Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Archive for January, 2008

A plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 31, 2008

With apropos to Judge Growler of Greeensborough for inspiring the Baldrick headline.

Karl Rove it ain’t but Rove McManus it just might be. Over at The Australian, Little Miss Maiden has uncovered one of the funniest things you’ll see for a long, long time. They’re a couple of documents, maybe extracts, of some “strategic advice” that’s been circulating through the Liberal ranks (you can download the documents from The Oz article).

The advice was produced by Don D’Cruz, once part of the IPA set – but the less said about him the better. I’m sure he’s wishing the less said about him the better right about now.

Anyways, the spiel basically goes that the Libs believe that abolishing Workchoices will lead to a breakout of wage inflation (which would flow through to higher interest rates etc etc), that to win the political battle the Libs should not only support abolishing Workchoices, but push Rudd to fast track it, to make him do it quicker than he ordinarily would – that way, shit will hit the fan before the next election allowing the Libs to waltz back into power blowing a big “I told youse so” raspberry to the electorate over economic management.

It also involves the Libs engaging with the labour movement so they can run political insurgency operations aimed at creating unrest at the lower levels of the union movement, extorting businesses over IR reform to receive greater campaign donations and a whole lot of horsefluff about taking the moral high ground.

Yeah yeah, I know – it really is as loopy as it sounds. But it also sounds like it’s not particularly original either, resembling some strange operationalised strategic fantasy based on this IPA document (thanks to Mark from LP).

Apparently Spanky Nelson and Aquaman can easily make a public backflip from dying in a ditch supporting Workchoices less than 70 days ago, to not only completely agreeing with its removal, but demanding that Rudd abolish it in a time frame far, far quicker than Rudd has planned!

And apparently nearly all of this can be achieved this year, and apparently the public wont go “WTF – Who put the crack in the orange juice?” because they will be in pure awe of Nelson standing up for fairness… or something.

One of the funniest parts of the comic strip was where the union movement was described :

“The new generation union leaders (including those in Parliament), are highly educated, experienced, business savvy deal-makers of equal capacity to top business operators in Australia.”

But then the “advice” goes on to assume that these same “highly educated, experienced, business savvy deal-makers of equal capacity to top business operators in Australia” will go and act like complete lunatics by making unsustainable wage claims, start bickering with the Labor Party, will tie up the ALP in internal shitfights – and all through little more than the charismatic power of Brendan Nelsons hair… oh, and a few quips about the need for fairness and taking the moral high ground.

But the truly funny thing is the document assumes that anyone will be paying any attention to anything that the Liberal Party has to say for the next few years. That really is stand up comedian stuff.

The documents provide a veritable shooting gallery of political naivety, and there is such a large quantity of nonsense contained in the “advice” that it’s hard to know just where to begin, let alone to stop when it comes to pointing out its plentiful inanities – it’s no wonder that some Libs leaked it to the media. It’s certainly an effective way to kill off any potential outbreak of derangement that might occur in the Liberal party should some parts of it, in their desperation, start taking this horseshit seriously.

The best piece of advice D’Cruz could have given the Liberal Party is to stop listening to their ever tightening incestuous circle of apparatchiks when it comes to advice in the first place – but that’s another story.

Go and have a read of the documents, then decide whether you should laugh or cry.


Posted in strategy | 48 Comments »

Don’t blame the Nats for Failure.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 30, 2008


This was me in Crikey earlier today.

The motives behind the proposed merger of the Liberal and National parties may be many, but one of the questions that needs to be answered is who is saving whom from what here?

If we look at the period back to 1996 and tally up the total number seats held by the parties in all 6 States and the Federal lower houses, a few surprising things emerge.

Firstly, the general context; this is how the total number of seats held by Labor and the Coalition have changed over the last 12 years.


The conservative side of organised politics has changed from holding 329 seats at the end of 1996 (a 58.1% share of total seats) to a relatively paltry 202 today (a 36.8% share of all seats). Labor on the other hand has increased its total seat holdings from 225 (a 39.8% share of total seats) up to 324 (a 57.2% share of all seats) over the period. Interestingly, the total number of lower house seats in these Parliaments has reduced from 566 in 1996 down to 549 today. Not only are the conservative side battling Labor and losing, but they’ve been taking the brunt of seat losses associated with the move towards smaller Parliaments.

If we focus just on the Nationals and the Liberals, and look at how both their total respective seat numbers and associated seat share have changed over the period, we’ll need a couple of spiffy charts.

libshistory.jpg natshistory.jpg

The total seats held are read from the left hand side, the percentage of seats held can be read from the right hand side.

The Liberal Party, a party that likes to see itself as the true party of the Right and the natural competition to Labor (if only those pesky cow pokes would get with the program), aren’t in a particularly glorious position – holding only 26% of the total seats in the 6 State and Federal lower houses, down from 44.2% in 1996. Compared to the current Labor share of 57%, the Libs might want to have a quiet word with Graeme Samuel since there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of competition going on here.

The Nats on the other hand have seen their total seat share fall from 14% in 1996 (79 seats) down to 9.7% (55 seats) today. This brings us on to the most important part of who is saving whom with any merger.

If we look at the seats held by the Nats and the Libs respectively as a percentage of total Coalition held seats, something interesting pops up:


The Nats are read from the left (yes, yes – the irony) and the Libs from the right.

The nadir of the Nats occurred in 2001, where they held only 22.4% of all Coalition seats. But over the intervening years, the Nats share of Coalition held seats has jumped up to 27.2%, their highest share of Coalition seats over the period measured.

So while the conservative side of politics has been in general decline since 1996, the Liberal Party is the Party that is bleeding the most. It is they, rather than the Nats which are the primary cause of the great conservative reprimanding the electorate has been dishing out.

