While Labor’s by-election performances were nothing special in historical terms, it was undeniably a good night for the party, thanks largely to an unexpectedly clear win in Longman. Five campaign opinion polls had Labor slightly behind in the seat, before the election eve Newspoll found them edging to a 51-49 lead. Labor actually appears headed for a winning margin of around 4%, bolstering a fragile 0.8% margin with a swing of 3.4%. The big surprise was the near double-digit fall in the Liberal National Party primary vote, which leaves them struggling to crack 30%. This is well below the 34% attributed to them by Newspoll, to say nothing of a series of ReachTEL results that had them approaching 40%.
The LNP slump rendered redundant what everyone imagined would be the decisive factor, namely the flow of One Nation preferences. Despite this, One Nation were the other big winner in Longman, adding around 7% to their 9.4% vote from 2016. This indeed flowed a lot more strongly to the LNP than in 2016, reflecting the party’s how-to-vote card recommendation and the fact that they clearly picked up much of the LNP’s lost support. After receiving 56.5% of One Nation preferences in 2016, Labor looks to have scored only a third this time.
The Braddon result was less good for Labor, notwithstanding that they have clearly won, and that this looked in doubt throughout the campaign. The main change from the 2016 result is that independent Craig Garland scored a creditable 11.0% (although it may come down a little in late counting), chipping a few percent away from each of Labor, Liberal and the Greens. Rebekha Sharkie’s win in Mayo was of about the anticipated scale: her present lead over Georgina Downer after preferences is 8.6%, compared with her 5.0% margin in 2016. Sharkie’s primary vote performance was even more robust, up from 34.9% to around 45%. This bespeaks one poor aspect of the by-elections for Labor – after playing dead at two successive elections, its vote in Mayo has fallen all the way to 6.0%.
In the two WA seats, Josh Wilson did notably better in Fremantle than Patrick Gorman did in Perth, although neither was in the least bit troubled. Wilson gained 11.6% to gain a clear majority on the primary vote, with the Greens treading water at 17% and the Liberal Democrats garnering enough stray Liberals to land in the low teens. Despite the 42.3% Liberal vote from 2016 being up for grabs (compared with 36.9% in Fremantle), Labor only made a negligible gain on the primary vote in Perth, with the Greens also only up slightly. The rest spread among a large field of 15 candidates, with independent Paul Collins the strongest performer among claimants to the Liberal vote. Turnout was notably subdued in Perth and Fremantle, and looks likely to settle at around 70%.
If you click on the image below, you will find an accounting of the swings in Braddon and Longman and, in the former case, an projection of the final result. Since the swing on votes counted in Braddon thus far is exactly zero, it concludes Labor’s existing margin of 2.2% will be maintained. Also featured are regional breakdowns for Braddon and Longman, with the former broken into the larger towns (Burnie, Devonport and Ulverstone) and the remainder, and the latter into Bribie Island area and the remainder. This doesn’t turn up anything particularly interesting: especially in Longman, the swings were remarkably uniform. Craig Garland’s vote was a little lower in the larger towns, but there was otherwise little distinction to speak of in Braddon.