hal9000

    ‘Mt Cootha’, ‘Mt Coutha’ … that’d be Mt Coot-tha, wouldn’t it? Or are we going for phonetic spelling these days?

    Re Bellevue Hotel demolition and coastal development, you’d have to get into some pretty kinky stuff for the white shoe brigade to be any friendlier with a Newman government than they have been with the Beattie and Bligh regimes. Just as in NSW, developer contributions have largely replaced member subs and union affiliation fees as the primary source of ALP funds over the years, Bligh’s deathbed conversion to electoral funding reform notwithstanding. It’s no coincidence that former Qld ALP luminaries have found themselves lucrative post-politics board appointments in the development and mining industries.

  19. Droo

    Mark, is it possible that the LNP could win enough seats to form Government, but Newman does not win Ashgrove? What sort of scenarios would flow from that outcome? Its an interesting hypothetical, I think.

  20. Lefty E

    Yep, smaller councils would certainly increase GRN ( and independent) council representation ( if NSW and VIC are any guide). Even with proportional rep – though of course it woukd help.

    Indeed, it was quite an eye opener for an ex Brisbanite to realise that very few councils outside QLD are ‘major party’ contests at all. The BCC is unusual in that respect, and a function of its size and budget. Council wards are also freaking enormous (uselessly so, if you ask me).

  21. Lefty E

    Even without prop rep, that was

  22. Lefty E

    That’s right Paul – nothing reduces the appeal of Quinceland Tories like having them in power. Bunch of embarrassing bozos from the past. But I also roll with the Big Bob argument as well. I don’t believe the effect has yet been tested in NSW, btw, but it’s a pretty reliable rule of Oz politics: ceteris paribus, quite a significant share of swinging punters don’t favour having wall to wall govts of either stripe.

  23. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected]

    I would wager that keeping Newman out of Ashgrove will be no lower than #2 on the ALP’s list of election goals. It might even be a better outcome for them than winning, if you lean towards ‘the best thing for the ALP would be a narrow loss’ theory.

    It would be a glorious thing to watch in the days after the election. Bligh will go to Fernberg and resign first thing Sunday morning and recommend that Seeney be invited to form government. Then the fun and games begin. It’ll be like the inverse of 1987!


  24. paul walter

    It was good to hear Bob Brown announce on the 4 oclock news that he would cancel his weekly meetings with Gillard due to the continued Labor intransigence re Tassie rainforests agreements.
    Not on topic?
    No, above fits in with this post because it highlights an Achilles heel for Labor throughout, driving through to its age old refusal or mental incapacity to identify and comprehend the nexus between rational economy and environmentalism above the noise of corporate interests.

  25. Jesterette

    Hal – Mount Cooth-Tha (with a capital) is how the QEC and Google Maps would have it (since we’re being entirely grammatically correct – though like Mark I’ve always thought Cootha to be entirely acceptable).

    Like some pundits, I think that the result of this election is entirely unpredictable. Bligh would be smart to call immediately though; there is a lot of sentimentality towards the floods and the disasters of a year ago, and Bligh’s handling of them. It’s her best card, and she’d do well to play it.

  26. Jesterette

    Well dammit, of course that would be Coot-Tha.

  27. Hal9000

    Mark @23

    Agree re Newman’s posture as a moderate. He’s not.

    One issue that plays against any Bligh revival is the number of seats formerly marginal that are now sterilised against the ALP for the foreseeable future on account of ill-advised and ad hoc decisions, primarily by Beattie but also Bligh. Noosa and Hervey Bay will remain LNP strongholds for at least a decade on account of the idiotic Traveston Crossing dam proposal that cost Qld taxpayers half a billion dollars in return for a single weekend’s adulatory coverage in the Courier-Mail. No QR National workers, most of whom live in provincial cities where it’s the largest employer, will ever vote ALP again. Bundaberg, thanks to maladministration of Queensland Health by crooks and bullies at ministerial level, will not return an ALP member for a generation or more. As a result, the electoral map contains an ALP black hole bounded by Pumicestone in the south, Rockhampton in the north, Fraser Island and the Northern Territory border and this won’t change before 2020. Other than the Toowoomba seats, there isn’t likely to be anything in play west of the Great Dividing Range and I’d be astonished if the ALP hangs onto more than one of the Gold Coast seats – probably Broadwater. The dismal Margaret Keech deserves to lose in Albert but may hang on as Beenleigh has become the welfare-dependent capital of the state – but then again, that status didn’t and won’t save its competitors in the low socioeconomic stakes the Wide Bay Burnett seats. If Beattie and Bligh were LNP sleeper agents whose strategy was to alienate Labor voters they couldn’t have done a much better job.

