Saturday, December 9, 2006

Did a misleading campaign change the Northcote result?

On the latest figures from the VEC, the answer is quite possibly 'yes'. With votes comprising some 90.36 per cent of the total enrolment now counted, the number of people who either voted informally or did not vote at all numbered some 5345. If even a portion of that number had combined with people who voted Labor only because of the ALP's misleading campaign, the line between a Greens and an ALP victory might have been very thin indeed.

That conclusion is important, because the Electoral Act 2002 places a requirement on the Court of Disputed Returns to consider whether the result would have been changed in determining petitions challenging election results. Given that the figures suggest that the ALP's misleading campaign might have swung the balance, there appears to be scope for the Greens to challenge the Northcote result in court. Advice from the VEC indicates that this would need to occur within 40 days of the return of the writ, which is anticipated for 16 December.

I should also include here an update on the tally for the seat, as the figures given in my last post were calculated when counting had only been partially completed and things have improved somewhat for the ALP. In 2002, votes comprising 91.37 per cent of the total enrolment were counted, so this suggests that counting for 2006, at 90.36 per cent, must now be down to the very last votes. Given that, how has the ALP fared?

Well, despite an increase of 2.3 per cent in the total enrolment, first-preference votes for the ALP were down from 18,229 for Delahunty in 2002 to 17,470 for Richardson in 2006. The number of informal votes was up 0.5 per cent as a proportion of the total vote (up by 190 to 1624), as were non-voters at 1.0 per cent as a proportion of the total enrolment (about 3721 in 2006, compared to 3257 in 2002).

The upshot is that, despite its misleading campaign, the ALP first preference vote was down by about 2.7 per cent, and engagement in the process also fell away. It could well be that, as well as deceiving voters to vote for them instead of the Greens, the ALP may have turned people away who were uncertain what to believe. If that's a fair and open election, we're setting the bar pretty low.

For those so inclined, the 2002 results can be compared with the 2006 results on the VEC's own pages, though little change in the latter is now likely given the extent of the count.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Coverage of ALP Northcote election tactics

It's good to see The Melbourne Times publishing a selection of letters in this week's edition about the misleading campaign carried on by the ALP in Northcote against the Greens leading up to the 25 November State election. Among them was an edited version of my contribution, given here in full:

I was pleased to see Fiona Richardson repeat claims about a Green preference deal with the Liberals, as Northcote voters now have documented evidence that she was deeply implicated in this false allegation, also shamefully advanced by Peter Garrett and the Premier himself in letters to all Northcote electors before the election. And that's in addition to Labor's nocturnal letterboxing of flyers showing the Greens emblem with a picture of Ted Baillieu at its centre.

On election day, as I stood on the steps of Northcote Town Hall with Fiona Richardson and the Labor luminaries turned lackeys for the day, I saw in the questions of concerned voters to the Greens campaigners that these grubby tactics had hit home. For every voter who asked a question, there were doubtless others who voted Labor, improbably fearing that the so-called 'deal' might overturn Labor's 28-seat advantage in the Lower House.

I call on Fiona Richardson to declare the basis on which she argues that the deal existed, to reveal the role of her husband, Stephen Newnham, in her campaign, and to make public the extent of funding devoted to misleading Northcote voters. I want people to know that in this campaign the Labor Party was reading from the Tampa book of election strategy, and should be ashamed for having done so.

As for Richardson's performance as a mere place-holder for the ALP, I note from VEC figures that the Party's first-preference votes dropped by nearly 3,500 from Delahunty's 2002 tally, that there were nearly 6,000 fewer formal votes, and informal votes were also up substantially. In the context of such a dirty campaign, these figures are hardly cause for the arrogance now dripping from our new MP.

There was also coverage in this week's edition of The Northcote Leader on page 5, 'Brown sees red over Green preference claims', the headline referring to the intervention in the issue of Greens Senator, Bob Brown. Let us hope that the Greens pursue their legal challenge over the campaign, and that the ALP's tactics continue to receive the scrutiny they deserve.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

An unlikely dream for independents?

Despite independents polling poorly in general in the State election (I polled a humble 1.54 per cent), there were some notable exceptions. Candidates for Footscray and Ivanhoe polled 15 per cent and ten per cent respectively, and Craig Ingram – the last of the trio of independents from 1999 – retained his seat.

While I do not pretend familiarity or agreement with their individual policies, I take my hat off to them as independents, who I believe must have a continuing role in Victorian politics.

Ingram contributed to the Independents' Charter of 1999, and I saw the Government's shortcomings in regard to the Charter as still relevant to the 2006 election when I decided to run. I considered these matters in an unpublished opinion piece submitted to The Age on 14 November, which I encourage readers to consider as we embark on the long haul to 2010.