The Liberal Party are responsible for losing 81.1% of all Coalition seats lost since 1996; a loss which far outweighs the Liberal party share of Coalition seats, especially when the Liberal Party is the only party in the Coalition that can win metropolitan divisions.

Quite frankly, the Liberal Party aren’t pulling their weight in the Coalition – why would a merger change that?

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Posted in Crikey, election results, Pseph, Voting behaviour | 26 Comments »

ALP preference deals: The Greens vs Family First.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 28, 2008

In the last post we had a quick look at the interesting relationship between the two party preferred swing to the ALP and the Greens primary vote. The most interesting feature of that relationship was how, on average, a higher Greens primary vote correlated with a smaller ALP swing.

But what is also interesting is that the higher the level of the Greens primary vote, on average, the higher is the size of ALP two party preferred vote. This combination of realities might sound somewhat paradoxical, but they finally put some numerical reality to the seemingly endless question of which of the two minor parties the ALP should make preference deals with, especially if they seek to maximise their TPP swings.

Firstly let’s recap the relationship between the Greens primary vote and both the ALP two party preferred vote and the ALP two party preferred swing.

alptppswingvsgreensprim.jpg alptppvsgreensprim.jpg

What we’ve got here is a scatter plot where the Greens primary vote at the election is plotted against either the ALP two party preferred vote or the swing to the ALP in two party preferred terms for all 150 electorates.

As we can see, on average, as the Greens vote gets higher, so too does the ALP TPP. However, as we can also see, the seats which had a large TPP movement to the ALP at the election also tended, on average, to have a lower Greens vote – similarly the seats which had the smallest ALP swings tended to have a high Greens vote.

Now let’s compare this to the relationship between the Family First primary vote and the ALP swing by electorate.


Here we find the opposite occurred – the bigger the ALP swing, on average, the bigger the Family First vote.

There’s lots of complicated demographics behind these relationships, but one of the key pre-election arguments this data helps to resolve is whether the ALP were justified in trying to make preference deals with Family First at the expense of making similar deals with the Greens- especially from a purely hardball perspective of maximising the ALP TPP vote in the seats that mattered.

Another question of course remains; “Is that political hardball perspective always the right prism to view preference deals through “?

I’d be interested in your thoughts on these.

To add a further bit of raw data to assist the impending debate, if we make a scatter plot that combines both the Greens and the FFP primary votes against the ALP swing to put the whole lot in perspective we get:


Which is probably the most important diagram of the lot.

And finally, to add some fuel to the argument of whether the ALP should make a preference deal with the Greens or the FFP at the next election, we can plot the Greens and FFP primary votes against the current ALP TPP results:


Another piece of food for thought is the extent to which either minor party’s voters would actually follow the HTV cards should such a deal be made. How many Greens voters would not preference the ALP above the Coalition if the ALP were to do a preference deal with FFP, and similarly, how many FFP voters would actually preference the ALP when they ordinarily would not – simply on the basis of the FFP HTV card saying they should?

On another note, Simon Jackman had a squiz at the informal vote as well. Simon wrote for the Bulletin over the election – and now the Bulletin is dead. Personally, I’m blaming Simon for it! :mrgreen:

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Posted in election results, Pseph, strategy | 20 Comments »

More on Informals and other electoral goodies.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 26, 2008

One of the problems we had with the informal voting model last time that caused some consternation was the use of non-linear variables, particularly using the squared value of the proportion of the electorate that spoke English poorly or not all – the NES variable.

The reason the square of the value was used was that it explained the data generation process better than its simple value.

The big problem wasn’t only the four electorates with the highest NES proportion, but 15-20 seats that had relatively low informal votes considering their NES level.

After ferreting around the census data, if we control for the proportion of the electorate whose highest level of schooling is year 10 or less (we’ll call this variable EDUCY10), what appears to be the slight non-linearity in the relationship between the informal vote and NES disappears.

Interestingly there is a slight correlation between NES and EDUCY10, in that the higher the proportion of the electorate with a Year 10 Education or less, the proportion of people that speak English poorly or not at all tends to be (slightly) lower.

This correlation between independent variables can create a problem called collinearity, however after testing NES against the EDUCY10, the Tolerance was 0.835 and the Variance Inflation Factor was only 1.12 meaning that collinearity simply isn’t an issue here.

So after partially controlling for education and removing what looked to be a non—linear relationship between NES and the informal vote level, our new equation becomes:


We can now explain over two thirds of the variation in the informal vote, by electorate, simply as it being a function of :

– The proportion of the electorate that speaks English poorly or not at all.

– The square of the number of candidates standing in an electorate

– The proportion of an electorate that has a year 10 education or less

– Whether optional preferential voting operates at the state level for that electorate.

Using the square of the number of candidates rather than just the simple number of candidates that stood in each electorate explains the data generation process (i.e. the election) slightly better. What this means is that as the number of candidates increases on the ballot paper, the informal vote increases in a slightly disproportional way. Not much, but enough to warrant paying attention – it’s essentially a compounding informal effect for candidate numbers.

Moving right along to some more interesting results of the election that aren’t as niche as informal voting, lets have a look at the primary vote of Family First plotted against the number of candidates that stood in each electorate, and lets run a simple regression with the two:

ffpvscandidatesgraph.jpg ffpvscandidates.jpg

As the number of candidates increases, generally the Family First Vote decreases. That might sound like an obvious consequence that should happen to all parties – but it actually doesn’t (except for the ALP which we’ll get to a little later on)

At first I thought this might have had a bit to do with geography, with FFP picking up some of the bible belt vote in rural electorates that have few candidates – so after controlling for population density and running the equation again we get:


Which doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the size of the ‘candidate number’ effect on the FFP vote. Putting it another way, it smells like some evidence to suggest that a lot of people only vote for Family First because they happen to have a candidate standing, when ideally a lot of those voters would prefer to vote for some other minor party or independent if given the chance.

