Eden-Monaro by-election

Despite the constraints of coronavirus, the looming by-election in Eden-Monaro looks set to proceed in a more-or-less normal fashion, with the entry of state Nationals leader John Barilaro setting up a hotly contested three-cornered contest.

Mike Kelly confirmed what everyone knew already when he officially announced his resignation as member for Eden-Monaro yesterday, thereby initiating the first federal by-election of the current term, the last having been the Wentworth by-election in October 2018. Kelly cited medical issues deriving from his overseas service while in the army, which required surgery for kidney and gallbladder failure in October.

The immediate question is how a by-election might be held amidst the coronavirus crisis, but it would seem radical solutions such as all-postal elections can be ruled out. These would require a fairly radical legislative overhaul, and David Crowe in the Age/Herald reports Speaker Tony Smith has “asked the Australian Electoral Commission for its advice on how to ensure polling stations comply with social distancing and whether to encourage more postal votes”. The current schedule in New South Wales is for existing lockdown measures to remain in place until June 29, so it may well be thought prudent to hold off for the time being, particularly given that parliament will not resume in any case until August 11.

It is already clear that the by-election will be a three-cornered contest, with state Nationals leader John Barilaro confirming his long-anticipated decision to gamble on a run for the seat and making no effort to deny ambitions to depose Michael McCormack as federal party leader. According to Geoff Chambers of The Australian, the Nationals claim recently conducted internal polling has Barilaro in a “winning position”.

Suggestions that the Liberals would vacate the field have already been scotched, with The Australian reporting it plans to hold an online plebisicite of around 200 members on May 22 to 23. Senator Jim Molan has said he is keeping his options open, and The Australian reports that the candidate from last year, local farmer and businesswoman Fiona Kotvojs, might also be a starter. The only name mentioned so far for Labor preselection has been Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain.

I have a preliminary by-election guide in action that features a 2019 election booth results map and various charts and tables laying out demographic indicators and the seat’s electoral history. I also had a piece anticipating the by-election announcement for Crikey on Wednesday that emphasised the risks entailed by Barilaro’s mooted candidacy:

Barilaro also has formidable historical hurdles to clear: the seat has never been held by the National/Country Party through a history going back to federation, and a victory would make him the first government party candidate in a century to take a seat off the opposition at a byelection.

While he might hope to be boosted by the positive response to the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, it should be noted that the weekend’s Newspoll result found Scott Morrison to be enjoying a largely voteless recovery, with booming approval ratings matched by only muted improvement on voting intention.

Furthermore, the summer bushfires that have been relegated to distant memory for most of the country are certainly not forgotten in Eden-Monaro, which encompasses some of the worst-affected areas — notably the town of Cobargo, where Morrison’s post-Hawaii attempt to ingratiate himself with the locals marked the lowest ebb of his prime ministership.

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.

78 comments on “Eden-Monaro by-election”

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  1. Michael
    You could add McNamara to that list.

    On E-M
    On paper i think the ALP will hold because if the the bushfires and by-election usually swing against governments. If this was a general election i would probably predict a Lib win because of the lost of local MP vote because it is more important in rural electorates.

  2. Mexicanbeemer

    I assume you mean the Division of Macnamarra which was previously Melbourne Ports which has been held by the ALP since 1906.

    Exactly how did you see the LNP winning in a seat that has been held by the ALP for 113 years? Especially when the LNP were expected to lose? The LNP could have run Bob Hawke and it still would have lost.

  3. Bucephalus
    Yep that is the seat and demographically it is more of a marginal these days. The ALP’s tax policies could have made the seat vulnerable to the right Liberal candidate and it swung to the Liberals in 2016.

  4. Buce
    1) In Gilmore someone like Constance would have worked far better than Mundine. Scomo got that one wrong, bringing an outsider in. The Libs primary vote crashed, down 16.09% to 29.19%. There was a National Candidate who got 12.5% and Schultz got 7.04%. The swing was smaller at 3.34% to Phillips away from Mundine. Apart from Warringah, this was the 2nd worst result in 2019 for the Libs. In my opinion a more suitable Lib candidate could have won.
    2)In Lyons you need too check twitter and Facebook before you pre-select.
    Plus, in 2013 all three seats flipped. In 2016 reverse flip for all three seats. In 2019 2 flipped, and Lyons was on a 2.3% margin and a better candidate may have done the job for the Libs.
    3)In Warringah, after the Wentworth By-election, Abbott goose was pretty evidently cooked there months out. He was never going to win once Zali appeared on the scene. His views now did not match the majority of the electorate. Rather than saying he was not a quitter, he should have put the party first and retired months out and a more moderate candidate preselected who would have a far better chance of retaining. (By the way Turnbull has been an absolute disgrace post PM and never put the party first once as well and has shown no loyalty to Liberal Party in any fashion).