    To sum up, the post-election electoral map will IMO resemble the prevailing situation 1983-1989, only without the malapportionment. None of this is dependent on the LNP maintaining an illusion of unity – those votes have already gone.

    It’s hard to see the ALP getting back into government during the tenure of all but the youngest of the incumbent pack.

  28. Hal9000

    Jesterette @30

    Not according to both the Electoral Commission of Queensland and the turnoff sign on the Western Freeway it isn’t. Mt Coot-tha. Lower case.


  29. Geoff Henderson

    @Jesterette – if you are right that the outcome of the next election is unpredictable then my head is on the wrong planet.

    As I see it the outcome is certain – a change of government. Unpredictable maybe is a change * in* government that would see a coalition of Green and Labor. Like in Federal politics.

    IMHO the only “unpredictability” is the size of the LNP government in seats, and whether they can get it together to make a success of their incumbency.

  30. Geoff Henderson

    [email protected] – Why would Labors support re-commence north of Rockhampton?
    It is my view that Labor is out of favour in all the regions; certainly in mine that extends from Cairns to the tip.

  31. Jesterette

    The index of state district maps on the QEC (Queensland Electoral Commission) would disagree, which is one of the authorities I referred to. Perhaps they also are confused. I think the capital T is overdoing it, for sure.

    I agree that either a coalition or Liberal victory is likely (thus making the outcome unpredictable), and I wouldn’t write Bligh off just yet. Stranger things have happened.

  32. Jesterette

    The coalition I refer to is the Labor/Green coalition (or unholy alliance, if you’re conservative).

  33. jumpy

    @ 11

    “”It’s worth pointing out that an ALP loss is probably the preferred outcome for Gillard and federal ALP …””

    Not if Newman carries out his promise to have certain issues investigated* that implicate da Ruddster.

    (* shouldn’t take as long as the FWA investigation into the Thomson affair I recon )

  34. jumpy

    oh, and Swan too.

  35. Mark Bahnisch

    Lefty E, the Council Wards in Brisbane are typically only slightly smaller than the state electorates. At one stage, in the 70s I think, they had the same boundaries, though I’d have to go and check that. The Nats were always playing with the City of Brisbane Act to try to stack the decks.

  36. Mark Bahnisch

    Darryl, I think keeping Newman out of Ashgrove is #1. If it looks like it can be done, and all it would take is a credible poll, preferably during the campaign, it almost takes care of the unlikely #2 – winning the election.

  37. Mark Bahnisch

    @33 – Hal9000, you make some thought-provoking points, which, with your indulgence, I’ll return to at a more civilised hour!

  38. paul walter

    It starts to look a really unappetising poll.
    TheTories haven’t changed their spots, like good conservatives they don’t learn and they don’t forget. Their program is going to be overtly, unashamedly neolib and austerity prone. The Qld people have had ample time to forget what the worst of what formal Toryism is, it will be a shock for the system.
    Then Labor, which begins to resemble the late unlamented NSW ALP government, that got one term too many.
    Qld Labor seems on death’s door, due to the factions and the cancerous, inertia-ist right-faction in particular.
    So, it seems like a choice that is no choice at all.
    For someone of my outlook even Labor is preferable to the LNP, but it really seems an arsenic versus cyanide argument, this early and late in the game.

  39. Terry

    I’m not really sure what The Greens would want to say about their Federal experience since 2010. They are on the one hand quite distant from the Gillard Labor government, as seen with the response one gets from ggreens supporters to any use of the word “coalition”, yet they are publicly seen as being close to Julia Gillard, as with the weekly meetings with Bob Brown (now apparently on hold) and the Senate agreement. The “keeping the bastards honest” tag would also be hard to sustain, since I can’t think of a bad decision by the current government that The Greens managed to stop.

  40. PinkyOz

    jumpy @ 39/40 – Good grief! take on Swan at your own peril. No offense to the departing Mr Roberts, but he is pretty much holding up the ALP vote in North Brisbane by himself. He is a seriously clever political operator (You rarely get to be treasurer of the nation otherwise) and he will be watching carefully.