FFP seems to have a large soft vote.

Next up is something to chew over for the ALP staffers and pollies that are reading.

If we test the size of the two party preferred swing to the ALP in each electorate against the size of the Green vote (telling us if there is any statistical relationship between an increasing Greens vote and an increasing ALP swing) we get:


Yikes! This is telling us that far from a high Greens vote delivering a large ALP swing, the opposite happens where the higher the Greens primary vote, the lower the two party preferred swing to the ALP – a major implication in terms of the power that each party could wield in preference negotiations. However, if we do this again but control for the number of candidates in each electorate as well, we get:

[I somehow managed to run a regression on a sample of the electorate results rather than the full electorate results when I controlled for CANDIDATES- yes, yes “WTF?” was what I was asking myself too. Candidate numbers have no bearing on this result once we test all 150 electorates rather than just the 16 I somehow managed. .]

That’s a juicy figure there – for every 3% chunk of the vote that the Greens received in an electorate, the two party preferred swing to the ALP reduced by just over 1%. Food for thought for both Comrades and Greens alike.

Finally for today, we know there is a relationship between the ALP primary vote and the proportion of the electorate that speak English poorly or not at all:


We also know that there is a relationship between NES and the level of the informal vote because we measured it earlier, so it’s not a great leap to reach the conclusion that a reduction in the informal vote would more than likely increase the ALP primary vote in many seats. If we model the relationship between the ALP primary vote and the informal vote that best fits the data (a simple quadratic regression) we end up with a modelled Informal vs ALP Primary vote relationship like this (which explains about 30% of the variation in the informal vote):


Some of that informal relationship, particularly in seats with an ALP primary close to 50% and beyond, would be easily explained by the nonchalant way HTV cards are often distributed in ultra-safe ALP seats (which also tend to have high NES populations… ta da!). But between the 40-47% ALP primary vote level, seats where HTV cards are definitely handed out in ways that certainly aren’t so nonchalant, if the informal vote can be reduced in those seats, those marginal seats, that informal reduction looks like it would flow more to the ALP than the Coalition by a fair margin. A 1.5% reduction in the informal vote across the board would have handed the ALP at least an extra 3 or 4 seats, possibly more.

So what’s the bet that the AEC will find themselves with new funding for voter education, specifically for targeting NES demographics and people whose maximum education level is year 10 or less (which, when controlling for population density, actually tended to vote for the ALP) ?

Especially since there’s seats in it for the new government.

For anyone interested, the Parliamentary Library has just released a Research Paper on Electoral redistributions during the 42nd Parliament (that’s this one), which gives us a good background on a lot of what’s likely going to happen with the all important redistribution coming up before the next election.

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Posted in election results, Pseph, Voting behaviour | 23 Comments »

The informal vote

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 24, 2008

Inspired by Mr Mumbles look into the nature and causes of informal voting at the last election (down at his January 15th entry), I thought we might break out the old stats box and have a little squiz ourselves.Peter got it dead right when he said:

Broadly, three things are likely to lead to, or are associated with, informal voting: optional preferential voting at the state level; high numbers of people from non English speaking backgrounds; and lots of candidates.”

For this, what we’ll do is regress the informal vote as a percentage of votes cast in each electorate against:

  1. The proportion of persons in the electorate who speak English not well or not at all as measured by the last census. We’ll call this variable NES.
  1. The number of candidates that stood in each electorate, we’ll call this variable, surprisingly, CANDIDATES.
  1. A dummy variable that has the value 1 for those States that have optional preferential voting at the State level, and a value of zero for those States that don’t. Qld and NSW have optional preferential, and SA has a strange ticket voting system that mimics the effects that OPV has in NSW and Qld on the informal vote (I tested it independently) – so we’ll classify SA as an OPV State as well. We’ll call this variable STATEOPV.

So running the regression on all 150 electorates we get:


The “C” is a constant that needs to be added into the equation (the value of which is calculated by the regression software mathematically) which tells us what the level of the informal vote would be should the other three variables equal zero. In this particular case, having zero candidates sounds a bit silly, but it’s a necessary procedure that gives us a statistical baseline to work from and only sometimes can the value of the Constant be taken and used literally. This is not one of those times.

So what this equation result tells us is that for every 1% increase in the proportion of people in the electorate that speak English not well or not at all, the informal vote goes up on average by 0.3%.

For every additional candidate on the ballot paper, the informal vote goes up by 0.2% and States with optional preferential voting at the State level experience, on average, an additional 1% increase in their informal vote compared to those states without OPV.

All these results are highly statistically significant, and collectively explain about 56% of the variation in the informal vote – which for cross sectional data like this is a pretty high level of real world explanatory power.

The NES variable is by far the most important, explaining about 34% of the variation of informal voting just by itself. If we run a scatter plot of the informal vote vs NES by electorate, we get:


To the naked eye that looks pretty linear, in that as NES increases, the informal vote proportionally increases – but for those of you that have stared at enough scatter plots, you might notice that there is actually a fair degree of non-linearity involved in the relationship.

As the proportion of people who speak English poorly or not at all in the electorate increases, there is a slightly disproportional increase in the informal vote.

After testing, if we use just NES as a variable against informal, NES explains about 34% of the variation in informal voting, but if we use the square of NES, that explanatory power jumps to 41%.

This seems to suggest that when an electorate contains a large community or communities of people with an NES background, rather than just clumps of people with NES background, informal voting really starts to jump. This is probably a good argument for the AEC to pester the new government for some extra money – electoral education programs in local community foreign language newspapers and media looks to be a good place to start if we want to lower the level of informal voting.

