13 February 2022
There were 4 by-elections on Saturday. The Liberal vote fell, which is normal in by-elections, especially with a Federal government as hopeless as this one and the NSW pork-barreling reports, iCare incompetence and dodgy rail entities to dress up the books.
In Willoughby the Liberal primary vote fell 14.65%, from 57.03% to 42.38% (in the count so far). But what is interesting is that the Greens have given the seat to the Liberals by not allocating preferences. At the latest count, the Libs got 42.38%, Larissa Penn, a credible independent got 31.36% (up from 9.91% when she stood last time) and the Greens 11.64%.
Note the maths: Independent + Greens = 43.0%. Libs= 42.38%
Larissa Penn, the leading independent has stood before and would appear to be a considerable improvement on a right-wing Liberal who also ensures continuing Liberal dominance in the Parliament. A lot of votes are still not counted and it is not certain that she would have won even with Green preferences, but it certainly would have been a line ball. The other candidates who together got 14.62% may well have favoured a progressive independent over the status quo. William Bourke of Sustainable Australia got 3.44%, Penny Hackett of the Reason Party (previously called Voluntary Euthanasia Party) got 5.97% and even the LibDems at 2.67% may well have favoured an independent over a Lib. This is what preferential voting is for. I do know that a bigger cross bench makes for better legislation.
The major parties introduced optional preferential supposedly to make it easier for voters who didn’t know about those little parties and were in danger of voting informal. In reality they did it because if preferences exhaust it becomes ‘first past the post’ which favours those with big primaries. The big parties can (and have) put in a few dodgy independents to soak up the primaries of other independents and win even though a majority of people did not want them. Minor parties should stick together and allocate preferences. It is most irresponsible of the Greens not to do this. I wonder if they are scared of ‘like-minded independents’ and would rather have just the major parties and themselves than more diversity in Parliament Their long-term voting strategy of frequently exhausting their preferences rather than numbering all squares would support this proposition. In this case they numbered no squares themselves but put ‘VOTE 1’ then the lame recommendation ‘then number the other squares in order of your preferences’. Perhaps this was a sop from head office to the candidate, and perhaps the swing was bigger than anticipated and if they thought the Liberals were beatable they may have done differently. Perhaps, perhaps, but the Libs will keep a seat that may have changed hands, sent a big symbolic message and changed the parliament significantly. Silly Greens. The Libs should be very grateful to the Greens but will hope that no one will notice that the anti-democratic fiddle of optional preferential has really helped them this time.
In Bega the Liberals had a 13.46% swing against them (48.91 to 35.45%) and Labor picked up 11.93% (30.59 to 42.52%) and gained the seat. The Greens dropped 2% and the Shooters entered the fray and picked up 5.47%. We may have had a COVID and pork-barrel election up here, but down there where the bushfires wiped out whole towns and numbers of people were huddled on the beaches and rescued by the navy the government may have been in trouble for different reasons. But the swing was still very similar to Willoughby.
In Strathfield, Labor held on, but did not look too flash considering the mess the Liberals are in. Their primary vote fell from 44.30 to 40.07% (4.23%). The Liberal vote fell from 38.89 to 37.24% (only 1.65%). The combined major party vote fell from 83.19 to 77.28% (5.91%), and the Greens fell from 8.79 to 5.94% (2.85%). This was probably due to Elizabeth Farrelly, the well-known SMH journalist who is stridently in favour of better town planning and was sacked by the SMH when it was revealed that she was a member of the ALP. She stood as an independent, got 9.28% and did not direct preferences, giving her almost no chance. The Labor candidate Jason Sun-Yat Li is a good person, but did not live in the electorate, which is a bad look. He will, however, be an asset to the somewhat talent-poor NSW Labor Parliamentarians.
In Monaro, which the Nationals retained after the retirement of leader John Barilaro is likely to get little attention. The National’s primary vote fell from 52.31 to 45.48% (6.83%) which was similar to what Labor gained 27.16 to 33.04% (5.88%). The Shooters did not stand in the by-election adding their 7.78% to the pool, but an Independent who got 5.93% took up much of this and the combined major party votes only fell from 79.47 to 78.52% (0.95%).As the percentage of postal and early votes continues to rise the margin of error of these figures is increased but the sample size is large enough for the results to probably stand, (unlike in the Hunters Hill local elections where the pre-poll and postal vote varied significantly from the polling days votes, probably influenced by an anonymous defamatory leaflet which was miraculously delivered to the whole electorate on the Wednesday night, favouring the Liberals. The change in the voting pattern gave them the mayoral election.)
The NSW Parliament will have one less Liberal, so the numbers will be Liberals 33, Nationals 12 (=Coalition 45), Labor 37, Greens 3, Shooters 3 and Independents 5. With a total of 93, it takes 47 votes for a majority, but the Coalition 45 can still rely on two of the independents, John Sidoti and Gareth Ward as these two were elected as Liberals. They both resigned from the Liberal party but not the Parliament after allegations were made against them, Sidoti from ICAC re property development in Fivedock and Ward after allegations of sexual violence. It is interesting that both our Federal and NSW state governments rely on people who left their party for embarrassing reasons to survive.
Business as usual. Thanks Greens.