canberra

Ben Raue at The Tally Room on the upcoming ACT Redistribution

Posted on Updated on

Ben Raue lives in Sydney and is the resident data analyst for GetUp. If you’re interested in Australian elections (and other elections) his blog The Tally Room is worth following on Twitter (as is Ben’s twitter account).

I’ve also just added Ben to my list of favourite Australian Political Blogs here.

Regarding the next ACT redistribution (which includes an expansion of the ACT Assembly from 17 to 25 seats) there has already been a few drafts circulated by “insiders” speculating about the size, shape and composition of the new five electorates.

As Ben correctly points out, the guiding principals that Elections ACT will use to manage the redistribution process are pretty clear. There is a growing consensus that the five electorates will be based on Tuggeranong, Woden/Weston, the Inner city (including the parliamentary triangle south of the lake that divides the city), Belconnen and Gungahlin. There have been approximate maps of such an arrangement previously distributed by former Greens candidate and Gungahlin Community Council President Alan Kerlin during the most recent redistribution process in the ACT in 2011.

Ben provided a rough map in a previous post here which gives an approximate shape for each likely electorate based on past booth locations.

ACT electorate booths

He’s also “taken the results by polling place of the 2012 results to produce my estimate of how many quotas each party would have polled in each of these five hypothetical electorates in 2012.” and produced the following table:

Seat Labor Liberal Greens Others
Belconnen 2.5227 1.8653 0.6105 1.0004
Central 2.4636 2.1197 0.9045 0.5118
North 2.4001 2.1628 0.7039 0.7324
Tuggeranong 2.1273 2.8835 0.3939 0.5950
West 2.4007 2.4501 0.5984 0.5494

Ben explains “Bear in mind that each electorate will need to have approximately 20% of the ACT population within it. The current legislation allows electorates to diverge from the average by up to 10% at the time of the redistribution, and by up to 5% of the estimated population at the time of the next election.”

Would there be any consequences if the size of electorates were allowed to differ greatly from average? Say by changing the margin at the date of the election from +/- 5% to +/-10%? This would certainly allow more long-term stability in the boundaries. Canberra is a very well-planned city were population projections can be fairly well predicted years in advance. However the Electoral Commissioner has previously argued that a tighter margin is fairer as it reduces the disparity in the value of votes between different electorates.

Antony Green also posted on this topic earlier this year.

other options? There was a radical proposal in 2011 to move the larger seven-member electorate to encompass both Belconnen and Gungahlin. Such a radical redistribution is unlikely and it’s probably unlikely two major town centres would be combined due to the fact it will make further radical redistributions almost inevitable.

Political Thriller to be filmed in Canberra Australia

Posted on

From the Canberra Times today:

A multimillion-dollar six-part fictional mini-series shot in Canberra, and peeling back the capital’s layers of power, is now in the development stage.

Based on The Mandarin Code and The Marmalade Files books by journalists Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, the mini-series is in the hands of production company Matchbox Pictures, known for its work on The Slap and The Straits.

A statement from Foxtel confirmed it would be working with Matchbox Pictures with funding support from Screen Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was expected to make the announcement while launching the book at Parliament House 10.30am Wednesday.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said it would be fantastic for Canberra.

“There’s nothing bad about this, it’s all great,” Ms Gallagher said.

“For anyone who loves the city it will be wonderful to watch.

“Just the exposure that [Canberra] will get through Screen Australia.

“What we all love about the city is going to be projected as part of this wonderful story by two local authors and respected journalists.”

Pene Lowe, owner of Hansel and Gretel cafe at Phillip featured in two key scenes in The Mandarin Code, was thrilled about the news and about her shop being included in the fictional storyline.

“We need to put up a little sign saying ‘spies corner’,” Ms Lowe said…

More here: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/multimilliondollar-political-film-project-to-be-shot-in-canberra-20140806-100w5u.html

Meet an election specialist – Peter Brent (aka @mumbletwits)

Posted on Updated on

A couple of weeks ago I published an interesting interview with famous Australian Psephologist Malcolm Mackerras. At the end of the interview I asked him for some suggestions about other psephologists or election specialists that I should add to my list of interview targets. One of his highest recommendations was Peter Brent, who Malcolm seemed to be very fond of. I have met Peter several times over the last decade or so, usually at political science conferences and seminars around the country. I also got to know Peter while he was still working on his PhD thesis at ANU on the topic of the AEC “The Rise of the Returning Officer”. He reminds us all about the very unique creature that is the AEC which, as Australians, we should all be very proud of (despite what Clive Palmer suggests).

