North West Central by-election live

Preview and live commentary of today’s North West Central state by-election in Western Australia.

Click here for full North West Central by-election results updated live.

Live commentary
8pm. All the booths are in on the primary vote and now, in one great flood, on two-party preferred as well, and we also have 413 postals and 381 pre-polls (the latter on primary vote only as I type). Raw figures are as good as projections at this stage, and they show the Nationals winning by a margin of 8% to 9%. However, their primary vote has not improved, which you might say is despite the absence of a Labor candidate or because of the absence of Vince Catania. The Liberals can take a certain amount of heart from the fact that their primary vote is up from 7.9% to 25.8%, but again, that may just reflect the fact that a lot of conservative support was hitherto locked up with Catania. Similarly, the Greens are up from 4.1% to 14.3%, but with a 40.2% Labor vote last time up for grabs, that’s not necessarily a particularly outstanding result.

7.21pm. The veil has now been lifted on two-party numbers, for which we have results from four booths. They suggest a roughly 60-40 split in preferences between the Nationals and the Liberals, which is similar to what happened when they finished first and second in 2013. This means the Liberals have no chance of winning from second on the primary vote in a context where they have no chance of finishing first, hence the probability dial hitting 100% for the Nationals.

7.05pm. Now the Kalbarri booth is in, with an above-par result for the Nationals. My probability gauge keeps getting stuck for some reason — it’s still on 98.0% when it should be at pretty much 100%.

7.02pm. The Exmouth booth and, to a lesser extent, Carnarvon Woolshed have almost doubled the vote count, giving the Greens a boost at the expense of the Nationals. In two-party terms though the picture is as it was in that the Nationals are well ahead of the Liberals and I expect them to do better on preferences.

6.53pm. I think that problem will fix with the next update, so consider me just about calling it for the Nationals. I’d forgotten that the WAEC has a peculiarity of not reporting two-party numbers until it’s confident it’s picked the right candidates, which is why we’re not seeking any action yet on that score.

6.46pm. My probability reading is stuck on 72.5% for the Nationals when it should be 98.0%. Looking into it.

6.41pm. We’ve got a relatively big booth in Onslow Primary School — all of 151 votes. The big picture is that the Nationals are down a little on the primary vote while the Liberals are up around 20% on their single figure result; that the Nationals retain a handy primary vote lead in a context where they’re likely to do better than the Liberals on preferences; and that we still don’t have any two-party numbers.

6.40pm. There’s an issue in the WAEC’s data feed for the Coral Bay booth, which is missing the line that’s supposed to record the Liberal result.

6.35pm. A sixth booth in now — probably Meekatharra Shire Hall, because that’s the best one for the Nationals and the dial just moved in their favour.

6.32pm. Problem fixed. Five booths in now, one of them small and four of them tiny, and while my speculative preference estimates point to a Nationals winning margin of 5% to 6%, there are far too few votes for me to call it.

6.23pm. Now we’ve got two booths in, the follow-up being 102 votes from Carnarvon Community College. The Nationals are well down on last time, but still with just over 50% of the primary vote. There is a problem with my two-party projection though, which I’ll look into.

6.22pm. In any case, I can tentatively say that my results facility is working, and that it’s coming through with the goods quicker than the WAEC site.

6.20pm. We’ve got 11 votes in from Wiluna Remote Community School. Presumably the fact that none of them are for the Liberals explains why my projection is sticking with 50-50.

6pm. Polls have closed. Now to see if my live results page is going to work. Results should come in reasonably shortly given there are some very small booths involved, although twelve candidates on the ballot paper should slow things up a bit. The WAEC will provide updates at leisurely five minute intervals.

Today is the day of Western Australia’s state by-election for North West Central, resulting from the retirement of Nationals MP Vince Catania, which likely looms as a contest between the Nationals and Liberals in the absence of a Labor candidate, albeit that there are twelve candidates in all. My own perspective on the matter is laid out in my by-election guide. Note that a mere 7741 formal votes were cast in 2021: not only does the seat have markedly below average enrolment due to the “large district allowance” that applies to seats of more than 100,000 square kilometres, it also records unusually low turnout, which is sure to be lower still at a by-election.

My live results page can be found here, awaiting numbers that will start to come through from 6pm. Given that Antony Green has “tickets to the Swans versus Collingwood AFL match … so won’t be able to publish any results until I get home from the match”, I think I can get away with saying that my results facility and accompanying commentary will be the best available.

