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Australia Doesn’t Quite Decide: The House of Reps


Tom Crowley

By

July 3rd, 2016


Tom Crowley surveys the landscape in the Lower House after a tumultuous election night.


First, to the makeup of the parliament. Here’s the headline: a hung Parliament looks increasingly likely.

Different websites have different tallies, but, based on their methodologies, some are more useful than others.[1] The ABC only lists seats for either party when one candidate has a 2PP above 51%. This fairly simple method gives us the following leaderboard:

 

Coalition

65

Labor

67

Other

5

In play

13

 

The magic number needed for government is, of course, 76. Of course, either party can still get there by a slim margin, but the more likely result is that the remaining 13 will be split between the two. Of those 13 seats (note one of them is Liberal v Xenophon), based on current leads, 7 look set to go to the Coalition, 5 to Labor, with the last, Chisholm, far too close to call. Bear in mind that these are all close seats, so any one of them could change columns. But at the moment, it’s looking as if it’ll be either 72-73 or 73-72, meaning that both Turnbull and Shorten will need to negotiate with the Crossbench to form a minority government, as Julia Gillard did in 2010.

 

That crossbench, just as in 2010, starts to become very powerful. It comprises the following five MPs:

  • Adam Bandt (GRN, VIC), whose party has announced it won’t support the Coalition;
  • Andrew Wilkie (IND, TAS), who supported Gillard in 2010 and may support Labor again, especially given Labor’s very strong results across Tasmania;
  • Bob Katter (KAP, QLD), who supported Abbott in 2010 and is expected to support the Coalition again;
  • Cathy McGowan (IND, VIC), who has defeated Sophie Mirabella for a second time but whose choice is unclear;
  • Rebekha Sharkie (NXT, SA), the Nick Xenophon candidate who has defeated Jamie Briggs and whose choice is unclear.

 

None of that information gets us any closer to knowing who is more likely to form government. Nick Xenophon, interviewed this morning on the ABC’s Insiders, gave one non-committal indication, saying that he would seek to support the party with the best chance at forming stable government. That sounds obvious, but is actually quite useful insofar as it encourages us to think beyond the House of Reps and to look at the Senate. It may be that lower house crossbenchers choose their support based on who they think will be able to work best with the Senate.

 

But the overall result was just one part of the picture in what was a fascinating night of twists and turns. Careers were made and broken and surprises lurked in every state. Here’s a look at how things went down, state by state.

 

New South Wales

Australia’s biggest state is infamous for being an election battleground, thanks in large part to its swathe of marginal seats in Western Sydney (and a couple elsewhere). In 2013, a lot of those seats went the Liberals’ way. Three years later, several have fallen back.

  • BARTON went Labor, as State politician Linda Burney defeated MP Nickolas Varvaris thanks to a map redistribution, making her the first Indigenous woman elected to the lower house.
  • DOBELL went Labor, with a 5.5% swing defeating Karen McNamara
  • EDEN-MONARO went Labor, as former member and former head of the AFP Mike Kelly reclaimed the seat from Turnbull backer Peter Hendy with a 6.5% swing
  • LINDSAY went Labor, with a 4.6% swing defeating Fiona Scott
  • MACARTHUR went Labor, with a 12.6% swing defeating Russel Matheson
  • MACQUARIE went Labor, with a 6.9% swing defeating Louise Markus
  • PATERSON stayed Labor despite a map redistribution making it notionally Liberal

 

Two more NSW seats are on our all-important list of 13:

  • GILMORE, where incumbent Anne Sudmalis currently leads on 50.2% 2PP despite a 3.6% swing against her
  • ROBERTSON, where incumbent Lucy Wicks currently leads on 50.7% 2PP despite a 2.4% swing against her

 

Two other seats which were the focus of attention in the campaign didn’t feature prominently on the night. NEW ENGLAND stayed with Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce as a challenge from former Independent MP Tony Windsor fell severely short. COWPER also saw off a challenge from former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, reamining a Nationals seat. The two rural independents who were instrumental in Julia Gillard’s 2010 minority government won’t have a second chance at playing kingmakers.

 

Queensland

Queensland was a disaster for Labor in 2013. More recently, though, it was a disaster for LNP State Premier Campbell Newman, whose government was eviscerated after a first term. This volatility was predicted by some to return in 2016. The swings were large, but so far only two seat changes look certain, with several hanging in the balance.

  • FLYNN went Labor, with an 8.3% swing defeating Ken O’Dowd
  • LONGMAN went Labor, with an 8.4% swing defeating youngster Wyatt Roy

 

A massive five QLD seats are on the watchlist:

  • CAPRICORNIA, where incumbent Michelle Landry currently trails, with Labor on 50.7% with a 1.5% swing
  • DICKSON, where Immigration Minister Peter Dutton currently leads on 50.8% despite a 5.9% swing
  • FORDE, where incumbent Bert van Manen currently trails, with Labor on 50.1% with a 4.5% swing
  • HERBERT, where incumbent Ewen Jones currently trails, with Labor on 50.7% with a 6.9% swing
  • PETRIE, where incumbent Luke Howarth currently leads, with Liberal on 50.9% with a 0.4% swing towards him.