    Even if Newman is elected, I will be willing to wager that any investigation on that matter will be crippled by his involvement in the background. Of course, that may depend on how much damage he thinks it will do to him, I would also bet that he will not bend over backwards to save Rudd at this stage.

  41. Hal9000

    [email protected]

    There are some very safe ALP seats in and adjacent to Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and north of Cairns in the peninsula/TSI seat of Cook. The retirement factor, notably Schwarten, may have either positive or negative impacts, but I doubt these seats will go to the LNP. I could be wrong, but I can’t see many of these changing hands. Mt Isa, however, will IMO go to the Katters.

  42. Sam

    I can’t think of a bad decision by the current government that The Greens managed to stop.

    Depends on your opinion of what is bad, but some would include the Malaysian solution.

  43. Terry

    High Court stopped that one, not The Greens

  44. paul walter

    That the Greens haven’t had greater influence, is simply more evidence of how badly damaged the system has become. And its global, not local. Our politics is just another symptom of an atomising global phenomena.

  45. David Irving (no relation)

    Your claim still doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny, Terry.

  46. Fran Barlow

    Terry said (of the Malaysian “Solution”) and who stopped it:

    High Court stopped that one, not The Greens

    Strictly speaking you’re right, but The Greens ensured that the decision would stick since it was clear they would not pass changes to the Migration Act needed to render the HCA objections moot. De facto, if not de jure, I’d say that The Greens can take the credit.

  47. Terry

    We’ll see how the Greens go in a Qld election, but they have underwhelmed in the Victorian and NSW state elections, and those two states are more naturally Greens voting states than Queensland. The anti-CSG vote is more likely to go to Katter’s party, and its not really a SE Qld issue.

  48. Terry

    Mark, there would be two supplementary questions to ask:

    1) Do they know who Bob Katter is and what he stands for?
    2) Do they know who Larissa Waters is and what she stands for?

    A third could be “If I give you this large hat, can you do a Bob Katter impersonation?”

    Its why the Queensland public sector unions are giving money to Katter, adn not to the Greens.

  49. Quoll

    What about the now planned 112 million cubic m of dredging in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area to come.
    An outcome of the CSG and coal industry…
    At six seperate places with the world heritage area along the Qld coast.
    On top of the already significantly destructive impacts on the fishing and tourism industries from less than 5% progress in the dredging listed for Gladstone harbour.
    Larissa Waters and heads of fishing, scientific and tourism bodies together raised this yesterday.

    Any thing other than Qlders voting for people who will take action to curb the degradation and destruction of it’s natural environment (and protect the far greater number of jobs in fishing and tourism there than in mining) appears to me to define stupidity.
    You know people voting for the same useless mob again and again and expecting something different.

    Where are the major parties?
    Couldn’t give a stuff for anything really except their own miserable arses and pandering to their mates in the mining industry.

  50. Terry
  51. Sam

    the behaviour of the principal public sector union, in apparently cosying up to the LNP

    It’s an act of desperation, like cows cosying up to the abbatoir manager.

    Except that you’d expect it of cows, because they are stupid.

    Oh, wait …

  52. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    You know what shits me the most about Queensland politics…?

    I’m not enamoured of either of the major parties – but that’s not the problem. The problem is that if either of the major parties win government, they’ll almost certainly likely to win a majority in the legislative assembly at the same time. Unlike other states, there’s no legislative council to amend or overrule things. So any brain fart that comes out of the Premier’s mind almost invariably comes to pass.

    Rather than adding a second legislative council (which nobody wants) I think we need proportional representation for Queensland for the assembly. I like the Hare-Clarke system from Tasmania, although the MMP from New Zealand may be worth a go.

  53. Lefty E

    Good to see elements of the Union movement standing up for members and showing the ALP they cant be taken for granted. That way lies revitalization for Australian unionism

  54. Lefty E

    Mark @ 41: indeed, BCC wards aren’t far off the size of state seats. It’s insane. I speak very strongly from personal experience here: eg in Dutton Park ward, you can persuade a majority of punters from west end / highgate hill to support a particular local issue, only to have the alderman turn around and argue that punters from Fairfield don’t give a crap.

    The worst thing is: the alderman is probably right. But they take this as some popular mandate for inaction, rather than what it is: a damning indictment of BCC ward boundaries, and the way they crush any possibility of genuine local accountability.

    All this permits aldermans to earn 100k, of course. In the rest of the country, councillors earn about 10k, it’s effectively part time and you must be committed – but then again you’re representing a few blocks in a much smaller council.