Similarly, after further testing, the number of candidates standing in an electorate doesn’t enjoy a linear relationship with the informal vote level either, it behaves similar to NES in that there is a disproportional increase in the informal vote with the more candidates you get standing in an electorate, although the statistical relationship is ever so slightly different in its shape.

So accounting for these slight non-linearities, our new equation becomes:


Which has increased the explanatory power up to over 60% simply by accounting for the disproportional effect that increasing numbers of candidates and increasing levels of NES have on the informal vote level.

Next post: some more on this informal vote, how decreasing the informal vote level would win the ALP more seats and where (so expect to see the AEC receive some new education program funding) and some funny relationships between party votes.


After some handy advice from Antony over SA state voting behaviour and a few other things, the above needs a bit of an adjustment. We’ll drop the CANDIDATES variable and simply use CANDIDATES^2 in isolation, as well as remove South Australia as a state that has an OPV effect polluting the informal vote in Federal elections in SA. There still seems to be something going on with the way the informal vote behaves as a function of the number of candidates – hopefully we can ferret out the causes of that underlying behaviour over the next few weeks. So the new working equation becomes:


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Posted in election results | 51 Comments »

Tomorrows Antiques Today.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 21, 2008

Why do they bother? It’s the only question we can ask.

The Qld Nationals have re-elected Lawrence Springborg, an otherwise entirely likeable individual, to replace that boofhead Jeff Seeney. His prize? – to occupy one of the two positions of Opposition Leader in Queensland politics.

We need two up here because the whole is apparently less than the sum of the parts, which leaves the broad Opposition just a third of a leader short of competency – maybe if they had three conservative parties with an Opposition Leader each they’d get somewhere.

Why Springborg pounced is fairly obvious – Seeney was out of his depth, annoyed the bejeesus out of people and basically hasn’t said a thing worth listening to for years. He’s not a particularly charismatic guy either so the Nats were really sitting in a small canoe somewhere in the upper reaches of Shit Creek under a Seeney leadership.

But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the Nats do; the next non-Labor Premier of Qld will be a Liberal- which gets us onto this whole United Conservative Party comedy act.

Jeff Seeney’s great idea was pretty much like Lawrence Springborgs last great idea – some type of merger between the Liberals and Nationals in Qld politics. The logic behind this idea is pretty simple, which speaks volumes about the political nous of its supporters; a single party won’t be screwed over by optional preferential voting.

The big problem as far as many LibNat Coalitionists see it, is that optional preferential voting doesn’t guarantee preference flows from conservative minor parties, nor for that matter from each other, it splits the conservative vote in 3 cornered contests allowing Labor to romp home using Greens preferences when they need it (which do tend to flow where it counts), and the whole cranky pants outlook towards optional preferential generally acts as a convenient excuse for why the conservatives keep getting hammered in elections.

It seems to have escaped most of them that the reason they don’t win elections actually has more to do with the fact that their political platforms, or what passes for them, are irrelevant to a majority of the electorate. Qld has dramatically changed over the last 20 years, even the last decade – these guys haven’t adapted to that change and until they do they all better get used to being treated as a joke.

The reason why a United Conservative Party will not work in Qld is simply because of the nature of conservative political support in the State.

A growing number of conservatives in both South East Qld and the major regional population centres are Liberal voters that think the Nats are a bunch of unsophisticated political Neanderthals that aren’t to be trusted. You will never, for instance, see a National Party member hold a Brisbane seat ever again. It’s not necessarily the Nationals brand that they don’t like, it’s the political positions that have created that brand. It’s why we’ve seen ordinarily conservative voters on the Gold Coast vote Labor rather than National when there wasn’t a proper Liberal candidate standing.

Yet any united conservative party in Qld would have the Nationals as the dominant force simply because they have a larger party base and a larger parliamentary representation at the moment. From the outset the merged party would start to represent everything that turns off the largest and fastest growing section of conservative support in Qld – the moderately conservative Liberal voter.

The tensions between the old Libs and the old Nats in any merged party would become unmanageable; their political differences would be untenable. They would become perpetually caught in the same problem that John Howard found himself in last year – if you pander to the Nats voters and their brand of political interests, you turn off your inner city voting block and start endangering seats. If you pander to the inner city voting block and focus on their brand of political interests, you turn off the Nats voters and start endangering seats. When that happens, you spend so much time shoring up your two ideologically opposed support bases that the outer suburban voters become easy pickings for Labor, as well as which ever support base you failed to maintain.

It’s the consequence of having conservative parties in Australia being addicted to moralising and using nanny state social politics as a political weapon – the things that divide these groups on social policy and their general views on the way that society ought to work are simply greater than the things that unite them. The conservatives should probably just STFU about these types of issues like Labor does and they might not have as big a problem. But they just can’t seem to help themselves.

There is no easy way forward for the conservative side of politics in Qld, but a merger would make the job even harder over the short and medium term considering the initial dominance of the National party in any merged entity in Qld – especially in terms of its likely effect on the moderate Liberal voting block. The long term solution, and one that John Howard was particularly successful at, is where the Liberals simply destroy and replace the National Party over time, slowly but deliberately and with a vicious intent.

Yet even then, the problem of the ideologically opposed twin support bases remains and will probably never be fully reconcilable.

Posted in general politics, leadership, Political Risk | 34 Comments »

Mondays Random Stream of Consciousness – Part 1.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 21, 2008

The implementation of technology into our lives, particularly new generations of computer technology….or so we told, are supposed to unleash a wave of productivity enhancement that we mortals can surf all the way to the promised land of the “paperless office“. It never really quite eventuates that way… but oh the promises!

