By-elections: Port Adelaide, Ramsay, Niddrie

I’ve been a bit lax on the by-election coverage front lately, so here’s a post for discussion of the forthcoming events, including tomorrow’s two South Australian by-elections which will as always be covered live on Poll Bludger tomorrow evening. All three are for safe (or reasonably safe) Labor seats and none will be contested by the Liberals.

• Two by-elections will be held in South Australia tomorrow, to fill the vacancies created by the retirements of former Premier Mike Rann and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley. The more interesting contest is for Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide, where Labor has a weaker primary vote (49.9 per cent in 2010) and faces some reasonably solid opposition from independents. A poll of 402 respondents in The Advertiser last week had Labor candidate Susan Close on 44 per cent, independent Liberal Sue Lawrie on 18 per cent, independent and Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson on 14 per cent and the Greens on 12 per cent. There are nine candidates in the field all told.

• The by-election for Ramsay, where Rann polled 57.9 per cent in 2010, is unlikely to present any trouble for Labor candidate Zoe Bettinson, who faces six other candidates.

• Another former Deputy Premier, this time Rob Hulls in Victoria, is also headed for the departure lounge, citing a health scare late last year. The by-election will be held on March 24. Most frequently mentioned in relation to Labor preselection have been Ben Carroll, a ministerial staffer; John Sipek, an aircraft maintenance engineer; and Jaclyn Symes, a former staffer to Hulls. VexNews respectively describes the first two as “highly regarded” and “popular”, which I take to mean they’re from Labor Unity; the latter like Hulls is presumably from the Socialist Left (UPDATE: Shows you how much I know – Hulls is from Labor Unity too, as is Symes. The Moonee Valley Leader notes factional arrangements will ensure the seat stays with Labor Unity.) The Age also mentions Hawker Britton lobbyist Danny Pearson. Despite the government’s one-seat majority and a reasonably modest Labor margin in the seat of 6.9 per cent, the Liberals announced this week they will not be fielding a candidate, prompting a slew of negative headlines.

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.

40 comments on “By-elections: Port Adelaide, Ramsay, Niddrie”

  1. A Labor primary vote of 44% would make Port Adelaide very hard to pick, according to former ALP state secretary and senator Chris Schacht earlier this week. Depending on the fall of preferences the seat could go to Labor’s Susan Close, the Greens’ 18-year-old Justin McArthur, the ex-Liberal independent Gary Johanson and the current Liberal independent and former Liberal candidate Sue Lawrie.

    Since Schacht said that, Labor and the Greens have reached an agreement on preferences (though the Greens preference the Communist candidate Bob Britton ahead of Labor).

    Johanson is complaining about a letter to constituents sent by fellow Port Adelaide Enfield Council member Bruce Johansen who advocates a vote for Labor.

  2. For what it’s worth, none of the 9 candidates for the Port Adelaide by-election actually live in the electorate.

    There is nothing wrong or right with this, it is just a quirky fact.

  3. I for one am bemused by all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Liberals’ decision in Niddrie. Niddrie is a safe Opposition seat and there is ZERO chance the government would win it, especially at a by-election.

    Kennett couldn’t even win it during his landslide routs so why on earth people think Baillieu has a chance is beyond me.

  4. The significance of tomorrow’s by-elections for Labor cannot be understated. Holding both seats is critical, and I expect them to do so.

    The leadership change to Weatherill has worked well. There is a very real prospect that after the completion of the state/federal election cycle, Labor may only be left holding Government in SA and the ACT.

    Tomorrow is very important to SA Labor’s prospects in 2014. Wins in both seats with strengthen Weatherill and weaken Redmond.

    The latter’s decision to not contest either seat (especially Port Adelaide) is a further indication of her political weakness, which Will be reinforced by Labor wins tomorrow. We shall see!!

  5. @6 Somewhat different circumstances though. Rural seat, the backlash against Kennett just a few months before, and then the local MP cutting and running. Parallel to Niddrie would be something more like the federal by-elections in Mayo or Higgins.

    @7 A Liberal candidate in Port Adelaide would do nothing but muddy the waters for an Independent’s chances. The Libs wouldn’t come close to winning PA but by sitting it out they can make trouble between Labor and other candidates. Makes sense from a tactical point of view.

  6. The Kennet Government alienated rural and regional voters as them perceived it to be biased towards Melbourne.

    The Brumby Government did not loose from a perception of discriminating against the West/North of Melbourne.

    However the current does seem to be biased against the West and North of Melbourne and is also not travelling nearly as well as the Bracks Government was.

    The Liberals are not running because it would almost certainly show a swing against them.

    This likely swing is also quite likely to cost the Coalition its Legislative Council majority by loosing the second Liberal seats in Northern Metro and Western Metro.

