Higgins by-election: December 5

Friday, December 4

LATE: Michelle Grattan of The Age reports “Liberal sources” believe the situation in Higgins to be “lineball”.

EARLY: Apologies for lack of updates. Malcolm Mackerras is tipping a Greens boilover: he says the Liberal vote will sink to 44 per cent, and presumably expects something like 70 per cent of preferences to go to the Greens. That would entail a 10 per cent drop on the primary vote, which is not dissimilar to what happened in somewhat similar circumstances in Mayo last year. However, Higgins is notable for its lack of volatility, so Mackerras is taking a bold punt on the force of the Abbott/ETS backlash. I can’t help recalling Mackerras’s prediction of a John Kerry landslide in 2004, which appeared to be rooted in a conviction that voters would prove as angered by the Iraq war as he was – his talk of “resentment at climate change denialists” strikes me as being cut from the same cloth. I’m tipping an uncomfortable night for Kelly O’Dwyer, but expect she will get up. At this point, Greens supporters with long memories will be recalling I said much the same thing before the Fremantle by-election.

Word on the ground is that the Liberal campaign has focused on O’Dwyer’s positives, rather than attack Hamilton as an extremist as might have been expected if they were really worried. However, it seems the party has embarked on a significant change of tack in the past week, with O’Dwyer “issuing a last-minute mail-out to voters to assert her views on climate change”.

As always, tune in tomorrow night for live coverage.

Tuesday, November 17

Blogger and former Liberal Party activist Tim Andrews offers a colourful take on the Greens preselection process, alleging widespread discontent in local branches over the imposition of Clive Hamilton.

Friday, November 13

The ballot paper draw has been conducted, and the order of candidates can be viewed here. Candidates I hadn’t known about: independent Peter Brohier (“lawyer”), Isaac Roberts of the Liberal Democratic Party (“accountant”) and Democratic Labor Party regular John Mulholland (“psychologist”).

Friday, November 6

AAP reports Steve Raskovy, “a 72-year-old former Hungarian wrestler and refugee”, will run for One Nation. Antony Green has embellished his by-election page with candidate details.

Wednesday, November 4

From Friedrich in comments we learn that Joseph Toscano, Anarchist Media Institute director and prolific writer of letters to the editor, is seeking the local residents’ signatures required to lodge a nomination.

Tuesday, November 3

LATE: The Australian Democrats have announced their candidate will be David Collyer, who contributes regular posts to the blog of the party’s Victorian division.

EARLY: Climate Sceptics announces that Stephen Murphy, a Melbourne computer programmer who “speaks five languages”, will run as an “Independent Climate Sceptic”.

Thursday, October 29

Antony Green weighs in on the by-election, adding further voice to the consensus that the Greens’ nomination of Clive Hamilton is tactically unsound. Danielle Crowe of the Manningham Leader reports Crikey empire founder, Manningham councillor and perennial deposit non-recoverer Stephen Mayne has “not ruled out” running as an independent. Nominations close November 12, with the ballot draw to follow the next day.

Monday, October 26

Speaker Harry Jenkins has confirmed that the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections will be held on December 5.

Saturday, October 24

A wide-ranging chorus of critics has chimed in to argue Hamilton’s decidedly non-liberal political and economic philosophies are a poor fit for the electorate he has chosen to contest. As “Carlton’s lone classical liberal” Andrew Norton puts it: “It’s not often that Pollytics, Andrew Bolt and Catallaxy blogs all reach the same conclusion”. Christian Kerr of The Australian reports similar sentiments from RMIT University economist and Institute of Public Affairs senior fellow Sinclair Davidson, who argues voters in Higgins (which as Kerr notes includes “Chapel Street, Toorak Road and the High Street strip”) are unlikely to respond to the “ascetic” and “spartan” lifestyle Hamilton demands to ward off ecological apocalypse, to be achieved if need be by “the suspension of democratic processes”. On top of which, his views on internet filtering could potentially alienate parts of the Greens’ core constituency, particularly if they have an alternative candidate to turn to.

Friday, October 23

The Greens have unveiled a high-profile candidate in Clive Hamilton, founder and former executive director of left-wing think tank the Australia Institute and current professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.