Over the last couple of weeks, my trusty old laptop decided to die a quiet death by the standards of these things – there were no sparks, nor smoke bleeding from the vents – just a quiet whimper as one of the hard drives died, then the optical drive kicked it, and within a few days it simply ceased to function anymore. I treated my three year old companion with the post-mortem respect one would expect to give a laptop purchased from an Aldi supermarket – the next day it was off to the shops to buy a bright shiny new toy.

As seems to be the case with these things, utilitarianism was the original aim – something functional, reasonably priced and good value. I was after the Toyota Camry of the laptop world. Yet despite ones functional good intentions, it never really works out that way in the end.

But I cant even use the seductive hyperbole of computer sales folk as an excuse – I never even spoke with one of those well dressed young spruikers that regale customers with their alluring tales of the need for a 320GB hard drive, or why a 256MB 8600m GT DDR3 graphics card would light up the liquid crystals in such superior ways to your run of the mill Intel on board GPU.

Nope, I got sucked in by maxing out one of these jobbies.


Pure technoporn on a stick. The glistening 1440×900 display, the built in webcam, the touchpad-esq media controls, the remote control, the snazzy sound isolation earbuds…not to mention the finger print reader.

Oh the finger print reader!

Of course, I have absolutely no use for most of these things – but with bright shiny new technology, the rational part exited stage left and I found myself being exhibit A in the trial of the marketing success of “build it and they will come“.

Strangely enough I’ve found the need to use ones fingerprint as a password substitute for files that I wouldn’t ever care to lock. That 320 GB hard drive is now the second home of the 200 odd CDs and recordings I own, I’ve found myself watching Youtube clips on the lappy hooked up to a Bravia LCD TV via full throttle HDMI – just why I’m not sure, it defies all logic and rationality – I think it’s simply because I can.

Build it and suckers like me (and probably a large number of suckers like you) will come.

After the initial ogling phase came the dissatisfaction. Not with the box and its software per se, but simply with the fact that its potential wasn’t maximised. So it was a format and fresh install of Vista – removing all the Dell bloatware in the process and tweaking all the little bits Vista has to offer. After that it was off to http://www.laptopvideo2go.com for the best performing modded notebook Nvidia drivers for the graphics card, I got myself some Rivatuner goodness to overclock that bugger to within an inch of its stable life and after getting a solid 5500 3dMark06 score while keeping the GPU temperature under 65 degrees with heavy GPU use, I thought I was finally done.

Sitting back quite chuffed with myself, I then noticed that my desktop was bland. Not only bland, but not particularly functional either. The more I looked, the more the appearance of the generic Vista desktop, even with Aero enabled, was just so passé Dahrling.

3 days in and counting, and I hadn’t actually produced a single piece of work on this productivity enhancing revolution in a sexy case. ‘Tis the way with these things I suppose.

So I found myself a nice fractal wallpaper (a tasty Mandelbrot number from http://exoteric.roach.org/bg/index.html ), I downloaded Objectdock to give me some spiffy icon faced active shortcuts on the bottom, I set up my sidebar widgets for network and CPU monitoring as well as Brisbane weather and a handy note book, and I generally spruced up the place to end up with a desktop befitting of such a powerful productivity enhancing tool :


So again, I sat back and enjoyed a bit of a self-gloat over my achievements and thought all was good and well in the universe – until I realised that I’d just spent days making by Wintel laptop look and act like a bloody Macbook!

So much for productivity enhancement – I could have saved myself the time and effort by buying one in the first place! :mrgreen:

That’s productivity for you 😉

On another matter completely unrelated to politics, lately I’ve found myself being strangely mesmerized by this song – Sugarland (or more particularly Jennifer Nettles) singing a song titled Stay:


It’s a great song and a powerful performance (well worth having a squiz at), but what really makes my head spin is the fact that someone, somewhere – probably some talentless marketing droid from a music company that couldn’t play a tamborine to save its life – decided in their infinite wisdom to disable the embedding code on the Youtube page for this video.

Why in gods name would you do such a thing? Do they think that some shithouse third-rate youtube recording of the song is going to decrease their real sales if third parties start giving the band free publicity by running the music video from their own web sites?

Who ever the mental mountain was behind that decision, they need to drag their sorry arse out of 1977 – that is, or course, if they’ve finally come to terms with cassette tapes not leading to Teh End of Teh Music World.

With all of the free marketing potential that the net provides, and we see it everyday with clever viral marketing campaigns, the best that record companies can come up with (assuming it was one of those spivs responsible) is disabling the embed code and trying to erect a barrier for free advertising of their products via third party distribution.

No wonder these idiots are going broke -they deserve to. It also makes parodies like this all the more telling:

And to show the true stupidity of it all, here’s the Sugarland vid in question:

A small note:

For all those that have emailed me over the last week and a half or so via the contact page, or my private mail address, I havent been able to access that mail until a few days ago when I finally changed everything over and sorted it all out – so I’ll endeavor to get back to all shortly.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Aquaman Keeps Powder Dry

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 15, 2008

This was me in Crikey today:


We constantly hear about the Nelson Opposition requiring only a 1.4% swing thereabouts to regain government. While this is unarguably true in a uniform sense, the simplicity of such a statement belies the actual danger lurking below the quaint headline.

If we break the pendulum down to compare the swings required for each major party to win the first 30 seats from their opponents (instead of lining up all the seats as we might usually do), we end up with a rough graphical measure of the vulnerability of each party to any swings against them at the next Federal election. It gives us a much better “for and against” measure of how the parties stack up in terms of their current electoral position and vulnerability.


