July 31, 2018

Horse 2450 - Super Saturday: Yawn. Crick. Roll over. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

At the weekend, five by-elections were held in Australia. Before the ongoing fallout from the Section 44 Constitutional tizzie caused these five members to resign there were four Labor members and one Centre Alliance member in those seats; after the simultaneous by-elections there were four Labor members and one Centre Alliance member in those seats. All of this means to say that as far as the makeup of the parliament is concerned, the actual consequence of the Festival Of Democracy Sausage 2018, was nil. Precisely zero seats changed hands. The make up of government remains unchanged. The government's majority of one, remains unchanged.
Yawn. Crick. Roll over. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I wanted to look at the total votes cast and see if that would indicate any general trends but the data is inconclusive at best. The WA Liberals didn't bother to contest either of the seats in Western Australia, Rebecca Sharkey proved to be somewhat popular in her seat in South Australia; this only leaves one seat in Queensland and one in Tasmania and that's not really enough to draw any proper inferences from.

I have read predictions from pundits predicting:
84 - Labor
62 - Coalition
5 - Other

79 - Coalition
67 - Labor
5 - Other

As well as:
73 - Coalition
73 - Labor
5 - Other

About the only thing which anyone can agree on is that the five independents are well liked by their constituents and that they will probably all be reelected. When you read commentary from various sources who all read into the data and see what they want to see and they all come up with different outcomes, then that says that trying to predict the future is pointless. In my previous post I predicted that nothing would happen (and nothing did) but when you have a general election, with some boundary redrawing and a new seat being added, then who knows even which way is up?

There was hype before the by-elections that they were referenda on the leadership of both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. That might very well be true in a general election when the nation decides who it wants to govern it but if all politics are local to some degree, then a by-election that will not change who is in government can hardly be called that. If the fate of practically nothing is in the balance then it's hardly a referendum on anything except who the local member is.
There possibly could be a case made that had the Liberal Party taken a seat away in any of these by-elections then that could be taken to mean that the public likes what the government is doing but given that that hasn't happened in 98 years, then it would mean that the people really really like what the government is doing. In almost every major democratic political institution around the world there is a tendency to for whoever is not currently in power, in any special election or by-election which is caused by a casual vacancy, and this extends to midterm and half term elections where you have a president which is voted in separately from the legislature. In Australia we go one step further and also tend to vote for the political party that isn't in power federally, into government at state level. That trend is weaker but it's still noticeable.

If we strike off Perth and Fremantle which were uncontested and Mayo which was held by the Centre Alliance, then the only two contests worth bothering with were Braddon and Longman. If you assume that they're one giant conglomo-electorate, then the uniform swing is only 2.24% in favour of Labor. If you plug those numbers into the
post-election pendulum following the 2016 Australian federal election, then the result of the next election looks like:

82 - Labor
64 - Coalition
5 - Other

Two seats is never useful in trying to guess what the results of a general election is though. You may as well be trying to extrapolate a model of the entire universe using a piece of fairy cake as a starting point; which is not only unwise but subject to errors.

In short, I consider the fact that I predicted the results of all five by-elections a freak event and would take any prediction that anyone makes in future with a grain of salt, and a slice of lemon.
Yawn. Crick. Roll over. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

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