Howard Government Re-Elected; Big Swing to Labor Fails To Deliver Marginal Seats
The Howard Government was returned to office last night, but with a greatly reduced majority. The Liberal and National Party coalition suffered a swing of around 5% that saw it lose at least 16 and up to 20 seats around the nation. The Australian Labor Party
appears certain to retain all of its 48 seats and win 5 more in Queensland, 4 in Western Australia, 3 in Victoria, 2 in New South Wales and 1 each in South Australia and Tasmania. Around 13 seats remained in doubt at the close of counting.
Early projections suggest that the ALP has outpolled the coalition in the two-party-preferred vote. The Opposition has achieved big swings in its own seats, but has failed to match this in the marginals. Many existing Labor seats experienced swings of over 5% to the ALP.
Hanson Defeated in Blair
The One Nation party secured around 8.4% of the primary vote, but failed to win a single seat in the House of Representatives. One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, was defeated in the Queensland electorate of Blair. The party will win one Senate seat in Queensland.
Victoria Fails To Deliver to ALP
The biggest disappointment for the ALP was in Victoria, where gains of up to 8 seats were predicted. The ALP has managed so far to win only 3 seats: Bendigo, Chisholm and McMillan. There is some uncertainty about the result in McMillan. In seats such as Deakin and La Trobe, only small swings to the ALP were recorded. The Liberals will retain Deakin, but La Trobe will be decided on pre-poll, absentee and postal votes.
New South Wales produced two widely predicted Labor gains: Lowe and Paterson. A number of other seats are too close to call, including Eden-Monaro and Paterson. The Liberal Party generally held its own in Sydney electorates such as Lindsay and Hughes.
Qld Swings to Labor, But Kernot Struggling
Queensland has produced the largest number of gains for the Labor Party, but Cheryl Kernot in Dickson is not yet among them. Mrs. Kernot is struggling to stay around the 50% mark against a tide of preferences running against her. The former leader of the Australian Democrats talked on television last night of leaving politics and delivered a thinly-disguised criticism of the decision to place her in a marginal seat.
The ALP has won Bowman, Griffith, Lilley, Oxley, Rankin and Capricornia, the latter delivering a 10% swing to the Opposition, as did Oxley. Undecided seats where the margin is only a few hundred votes include Dickson, Herbert, Hinkler, Longman, Petrie and Moreton.
Many Upsets in Western Australia
Western Australia seems to have warmed to Kim Beazley, the Opposition Leader securing a swing of 11.6% in his seat of Brand and 52.7% of the primary vote. The ALP has also taken the seats of Canning, Cowan, Stirling and Swan from the Liberal Party, to give the Opposition half of the 14 seats in that state.
The 3 Independent members from Western Australia were all defeated in the election. Graeme Campbell (Kalgoorlie), Alan Rocher (Curtin) and Paul Filing (Moore) all lost to Liberal Party candidates. In Kalgoorlie, the Liberals will benefit from a decision by the former Labor incumbent to direct preferences to them.
The Indpendent member for Calare, Peter Andren, who experienced a big swing towards him, will be the only independent in the new House of Representatives.
The ALP's primary vote in Western Australia is 36.4%, an increase of only 1.7%. This is a pattern repeated around the country. The ALP has won many seats on preferences, rather than from an increase in primary votes.
Minister Likely To Lose in Tasmania
Family Services Minister, Warwick Smith is struggling to retain his Tasmanian electorate of Bass, although the result is very close. The ALP has taken Braddon with a swing of 10%. If the ALP wins in Bass, it will hold all 5 Tasmanian electorates, a result it has not achieved since 1975.
Gareth Evans To Quit Parliament
Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Treasurer, Gareth Evans, announced on ABC television last night that if the ALP did not win the election, he would not contest the deputy leader's position and would retire from parliament sometime in the coming months.
Evans was the target of sustained coalition attack during the campaign. He was painted as a weak link in the ALP's economic armory and featured prominently in campaign advertisements and display material at polling booths yesterday.
Democrats To Hold Balance of Power in Senate
Early counting for the Senate indicates that the Democrats will not meet the optimistic forecasts of some commentators, but that the party will control the balance of power after July 1, 1999. The Democrats have secured a Senate quota of 14.3% in New South Wales, enough to elect Aden Ridgeway. The former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Jim Downey, has won a seat in Victoria, and party leader Meg Lees has retained her seat in South Australia.
Senator John Woodley is likely to displace Senator Bill O'Chee in Queensland. The ALP and Liberals will each have 2 seats, One Nation will take one and Woodley is favoured to take the sixth position with the help of ALP preferences.
