Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How do the Libs solve a problem like Greenway?

A good result overall for the Coalition should not mask the problem the party has in appealing to voters in Western Sydney. Greenway is a seat the Liberal party had been targeting and should have been one of the first seats in the country marked down as a Coalition gain but history will record a swing to Labor. This is the 2nd election in a row the Liberal Party has failed to win Greenway and make sweeping inroads in Western Sydney. The party needs to look at it's preselection process in the area, they've been running dud candidates for a long time now. It never used to matter too much because the whole of Western Sydney was seen as Labor heartland but as Lindsay, state election results in the area and even Blacktown Council (now with a Liberal Party mayor for the first time ever) show, people in Wetsern Sydney will vote for the Liberal Party if you give them a good reason to. What this post is attempting to do is list potential candidates for Greenway and/or Chifley in the future (a fantasy football for political tragics), their strengths and weaknesses and their likelihood of being preselected.

Jacqueline Donaldson
Jacqueline is a 2nd term councillor on Blacktown Council.. 
Pros: Has a strong media profile in the area and would pick up votes on name recognition alone. Gets on well with the Greens in the area due to joint environmental and fair trade campaigns. Could pick up votes from progressives. 
Cons: Could be too progressive for the Liberals in the area, Has had to defend the councils extremely controversial decision to close Mt Druitt Pools, her sons disastrous 2010 campaign for the seat of Chifley.
Chance of preselection: Low - She has control of some numbers but has said she doesn't want to run federally. Would be a shoo-in for Chifley preslection if she wanted it. 

Jess Diaz
Jess is a Liberal on Blacktown Council and migration agent.
Pros: Has a strong name recognition, controls the numbers for Greenway
Cons: His son Jaymes, has ran for the Liberals in 2007 in Chifley and while not a disastrous campaign it didn't exactly set the world on fire.
Chance of preselection: Low - His if he wants it but I doubt he does


          Nick Tyrrell 
          Nick is a former Liberal Councillor on Blacktown Council
          Pros: Young, smart, gets on well with people from all sides of politics.
         Cons: Lost preselection for the state seat of Riverstone and wasn't too happy about it. 
           Chance of preselection: Low

Venus Priest
Venus is a small business owner
Pros: Strong ties to the business community and Filipino community. Managed a 15.8% primary and 18.6% 2PP  swing as the Liberal candidate for Mt Druitt in 2011 and 5.4% primary and 7.35% 2PP swing as Liberal candidate for Chifley in 2010.
Cons:  Has already run and lost twice. 
Chance of preslection: High - Well liked in the party and by the public. Does she want to run again though?

 Isabelle White 
Liberal Councillor on Blacktown Council
Pros: Young, managed an almost 2% primary vote increase for the Liberals in Chifley in the 2013 Federal Election
Cons: Inexperienced, had a constant minder with her who looked like he was directing her every movement, (even going so far as to tell her not to put her hand out to give someone a handshake if they had only grabbed an ALP how-to-vote when the media was there) Has had to defend unpopular council polices like the clousre of Mt Druitt Pool and removing pensior rebates on land rates.
                                         Chance of preselection: High

Angry Anderson
Rock star
Pros: Massive public profile. Can generate media anywhere. Is a bit like Pauline Hanson in people think he "says it like it is" Tony Abbott's preferred candidate for Greenway.
Cons: Managed just 10.7% for the Nationals in Throsby at the 2013 election, although that was a 4% increase. May look like he's seat shopping. 
Chance of preselection: Mid. Would be a shoo-in if Abbott got his way.

Matt Adamson 
Former professional rugby league star.
Pros: Big public profile. Western Sydney is rugby league heartland. Another Abbott pick for Greenway
Cons: Ran for the Palmer United Party as their lead NSW Senate candidate.
Chance of preselection: Very low. Would have to switch parties.

For the Liberal party's sake let's hope there's more talent coming through. If I had to pick out of this lot I'd go with Venus Priest and Jacqueline Donaldson.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why the Diaz campaign was always going to be a disaster

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past few months you have had heard of Jaymes Diaz and *that* interview. It was a gaffe of the highest magnitude and the publicity surrounding it guaranteed his loss in the most marginal seat in NSW - Greenway. Greenway is a seat the Liberal party has been targeting and should have been one of the first seats in the country marked down as a Coalition gain but history will record a 2.32% swing TO Labor and Diaz will go down as a 2-time failed candidate in a seat he should have won.

