Sunday 3pm. Some perspective on this remarkable result. The table below shows the primary vote swing to the incumbent and opposition party and the two-party swing to (or, in this case alone, against) the opposition, at each comparable by-election going back as far as I could find. This is limited to instances where the major parties dominated both the by-election and the preceding general election, and excludes by-elections involving first term governments and those held in the immediate aftermath of general elections.
|Peel, WA (3/2/07)||-4.5||-4.8||-1.0|
|Gaven, Qld (1/4/06)||-10.6||3.8||8.4|
|Victoria Park, WA (11/3/06)||-7.9||3.2||4.8|
|Macquarie Fields, NSW (22/9/05)||-13.2||9.9||12.4|
|Redcliffe, Qld (20/8/05)||-10.5||5.6||8.3|
|Chatsworth, Qld (20/8/05)||-13.8||13.3||13.9|
|Auburn, NSW (8/9/01)||-12.9||2.6||11.1|
|Aston, Federal (14/8/01)||-7.7||-1.5||3.7|
|Ryan, Federal (17/3/01)||-7.2||8.4||9.7|
|Mitcham, Vic (13/12/97)||-22.9||5.8||15.8|
|Parramatta, NSW (27/8/94)||-11.0||10.6||9.5|
POST-MATCH OVERVIEW. Like every by-election result, this one will open a torrent of speculation about federal implications, leadership implications and all the rest. This time, believe the hype. Today’s by-election was held almost exactly in the middle of the government’s second term, against the backdrop of a sitting member retiring in disgrace and a government that had every reason to fear a backlash. For the Liberals to lose more than one in six of their voters under these circumstances is an extraordinary result, for which nobody can escape blame.
The Prime Minister might claim that the result has no federal implications, as he has routinely done on the morning after each state election disaster. Most of the time he has been right; this time, it’s very hard to construct an explanation that doesn’t involve industrial relations policies and interest rate hikes. Peel may be a safe Labor seat, but it’s also an outer metropolitan electorate dotted with new suburbs rich with wage-earners and mortgage payers, so it scores high on most indicators of federal electoral sensitivity.
Closer to home, the result is an even bigger disaster for the state Liberal Party, and in particular for leader Paul Omodei. The Poll Bludger normally gets exasperated when parties (usually state Liberal parties) go through leaders like tissues, but this time the verdict is clear: Omodei is an electoral dud and must go before the next election. Expect to hear a lot of talk in the coming weeks about alternative leadership scenarios, such as the plan for Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive John Langoulant to parachute in by replacing Colin Barnett as member for Cottesloe.
As for the other parties, Labor should be feeling very pleased with its candidate selection procedures. The Greens have had a good result, though this is partly an indictment of the Liberals’ clear failure to win the confidence of disaffected Labor voters. Similarly, the doubling of the One Nation vote is unlikely to be the harbinger of a new wave of Hansonism. The Liberals can at least claim that 5.0 per cent of their vote went to pro-Liberal independent Gerard Kettle. But they were also spared opposition this time from Family First, whose 3.3 per cent vote in 2005 was not significantly harvested by the Christian Democratic Party.
9.20pm. It’s actually worse for the Liberals than I thought. Turns out there WERE two-party results coming through, but they could only viewed in aggregate, not booth-by-booth. This count is more-or-less complete for this evening, and it shows a 1.0 per cent swing to Labor. Table now amended.
8.23pm. I guess the Liberals can say they had pro-Liberal independent Gerard Kettle to contend with this time, draining 5.0 per cent of the vote. The only independent in 2005 polled 0.4 per cent. However, there was Family First last time, who scored a pretty solid 3.3 per cent, which has not been absorbed by the CDP.
8.19pm. Did I say absent votes still to come? Silly me. You don’t get those at by-elections. That mitigates the high turnout a little, but only slightly – it’s nearly level with 2005, compared with a sharp plunge at the Victoria Park by-election.
8.18pm. I expect the two-party count will also come in as a flood, probably in about half an hour.
8.17pm. The trend on turnout was also maintained. Comparing like with like, we’ve got 22,082 today compared with 21,576 in 2005. That would have helped Labor a lot.
8.12pm. No mention of the by-election on the ABC radio news just now. I reckon they’ve missed a pretty big story.
8.09pm. Still to come: absent votes (about 2000 to 2500) and the actual two-party count. The above figures are based entirely on my own assumption as to where the minor party vote will go. BTW, the CDP and Gerard Kettle had Liberal ahead of Labor; Greens the other way around; others no recommendation, except the CEC for whom I couldn’t find an HTV card.
8.07pm. Matter of fact, all the remaining booth results came in at once. Way to kill the suspense, WAEC! It very much appears that the trend in the first batch of booths was borne out in the remainder – both parties down 6 to 7 per cent on the primary vote, translating into a very small swing after preferences.
8.06pm. Big flood of results in. Stay tuned.
8.04pm. Still nothing. Turnout so far is 5331 compared with 4952 from equivalent booths in 2005, a remarkable turn-around on last year’s Victoria Park by-election.
7.55pm. It’s also possible that my preference calculations flatter Labor a little, but nonetheless it’s a very encouraging two-party result for Labor. Unless these booths are aberrant, the remarkable feature of the count is that the Liberals seem to be shedding votes to minor parties and independents.
7.54pm. Still no more results, but my table now compares primary vote figures booth by booth. So Labor only appeared to be holding equal on primary votes because they were Labor booths coming in.
7.44pm. Apologies for those whose comments were in moderation. I’ll turn it off.
7.42pm. The count proceeds at a leisurely pace. We’ll probably get hit with seven booths at once in a few minutes.
7.38pm. None of these booths are from the Liberal-friendly southern end of the electorate, which might explain their poor performance on the primary vote. Remember, the swing figure above for the primary vote is compared with the overall total, whereas two-party only compares like booths.
7.31pm. Turnout actually appears to be up, which is a plus for Labor.
7.29pm. These results are so good for Labor I’m checking my spreadsheet for errors, but it all appears to check out.
7.25pm. Five booths now in, including tiny Special Institutions. Apologies for two-party glitch – working on it.
7.18pm. Reckon I’ve finally got my act together now. So yeah, pre-polls and postals actually accounted for 8 per cent in 2005. Perhaps Labor are doing better than expected here because they organised better this time, the seat not being a foregone conclusion.
7.04pm. I should stress that this is 3 or 4 per cent of the vote. Working on something to show the amount counted.
7.02pm. Pre-polls now in; table updated.
6.53pm. In case you’re wondering, only the two-party result is measured against comparable booths. The One Nation vote on postals is actually only up 2.9 per cent, if that comforts you.
6.50pm. That’s better. By the way, booth figures tend to come in three or four big spurts over the next 45 minutes or so.
6.48pm. There’s a problem with my non-Labor primary swing figures, obviously. Working on it.
6.38pm. Unusually, postal votes are in first. They’ve gone 45.5 per cent Labor, 28.5 per cent Liberal. By my reckoning that’s a 6.3 per cent two-party swing to the Liberals on 2005, although postals might behave differently at by-elections
6.26pm Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Peel by-election. No results yet, which is good because I still have work to do on my tables and such.