Fun with Senate GVT Data

As I learnt from the Poll Bludger, the Senate group voting tickets were released a few days ago. (The data is available in CSV form from the AEC: NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, SA, Tas, ACT, NT.)

Group voting tickets (if you don’t know) are the way most voters choose to vote on the senate ballot paper. They are the above-the-line option, where you choose one party only, and (perhaps unbeknownst to many) cede your choice of 2nd, 3rd, etc. preferences to that party. A GVT is a list of preferences for senate candidates, decided in advance by each party. You can either select a GVT (whose details are not shown to you on the ballot paper, except for the first preference), or number all the candidates.

I thought it would be interesting to see how the pantheon of parties ranks itself. Which parties are closer to the front of the other parties’ preferences? Which parties are despised by all? Where do the major and high-profile minor parties come?

Here they all are. I’ve included every political party and independent contesting senate seats in every state and territory. The bars on the graph1 represent the median position of a party among all parties’ preferences. Smaller bars are preferable, indicating that a party is closer to the front of overall parties’ preferences. I stole the colour coding from the ABC.

(Note: there’s nothing predictive about this graph. It’s just a representation of what the different parties think of each other.)


Parties contesting senate seats differ state-to-state. Independents and many minor parties run in one state only. Other parties have subtly different registered names in different states. I’ve tried to remove these inconsistencies in the graph. However, the Liberals and Nationals further confuse things by being the same party in Queensland but not anywhere else.

Anyway, here are some observations:

  • Australian First Nations occupies the most favourable position by a wide margin, though they are an NT-only party.
  • The Australian Sports Party is next, perhaps in keeping with our vaunted national identity, and/or perhaps because it’s a feel-good concept that compares starkly with the entrenched ideology of other parties.
  • Most established, high-profile parties lie at the bottom of the list, towards the end of overall parties’ preferences. The more we see of our political parties, the more faults we find. Moreover, the established, high-profile parties are probably the ones considered the largest barrier to the chances of all other parties.
  • The Greens are fourth-last, and are perhaps in the unenviable position of being seen as an “establishment” party even while struggling to maintain a presence in the House of Representatives.
  • Family First, meanwhile, seems to have attracted disproportionate magnanimity. Did Steve Fielding really capture our hearts after all?
  • The wisdom of our political tacticians has placed Bob Katter slightly ahead of Clive Palmer2. It will be interesting to see if either makes a dent in the status quo.

It’s curious that the major parties should be so far down the list, considering the undisguised craziness of others like One Nation, Rise Up Australia, the DLP, etc. Is that really the path we want to go down? Given the choice between (a) a senator from your least favourite major party, and (b) a senator from Rise Up Australia, who do you think would do the least damage?

I had also intended to use the GVT data to construct a network of parties, showing allies and enemies (where an alliance is implied by one preferencing the other before all major parties). The result is currently too cluttered to be readable, though.

  1. Actually, a bar graph doesn’t quite feel quite right, because the data represent positions rather than quantities, but it was the easiest choice. []
  2. The ABC has decided that these two are now worthy of colour coding. Palmer takes yellow from the Democrats, and Katter takes brown from One Nation. If Katter and Palmer fail, who will be next? []

Horrifying pixelated photos of Bob Katter emerge

It appears that some disreputable person has been mud-raking, after our hitherto good friend Bob Katter released a political ad showing a shocking, pixelated photo of two guys hugging (to bring our outraged attention to evils of gay marriage).

Now, take a look at these revealing photos of Katter himself, and see if you aren’t as deeply offended as I was.

That Katter could hypocritically engage in such perverted pixelation is an affront to all right-minded conservatives. He must apologise immediately to Campbell Newman, to his Queensland electorate, and not least to the pixels themselves.

Party on, Bob

Bob Katter is doubtless one of the most open and sincere members of federal parliament (along with the other independent MPs). As everyone knows, such qualities are easily discarded by career politicians as they manoeuvre their way around the fickle whims of the electorate, the propaganda of special interest groups and the machinations of their adversaries (both inside and outside their party).

Katter’s basic problem, however, is that he’s bonkers. He’s not stupid by any means, but he does appear to be cocooned in a bubble universe in which concerns like economics and the environment are but a faint distorted glimmer of background radiation.

The Katterverse, refreshingly, does not easily fall into the left-right paradigm. You can verify this by perusing his new Australia Party’s policies. Bob wants government economic intervention like there was no tomorrow, but opposes the “nanny state”1. He doesn’t care one way or the other about Tony Abbott’s boat-arrivals cataclysm, but opposes the carbon tax (and presumably, by extension, any form of carbon pricing).

Conversely, and perhaps unfortunately for Katter, this means that anyone mired in realpolitik isn’t going to be easily talked around to his point of view. The left-right spectrum is one of my pet hates2, but it does at least broadly cover the range of plausible economic policies. You can opt for well-funded government services so long as you’re prepared for high taxation, or you can choose low-taxation so long as you don’t expect much government help. Katter, on the other hand, represents the archetypal selfish voter; he wants the government to give everything and take nothing, thinking perhaps (as many voters must do) that the only thing standing in the way of such impossible utopia is pig-headed political intransigence. This disconnect doesn’t matter so much when you’re a Katter-style “maverick independent”, but if you actually want a say in government policy, the world “compromise” is going to have to cross your lips more than a few times.

  1. “Opposing the nanny state”, I find, is often a euphemism for “Why the hell should I be prevented from endangering the public?” []
  2. It seems spurious and disingenuous to use “left” and “right” in reference to non-economic issues, where labels like “libertarian”, “environmentalist”, “religious”, “secular”, etc. are surely far more descriptive and less open to misinterpretation and rhetorical abuse. []