 

South Australia

 

The big story in South Australia was always going to be the ‘X factor’: how the enormous personal popularity of Independent Nick Xenophon would transfer to his attempt to launch a larger-scale party. As expected, Xenophon did well, in the lower house as well as the Senate.

  • MAYO went to NXT’s Rebekha Sharkie, with an 18.3% swing claiming scandal-plagued MP Jamie Briggs

 

And on the watchlist:

  • GREY, where incumbent Rowan Ramsey leads NXT on 50.7% despite a 12.8% swing
  • HINDMARSH, where incumbent Matt Williams trails, with Labor on 50.2% with a 2.1% swing


Tasmania

Tasmania was one of the first big stories of the night. Swings towards Labor had been expected in the predominantly low-income state, but the swings were in some places bigger than expected. Every seat other than Independent Andrew Wilkie’s seat of Dennison is now a Labor seat.

 

  • BASS went Labor, with a 10.8% swing defeating Andrew Nikolic
  • BRADDON went Labor, with a 5.3% swing defeating Brett Whiteley
  • LYONS went Labor, with a 3.7% swing defeating Eric Hutchinson

 

Jacqui Lambie, returned as a Tasmanian Senator, suggested on 7 News last night that Tasmania was ‘naturally’ a Labor state. This might not bode well for Tasmania’s State Labor Government.

 

Victoria

Victoria is usually one of the most progressive states in the country, and remained strongly Labor even in 2013. This time around, the results haven’t been so strong for Labor. Several seats it hoped to claim hang in the balance. So does one seat it previously held. Meanwhile, Labor candidates in historically safe were sent a clear message in several close campaigns against the Greens.

 

No Victorian seats are confirmed to have changed hands. Three are on our watchlist.

  • CHISHOLM, where the loss of retiring Labor MP Anna Burke’s large personal vote saw a swing to the Coalition candidate Julia Banks against Labor’s candidate Stefanie Perri. The vote is extremely close. Banks looked strong last night, but Perri led by 25 votes at the end of the day. Further counting today has put Banks back in the lead by 60 votes.
  • DUNKLEY, where the loss of retiring Liberal MP Bruce Bilson aided a 5.9% swing to Labor, which sees its candidate lead on 50.3%.
  • LA TROBE, where incumbent Jason Wood leads on 50.9% despite a 3.1% swing.

 

Plenty of other seats had interesting results.

  • BATMAN is now a marginal seat for Labor’s David Feeney, who suffered a 9.0% swing to the Greens
  • WILLS is still comfortably a Labor seat but also saw a 9.0% swing to the Greens
  • MELBOURNE PORTS was won comfortably by Michael Danby but is closer to becoming an unpredictable three-cornered contest
  • HIGGINS is still comfortably Liberal, with Kelly O’Dwyer easily surviving a Greens challenge in a landslide victory
  • CORANGAMITE, a marginal seat in Geelong held by Liberal Sarah Henderson, did not fall to Labor, a result some have linked to the controversy over the Andrews State Labor Government’s handling of the CFA dispute
  • MCEWEN, won by Labor’s Rob Mitchell on a knife-edge in 2013, was won by a sweeping margin after gaffe-prone opponent Chris Jermyn suffered an 8.3% swing to Labor
  • INDI saw Independent Cathy McGowan extend her lead over former Liberal member Sophie Mirabella with a 4.4% swing, effectively ending Mirabella’s political career

 

Western Australia

Western Australia was thought to be key to a Labor victory. Large swings were expected in reaction to the unpopular Barnett State Liberal government, but the state was already so strongly Liberal that even swings of 4%, as expected nationally, would be insufficient to deliver new seats. In the end, only two seats were of interest, but the Coalition’s strong showing wasn’t enough to deliver majority government.

  • BURT, a new, notionally Liberal seat, was won by Labor’s Matt Keogh with a 14.3% swing

And on the watchlist:

  • COWAN, where incumbent Luke Simpkins trails Labor’s candidate, prominent academic Anne Aly, who has 50.7% with a 5.2% swing.

 

ACT & Northern Territory

Nothing of interest happened in either of the ACT’s two seats, which are both strongly Labor. In the Northern Territory, SOLOMON went Labor, with an 8.7% swing claiming incumbent Natasha Griggs.

 

Given that in 2013 Labor had only 55 seats and the Coalition 90, the night’s result is unquestionably a victory for Shorten. The next few days should place the two leaders on even footing heading into likely negotiations.

 

 

[1] You might be tempted to think the AEC is the best place to go for the latest tally. It’s not. The AEC’s leaderboard doesn’t call seats in order of their certainty, it calls them in order of how easy they are to count. The seats that show ‘no result known’ are seats with candidates vying for second place, even though most of them already have clear results regardless. Two examples of these second-place battles are Higgins (Greens and Labor) and Grayndler (Greens and Liberal).

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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