Useless demographic data from the 2022 Australian Senate Election

Hello Ryan.

Hello. I like this pseudo-conversational format that Medium writers do where they’re really just talking to themselves. It is much easier to write, personally.

What terrible thing have you done now?

I decided to delve into the data for registered Senate candidates for the 2022 Australian Federal Election on the AEC website, in order to find out if there’s any interesting observations that I can make out of the demographics.

But the AEC doesn’t publish any data.

Oh, yeah. The AEC does publish a list of candidates, but I sort of just manually went into hundreds of candidates’ information and AEC Qualification Checklist forms to see if there was anything interesting in them.

That sounds really sad. Please get a life.

I have a lot of time on my hands.

What’s a Qualification Checklist, anyway?

It’s a form that determines whether a candidate is eligible for nomination. Basically, you can’t nominate for the Senate or House if you run afoul of a disqualification under s44 of the Constitution. So this checklist is a formal declaration that you don’t attract any of the situations under that section.

One example of a s44 disqualification is being a ‘citizen or subject of a foreign power’. It seems to keep getting members of Parliament into trouble because members fail to disclose that they are a dual national. So the Qualification Checklist is an early declaration used to establish that it isn’t an issue, by asking the applicant to outline the citizenship history of the person’s family.

Why is this meant to be interesting? I don’t understand why you would go out of your way and do that instead of, I don’t know, not doing that.

Because if politicians are ideally meant to act as representatives of the people, you would assume that their own demographic composition would reflect that representation on some level, in terms of gender, ancestry and vocation.

And why the Senate ballot?

The Senate is a much more complicated ballot. People tend to have a poorer understanding of the representation of candidates below the line, and less visibility of what specific candidates a party is putting up for the Senate. Also there are less Senate candidates generally. Which makes it much easier.

Okay. So how many candidates are running across the states?

There’s 421 candidates for election to the Senate this election.

That’s one number off the weed number. Just imagine. If one less person registered for the Senate election, you could have joked about it and said ‘nice’ and it would have been very funny. But now you can’t do that.

Yeah.

Which parties are running?

Plenty of parties! There are 45 unique party ballot names on the Senate ticket. That’s of course if you count the duplicates — some parties run under a different name in a different state. So whilst you may vote for Labor in one state, in the Northern Territory you would vote for the A.L.P. Not sure why.

Below is a list of the largest parties running in the Senate by candidates:

Is there anything interesting about the distribution of candidates across states and territories? Or the distribution of parties across states?

The interesting thing is that smaller states and territories have more candidates per capita than the larger ones. So theoretically, if you live in the Northern Territory, you have the largest number of people representing you.

As far as the distribution of parties across states, most major parties are predictably spread in terms of their candidates. Independent candidates are unusually common in Victoria. The Nationals seem non-existent in places.

How about gender? Is the Senate ballot a complete sausage fest this year? More sausages on that paper than a Coles value pack?

The Senate cohort is comprised of 227 male and 192 female candidates. There’s also Greens candidates Zeb Payne and River Clarke, who identify as non-binary. I can’t speak for everyone’s gender. Maybe I missed some others.

The gender distribution of candidates in the major parties seems to be reasonably aligned with the political alignment of the parties. It is a small sample size, but there does look like there is an enormous difference going on.

Okay, you mentioned you looked at what candidates nominated to the AEC. What sort of things did you find out about that?

Based on s44 disclosures made by candidates, 143 or one-third (34%) of Senate candidates have one or more parents born in a country other than Australia. When you break it down by parties, it is interesting to see that overseas parentage is actually pretty common across the political spectrum.

In contrast to the trend we saw with gender, having a parentage from another country is also fairly common across most parties.

So you might be thinking — oh! That’s actually super diverse. But in the case of 40 (28%) of the candidates that nominated a country, it was the United Kingdom. So it’s not exactly an incredible measure of ethnic diversity. That said, there is still a lot of representation going on. 10 candidates (7%) had each parent born in a different country. There’s almost 50 countries covered.

Anything else that strikes you as unusual about the forms?

Yes, there were two candidates who nominated that they had parentage in another country but left the form blank. I’m not sure if that causes problems. If you happen to be Jack Duxbury (Sustainable Australia) or James Arthur Caldwell (Liberal Democrats), I think you should probably look into that.

Okay, one more thing. I notice all the Senate candidates say what their profession is on the AEC website. Did you take a look at that?

Of course! This one is tricky though because it seems self-nominated by the candidate, so there’s no consistent way to compare professions across the board. You’ll have candidates saying that they’re a teacher, and then you’ll have someone saying they’re an ‘educationist’. If you know Cheryl Lacey of the Australian Federation Party, please ask her what this means. I don’t know.

The most common professions sort of make sense: most Senate candidates are existing Senators (8%), as they are already in the job. Retired (6%) and self-employed (3%) candidates make sense, as these people may have greater flexibility and less vocational pressure to be able to go and do campaigning.

There is an interesting class element to the Senate race. Although there are plenty of working-class Senate candidates, perhaps fragmented by more uniquely described roles such as beauty therapists, support workers, or plumbers, there are certainly a lot of lawyers, managers, and business owners.

Do certain professions coalesce around certain parties, suggesting an underlying class aspect to political representation? In most cases, the sample is too small to delve into this. Retirees, students, and unemployed candidates were not based around one particular party or side of the political spectrum.

Any unusual finds in this area?

Oh hell yes. Plenty of unusual careers to be found:

  • Blue Heelers / McLeod’s Daughters actor Damien Richardson, who is unaffiliated and running on an anti-vaccination platform,
  • Drew Pavlou of the Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance, who put his vocation down as ‘adventurer’,
  • Independent Valentine Pegrum, who is a musician and has many videos of him sort of just setting up outside a suburban cafe playing his guitar.

The list could go on for some time.

(Spoken with the affect of an unloved electoral academic) I have some issues with your methodology. Why did you exclude House candidates from this analysis? Why analyse immediate parentage under s44 declarations and not grandparents, which are also disclosed?

I don’t have the time to do that. That sounds really tedious.

Raw demographic data on Senate candidates? In this election, at this time of year, entirely localised within your shitty Medium page?

Yes.

May I see it?

…no.

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