  5. Buce. I don’t understand how you could describe Mundine a good candidate for Gilmore. Personally I have never believed he had much to offer in any of his previous appointments, and was unsurprised at the result he garnered for his backers of that time.
    I have several relatives in Gilmore who are intimately involved in Conservative politics. Almost to a person they were outraged at the imposition of Mundine as one of their candidates by Morrison. Racism played a part in their attitude, but even after overcoming that barrier they found him a particularly unpleasant personality, and the entourage he got around with did little to help his cause.
    Gilmore is a seat the Libs might pick up at the next election, but I doubt that dragging Constance up from the far reaches of the South Coast will be the way to do so.

  6. Bucephalus
    Nup not on its current boundaries. The Greens are solid around St Kilda but the rest of the seat is ALP vs Liberals. Usually the Liberals primary vote is around 40% and the Greens are about 25%.

  7. Finns reveals some sobering news.

    Finnigans 天有道地有道人无道
    As of 1 May 2020, 12pm, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed 932 new cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore.

    And my friends in Singapore telling me atm Singapore is very very hot. So much for #Covid19 killed by hot weather

  8. ‘Bucephalus says:
    Saturday, May 2, 2020 at 10:36 am

    I believe I was being schooled the other day about how the ALP was so very democratic and the LNP was being sledged for making Captain’s picks.’

    Haha. You started that little fracas and now you are the wee innocent victim.

  9. Outside Left at 2:45. Do you mean Fiona Cotvjos?
    Personnally I think she would be a good candidate in EM. But the LNP history in the seat is a little byzantine. After Peter Hendy absolutely shit the bed for them they were short of potential candidates prepared to sacrifice time and money in an unpromising envoironment until Fiona put her hand up. She didn’t do too badly. But the membership there is predominantly far to the right of her, several that I know personally that are long term members and occasional office holders would be to the right of even Molan. I don’t think the electorate is anywhere near that far to the right.
    I think there will be a real shit fight for Lib preselection unless Fiona gets an offer she can’t refuse. I haven’t asked around for opinions re the possible candidacy of Barilaro, but I doubt that plenty of LNP caucas members would welcome him into their midst. Most particularly Barnaby and McCormack but he has often been a burr under the saddle of the Libs as a means of gaining publicity.

  10. Sportsbet Odds for Eden-Monaro
    Coalition 1.55 ALP 2.55 Other Party 12.00
    Coalition being either National or Liberal

  11. Sportsbet Odds for Coalition Candidate

    John Barilaro 1.50
    Jim Molan 2.75
    Andrew Constance 3.50
    Fiona Kotvojs 5.50
    Sophie Wade 7.50

    With Payment halved if a National and Liberal Candidate are Endorsed

  12. I just checked the NSW Electoral Commission Site and Barilaro won every Booth in Monaro in 2019 including the type of Vote Postal etc. Not bad by a National in area where you thought would not be that strong.

  13. Indeed Damo – all Queanbeyan booths.
    Good to see Mick still I king his demise I should say Bara will he pleased by this, probably a good luck omen!!

  14. Opinion polling for the Eden-Monaro by-election (1 May 2020):
    2019 Federal election result:

    This assumes a 16% swing from the LIBS to the NATS (37%-21% = 16%) in the primary votes, which is possible. However that would take the primary vote for the NATs from 6.9% to 22.9%, where is the other 7.1% for the NATS coming from?…. Okay, let’s assume that 2.1% comes from the OTHERS, there is still 5% to be accounted for. Would 0.8% of Greens vote for the NATS?…. That’s nuts, but let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment. We are still 4.2% short. So, if you believe that Barilaro is in a “good position” to win Eden-Monaro it’s because you believe that not only he will get 0.8% of primary votes from the Greens, but also 4.2% from the ALP…. Oh dear, if you believe that, I have a bridge in London I want to sell you….

    Data come from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Eden-Monaro_by-election#cite_note-9

  15. Nats internal polling had Sophie Wade defeating Mike Kelly 51.8% to 48.2% in last year’s federal election. Looks like they’re still using the same polling company.

  16. I was going through the pages of comments on the previous thread I missed yesterday and found –

    The first thing I thought was that The Donald must have just had his daily injection of Yoda and the effects were still fairly potent at the time he made that comment.

  17. I think Labor’s picked a good candidate. I’m glad they’re focusing on picking the best candidate rather than just rewarding the party insiders who have been waiting the longest. Both major parties should do this more often.

    We definitely need lots of politicians who believe in less. Just wait around not committed to anything until they are offered a seat. Well if you want the very very worst politicians.

    Also always good to have a generic idea of ‘best candidate’. Don’t ever think about how you might define it, don’t ever do more than just pick one person and drop them into a slot. Definitely not thinking about it, not defining it and not having any kind of selection process is the way to ensure the ‘best candidate’ every single time. How can you get it wrong when you aren’t even trying huh.

  18. It was mentioned on Insiders this morning (if I heard the radio correctly) a local EM Labor member was interested in running as a candidate. Also, some local EM Labor members are not happy a local ballot is not being conducted.

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