  55. Lefty E

    Is that right? There you go. I think the BCC is a failed and quite monstrous experiment in ‘local’ government, frankly. Hive off the good stuff that size has allowed to the state govt ( eg the bush land levy) and then break it up into four of five smaller councils. Then we’ll see some local character – instead of bland, homogenous ‘precincts’.

    On the unions – I was thinking mainly of Mighell there. Good to see the PSU take a stand on privatization but I remain to be convinced of the wisdom of supporting Katter.

  56. Hal9000

    Lefty E @65

    BCC wards aren’t far off the size of state seats

    They’re actually bigger. My local council ward of Pullenvale includes all of the state electorate of Moggill plus some of Indooroopilly and some of Mt Coot-tha. See interactive map at http://myneighbourhood.brisbane.qld.gov.au/index.htm

    This gives a peculiarly Brizzie connotation to the word ‘local’ as in ‘local government’.

  57. Terry

    The Brisbane City Council has a budget the size of the Tasmanian State government.

    Having lived under the regime of the Marrickville Municipal Council, I’d have to say that there are elements of the BCC that I quite like. Administrative competence is one.

  58. Hal9000

    Administrative competence is one.

    Spoken like a person who’s never had to rely on the BCC bus system for transport. Sorry Mark, I’ll stop indulging in off topic discussion…

  59. Lefty E

    Hal – I’d like to say I was surprised by that startling bit of info, but I’m not. The only possible value the BCC has is as a model of Whitlam style regional government, once we abolish states. As a ‘local’ govt it’s a parody.

    Again, this is why it produces one of the few ALP – LNP contests in local govt in the whole country ( do Brisbanites generally realise this?). It’s set up to provide careera for the C-graders of the major political parties, not as a form of local representation

  60. Lefty E

    I can’t think why we’d want local govt handling water and roads, But I’ll leave the BCC issue there! Agree multi member districts would be better if the BCC must be kept. (…Prefer to smash it into 5 bits tho! :)

  61. Lefty E

    Just iPhone lag Mark. Don’t see new comments till the typing is done!

  62. David

    Down and Out of Sài Gòn That is what is so great about the QLD system that there is no upper house. In Canberra you never get a mandate in your own right so you get legislation blocked or amended by minor parties who only have 10% of the vote. Why should 10% of the vote get the final say on legislation?

    Just on the topic on of optional preferential voting. I know that Labor wanted to change it back to compulsory preferential voting. But they thought it would be too hard to do, with the media and opposition likely to accuse them of political opportunism. That decision not to change voting back to compulsory preferential voting is not supported by all Mp’s, which one informed me Labor would of won five more seats at the last election if they didn’t have optional preferential voting. Redlands would have definitely been still held by Labor in the 2009 state election if they had compulsory preferential voting.

  63. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Why should 10% of the vote get the final say on legislation?

    David: it’s better than the current system. There have been many times where 1% of the vote gets the final say on legislation.

    (I should add “Boom. Tish.” at this point.)

  64. Paul Norton

    Mark @80, it’s worth recalling that when the Electoral and Administrative Review Committee recommended the introduction of OPV in 1991, it also argued that the option of proportional representation should be considered if significant support emerged for parties other than the then major parties. As this has happened to a significant extent from 1998 onwards, it’s past time to take a look at PR for Queensland State elections, for the reasons canvassed @62, among others.

  65. Hal9000

    Mark @76

    I agree that loss of trust has been the principal electoral outcome of the post-’09 privatisations. There has also been a differential impact in the regions, where direct job losses – denied prior to sale and then promptly implemented, have compounded the problem and have a larger proportionate impact on the regional economy. I suspect it also irks Labor voters seeing the miners securing an even bigger slice of the profits from digging up public property as the now industry-owned trains trundle by…

    Much of the high-profile infrastructure delivered by Beattie and Bligh in Brisbane has also been of the ‘luxury’ variety – think Lang Park, South Bank and the Goodwill, Eleanor Schonell and Kurilpa bridges – rather than meat-and-potatoes public transport and road infrastructure. These monuments don’t do much for regional voters’ impressions about the priorities of their state goverment.

    Meanwhile, much of the road infrastructure delivered in Brisbane has been afflicted by the loathed tolls, and public transport fares have risen to British heights without much improvement to services. There has been no political challenge to the borrowing-is-bad mantra that means current taxpayers have to pay up front for the full cost of stuff that will benefit as yet unborn citizens, but the general sense of malaise will have electoral impacts, to be sure.