The Democrats Rick Farley has failed to win a Senate seat in the ACT, but the party has a chance of winning the final position in Western Australia, although Greens Senator Dee Margetts is favoured to retain her position.
All up, the Democrats will have at least 9 seats in the new Senate.
The ALP has won 3 Senate seats in Tasmania, the Liberals 2, whilst Brian Harradine is competing with the Greens for the sixth position.
Howard Claims Victory in Face of Campaign Of Lies
Speaking to supporters in Sydney last night, the Prime Minister claimed that "this is probably the first time in the recent experience of Western political parties that a party has successfully won an election championing such a major reform which so readily leant itself to a
dishonest fear campaign". The Prime Minister dedicated himself to the maintenance of traditional Australian values such as mateship, egalitarianism and tolerance.
Howard committed the government to the process of reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians.
Beazley Won't Concede Defeat Yet
Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, last night admitted that it was unlikely the ALP would be able to win government, but said that he would not formally concede defeat until all the votes had been counted. He said that the ALP had achieved the biggest swing by a first-term Opposition since World War II. "The Labor Party is back in town," he said, "and we approach the next three years with great confidence."
Beazley said that "if as I suspect, from a minority of votes, the Liberal and National parties emerge in the next few days with a majority of seats - they have a mandate, like any government in this nation, to govern well. That is what the Australian people will expect of them." This comment was being interpreted last night as an indication that the ALP will continue to oppose measures such as the privatisation of Telstra and the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax.
Failure To Lift Primary Vote Hindered Labor
Whilst all the votes are not yet in, it is now clear that the ALP failed to win the 1998 Federal election partly because it was unable to achieve an adequate increase in its primary vote across the nation. The ALP clearly won the two-party-preferred vote, achieving 51.43% to the coalition's 48.57%, according to the latest figures from the Australian Electoral Commission. But the ALP has only increased its share of the primary vote by 1.66% to 40.76%.
By contrast, the Liberal Party's primary vote has declined 4.87% to 33.87% and the National Party's by 2.92% to 5.25%. The Australian Democrats primary vote declined by 1.68% to 5.01%. The big winner in primary votes was One Nation, which secured 8.39%. Much of this came from the coalition and the ALP has only secured part of it via preferences.
In many of the key marginal seats the ALP was hoping to win, the lack of increase in the primary vote is crucial to understanding their failure. For example, in the outer Melbourne electorate of La Trobe, the ALP's primary vote dropped 1.17% to 38.13%. In Deakin, the ALP increased the primary vote by 0.18% to 39.38%. In Dunkley, the ALP declined 0.82% to 39.60%. In McEwen, it increased 0.79% to 40.54%.
The situation was similar in New South Wales. In Lindsay, the ALP declined 0.61% to 39.90%, whilst in Hughes the primary vote dropped 3.35% to 34.60%. In Robertson, the ALP increased its primary vote by 0.57% to 39.85%.
The contrast with seats the ALP won from the coalition is stark. In Chisholm in Victoria, the ALP's Anna Burke increased the party's primary vote by 2.39% to 43.45%. In Bowman, Con Sciacca regained his old seat through an increase in the ALP's primary vote of 1.86% to 44.11%. In Lilley, Wayne Swan took back the seat with a 2.34% increase to 45.80%. In Capricornia, the ALP primary vote increased 7.80% to 48.47%, although this was assisted by the absence of a Liberal candidate. In Cowan in Western Australia, Graham Edwards achieved a 4.38% increase to lift the primary vote to 44.34%. In Braddon in Tasmania, Peter Sidebottom lifted the vote 7.51% to 46.46% and won comfortably.
A second factor that contributed to the ALP's lack of success in crucial seats is the One Nation factor and the flow of preferences. Unless the ALP has achieved a primary vote of around 43%, it has had great difficulty winning seats from the government. This low 40s figure appears to be the magic number for the ALP to overcome the uncertainty arising out of a considerable number of candidates and a resulting complex flow of preferences.
This is best illustrated in the Victorian rural electorate of Bendigo, where the ALP took the seat despite suffering a swing against it on the primary vote of 0.06%. There were 12 candidates in Bendigo, yet the ALP was able to poll 43.29% of the primary vote, a sufficient buffer against anti-Labor preferences from other candidates, including One Nation which polled 6.69%.
In Paterson in NSW, the ALP's Bob Horne managed to win back the seat by increasing the primary vote to 43.63%. Even though this was only an increase of 0.07%, it gave him a lead of nearly 3% over the incumbent Liberal, Bob Baldwin. The anti-Labor prefences flowing from parties such as One Nation, which polled 8.08%, can be resisted with a primary vote lead of this magnitude.
