Lyndhurst by-election: April 27

A by-election for a safe Labor Victorian state seat has not attracted a Liberal candidate, and there are no indications Labor’s Martin Pakula will be troubled in his bid to move from the upper to the lower house.

A Victorian state by-election will be held on April 27 for the south-eastern Melbourne seat of Lyndhurst, to be vacated by former Bracks-Brumby government minister Tim Holding. Lyndhurst covers residential areas at Lyndhurst and Hampton Park in the south and Keysborough and Springvale in the north, with industrial areas separating the two. The electorate was created at the 2002 election upon the abolition of Springvale, which was won by the Liberals on its creation in 1976 before passing permanently into Labor’s hands in 1979. Now very safe for Labor, it will not be contested at the by-election by the beleagured Liberals.

Eddie Micallef held Springvale from 1983 until 1999, when he lost preselection to 27-year-old Tim Holding. This marked a win for Holding’s National Union of Workers sub-faction of the Right at the expense of the Socialist Left, of which Micallef was convener. Holding entered the ministry after the Bracks government’s landslide re-election in 2002, winning further promotion to police and emergency services in January 2005. He hit trouble later in the year after failing to stay on top of a security breach involving confidential police files, and was shifted to finance, tourism and information technology after the 2006 election. He made national headlines in August 2009 when he went missing during a solo hiking expedition in Alpine National Park, putting his Army Reserve survival skills to use over two nights before being located by a police helicopter.

The Labor preselection has kept the seat in the National Union of Workers fold with the endorsement of Martin Pakula, former state secretary of the union and an MLC for Western Metropolitan MLC since 2006. Pakula entered the political stage in 2005 with a determined but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to the preselection of Simon Crean in Hotham. On entering the state parliament the following year he was immediately made a parliamentary secretary, and won further promotion to Industry, Trade and Industrial Relations Minister in December 2008 and then to the troublesome public transport portfolio in January 2010. He currently holds the shadow Attorney-General, gaming and racing portfolios.

The by-election has attracted eight candidates, the ballot paper order running Martin Leahy (Australian Sex Party), Nina Springle (Greens), Hung Vo (Independent), Bobby Singh (Independent), Stephen Nowland (Family First), David Linaker (Independent), Martin Pakula (Labor), Geraldine Gonsalvez (DLP). Profiles of some of the candidates are available courtesy of Antony Green.

Melbourne by-election live

# % Swing 2PP (proj.) Swing
Ahmed (IND) 1160 4.2%
Fenn (FFP) 830 3.0%
Schorel-Hlavka (IND) 64 0.2%
Nolte (IND) 1293 4.7%
Perkins (IND) 140 0.5%
Kanis (ALP) 9221 33.3% -2.3% 51.4% -4.8%
Collyer (IND) 161 0.6%
O’Connor (IND) 153 0.6%
Murphy (DLP) 525 1.9%
Toscano (IND) 205 0.7%
Mayne (IND) 1308 4.7%
Borland (IND) 203 0.7%
Whitehead (IND) 168 0.6%
Patten (SEX) 1822 6.6% 3.7%
Oke (GRN) 10072 36.4% 4.5% 48.6% 4.8%
Bengtsson (AC) 345 1.2%
TOTAL 27670
Booths counted 14 out of 14
Votes counted 61.6% of enrolled voters


Rechecking and a little over 400 more postal votes have nudged Labor’s lead up from 754 to 772. Here’s a piece I had in Crikey yesterday:

Notwithstanding the Greens’ unduly stubborn refusal to concede defeat, it is beyond doubt that Labor is over the line in the Melbourne byelection. Its candidate, Jennifer Kanis, holds a 754-vote lead over Cathy Oke of the Greens, with only a few thousand votes outstanding and the tide of late counting running in Labor’s favour.

The result has surprised election watchers, national newspapers and, most memorably, Sportsbet, which went a step too far with its regular publicity stunt of paying out on sure-thing election results before the actual event.

As is often the case in byelections, there are enough intricacies in the result to allow interested parties to craft narratives to suit, be they Christopher Pyne comparing Labor-versus-Greens apples with Labor-versus-Coalition oranges, or Adam Bandt claiming a slight rise in primary vote share meant the electorate had “gone green”.

My own take on the result is that the Greens fell victim to an unexpectedly strong determination of Liberal supporters to deprive them of their votes.

One recourse was absenteeism, which saw turnout slump from 86.9% at the 2010 general election to no more than 67%. Another was informal voting, the rate of which shot up from 3.8% to 8.7%. Given the intensity of media interest, and the electorate’s high levels of educational attainment and civic engagement, these are remarkable figures.