  7. @8 – I kind of agree with you! It is a tactical balance – would Sue Lawrie have attracted a higher first preference vote as an ednorsed Liberal, and would she have been ahead or behind of Johanson after other preference allocations? We will never know now – but my point was more that Redman would have gained a boost from running a candidate if she had been confident of getting a further swing in favour of the Libs, even without winning the seat (or seeing it go to Johanson). As it stands, Redman cannot now get any real boost from a “close run second” type result. Labor, however, will be quite demoralised if Sue Close manages to lose…….

  8. Agree with the posters above that there is absolutely nothing for the Libs to gain if they ran in Niddrie. In fact, the downside of running would be that in the current climate with a major nurses dispute and the Baillieu government not travelling that well – a poor showing would attract more attention to the government and potentially be destabilising within the party. The Libs might have been in with a show if Rob Hulls had resigned at this time last year – that would have been the time most similar to the Benalla and Burwood analogies drawn above.

  9. The Victorian Libs need to wake up and realise that they can’t write off Western and Northern Melbourne forever. If the NSW Libs have been able to make serious inroads into Labor’s base in Western Sydney, there is no reason why the Vic Libs can’t do soemthing similar – in places like Point Cook and some of the other new suburbs, there are surely Liberal votes and seats to be gained if only some effort was put into winning them.

  10. [In fact, the downside of running would be that in the current climate with a major nurses dispute and the Baillieu government not travelling that well …]

    Well, they should be travelling well, shouldn’t they?

  11. [Well, they should be travelling well, shouldn’t they?]

    Why?? There seems to be some expectation that governments elected narrowly do exceeedingly well and then romp home at the next election – Wran in 1978, Bracks in 2002, Rann in 2006, etc. But it is not always plain sailing – the Carr Government was very unpopular for a while there in 1996 (after being elected in 1995) and that was a contributing factor to John Howard doing well in NSW in 1996.

  12. for a independent lawrie has spent a bit of her own money in port adelaide
    signs alone there are 3 to 1 lawrie ,leaflets, havent had the recorded phone message yet , have had one from labor
    OH impressed with close , her staff have rang 3 times regarding issues that the OH asked about
    myself impressed by green canidate , has the best handle on issues in port adelaide

  13. Sue Lawrie doesn’t have much of her own money. You can work out where that is coming from. The ALP hit the phones really hard the past 2 days with the recorded messages.
    Port Adelaide has never seen so much Labor activity in its entire history.
    If Labor wins it will be another one hundred years before we see any action down here.

  14. 13

    The Liberals do have chances in Essendon and Ivanhoe as well as Eltham (North of the Yarra but in Eastern Metro).

    The real issue for the Liberals with Western and Northern Melbourne is in the Legislative Council were the Bracks reforms have caused the situation in the current parliament that the Liberals hold 2 seat in each of Northern and Western Metro with the 2nd of those seats in both regions is held quite narrowly so a combination of the Coalition ignoring them and the ALP would likely lead to the Coalition loosing its majority even if it kept its Legislative Assembly majority. This would be the first such case in Victorian History of a Conservative Government facing a progressive Legislative Council.

    Essendon has been held by Liberal/Coalition Governments in Victoria, except in their last term, since it was re-established in 1958. The ALP currently holds Essendon and I hope Essendon keeps its position as a predictive seat for the defeat of conservative Governments.

  15. [Why?? There seems to be some expectation that governments elected narrowly do exceeedingly well and then romp home at the next election – Wran in 1978, Bracks in 2002, Rann in 2006, etc. But it is not always plain sailing – the Carr Government was very unpopular for a while there in 1996 (after being elected in 1995) and that was a contributing factor to John Howard doing well in NSW in 1996.]

    And does this just happen randomly? No, it would seem to depend in large part on how good a job they’re doing. My point is that if the Baillieu government isn’t in a state to be competitive in Niddrie, that’s very likely its own fault. Not running a candidate is an admission of failure and it deserves the catcalls it’s getting.

  16. Blackburn,

    The way Baillieu’s travelling, the Libs won’t run candidates anywhere at the next election.

    A Government that promised nothing and of which not much was expected has seriously underwhelmed on all fronts.

  17. Greg Kelton in today’s Tiser predicts a 2PP result in Port Adelaide of Close 51.5%, Lawrie 49.5%. Now that is close. Port Adelaide is far less working class and a lot more gentrified than ever before.

  18. You’d have to wonder about Greg Kelton’s maths re Port Adeialde. Advertiser “jounalists” have been making ridiculous assumptions that voters for minor parties/independents will follow HTV cards. DLP/One Nation at lease probably wont have helpers on a lot of booths and even when they do probably 30-40% of their voters will give preferences to ALP rather than Liberals and 20-30 to ALP ahead of Johanson for a start. And whichever of the independent Liberals/ex Liberals/Liberal Democrats get eliminated will also have a preference drift in the same way the Greens drift from ALP is usually around 25% and higher when independents like Johanson appear.

    So likely result is no worse than 55/45 to Close and likely better.

