Sunday, March 25, 2007

NSW Elections 2007 - The Polls Were Right

So the polls were pretty correct. Having stuck my neck out on Friday to forecast either a hung parliament or an opposition win, it was already clear on Saturday morning that that forecast was likely to be wrong. And so it was.

Information Sources

Before going on, you will find the ABC coverage of the election results here. The Poll Bludger analysis and especially the comments on posts continue to be interesting because many of those commenting have individual on-ground information.

Perhaps most importantly, the Electoral Commission's Virtual Talley Room provides Assembly and Council voting details down to individual booth levels for each electorate. This makes it easy to check results in individual seats that you might be interested in.


Labor ran candidates in all 93 lower house seats. As at 11.08 last night, the party had 39.5 per cent of the vote, down 3.2 per cent, giving it 53 projected seats including one still in doubt.

The Liberal Party ran candidates in 73 lower house seats gaining 26.8 per cent of the vote, up 2.1 per cent, giving it 21 projected seats including one still in doubt.

The Nationals ran candidates in 20 lower house seats gaining 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 0.2 per cent, giving it 13 projected seats.

So the coalition in total gathered 36.6 per cent of the vote for a projected 34 seats as compared to Labor's 39.5 per cent with 53 seats.

The Greens ran candidates in 93 lower house seats gaining 8.8 of the vote, up 0.5, for zero projected seats.

There were 70 independent candidates in all, with a number of seats having multiple independent candidates. Independents gained 9 per cent of the vote, an increase of 5.3 per cent, with a projected six seats, including one in doubt.

There were also various other parties including the Christian Democrats (57 candidates, 2.5 per cent of the vote), Australians Against Further Immigration ( 56 candidates, 1.4 per cent of the vote), Unity (30 candidates, 1.1 per cent of the vote) and the Australian Democrats (26 candidates, 0.5 per cent of the vote).

I must say that I was pleased at the very low vote achieved by Australians Against Further Immigration. Conversely, I was saddened by the low Democrat vote, a sign of further decline. However, the Party did better in the Upper House, achieving 1.54 per cent of the vote so far counted.

It looks as though this will not be enough to save Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, the very hard working Democrat member. Here Poll-Bludger concluded at 5.05 am this morning (William, did you sleep at all last night?):

Looks like the Coalition vote continued to build as upper house voting continued into the wee hours, probably putting the final seat beyond the reach of the Democrats, AAFI and Fishing Party. Likely result: Labor 9, Coalition 8, Greens 2, CDP 1, Shooters Party 1.


There were two key factors that I underestimated last night.

The first was the incumbency factor, the way in which people at times of confusion will often go for the local sitting member they know. The second was the optional preference system, leading to considerable variability in outcomes. This combined with the secrecy attached to Party preferences created uncertainty in individual seats.

Overall, the votes last night were all over the place, allowing all parties with the exception of the Liberals to take some comfort from the results.

The Luck of the ALP

The ALP could hardly believe its luck.

There was considerable depression among ministerial staffers in the last days before the poll because, despite the polls, they saw the Party as vulnerable with even Labor stalwarts saying that the Party did not deserve to win. But win they did, even holding off to some degree the independent challenge in the lower Hunter.

In Newcastle Labor candidate Jodi McKay got just 31.2 per cent of the vote but should win because of the preference arrangements. In Maitland Frank Terenzini for the ALP got 39.8 per cent of the vote but should again hold on preferences.

Only in Lake Macquarie does it appear that the ALP has gone down. There ALP candidate Jeff Hunter managed to get 41.8 per cent, the highest ALP vote of the three seats, but still looks likely to lose the seat to independent Greg Piper on preferences.

In the midst of the euphoria, I see two longer term problems for the ALP.

If my analysis is correct, Monaro is now the only seat held by Labor outside Sydney, the Central Coast and its traditional industrial heartland of the Illawarra and lower Hunter. Further, Labor's habit of seat targeting and tactical voting, support for independents in Tamworth and Goulburn are examples, leaves a disheartened and diminishing pool of Labor activists in many parts of NSW.

The second is the rise of the Greens.

The Greens Consolidate

The Greens are happy with the results because they gained a swing plus two upper house seats. I find more interesting the way the Party appears to be consolidating its position as the natural second or third opposition party in certain areas. This poses a threat to the major partes.

I have not done a detailed seat by seat analysis, but let me illustrate by taking a few examples.

Take some of the inner Sydney/Eastern suburbs seats minus Vaucluse itself which somehow seems to be missing from the on-line numbers.

