Who Will Win The 2013 Federal Election?

Is it even possible to predict an election result?

Well… in my opinion most elections are quite predictable. I’ve voted in 15 federal elections and I’d say 11 of them were easy to predict. I’ve voted in 11 state elections and only 2 of them could be said to have produced surprise results.

The trouble is, some elections are not easy to predict but it’s only after the event that we know which ones. That’s why politics is such good fun.

So what should I look for?

Let’s look at the historical situation. To start with, governments usually get re-elected. Of the past 25 federal elections since 1949, the incumbent government has been returned in 19 of them.

Never let anyone tell you it’s easy to remove a government, even an ageing government. They all run out of puff eventually but it isn’t always predictable when this will be.

What about voting percentages? How do I interpret them?

You have to remember that winning political parties usually get around 50-54% of the two-party-preferred vote. The losing party may be in opposition but around half the country still voted for them.

For example, Kevin Rudd won 52.7% of the vote in 2007. John Howard got 52.74% in 2004 and 50.95% in 2001.

Even when Howard won a massive majority in 1996, the coalition was only on 53.63%. That was similiar to the 53.2% that Hawke got when he defeated Fraser in 1983. When Whitlam won office in 1972, the figure is estimated to have been 52.7%.

What this means is that Labor and the Coalition are fairly evenly divided. You’ll notice I’m using the two-party-preferred figures because that’s the only way you can compare election results. Remember it’s compulsory for voters to allocate preferences so in the end everyone has to choose between Labor and the Coalition.

What kind of swing can I expect to see this year?

Let’s look at recent elections. In 1996, the Coalition got a swing of 5.00% and demolished the Keating Labor government. In 1998, the Howard government had a swing against it of 4.1% and nearly lost.

In 2001, the Coalition got a swing of 2.01% towards it and increased Howard’s majority. In 2004, they got another 1.79% and increased their majority further.

When Rudd defeated Howard in 2007, the ALP got a swing of 5.44%. Under Gillard, the ALP fell 2.58% and barely survived with 50.12% of the two-party vote.

Electoral history tells us that the swing this year will be similar to one of these figures. If it’s 4 or 5 per cent to one side or the other, they will win easily.

So 4% or 5% is a big swing?

Yes. A swing of that size is more than enough to shift a lot of seats and defeat a government.
One of the biggest swings ever was 7.40% against the ALP in 1975. This reduced the ALP to 36 seats in a 127-seat House. Malcolm Fraser had the biggest majority any party has ever had in the House of Representatives. He got 55.70% of the two-party vote.

Back in 1943, John Curtin’s Labor government demolished the conservatives with a swing of 7.90%. The ALP’s two-party vote is estimated to have been 58.20%. I think this is the biggest ever.

The only swings bigger than this were the anti-Labor swings in state elections in New South Wales in 2011 and Queensland in 2012. In NSW the swing was 16.48% and in Queensland it was 13.7%. As we know, the ALP was slaughtered in both elections. Its primary vote (first preferences) dropped to around 25% in both states.

Is it possible that there could be a swing like that against the Gillard government this year?

It’s theoretically possible but highly unlikely. There are some geographical and demographic factors that help explain what happened in Queensland and NSW but both states use optional preferential voting in their elections and that accentuated the swing. [Read more...]

Peter Slipper Summonsed On Taxi Voucher Allegations

The member for Fisher and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper, has been summonsed to appear in the Canberra Magistrates Court next month.

Slipper has been summonsed in relation to three offences of “Dishonestly Causing a Risk of a Loss to the Commonwealth”.

The allegations of misusing taxi vouchers arose out of James Ashby’s sexual harassment allegations against Slipper. The Federal Police subsequently undertook an investigation into Slipper’s travel entitlements. Last month, the Federal Court threw out the sexual harassment claim as an abuse of process.

Text of a media release from the Federal Police.

Media Statement: Mr Peter Slipper MP summonsed in relation to AFP investigation

Release Date: Monday, January 07 2013, 03:21 PM

The AFP has today (7 January 2013) served the legal representative of Mr Peter Slipper MP with a summons in relation to three offences of Dishonestly Causing a Risk of a Loss to the Commonwealth pursuant to section 135.1(5) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Mr Slipper MP has been summonsed to appear in the Canberra Magistrates Court on 15 February 2013.

It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.

Julia Gillard Visits Tasmania To Inspect Bushfire Relief

Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited Tasmania today to inspect bushfire damage and the relief program.

Gillard inspected bushfire damage in Dunalley. Later she held a media conference with Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings.


