2016 Senate Election tibits

Every election, the AEC releases what are effectively digitised versions of every single “formal” Senate ballot paper in the election.  This year, NSW’s dataset is a 1.06GB CSV file.

Since the Senate voting rules have changed, I thought I’d have a bit of fun and take a look at how well Australians (specifically NSW voters) followed these new rules.

‘Below the line’ vs. ‘Above the line’ voting

First off, let’s look at below the line vs above the line voting.  The new rules suggest voters place at least 12 boxes below the line or 6 boxes above the line.  I use the word “suggest” because incomplete votes are still “saved” under new savings provisions which came with the changed rules.

Let’s take a look at the NSW breakdown of formal Senate votes:

  • Below the line*: 185,387
  • Above the line*: 4,234,502
  • Unspecified**: 72,310

* For the purpose of this summary, ballots considered ‘below the line’ if they do not contain numbers marked ‘above the line’.  Ballots considered ‘above the line’ are the inverse. ** Unspecified ballots are ballots saved by various ‘savings provisions’ and are still considered formal votes.  For example, these could include ballots where the voter placed ‘1’ above the line and 2-6 below the line.

Voting below the line

The new voting rules made it easier for voters to vote “below the line”.  Not only did voters not have to fill in every single box on the paper, the savings provisions are more generous than ever making more incorrectly filled ballots considered “formal”.

The missing ‘1’: Right off the rank, there is a data anomaly from these generous savings provisions.  There were more below the line voters which had placed a ‘2’ in their ballot paper then voters who had placed a ‘1’ below the line.  Around 2,054 “below the line” ballots neglected the ‘1’ compared to 608 voters who neglected the ‘2’.

Voting only ‘6’ below the line: Many voters also got confused with the 6 “above the line” or 12 “below the line”.  Around 2.5% of NSW below the line ballots were only filled to the number ‘6’, rather than the ’12’ which was prescribed by the AEC^.

Overall compliance: Having said all of that, 96.7% of NSW “below the line” voters followed the instructions correctly and placed a number ’12’ below the line.

Beyond 12 below the line: However, the subsequent drop-off was huge.  Only 48,505 ballots had the number ’13’ below the line, compared with 179,196 for the number ’12’.

It was reported that many voters were advised to 12 numbers below the line, and 12 only, which could have played a role in the substantial drop-off.  However, it could also be the case that the majority of voters only want to do the “bare minimum” in terms of filling out a ballot.

Only about 26% (48,505) of below the line voters placed a ’13’ below the line. 4,332 ballots (2.34% of below the line ballots) had all 151 boxes filled in.

^ N.B. I am using the number of voters who placed a ‘6’ minus the number of voters who placed a ‘7’ anywhere below the line as a proxy for the total number of votes below the line. Further analysis is required to determine the exact number of voters who placed exactly 6 numbers below the line.

Voting above the line

Only 1 above the line: Despite a vocal campaign from the AEC to make voters aware of the changed Senate voting rules, around 6% of above the line voters continued to simply place a single ‘1’ above the line^. This was the previous above the line voting method.

Beyond 6 above the line: As with the below the line vote, there was a substantial drop off beyond the minimum number of boxes prescribed to be filled. 3,766,149 (3.8 million) voters placed a ‘6’ above the line compared with a mere 224,416 ballots with a ‘7’.

Compliance (BTL vs ATL): Interestingly, above the line voters were not quite as acute in following the AEC instructions with only 89% of above the line voters managing to place a ‘6’ above the line (compared with 96.7% BTL voters complying with the 12 number ‘rule’).

^ N.B. Derived from the number of ballots with a ‘1’ above the line minus the number of ballots with a ‘2’ below the line. This is merely a proxy. Further analysis is required to determine the exact number of voters who placed exactly 1 number above the line. Excludes ballots with both below and above the line numbering (i.e. unspecified)


Here are a few take outs:

  • Most voters continued to vote above the line
  • A substantial number of voters continued to only place ‘1’ above the line when voting, meaning their votes were immediately exhausted after their first nominated group or candidate
  • Most voters are doing the bare minimum when voting for the Senate (i.e. only filling in 6 ATL or 12 BTL).

If I had more time, I’d analyse the exact number of numbers per ballot (rather than the pseudo counting I have going on at the moment). I’d also convert ATL votes into BTL votes, which would then allow preference flow simulations to see exactly which votes ended up making the quota for the 12 NSW Senators we elected. But alas, too much data and too little time on my hands 🙂

Senator Conroy SSCNBN

NBN hearing, now less of a cat-fight

The latest public hearing for the Select Senate Committee on the National Broadband Network convened in Canberra yesterday, and for the first time – the entire hearing seemed relatively productive and much less like a cat fight.