Yes, Diaz has now lost Greenway twice, his campaign in 2010 was almost as invisible as his campaign this year, he didn't attend candidate forums, he was hardly at pre-poll meeting voters, he didn't go to community group events. His failure in 2010 was due to being invisible to voters, this is because he was not very confident at public speaking. In fact when I met him in 2010 and again this year both times he didn't make eye contact and one of his minders did the talking. This time, after that gaffe went viral Diaz went into hiding and wouldn't even return calls or respond to emails from the local NewsCorp paper - The Blacktown Advocate. In fact, his gaffe was so worrying to head office they banned almost all Sydney candidates from speaking to media and attending community forums. Without the scrutiny from the voters, how does the party expect an elected member to stand up to the scrutiny of Parliament and the Canberra Press Gallery? In the end the only Liberal candidate to pick up a seat was one of the only ones who actually attended a community forum and put themselves in front of the voters to be scrutinised - Fiona Scott in Lindsay. It's probably a good thing for the Liberal Party that they didn't pick up more seats in Western Sydney having not known how some of these candidates perform under pressure.

The signs were there for the Liberal Party about Diaz being a dud candidate but because his father, Liberal Councillor on Blacktown Council, Jess Diaz controls the numbers in the area he was preselected again. If the Liberal Party wanted to win Greenway they needed a different candidate. They were told this from a sources (including me privately to a few Liberal members) and while Tony Abbott didn't want Diaz as the candidate (he approached both Angry Anderson who ended up running for The Nationals in Throsby and increased their primary vote almost 5% and Matthew Adamson who ended up as the lead Palmer United Party Senate candidate), in the end Jess Diaz made sure his son got the nomination.

The Liberals in Blacktown have a history of preselecting dud candidates in the 2 Blacktown seats. Diaz in Greenway in 2013 and 2010, David Barker (son of Liberal councillor Jacqueline Donaldson) in 2010 who the party was forced to disendorse due to anti-Islamic posts on his Facebook page. , Jess Diaz himself in Chifley in 2007.

The Liberal Party took control of Blacktown Council for the first time ever after elections in 2012 and came close to winning the seat of Blacktown at the 2011 state election. They should have realised by now that there are a lot of affluent people in the area and most of the Labor voters are socially conservative. If they can get their act together and start preselecting decent candidates they might be able turn the once Labor stronghold of Blacktown and surrounding suburbs Liberal and if they can tap more into the social conservatism while not scaring people about their rights at work they might just even be able to turn Mt Druitt marginal. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Making a demockeracy of the Senate

As has been noted by more than a few people, our senate voting system is in urgent need of repair. A system that allows a person to be elected to represent a state of a few million people while gaining just 0.5% or 13,002 first preference votes (Ricky Muir, Motoring Enthusiasts Party - Victoria) or worse yet 0.22% or just 2,030 votes (Wayne Drupolich, Australian Sports Party - WA) is a shambles. These results have come about due to Glenn Druery arranging preference swaps for a suite of different parties. What he has done is not illegal and both major parties have been warned about something like this happening since at least 1995.

The simplest way to reform the senate and encourage results that closer reflect the will of  the people is to make the threshold for election the same as the threshold for public funding - 4% of the primary vote. Although this method goes against the spirit of the Single Transferable Vote .
The method that seems to be gaining the most traction is the one that has been advocated by Antony Green and The Greens for a long time - Optional Above The Line preferencing like that used for the Upper House in NSW state elections. This system will allow voters to determine their own preferences instead of putting people's votes in the hands of backroom dealers. Along with this method allowing voters wanting to vote 'Below The Line' to only number as many boxes as there are candidates to elect (normally 6 but 12 in a double dissolution election) will give plenty of power back to voters and lower the informal vote rate.

To stop the situation we've seen in NSW this time where David Leyonhjelm from the LiberalDemocrats got a massive primary vote compared the LDP normal vote due to being in column 'A' and voters confusing them for the Liberal Party we could also introduce 'Robson Rotation' where the order on the ballot is randomised so each candidate (or party) shows up in each column the same number of times. Speaking of David, he is the registered officer for at least 2 parties, the LDP and The Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens). He was the lead LDP senate candidate for NSW this time, the ORP candidate for the Penrith by-election in 2011 and the LDP candidate for Bennelong at the 2007 Federal Election (where he got 0.1%) This is another situation that needs to be brought under control. How can one person be involved in at least 2 (though probably more parties) Which party's policies will guide him in the senate?