My results display will feature two-party swing figures working off a rather artificial set of Nationals-versus-Liberal numbers from last year based on the assumption that Labor and minor party preferences would, if distributed, have split between the two in the same proportion as in 2013, when Labor obligingly finished third. On this basis, the Liberals need a 20.5% swing to poach the swing from the Nationals, having polled but 7.9% at the March 2021 election compared with 39.7% for the Nationals (and 40.2% for Labor).

My guess would be that that’s not going to happen: homeless Labor voters are probably more likely to swing behind the Nationals candidate Merome Beard, proprietor of the Port Hotel, which is by some distance the best pub in Carnarvon (the one that was infamouly run by Wilson Tuckey back in the day). Should Liberal candidate Will Baston pull off an upset, the Nationals and Liberals will be deadlocked at three seats apiece in the Legislative Assembly, raising the question of whether Nationals leader Mia Davies will retain the status of Opposition Leader.

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.

30 comments on “North West Central by-election live”

  1. How is it that there are two candidates for the Western Australia Party listed?(Randle and Fels)
    Is this actually possible or a typo? Or is there some other explanation?

  2. The Nats used to do that sort of thing decades ago… I guess it replaced preselections. That was for a party that was certain to win, though, not a no-chance microparty.

    I’m pretty sure the AEC made a rule against multiple candidates after the Bradfield by-election. Nine CDP candidates got less that 4% between the lot of them, and meanwhile the informal vote more than doubled to 9%. Idiots.

  3. Wiluna, first cab off the rank: just 11 formal votes. 8 Nat, 2 Green, 1 ON, nothing for anyone else. Oh, and one lonely informal.

    That’s gotta be a record for (a) fast reporting (just 20 min) and (b) number of votes. Every now and then there’s tiny wheatbelt towns that record a few dozen votes (and then get their booth abolished for the next election), but I’ve never head of 11 before.

  4. Something wobbly with the Coral Bay figures. 24 votes combined for Green through Ind11 (Greens out front with 9); 24 for the Libs; 24 formal. Uh?

  5. Ah hah.

    Good result for the Small Business Party in Onslow: one whole vote! OK, not a great result, but it’s one vote more than the other six booths so far. 😛

  6. Apologies, William, the problem is with my phone browser. It doesn’t scroll sideways, just stops at the two-party columns. Looks fine on the laptop.

  7. @William embarrassing! Mobile traffic would be larger today in 2022 than desktop. Fix it now!

    (I’ll do it for free if you consult me) 😉

  8. Yeah, from Exmouth.

    The Greens usually do well in those two towns, especially tiny Coral Bay. Might just be something in the water? Denham (Shark Bay) and Kalbarri are similar (more fishing and tourism, less mining and pastoral), and the Greens only got in the teens there.

    How are there only 300 votes from Carnarvon? There’s 5000 people there – Exmouth has twice as many votes and it’s half the size. There was only about 400 votes there in 2021, so it’s not just a by-election thing.

  9. All booths now in. Pannawonica took a while to count 78 votes.

    Informal is 4.8% – less than I’d’ve thought, with so many candidates.

  10. *thump* Here’s 1357 early votes, with the Nats on almost 50%. That should push the 2cp margin out beyond 10%.

    Also pretty bad for the Greens – only 6% (still a swing to them, from just 1.5% in 2021). That pulls their overall vote down to about 12%.

  11. “Bird of paradox says:
    Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 8:45 pm
    Ah hah.

    Good result for the Small Business Party in Onslow: one whole vote! OK, not a great result, but it’s one vote more than the other six booths so far. ”

    That result may require a change of name into the “Nanobusiness Party”?

  12. So, the Liberals remain subordinate to the Nationals at the state level in WA… and the Greens are not doing a very good job at attracting Labor voters, not even when a Labor candidate is not running.

    Somebody is going to learn a good lesson from this result…. perhaps.

  13. Amusing little self-pwn by the WA Party. They got 6.1%, which would mean they came fourth… except for their stupid two-candidate trick. Anthony Fels was buried somewhere in the middle of the ballot and got 2.1%; Andrea Randle, in spot #2, is a rounding error below 4%. So the party loses both of their deposits.

    *sad trombone SFX*

    As it is, Legalise Cannabis are fourth with 5.4%. Everyone else just made a donation to the WAEC.

  14. … and the Greens are not doing a very good job at attracting Labor voters, not even when a Labor candidate is not running.

