Call of the board: regional New South Wales

The second in a series that leaves few stones unturned in its exploration of the May 18 election result.

The metropolitan episodes of this series will feature maps and analysis guided by a demographic model to predict seats’ two-party results, so that areas of over- or under-performance might be noted. However, results maps only really work for areas of concentrated population, and it turns out the model works a lot less well when you move away from the cities. In particular, it records historic Labor strongholds in the Hunter and Illawarra as marginal Liberal seats, which I’m guessing results their lack of ethnic diversity, which the model strongly associates with conservatism. This suggests the model needs to be refined with interaction variables to measure the difference in effects between cities and regions, which I’ll hopefully get around to at some point.

Now for the Call of the Board in non-metropolitan New South Wales, broken into four easy pieces.

Hunter region

Newcastle (Labor 13.8%; 0.0% swing to Liberal): The pattern of the capital cities was reflected in Newcastle, the urban core of which swung to Labor while the low density surrounds went the other way. The Newcastle electorate contained exactly as much of each as to cancel each other out, with both major parties down slightly on the primary vote to make way for United Australia and a lift for the Greens.

Shortland (Labor 4.4%; 5.5% swing to Liberal): In neighbouring Shortland, however, Labor emerged with its narrowest margin since the seat’s creation in 1949. There were traces of the inner urban effect at the northern end of the electorate, but the swings elsewhere were severe enough to take 10.0% out of Pat Conroy’s primary vote. Most of that was harvested by new minor party entrants, but the Liberals gained swings of 2.2% on the primary and 5.5% on two-party preferred.

Paterson (Labor 5.0%; 5.7% swing to Liberal): It was a similar story just north of Newcastle in Paterson, where Meryl Swanson, who should have been enjoying at least half a sophomore effect, copped a two-party swing of 5.7%. The primary vote swing of 5.0% was less severe than Shortland because the minor party market was more crowded here in 2016. In particular, this was one of two seats in New South Wales where One Nation ran in 2016, and the only one where they repeated the performance in 2019. Their vote was up from 13.0% to 14.2%, the second strongest of the six New South Wales seats they contested after Hunter.

Hunter (Labor 3.0%; 9.5% swing to Nationals): Labor’s single worst result of the election was Joel Fitzgibbon’s 14.2% primary vote and 9.5% two-party slump in Hunter, reducing his previously formidable margin to 3.0%. The last time Labor was run this close in a seat bearing the name of Hunter was in 1984, and the time before that was 1906. The coal industry effect was unmistakeable: the Newcastle end of the electorate swung about as heavily as the Shortland booths on the other side of Lake Macquarie, whereas the full force landed at Cessnock. The remarkable 21.6% primary vote for One Nation, more than in any seat in Queensland, was fairly uniformly spread geographically. This left them only slightly shy of the 23.5% vote for the Nationals (who, a little oddly in my view, have the right to contest the seat under the coalition agreement), but the gap failed to close on preferences. How close they would have come of overtaking Fitzgibbon at the final count had it been otherwise is a matter for conjecture.

Northern coast

Lyne (Nationals 15.2%; 3.2% swing to Nationals): David Gillespie held almost steady on the primary vote while Labor fell 2.5% and the Greens fell 2.9%, reducing the flow of preferences to Labor. Fact I hadn’t noticed before: the Liberal Democrats can score pretty well in Nationals seats with no Liberal running, in this case 5.8%.

Cowper (Nationals 11.9%; 0.7% swing to Labor): After all the hype about Rob Oakeshott’s prospects, the result was remarkably similar to his failed bid in 2016. Pat Conaghan, who replaces Luke Hartsuyker as the Nationals member, added 1.1% to the party’s vote, scoring 47.1%, while Oakeshott was down 1.8% to 24.5%. That still left him well clear of Labor, up 0.2% to 13.8%, and he landed 6.8% short after preferences, which was 2.2% more than in 2016. The Coalition-versus-Labor two-party count produced a 0.7% swing to Labor, perhaps reflecting Hartsuyker’s retirement.

Page (Nationals 9.4%; 7.1% swing to Nationals): Kevin Hogan, a Nationals member who vaguely kept his distance from the Coalition after the putsch against Turnbull, achieved the biggest margin ever recorded in a seat that has been an arm wrestle since its creation in 1984, the margin never previously exceeding 5%. Hogan was up 5.3% on the primary vote and 7.1% on two-party preferred, the latter being the biggest swing against Labor in New South Wales after Hunter. There were two areas where Labor held its ground: just outside Coffs Harbour at the electorate’s southern extremity, and behind the hemp curtain at Nimbin in the north.

Richmond (Labor 4.1%; 0.1% swing to Labor): As just noted, the area around Nimbin bucked the trend of a heavy swing against Labor in Page. This regional effect was even more pronounced at the Byron Bay end of Richmond, where a number of booths recorded double-digit swings to Labor. Many of these booths are in fact won by the Greens, who only succeeded in treading water overall in the face of competition from Sustainable Australia and Involuntary Medication Objectors (though the latter, critics of this region take note, only polled 1.2%). The Tweed Heads end of the electorate was and is a different kettle of fish, recording low support for the Greens and a two-party swing to the Nationals. With the two ends pulling in different directions, the distinctiveness of the Byron Bay region is further enhanced, as illustrated by the image below (which would naturally tell a similar story for the Greens primary vote).