My preferred method of electoral reform is a little controversial, abolish the Senate (this will require a referendum that will only pass with bi-partisan support) and to introduce Mixed-Member-Proportional (like that used in NZ) voting to the lower house. If we have a truly proportional lower house we can do away with the senate and probably even preferential voting but if we are to keep the Senate (and preferential voting) we MUST make sure voters have control over where their vote goes if their first choice candidate isn't elected.

One last thing, while we're reforming the electoral system, let's ban the use of how-to-vote cards supplied by parties. We can either use the South Australia system and display a copy of each one in each booth or use MMP voting with no preferential voting. That way people only need to tick/cross 1 box and we won't need How To Vote cards. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Don't Stop The Votes!

While for most, the election (and the watching of the results) was done and dusted on Saturday night, for political tragics and statistics nerds like myself the results from election night are only the beginning. It's now been nearly a week since election day and with counting still going in every seat a few people (myself included) are keeping an eye on the results in the seats that are still too close to call and tweeting numbers every time there's an update. The two seats with the most interest on Twitter are Indi - currently being led by Independent Cathy McGowan over the Liberal's Sophie Mirabella, former Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research - and Fairfax,  where Mining Magnate Clive Palmer is leading the LNP's Ted O'Brien. Indi is a fascinating example of how a likeable candidate against an unpopular sitting member can attract attention from across the country. The hashtag #indivotes was among the top trending topics in Australia for a few days and will trend again once it becomes obvious who will win. The interest in Fairfax is obvious: Clive Palmer is famous and is a colourful character. Love him or hate him people will always talk about him.
There are other close seats that aren't attracting as much attention. All are Labor held and all but one look like they will fall to the Coalition: Capricornia, Eden-Monaro, McEwen and Parramatta. 
Thanks to the type of data the AEC publishes we can attempt to "predict" who will win a close seat before all the votes are counted by assuming the two candidate-preffered figure for a certain type of vote will hold, and using maths to work out the vote difference after all those votes are counted. This method is for those of us who don't have a computer program we can feed the raw data into and have a result calculated for us.  For example, in Capricornia the AEC shows us that of the 4,981 postal votes counted so far 2.85% were informal and of the formal votes the LNP is winning the 2PP 59.66%-40.34%. If we assume this trend holds for the remaining 5,000 or so postal votes and do the maths with the figures for absentee votes we can come up with a rough estimate of the winning margin.
UPDATE - Original table moved to under updated table.
UPDATE 13/09: Slight alterations in the 2CP trends. Fairfax updated from LNP by 237 to LNP by 22
UPDATE 13/09: 2PP Parramatta absentees trend hasn't held (didn't think it would) changed from LIB by 47 to ALP by 530)
UPDATE 14/09McEwen added
UPDATE 14/09: Indi added
UPDATE 15/09: New Table, with updated figures (for comparison to see how the prediction changes as the current margin and trends change)
UPDATE 16/09: All seats updated - Capricornia removed (prediction of LNP by 1,167), replaced by Barton.
UPDATE 17/09: Final predicted Indi margin is 363 unless more postals are received or any of the provisionals are accepted.
UPDATE 22/09: Table changed to Predicted Margin and Actual Margin. Fairfax is final result, other seats still have a handful of votes to process.
SeatPredicted MarginActual Margin
FairfaxPUP by 66PUP by 33
ParramattaALP by 1,039ALP by 917
BartonLIB by 703LIB by 493
Eden-MonaroLIB by 1,057LIB by 1,085
McEwenALP by 487ALP by 316
IndiIND by 363IND by 420

In the table below I've done just this for the seats I've mentioned. Let's see how close we get to the actual winning margin using this method.
SeatCurrent MarginPredicted Margin
FairfaxPUP by 1,132LNP by 22
ParramattaALP by 482ALP by 530
CapricorniaLNP by 624LNP by 1241
Eden-MonaroLIB by 864LIB by 465
McEwenLIb by 158ALP by 24
IndiIND by 896IND by 819
Predicted margin is calculated using the figures of votes left to count provided by the AEC (votes received so far) and does not include provisional votes but will once enough are counted.
These figures will have a slight margin of error due to more votes not being received by the AEC in time, changes in the 2CP for a certain vote type and some votes being rejected instead of added into the count. For updates as the count continues see my twitter feed - @Australiavotes.
This post also available on SBSNews here
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