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VCEpolitics.com: 1998 Federal Election – Week 6 Aftermath

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

TASMANIA: Braddon

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

Gareth EvansThe Labor member for Holt, Gareth Evans, is again under sustained attack from the Liberal Party and the commercial media, this time over his announcement on election night that he would be stepping down as Deputy Opposition Leader and retiring from Parliament. Evans said he had been a candidate for Deputy Prime Minister and, having failed to achieve that, it was now time to move on.

Whilst the timing of Evans’ comments may be questioned, the media hysteria on this issue is breathtakingly hypocritical. The man has been traduced for months now and was the subject of an unrelenting attack during the 5-week election campaign. His economic credentials have been questioned and it has frequently been suggested either that his heart wasn’t in it, or that he wasn’t up to it anyway. It is true that it was untactful to announce his impending retirement only hours after he had been comfortably re-elected, but the critics overlook a number of precendents.

When he lost the 1983 election, Malcolm Fraser never took up his seat in the new House. Nor did Paul Keating after his 1996 loss. It may be said that these men were prime ministers entitled to dispensation, but there are other examples.

Victor Garland resigned his seat shortly after the October 1980 election, necessitating a by-election on 21 February 1981. Billy Snedden retired from Bruce after the March 1983 election, necessitating a by-election on 28 May. Ex-Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony retired from his seat of Richmond one year after the 1983 election. Tony Street retired from Corangamite at around the same time. Mick Young and Chris Hurford both quit their seats 6 months after the 1987 elections. Jim Carlton and Michael Mackellar both resigned their seats one year after the 1993 election. John Langmore resigned his seat 9 months after the 1996 election.

In other words, there are ample precedents for what Evans has proposed to do. All he has done is announce it on the night of the election.

It should not be forgotten that Evans has been a member of parliament since 1978. He was a minister for 13 years and Foreign Minister for 7 years, a period in which he was regarded by many as one of the best Foreign Ministers ever. He has been a committed member of the Labor Party through good times and bad. He has contributed much to the ALP’s policy-making processes over many years. He deserves better than the cheap shots currently being fired at him by the Ray Martins and the Liberal Party.

The Holt preselection will be an intriguing event in the Victorian ALP. The Socialist Left faction believes it has control of the numbers at the local level, but falls well short on the party’s central panel. Expect a tough contest for Evans’ replacement.

The State of Counting for the Senate

Senate counting will start in earnest this week, but the result will not be clear until well into next week and possibly beyond that. The complex distribution of surplus votes and other preferences requires painstaking calculations and it is very difficult to predict the outcome of the final seat in a number of states.

The state of the parties in the new Senate is likely to be as follows:

NEW SOUTH WALES: The ALP has 39.41% of the vote and 2.7 quotas. The coalition has 36.03% of the vote and 2.5 quotas. One Nation has 9.66% and 0.6 of a quota, whilst the Democrats have 7.29% and 0.5 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 3, Coalition 2, Democrats 1. This would be a net loss of one seat to the coalition and a one seat gain for the Democrats.

VICTORIA: The ALP has 41.38% of the vote and 2.8 quotas. The coalition has 37.39% and 2.6 quotas. The Democrats have 10.04% and 0.7 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 3, Coalition 2, Democrats 1. This would be a net loss of one seat to the coalition and a one seat gain for the Democrats.

QUEENSLAND: The ALP has 32.90% of the vote and 2.3 quotas. The Liberal Party has 28.14% and 1.9 quotas. One Nation has 14.99% and 1 quota, whilst the National Party has 9.42% and 0.6 of a quota. The Australian Democrats have 8.07% and 0.5 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 2, Liberal 2, One Nation 1, Democrats 1. This would be a net loss of one seat to the coalition, assuming the National Party’s Senator Bill O’Chee is defeated, and a one seat gain to One Nation. The ALP regains the seat they held until Mal Colston defected.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: The ALP has 32.42% of the vote and 2.2 quotas. The Liberal Party has 40.36% and 2.8 quotas, whilst the Democrats have 12.37% and 0.8 quotas. One Nation has 9.77% and 0.6 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 2, Liberal 3, Democrats 1. This would be a status quo result

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: The ALP has 35.15% and 2.4 quotas, whilst the Liberals have 38.20% and 2.6 quotas. The Democrats have 6.58% and 0.4 of a quota, compared to the Greens who have 5.61% and 0.3 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 2, Liberal 3, Democrats 1. This would be a one seat loss to the Greens and a one seat gain to the Democrats, although it is possible that Green Senator Dee Margetts will hang on.