I also developed a bit of respect for Peter over the years as I watch him regularly deal with armchair electoral generals (initially mainly through his blog and then, as it became a mainstream medium, through twitter) with his standard straight-bat dryness and sarcasm. He’s a real sensation on twitter and you should all follow him immediately, although I suspect if you’re reading this many of you already do. BTW I’m not the only one who thinks Peter has a particularly dry wit as the following tweet attests.

 

Also, to hammer the point home, when I asked Peter to provide me with his preferred portrait for the interview, this is what he sent:

brent

So tell me about yourself. Who are you in a nutshell? Left-brained, observant, neurotic.

Where do you live/work/study/teach? Canberra, from home and parliament.

What compels you to write and research about politics?  It’s an illness. I used to suffer more from it. I don’t consume as much political news as I once did, which is kind of ironic, or paradoxical, as I now write about it for public consumption.

What do you love about politics?  Not much, particularly the Australian version. I used to believe it was superior to, for example, American and British politics, but no longer do. Not sure if this is chiefly due to changing perception on my part or changing reality.

Is there anything you don’t like about modern politics? Lots. The adversarial nature, Question Time is a travesty. The profession of politics encourages some people to misrepresent what opponents have done and misrepresenting their positions. For some, it must corrode the soul; you would not be a politician for quids. This no doubt applies across most democracies, but probably particularly so here. Like many, I think the parties’ obsession with polling and research is a problem. Labor seems particularly afflicted with WestWingitis. Just between us, party polling gurus are not as clever as the political class believes.

Compulsory or Voluntary voting? Voluntary, but I don’t feel strongly about it. There are ok arguments either way. Compulsion is I think too coercive and I don’t think the benefits outweigh the negatives. If we got rid of compulsion, turnout would drop and we’d get a better idea of the level of political engagement, at federal and each state level. That’d be a good thing.

Who are your favourite writers? Don’t have any. When I was young I loved Orwell, like many. (Still like him!) My reading tastes are more low-brow than they used to be. For example, I always snap up the latest Michael Connelly book.

What are your favourite websites and news sources? Oh … you know, this and that. This week I downloaded and sent several long reads to Kindle from New Yorker magazine.

What’s the first thing you do each morning? Computer on (if off). Coffee on. Feed cats if first one up. Sit at computer. Write. I used to listen to Radio National Breakfast but now this is my prime writing time and the radio would be distracting. A great pity.

What is your one recommended must-read for aspiring psephologists? Read more on electoral law, something I don’t do enough.

What’s your favourite political movie/book/documentary/TV series? Sorry, another “don’t have one”.

But in the late 1980s I loved “A Very British Coup”, watched it several times on video. Ray McAnally fantastic as a Labour PM from Yorkshire. It would be very dated now. Primary colours was an enjoyable book—and movie. Wag the Dog was good. Haven’t see the US version of House of Cards (the UK one a couple of decades ago was pretty good, not fantastic imo).

As a rule I no longer read political books—that is bios and memoirs—because I’m much more cynical about the process—all that that backscratching and three-act storytelling (which is prevalent in political journalism per se).

Having said that, Don Watson’s ‘Recollections of a Bleeding Heart’ was a ripper, albeit overwritten. Perhaps the last one I’ve read. No, someone gave me the Latham Diaries and I read that. And I bought Lindsay Tanner’s book; it was ok. (Speaking of that book, I am regularly surprised at what I perceive as an absence of electoral perception—an understanding of what makes voters do what they do—from senior political players. Well, they don’t see things the way I do. Most don’t I suppose.)

Is there a funny or brilliant political ad you’d like to share? Nope!

What are you currently reading or working on? Kindle currently has two books: “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit and a biography of the Beatles. (First book I’ve read about either.)

I should also ask why are you interested in electoral behaviour? My brain is possibly a bit deformed. At school I was very good at maths. In one aptitude test I scored in the top couple of percentiles in maths but actually below average in English comprehension. Then I began a science degree but kind of bombed out and left uni. A few years later I went to uni and studied Arts; I became interested in politics, addicted really, including the electoral side. Contemplating two-party-preferred, playing with Malcolm Mackerras’s pendulum.

My statistics skills are quite limited though.

Being comfortable with numbers might lead some people to be susceptible to numerical explanations of electoral behaviour, but in my case it’s had the opposite effect: I have little time for “analysis” along the lines of, for example, claiming such-and-such is worth X per cent of the vote. I detest that stuff.  Of course events and personalities matter, and in theory their influence on outcomes are quantifiable, but humans’ tools are way too flimsy to do it and it’s dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Peter can be followed on twitter here: @mumbletwits

His most recent writing can be found here on his blog.

And this is what he really looks like!

peter brent