  • Sydney: Independent 41.2, Liberal 20.6, ALP 19.9, Green 15.3
  • Heffron: ALP 58, Liberal 21, Green 19
  • Balmain: ALP 39.6, Green 29.5, Liberal 23.5
  • Marrickville: ALP 47.3, Green 32.5, Liberal 12.1
  • Canterbury: ALP 57.7, Liberal 17.8, Green12.6
  • Coogee ALP 39.1, Liberal 35.7, Green 21.3

Population in the inner Sydney suburbs is growing quite rapidly, creating a Green sympathetic demographic. The Liberal Party appears to have largely given up in some areas - there were no Liberal workers at all at the two booths I visited in Heffron, creating considerable anger among Liberal voters - consolidating the Green position.

The danger for both Liberal and Labor at the next election is that an entrenched Green position may cost both seats at the next election, Labor loosing to Greens, Greens stopping Liberals winning others.

Nationals Consolidate

The elections saw the Nationals consolidate their position.

The Nationals went into the election having lost one seat through redistribution. The Party also faced major threats from high profile independents. They came out winning two seats from Labor (Murray Darling and Tweed) while heading off the independent challenge.

The Party failed to win back Tamworth from the independent and has probably failed to unseat the independent in Dubbo, although this one is still too close to call for the moment. Still, the Party can take considerable satisfaction from the results.

I found the North Coast results especially interesting. If we look at seats here we find:

  • Tweed: National 46.6, ALP 37.8, Green 8.4
  • Ballina: National 46.6, ALP 23.5, Green 19.9
  • Lismore: National 53.7, ALP 23.5, Green 19.9
  • Clarence: National 52.6, ALP 30, Independent 7.8, Green 7.0
  • Coffs Harbour: National 51.8, ALP 20.6, Independent 15.0, Green 7.5
  • Port Macquarie: Independent 67.4, National 19.6, ALP 9.0, Green 2.6
  • Oxley: National 59.6, ALP 24.9, Green 10.5
  • Myall Lakes: National 48.5, ALP 20.7, Independent 19.4, Green 5.9

With the exception of Port Macquarie where the independent Rober Oakeshott increased his vote, the Nationals have strengthened their hold along the coast.

The ALP vote is clearly in trouble, and indeed outside Tweed the ALP really ran dead. In the words of one commentator on Poll Bludger.

There is now virtually no Labor infrastructure on the coast. This is the result of targeting marginal seats in the city and expecting independents to do Labor’s work in the country. For this policy to work Labor must run dead and this is the message we get from Sussex st.

It saddens me to say that this deadness extends to policy concerns as well - failure to restore the Murwillambah railway particularly when Qld is building a railway to the border and the Grafton Bridge are prime examples. Even good actions of the government e.g. rescuing Port Mac Base Hospital from private ownership get attributed to independents. This leaves very little room for Labor.

The demographic changes that Labor should be taking advantage of are being wasted. Where Labor had 3 seats two elections ago (Tweed, Clarence and Port Stephens) - they are in a good position to have none this year.

The point about demographic change is well taken.

The broader New England has always been Country or National Party heartland. After winning Murray Darling, the Party holds just four seats outside the broader New England, five if it wins Dubbo back. This pattern has been replicated at most elections since the Party's original formation.

Within New England, the independents have cut a swath through the centre of the Party's heartland from Tamworth through Northern Tablelands to Port Macquarie. Inland populations have also been stagnant, coastal populations growing, leading to continuing seat losses through redistribution.

This was a make or break election for the Nationals. The Party absolutely had to hold, especially in the North East corner where the higher Green vote is a sign of coastal demographic change. All this makes the Nationals the greatest winner after the ALP's retention of Government.

Liberals and Independents

What can one say about the Liberal Party?

On the plus side, the Party won two seats, Manly and Pittwater, back from independents. It also recaptured Hawkesbury where the sitting member had left the Party. It may yet hold Goulburn where star candidate Pue Goward faced a major challenge from the mayor of Goulburn running as an independent.

Beyond this, the Party got biggish swings in some of its own seats where it did not need it, much smaller swings in those seats where it did need them. The best gloss that the Party can put on the whole thing is that they did get the first swing to them since (I think) 1988 and that the margin now required is much smaller.

This leaves just the independents to look at. As best I can see, the results suggest that the independent movement has peaked.

There is, I think, only one independent member left in Sydney. Outside Sydney, at this stage confirmed independents are all in the broader New England (Lake Macquarie, Northern Tablelands, Port Macquarie and Tamworth.). Elsewhere Dubbo looks as though it will stay independent, while there is a very outside chance that Goulburn may still fall.

At this point, the most likely result is six independents, down one.

As a note, some readers may be surprised to see me include Lake Macquarie in the broader New England. Here I am using the New England boundaries set by the Nicholas Royal Commission into new states since they reflect historical patterns of interest.

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