Call of the board: Western Australia

Another deep dive into the result of the May federal election – this time focusing on Western Australia, which disappointed Labor yet again.

The Call of the Board wheel now turns to Western Australia, after previous instalments that probed into the federal election results for Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland and regional Queensland.

Western Australia has been disappointing federal Labor ever since Kim Beazley elevated the party’s vote in his home state in 1998 and 2001, and this time was no exception. After an unprecedented Labor landslide at the 2017 state election and expectations the state’s economic malaise would sour voters on the government, the May election in fact produced a statewide two-party swing of 0.9% to the Coalition, and no change on the existing configuration of 11 seats for the Liberals and five for Labor.

As illustrated by the maps below (click on the images to enlarge), which record the two-party swings at booth level, Perth typified the national trend in that Labor gained in inner urban areas, regardless of their political complexion, while copping a hit in the outer suburbs. This will be reflected in the seat-by-seat commentary below, which regularly invokes the shorthand of “inner urban” and “outer urban” effects. The map on the left is limited to seats that are clearly within the Perth metropolitan area, while the second adds the fringe seats of Pearce (north), Hasluck (east) and Canning (south).

For further illustration, the table below compares each electorate’s two-party result (the numbers shown are Labor’s) with a corresponding two-party Senate measure, which was derived from the AEC’s files recording the preference order of each ballot paper (with votes that did not preference either Labor or Liberal excluded). This potentially offers a pointer as to how much candidate factors affected the lower house results.

Brand (Labor 6.7%; 4.8% swing to Liberal): Like so many other suburban seats distant from central business districts across the land, Brand recorded a solid swing to the Liberals after going strongly the other way in 2016. This dynamic drowned out whatever impact candidate factors may have had: Labor’s Madeleine King picked up a 7.7% swing on debut in 2016, but this time copped a 4.8% reversal despite theoretically being in line for a sophomore surge. The Senate result was little different from the House, further suggesting candidate factors were not much of a feature.

Burt (Labor 5.0%; 2.1% swing to Liberal): On its creation in 2016, Burt recorded a swing to Labor of 13.2%, the biggest of the election. This partly reflected the dramatic boomtime suburban growth that had caused the seat to be created in the first place, and which has since ground to a halt. The Liberals swing of 2.1% this time was typical for suburbia outside the inner urban zone, overwhelming any sophomore effect for the seat’s inaugural member, Matt Keogh. However, Keogh very substantially outperformed the two-party Senate metric.

Canning (Liberal 11.6%; 4.8% swing to Liberal): Covering Perth’s outer southern fringes, Canning was another seat that typified outer suburbia in swinging heavily to the Liberals, in this case to the advantage of Andrew Hastie. Hastie came to the seat at a by-election held a week after Malcolm Turnbull’s rise to the prime ministership in September 2015, at which he survived a 6.6% swing to Labor, most of which stuck at the federal election the following July. The swing in his favour this time has returned the Liberal margin to the peaks of 2013.

Cowan (Labor 0.9%; 0.2% swing to Labor): Anne Aly gained Cowan for Labor in 2016 by a margin of 0.7%, slightly less than she would have needed to hold out the 0.9% statewide swing had it been uniform. She was in fact able to boost her margin by 0.2%, in a seat slightly out of the range of the wealthier inner urban areas where Labor did best in swing terms. The disparity between the House result and the two-party Senate metric, which records a 1.5% advantage for the Liberals, suggests Aly can take much of the credit for her win, over and above the exercise of the sophomore surge effect.

Curtin (Liberal 14.3%; 6.4% swing to Labor): The most prestigious Liberal seat in the west had a complicated story to tell at this election: Julie Bishop retired after more than two decades as member; the party raised some eyebrows locally by endorsing a Christian conservative, Celia Hammond, despite the seat’s small-l liberal complexion; and Labor initially endorsed former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke, who shortly withdrew after copping static over contentious pronouncements about Israel. An independent, Louise Stewart, held out some promise of harnessing support from Malcolm Turnbull loyalists, but her campaign was torpedoed after polling she circulated showing her well placed to win proved to be fabricated. Stewart claimed to have been the victim of a trick, while the Liberal response to the episode betrayed a certain inconsistency in attitude towards the dissemination of fraudulent documents for political purposes. The loss of Bishop’s personal support and the broader inner urban effect were evident on the scoreboard, with the Liberals down 11.3% on the primary vote and 6.4% on two-party preferred. The Greens continue to fall just shy of edging Labor into second – this time they trailed 17.6% to 15.6% on the primary vote and 20.4% to 19.6% at the last preference exclusion. Louise Stewart finished a distant fourth with 7.8%.