Thursday, October 22

Labor has slightly surprisingly decided it won’t be entering the fray. Andrew Landeryou at VexNews reports: “Labor insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity explained that the widespread presumption of demographic change in Higgins, and a big swing more generally, was not substantiated by the party’s secret polling, presented on Powerpoint to the Prime Minister recently, which showed a likely Liberal victory even in the tough circumstances in Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals find themselves.”

Monday, October 19

Peter Costello formally tendered his resignation today to Speaker Harry Jenkins, who is expected to announce an election date of November 28 or December 5 in the coming days.

Saturday, October 10

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Peter Costello will officially resign when parliament resumes on October 19. Given a campaign of average length, this will mean a polling date of November 28 or December 5: after “the final two-week parliamentary sitting in which the Coalition – if it doesn’t filibuster – will have to vote on Labor’s emissions trading scheme”. Antony Green at the ABC and Ben Raue at The Tally Room have guides to the by-election posted.

Wednesday, October 7

Samantha Maiden of The Australian reports Peter Costello is “set to resign from Parliament today”, which will most likely result in a by-election for his seat of Higgins on the same yet-to-be-announced date as the one for Bradfield. Costello holds the eastern suburbs Melbourne seat with a margin of 7.0 per cent, having suffered a swing of 1.7 per cent at the 2007 election. The preselection to replace him at the next election was held a fortnight ago and won by his former staffer Kelly O’Dwyer.

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.

484 comments on “Higgins by-election: December 5”

  1. Scorpio,

    Rudd’s ETS is all about locking in in-action.

    Two hours at a booth just then and the only bad feelings towards the Greens came from some hard-core Liberals.

    So your spin that the Green’s are against climate change is not how the electorate feels.

    I was at one of the most conservative booths (Malvern East Scout Hall) and the feeling was very different from before. The one angry voter was a Liberal who gave the Liberal a blast for them posting so many leaflets.

    Tonight will be very interesting.

  2. Michael Wilbur-Ham,

    [So your spin that the Green’s are against climate change is not how the electorate feels.]

    Mike, those are not the words of a committed Greens policy supporter. If the policy and strategy was so good, you and your fellow Greens supporters on PB would be expressing confidence in that stance and its “positive” influence with the voting public!

    You would be working hard to substantiate the above comment with anything I have said on PB. I have certainly “not” been sprouting spin on behalf of anybody but I do see quite a lot of it from your lot.

    By the way, I haven’t seen any decent response from you to my two replies to your question about Shannahan’s “spin”?

    I would certainly appreciate it if you would do me the courtesy of at least a reasonable response otherwise I could assume that your question was an attempt at spin on “your” behalf!;-)

    Cheers, Scorpio!

  3. As I noted on another thread, of the 7% margin in Higgins, Costello might have been half of it (considering the statewide swing in 2007 was 5.3% and he copped only 1.7%), leaving O’Dwyer on 3.4%, and the polling swing in VIC is currently 4% to the ALP, so on the simple maths she may have problems.

    Of course, both the last election result and the polling is Coalition vs ALP, so you can’t draw a direct comparison. But it will make it for an interesting count.

    In political terms, the ALP and the Greens can’t lose. If the result is a comfortable Lib win, they’ll say it was to be expected. But if the Libs have to go preferences, or Higgins is lost, then the ALP and the Greens will go all out.

    Then there’s the possibility of a swing to the Coalition. Now that would set the hares racing!

  4. I don’t seriously know anyone who believes that the Greens are against taking action on Climate Change.

    Such people, if they exist, should be treated the same as the science deniers.

    I am personally against the ETS as currently drafted. The problems being that the targets are too low, and the handouts and exclusion go against the stated goal of incentivising the market to provide solutions.

    That position is clearly different from not wanting action on climate change. But I’m not for ‘any action’, because if we take a costly and ineffective path, only more of the Australian people will start buying into the counter-arguments.

    We have to get this close-to-right the first time.

  5. scorpio,

    A quick reply as I must run to do more booth work.

    My question on the whole list of points was a genuine question – I didn’t see why he thought it was spin. He told me why he thought it was spin, and I said to myself, OK, now I know what he thinks.

    There are democrats handling out leaflets at both Murrumbeena Primary School and the East Malvern Scout Hall. As always, nice people to talk to.

  6. Can anyone give us an opinion about a benchmark for this by-election to see if it is good, bad or indifferent for Abbott?

    Clearly a loss would be very bad. I’m guessing a <40% TPP to the Greens would be a good result for Abbott. Is 45% TPP Green about what's expected?