TASMANIA: The ALP has 42.04% and 2.9 quotas, compared to the Liberal Party’s 33.79% and 2.3 quotas. Brian Harradine has 7.88% and 0.5 of a quota, compared to The Greens’ 5.58% and 0.3 of a quota. The Democrats have 3.97% and 0.2 of a quota. The most likely result is: ALP 3, Liberal 2, Harradine 1. This would be a status quo result. It is possible Harradine could lose to the Greens.

A.C.T.: The ALP has 42.86% and 1.2 quotas, compared to the Liberal Party’s 30.62% and 0.9 of a quota. The Democrats polled 17.24% and achieved 0.5 of a quota. The result will be: ALP 1, Liberal 1, no overall change.

NORTHERN TERRITORY: The ALP has 36.57% and 1 quota, compared to the Country-Liberal Party’s 42.33% and 1.2 quotas. The result will be: ALP 1, CLP 1, no overall change.

Assuming the above is accurate, this is what the new Senate will look like:

Composition of Senate from July 1, 1999
Party Current Senate New Senate
ALP
28
29
Coalition
37
34
Democrats
7
10
Greens
2
1
Harradine
1
1
Colston
1
0
One Nation
0
1
TOTAL
76
76

 

At this stage, the Liberal Party is not conceding the loss of three senators. They could slip to 35 and the Democrats go to 9. Alternatively, the Democrats could lose one seat to the Greens. The Greens could possibly win Harradine’s seat.

Whatever happens, there is absolutely no doubt that the government will not have a majority in the Senate and will be reliant on the Democrats. Whither the GST on food?

Monday 12 October

Government Majority of 12 Likely As Counting Continues

(12 Oct 1998) – The re-elected Howard Government appears likely to have a majority of 12 in the new House of Representatives as counting of postal and absentee ballot papers continued today.

HowardCheryl Kernot again took the lead in Dickson against Liberal Rod Henshaw, leading by 36,886 votes to 36,848, or 50.03% to 49.97%. Kernot had fallen behind on Saturday. The final result is impossible to pick until all votes are in.

In Mayo today, Australian Democrats candidate, John Schumann, conceded defeat to Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer. Downer is sitting on 51.66% of the vote following a leakage of One Nation preferences to him. The result is the closest the Democrats have ever come to winning a lower house seat.

In addition to the 48 seats it held prior to the election, the ALP has picked up 17 seats. These are:

QUEENSLAND – 5: Bowman, Capricornia, Griffith, Lilley, Oxley

WESTERN AUSTRALIA – 4: Canning, Cowan, Stirling, Swan

VICTORIA – 3: Bendigo, Chisholm, McMillan

NEW SOUTH WALES – 2: Lowe, Paterson

TASMANIA – 1: Braddon

SOUTH AUSTRALIA – 1: Kingston

NORTHERN TERRITORY – 1: Northern Territory

The following seats are still in doubt:

BASS – ALP ahead by 52 votes.

DICKSON – Liberal ahead by 24.

HERBERT – Liberal ahead by 124.

HINKLER – Liberal ahead.

EDEN-MONARO – Liberal ahead.

KALGOORLIE – Too hard to call.

On current projections, Warwick Smith is most likely to lose Bass, but this is the only remaining doubtful seat that the ALP can have any confidence of taking.

The Liberal Party is confident of holding Hinkler, Herbert and Eden-Monaro. There would have to be a late surge in postal votes for the ALP to have a chance in any of these seats and this is not likely.

The Western Australian electorate of Kalgoorlie is too hard to call. The Liberal and Labor parties are neck-and-neck and the result will be decided by the preferences of the sitting member, Graeme Campbell.

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