Cunningham (Labor 13.4%; 0.1% swing to Labor): The size of the two-party swing typified a dull result, in which Labor fell slightly on the primary vote, the Liberals were up slightly and the Greens vote hardly changed. The primary vote difference presumably failed to translate into a Liberal two-party swing because the Christian Democrats vacated the field after recording 4.1% in 2016.

Whitlam (Labor 10.9%; 2.8% swing to Nationals): The Liberals made life hell for some of us by declining to field a candidate here and leaving the seat to the Nationals, so that a two-party swing could only be calculated by comparing Labor-Liberal to Labor-Nationals. This the AEC, for one, declined to do. By that measure, Labor’s Stephen Jones suffered a swing of 2.8%. In the Liberals’ absence, the combined Coalition primary vote was down from 32.7% to 25.5% as Liberals unwilling to plump for the Nationals opted for the United Australia Party, whose 8.8% was their second best result in the country after Riverina.

Hume (Liberal 13.0%; 2.8% swing to Liberal): Labor dropped 5.3% on the primary vote here, though it went to independent Huw Kingston and the United Australia Party rather than Liberal member Angus Taylor, who was down slightly.

Gilmore (LABOR GAIN 2.6%; 3.3% swing to Labor): One of the few seats that went to Labor’s this was Labor’s eighteenth biggest swing nationally, and the fifth biggest in a seat that can’t be described as inner urban. The primary vote for Labor’s Fiona Phillips was actually down 3.0%, as seven candidates took the field compared with four in 2016 – among whom was spurned Liberal independent Grant Schultz, who came in fifth with 7.0%. Katrina Hodgkinson failed to light up the scoreboard as Nationals candidate, scoring 12.5%. The drop in the Liberal vote exceeded this, so that the combined Coalition primary vote was down 3.6%, similar to Labor. That Labor nonetheless enjoyed a solid and decisive two-party swing suggests a reasonable share of Nationals votes leaked to them as preferences.

Eden-Monaro (Labor 0.8%; 2.1% swing to Liberal): Eden-Monaro’s fame as the bellwether seat was further buried as Mike Kelly held off a swing of 2.1% to hold on by 0.8%. The Nationals might have done better to have stayed out, polling only 7.0% and contributing to a 4.3% drop in the Liberal primary vote. Labor was down 2.7%, the Greens up 1.2%. There was maybe a slight tendency for Labor to hold up better in urbanised areas, but no clear geographic pattern overall.


New England (Nationals 17.6%; 1.2% swing to Nationals): Barnaby Joyce’s remarkably strong result at the November 2017 by-election was proved to be no fluke, as he gained in 2.5% on the primary and 1.2% on Coalition-versus-Labor two-party in the face of even greater adversity this time. The former accomplishment was no doubt assisted by the absence of Tony Windsor, who polled 29.2% in 2016, although another independent, Adam Blakester, polled 14.2% this time to take second place over Labor, landing 14.4% short after preferences.

Calare (Nationals 13.3%; 1.5% swing to Nationals): The only seat Shooters Fishers and Farmers contested in New South Wales after their state election triumph in March, they managed third place with 17.4% of the primary vote. Nationals member Andrew Gee, a sophomore, was down 2.9% to 44.7%, and Labor was down 4.9% to 22.1%.

Riverina (Nationals 19.5%; 3.0% swing to Nationals): The only seat in the country where the United Australia Party broke double figures, to which it owes a small field of four candidates that didn’t include a Liberal, leaving Palmer’s outfit as the only non-left alternative to the Nationals. Nationals leader Michael McCormack gained 2.7% on the primary and 3.0% on two-party.

Farrer (Liberal 10.9% versus Independent): Kevin Mack was one of a number of highly regarded independents who struck out on the night, managing 20.5% of the primary vote – not nearly enough to disturb Liberal incumbent Sussan Ley, who despite shedding 7.2% on the primary vote still ended up with a straight majority of 50.7%. Ley won by 10.9% after preferences, and suffered a 0.7% two-party swing against Labor.

Parkes (Nationals 16.9%; 1.8% swing to Nationals): Both major parties were well down on the primary vote, incumbent Mark Coulton shedding 7.9%, in the face of solid performances by the Liberal Democrats (8.1%, another example of the no-Liberal-candidate effect), independent Will Landers (7.2%) and the United Australia Party (an above-average 6.3%).

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.

343 comments on “Call of the board: regional New South Wales”

  1. Unemployment is deliberately created by the Commonwealth. It is a result of choices made by the government. It is not natural. It is not inevitable. It is not the fault of the unemployed. It is attributable t policy.