Durack (Liberal 14.8%; 3.7% swing to Liberal): When she first came to the seat covering northern Western Australia in 2013, Melissa Price had to fight off the Nationals, over whom she prevailed by 4.0%. However, she has since gone undisturbed over two elections as the Nationals have fallen to earth. The applecart was upset slightly on this occasion by the entry of One Nation, who scored 9.5%, contributing to respective drops of 4.3% and 5.8% for Labor and the Nationals, while Price’s primary vote rose 2.6%.

Forrest (Liberal 14.6%; 2.0% swing to Liberal): Nola Marino was re-elected with a modest swing amid a generally uneventful result. One Nation and Shooters Fishers and Farmers were in the field this time whereas the Nationals were not, but this was rather academic as the primary votes for all concerned were inside 6%.

Fremantle (Labor 6.9%; 0.6% swing to Liberal): The scoreline in Fremantle was not particularly interesting, with little change on two-party preferred, and downward primary vote movements for the established parties that reflected only a larger field of candidates. However, the results map illustrates particularly noteworthy geographic variation, with the area around Fremantle proper swinging to Labor in line with the inner urban effect, while the less fashionable suburbia that constitutes the electorate’s southern half went the other way (a pattern maintained across the boundary with Brand, where there was a 4.6% swing in favour of the Liberals). Labor member Josh Wilson was in line for a sophomore surge effect, although this was not his first bid for re-election thanks to a Section 44 by-election in July 2018, which passed without incident in the absence of a Liberal candidate.

Hasluck (Liberal 5.2%; 3.2% swing to Liberal): The Liberals’ most marginal Western Australian seat going into the election, Hasluck delivered Labor a particularly dispiriting defeat, with Ken Wyatt securing the biggest margin of his four election career. The swing reflected the general outer urban effect, although Labor did manage to pick up a few swings around relatively affluent Kalamunda.

Moore (Liberal 11.7%; 0.6% swing to Liberal): This northern suburbs beachside electorate is affluent enough to be safe Liberal, but not fashionable enough to have partaken in the inner urban effect. Third term member Ian Goodenough picked up a very slight swing, as the primary vote told a familiar story of the three established parties all being slightly down amid a larger field of candidates.

O’Connor (Liberal 14.5%; 0.6% swing to Labor): Covering the southern part of regional Western Australia, O’Connor was held by the Nationals for a term after Tony Crook unseated Wilson Tuckey in 2010, but Rick Wilson narrowly recovered it for the Liberals when Crook bowed out after a term in 2013, and the Nationals have not troubled him since. One Nation entered the race this time, but managed only a modest 8.4%.

Pearce (Liberal 7.5%; 3.9% swing to Liberal): Among the many Liberal scalps that went unclaimed by Labor was that of Christian Porter, who emerged the beneficiary of the outer urban effect after being widely written off in the wake of the state election landslide and the coup against Malcolm Turnbull. One Nation landed a fairly solid 8.2%, contributing to a solid 5.2% primary vote slump for Labor.

Perth (Labor 4.9%; 1.6% swing to Labor): One of Labor’s few reliable seats in the west, Perth has undergone frequent personnel changes since Stephen Smith retired in 2013, with Alannah MacTiernan bowing out to return to state politics in 2016, and her successor Tim Hammond failing to make it through a full term. This complicates sophomore surge considerations for current member Patrick Gorman, who retained the seat without Liberal opposition at a by-election in July last year. The swing in his favour reflected the inner urban effect, but he also managed to outperform Labor’s two-part Senate metric for the seat.

