Election 2016: Opinion polls, swings, roundabouts and statistics

May 31, 2016

This is not good news [The Australian paywalled] for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull government is facing the prospect of losing 10 seats in NSW, six in Queensland and three in Western Australia, with a significant slump in support in the key election battlegrounds.

The Australian headlined a six per cent swing against the government according to its own Newspoll data on 30 May.

I wrote this piece the day before [Sunday 29 May], without seeing the Newspoll data. Then in Monday’s Fairfax papers we also saw confirmation that the coalition is in trouble. James Massola wrote that the LNP is likely to lose at least a dozen seats and maybe even more.

Political strategists for both major parties believe the Coalition is on track to lose about 12 seats at the July 2 poll, slashing Malcolm Turnbull’s buffer in the Parliament but returning his government with a reduced second-term majority.

 Seems like I might be on the money with my prediction of a Shorten ALP government after the election.
But the numbers depend almost entirely on who’s doing the counting.
Labor thinks 11 seats in Queensland are in play, but to others the margins in some seem insurmountable.
For example it would take an almost unachievable 6.7 per cent swing to unseat Immigration Minister (and part-time potato model) Peter Dutton in Dickson. But some plucky voters have a strategy to help make it happen on polling day.
Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

The key thing is that local factors will influence the national swing and an average swing of around 4 per cent may not be enough to unseat Turnbull if it does not occur in the right electorates (those that the ALP needs to win back and has a realistic chance of winning).

Polling is politics, not science

Opinion polling is not an exact science. Polling in Australia is controlled by commercial entities that are interested in packaging and selling data, not necessarily in accurate and useful conclusions.

We also have to be wary of the margin of error, which can, at times, be greater than the difference between the party options. Methodologies differ too, which means that there is little, if any, comparability between polls.

So with that disclaimer in mind, are the polls an accurate predictor of election outcomes?

Yes, within their limitations they can be. But the limitations are legion and cannot be ignored:

  1. sample size: is the sample big enough and representative (demographically) of the electorate
  2. methods: does the survey (usually over the phone) favour a particular demographic
  3. margin of error: is the difference between options reliable and valid given the margin of error
  4. questions: the framing of the question can influence how we answer so that in any given poll there could be built-in bias

The other major factor we have to take into account is that there are big regional differences in voting intention based on more localised factors.

Often in Australia we conveniently identify the regions with the state and territory boundaries. This is crucial when discussing the potential for a swing one way or another.

The swing is never really uniform across regions or states and sometimes very local factors (within one electorate, for example) can mean that no amount of telephone polling can ever accurately predict how people will vote.

We know that a uniform national swing of between 4 and 4.5 per cent will deliver government to the ALP, but state differences mean that the national average may not deliver enough seats if regional variations are greater than the national swing.

Therefore, we need to look at the poll numbers on a state by state basis if we are to get any kind of read on what might happen in five weeks time.

A state by state breakdown

According to Roy Morgan (16 May figures) the coalition currently only has a very slim two-party preferred lead in one state, but the numbers appear to be all over the place.


There are three crucial seats in Tasmania and the ALP needs to win at least two of them to have any chance of winning nationally.

The ALP holds a substantial lead on a 2PP basis, 57.5 per cent to the coalition’s 42.5 per cent.

To win government Labor would need to capture Braddon and Lyons from the coalition. Lyons comes at 1.7 per cent and Braddon at 2.6. Both are achievable, but state factors may hold Labor back in Tasmania.

On the Morgan figures though you would have to concede that the coalition is right to be worried about its hold on the Apple Isle.


The figures in Victoria seem to mirror what’s happening in Tasmania. The ALP lead on 2PP is 56.5 per cent versus the coalition’s  43.5 per cent.

The coalition is rightly worried about Corangamite, Deakin, Dunkley and La Trobe. However, the Greens may put up a fight against the ALP’s accident prone Dave Feeney. On the other side, some commentators are still saying that the Turnbull factor will help the coalition in Victoria.

Personally I don’t think this is right. Turnbull is not part of the state’s patrician Liberal establishment and the IPAlite push in Goldstein and on the Victorian senate ticket does not align with Turnbull’s factional interests.

I think that Turnbull is so on the nose nationally that he cannot help in Victoria.

Western Australia

In 2013 the statewide swing in WA to the coaliton  was notionally only 1.7 per cent. The Morgan poll in mid-May indicated a swing back to Labor of 8.8 per cent. This would be more than enough to secure a Labor victory

Two weeks into the campaign and Morgan has  the ALP in front with 54 per cent over the coalition on 46 per cent.

