Welcome to the latest instalment of Call of the Board, where we move on from New South Wales (see preivous entries on inner Sydney, outer Sydney, the northern coast and the remainder, together with the entry on the Northern Territory) to Victoria, specifically the 13 electorates that most readily suggest themselves to an entry on inner Melbourne.
This was particularly interesting to put together, as the area marks a convergence point for some of the election’s most interesting under-currents: the epochal turn away from the Liberals in the wealthy inner metropolitan areas that were once their foundation, contributing not only to teal independent wins in Kooyong and Goldstein, but also to Labor’s first ever win in Higgins; the Chinese community’s rebellion against the Liberals, evident through a swathe of eastern Melbourne, and the prime mover behind Labor’s gain of Chisholm; the broadening movement from Labor to the Greens in inner urban bohemia, which didn’t flip any seats here but came very close to doing so in Macnamara; and, in suburbs further afield, a swing against the tide that seemed to be the principal manifestation of Victoria’s particularly difficult experience of the pandemic, which was reflected at the state election without doing Labor serious harm on either occasion.
The analysis is broken into three parts, first looking at the “classic” two-party contests between Labor and the Liberals, then at the seats where teal independents or Greens featured in the occasion. The former are accommodated with the following map display, showing colour coding of two-party preferred vote shares and swings at booth level, which you can click on to view larger images. Maps further below offer similar representations of how things played out in Labor-versus-Greens and Liberal-versus-independent contests.
Chisholm (LABOR GAIN 6.4%; 6.9% swing to Labor): The not-quite-inner eastern suburbs seat of Chisholm was the Coalition’s only gain when Malcolm Turnbull led it at the 2016 election, followed by an upset second Liberal win when Gladys Liu succeeded disaffected outgoing member Julia Banks in 2019. This time, a 0.5% margin stood no chance in a seat boasting the second highest Chinese-speaking population in the country, joining first-placed Bennelong and third-placed Reid in falling to Labor with swings of between 6.9% and 8.4%. Liu shed 7.7% on the primary vote amid a swollen field of 12 candidates, with Carina Garland gaining 3.8% for Labor on the primary vote and further benefiting after preferences from a 1.9% increase for the Greens. If there is a pattern to be observed in the geographic distribution of the swing, it is that Labor generally recorded weak or even negative swings at the southern end, which was gained from Hotham in the redistribution.
Fraser (Labor 16.5%; 1.6% swing to Liberal): Beneath the story told by the two-party swing in Fraser was a significant shift to the left – the Greens were up 4.7% to 18.5% despite newly acquired competition from Victorian Socialists, who scored a solid 4.8%. The pattern of the swing is suggestive of the local results at the November state election, which reached double figures in favour of the Liberals in some booths corresponding with the state seat of St Albans (which swung 12.4% to the Liberals); was strong also for the Liberals in the central areas covered by Laverton (swing of 5.4%); and tended towards Labor in the gentrifying inner urban areas of Footscray (where the state swing was limited to 3.0%).
Gellibrand (Labor 11.5%; 1.5% swing to Liberal): Neighbouring Fraser geographically and, happily, alphabetically, the swing in Gellibrand followed the same pattern: favourable to Labor at the gentrified inner urban end around Williamstown in the east, but quickly turning to the Liberals further afield. However, there were no clear parallels in the state results here, and less in the way of a shift to the left, although the Greens held their own in the face of an unfavourable redistribution.
Higgins (LABOR GAIN 2.1%; 4.7% swing to Labor): While not unanticipated, Labor’s win in the seat of Harold Holt, John Gorton and Peter Costello was one of the remarkable stories of the election. Compounding an 8.8% drop in 2019, the Liberal primary vote fell by 5.8%, converting to a 4.7% swing after preferences — more than accounting for a Liberal margin that was reduced from 10.7% to 3.9% in 2019, and then to 2.6% with the redistribution. Fertile territory demographically for a teal independent, the result can be compared with the the Greens’ three wins in Brisbane as examples of what happens where one fails to emerge. Similarly to Higgins, the Liberal National Party vote fell over two elections from 49.9% to 37.7% in Brisbane, 41.0% to 30.7% in Griffith and 52.1% to 38.5% in Ryan. But whereas the Greens out-performed Labor on the primary vote swing in the three Brisbane seats, in Higgins Labor gained 2.4% while the Greens trod water. That left Labor’s Michelle Ananda-Rajah decisively clear of Greens candidate Sonya Semmens on the primary vote, by 28.5% to 22.6%, with an 89% flow of Semmens’ preferences helping Ananda-Rajah overcome Liberal incumbent Katie Allen’s 40.7%. The Liberals remain dominant around Toorak, but the Chapel Street area in the west now seems a reliable counterweight.