Stirling (Liberal 5.6%; 0.5% swing to Labor): In a once marginal seat that looked increasingly secure for the Liberals after Michael Keenan gained it in 2004, this election loomed as a litmus test of how secure the party would look when stripped of his personal vote. The results were encouraging for the party, with new candidate Vince Connelly suffering only a slight swing. The results map suggests a pattern in which the beachside suburbs and areas near the city swung to Labor, while the unfashionable area around Balga at the centre of the electorate went the other way.

Swan (Liberal 2.7%; 0.9% swing to Labor): Together with Pearce and Hasluck, Swan was one of three seats in Labor’s firing line, but Steve Irons was able to secure a fifth successive win in what has traditionally been a knife-edge seat. This was despite the pedigree of Labor candidate Hannah Beazley, whose father Kim Beazley held the seat from 1980 to 1996, when he jumped ship for Brand. The results map tells a family story in that the affluent western end of the electorate swung to Labor, while the lower income suburbs in the east went the other way.

Tangney (Liberal 11.5%; 0.4% swing to Liberal): Liberal sophomore Ben Morton held his ground in this safe Liberal seat, despite the riverside suburbia of Applecross and Attadale partaking of the inner urban effect. He gained 4.8% on the primary vote in the absence of former member Dennis Jensen, who polled 11.9% as an independent in 2016 after being defeated by Morton for preselection.

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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.

1,840 comments on “Call of the board: Western Australia”

  1. I did not mention WA Labor because I lose track of where it stands.
    I suspect its far closer to Victorian Labor than what you would think from Briefly’s posts.

    I have always been suspicious of anyone arguing to go in the opposite direction to a government that gave Labor its strongest election win in recent history.

  2. C@tmommasays:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    I think you will find that it is only the Victorian Branch while Setka is still there. All the other branches will be contributing.

  3. “Probyn just on ABC really getting stuck into Shorten and Labor. Ooooh, nasty.”

    Lizzie, that’s a good thing in my view. Labor needs a good kick up the arse.

  4. Kakuru, amazing how the when blackouts occur because coal fired power stations fail or when transmission lines blow over, it is also the fault of renewables.

  5. Mexicanbeemer says:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    They haven’t won an election since 2007 and the one before that was 1993 – do you think 2 years will be enough time?

  6. I’m really looking forward to the Greens 80 page report on why they have failed to win government for the last thirty years.

    It should be an interesting read.

  7. Part of the reason why the franking credits didn’t seem to hurt the ALP where the actual rich live is because it wasn’t that much of an issue. People in the workforce were still going to collect the credits and for many serious investors the franking credits are a nice bonus but are not the main reason for investing and they are not universally loved by the investment community because they are useless to the company and add cost which takes away from the more important cash flow.

  8. A reminder.

    The Victorian Government was the most successful win of a Labor government in recent times.

    When you have success follow it don’t reject it.

  9. PeeBeesays:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    It is, actually, due to the misallocation of resources to subsidise inefficient unreliable renewables and the excessive infrastructure and the mispricing of unreliable and inefficient wind and solar power. This has meant that efficient and reliable power generators have been unable to afford to maintain existing or build the required new generation capacity.

  10. Wow ! The National Party has thrown its support behind a ‘Zero Carbon” by 2050 bill………………………………………..did I mention it was NZ’s National Party ? 🙂

    The Zero Carbon bill has passed with the support of almost the whole Parliament, after National leader Simon Bridges confirmed his party’s support for it.Act is the only party in the 120-seat Parliament to oppose the bill. All others, Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and National supported it.

  11. Electricity prices. Only hyperventilating partisans are still arguing that ‘renewables wot made prices high in SA’. Nobody has time for that BS anymore. Not the AFR, not the ABC. Not the Conversation. Not Indaily. The cause is undeniably transmission and distribution monopolies, retailer market abuse, gas prices.

  12. Another reminder.

    Labor in the previous Federal election to this one was more on the socialist climate change side. It won Braddon and Bass.

    The LNP called it “Mediscare”

  13. “Shorten intends to stay in Parliament for another 20 years – more than enough time for another two leadership cracks, at least.”

    Certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

  14. guytaursays:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    The Tesla Battery hasn’t acted as a backup power source when wind and solar has failed supplying replacement power for hours and hours. It has acted as a short-term grid stabilisation of frequency often when prices for power are extremely high.

    Get back to me when there is a grid level battery that can cheaply supply actual backup power to replace lost solar and wind.

  15. Simon Katich @ #1461 Thursday, November 7th, 2019 – 1:28 pm


    Plantations are not forests

    I wouldnt (hope I didnt) suggest they replace forest.

    Forests should replace cleared land, which is a wildlife wasteland. Regrowth after clear-felling or even selective logging takes a couple of hundred years to become forest, if the forestry activity hasn’t made that impossible by introducing feral weeds, which it commonly does.

    Forestry officers do not retain the old, hollow trees, which each contain a multitude of homes and hiding places. They cut them down and burn them, because they interfere with the growth of nice, straight pristine sawlogs, which is what they are after. They don’t give a flying fuck about the wildlife. Their machinery brings weeds (lantana, bitou, scotch broom) which overwhelm the native understory, and turn real native forest into a horrible bastard bush. The act of felling large trees, and burning fallen logs and branches, directly slaughters almost all of the native fauna, by depriving them of anywhere to live, forcing them to move into the next coup, and to fight to the death with its occupants.

    As I alluded to earlier, forestry officers see a native forest as being akin to a standing stash of sawlogs, with only the trunks between 1 metre above the ground, and the first branches as being worth any attention at all. The animals, birds, non-sawable trees, undergrowth, ground covers, insects, worms, clear running streams and their adjacent rainforest, perched swamps, peat beds, and everything else that goes to make up a living, breathing, viable, wonderful forest are invisible to them. Almost exactly analogous to seeing the Great Barrier Reef as a really handy source of limestone for cement manufacture.

  16. @gruntat
    I can’t put much belief in Labors election postmortem when it doesn’t mention the media biased that was blatently obvious during the campaign with most media parroting LNP lines verbatim and refering to Alp policies by the tags Lnp used like retirees tax and tax slug.

    I agree with this 100%. Labor is still gunshy about attacking the MSM. Probyn and Jennet were chuckling over the “unpopular Shorten causing the loss”. They’ll keep their ABC jobs for a long time.

  17. Buce

    You really are full of it.

    The results of the Tesla Battery are well known. As are the breakdowns of coal power in hot conditions where renewables powers on.

  18. In other words Bucephaluse, clapped-out power stations should be subsidised because, although they are falling apart, they are still “efficient and reliable”.

  19. “I agree with this 100%. Labor is still gunshy about attacking the MSM. Probyn and Jennet were chuckling over the “unpopular Shorten causing the loss”. They’ll keep their ABC jobs for a long time.”

    Lizzie, Rudd called the Murdoch press out over a month ago.

  20. ‘Bucephalus says:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    It is, actually, due to the misallocation of resources to subsidise inefficient unreliable renewables …’

    The coal health and climate subsidies are massive. When you are a Buce you simply make these disappear by pretending they don’t exist. Then you do a smashing comparison against renewables and Lo!

    Buce, if you seriously want to fiddle faddle, I suggest you engage with Nicholas about why your neo-Liberal plot to destroy the world is not yet quite complete and how the world can only possibly be saved if the Blairites are sent to re-education camps.

  21. Simon Katich says:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Gas prices would fall considerably if the unscientific bans on gas exploration and production were lifted.

    At the same time Australia should be building port facilities for Floating Storage and Regasification Units (ships) in each major coastal city in order to leverage off the international LNG trade. There are a couple of commercial proposals on the go at the moment but we need more.

  22. Richard
    That is a hard question to answer become sometimes it is easier to see the problem than know how to fix it, some of the errors in the lead up to the 2019 election were the kind of mistakes you would not expect from experienced political campaigners.

  23. Gas prices would fall considerably if the unscientific bans on gas exploration and production were lifted.

    Remind me which SA political party is anti fracking and exploration.

  24. I think the ALP are right to not blame the media because it forces its supporters to look at the other issues besides going yeah it was the media’s fault. I don’t think the media were that bad this time around compared to 2013 or 1993 when the media took sides more so than they did in 2019.