The way to read the graphic is fairly straight forward: pick a swing on the left, trace it across to either the blue line for the Coalition or the red line for the ALP, trace it down and that is how many seats such a uniform swing would deliver at the next election for that Party. For example, a swing of around 3% to the Coalition would deliver them a gain of 12 seats, a swing of around 3% to the ALP would gain them 17 seats.

As we can see, while the Coalition may only require a 1.4% swing to regain government, they find themselves in a far more vulnerable position than the ALP in terms of the damage that a given swing against them would inflict. If we assume that the ALP could, at most, achieve only a small swing to them at the next election as a result of their pre-existing majority, they can gain eight seats from a swing of just under 1%, or gain five seats by virtually standing still, requiring a uniform swing of merely one fifth of one percent to them.

Another issue worth keeping in ones thought orbit here is the consolidation of the margins in ALP held seats, with the ALP enjoying 37 seats with a margin of greater than 10%, while the Coalition has been pared back to having only 15 seats of similar ilk; quite an achievement considering that the Coalition sat on 45 such seats after the 2004 election.

The greatest sin an Opposition leader can commit is taking their party backwards. The animosity for Mark Latham stands testament to how that all comes out in the wash, and for whichever courageous individual takes the reigns of the Coalition beast into the next election, they surely must be risking their entire career on a big gamble.

Yet the big unknown with all this navel gazing is the impending electoral redistribution. There are 49 seats on margins of less than 5%, 22 seats on margins of less than 2%. A favourable redistribution for the Coalition might see them notionally pick up half a dozen seats (although the power of a fresh government and New Leadership in pork barrelling might make that a bit of a moot point). On the other hand though, a favourable redistribution for the ALP giving them half a dozen notional gains would be an electoral stake through the heart for any Coalition leader.

Malcolm Turnbull can apparently count, although usually with numbers involving far more zeros than the arithmetic of the party room or the majorities involved on the pendulum. If he’s as smart as he thinks he is, Aquaman won’t even consider a tilt at the leadership until the electoral redistribution is finalised. Taking the reigns before then risks getting shafted by the redistribution and being forced to carry the can for taking his party backwards at the next election, regardless of whether it would actually be his fault or simple AEC arithmetic.

The redistribution is something for political tragics and knife sharpeners everywhere to jot down in their diary. Surely it will be the date the games begin.

Posted in Crikey, leadership | 66 Comments »

Teh Spirit of Teh Game

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 9, 2008

The most ironic thing about this latest outburst of jingoistic politics-by-other-means from India is that the only group to come out of this sordid affair that even remotely appear to be living in reality , are the Australian Test cricketers themselves – demonstrating the very thing that they are so often accused of being removed from!

All this horseshit about arrogance on the field, sledging, mental disintegration, bad sportsmanship and how such behaviour is ‘just not cricket’ – honestly people, pull your heads out of your arse. If I hear one more knob bleat on about Teh Spirit Of Teh Game as if it were actually something other than a convenient myth, I think I’m going to puke.

Professional cricket is a professional sport supported by big money, it’s highly competitive, psychologically brutal and the stakes are high and the pressure relentless – professional entertainment is a tough business. The rules of the game that exist will always be pushed to their absolute limits, simply because that’s what happens in professional sport when so often it’s a collection of the small little advantages that can make the difference between a winning and losing team in a multi billion dollar, high pressure industry.

If you long for the days of amateur cricket and its gentlemanly overtones (which is a load of rose coloured poppycock to begin with, as any player involved in any level of representative cricket over the last 30 years can attest) – then go down to your local sporting field on the weekend and lap it up. That’s where you’ll find it – although these days, probably minus the inherent racism, the yobbish misogyny and blatant class warfare that was rampant in the times of yore, yet is now conveniently well ensconced in the collective amnesia of cricketing tragics everywhere.

If you expect the brutal, highly competitive, commercially driven world of professional cricket to be populated with cardboard cut outs from Australia’s greatest cricketing hagiographies – we’ll, you’re an idiot. You’re an idiot for believing the marketing tosh that it was ever that way in the first place, and you’re an idiot for believing that it can ever be that way now.

Not as big an idiot as that attention seeking famewhore Peter Roebuck – but close.

So let’s look at what this hoo-har is all about.

The Indians got a few rough umpiring calls in the match – OMG!

Like that’s not a regular facet of the game.

But suddenly it’s now become a grand conspiracy against them, effigies are burned, the Indian national media is carrying on like a bunch of methed out meatheads and the Indian team are poor widdle victims that are only trying to play cricket, but these bad Australians and their hyper competitive ways just hurt their widdle feelings.

Give me a break – a measure of a good team is how its players respond to bad umpiring calls by adapting their on field performance to make up for it. We all witnessed how good India was in that regard – it’s why they lost the Test. Their response was a batting collapse or a session of poor bowling. There were a few bad decisions, there weren’t 20.

If they had played better, they might have prevented a loss.

The irony of India, the country bringing more financial pressure to bear on international cricket than any other, whinging about the hyper competitive consequences of that financial pressure is really quite something.

The other great part of the hoo-har is the charge of racism. The umpires made their decision – Harbhajan Singh was found guilty and for any other team in the world, that would have been life, they would have sucked it up and the world would have moved on.

But not India.

Their attempt to dominate the game at the financial and political level has been successful, but their ability to dominate the game on the field has been a dismal failure. The fallout from the latest Test is where these two issues collide, with their political influence over the game being engaged to make excuses for the lack of ability on the field. It wasn’t that they were beaten, you see, it was that they were robbed! India getting Bucknor removed from the next Test match is apparently some kind of vindicative proof.

See, it was all about the poor umpiring, not India’s poor cricket playing.

