A few days ago I was at a regular monthly lunch, and the conversation moved to the likely result in the NSW elections. Most of the company thought that Gladys would get back, and the common use of ‘Gladys’ tells you something. She may not be a great Premier (I have no inside knowledge), but she is widely seen as straightforward. She is no beauty (cf Kristina Keneally, a former Labor woman Premier) but that doesn’t matter. She qualifies in terms of the impression she gives of being on top of her job, fearless, and confident. I remember Julia Gillard’s complaint that the media seemed focussed on her (Julia’s) physical appearance and clothes rather than on her policies. I can’t recall any comment about Gladys of that kind: it’s just not seen as relevant.
My guess is that about half of my lunch company would normally vote Labor at elections, but there was no enthusiasm for Michael Daley, the Leader of the Opposition. One man said, acidly, ‘Labor? They haven’t been in the sin-bin long enough!’ And there was some nodding in agreement. When a couple of former Labor ministers are serving time for gross misdeeds it is hard to summon up enthusiasm for their successors. How much did the electorate remember all that? I have no idea.
The final two weeks of the campaign, according to the public opinion polls, made it a race too close to call — a ‘nailbiting battle’, according to news.com.au. In fact, the Coalition seems to have won around 42 per cent of the primary vote and Labor 33 per cent, and that’s a big disparity. The two-party-preferred result was Coalition 51 to Labor’s 49 per cent. The Nationals lost seats to the disgruntled Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, the Liberals lost two seats, Labor picked up two and an Independent was returned. The minor parties and independents won a quarter of the votes, and the preferences of those who voted for them had some powerful effects. Michael Daley made the point, correctly in my view, that the major parties were on the nose, and they needed to do something about it. Proper behaviour by elected parliamentarians would be a good start.
The closest NSW electorate to where we live in Canberra is Monaro, the seat held by the Deputy Premier and Leader of the Nationals, John Barilaro. The media made much of the tightness of the contest there. In fact, he romped home, scoring almost two votes to every one won by his Labor challenger. I no longer know how the polling organisations do their work, and I would agree that the result in seats might have been difficult to predict, given the number of minor parties and independents. For those who are interested, the Shooters and the Greens won almost the same proportion of the primary vote, about 7.5 per cent. But the disparity between the predicted and actual votes is huge. How did that happen? If you add the Greens to Labor and the Shooters to the Coalition you get an outcome of around 52 per cent for the Coalition and 41 per cent for Labor. Did all the voters for independent candidates give Labor their second preference votes? Beats me.
So Gladys has another four years, and her authority, at least for the next few months, will be strong. On the face of it, Daley’s concentrated attack on the Government’s rebuilding of two Sydney football stadiums didn’t work. Maybe no one cared. Labor’s reliance on health, education and social welfare, and the mantra ‘You don’t count!’ at the end of the party ads was similarly ineffective. We will learn more in the next few months.
What does this result mean for the coming Federal elections? Not much, in my view. Even if the NSW result is carried forward for the State in the Federal poll, there are five other states and two Territories where votes will be counted. I doubt that there will be much if any spillover into Queensland or Victoria. On the other hand, the polling organisations didn’t do a great job in New South Wales. Maybe they haven’t any greater accuracy with respect to the whole country. In the past three years, the Coalition has been ahead of Labor in the opinion polls only twice, and then it was a tiny margin. So there is consistency there. It could be consistently poor methodology, too. We will see.
I think Michael Daley’s strictures about the poor standing of MPs probably applies even more forcefully to the Federal arena, and here too behaving as though you are a representative of our people, and not seeing every opportunity to make a buck as an entitlement, would be a great start. I don’t have confidence that either leader is in a position to bring about such a change. I still expect Labor to win in May, but it may be much closer than what is being predicted. The Australian Pubic Opinion Poll tells us that confidence in the future of the country has moved quite noticeably upwards, which is probably a marker for a higher Coalition vote in May — if APOP has it right.
A short note on some climate change essays
Judith Curry, the sanest of the sceptic scientists, in my view, and the most productive in terms of writing, has begun a series of essays summarizing her own position in the climate change domain. A recent one at judithcurry.com explores what is known as RCP8.5 — the worst case of four ‘representative concentration pathways’, sometimes known as ‘business as usual’, which it isn’t, at all. A real business-as-usual scenario would involve simply defining what one understands to be the usual business practice now, and extending it forward more or less indefinitely. RCP8.5 is much more dire. Dr Curry says ‘Most worst-case climate outcomes are associated with climate model simulations that are driven by the RCP8.5 representative concentration pathway (or equivalent scenarios in terms of radiative forcing)’. When we hear that some great climate doom is coming, it is almost certainly based on RCP8.5, which is then fed into the computer models. RCP8.5, to me, is close to bunkum.
Dr Curry points out while one can’t argue that RCP8.5 scenarios are impossible, the assumptions built into it seem most unlikely: an atmospheric CO2 level of more than 936 ppm by 2100 (almost 1100 ppm for the coming AR6, apparently), no greenhouse gas mitigation, very high population growth, high energy intensity of the economy, very high levels of coal use, and low development of technology. It doesn’t have the right smell, at least to me, and I wrote about it in this vein some time ago.
Population growth is not accelerating, if you accept the UN figures, technology development is in no sense at a low level, the CO2 estimates require huge growth in the next decades if the 936 figure, let alone one of 1100, is to be reached, and the logarithmic nature of the effect of increased CO2 on atmospheric temperature seems to be ignored by the model-builders. While coal is still the major source of electricity, gas and oil are getting to be more important. Yes, there is more renewable energy too, but its importance in the big picture is almost trivial.
Dr Curry’s website is worth going to at any time, but at the moment she also references an excellent essay by someone else about why ‘belief’ in science is a sign that the person using the term doesn’t really understand what he or she is talking about. There is another essay by her on policy alternatives for global warming, while she is preparing a new essay on climate sensitivity, which will be a must-read for me, since I regard the concept of climate sensitivity as the Achilles heel of the whole CAGW scare.