Labor is hopeful of picking up two seats in the west, Hasluck and Burt.

South Australia

In mid-May, according to Morgan, the numbers stood at 53 per cent for the ALP and 47 per cent for the coalition. The seat of Hindmarsh is one that Labor hopes to pick up.

South Australia is a state where a swing against the coalition is likely to be strong given many people see the Abbott government as turning its back on the state’s biggest employers — the auto industry and ship-building. The submarine contract is a big bribe to the electors of South Australia, but it may not be enough to save Turnbull.

New South Wales

Morgan puts the ALP only just in front on 50.5 per cent and the coalition is close on 49.5 per cent, but the unpopularity of the Mike Baird LNP government at the state level may help Labor federally.

According to insider analysts, the coalition could lose Barton and Dobell (both notionally Labor after a redistribution), Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Macarthur, and Robertson. Banks, Page and Patterson could also be added to the list if the swing goes viral.

Labor needs to do well in western Sydney and on the central coast to win back the so-called Howard battlers who deserted the ALP a 20 years ago and are yet to all come back. However, anecdotal reports from those doing campaign work on the ground in Sydney’s commuter belt indicate the local mood is not necessarily for change.

Red Ned sent us this report yesterday.

A team of us spent last week in western Sydney targeting the commuters and to say we came away gutted would be an understatement, but back we go again this week. The polling from both pollsters and parties aren’t showing up to well for Labor in these must win seats
The swing back to Labor across western Sydney is in the order of 3.5 per cent. Not enough!
The surprise was the Penrith heartland seat of Lindsay, where Labor’s primary vote has tanked five points to a low of 34 per cent {Fiona whatsits seat !}.
There is also the number of retiring MPs that cause a problem as people no matter how politically disconnected seem to stick with those they know.This always creates a drop for the newbies no matter how talented they are, unless they are a known celebrity having a crack at politics
All up plenty of struggle ,but the thing that did come out of last week’s efforts are voters are warming to Bill and want their Medicare, NBN, Gonski and general health care saved.
What is keeping Turnbull’s boat afloat is the punters see him as best at the economy and stopping the boats.


The Sunshine State is the only place where the coalition leads 51 per cent to 49 for Labor.

Significantly, this is where Shorten spent time during the phony war period of the campaign targeting seats around Brisbane and in the north of the state that the ALP would like to win. It is ambitious, but winning all these seats in Queensland would almost certainly secure a Shorten win.

Six urban seats (Brisbane, Bonner,Dickson, Forde, Longman, and Petrie) are worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks. Five regional and rural seats (Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, Herbert, and Leichhardt) might also be in play.

But how realistic is it that Labor can win all its targeted seats in Queensland? Well the margins make some of them difficult. For example, Labor would love to topple George Christensen in Dawson, but his margin is 7.6 per cent.

This is way above the notional national swing which Newspoll generously puts at around six per cent at this point in the campaign cycle. There would need to be a local backlash against the rabid righ-twing Christensen for him to lose.

Northern Territory

There are only two seats for the whole of the Northern Territory, Solomon which is based on the city of Darwin and Lingari which takes in the rest of the territory. Labor is hopeful of picking up Solomon, which it can do with a swing of just under two per cent.

Australian Capital Territory

Labor holds the two ACT seats with a comfortable margin and will continue to do so.

To give you an indication of how volatile the election is I played around with the ABC’s House of Reps results calculator and this is one version of how an uneven state-by-state swing can deliver government to Bill Shorten.

One swing scenario that sees Labor elected

One swing scenario that sees Labor elected

It really is a case of swings and roundabouts. You should try the results calculator yourself.

This week’s opinion polls seem to point towards a catastrophe for Turnbull and celebrations for Shorten.

Only time will tell.



Can Labor win? It ain’t gonna be easy, but it ain’t impossible either

May 29, 2016

For the last few days I’ve been allowing myself to think that Bill Shorten can actually beat the Fizza on July 2nd.

I know it’s going to be tough. The odds are not necessarily in Bill’s favour and we cannot underplay the significance of an all out News Corpse attack on Labor over the next few weeks. We saw how successful this was in 2010 and 2013 and Murdoch’s hacks will pull out all stops to see Shorten defeated.

However, despite the obstacles, we could actually have a Labor government in the second half of 2016.

Share your opinion at the end of this post in the EM polldaddy poll of polls.

The math is not impossible, but it might take a few miracles.