Then we have the racism. This must grate on India – how dare those old white colonial bastions of cricketing racism accuse India of racist behaviour!

So rather than actually have to deal with any nasty racial underbelly that may exist within Indian cricket (let alone the caste ridden wider Indian society), rather than accept the umpires decision, the Indian cricket board simply flexes their political muscle again, threatens to take their bat and ball and go home if the judged reality isn’t re-written in a way that would make their cricketers look better.

This pathetic little hissyfit has destroyed any semblance of independence in the International Cricket Boards adjudication of the game. India have used political and financial intimidation to bastardise the processes of the ICC to make up for that which they could not achieve on the field….. and they have the audacity to whinge about others not playing in the spirit of the game.

I wish they would take their bat and their ball and go home. At the very least it might spare us from having to listen to any more excuses for their poor on field performance.

Posted in sport | 174 Comments »

The New Pendulums

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 7, 2008

The AEC has returned the writs, so we now have the complete results for the election.

First up, we can have a squiz at the national pendulum as well as the respective state based pendulums. They’re thumbnails so just click on them to blow them up:

What they show is the number of seats that would fall for a given uniform swing to either major party. To use it, pick a swing on the vertical axis, trace it across until it hits the black line, then trace it up or down to the horizontal axis to see how many seats that swing would deliver to the major party. The national pendulum also has the swings for seats blown up in the top left and bottom right quadrants for swings of less than 7% to make it easier to read in terms of the seats that would change hands for the usual smaller swings.

National Pendulum


NSW Pendulum


Victorian Pendulum


QLD Pendulum



S.A. Pendulum


W.A. Pendulumsfswa1.jpg

The other States and Territories are best given by a table:

Division State ALP Margin
Solomon NT 0.19
Bass TAS 1
Braddon TAS 1.44
Franklin TAS 4.48
Lyons TAS 8.78
Lingiari NT 11.16
Canberra ACT 11.82
Fraser ACT 15.07
Denison TAS 15.63

With the Victorian (and national) pendulum, there’s a bit of a quirk involved with the seat of Melbourne where Adam Bandt from the Greens came second in TPP terms behind the ALP. As a result, Melbourne is sitting on a margin of only 4.71% for the ALP. However, if there were any swing to the Libs of a percent and a bit or more in Melbourne, the Libs would probably end up running second in TPP terms, forcing most of the Green vote to flow to the ALP via preferences and blowing the ALP margin out to over 15 points as result. So it’s best to keep that in mind. These charts will be archived and accessible from the top menu via the 2008 Swings for Seats button.

An interesting thing happens when we compare how many seats each party would gain from a given uniform swing. If you click the thumbnail below, it blows up into a chart that shows the number of seats each party would expect to gain from a given uniform swing.


What this means is that the Coalition gains less seats than the ALP from a given swing. For instance, the Coalition would need a uniform 1% swing to gain 5 seats whereas the ALP only requires a uniform swing of 0.21% to gain 5 seats. If we look at the swing needed for each party to gain 5, 10, 20 and 30 seats respectively we get:

Seats Gained ALP Swing% Coalition Swing %
5 0.21 1
10 1.29 2.05
20 3.88 4.48
30 5.83 6.88

There’s an electoral redistribution due before the next election so this may change a bit, but if the current national pendulum holds it rough shape, the Coalition will find itself in a rather difficult situation, having less fat in the margins of their 30 closest held seats than the ALP does in theirs. One would think that the next election campaign would be an old style battle for the marginals, with the ALP being in the prime position not only because of the pork barreling that government can supply, not only because the ALP will have more to spend as a result of them being in power everywhere, but also because they face the biggest seat bang for the swing buck.

To make it worse for the Coalition, there are 3 seats that the ALP could gain in Qld (the new centre of the government) with a swing of only 0.21%, and in WA where the Coalition hold all but 4 seats, 3 seats could fall to the ALP with a swing of 1.71%. If I were the Coalition, I’d be extremely worried about any potential government consolidation in Qld and a rebalancing of the seat numbers in WA. The ALP can gain seats by basically standing still, having only very small uniform gains in some states delivering the goods. The Coalition on the other hand, as you can see from the chart, find themselves in a much poorer position.

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Posted in election results | Tagged: | 22 Comments »

Election Prediction Competition – and the winner is….

Posted by Possum Comitatus on January 1, 2008

(Insert drum roll)


Since the 8 folks that foretold the magical 83 seats for Labor apparently used up all their Nostrodamus juice in the process, with none picking the biggest swinging seats for each side – Seajay was the electoral oracle that got their prediction in first and takes out the title of Psephseer 2007.

It was a close call with Seajay beating KeepingALidOnIt by a mere 33 minutes. The 8 electoral evocators and psephological diviners were, in chronological order:

November 12, 2007 at 10:16 am

ALP 83, Coalition 65, Ind 2.
Biggest swing; Grey
Biggest upset; North Sydney ALP win.
Best Senate result; Libs lose ACT.
Best moment; Live telecast of the Sherriff evicting Hyacinth (kicking and screaming: “But it’s mine, all mine I tell you”) from Kirribilli House on Monday the 16th.

KeepingALidOnIt :
November 12, 2007 at 10:49 am

“1. Would that be “Make your election tips”?

Comment by Andos the Great – November 12, 2007 @ 9:39 am”

And note another spelling glitch Poss, it’s “Official”, not “Offical” as well. :))

I am, as usual, being restrained, so I say a swing of 6.7%, being a 2PP of 54%, which should mean 87 seats on a uniform swing. But I think the number of actual seats won by the ALP will be lower – let’s say around 82 or 83 because the swing won’t be uniform – it will be big in seats that the ALP can’t win (doctor’s wives) or have already won (the return of Victorian true believers to the fold).
Gulp. I hate committing to a figure, even cautious, prudent ones like this.