Hotham (Labor 14.3%; 3.1% swing to Labor): While the seat’s boundaries have varied substantially over the years, Hotham’s story has reflected Melbourne’s broader experience in shifting from Liberal to Labor dominance, having been held by the Liberals from its creation in 1969 until 1980 and by Labor ever since. The margin has reached a new high with the latest election result, mostly on account of a redistribution than boosted it from 5.9% to 11.2% by adding the area around Springvale and Noble Park in the south-east, capped by a 3.1% swing to Labor incumbent Clare O’Neil. The Liberal primary vote was sapped by 8.1% as the Liberal Democrats, United Australia and One Nation polled 15.4% between them, with Labor also seemingly losing support on their outer flank, with the Greens primary vote up 3.4% and Labor’s down 3.7%. A distinction can be observed between a swing that went in Labor’s favour at the western end of the electorate but to the Liberals in the area gained in the redistribution. While the impact of the redistribution may itself have been a factor, this reflects a wider demographic fault line in south-eastern Melbourne where the swing to Labor evaporated as incomes and the Chinese share of the population declined, the ethnic mix around Springvale and Noble Park tending more to Vietnamese and Indian than Chinese.
Isaacs (Labor 6.9%; 0.4% swing to Labor): Isaacs marks a point far enough away from Melbourne’s inner core that the dynamics fuelling the Liberal collapse there are no longer evident, their primary vote falling a modest 3.4% – lower in fact than the 4.9% drop for Labor’s Mark Dreyfus, who held his own on two-party preferred mostly due to a substantial improvement on preference flows from the Greens, whose primary vote was up 1.8% to 12.9%.
Macnamara (Labor 12.2%; 7.3% swing to Labor): Another result where the two-party summary belies the real story, which was a tight tussle between Labor incumbent Josh Burns and Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May to survive the final exclusion and win the seat ahead of the Liberals at the final count. The Liberals had grown competitive in the seat then called Melbourne Ports in 2013 and 2016, but have ceased to be so after falling to 29.0% on the primary vote, down 4.6% in 2019 and 9.7% in 2022. This reduced them from first to third on the primary vote, with Labor holding steady at 31.8% despite a slightly unfavourable redistribution and the Greens gaining 5.5% to 29.7%. Preferences out of the modest vote share recorded by the United Australia Party, the Liberal Democrats and One Nation pushed the Liberals into the lead at the final exclusion with 33.7%, but the real issue here was that Labor maintained its lead over the Greens, by 33.5% to 32.8% – a margin of 594 votes. The Greens’ strongest performances were around Balaclava and Ripponlea to the east of St Kilda.
Maribyrnong (Labor 12.4%; 2.1% swing to Labor): Another complex result in a seat that encompasses inner-city territory at Kensington, Flemington and Ascot Vale in the south, which was gained in the redistribution from Melbourne, and deep suburbia around Tullamarine in the north. In a measure of Adam Bandt’s personal vote, double-digit shifts from the Greens to Labor were recorded in the former area, whereas the Greens vote increased immediately in the north. The primary vote shares were shaped by an increase in the number of candidates from four to nine, with Bill Shorten down 2.4% despite a 7.6% slump for the Liberals and only a modest increase for the Greens. Here as elsewhere, the tendency in two-party terms was for Labor swings at the city end and Liberal swings further afield.
