By-elections three

A quick run through the three state by-elections shortly to be held in Liberal and Nationals seats in Labor-run states.

There are now three state by-elections on the way, one imminent, another three weeks away, and a third on a date yet to be determined. I have election guides for the first two of these, linked two below. In turn:

Callide. A by-election will be held for this rural seat in Queensland on Saturday to replace Liberal National Party member Colin Boyce, who has now gone federal as the member for the corresponding seat of Flynn. Labor has not gone the usual path of forfeiting a seat in which it has never been competitive, at least notionally setting up a contest between LNP candidate Bryson Head and Labor’s Bronwyn Dendle. However, there seems at least as much chance that final count will be between the LNP and One Nation, whose candidate Sharon Lohse achieved as much when she ran in 2017. Lohse was also the party’s candidate in Flynn at the recent federal election. For whatever reason, the party sat it out in the seat at the 2020 state election. Also in the field are Legalise Cannabis, Katter’s Australian Party and Animal Justice – but not the Greens, who tend not to trouble the scoreboard much in this part of the world.

Bragg. This blue-ribbon Adelaide seat goes to the polls on July 2 to choose a successor to former Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman, who displeased her party by pulling the plug on her political career shortly after the March election defeat. Here too Labor is gamely taking the field in a seat it has never held, but given the Liberals’ form in comparable seats at the federal election and its all-time low margin of 8.2% after the state election, it’s easier here to see why they might think it worth a roll of the dice. The Liberals could have had particular trouble if disgruntled political staffer Chelsey Potter had followed through on her threat to don the teal independent mantle, but it seems she was persuaded not to. The by-election thus pits Liberal candidate Jack Batty, who until recently worked at the High Commission in London, against Labor’s Alice Rolls, head of policy and strategy at the Australian Pro Bono Centre. The Greens and Family First have also announced candidates; nominations close on Friday.

North West Central. One of only six seats out of the 59 in Western Australia’s lower house not held by Labor, North West Central is shortly to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. Catania began his political career with Labor as a member of the Legislative Council in 2005, transferred to the Legislative Assembly in 2008, defected to the Nationals the following year and comfortably retained it through to 2021, when he held out by 1.7% against a swing of 8.4%, one of the lowest in the state. Although anything would seem possible given the loss of Catania’s personal vote, which is of particular significance in a seat where only 8000 voters were cast at the last election, the consensus seems to be that Labor will not field a candidate as it fears a backlash over its one-vote one-value reform to the Legislative Council, expects the seat to be abolished at the next redistribution and already has more MPs than it knows what to do with. The seat could potentially develop into a contest between the Nationals and the Liberals, but the odds on the latter would presumably be rather long.

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.

14 comments on “By-elections three”

  1. “The [Bragg] by-election thus pits Liberal candidate Jack Batty, who until recently worked at the High Commission in London …”

    Recruited by former High Commissioner Downer?

    Cosy SA Liberal connections?

  2. The season of by-elections is about to begin. The born to rulers don’t like sitting on the cross benches. On a slightly different note, a previous speaker of the NT parliament lived in Sydney when parliament was not sitting once he lost interest.

  3. I get that to really partisan people and weak minds getting rid of the malapportionment would be annoying, but wouldn’t Labor not running a candidate lock in the perception they just couldn’t care less about rural WA?

  4. Hello William,
    If the liberals win north west central then the Liberals and the Nationals will be three apiece in the wa assembly so how would they decide who gets to officially be the opposition?

  5. The Liberals realistically have no chance of winning NWC and the Nats should easily hold. Labor not running a candidate could give the Greens some chance to win more votes, noting they did very well at the recent federal election in a number of booths like Coral Bay and Exmouth.

  6. The Liberals held NWC, then known as Ningaloo as recently as the 2005 election. Still, I don’t believe the ALP won’t run as they would be favourite.

  7. Poor citizens of Bragg……third time to the polls in s few months….so many democracy sausages that colesterol levels in the Eastern suburbs hit alarming levels

  8. Abolishing North West Central would be interesting. Pilbara could absorb the shire of Ashburton (having all the mining towns in one seat makes sense), while its big unpopulated eastern end goes to Kimberley (thanks to the large district allowance, that beefs up the numbers in that seat). Then it gets complicated.

    Wiluna and Ngaanyatjarraku shires could go to either Kalgoorlie or Kimberley; they’re 340,000 sq km between them, so they’re worth about 5000 phantom voters on top of the people who actually live there (there’s that LDA again). Kimberley could end up covering the entire WA/NT border.

    Then, what happens to the coastal (Carnarvon, Exmouth) and southern interior (Meekatharra, Mt Magnet) areas? The only other seat NWC borders is Moore, but if you pull it that far north (presumably with a name change), it has massive knock-on effects on Central Wheatbelt and then Roe.

    The other option I can see is kinda messy: split the city of Geraldton. Between Geraldton, Moore and the coastal / southern portion of NWC, there’s roughly two seats worth of people. Slice that area up into a northern seat (Exmouth down to Northampton, Mullewa out to Mt Magnet and Meekatharra, plus half of Geraldton), and a southern seat (Dongara down to Cervantes and the wheatbelt towns inland, plus the rest of Geraldton).

    Meanwhile on the northern fringe of Perth, there could be a new seat running from Lancelin down to Yanchep. That deals with Butler (very over-quota) and any excess from the above paragraph. Toodyay could also go into Central Wheatbelt, with the rest of the Avon valley.

  9. As for the by-election itself: I don’t see why Labor shouldn’t run. It’s basically a free hit: there’s nothing embarrassing about not winning a seat they didn’t even win at a once-in-a-century landslide, and any swing less than 10% can be chalked up to politics returning to some kind of normal. (Catania won with a margin of 9.5% in 2017, itself a pretty good election for Labor.) If they actually win, it’s a bonus.

  10. BeaglieBoy says:
    Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9:02 am

    “Poor citizens of Bragg……third time to the polls in s few months….so many democracy sausages that colesterol levels in the Eastern suburbs hit alarming levels.”

    Democracy truffle flavoured petit-fours you mean.

  11. @BirdofParadox
    Are we certain WA will still take in the LDA at the next redistribution? I
    assumed they’d get rid of it with the One vote One value in the upper house

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