  66. David

    Did Labor bring the changes to optional preferential voting in 1991? Yes but as Paul Norton correctly points out it was one of the recommendations of the Electoral and Administrative Review and it is unfair to suggest that Labor brought the changes in so they could exploit Liberals/Nationals with the 3 cornered contests. In the 1992, 1995 and 1998 elections Labor handed out how to vote cards with the recommendation to voters to number every box.

    It was only in the 2001 election where One Nation became so prominent and with the Labor trialing a “just vote one strategy” that was brilliantly strategically suggested by then Deputy premier Terry Mackinroth that Labor was able to exploit the system.

    When Cameron Dick looked into changing back to compulsory preferential voting last year after Labor’s primary vote was leaking to the greens. The LNP yelled political opportunism by making any changes. This is despite the fact that there had been motions in parliament from LNP politicians calling for the return to compulsory preferential voting which included Lawrence Springborg before the LNP merger.

    Now the LNP has merged, plus the One Nation vote has disappeared and coupled with the fact that Labor’s primary vote is leaking to the greens. The LNP have hypocritically slammed any changes but that was before the emergence of Bob Katters party and while the LNP probably won’t have any problem at this election because the swing to them is so great it may be now in their best interests to support the legislation. For it could help there elections chances on a rainy day where their primary vote has dropped and disaffected conservatives are voting for Katters party. The exhausted votes for Katters party would most likely end up falling to them if compulsory preferential voting was reintroduced.

  67. Terry

    “The exhausted votes for Katter’s party”. I like that phrase. You can almost feel a XXXX coming on when you hear it.

  68. Droo

    Latest QPS rumour is suggesting an election on 18 February. Bligh will call it as soon as the floods anniversary stuff is out of the way.

  69. jumpy

    “” Bligh will call it as soon as the floods anniversary stuff is out of the way.””

    Or maybe she held off to look after her cronies?

    “”This week, 13 state MPs – including five Labor members – effectively qualified for taxpayer-funded payments for life, with the election now certain to be held after their eighth anniversary in office.””


    Always frugal with the taxpayer dollars is our Anna (NOT!!)

  70. John D

    This LP post written after the last federal election discusses factors that affected informal voting. It was estimated that the accidently informal vote would have been at least 2.5% and that this skewed the vote because, for example, people with low English skills are more likely to cast an informal vote.
    Interestingly enough informal votes were higher (in the federal election) for states that have OPV. (Qld and NSW probably assumed that the federal system had been changed to give the same fairer ssytem they enjoyed in state elections.
    The post commented:

    The problem with the federal system is that it makes votes informal even when it is quite clear what the voter intended. The aim of a fair voting system is to take account of a voter’s intentions, not test how well a voter understood the intricacies of the voting system.

    The fix for the OPV problem is to take account of a voter’s intentions to the extent that it is possible. This would automatically count the vote of someone who chose not to use the preference option. It would also allow ballots that went 1,2,2,5 to be used for all stages of the count except when deciding which party that got a 2 was the next party to be eliminated. This is the priority reform for the House of reps. It should help reduce the OPV, ballot length and English skills effects.

    It would be a scandal if any Qld government tried to get rid of OPV. Parties that are concerned about losing preferences through OPV might try taking the effort to explain to minor party voters what these voters have to gain by using their right to allocate preferences

  71. Antony Green

    If the Federal Parliament won’t countenance optional preferential voting, and all three major parties currently oppose it, there is an alternative.

    One of the problems of the current formality rules is that a ballot paper must have a complete sequence of preferences to be included in the count, even if a ballot paper’s preferences would never need to be examined. So for instance, at the 2009 Bradfield by-election, 77,524 ballot papers were examined to ensure there was a correct sequence of numbers from 1 to 22 before each ballot paper’s first preferences was admitted to the count. Yet as the Liberal candidate received 56% of the first preference vote, not one of those ballot papers needed preferences 2-22 examined to determine the winner. So incomplete preference ballot papers could have been admitted as no preferences were required to determine the winner.

    In essence the current formality rules are all about stating what can’t count rather than providing options for what could count.