Cheryl Kernot's likely failure to win Dickson in Queensland can be explained by the foregoing analysis. Despite achieving a 1.08% increase in the primary vote, the ALP only had 40.53% in total. This was insufficient to win against the anti-Labor preference flow of the other parties, including One Nation's 8.40%.
Government Majority Likely To Be 6-12
The major party strategists seem to be in agreement that the ALP has definitely won 16 seats from the coalition. The ALP National Secretary, Gary Gray, is claiming a definite 18. There are 13 seats in doubt, with the ALP in the lead in only a few of these. An ALP gain of 20 seats appears to be the most likely (as predicted on this page on Saturday!). Given that there will be one independent in the new House (Peter Andren from Calare) and an outside possibility of one Democrat, this will give the government 78 seats, the ALP 68, others 2. After providing a Speaker (tipped by some to be Kathy Sullivan from Moncrieff in Queensland), this will give the government a working majority of 7.
Final results will become clearer this week as the large number of postal, absentee and pre-poll votes are counted. There are estimated to be 200,000 of these in the undecided seats. Since many of these voters would not have had the benefit of minor party how-to-vote cards, the result can be expected to favour the ALP and coalition. Often the incumbent benefits most, although a high profile candidate such as Cheryl Kernot could also do well.
The seats the ALP is claiming are:
NEW SOUTH WALES: Lowe, Paterson
VICTORIA: Bendigo, Chisholm, McMillan (the Liberals dispute McMillan)
QUEENSLAND: Bowman, Capricornia, Griffith, Lilley, Oxley, Rankin (Rankin was held by Labor, but notionally Liberal on the new boundaries
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Kingston, Makin
WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Canning, Cowan, Stirling, Swan
Kernot For Holt - Forget It!
Channel 9's Laurie Oakes raised the possibility of Cheryl Kernot being parachuted into the Melbourne electorate of Holt that Gareth Evans is about to vacate. No doubt Mrs Kernot would appreciate the two-party-preferred vote of 65.53% achieved by Evans, since it is several per cent higher than Mary Delahunty's seat of Northcote in the Victorian Legislative Assembly!
However, suggestions that Kernot could be accommodated in Holt, are fanciful. Not only is she a Queenslander, any such move would trigger a massive factional brawl in the Victorian ALP, especially from those who have been busily gathering support for a possible pre-selection in the Dandenong-based seat.
Kernot's whining comments about Dickson on Saturday night will not have endeared her to anyone in the ALP. If she doesn't win Dickson, expect her to be out of politics.
The Strange Case of Alexander Downer
There had been murmurings during the election campaign that Downer was in trouble in his South Australian electorate of Mayo. Senator Meg Lees had named the seat some weeks ago as a likely Democrat win. Won by Downer in 1996 with a margin of 15.2%, he has been forced to preferences this time. Downer has won 45.45% of the primary vote, the Democrat candidate, John Schumann, has 22.70%, the ALP 22.17% and One Nation 7.19%.
Provided the Schumann can stay ahead of the ALP when all primary votes are in, a situation the Liberal Party asserts will not happen, he would be elected on Labor preferences, assisted by One Nation which put Downer last. Schumann would become the first Democrat to win a lower house seat.
If he lost, would Downer demand his father's old job as High Commissioner to London, or would he allow retiring Speaker, Ian Sinclair, to take it? Stay tuned!
50% Turnover in Western Australia
Seven of the 14 seats in Western Australia changed hands on Saturday. In addition to the 4 seats won by the ALP from the Liberals, the 3 independent members all lost their seats to the Liberal Party.
Allan Rocher in Curtin saw his primary vote drop 8.39% to 18.23%, putting him behind the ALP on 22.82%. This means Rocher will be eliminated first and his preferences will elect the Liberal candidate, Julie Bishop. In Moore, Paul Filing's vote dropped 14.21% to 20.41%, behind the ALP on 30.74%. Filing's preferences will elect the Liberal, Mal Washer. Both Rocher and Filing had previously held their seats as Liberals. They lost their pre-selections in 1996 and won them again as independents.
In Kalgoorlie, former ALP member Graeme Campbell has polled 24.19%, behind the ALP on 26.46% and the Liberal Party on 28.13%. Campbell's preferences will elect the Liberal candidate, Barry Haase.
The Liberal Party has also defeated Pauline Hanson in the new Queensland electorate of Blair, giving it 4 of the 5 seats previously held by independents. This has been an important ingredient in giving the government a workable majority in the new House.
Gareth Evans Unfairly Attacked