The Fizza hits the streets

The Fizza hits the streets

In a way perhaps I’m just channeling the late Bob Ellis. He predicted a Shorten victory way back in December last year. At the time I was wishing, but not hopeful, but now I am convinced Turnbull cannot win on 2 July.

A few handfuls of votes is all it takes

To be honest, the prospect of beating Malcolm and his fizzas comes down to a few handfuls of votes in some key swing seats. Labor has to take back 17 seats and this requires a swing of around 4 per cent or a bit more. It’s not impossible for this to happen.

NSW Seats 2013 % swing to coalition Change required in two party preferred vote
Banks 3.28 2000 votes
Barton 7.1 500 votes
Dobell 5.75 700 votes
Eden-Monaro 4.85 500 votes
Lindsay 4.11 3000 votes
Page 6.71 2500 votes
Reid 3.53 500 votes
Robertson 4.0 3500 votes
Victoria Seats
Corangamite 4.22 4000 votes
Deakin 3.78 2600 votes
La Trobe 5.67 4000 votes
QLD seats
Capricorn 4.45 1600 votes
Petrie 3.04 500 votes
SA seats
Hindmarsh 7.97 2000 votes
Tasmania seats
Bass 10.78 3000 votes
Braddon 10.4 1500 votes
Lyons 13.51 800 votes

When you break it down like this even a seat like Lyons in Tasmania is winnable for Labor if around 800 electors change their vote from the coalition to Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

Lyons is an interesting example because according to the ABC’s swingometer, a swing of just 1.4 per cent to Labor would mean they win this seat. At 1.4 per cent Labor would also win Capricornia and Petrie in Queensland.

A swing of just 1.7 per cent would also give Labor the seat of Solomon in the Northern Territory. A swing of just 1.9 per cent means that Labor also gains Hindmarsh in South Australia.

A gain of 2.7 per cent in Braddon would give Labor its second Tasmanian seat. Only 2.8 per cent and the NSW seat of Banks returns to Labor.

Take the swing to an even three per cent and Labor wins nine seats including the bellwether of Eden-Monaro in NSW. Add just 0.3 per cent to that and the seats of Robertson and Page (NSW) and Deakin (Victoria) return to Labor. At 3.4 per cent Labor gains Macarthur and Reid in NSW.

Macarthur would be the first seat to change hands in 2016 that was not held by Labor before the last election. In other words, it would be a loss for Turnbull, not a seat regained by the ALP. Significantly, a uniform swing of 3.4 per cent to Labor would result in a nearly hung Parliament.

Labor would have 71 seats, the coalition 75 and four would be in the hands of independents. It is at this point that the 2016 election becomes very interesting.

A swing of 3.7 per cent would give Labor its second steal from the Coalition, delivering Bonner (Qld). It is worth noting that this would require about 4000 people to switch their votes from 2013.

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Hands off the ABC – Turnbull should resign his commission

June 25, 2015

The Abbott government’s political interference into public broadcasting has just got serious.

Very serious.

Heads should roll

Not content with going beyond his ministerial brief and ringing Mark Scott in the middle of the night to demand answers, the Duke of Double Bay has now decided to politicise his department by demanding senior officers conduct an inquiry into the ABC’s editorial decision-making.

The ego of this merchant wanker seemingly knows no bounds.

Everybody who ever watched Play School or an ABC news bulletin should be outraged and demanding Malcolm Turnbully resign his commission.

Turnbull has breached his ministerial guidelines with this move, but he’s gloating about it.

The jumped-up, smug little Napoleon has gone well beyond what is acceptable in a system that relies on the separation of powers.

Turnbull’s inquiry is blatant political interference.

How else can you explain his “instruction” to his department — which we can presume knows little to nothing of news judgment and editorial decision-making.

Turnbully's instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

Turnbully’s instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

And the reason he thinks he can get away with it is that he did the last time.

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Zaky Mallah, bluster and bullshit from the PM and his #Newscorpse drones

June 24, 2015
Don't apologise to me, unless it's for your craven backflip

Don’t apologise to me, unless it’s for your craven backflip

Seriously, what is the fucking fuss?

A fomer jihadi wannabe, who says he now hates ISIS, goes on one late night talk show and confronts a Liberal politician who is desperately trying to keep his head in the sand and “La, La, La” his way to the next election.

Liberal MP Steve Ciobo would rather be on television  shouting “Look over there, a #TERRORISMs” instead of confronting difficult questions about the disasterous policy porridge that his Dear Leader is foisting on the country.