    The current rules are designed to rule out any chance of any ballot paper with exhausted preference being admitted to the count. Yet in its Informal Voting Research Report into the 1987 election, the AEC found that 85-90% of all ‘1’ only votes could have been admitted to the count as the 2nd and further preferences on those ballot papers would never have been required to be examined to determine the winning candidate. So for every ballot paper kept out of the count because its preferences needed to be examined, 9 that didn’t need their preferences examined were also excluded. Calculations I carried out on the 2010 election came to roughly the same proportions.

    If compulsory voting is going to be maintained, I argue the formality rules should be changed so that any vote with a valid first preference be admitted to the initial count. My idea can be described as ‘progressive informality’, a ballot paper with a valid first preference is admitted to the count and only becomes informal at the point where its non-existent or duplicate preferences need to be distributed. The first preference then becomes informal and is removed from overall totals.

    People who just vote ‘1’ for a 1st or 2nd placed candidate would be more likely to remain in the count than candidates who finish in 3rd place or worse. (i.e. major parties would do better than minor parties as a general rule.) But overall progressive informality would cut several percent from the informal vote while also retaining an incentive to protect compulsory preferential voting. The current formality procedures set too high a hurdle and exclude 9 out of 10 ballot papers that could have been admitted into the first preference count to keep out the 1 in 10 ballot papers that do threaten compulsory preferences.

    I still prefer OPV, but I also hate it when someone in Bradfield votes 1,2,3,…,21,21 or 1,2,3,… 20,99,100 and gets their vote declared informal because of a ‘rules are rules’ mentality.

  72. Antony Green

    (To the moderator, I put the wrong e-mail on my post. Sorry.)

  73. Lefty E

    Makes sense to me Antony – surely the electoral law should be about including votes where an intention is clear. Incidentally, who do you consider the 3rd ‘major party ‘? :)

  74. Sam

    I thought there was a ruling that if 1 to 21 are numbered and 22 is blank then the vote is formal because by implication the unnumbered square is 22.

  75. Antony Green

    I was going to put that in my original post but decided it was so trivially pedantic that it was hardly worth bothering with.

    It is true that the act states that if you number every square except one with a correct sequence of preferences, then the empty square is imputed to have the final number in the sequence. In Bradfield it meant that a ballot paper numbered from 1 to 21 with the final square blank was imputed to have 22 in the blank square.

    However, muck anything else up, or put something other that ’22’ or ‘blank’ in the last square and the vote is informal. Leave it blank it is imputed as 22. Put 100 as the last number in the sequence and there is no imputation of 22, the ballot paper has an invalid sequence and is informal.

    Incidently, the last square blank provision allows ticks and crosses to count as formal on any Federal ballot paper with only 2 candidates as the provision saving ballot papers where the voters intent is clear comes into play. Mind you, there hasn’t been a 2-candidate Federal contest since 1984.

  76. Antony Green

    Of course, a ballot paper can never be distributed as a preference to the candidate listed last in the ballot paper’s sequence. The ballot paper would have already reached the other of the two remaining candidates in the contest who by definition must be listed before the final preference.

  77. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    If compulsory voting is going to be maintained, I argue the formality rules should be changed so that any vote with a valid first preference be admitted to the initial count. My idea can be described as ‘progressive informality’, a ballot paper with a valid first preference is admitted to the count and only becomes informal at the point where its non-existent or duplicate preferences need to be distributed.

    Interesting, Antony. But how should your “rules” be modified to handle the Senate? There, you’re looking for people who get quota.

    What it comes down to: if someone (a) does not vote above the line, but votes 1 for a candidate, doesn’t vote 2 for anyone else, and the candidate manages to get quota. Should his vote be accepted or marked informal? I’d say “accept his vote”.

  78. Malcolm

    I suspect much will depend on the overall electoral trend that emerges from the state election. If it’s like NSW last year and there is a strong anti-government tide that prevails despite the disillusionment with the alternative, I think it will be hard for the Greens and the Independents to make inroads just like it was for both parties last year. That’s because voters will be so determined to “throw the bastards out” that they’ll vote for the LNP just to make sure that Labor actually loses. If people are disillusioned with the government but have enough disillusionment with the alternative to have reservations about them forming an alternative government, that’s when the Katters of the world and the Greens could flourish. I still think the odds are more on Katter and the Independents then the Greens because I’ve never thought of Queensland as particularly fertile ground for the Greens. Then again, the Greens are now winning seats where they polled under ten per cent about fifteen years ago so who knows?

