The Malcolm Mackerras Six And The Question Of How To Define A Landslide

In a weekend newspaper article, the well-known psephologist and election analyst, Malcolm Mackerras, argued that there have only been six federal election “landslide” victories.

In his article, Mackerras nominated the six elections as: 1917, 1929, 1931, 1943, 1966 and 1975.

Mackerras quite rightly objected to the idea that “every second federal election” is a landslide. He described the 2013 election as a “respectable loss” for the ALP but not worthy of being called a landslide.

He said: “However, I have a more rigorous definition, the details of which I have not the space to elaborate now.”

How To Define “Landslide”

I would suggest two essential election statistics as criteria for defining a landslide:

  1. The proportion of House of Representatives seats held by the winning party or parties.
  2. The national two-party-preferred vote achieved by the winning party or parties.

The primary vote achieved by the election winners is also of some interest but since our system of compulsory preferential voting always provides us with a national figure of combined primary and preferred votes the primary vote alone doesn’t necessarily mean much. [Read more...]


The New Senate Numbers And The Abbott Government

As counting of the 2013 federal election winds down, the Senate election result is now clear.

There is a small chance of change in Western Australia where the Greens have asked for a recount following Scott Ludlam’s defeat.

Because of the fixed terms of the Senate, it will be another nine months before the complexion of the Senate changes. Current senators remain in place until June 30, 2014.

The current numbers are:

The Current Senate – until June 30, 2014
Party/Group No.
Coalition
34
A.L.P.
31
Greens
9
D.L.P. (Madigan)
1
Independent (Xenophon)
1
TOTAL
76

In this configuration, the Greens hold the balance of power. The Greens-ALP combination has a blocking majority. It ensures that Abbott government legislation to repeal the carbon pricing arrangements and the mining tax will most likely be rejected by the Senate.

This will be the state of the parties in the Senate after July 1, 2014:

The New Senate – from July 1, 2014
Party/Group No.
Coalition
33
A.L.P.
26
Greens
9
Palmer United Party
3
D.L.P. (Madigan)
1
Liberal Democrats (Leyonhjelm)
1
Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Muir)
1
Family First (Day)
1
Independent (Xenophon)
1
TOTAL
76

 

In this configuration, the ALP-Greens combination becomes less important and power shifts to a collection of minor groups and independents. [Read more...]


Of Votes And Bodies: The Labor Party’s Election Defeat

by Malcolm Farnsworth

There’s votes and there’s bodies.

In Saturday’s election, the ALP ended up with more bodies than it thought it would. Members who were written off or deemed at risk just three months ago have survived the election.

Think, for example, of Jason Clare, Chris Bowen, Laurie Ferguson, Ed Husic, Matt Thistlethwaite, Mark Dreyfus, Alan Griffin, Anna Burke, Graham Perrett, Kate Ellis, Gary Gray and Warren Snowdon. They are some of the saved furniture. Some of it is tatty, some of it has lustre, but it has survived.

That’s why the relief in the ALP is palpable. Bodies matter. MPs have staff, offices and facilities. They are an essential part of the infrastructure a political party needs to wage war with its opponents.

Whatever the Gillard apologists might say – and they were out in force over the weekend – the ALP was heading for the loss of 30-40 seats in June.

In Melbourne in May the massive swing against the ALP in a state by-election where the Liberals didn’t even run a candidate drew attention to what was happening in the electorate. In some areas, the swings were over 20%. The smarties denied that a state by-election warranted federal comparisons but people on the ground knew better. [Read more...]


It’s Over: Defeat Looms For The Rudd Government

by Malcolm Farnsworth

After Kevin Rudd’s return to the prime ministership on June 27, and throughout July, I told anyone who asked that I thought the electoral psychology of Rudd’s revival wasn’t clear. I wanted to wait until the end of July to see what the polls revealed.

It seems clear now that the country breathed a sigh of relief that Gillard was gone. The electorate was also prepared to give Rudd a chance to show his stuff. There was a general sense of excitement that we now had a contest. [Read more...]


Alternative Universes And The PNG Solution

Alternative universes abounded last night.

But sometimes the media worlds available via a remote control are more alike than they are willing to pretend.

There was the ABC. Within an hour of Kevin Rudd’s announcement of the PNG solution, its screen was filled with refugee advocates castigating the decision. They were joined by frothing right-wingers in an unholy unity ticket of condemnation.

Online, in the ever-so-slightly-nutty world of Twitter, there was talk of White Australia, racism and Labor’s shame. Dire warnings of malaria and rape coalesced with suddenly-expert analyses of the state of civil society in PNG.

Some lamented the shape-shifting Rudd and yearned for The Great Gillard.

There was Sky News, sadly these days a paradise for ever-more vacuous right-wing talk show hosts and those cable-friendly Laborites who make you worry that you might be on the same side.

As on the ABC, the resident Liberals and standalone right-wingers were especially lathered and frenzied. Last night they were born-again campaigners for the down-trodden. They accepted the solution but despaired of its implementation.

I felt somewhat alone. In my foolishness, I thought I might just have witnessed a political masterstroke. Commentators online suggested otherwise. I should be more ashamed, they seemed to say. [Read more...]


Where Are The Seats Rudd Needs To Win?

The “sugar hit” polls are in. It’s 52-48, perhaps 51-49. We have a contest.

Don’t we?

Labor starts with 72 seats, including the notionally independent Dobell. It needs 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives. It needs to hold everything it has and pick up 4 more seats to govern with an outright majority of one.

Let’s assume for the moment that the ALP can hold all its 72 seats. Yes, it’s a mighty big assumption.

Where might four more seats come from?

TASMANIA

Labor holds 4 of the 5 seats in the Apple Isle. The only seat it doesn’t hold is Denison. Unlike the other independents who backed Julia Gillard, Andrew Wilkie is trying for another term.

Denison is based on Hobart. It has very strong Labor areas and strong Greens areas. Recent polls suggest Wilkie is polling strongly and has lifted his primary vote from 21.26% in 2010 to the mid-30s now. He could be hard to beat.

Other reports and polls have Labor on the nose in Tasmania. But Labor has won all 5 seats in Tasmania in 3 of the past 5 elections (1998, 2001 and 2007). Beyond that, you have to go back to 1974 to find a fourth occasion.

VICTORIA

Labor is at a historically high point in Victoria. It polled 55.31% of the two-party-preferred vote in 2010. Despite losing Melbourne to the Greens, the ALP picked up La Trobe and McEwen, giving it 22 of the 37 seats, or 59.4%.

Assuming it holds those 22, it can look to Melbourne as a possibility. The Liberals are likely to direct preferences to the ALP. Unless Adam Bandt can lift his primary vote by several points above the 36.17% he secured in 2010, he is unlikely to win. [Read more...]


Woof Woof!

I can’t resist it. Whenever I hear someone say “woof woof”, I always think of a famous exchange between Gough Whitlam and Billy Snedden in 1975.

Today’s email from Crikey alerted me to this tweet from Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday:

Gillard

At least Gillard was only expressing her delight at the 9-point victory by the Western Bulldogs over Port Adelaide.

In the House of Representatives on February 19, 1975, however, the same words were uttered by the Liberal Opposition Leader, Billy Snedden. They came during a discussion of one of the most contentious constitutional issues of the Whitlam years. Snedden was ridiculed by Whitlam and the incident contributed to Liberal unease over Snedden’s leadership. He was replaced by Malcolm Fraser a couple of weeks later. [Read more...]