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Griffith By-Election Set For February 8

The Griffith by-election will be held on February 8, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, has announced.

The by-election has been caused by the resignation of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had held the seat since 1998.

Under Section 33 of the Constitution, the Speaker is responsible for the issue of writs for vacancies. The writ will be issued today, with the rolls closing next Monday. Nominations close on January 16.

The by-election will be held the weekend before Parliament resumes for 2014.

The ALP holds the seat with a margin of 3.01%. There was a 5.45% swing against Rudd at last year’s federal election. In 2010, there was a 3.86% swing against Rudd. When Rudd led the ALP into government in 2007 he received 62.32% of the two-party-preferred vote in Griffith.

The ALP will be hoping the anti-Labor swing is at an end. Last year the Liberal National candidate, Bill Glasson, outpolled the ALP with 42.22% of the primary vote against 40.36% for Rudd. The Greens polled 10.18% and the Palmer United Party 3.36%. Seven other candidates secured less than 1% each.

Glasson, a former president of the Australian Medical Association, is running again for the LNP. The ALP has endorsed Terri Butler, a Maurice Blackburn lawyer. The Greens candidate, Geoff Ebbs, is expected to run again. Clive Palmer has said his party will not contest the by-election.

Historical Note

  • There have been 146 by-elections since 1901, excluding Griffith.
  • In 109 of them, the seat has been won by the same party that previously held it.
  • Where seats have changed hands, it has usually been a case of the opposition defeating the government.
  • There has only been one by-election where an incumbent government has taken a seat off the opposition: in 1920 the Nationalists took the ALP seat of Kalgoorlie. The circumstances were unique because the House of Representatives had voted to expel the sitting member, Irish-born Hugh Mahon, after he made statements critical of British policy in Ireland. Prime Minister Billy Hughes accused him of “seditious and disloyal utterances”.
  • A by-election in Maranoa in 1921 saw the Country Party take a seat off the ALP but this was before the Country Party entered a formal coalition with the Nationalists.
  • With the Abbott government apparently not receiving a significant electoral honeymoon and with growing criticism of Campbell Newman’s LNP state government in Queensland, it would be a significant defeat for the ALP if Glasson were to win.

Media release from Bronwyn Bishop, Speaker of the House of Representatives.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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