But, an outrage such as a Minister being confronted by a young articulate Muslim asking embarrassing questions cannot go unpunished.

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Journalists and conflicts of interest: A difficult fault line

June 20, 2015

Journalists declaring conflicts of interest sounds simple, but …

When it comes to conflicts of interest in journalism – whether real, potential or perceived – the rules are usually simple. They’re framed around the principle that audiences (and management) need to know if a reporter, presenter or editor might be influenced by any commercial or personal relationship with another individual or organisation.

But what happens when the protocols of disclosure are not met? Well, as a couple of recent Canadian cases highlight, non-disclosure can rapidly lead to non-employment.

The recent sacking of two high-profile Canadian journalists highlights the difficulties media employees face in navigating the tricky terrain of conflicts of interest.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) dismissed the host of its premiere television political show Power & Politics, Evan Solomon, for allegedly using his journalist’s position to broker sales for an art dealer friend.

Solomon’s sacking followed a Toronto Star newspaper report on the journalist’s contract with art dealer, Bruce Bailey.

Solomon has admitted he received commissions, said to total around CAD$300,000, for his role in the sale of artworks, including to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, but added it was “all disclosed to CBC”.

Carney had previously been a guest on Power and Politics, which Solomon hosted until his dismissal.

On the face of it, this might seem a reasonable decision by the CBC.

Solomon, who was said to be a rising star at the government-owned network, was contractually bound by the station’s editorial policies.

In a statement defending its decision on Solomon, the CBC said the anchor had acted in a way “inconsistent with the organisation’s conflict of interest and ethics policy, as well as journalistic standards and practices”.

While Mark Carney and another of Solomon’s journalistic contacts, Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, were also clients in Solomon’s art brokerage business, there has been no evidence that any of his editorial decisions were influenced by his sideline in art dealing.


The swift action by the CBC has been criticised as hasty and perhaps out of proportion to Solomon’s alleged “crime”.

Solomon’s union, the Canadian Media Guild, also called CBC’s actions “excessively harsh”.

Solomon is the second high-profile presenter sacked by a Canadian broadcaster after allegations of conflict of interest surfaced.

In January this year a Global TV news presenter, Leslie Roberts, resigned from the Toronto-based network after it was disclosed that he was also involved with a PR agency whose clients appeared regularly on Roberts’s program.

Ironically, it was another Toronto Star investigation that revealed Roberts’s undisclosed affiliation with Buzz PR.

Roberts said he did not receive a salary from Buzz PR, but he had not alerted his bosses to the connection.

Perhaps in Roberts’s case the alleged conflict of interest is more clear cut. Most journalists would be horrified at any suggestion that a senior colleague was also working for “dark side”.

It’s also clear that the potential for a very lucrative “revolving door” between the PR agency and Roberts’s news studio is ethically dubious, to say the least.

Is the perception of a conflict evidence enough?

Neither Solomon nor Roberts appear to have broken any Canadian laws. There is no allegation against them of criminal or corrupt behaviour.

So, is it enough then for there to be a perception of conflict for a media employer to take action?

It seems the answer is “yes” in the Canadian context, and the argument about reputational damage is a strong one.

We seem to hold media personalities to a higher standard than mere mortals, and within the realm of public broadcasting – funded by taxpayers – accountability must be observed and be seen to be observed.

To my knowledge there have been no similar recent cases in the Australian media, but that does not mean that allegations of conflict of interest don’t surface from time to time.

Most often the allegations are raised against ABC employees, and usually by journalists or commentators working for rival networks or publishers.

Lateline host, Tony Jones, is regularly in the firing line.

In March this year, Herald Sun columnist and Channel 10 presenter, Andrew Bolt, accused Jones of a conflict of interest when he was MC of Carbon Expo in 2012.

Carbon Expo is an annual conference focused on sustainability issues and the generation of a market for carbon credits.

According to Bolt, Jones has a conflict because of his role at the ABC, which requires him to be impartial in the presentation of news and opinion.

Bolt believes Jones is too close to what he calls the “warmist” view of climate change and cites his hosting of Carbon Expo as proof. But the ABC has never taken any action against Jones and his participation in forums such as Carbon Expo occurs with the explicit approval of ABC management.

Jones is represented by two speakers’ agencies, and charges – according to the Ovations website – a minimum of A$5,000 per engagement.

Is that a conflict of interest? The argument in Jones’ case seems to rest on political rather than ethical grounds. Bolt is a well-known critic of both the ABC and the science of climate change. Jones’ monetary value as facilitator and MC is predicated on his ABC profile, rather than the other way around and his relationship with speakers’ bureaux is known to ABC management and to any curious member of the public who cares to Google his name.

Perhaps it is the declaration that clears Tony Jones. In the Solomon and Roberts’ cases it seems that it was secrecy – and sudden exposure – that sunk them. Though one could argue the cases are different.

Being connected to a PR agency that solicits airtime on your network for its clients seems a greater offence than pocketing a kick-back from making introductions to an art dealer. Hosting corporate events and conferences also seems, on the face of it, to be fairly innocuous.

Any conflict of interest in the newsroom is a potential problem if it impacts on the veracity and honesty of reporting and editorial decision-making, but the standards of proof need to be very high.

The Conversation

Martin Hirst is Associate Professor Journalism & Media at Deakin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The story of the year and #Newscorpse doesn’t want to know

June 14, 2015

This week one of the biggest political stories of the year has broken, but The Weekend Australian has buried it on page 9.


How to pretend a story is not important...bury it on page 9

How to pretend a story is not important…bury it on page 9

This is not even original reporting. It’s a cobbled together story based on cribbing quotes from other news outlets.

It’s only in the paper because the editors know that if The Weekend Australian ignored it completely, its credibility would suffer even more.

It is an astounding example of skewed editorial judgement.


Because, the story is highly damaging to the Abbott government and the News Corp leadership has firmly nailed its flag to the mast of what is more and more looking like a pirate ship of fools.

The framing of the story — carried in the headline and lead par — set the tone: The Weekend Australian is right behind Abbott on his denials.


The Weekend Australian won't criticise Abbot

The Weekend Australian won’t criticise Abbot

Denialist–in-chief, Chris Kenny is leading the head-in-sand brigade on this issue.


Now the paper is scrambling to regain some initiative on this story, but the reporting still won’t directly accuse anyone of anything, instead promoting the continuing obfuscation, denials and no comments from senior members of the government.

However, this story is not going to die off any time soon. Indonesian officials are saying they’ve seen the wads of cash in $US bills and the people smuggler allegedly at the centre of the pay-to-return deal has been located and named.

Now the United Nations is weighing in. It is a story will a long way to run yet.


Watch this space, but don’t rely on The Australian for the facts.

[I will have more to report on this story soon, right now it’s Sunday and I’m going out for lunch]


The last of the old school moguls: Is Rupert on the way out?

June 12, 2015

The leaked announcement this week that Rupert Murdoch is to “relinquish” his 60-year reign at the top of the News Corporation mountain has been met with some skepticism by media insiders.

It seems that Rupert is to give up executive control of the Twenty-First Century Fox entity and hand it over to his son James.

Many, like Crikey correspondent, Stephen Mayne, feel that Murdoch’s move is a feint , which, in reality, will cement his family’s hold on the lucrative cross-media business. Mayne wrote that the Murdoch is the master of ruse when it comes to managing his family’s controlling interest in the News businesses.

…the Murdochs have made a career out of gaming media laws and bending regulators to extend their two-decade run as the world’s most powerful family.

Today’s leak to Fox News is just another step along the way in that journey for a family that is now worth about $15 billion, and carrying very little risk through either public or private debt.

Stephen Mayne, Crikey 12 June 2015

Writing on The Conversation, Brian McNair describes the succession leak as a “Game of Thrones” moment for News Corp.

And what of the future for news and journalism at News Corp? One imagines that if James and Lachlan do succeed their father, they would bring to the roles his personal commitment to investment in journalism, and a readiness to lose money in an activity with overreaching political value, here in Australia not least.

On the other hand, when Rupert does eventually depart for the great newsroom in the sky, will more mundane corporate realities come to the fore, spelling trouble for the loss-making Australian, The Times in the UK, and other outlets?

Brian McNair, The Conversation, 12 June 2015

To further complicate matters of ownership and financial regulation of News Corp, in 2013 the company was split into two wings; one—21st Century Fox—controlling film and television assets, mainly in the United States, the other—News Corp—a global network of newspapers and a publishing house (Rushe 2013). But in Australia, News Corp will hold both newspaper assets and Foxtel/Sky which is likely because of the huge losses suffered by the Australian newspaper, which could be as much as $33 million a year according to Murdoch watcher, Neil Chenoweth.
But maybe, just maybe Rupert’s time has come.
Take a look at this recent fairly bizarre tweet. We all make mistakes, but for someone who for 60 years has been a proud journalist (in his own mind at least), surely this is a gaffe too far.

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