If you remember at the last Senate Budget Estimates hearing, the NBN Co hearing was abruptly stopped before its designated time slot had finished after the chair Senator John Williams insisted to end the session that had started earlier than scheduled.

While the makeup and the dynamics of this Select Senate Committee is vastly different from a Budget Estimates hearing, both NBN Co and the opposition senators are beginning to “give way” to one another.

NBN Co, under the leadership of 10 week new CEO Bill Morrow, has become far more open and helpful in these hearings compared with previous hearings where interim CEO Ziggy Switkowski led the way. Executives are beginning to loosen up, trying to find answers for Senators during the session rather than leaving everything “on notice”. They’re even throwing in the occasional joke for the public record. Perhaps too, the executives are beginning to settle into their roles and are being increasingly accustomed to the vigour and detail explored in these hearings – especially the questioning from Senator Conroy.

The tides are turning too, with opposition senators from both Labor and Greens recognising that Fibre to the Node has become a reality that is likely unstoppable for the near future. There appears to be a shift of questioning from continual criticism of the MTM NBN to a more technology-centric discussion about the “new” rollout technologies. Neither Conroy nor Ludlam agree with the MTM shift (they’ve simply accepted it as a fact); however, the friendlier side of both sides were definitely on show during this hearing.

Far more was learnt about the proposed product constructs for the NBN Copper Access Service (NCAS) and about the rollout trials than previously. The fact that the executives are opening up to more detailed questioning is great news.

It’s also been great to see Senator Ludlam step up his questioning for the executives. Recent appointment of Renai LeMay (founder of independent technology news site, Delimiter) as Parliamentary Business and Communications Advisor to Senator Scott Ludlam has certainly seen increased vigour in questioning by the tech-savy Greens senator who has always taken a unique perspective on questioning. I look forward to more questioning from Senator Ludlam.

Embedded below is a quick highlights reel of yesterday’s hearing:

Senator Conroy SSCNBN

NBN Co changes the premises passed metric

Metric is now more conservative and relevant to service providers

During a Senate Budget Estimates hearing last night, NBN Co revealed that changes were made with respect to the way “premises passed” was defined in the weekly rollout statistics. NBN spokesperson, Andrew Sholl, said off the record yesterday on Twitter that these changes started in April this year and gives a clearer and more relevant weekly figure.

Traditionally, two metrics were used by NBN Co to describe the status of construction of their network — one being Ready for Service and Premises Passed. In the previous metric of “Premises Passed”, premises were considered to be passed once network testing was completed the Local Network servicing a particular cluster of premises. However, only once 90% of the premises are passed by NBN Co’s old metric is an FSAM declared “Ready for Service” and an order may be ordered.

A recent change to the metric has altered the way NBN Co reports the “Premises Passed” metric in it’s weekly rollout statistics. Rather than accounting premises as being “passed” when testing for the Local Network is completed, NBN Co will only account those premises as being “passed” when the local network servicing 90% of the premises in that particular rollout region is built and tested.

This changed metric provides a more conservative and potentially, more relevant metric for consumers and service providers. However, it also means that NBN Co’s weekly run-rate will become more angular as premises will be added in mass, rather than the progressive additions previously seen.

Talking with service providers, it appears that premises considered passed by not yet Ready for Service under previous metrics have remained classified as “passed”. Only new premises being added to the network are affected by this change of metric.

Drew Clarke at Senate Estimates

Ooops… Comms Department mistakes myNBN for myBroadband


When questioned about by Senator Pratt release of data by NBN Co today at the Senate Environment and Communications Legislative Committee earlier today, Drew Clarke, the Secretary of Department of Communications mistakenly said that:

myNBN is one of the department’s website. I’m very familiar with it.

It appears the secretary had mistaken the myBroadband website with the independent rollout tracking website myNBN.info, which incidentally existed prior to the communications department’s own website which was launched earlier this year. The secretary goes on to say:

And indeed, the underlying datasets in it are available on data.gov[.au].

In fact, if it was not for the confusion, this statement would be extremely inaccurate given that the datasets that underly the myNBN website have actually been removed by NBN Co since the change in Government. In fact, the datasets had been requested on data.gov.au to be reinstated, but has subsequently been dismissed by the Department of Communications itself.

A complaint letter has also been sent to the Department of Communications regarding their response to the data.gov.au, however, a response is yet to be received.

The Senate Hearings continue, with the Communications department appearing tomorrow afternoon and with NBN Co to front the committee tomorrow night.