    The average Labor voter in NWC probably works in the mining industry, and therefore isn’t gonna be that sympathetic to the Greens. (Unless it’s Robin Chapple.)

    Compare with this: there were a few by-elections in safe Labor seats a decade ago, where the Libs didn’t run: in Freo and Willagee, the Lib vote went to the Greens, but in Armadale, it went to the CDP. Major party voters aren’t necessarily a homogenous bloc; the Greens can pick up some of them, but not others.

  15. @Bird of Paradox

    I think the Greens will usually do better in towns mostly reliant on ecotourism like Exmouth as opposed to agricultural towns like Carnarvon where farms are reliant mostly on aquifers for water supply and the Greens are seen as a risk to that. Overall it’s not a seat the Greens will do well in, though it seems like a decent amount of Labor voters went that way in the absence of a candidate, it also seems that there’s plenty of potential ALP voters who would rather move their votes to the the Nats, Libs and other candidates before the Greens.

    Don’t really understand the thinking behind governing parties not standing in supposedly unwinnable by-elections, it just ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy imo.

  16. Most unwinnable by-elections (where one major party takes a dive) are ones like Cottesloe or Vasse (for Labor) or Fremantle, Willagee, Armadale (Libs). Rock solid safe seats for one of the big two.

    NWC was won by Labor in 2008, so it’s not in that category… it’s just a really hard seat to campaign in, and they don’t really need a 54th lower house MP. Also, the Nats are technically a third party, so tactically it’s worth letting them have the seat to keep it away from the Libs. I would’ve liked to see Labor have a go, but I can understand why they turfed it into the too-hard basket.

    Also, there was chatter in the last WA thread that NWC would get abolished next redistribution (making it an empty prize). I’ve got plenty more on that, just not at 2am. Zzz.

  17. Alright, redistribution talk…

    Let’s say NWC gets abolished. Obviously that’s a mission, because (a) it’s huge and (b) it borders four other seats that are nowhere near each other. The shire of Ashburton fits neatly into Pilbara; the barely-populated eastern half can go into either Kimberley or Kalgoorlie. (Along with swaps of unpopulated desert between those three seats, thanks to the LDA kludge). Trouble is, that leaves the coastal end of NWC (Exmouth down to Kalbarri, plus a few inland towns like Mt Magnet) out in the cold. It can’t go into Moore without causing huge knock-on effects across the wheatbelt. So, here’s my solution…

    Abolish ALL THREE of NWC, Moore and Geraldton, and replace with two new seats. Split the city of Geraldton between them.

    The nothern seat (call it Murchison?): the remaining part of NWC, Mullewa and the Chapman Valley (from Moore), plus half of Geraldton.

    The southern seat (how about Greenough?): the rest of Geraldton, plus most of the rest of Moore (about as far south as Cervantes and Moora). The southern end of the old Moore can go into either Central Wheatbelt (Toodyay and Victoria Plains shires), or a new mixed urban-rural seat* (Gingin and Chittering shires). Putting Lancelin and Yanchep in the same seat makes plenty of sense, and takes some pressure off the constantly over-quota northern suburbs of Perth.

    (*) This assumes the boundary between urban and rural WA gets abolished along with the upper house regions. I hope it does – it also makes possible a new seat straddling Rockingham and Mandurah councils, but that’s another story.

  18. The regional boundaries have already been abolished as part of Legislative Council reform. The redistribution that gets underway next March does not need to fit boundaries within regions.

  19. @Bird of paradox

    Might be problematic to split Geraldton in such a way, when it’s such a determinable and clear locality.

  20. Antony: cheers! That makes the redist a bit easier.

    Emilius: Yeah, it’s not ideal, but I can’t see a neater way of doing it.

    Say you leave Geraldton alone. Then that Exmouth / Carnarvon / Meekatharra area has to go into Moore, which then has to lose a big southern chunk, presumably to Central Wheatbelt. (Including the Moore River, so there’ll be a name change.) It’d be a huge, incoherent seat, similar to the old Murchison-Eyre, which used to surround Kalgoorlie in a similar way (back when the that seat was just the city of Kalgoorlie).

    Then, Central Wheatbelt has to lose a similar sized chunk, probably to Roe; then Roe is over quota, and has to lose Esperance to… where? Either that, or you start messing around with seats in the south-west. You could end up redrawing half the state. Split Geraldton, and you completely wreck three seats, but mostly leave the others alone.

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