  7. Are we expecting about a 45% TPP Green vote?

    If the Greens do better than that, Abbott has had a slap in the face. And if the Greens do worse, Abbott has done OK.

    Is that about right?

  8. I’m revising my prediction. I’m going from a 99% chance of Lib retain to a 66% chance of Lib retain, based on the fact that Malcolm Mackerras predicts a Green boilover.

  9. Out all morning cooking sausages, and there were people handing out HTV’s for everyone except For the LDP and One nation. There were also the climate coalition which rated all the candidates and the libs handing out propaganda comparing the two main candidates but not in Lib t-shirts. Sneaky buggers.
    It will go to preferences and be 48/52 TPP to the Lib.

  10. Drop One Nation down to 1% and give 1 each to the greens, ASP and Libs
    CCD= 3%
    ASP=6%
    Lib= 46%
    LDP= 1%
    Greens= 33%
    AD=3%
    ind tosc=2%
    ON=1%
    Ind Bro= 2%
    DLP=3%

  11. I really hope the ASP do well. I agree with almost all of their policies, and as a strong social liberal their sort of policies are of high importance to me.

  12. This is a test the waters by ASP they will do well, most punters liked them. Fiona must have listened to me with their advertising. a bg sex and little australia and party. Vote 1 sex, should work a treat. A few thousand in their kitty for their efforts. 1%= 500 votes roughly. If they get 6% do they get paid all six or % above four meaning 2%?

  13. [If they get 6% do they get paid all six or % above four meaning 2%?]

    A party gets paid a set amount per vote they receive, if they can get 4% or more of votes.

    Oakeshott got over $100,000 from the AEC, I think Xen got double or triple that.

  14. Just checked out the booth next to Camberwell Town Hall (plum Liberal) a large mobile Kelly’Dwyer billboard and several other Kelly posters, a few Green triangles and a few people having a nap on the lawn!

    Normally this booth is 2-1 in favor of the Liberals so if the Greens could get it down to mid-fifties then that would be a good result.

  15. I have spoken to three friends who live in Higgins and are ALP members. One is voting Green, one is voting informal and one is not voting. I’m not sure what the MoE is on a sample of three.

  16. Psephos,

    Interesting that your small poll suggests that ALP party MEMBERS don’t like the Greens.

    What matters for the by-election is what those who voted Labor last time vote this time.

  17. [What happens if someone fails to get their name crossed off at a by-election and then refuse to pay the fine?]

    The federal government auctions off your bad debt to any motivated organisation that has experience in efficient redemption strategies.

  18. We have just returned from handing out htvs for the Greens Party at a booth in Ashburton. It was a very positive experience indeed. The number of people who approached us for the Greens htv and did not take any other htvs was very pleasing. It seemed to us that more people refused to take the Liberal htvs than the Greens.

    The only candidates who did not have people on the ground were the LDP, ON and Ind Brohier. The three ASP workers provided a lot of colour with their bright yellow t-shirts and were going the whole 10 hours. Now that’s stamina!

  19. OK, Just came back from doing my bit for democracy at a polling booth.

    My sense was the Greens are doing about 40-45%, good humour and banter among all the HTV handers-out. Visits from Clive for the Greens and Collyer for the Dems.

    There was an ASP person there, Dems, DLP and a couple of wonky anarchists for Toscano.

    The Greens had a very active and engaging booth captain who seemed to have a knack for picking up the Doctor’s wives vote

  20. Michael, no doubt the majority of Labor voters will vote Green in order to try and beat the Libs. But in a very close contest, there may be enough who vote informal or don’t vote at all to prevent the Greens winning the seat. As they did in Albert Park, the Greens have weakened their own chances by picking a poor candidate.

  21. phespos:

    If we assume your 3 members reflect ALP voters and as at 2007 election there were roughly 25000 Labor voters in the area of Higgins, the margin of error for your poll is about 98%.

  22. Tony Abbott states the bleedin’ obvious. 😉

    [“I think we can say pretty much for certain that there will be a swing to the Greens, but no-one should read anything into that because they are probably the main opposition here today,” ]

    Is he massaging expectations already?

  23. Coco, fair enough. It may however be more representative of the 10% of so of hard-core Labor voters. If a quarter of them refuse to vote Green, then that’s 2.5% lost to the Green.

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