    Once this is explained to the electorate they will feel very differently about the rate of unemployment and those who make up the unemployed. These workers are mostly older. They are mostly at risk of losing their ability to compete against younger workers. They are also usually deeply impoverished. The more impoverished a person becomes, the less able they are to take risks. When you have almost no money at all, even the price of a bus fare is a big sum. This means unemployed workers are being expected to take very big relative risks with their very tiny absolute incomes to join the competition for work.

    I know what it is to be utterly broke. I know how the long-term unemployed feel…how demoralising it is, how heavily rejection can weigh, and how immobilising the fear of poverty actually is.

    The creation of unemployment is a crime against working people. The unemployed are entitled to work, and if work is withheld from them, they are entitled to be paid much more than the barest possible minimum, which is what they now receive.

  2. reposting from old thread.
    I have to tell you the sad news that my Mum, our Meoldema, died in hospital in her sleep last night.

  3. LVT
    We need a new model.
    Your suggestion of formalising the control of the 200 families has merit but how does each family retain its useful idiots?
    In government patronage is easy and will ensure that each idiot realised that one day their patrono will call upon them to do a service and they will be unable to refuse.
    But how do we do this from opposition?

  4. If there had been no Lib-kin candidate in Richmond their PV would have gone straight to Labor. The sooner they go out of business the better it will be for Labor; the sooner we will be able to repair the harm done by the Tory repression of labour and the destruction of the environment.

  5. briefly @ #304 Sunday, July 28th, 2019 – 8:22 pm

    If there had been no Lib-kin candidate in Richmond their PV would have gone straight to Labor. The sooner they go out of business the better it will be for Labor; the sooner we will be able to repair the harm done by the Tory repression of labour and the destruction of the environment.


  6. “If there had been no Lib-kin candidate in Richmond their PV would have gone straight to Labor.”


    Not straight to the Libs????

  7. If there had been no Greens party another party of the Left will emerge to replace it. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians who will no longer put SDA operatives and their like into Parliament on the back of their votes.

  8. OC, I believe the ALP’s life expectancy in NSW is about the same as free to air TV, ie 2030.

    The Families need a new source of State capture to survive. Its not clear there is an income stream that can be captured out there. Of course something may turn up….

  9. Peering over the back of the SCG Members Stand today, the former SFS looks well and truly demolished to me. So WTF is GladysB doing cancelling the demolition contract with LendLease? That company has more cred in their organisation than her dodgy government ever will.

    What ever happened to Whelan The Wrecker?

    And ran into Connie Fierravanti Wells – wouldn’t have taken her for a Swans fan.

  10. sprocket_ @ #311 Sunday, July 28th, 2019 – 8:37 pm

    Peering over the back of the SCG Members Stand today, the former SFS looks well and truly demolished to me. So WTF is GladysB doing cancelling the demolition contract with LendLease? That company has more cred in their organisation than her dodgy government ever will.

    What ever happened to Whelan The Wrecker?

    And ran into Connie Fierravanti Wells – wouldn’t have taken her for a Swans fan.

  11. Apparently the former cardinal lives in Church housing in Victoria, Kansas – population of 1191 as at 2017. Almost like they deliberately hid him in obscurity.

    My tip for George Pell (assuming a release date in 3 years) would be somewhere in the North of South Australia or in the Pilbara to see out his days.

  12. Lars Von Trier @ #297 Sunday, July 28th, 2019 – 8:16 pm

    Firefox says:
    Sunday, July 28, 2019 at 8:13 pm
    You make a good point. I note C@t has still failed to provide her on the on the ground analysis of what went wrong in Robertson (despite promises).

    I am not beholden to a no mark like you. I think that’s the bit you have forgotten.

    I have said what I have had had to say, to the people that needed to hear it. Which doesn’t include you.

  13. Only 20 minutes to 1 week + of Newspoll dissection and debate on here!!!

    Think of the glorious topics:

    1) Can it be believed
    2) Has the methodology changed
    3) is it fake news
    4) What does it mean for Albo

    etc etc

  14. Watching the 60 minutes expose.

    Now who would the ministers be?

    60 Minutes Australia
    EXCLUSIVE: #60Mins and
    can reveal Former Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg says he was encouraged by several members of parliament to fast track Crown’s Chinese high-rollers through Australian borders.

  15. #Newspoll Albanese: Approve 39 (-2 compared to Shorten) Disapprove 36 (-13) #auspol

    #Newspoll Preferred PM: Morrison 48 (+1) Albanese 31 (-7 compared to Shorten) #auspol

    #Newspoll Morrison: Approve 51 (+5) Disapprove 36 (-9) #auspol

  16. The ghost with the most has the Newspoll numbers as always.

    ‏ @GhostWhoVotes
    19m19 minutes ago

    #Newspoll Federal Primary Votes: L/NP 44 (+2.6 since election) ALP 33 (-0.3) GRN 11 (+0.6) ON 3 (-0.1) #auspol

  17. I’m predicting herding will be even worse now as the pollsters struggle to regain credibility.
    Just putting out random numbers with no transparency doesn’t help their cause.

  18. I’m going to wait for a reasonably long series of polls from the same outfit to see if they at least start to bounce around in a more believable manner.

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