Am I the only person …

… who’s totally dissatisfied with the coverage of the likely election outcome. Every article I’ve read seems to be along the lines of the following deduction

1. Labor can’t possibly win the 21 net seats it needs for an absolute majority
2. (implicit) Any outcome other than an absolute majority for one major party or the other is inconceivable.
3. Therefore, any outcome other than an LNP majority is impossible and inconceivable.

Obviously, the problem is with implicit step 2. As Inigo Montoya remarks to Vizzini, in the princess bride (a constant user of the term “inconceivable”) “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.

As far as I can tell, it is entirely possible that the next Parliament will include 10-12 non-major party independents (two to four Greens, up to three Xenophon, three current independents and perhaps two more). Of these, three or four would hold seats taken from the LNP, meaning that the government can only afford to lose about 10 seats to Labor before we get to a deliberative Parliament. Of the non-majors, there’s only one (Bob Katter) who could be regarded as a reasonably safe vote for the government.

Maybe the pundits have taken all this into account. But, if so, I’ve seen no evidence in what they’ve published. It’s still two-party preferred and what I’ll call the “fallacy of the excluded middle” in everything I read.

39 thoughts on “Am I the only person …

  1. This is where the betting odds reflect what is happening. The bets are will Malcolm Turnbull be Prime Minister or will Bill Shorten be prime minister. In the case of included middle – a likely result – we know that Turnbull is more likely than Abbott was to be flexible in forming a larger coalition and we know that independents will find it hard to justify going with the party with fewer seats.

    Interesting isn’t it that the current government is a coalition of two parties yet a coalition of greens and labor is portrayed as a disaster by everyone except the greens. Perhaps the large support for independents – no matter who they are – reflects a wish by the population to see more consensus politics and less adversarial politics?

  2. I’m dissatisfied with the inadequate debates on climate change mitigation, energy policy, economic policy, unemployment, health, welfare, education, refugee policy and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. These are our main problem areas and they get dealt with via tired cliches advancing the same old failed policies of the governing duopoly. Have I missed anything?

  3. You may be being encouraged by the US example of the media on the whole failing wretchedly to have predicted the success of the Trump phenomenon (while enabling even pandering to it) while simultaneously succeeding, as an active player, in crippling the Sanders campaign?
    We probably have the media we deserve here as well …

  4. Why do I ‘deserve the media we’ve got’? Why moralise away an utterly awful media?

  5. Roy Morgan Research has released a State of the Nation report that includes some very interesting seat-specific polls. Taken together they support JQ’s contention that “two to four Greens [and] up to three Xenophon” is a serious prospect in the House of Representatives, in addition to three or more independents. They show the Greens ahead of Labor in Melbourne and Batman, with Richmond also definitely in play for the Greens.

    That said, the prospects of the Xenophon candidates unseating Liberal incumbents in South Australian seats have not been helped by Labor’s incredibly stupid and self-defeating decision to preference the Liberals ahead of the Xenophon candidates in those seats.

  6. And I can attest that a number of people who have been involved in elections in Australia for a very long time, including some who have helped tip the scales in Labor’s favour in some of them, agree that the MSM coverage of the likely election outcome is feeble-minded.

  7. The media and the public have an impoverished understanding of democracy, which makes it easy for the major parties to resist the institutional changes that would improve the quality of government. I like Guy Rundle’s idea of House crossbenchers simply refusing to back any major party that fails to initiate a comprehensive, five-year program of constitutional and legislative reform on things like proportional legislatures, campaign finance, media ownership, federal ICAC, defamation law, whistleblower protections. If both majors refuse this program, there’ll be a new election in which the majors can go backwards.

  8. Another thing that we in the Greens discovered in the course of winning The Gabba ward in the recent Brisbane City Council elections is that when victory starts to be seen as a non-trivial probability for “third force” candidates, it puts a wind in the sails of their supporters and causes prospective voters to start giving themselves permission to switch their allegiance.

  9. @Ikonoclast This same old, same old, duopoly, both parties are the same, pox on both houses, etc, etc meme is total rubbish and you shouldn’t be spreading it. The policies of the ALP are articulated in detail on their web site, and the Liberal policies are fairly obvious for all to see. There are many and major differences between the two major parties, as well as similarities. Quit this shallow cynicism please.

  10. That Labor is somewhat less destructive than the Coalition is not a good enough reason to support them. The bigger picture of abandoning zombie economics and making our political institutions more people-centred is far more important than the tribal skirmishes between the two major parties.

  11. No you are not wrong but you have put your finger on the problem…..pundits or should we say punters, as in armchair gamblers picking their choices on the basis of a feeling and spruikers of particular viewpoints.