  25. Kakurusays:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    No – clapped out old coal fired power stations should be closed if they are uneconomic to maintain and operate and brand new, more efficient and reliable ones built.

  26. Mexican

    Victoria Labor won a resounding victory and did not blame the media in its coverage.

    They have Andrew Bolt and Eddy McGuire.

    So no lack of RWNJ coverage there. Even if a better media landscape than Sydney or Brisbane to name two.

    I still argue the fix is anti trust and thus an increase in diversity to fix that.
    In the meantime Labor has to deal with the cards its dealt. That means recognising the very real media bias. That means dealing with it not whinging about it.

    I am no fan of Albo’s approach so far but at least he has that much right.

  27. Angus Livingston
    gotta remember!!! The franking credits scheme cost $550 million in 2001 but is soon due to rise to $8 billion a year. We spent just under $10 billion on Newstart in 16/17. One government handout is constantly being attacked, while the other is running unchecked.

  28. Yabba

    Buce obviously believes the PR and doesn’t understand that 80-100 years is nothing in the growth of a real forest that’s of use to wildlife. It takes at least that long to produce large nesting holes.

  29. Guytaur
    Eddie McGuire isn’t a right winger and his brother is the ALP MP for Broadmeadows.

    You are right to point to how Andrews goes about it, he focused on issues and policies instead of playing on class besides declaring his support for the union movement but he does that in a positive way of reinforcing his focus on jobs and services.

  30. ‘Bucephalus says:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    “Regrowth after clear-felling or even selective logging takes a couple of hundred years to become forest”’

    It depends on what you mean by forest. If you mean simply a bunch of trees, then yes. If you mean a forest that vaguely resembles its original ecological functions and its original biodiversity, then not so much.

    Then there are ‘fast’ forests and ‘slow’ forests. Climax Mountain Ash forest is probably at least 300 years old and parts are often nearly 500 years old.

  31. The trouble with NOT blaming (or acknowledging) the media is that you are pretending the party acts in a vacuum…which it doesn’t.
    Labors communications actions occur in a communications environment that distracts, amplifies, ignores, distorts etc due to vested interests and agendas etc…That is reality not denial.

  32. ‘Bucephalus says:
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    No – clapped out old coal fired power stations should be closed if they are uneconomic to maintain…’

    So, how do you price in global warming impacts from coal burning. Just put it in as 0%?

  33. Torch

    Yes. Thats why I argue anti trust. Diversity.

    I still think Canada Style media laws are the way to go. Of course they have human rights as part of their system unlike us

  34. Tourchbearer
    That is why it is important to focus on aligning the campaign and policies into a sound strategy which is flexible enough to respond to any media or Palmer type turning up.

  35. Buce, ‘and the mispricing of unreliable and inefficient wind and solar power.’

    You are now making stuff up. There is no ‘mispricing’. Producers tender into the market.

  36. Labor review p. 89

    Labor’s preference priorities are:

    1. Ensure the election of the maximum number of House of Representatives members.
    2. Ensure the election of the maximum number of Labor Senators.
    3. Impact on the balance of power in the Australian Senate.

    Labor has a long-standing position, first adopted in the late 1990s, that all candidates endorsed by One Nation and any like-minded candidates be placed last on ALP how-to vote cards. This should be maintained.

  37. C@tmomma
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 2:47 pm
    p45 Labor Review:
    Bob Brown’s Adani convoy – 22 April
    While Brown’s caravan would have been helpful for the Greens, it had
    the effect of highlighting Labor’s ambiguous position on the Adani proposal and enabled
    the Coalition repeatedly to reaffirm its unequivocal support for the mine.
    So the finding was that the ALP’s ambiguous position on Adani was exposed by the Greens. Hilarious.

  38. Bucephalus
    “No – clapped out old coal fired power stations should be closed if they are uneconomic to maintain and operate and brand new, more efficient and reliable ones built.”

    New coal fired power stations are uneconomical. Capital won’t touch it. Who’s going to pay for these new power stations? Not the banks – they want to make money, not invest in stranded assets. Their shareholders (rightfully) won’t let them. I’m not having my tax $$$ spent on building them.

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