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A Night Of See-Saw Counting In Ryan By-Election

Counting in the Ryan by-election showed a strong swing to the ALP from the outset, but a close result was also evident from the earliest figures.

At one stage, the Australian Electoral Commission website reported that counting in all 32 booths had been completed and gave the Liberal candidate, Bob Tucker, a narrow lead of 50.13%. Around an hour later, the site was updated with fresh figures showing the Labor candidate, Leonie Short, with a lead of 50.64%.

This is how the night unfolded:

Counting Underway In Ryan by-Election

ShortMar 17 – 7.50pm – Counting is currently underway in the Ryan by-election in Queensland. No figures are yet available.

The election is being held due to the retirement of John Moore, the former Defence Minister. Moore held the seat for 25 years from 1975.

There are 9 candidates in the election. In order of their position on the ballot paper, they are:

  • Leonie Short – ALP
  • Warren Stagg – Independent
  • Terry Hyland – Independent
  • Jody Moore – Independent
  • Andrew R Hassell – Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
  • Mike Stasse – The Greens
  • Bob Tucker – Liberal
  • Nigel David FreeMarijuana – Help End Marijuana Prohibition
  • Lyn Dengate – Australian Democrats

Early Counting Shows Swing To ALP In Ryan

Mar 17 – 8.15pm – With about 1% of the vote counted in Ryan, the ABC is reporting an 11% two-party-preferred swing to the ALP candidate, Leonie Short.

The ALP has 856 votes (38.45%), the Liberal candidate, Bob Tucker, has 975 (43.80%) and the Greens candidate, Mike Stasse, has 154 (6.92%).

ALP Likely To Win Ryan, But Swing Not As Big As Predicted

Mar 17 – 8.45pm – With 30% of the vote counted in Ryan, the ALP has 10,369 votes (40.98%) to the Liberal Party’s 10,386 (41.05%), the Greens 1,487 (5.88%) and the Democrats’ 1,187 (4.69%).

The ALP primary vote is up 7.48% from 1998.

Given that Green and Democrat preferences will flow strongly to the ALP, they are likely to win the seat for the first time in 50 years. The two-party-preferred swing is probably somewhere around the 10% mark, although the position will be clearer in the next hour.

Opinion poll forecasts of an ALP primary vote above 45% appear to have been exaggerated.

8.76% Swing To ALP In Ryan; Libs May Hang On, But Final Result Remains In Doubt

Mar 17 – 9.00pm – With 70% of the vote counted in Ryan, the Liberal Party is clinging to a narrow lead with 50.20% of the two-party-preferred vote.

The ALP has 23,366 votes (38.91%, up 7.95%), the Liberal Party has 25,532 (42.52%, down 7.42%), the Democrats 3,088 (5.14%), and the Greens 3,723 (6.20%).

Liberal Party Narrowly Retains Ryan; 9% Swing To Labor

TuckerMar 17 – 9.30pm – With counting in all 32 booths now completed, the Liberal Party is clinging to a narrow lead of 50.13% after the ALP recorded a two-party-preferred swing of 9.39% in the Ryan by-election.

The Liberal Party’s lead is likely to widen with the counting of postal and absentee ballots over the coming week.

Whilst attention will focus on the Federal government’s survival, the swing against the Liberals in an electorate that has never before been won by the ALP will cause concern to coalition backbenchers.

A swing of 9% in the general election would decimate the government. A swing of 1% is all that is required for the government to lose office.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister John Howard has again shown that he is not to be underestimated when his back is to the wall. Retaining Ryan, despite the substantial swing, will be an important psychological victory for the government. It will now be able to argue that in the coming months it will be able to claw back the support it has lost.

The result also confounds the predictions of Australia’s opinion polling organisations which were forecasting a landslide swing to the ALP. The Newspoll in today’s Australian predicted an ALP two-party vote of 58%. Newspaper commentators were almost unanimous this morning in their predictions of a repeat of the 1975 Bass and 1995 Canberra by-elections.

The result in Ryan is more akin to Bass in 1993, than it is to Bass in 1975. In 1993, the ALP’s Silvia Smith defeated Warwick Smith by 40 votes, or 50.03%, to return Bass to the Labor Party for the first time since the 1975 Bass by-election.

Labor Narrowly Ahead In Ryan; 10% Swing Against Government In Liberal Heartland

ShortMar 17 – 10.30pm – A night of see-sawing counting now puts the Labor Party candidate for Ryan, Leonie Short, ahead by 50.64% to 49.36% for the Liberal Party candidate, Bob Tucker.

There has been a two-party-preferred swing against the Liberal Party of 10.16% in Ryan. The electorate has never been held by the ALP and has had only two Liberal members since 1949.

The ALP’s primary vote has increased by 8.08% to 38.81%, whilst the Liberal Party’s fell 7.43% to 42.66%. The Democrats have polled 5.13%, whilst the Greens have 6.27%. Five other independent candidates have 7.12% between them.

There are reportedly around 9400 postal and absentee ballots still to be counted, although the bulk of these will be counted tomorrow. In previous elections, these have favoured the Liberal Party by around 60%.

Given the swing against the government, it now appears that Leonie Short may be able to snatch the seat for the ALP.

A 10% swing against the government in a general election would decimate it. A swing of 1% will defeat it.

Opinion polls were predicting a larger swing of around 13-18%, but this has not eventuated. Nevertheless, any psychological advantage the government may have gained from a narrow victory will be wiped out if they ultimately lose the seat. Coalition members throughout Australia will be clamouring even harder for ameliorative action to deal with the GST, particularly the unpopular Business Activity Statement, petrol prices, the falling dollar, the slowdown in economic activity and the growing sense of economic malaise.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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