  19. And in another surprising twist of preference allocation (not picked up yet by Dean Jaensch, Clem McIntyre Anthony Green or other commentatorsn concerned about Green preferences to Communist Independent Bob Britton) both Liberal running as Independent Liberal Sue Lawrie and Independent ex Liberal Gary Johanson have given preferences to Communist Independent Bob Britton ahead of ALP Susan Close. What devious plans have these candidates for suggesting preference to dastardly Communists. What behind the scenes machinations have led to this result??

  20. “The contest for Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide, where Labor has a weaker primary vote (49.9 per cent in 2010) and faces some reasonably solid opposition from independents.”

    This is not a sentence.

  21. “The significance of tomorrow’s by-elections for Labor cannot be understated. Holding both seats is critical, and I expect them to do so.”

    If their significance cannot be understated, they must be very insignificant indeed, so why is winning them critical?

  22. Leroy, you meant Port Adelaide.

    Those HTV cards are very interesting. Not only are the Lib-leaning candidates preferencing the Communist ahead of Labor, but the Democratic Labor (allegedly) Party puts Labor after the Libs (but before the Communist).

    Close does OK with three of the tickets, Greens, Communist and Animal Lib, but Lawrie is favoured by Johanson, DLP and One Nation.

  23. I’m interested to see how the Liberal Democrats go in these by-elections. They’re pretty much right wing on economic issues, but have more of a libertarian stance on social issues. So they’re pretty much Moderate Liberals.

    If they become a competitive party, that might rip a chunk out of the Liberal vote if the moderate libs get fed up with the reactionary neo-con stance the Liberal party has taken in these past couple of decades.

  24. The LDP advocates an immediate end to government ownership of the ABC, SBS, Australia Post, Medibank Private, electricity generation corporations, and bus, ferry and rail services.
    32. The LDP are pro market anti government fundametalists. They are not moderate liberals or Moderate Liberals.

    Firearms. The LDP regards the right to own firearms for sport, hunting, collecting and self-defence as fundamental to a free society, irrespective of how many choose to do so.

    The LDP acknowledges that there is some evidence to suggest a trend towards global warming and the possibility that humans may be partly responsible. However, it does not consider governments have the competence to address the problem and looks to market responses instead.

    The LDP believes school regulation should be devolved to state level and funded through school vouchers that promote competition between schools and encourage parental choice.

    The LDP supports a free market in labour and would replace the minimum wage with a negative income tax to support low-income earners.

  25. when i voted noticed on ballot paper lawrie was not written as liberal independent but as independent blue right
    i thought it sucked , waltzing around pretending to be liberal when she registered as blue right
    is this new “blue right”, what is blue right

  26. be used, a bit of history for u,

    opt socretas, ARI
    gus, finns. bh, ru. bk. frank are the names I most remember, from the ti e of the last election
    for some time before 2010 election all looked after each other, sharing the good and the bad, Finns sang, by linking his own compositions, which he sings. his dolphin, is so inspiringi have come across on a blogg. it is said the dolphin is the highest of animal companion, in the spiritual world they are kind compasinate and are a delight to be around,..frank and his passion, gus his humour of the party.
    Ari is great annalaysis. on the polls they came nighty to care for us, give strength peace and,love
    bigship,and so many more people to inspire,and give hope

    with out these people unknown. humans make up this blogg,every one contributing in peace
    I have grown to love the people mentioned, vp watching and reporting
    then there is Ian allan moyes,pat’of wa.
    so of course bk’ his daily. new,s if you want a very well ordered. boring place. enjoy
    bh li dness, and amazing knowledge about the party, she is so loyal to.
    dee. I hope your floor boards are done puff I wish your dogs would come back,
    scringler. hang I. there.
    oz’poll o her education, her stories of life so well lived,
    I feel William could learn a lot from. op and Vic. who is so well spoken ,and thoughtful
    to all who comes her way
    joe 6 pack I love and rummell and david wh, ‘we will get hi over theline

    thanks for tne memories’

  27. OK, here is one out of left field for Victorians to ponder:
    If Elizabeth Miller, Member for Bentliegh, suddenly resigned ( the nurses have been heavily targeting here), what is the likely effect of a bi- election ?
    This is the seat that delivered Failieu his mandate. With out bentleigh, Big Ted has no more majority.
    This is one seat that Faillieu needs to hold desperately, and yet what if it did go to a bi – election ?

  28. 39

    A by-election defeat of a Coalition held seat (such as Bentleigh) by the ALP would cause the Coalition/ALP division in the Legislative Assembly to go from 44-43 (with a tie-deciding vote only Coalition Speaker) to 43-44.

    The Coalition would then likely face defeat at a vote of no confidence and then the ALP would likely fact hostility from the Coalition controlled Legislative Council and thus end up with the ability to call an early election.

    Such an election would be acrimonious. The Coalition might even decide to preference the Greens ahead of the ALP in 4 or 5 inner-city seats to undermine the ALP`s chances of a majority.

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