Now to the teal independent seats, with the following map to show the spread of the two-candidate preferrred booth vote (Goldstein left, Kooyong right):
Goldstein (INDEPENDENT GAIN 2.9% versus Liberal): The 12.3% primary vote decline that condemned Tim Wilson to defeat at the hands of Zoe Daniel notably failed to translate on the Liberal-versus-Labor two-party preferred measure, on which the swing against Wilson was only 3.0%. The difference suggests tactical voting from Labor and Greens supporters can only go so far in accounting for Zoe Daniel’s win. Daniel polled 34.5% on the primary vote, much of which undoubtedly was sourced from a collapse in support for Labor (from 28.3% to 11.0%) and the Greens (14.0% to 7.8%). The only booths that stayed with the Liberals were those around Brighton and Beaumaris on the bayside and Caulfield South at the northern end.
Kooyong (INDEPENDENT GAIN 2.9% versus Liberal): Monique Ryan’s 40.3% share of the vote was the highest of the six teal newcomers, placing her only slightly behind the 42.7% recorded by Josh Frydenberg, whose 6.5% drop compared favourably with Tim Wilson’s. The 2019 result had been distinctive in that the emerging anti-Liberal sentiment consolidated behind high-profile Greens candidate Julian Burnside – this time the party slumped to fourth place, down from 21.2% to 6.3%, while Labor fell from 17.5% to 6.9%. A 2.2% swing in Liberal-versus-Labor terms reduced the margin on that measure to 4.2%, the lowest ever recorded in the seat, adding to a 6.1% swing that reduced it to 6.7% in 2019.
The following map shows two-party preferred vote shares and swings between Labor and the Greens in the seats where the Greens made the final count, which as noted above didn’t quite include Maribyrnong. Swing maps could be created for Cooper and Wills only, since Melbourne went from being a Greens-versus-Liberal contest at the final count in 2019 to a Greens-versus-Labor contest this time.
Cooper (Labor 8.7% versus Greens; 6.2% swing to Greens): Despite a solid swing to the Greens, Cooper clearly remains on safer ground for Labor with Ged Kearney than it was under David Feeney, who survived the Greens challenge in the seat then known as Batman by 1.0% in 2016. Kearney scored a 4.4% margin over the Greens in the absence of a Liberal candidate at the by-election following Feeney’s Section 44-related departure in 2018, which she handsomely increased to 14.6% in 2019 — more than enough for her to hold out against a 6.2% swing to the Greens this time. This Liberals are now firmly entrenched in third place, to which they first fell in 2010, dropping on this occasion by 3.2% to a new low of 16.4%. However, the Labor-versus-Liberal swing was a modest 0.7%, putting the Labor margin on that measure at 25.5%.
Melbourne (Greens 10.2% versus Labor): Adam Bandt is now knocking on the door of a primary vote majority in the seat he gained for the Greens in 2010, having now increased his share at five successive elections since he first contested the seat in 2007. After two elections at which Bandt’s dominance of the left-of-centre vote caused Labor to fall to third place, this time the right had so little to show for itself that it was the Liberals who ran third. Labor’s margin over the Liberals on the classic two-party preferred measure reached an all-time high of 27.9% following a swing of 10.1%. On the primary vote, the Liberals were down by 6.0% to 15.2%, while Labor was up 3.9% to 25.0% – higher than 2016 and 2019, but lower than at any other time since federation. As can been seen in the results map, Labor maintained a slight edge in the Richmond and Richmond West booths, perhaps reflecting the influence of the area’s Vietnamese community.
Wills (Labor 8.6% versus Greens; 0.1% swing to Greens): The result in Wills reflected the swing to the Greens in neighbouring Cooper to the extent that Labor was down 5.4% on the primary vote and the Greens were up 2.0%. However, this did not convert on two-party preferred because Labor received 68.3% of Liberal preferences this time – a fairly typical result when Liberal preferences are so directed by the how-to-vote card, but a substantial increase on the 51.5% from 2019. As Antony Green explains, the latter anomaly relates to the Liberals disendorsement of their candidate during the campaign: “There was either no HTV or the candidate produced his own version”. It may be inferred that the Labor margin would be cut very fine if in future the Liberals were to reverse their preference recommendation.