  • Listen to Julia Gillard and Lara Giddings (22m)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Whatever Happened To The 45th President?

Ever since I installed Google Analytics on AustralianPolitics.com some 5 or 6 years ago, I’ve been addicted to studying the statistics in order to understand who’s using the site and how they’re doing it.

Last November, there was a spike in traffic in the week of the US presidential election. That’s a pattern with the site: major political events, especially elections, produce traffic spikes.

Because there’s quite a lot of material about American politics on the site, an apparent anomaly that I’ve long since stopped worrying about, it didn’t surprise me too much that the Obama-Romney contest would bring more traffic.

What I couldn’t work out, though, is what specifically caused the traffic spike. Tens of thousands of extra visitors came to the site that week. Google ad revenue rose accordingly and in fact it was this that alerted me to the spike.

A cursory check of the traffic stats didn’t provide any answers. The same patterns and proportions I see every month were also there in November.

I must have been asleep because I didn’t burrow into the figures to work out what had happened. Just before Christmas, I finally realised what had occurred. [Read more...]

Julia Gillard’s Place Amongst The List Of Australian Prime Ministers

It’s January, it’s the holiday season, but it’s also an election year, so let’s play with some historical data.

Don’t take it too seriously, but 2013 offers a number of interesting possibilities for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Gillard is the 27th person to serve as prime minister in the 112 years of Australia’s federation. She is the 11th Labor prime minister.

Gillard is currently the 17th longest serving prime minister, having exceeded the terms of 10 prime ministers, 7 from the conservative side (Page, McEwen, Fadden, Reid, Cook, McMahon & Holt) and 3 from Labor (Forde, Watson & Scullin).

Of the ten PMs Gillard has already overtaken, only three ever won an election (Cook in 1913, Scullin in 1929 & Holt in 1966). None could be regarded as raging successes.

  • Joseph Cook called a double dissolution in 1914 and became one of the first casualties of the Great War. Andrew Fisher, the Labor PM Cook had defeated in 1913, returned to the post.
  • James Scullin’s government, elected one week before the Wall Street crash ushered in the Great Depression in 1929, split three ways and was demolished at at an early election by his former Treasurer, Joe Lyons, who had defected to the conservatives.
  • Harold Holt won a smashing victory against the ALP and Arthur Calwell in 1966. At the time of his death by drowning in 1967, his leadership was under threat from rivals within and from without by a rampant Gough Whitlam.

Three of the prime ministers Gillard has overtaken (Page, Forde & McEwen) assumed the office on a temporary basis following the death of the incumbent.

  • The Country Party leader Earle Page served for 20 days after Lyons died in 1939. Despite a vicious verbal assault by Page, the United Australia Party elected Menzies as their new leader.
  • Frank Forde was prime minister for 8 days after John Curtin died in 1945. He continued serving as the ALP’s deputy leader after Ben Chifley became leader but lost his seat at the 1946 election.
  • Like Page, John McEwen was leader of the Country Party when he became prime minister after the death of Harold Holt. His major achievement in this time was to threaten to bring down the government if the Liberals chose McMahon to replace Holt. He succeeded in delaying McMahon’s accession to the position for another three years.

Two of the prime ministers Gillard has surpassed (Watson & Reid) served briefly after upheaval in the House of Representatives.

  • John Christian (Chris) Watson became the first Labor PM after the House amended Alfred Deakin’s Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Deakin handed the job to Watson who lasted nearly four months until the House passed another amendment to the same bill. The Governor-General refused to grant Watson an election and Reid took over.
  • George Reid lasted for 10 months until the House amended the Address-in-Reply and the Governor-General again refused to grant an election. Deakin returned for the second of his three terms as prime minister.

The 10th prime minister Gillard has overtaken (Fadden) would appreciate the position she has faced for the past two years.

  • Arthur Fadden was Country Party leader when a joint meeting of the United Australia Party and the Country Party made him prime minister in 1940 after Robert Menzies resigned. Even though the UAP had elected the 77-year-old Billy Hughes as their leader, it wasn’t thought he was sufficiently able-bodied to return to the post he had last held in 1922. Fadden lasted for 40 days until the two independents who held the balance of power in the hung parliament tossed him out in favour of Labor’s John Curtin.

Gillard’s achievement in rising to 17th place in the list of longest serving prime ministers doesn’t look overly impressive when you consider the circumstances of the 10 men she has overtaken.

In terms of prime ministerial longevity, what does 2013 hold in store for Gillard? [Read more...]