Harmless Cud Chewer :
November 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Before I make my prediction I should say that my biggest concern all along has not been whether the campaign will change the final vote much, but whether there isn’t something systemically wrong with the polls. It doesn’t take much at all to create a global error of 1 or 2%. So bear that in mind when trusting a trend line of 55.

The other thing I predict is that Howard’s ongoing wedge politics and bad micro management is going to create ‘lumps’, and that this might show up in some seats. I’ll note a couple of these below.

So, depending on whose poll you trust, the trend line seems to be around 54.5. Take a point off that for systemic effects and I get 53.5. Plug that into Antony’s calculator and you get 83 for the ALP.

I predict Bennelong will go. We’ve had several polls showing about 52/48 and these polls aren’t fine grained enough to show the anger amongst the fairly tight knit Chinese community. Second to that is the university students (they also network well).

I predict Wentworth to go. In this case the two things worth noticing is the anger amongst the gay community and the reaction of wet liberals to Howard’s wedge politics on immigrants and climate change.

People have to be *really* pissed off to not only change their vote, but also change the votes of their social peers.

I’m also predicting Paterson. Not just because its my seat, but because of the micro management issues. The RAAF here is a huge employer and they are fuming at Brendan. There’s also the service economy (workchoices) and we’ve also seen a huge increase in mortgages. Last time we saw wall to wall posters with Howard’s face on them “trust me”. He’s strangely absent this time.

I’m also predicting Higgins is going to end up as a less than 2% marginal (with an outside chance of falling). Same goes for North Sydney. In both cases there will be a negative vote for the minister.

And a huge personal swing against Downer, oddly enough.

Places like Indi, Hume, Groom and so on may actually see an improvement of the Liberal vote. My theory is that less networked, more rural areas are going to cling to the conservatives. Since swings are ultimately about the flow of ideas between people and about who you network with.

I agree with Possum’s analysis regarding general socioeconomic issues. This is why I’m predicting Robertson for Labor.

However, when the dust has settled and people are left scratching their heads about weird swings, they’re going to be pointing at issues that have to do with anger over bad micro management and wedge politics.

It’s interesting to note that as the campaign was called, a bunch of voters jumped from the minors back to the Liberals. These were disaffected Liberal voters. And I bet these guys are getting a bit more disillusioned about now. The Widening?

Now, while I’ve predicted 83 and I find it hard to believe anything over 90, purely on what can be measured, in my heart of hearts, I hope that on polling day the people decide to deal such a humiliation that no one will ever try to repeat what Howard has done.

Grumps :
November 12, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Based on your good work possum my crack at this is:

TPP: 53.5% to Labor giving
Labor 83
L/NP 66
Ind 1

Wish to see, On the most prominent billboards in each capital city:

To the owner, editors and reporters of the GG,
Shananana (insert here any other name/s applicable)
You were wrong!!!!!!!
Next time report fact not opinion.

Long Live the Possum

Kramer :
November 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

Labor 83
L/NP 66
Ind 1

Labor with a uniform swing of 53.5%.

Biggest Swing: Kingston
Smallest Swing: Stirling

I think Howard will lose Bennelong. I wasn’t thinking that a few weeks ago, but the polls are simply too large to ignore.

Faith :
November 22, 2007 at 10:06 pm

I’m predicting a somewhat conservative:
Labor: 83
Coalition: 65
Independents: 2

Biggest swing to Labor: Grey, S.A

Biggest swing to the Libs: Cowan W.A
I’m from Perth and let me tell you, there are a lot of rich, self interested (read liberal voting) people living in W.A. We’re going to have a busy time in Hasluck, Swan, Cowan and Stirling keeping Labor on top.

I would love to see the Liberals out in the wilderness for the next 6 years after a savage annihilation on Saturday, but I’m a bit nervous. I have spent half my life under Howard and if Australians are as apathetic this year as the have been since 1998, then the election may not be as spectacular as I hope. Yet I still hope!

Union thug :
November 22, 2007 at 11:40 pm

I’m in another comp at work where I’ve gone with 81 seats to ALP. Reading the other entries on this page, my guess appears conservative. I’ll go with 83 to ALP here. 2 will remain with Independents, 65 Libs.

Robertson will have the biggest swing. The YR@W campaign is going great guns up there. They’re all over it and the ALP candidates beautifal face is everywhere with the Liberal MP virtually nowhere to be seen. It’s people power in action and a fantastic vibe. It made me want to move up there.

kiwipundit :
November 23, 2007 at 3:37 am

I’ll be slightly more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago and say TPP of 54-46 in Labor’s favour, primary support of 46% for Labor and 42% for the Coalition and a seat count of 83 for Labor, 65 for Coalition and 2 Independents.

The 23 seats that Labor will win off the Coalition are:

NSW (7) = Bennelong (by a very narrow margin), Dobell, Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Macquarie – held by a Liberal MP although it is a Labor seat on paper (or Parramatta – which is on paper a Liberal seat), Page, Robertson

Vic (3) = Corangamite, Deakin, La Trobe

Qld (6) = Blair, Bonner, Bowman, Herbert, Moreton, Petrie

WA (1) = Hasluck

SA (3) = Kingston, Makin, Wakefield,

Tas (2) = Bass, Braddon

NT (1) = Solomon

So congrats to Seajay and the 7 other tea-leaf readers extraordinaire, your electoral prophecy will be kept in the Hall of Fame list accessed at the top of the page.

If Seajay could drop me an email, I’ll post him/her off a copy of John Kudelka’s book, 101 Uses for a John Howard.

On another note – I hope we all had a relaxing, safe and enjoyable festive season.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »