Photo finish: McEwen

2007 2004
Booths 37,572
Pre-Poll 3,242
Absent 4,335
Postal 3197
Provisional 70
Total 48,416
ALP (adjusted) 50.0
LIB (adjusted) 50.0

Saturday evening. This post will be used to follow the final stages of the count in McEwen, where at the close of election night counting the ABC computer has Liberal incumbent Fran Bailey 0.2 per cent ahead of Labor candidate Rob Mitchell. On raw figures from the AEC Mitchell is 0.4 per cent ahead, but the Liberals had a relatively stronger performance on absent, pre-poll and postal votes in 2004.

Sunday evening. About 70 per cent of pre-polls have been counted, showing basically the same swing as the booth results. So Fran Bailey’s adjusted lead remains on 0.2 per cent.

Monday 10pm. As in neighbouring La Trobe, counting of postal votes (3,309 out of perhaps 8000) has delivered a huge boost to the Liberals. So far 2063 Liberal votes have been counted compared with 1246 for Labor, a swing to Liberal of 1.62 per cent from 2004. On raw figures this has turned Fran Bailey’s 315 deficit into a 502 vote surplus, and boosted her adjusted lead from 0.2 per cent to a formidable 0.6 per cent.

Tuesday 4pm. No new figures added so far today, but The Australian reports Labor has been “buoyed by the discovery of about 3000 votes wrongly sent to neighbouring Scullin. The ALP believes the votes may be from the working-class urban end of the electorate and may strengthen challenger Rob Mitchell’s position”.

Tuesday 11pm. No sign in the count of any undiscovered votes saving Labor’s bacon here. Instead we have 2688 newly added postal votes breaking 1527-1161 Fran McEwen’s way, giving her an 862 vote lead that might be deemed decisive if it weren’t for the lingering promise of those undiscovered votes.

Friday 3pm. Not sure if this has anything to do with those legendary missing Scullin votes, but Labor has done amazingly well from the counting of 2070 absent votes, slashing McEwen’s lead from 862 votes to 396.

Saturday 6pm. Another coup for Labor with a further 1007 postals going 640-367 their way, slashing the lead to just 111. It seems those absent votes from the previous entry were indeed the Scullin 2000 of legend, having been lodged as absentee votes at a booth near the boundary in Epping and sent to the wrong centre. About 4000 more absent votes remain to be counted, but these will presumably not behave the same way as those from the Epping booth, which come from a Labor-friendly area. It cannot thus be assumed that the strong trend to Labor will be maintained (although comments thread chat suggests the bulk of remaining absent votes were in fact lodged in neighbouring Labor electorates). If anyone’s interested, I’ve corrected a spreadsheet error that was inflating the Liberals’ “adjusted” two-party score.

Saturday 11pm. Another 2823 pre-polls have boosted Bailey’s lead by 39 votes.

Tuesday 11pm. A long-delayed addition of 4820 votes has gone against the much smaller earlier batch to break slightly in Bailey’s favour, increasing her lead by 34 votes. Still more bad news for Labor from booth vote re-checking, which has cost Mitchell 61 votes and Bailey only 32.

Wednesday 8pm. A further 1020 pre-poll votes have split almost evenly, increasing Bailey’s lead from 190 to 194.

Thursday 8pm. The contest has again come to life with 1034 absent votes breaking 569-465 Mitchell’s way, with a further 800 still unaccounted for. With re-checking also costing Bailey 23 and Mitchell breaking even, there are now just 82 votes in it.

Friday 8pm. Mitchell continues to barnstorm home, with a new batch of postals going 113-67 his way and pre-polls going 212-202. Re-checking has turned up eight votes for Bailey and five for Mitchell. Bailey now leads by 32. Still unaccounted for: 423 absent votes, 59 pre-polls and 78 postals. Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports that “an estimated 300 votes” remain to be counted.

Saturday 9pm. Good Lord. The final votes are in, pending a recount, and the last few absent votes have broken 100-93 in favour of Rob Mitchell, postals have gone 37-21 his way, pre-polls have favoured him to the tune of 33-23, and further rechecking of booth votes have cost Bailey 14 and Mitchell eight. The results: Mitchell by seven votes in the closest federal election result in modern memory. This post will now be shutting up shop – commenters might like to take their business to the new post.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

113 comments on “Photo finish: McEwen”

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  1. the number of absent votes will be exceedingly high in McEwen as the southern boundary slices through the reasonably dense outer northern suburbs these days. These suburbs such as Mill Park Lakes and South Morang use to be wholly in Scullin/Jaga Jaga but have now quickly grown further north into McEwen (hence the above average population in McEwen these days).

    Many of these new residents of McEwen will have voted in Scullin/Jaga Jaga booths across the AEC boundary where they shop or these kids play sport on a Saturday.

    Hence, the ALP should get a significant chunk of all remaining absents and win by a few hundred votes in my mind.

    A pity cause Rob Mitchell is a complete nong who has just been in the right place at the right time to win firstly a State seat and now a Fed seat. The ALP dont have much time for him – that’s why he got the arse in the last State pre-selections.

  2. I reckon there is clearly something up with the count in McEwen.

    All of the other close seats have had updates from AEC today, but not McEwen.

    Coupled with the apparent anomalies in the declaration votes mentioned earlier, this suggests some sort of issue holding up either the count or the tabulation of results.

  3. Rod @ 53

    My maxim is, “when faced with a choice between incompetence and conspiracy, always choose incompetence.” More likely the McEwan RO is either new, slow, or both.

    On a related note, completely inadvertently, I stumbled into a hive of activity at Melbourne count this afternoon. The only scruitineer I could see was a rep from the Greens desperately looking for a few thousand extra votes to get Di Natale over the line. I don’t hold out much hope, but you’ve got to admire their perseverance.

  4. Rob, there are only 7 other Victorian seats which haven’t posted an update today. Every one of them has an absolute majority on the primaries. McEwen, by contrast, is one of Australia’s closest contests.

    I’m not for a moment suggesting a “conspiracy” ( neither Jeb nor George Bush, nor the US Supreme Court, have been anywhere near McEwen as far as I know! 😉 ) , but I do think they have very clearly run into a major problem with the count in McEwen.

    It would be interesting (and desirable, in the interests of electoral transparency) to know what it is, don’t you think?



  5. calm down lads…let the AEC work through their processes…there are a lot of votes to count…better they count them properly than count them quickly just to suit our needs

  6. The AEC have actually dramatically changed the “audit” results in the last hour or so, P- masher, though there is no indication on the website that an “update” has occurred. Prior to that they were claiming to have counted more votes in some categories than they said they had received!

    Assuming the current figures are correct, and, as they now suggest, almost all the pre-polls and postals have been counted but a huge swag of more than 7000 absentees remain to be dealt with, this is looking to be a likely gain for Labor.

  7. I see the update has finally been posted. Still 88.25% but the margin is now 149 votes in favour of Bailey. Maybe they just recounted votes today?

  8. Looks like it Ed.

    There are big changes to the Declaration vote scrutiny stuff (which now makes sense) but the only other change seems to be the loss of a single vote from Bailey’s tally.

    Maybe they had to do a recount to sort out the audit problems.

    Let’s hope they can finally start dealing properly with the absentees!

  9. Whatever the process that was occuring in the McEwen count over the last couple of days, the upshot is that overall difference had closed to 142 votes last night. 20 votes had been removed from Bailey’s “ordinary” tally, and 12 from Mitchell’s.



  10. By my reckoning, if the remaining postals and pre-poll votes all come in and continue to “break” as they have so far, then Mitchell needs just under 52% of the remaining absentee votes to win.

    Given that those absentees counted so far are running 61% to 39% it looks very likely indeed that another former Lib minister is going to bight the dust.

  11. I should add that I left the 1000 or so “provisionals” out of the last calculation. Anyone know how many of them usually end getting counted, and how they have split in the past?

  12. Rod,
    The 2004 figures had 553 provisionals counted in the final results and they split 57% in favour of Bailey – much the same as her overall vote. I can’t see any figures on how many provisionals were cast then. I’d guess that about the same number will be included in the final count this time and they are more likely to split closer to 50/50 with no significant advantage to either side. So it comes back to your scenarios in post#61.

  13. Bailey’s lead out to 215 after 4000 odd absentee votes counted today. Labor’s share of these votes has dropped from 61% to 53%. Unless there is still a big batch to come in from other Labor areas it would seem that Bailey will hold on now.

  14. Yes, Ed. Looks like the wicked witch of NE Melbourne and adjacent rural areas is going to scrape in yet again, on the basis of an almost unbelievable turnaround on absentees.

    Those of us involved in any sort of community related activity in the area are going to stay mighty p@@@ed off about her amazing gall in regularly claiming the work of others as her own.

    Those who relied on her promises this time around, though, are going to find that she no longer has access to the slush funds that occupied a significant part of the Auditor General’s pre-election report.

    If she has any sense she will have jumped ship long before the next election. Not many around here will be sad to see her do so.

    But heck, she is old, out of power, and hanging on by the plaque on her remaining teeth. IF Labor put up a decent candidate next time around McEwen is clearly there for the taking.

    Sigh! I truly thought she was gone this time. I’m yet to meet anyone in McEwen who really wanted her to stay!

  15. Rod Rod Rod!

    “I’m yet to meet anyone in McEwen who really wanted her to stay!”

    How about the 45% of McEwen voters who put her down as no.1 on the ballot paper????

    Dont let the partisan side of you takeover from the sane side.

    tch tch tch!

  16. pm writes: How about the 45% of McEwen voters who put her down as no.1 on the ballot paper????

    Sorry pm, don’t see the connection. 😉

    3/4 of the ones you mention probably genuinely believe that Kevin Rudd is Lenin’s second cousin and John Howard is the last bastion against Saladin’s forces, while the rest are split between those who reckon she has a great name for a drink and those who vaguely remember the “Old Bailey” from some English TV show featuring ageing barristers.

    Heck. I’ve been living in this electorate for 15 years and, as I said, I’ve yet to meet anyone who openly admits to wanting her as the local member!

  17. Rod – Having had some minor dealings with Bailey in her capacity as a minister, I’m just very pleased that she no longer has that authority. I suspect quite a few public servants who worked for her would be equally relieved about that and privately delighted that she has been run so close in McEwen.

    Got to temper my disappointment somehow. Darnit.

    I suspect the inevitable redistribution of this seat will be a significant determining factor as to whether she saddles up for another go. It does sort of look as if her ministerial career has probably passed now. Thank goodness for that I say.

    All being equal, I’d be very surprised if the new government doesn’t target this seat as being one they’d like to begin work on soon for next time.

  18. you prove my point Rod….those 45% of people don’t want to see Lenin’s 2nd cousin’s intellectually challenged nephew takeover from Bailey in McEwen…if they thought that Bailey was that bad they would have voted for a minor party/indie

  19. Re McEwen in the Vic redistribution:

    With Victoria almost certain to lose a seat this time, McEwen might well be the seat that goes.

    All the surrounding rural seats are along the border, or based on Bendigo and Ballarat, so it would be difficult to abolish one of them. All these seats will need to expand and are likely to move further into the Macedon ranges, Central highlands, etc. Likewise the metropolitan divisions (Jagajaga, Casey, Scullin) will probably expand into the semi-rural fringe parts of McEwen.

    Whoever wins this time could be left without a seat in 2010.

  20. McEwen is now (10.49AM Thursday) back to a margin of 90 votes!

    After additional absentee counting Bailey sits on 47,939 , while Mitchell is on 47,849

    Around 1100 absentees outstanding, plus a few hundred postals and pre-polls, and 1091 provisionals.

    This one isn’t over yet after all, it seems.



  21. At 12.21 the gap is down to 82 – Mitchell on 47919 to Bailey on 48001 , with Mitchell picking up an extra 8 (70 to 62) out of the first batch of 290 provisionals.

  22. Rod, you poor bugger, this must be killing you. Nevertheless, the joy of doing Bailey slowly will be worth it if the count keeps going as it has this morn / early arvo. Do you think with what’s left to count Mitchell can get her or will it be an unbearably close victory for the tories?

  23. Regarding Marcus
    December 6th, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Saying Victoria is likely to lose a seat. I would doubt that.

    The average electorate size in NSW is smaller than that in Victoria – and added to that is the fact that at present the population of Victoria is growing faster than that in NSW.

    Given that, I can’t possibly see how Victoria will lose a seat – if any state is to lose a seat it would be NSW. But to where?

    Not SA or TAS obviously. Nor WA either – it has the smallest electorate size by far of the mainland states, and nor QLD. Really, I think the seats will stay consistent per state for the 2010 election. For 2013, you may get an extra Queensland seat I guess.

    Make no mistake, McEwen will be there in 2010 – but its unlikely Fran Bailey will.

  24. SIEV X writes: Do you think with what’s left to count Mitchell can get her or will it be an unbearably close victory for the tories?

    Depends totally on where they are from and how many there are remaining that are valid, SIEV.

    If they are from the “Melbourne end” of the electorate then the number of absentees alone (about 900 uncounted) could pull Mitchell over the line if they break the same way as the last lot. If they are from somewhere like Shepparton, though, completely the reverse holds, and he won’t have a hope.

    Still a fair number of postals outstanding, too, but many of these may not be received in time, I guess. Still about 750 provisionals left, too, of which about half seem likely to be actually counted.

    Time for at least one more twist before we know, I reckon.

  25. Just for my two cents though – the next seat to be abolished in Victoria, whenever that happens, I’ll plum for Chisolm.

    Caught in a bit of a no man’s land at the moment. Low growth and liable to have its eastern half eaten by Kooyong and Higgins and possibly its western half dismembered as well.

  26. Just worked out the Australian Electorate Size Averages – to prove the point I made earlier. I can’t see Victoria losing a seat anytime soon.

    Australian Electorate Size Averages – By State

    ACT (2) 119,371

    SA (11) 97,815

    VIC (37) 93,030

    NSW (49) 91,742

    Australia 90,967

    QLD (29) 90,079

    WA (15) 87,529

    TAS (5) 69,958

    NT (2) 58,951

    As an aside, there are 9 electorates in Australia with over 100,000 electors.

    4 in Victoria
    McEwen 104,509
    Gorton 104,462
    Lalor 103,761
    Holt 100,884

    2 in ACT
    Canberra 122,401
    Fraser 116,341

    2 in SA
    Barker 102,626
    Port Adelaide 100,244

    1 in NSW
    Wentworth 100,276

    Looking at those figures – Can’t see anyway Victoria is going to be losing a seat probably before the 2016 election at the earliest.

    If NSW had 48 seats, 1 less than now, their average electorate size would move up to just above Victoria’s, at 93,653.

  27. Rod said:

    How do Tassie manage to hang on to 5 in these circumstances?

    Section 26 of the Constitution ensures that Tasmania gets a minimum of 5 seats.

  28. Ah!. Of Course!

    With 12 Senators and 5 members in a State with the same population as Newcastle NSW it is certainly a good place to head if you want a career in Federal politics, I guess! 😉

  29. Now (8.39PM THursday) down to a 76 vote margin, with almost all the provisionals provisionally ruled out, 750 absentees remaining, and some more postals and pre-polls.

  30. Yes, looks like hours of future fun to be had with this one, Redlands R.!

    Gee I wish if the number of absentees still outstanding was really as great as the AEC website suggests though!

    Mmm. I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the productivity loss caused by “skin of the teeth” election results! 😉



  31. Never quite sure if I’m simply talking to myself here, but heck, this is going to be the most marginal street in Oz after this election!

    McEwen at 6.05PM has a few hundred absentee votes left to count (goodness knows why!) and Fran Bailey (Lib) in front by 27.

    Who wins depends completely on where they are from. “Projections” based on the general percentage in particular vote categories at this stage in the process are completely meaningless. If they are from the city end then Mitchell will “walk it in” (by a couple of dozen votes 😉 ) . If they are from Shepparton or some other rural centre then Bailey will win. If they are from a mix of both then it is in the lap of the inhabitants of Olympus or Valhalla or Álfheimr or Miðgarðr or some such!



  32. Never quite sure if I’m simply talking to myself here, but heck, this is going to be the most marginal street in Oz after this election!

    McEwen at 6.05PM has a few hundred absentee votes left to count (goodness knows why!) and Fran Bailey (Lib) in front by 27.

    Who wins depends completely on where they are from. “Projections” based on the general percentage in particular vote categories at this stage in the process are completely meaningless. If they are from the city end then Mitchell will “walk it in” (by a couple of dozen votes 😉 ) . If they are from Shepparton or some other rural centre then Bailey will win. If they are from a mix of both then it is in the lap of the inhabitants of Olympus or Valhalla or Álfheimr or Miðgarðr or some such!



  33. Bowman looks gone rod- 102 votes in the end but no-one can confirm for sure. hopefully labor will put them through a recount just to drag it out.

    then the fun begins for the opposition backbencher who I think will find his workload rather drastically increased!!!!

    keep talking I’m listening

  34. Bowman looks a tad shaky, RR, but according to the AEC site there are still a fair number of absentees outstanding so I wouldn’t give it away quite yet unless you have some inside info.

    Sounds like a somewhat similar electorate to McEwen in some ways, with its mix of suburban and semi rural areas so where the remaining votes come from can matter quite a lot.

    Whichever way these two fall I reckon a good candidate will take them next time around.

    Still in the game, but only just, would be my take on Bowman.

    Here we now have a gap that has grown to 32 after two more votes were knocked off the ALP and two added to the Lib. No more counting that I can see, simply an adjustment.

    Still waiting on those 500 + or – absentees down here. Whichever way they go decides the result I reckon.



  35. PS, lucky I’m not a finger nail chewer or I wouldn’t have enough digits left to type by now!

    probably wasn’t the best time to choose to give up smoking though! 😉



  36. there hasn’t been an update on counting since 10.30 QLD time which suggests very strongly its all over – despite the incongruity of AEC figures. Which is really annoying in itself if you are relying on their figures as published to inform you.

    i wouldn’t even have a clue where Mcewen is (apologies) but i really have to call it – just hope a recount makes some changes, as futile as that is in reality

    keep it up down there and keep an eye on my ongoing dialogue with the libs in bowman.


  37. i’m listening too – have been following quietly…ever hopeful that Madam Bailey will be gently (!) directed to early retirement…
    thanks for your hard work and explanations…

  38. The only change so far this morning (Website at 11.30AM Saturday 8th) involves a slight REDUCTION in the regular booth count for both Bailey (Lib) and Mitchell (ALP). In other words , more “housekeeping”.

    The overall effect is to reduce Bailey’s margin slightly again, to 26 votes.

    According to AEC website there 423 Absentees, 58 Pre Poll and 78 Postals remaining to count.



  39. Wow!

    What a beautiful sets of numbers!

    All counted.

    Labor finish 7 votes in front!

    BAILEY, Fran Liberal 48,409 50.00 -6.42
    MITCHELL, Rob Australian Labor Party 48,416 50.00 +6.42

    I’ll wait for any recounts or CDR activity before I get too excited, but ain’t that great!

    Another Howard minister bites the dust!



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