  79. Antony Green

    #96 They don’t have to be used for the Senate. More than 95% of people simply vote ‘1’ above the line. As well, the Senate already has a savings provisions for below the line votes that allows incorrect sequences of preferences to remain formal as long as 90% of squares are filled in and as long as there are no more than 3 breaks in the sequence of preferences. This allows Senate votes to exhaust their preferences, something not allowed in the House.

    The high incidence of ‘1’ only votes on House ballot papers is largely induced by the Senate ballot paper, as has been shown in every jurisdiction when above the line voting was introduced in the upper house. It is also evident from by-elections, where the incidence of ‘1’ only voting falls. In Werriwa at the 2001 and 2004 Federal elections, ‘1’ only votes made up 35% of informal votes but only 9% at the 2005 by-election.

  80. Paul Norton

    Malcolm @97, the Greens in Queensland did achieve a higher primary vote and a stronger swing than the Greens in NSW at the 2010 Federal election (which may or may not have been an indirect consequence of events in Eastern Europe in 1968).

    The more serious point I want to make is that I think it is almost certainly the case that the Greens’ support for the minority Federal Labor government will have affected some voters’ perceptions of the consequences of voting Greens in State elections where there is an unpopular incumbent Labor government, which is where I (regretfully) think you’ve probably got a point in your second and third sentences.

  81. Justin

    Antony Green, unless I’m mis-reading your comments about ‘progressive informality’ (not unlikely!), would it not have the effect of making the ‘compulsory preferential vote’ in fact an ‘optional preferential vote’?

    That is, I could just vote 1 to the candidate of my choice and leave the rest blank. First pref counted, preferences exhausted after that.

  82. Antony Green

    No. Under current rules any ‘1’ only vote is informal. I suggest that if a ‘1’ only ballot paper does not need its preferences examined, that it is for a candidate who is not excluded at any stage, then it should be formal. However, it would still be informal if the ballot paper needed its preferences needed to be counted.

    Over 80% of ‘1’ only votes are cast for the two leading candidates in a contest. The second and further preferences of those ballots would never be counted, so why does the lack of preferences that don’t have to be counted cause the first preference that can count to be excluded?

    I might be using a different definition of an exhausted preference than you. I don’t classify a vote for one of the final two candidates that exhausts is preferences as exhausted as these preferences are never counted in determining the winner. I dealt with what the real rate of exhausted preferences at Queensland elections is in a blog-post for the LSE earlier this year.

  83. John D

    Anthony: The real scandal in the Australian system is the current “above the line” option for the senate. It allows backroom negotiators to do deals such as the ones that got Fielding into the senate.
    The system would be better if we could allocate preferences above the line (with diversions below if we wanted to) It would also be good if the possibility of unintended informal voting was minimized using something like what I described @89. (I think my system is slightly better than yours.)

  84. Chris

    If we had a simple electronic voting system that just printed out a filled out voting ballot that a voter could inspect before putting in the box, we could avoid any unintentional informal vote. As we could have the computer tell the voter if their vote was going to be informal or not (and explain what they have to do to make it formal).

    Agree with John D that above the line voting gives the party machines too much power.

  85. Fran Barlow

    Let me reiterate my continuing view that compulsory preferential is wrong. While I remain a member and thus a supporter of The Greens, in Federal elections, my vote is going to remain informal in practice for as long as The Greens candidate has no reasonable prospect of getting ahead of the ALP candidate on primaries or other preference flows. There is simply no way I will preference the majors.

  86. David

    Fran Barlow when you do that your essentially voting liberal. Because every Green vote that is not preferenced to Labor is one less vote Labor has, which brings Tony Abbott closer to the Lodge.

    Frankly I’m fed up with the Greens and there political opportunism. The Greens political strategy is quite predictable is what ever policy Labor releases no matter how progressive it may be is to release a more progressive policy to cannibalize the Labor vote.

    Sadly alot left voters can’t or refuse to see through this and hence why the greens are such a great success in Canberra.

  87. jumpy

    I would be happy if every Green leaning voter took up Frans principled stance and voted informal.Top shelf thinking, HAZZAH!

  88. Terry

    Isn’t Fran in one of those Sydney north shore electorates that someone like Phil Ruddock holds with a 30 per cent margin, so how people vote in it is largely perfunctory anyway?

  89. jumpy

    If there’s one thing polies do its examine their own electorate results.
    What message does a donkey vote send ?
    Not less than nothing, but pretty close to it.