Preferences - Why Hanson was Not Elected

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In 1998, The Howard Liberal Government changed the voting system just prior to the election to stop Pauline Hanson's One Nation, and it worked.

Pauline Hanson and Preferences by Anthony Green

The announcement that Pauline Hanson is going to contest the Queensland election has created a flurry of news stories. Parties having been lining up to say they will not direct preferences to her. 

The silliest reporting of the day goes to any journalist who has reported Greens Leader Ronan Lee saying the Greens will not do a preference deal with Pauline Hanson. Good luck to Ronan Lee and Greens for getting some publicity by joining the bandwagon. But isn't reporting about news? The Greens not directing preferences to Pauline Hanson falls under the category of the bleeding obvious. Was there ever a hope they would direct preferences to Hanson?

But everyone has missed the story. Queensland uses optional preferential voting. Not directing preferences to Hanson isn't what matters. Under optional preferential voting, Pauline Hanson would probably have won the seat of Blair at the 1998 Federal election. Instead, the Federal use of compulsory preferential voting allowed all the other parties to gang-up against her. Ganging-up is a strategy much hard to choreograph under optional preferential voting.

Let's look at what happened in Blair in 1998. Hanson led the race on primary votes with 36.0% of the vote, followed by Labor 25.3%, Liberal 21.7%, National 10.3%, Democrats 3.6, Greens 1.8, and 1.3% divided between 3 other candidates. 

After the exclusion of the five lowest polling candidates, the percentages were Hanson 37.2%, Labor 27.7%, Liberal 23.1% and National 11.9%.

Then out went the Nationals putting the Liberal candidate ahead of Labor and giving the percentages Hanson 38.9%, Liberal 31.8%, Labor 29.3%. Then Labor was excluded, having recommended preferences to the Liberal Party, producing a final result of Cameron Thompson (Liberal) 53.4%, Hanson 46.6%. 

The AEC published full preference flows for Blair at the 1998 election. Overall, 74.9% of preferences flowed to the Liberals, and only 25.1% to Hanson. The individual party preference splits between Liberal/Hanson were National 82.6%/17.4%, Labor 74.5%/25.5%, Democrats 69.9%/30.1%, Greens 67.1%/32.9%. 

If Hanson contests Beaudesert, or any other seat, winning will require her to lead on the primary vote, as she did in Blair. If Hanson polled 36.0% again, she would have a reasonable chance of winning under optional preferential voting because of the significant number of voters who do not direct preferences. These votes would simply exhaust, making it harder for whoever finished second to pull ahead of Hanson on preferences. 

The 2001 Queensland election was the first where the Labor Party ran a 'Just Vote 1' strategy, and this greatly increased the incidence of Labor voters not directing preferences. It also greatly increased the incidence of '1 only' votes for other parties.

So looking at the 2001 election, how did Labor's preferences flow between National and One Nation/Independent candidates in seats where Labor preferences were distributed? The following table shows figures for these seats.

Callide 2001 - to NAT 11.7%, to ONP 12.4%, exhausted 75.9%

Darling Downs 2001 - to NAT 7.8%, to IND 12.3%, exhausted 79.9% 

Hinchinbrook 2001 - to NAT 10.5%, to ONP 9.5%, exhausted 80.0% 

Warrego 2001 -  to IND 15.2%, to ONP 10.0%, to NAT 6.4%, exhausted 68.4% 

If those figures of Labor 75% exhausted had been repeated in Blair in 1998, Hanson would have won the election. So if Hanson leads in Beaudesert and Labor finishes third, Labor will have to do more than exhaust preferences, as Hanson would still lead. They may have to actively direct preferences to the LNP.

If you look at the primary votes for Beaudesert based on redistributed results from 2006, National led with 49.2%, Labor 39.4 and Greens 11.4%. Given past voting patterns, you would expect that Hanson would draw more votes from the LNP than Labor, which raises the possibility that Labor would lead on primary votes. This raises the real possibility of Labor winning the seat because of the LNP and Hanson splitting the conservative vote but not swapping preferences. 

That was a scenario that allowed Labor to win the north Queensland seat of Burdekin at the 2001 election. Labor polled 36.7%, National 22.7%, the City-Country Alliance 20.9% and One Nation 19.7%. Of the CCA and ONP preferences, 60% exhausted, preventing the National Party from closing Labor's lead. It would be that sort of scenario that will be concerning the National Party.

Finally, a comment on a few people who say Hanson is only running for the public funding. There is one difference between the Commonwealth and Queensland Electoral Acts. At Commonwealth elections, funding is paid on votes received. In Queensland, it is an entitlement based on votes received, but it is only paid on receipts. If Pauline Hanson spends nothing on her campaign but gets enough votes for funding, she gets nothing because she didn't spend money on campaigning.


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