    I cant see anything changing until a new more reliable system is introduced. Reflecting personal interests the introduction of an Australian equivalent of 538 may be what is needed.

    The Bayesian probability Silver uses is not perfect but 500,000 plus scientific references illustrate Bayesian statistical methods are rather effective and useful even if they arent the Delphic Oracle and will inevitably because stats are not about certainty. Silvers’ approach suffered recently in the US as a result of some errors….notably the rise of Trump which was put too low a while. But the method should on average add by its nature to the precision of the predictions based on what stats we have now.

    The trouble in Australia is the input stats are far fewer and much less available than needed need resulting in reversion to that hoary distortable alternative, expert opinion.

    Still it at the least it sh/would be worth trying to see to what degree it can better the current bunch of mug punters can be bettered.

    (for those who arent familiar with Bayes the Norsys Netica web site (I dont have shares) is a good place to start exploring this black art which many view as a kind of artificial intelligence)

  12. @dedalus

    Hear hear (and here, here too) dedalus. What exactly would be the point of better “debates” between the current actors ? As you say, the policies themselves are appallingly clear.

    C’mon Ikono, what set of circumstances can you imagine that would ever result in “better” debates under the circumstances and limitations of a media moderated election ? And why would you want any such “debates” anyway ?

  13. The recently dissolved parliament had only 2 independents, Wilkie and McGowan. Katter is in the KAP.

    There are more than 2 potential independents gains in the upcoming parliament. There are Windsor and Oakeshott in New England and Cowper respectively. Stephen Mayne is running against Kevin Andrews in Menzies and could win as he has Green preferences ahead of the ALP and presumably the ALP are preferencing him ahead of the Liberals and so he could win if he gets a reasonable vote. There is also a similar campaign in Warringah against Tony Abbott by James Mathison.

  14. There’s been a lot of shrieking about how bad a minority government would be. I thought the last one was pretty good – about the best government we’ve had since Whitlam.

  15. Read a worrying article in The Saturday paper about the taxpayer funding of major parties. According to this report, major parties are stacking their candidature with party hacks. These robotic party representatives are not even bothering to engage with their electorates. One incumbent, in Tasmania, refused to go to a public debate, at his town hall, because he had no fear of losing his seat. If party machine democracy has so debased the original intent of the Australian constitution, then it is time to launch a High Court challengeto public funding for elections.

  16. @Greg Mckenzie
    Yet another facile, shallow, cynical rebroadcasting of some obscure and worthless opinion in some journal hardly anyone reads. Let me assure you that the major parties are not stacking their candidature with party hacks. To say so is an absurd and ill-considered cliche, and it’s statements like this that lead to millions of airheads dismissing politics as a waste of time. Is your vote worth nothing? Apparantly so.

  17. @Nicholas

    And if you’re in an electorate that the Greens can actually win (not counting the Senate) that might be a fair option. But the vast majority of us do not live in such an electorate – I don’t, for one.

    So after you’ve given your first vote to the Greens’ candidate, who will you be giving, via preferences, your real vote to ? Or will you not select preferences and therefore render your vote informal ?

  18. GrueBleen, I think Labor is somewhat less destructive than the Coalition.
    Debating about whether Labor or the Coalition should run our rinky-dink political system and high unemployment, high under-employment economy is like trying to decide between death by drowning or death by poison.

  19. @Nicholas

    So basically, you’re not going to give your preferences to either Labor or Coalition and thus you’ll render your vote informal – ie. you’ll not vote for anybody.

    I don’t deny that there is considerable frustration and weltschmerz in the situation, but nonetheless, either you number all the squares in the House of Reps ballot – and therefore really vote for either Labor or the Coalition – or you don’t and thus you don’t vote for anybody.

    Your choice, Nicholas; which is it to be ?

  20. We need proportional representation. The Greens could likely get 10% of the popular vote for the House of Reps this time. They got 8.65% in the last election and 11.76% in the election before that.

    A party that gets 10% of the national vote should get 10% of the seats. That would be 15 seats. Otherwise, it’s not even representative democracy. Without proportional representation reform, moving away from the neocon duopoly is that much harder.

  21. @Paul Norton
    Paul, on my understanding Labor hasn’t preferenced the Liberals ahead of Xenophon in South Australai, but is running an open ticket.

  22. My amateur opinion, which comes from taking aggregate poll results, using state information where possible, and plugging them into tools such as Antony Green’s election calculator, is that the most likely outcome would be Labor leading slightly on two-party preferred, but the Coalition being ahead on seats, and taking somewhere between 76 and 80, which would give them a majority of the House of Reps. A scenario where the Coalition gets less than 76 is therefore quite possible. The main trend that could lead to Labor having a majority is that Shorten’s approval is trending up, which could mean that Labor’s vote would be higher at the election than it is now. Unforeseen events before the election, such as Tony Abbott making more of an appearance, could also lead to a better outcome for Labor.

  23. I am puzzled by anyone who suggests that the ALP and Libs are the same. How gifting big business $50 billion is the same as not doing so requires truly magical thinking. If you take the Libs as being the fan boys of the neoliberal agenda, they are in favour of government abandoning just about everything except defence, which is needed to safeguard the assets of the rich.

    I think that many middle class people see it is inevitable that they will be paying for their own health care, education and retirement, since that provided by the government will be substandard. With this in mind all they want is income tax cuts and dodgy arrangements like negative gearing. Sadly defeatist thinking. Surely we won’t vote for that.

  24. @Ikonoclast

    There are 150 seats in the Federal Representatives, Ikono, so under your scheme, any ‘party’ that actually gains 0.67% of the lower house vote is entitled to a seat. But what if some party gains, say, 1.3% of the vote: is that party entitled to 1.9 seats ?

    Just how do you envisage this ‘proportional’ system working ?

  25. @GrueBleen
    There are well established systems of allocating seats in a proportional system that more enlightened countries have been using for many years. Closer to home we have an excellent system in operation in both the ACT and Tasmania, both of which have had stable government and no early elections for many years.

  26. @Paul

    Quite so, Paul, but I was interested to find out whether Ikonoclast himself had thought such issues through before just proposing an “idealised’ solution.

    Then again, I’m not sure that multi-member Hare-Clark electorates meet Ikono’s point: is it not still possible that, for instance, the total Green’s vote across Tasmania could be greater than the number of seats that the party wins ?

    There’s 25 seats in the Tassie lower house, so each elected member represents (nominally) 4% of the total vote. But what if a party gets a total of 7% of the vote ? Is that party entitled to 1 3/4 members ? Or is it entitled to 2 members but with an allocation of only 1 3/4 votes in any house decision ?

    If not, then how is it going to meet Ikono’s objection ? Is there any system anywhere that you know of that allocates a political party the same number of members, or alternately votes, as corresponds to that party’s total share of the vote ?

  27. GrueBleen :
    multi-member Hare-Clark electorates meet Ikono’s point: is it not still possible that, for instance, the total Green’s vote across Tasmania could be greater than the number of seats that the party wins ?

    Now that you mention it, a mixed-member Hare-Clarke multi-member transferable vote election would be brilliant. Both functionally, in that you add a few members with a “floating electorate” to fill in the numbers (a la MMP). But also because by the time the pundits had finished explaining it their 30 minute segment would be over 🙂

    Most mixed member systems aim to have sufficiently many members that you have to be a very tiny party indeed to miss out completely. Unfortunately many nominally proportional systems also choose to discard the votes of anyone voting for a party who gets enough votes for a member, but not enough to meet some arbitrary higher threshold. In NZ, for example, you need 0.8% for an MP, but 5% before you’re allowed any (unless you get an electorate MP). Which may make the roses grow but it’s not democratic.

    I think having most Australian well used to preferential voting means that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to do the above, it adds little complexity to the existing senate system, and it should produce much more equitable outcomes. In NZ they use Hare-Clark for local councils and no heads have exploded, so using both that and MMP in one country doesn’t seem to be an impossible task.

  28. @Moz Inoz

    Thanks for that Moz. Somehow, in my dotage, I was completely unaware of MMP which, if well designed, would go quite a way to satisfying Ikono’s desires – though never quite totally, of course as there always has to be a threshold that you must get above to claim a ‘balance seat’.

    But then, remembering Rule 2 (This is not heaven), maybe that’s as close as we can get. Wonder what it would take to get that implemented here. We might first have to think our way through Ken Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem (as preceded by Charles Dodgson’s work on choice transitivity) in order to organize our thinking.

    Interestingly though, I note that NZ, with a population of about 4.5million has 120 constituency seats – and hence only about 0.8% of the vote per seat which is 36000 (adults and children) per seat whereas Australia has 150 (0.67%) seats for 24.3 million which is 162,000 (adults and children) per seat (yes, I do recognize that not all of the adults of either nation can actually vote, nonetheless, like children who also can’t vote, they need to be ‘represented’ in the Parliament).

  29. Pr Q said:

    1. Labor can’t possibly win the 21 net seats it needs for an absolute majority…As far as I can tell, it is entirely possible that the next Parliament will include 10-12 non-major party independents (two to four Greens, up to three Xenophon, three current independents and perhaps two more). Of these, three or four would hold seats taken from the LNP, meaning that the government can only afford to lose about 10 seats to Labor before we get to a deliberative Parliament. Of the non-majors, there’s only one (Bob Katter) who could be regarded as a reasonably safe vote for the government.

    [written 14 JUN 16]

    Most pundits are as useless as tits on a bull, either stating the obvious or pumping out spin doctored click-bait to pander to their audience. Now that Abbott is deposed I accept premise 1. Also, I think that the excluded middle premise – of a an L/NP minority hung parliament – is worth a bet.

    I am betting that the betting markets are correct and that the polls will eventually start registering an L/NP lead in the last fortnight of the campaign. I predict that the L/NP will win government and Turnbull will be the next PM. Although my psephological crystal is not fine-grained enough to tell for certain whether it will be a “deliberative” or imperative parliament.

    Normally I try to put a psephological prediction out there before the campaigns are launched and a minimum of three months prior to the most probable polling date. But I have held off this election cycle owing to what I call the “cranky electorate” syndrome which is putting psephological bloggers highly unpaid jobs at risk.

    Back in pre-Turnbull SEP 2015 I was cautiously pessimistic about the L/NP’s prospects:
    blockquote>In 2014 I bet that the Abbot-led L/NP will lose the election (this was prior to Abbott’s leadership reset and policy back-flips). I am confident of winning my bets against the L/NP at the 2016 federal election. This is mainly due to inductive chartist reasons – it would be well nigh unprecedented for a party to make an electoral comeback after such a long string of adverse polling results.
    The problem for me is that this prediction is still at odds with my Five-P model of psephological supply which makes a very BOTE prediction of a narrow victory for the L/NP in 2016.

    This is reflected in my betting which has been all over the place, finally settling on a close, maybe hung, L/NP government. Obviously the main reason for the 180 degree shift is the Turnbull leadership effect. However disappointing he may be relative to expectations he is still bette than Abbott who is essentially an Opposition Research parliamentary hit man, not Prime Ministerial.

    I put $200.00 on the ALP @ 2.5 through 2014/16 (Bet365 cash-back & Betfair) as the Abbott administration went into a death spiral. Since Turnbull took over I’ve laid off those bets putting $500.00 on the L/NP @ 1.2 (Bet365 & Betfair) in the first half of JUN 16. To be on the safe side I’ve put $100 @ 5.0 (Sportsbet) on a hung parliament.

    My basic psephological theory is what I call the Five P model of political supply which is a somewhat hand-waving formula for predicting changes in partisan alignment:

    1. Pecuniary: (“its the economy, stupid”)
    2. Periodicity: (“what goes up, must come down”)
    3. Policy:(“Median voter two-party convergence”)
    4. Personality: (“politics is show business for ugly people”)
    5. Party:(“Corporate Brand”)

    In normal times the L/NP should have been a shoo-in. Evidently these are not normal times. The polls show the parties neck-and-neck, the Turnbull honeymoon is over and the electorate is looking ungrateful. Nonetheless my Five P theory predicts a narrow L/NP victory, so I’m sticking with it.

    1. Pecuniary: The economy is growing at annualized rate of 3.1%. Usually anything over 2.5% growth rate is political break even point.

    2. Periodicity: It’s their first re-election bid, starting from a land-slide victory. The last time a party lost a first time re-election bid was the ALP 1931, in the middle of a Depression and a Labor split. Stability of government is a big selling point.

    3. Personality: According to latest Newspoll, in net popularity, Turnbull (-14%) is ahead of Shorten (-15%).

    The ALP does have at least one thing going for it:

    4. Policy: The ALP’s progressive health, education & broadband policies are clear winners. Particularly when measured against the electorates lingering suspicion the an L/NP government would cut or privatize community services. Shorten has covered his Right flank through a tough policy on border protection. The GREENs will continue to excite the Fairfax press more than the electorate.

    My impression is that neither parties are on the nose with the electorate, and that they have both neutralized damaging in-fighting:

    5. Party: A draw. The ALP which has settled on Shorten as leader through sensible leadership election protocol. Turnbull has negotiated an easy truce between the L/NP conservatives and liberals.

    So my not-very-brave conclusion is that a Turnbull-L/NP will be returned next week, with a much reduced majority. And a significant but less than 50% chance of hung parliament.

    The broad conclusion is that the L/NP will rule but it will not be able to get its way on controversial items. It will be reduced to symbolic actions and the distribution of patronage. The AUS polity will continue to tread water so long as the property market does not suffer a recession-induced crash.

  30. Good article in Fairfax today about the betting odds. Apparently the number of bets put on the ALP has been significantly higher, but the big money bets have been put on the LNP.

  31. addendum “We’ve had three times the number of punters betting on Labor,” Mr Bulmer (Sportsbet spokesman) says. “But the big money’s coming for the Coalition. Three, four, five figure bets are coming in for the Coalition on a regular basis.”

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