Clearly some Liberal supporters managed to struggle their way through the ballot paper, but few seem to have given their support directly to the Greens, who have actually polled about 750 votes fewer than at the state election. That they were able to increase their overall share probably has more to do with relatively high turnout among their supporters than votes shifting in their favour.

Liberal votes instead scattered among the crowded field of minor candidates, of whom the best performers were Fiona Patten of the Australian S-x Party (6.6%), Stephen Mayne (4.7%), conservative independent David Nolte (4.7%) and the three Christian parties (6% combined), all of whom showed at least some tendency to poll most strongly where the Liberal vote had been highest in the past. Reflecting the pattern of Liberal preferences when they were directed against the Greens in 2010, these votes (which would have included a share of left-leaning supporters of Patten and Mayne) flowed about 60-40 to Labor.

Past state byelections had given the Greens cause to expect better. When the Liberals sat out the Marrickville byelection in inner-city Sydney in 2005, the Greens vote shot up 10.5%. In the Western Australian seat of Fremantle in 2009, Adele Carles claimed the seat for the Greens in the absence of a Liberal candidate by adding 16.5% to the party’s primary vote — and turnout actually increased.

That things were so different in Melbourne may well suggest that conservative voters are feeling more hostile to the Greens than they were a few years ago.

The result also fits a pattern of the Greens underperforming at state level in Victoria relative to federally. When Bandt won the federal seat of Melbourne in 2010, he polled 37.6% in the booths covered by the state electorate. This was almost exactly what Oke polled on Saturday, when the Liberals’ 28% share of the vote was up for grabs, and well above the 31.9% they polled at the 2010 state election. While this may partly reflect the fact that the hot-button issues for the Greens are most salient at federal level, it could equally be a reflection on a state parliamentary party that lacks a strong media performer.

As for Labor, while it can’t take too much joy at having dropped 3000 votes from the general election, it has room certainly for relief and perhaps even a flicker of satisfaction. Its primary vote has fallen 2.4%, which is about what pseph blogger Poliquant calculates as par for the course at byelections where the Liberals don’t field a candidate.

It is also clear that the 4.2% vote for independent Berhan Ahmed came largely at Labor’s expense, having been concentrated in a small number of booths where the Labor vote was correspondingly down (Stephen Mayne relates that Labor received about 80% of his preferences).

Certainly there are bad signs for Labor in the result as well, but they are nothing it didn’t already know about: that half its primary vote in Melbourne has vanished over the past decade, and that it is  becoming increasingly reliant on preferences in stitching victories together. However, it has equally been reminded that such victories can indeed be achieved, and that however calamitous things might be for it in Queensland and New South Wales, in Victoria the ship remains more or less afloat.


Apologies for the Crikey-wide outage that appeared to kick in at about 11.30 last night. The VEC has announced on Twitter there are only 1000 postal votes to come, although it would surprise me if the current count of 3728 pre-poll votes were the final story, given there were 6268 of them in 2010. However, even if there are a few thousand votes still outstanding, they will offer the Greens no prospect of overcoming a 754-vote Labor lead that will widen further with the addition of the remaining postals.

I have reset the above table so it just shows raw results, in doing so removing what was projected as a 0.5% lead to the Greens. This reflected a 6.7% swing to the Greens on booth votes, compared with an overall margin of 6.2% from 2010. The projection went on to be buried by the addition of 3000 postal votes, which the VEC unusually decided to get stuck into on election night (together with 3728 pre-polls, which behaved more in line with the polling booth votes and thus made little difference to the overall picture). The postals split 59.6-40.4 Labor’s way, and while this actually represented a swing to the Greens of 1.6% compared with postals in 2010, the effect was to drag the overall swing below 5%. Another factor was that the Greens did extremely well on absent votes in 2010, which by-elections don’t have.

Labor’s win has come as a surprise to me, and I know I’m not alone in pseph-dom in this count. I had expected to see a pattern similar to that in the 2009 by-election for Fremantle, which had supported Labor, Liberal and the Greens in similar proportions to Melbourne in the past, and where homeless Liberals appeared to fall in behind Labor’s rival by way of taking a kick at the main enemy. Besides the result, the most radical difference between the two elections was turnout. Very unusually for a by-election, turnout in Fremantle (which I am measuring in terms of formal votes cast) actually increased, from 79.6% to 83.5%. Even on a favourable projection, turnout in Melbourne appears to have slumped from 83.7% to around 63%, a result interestingly similar to the South Brisbane by-election held a few months ago to replace Anna Bligh.

This makes it instructive to consider the election in terms of raw numbers of votes rather than percentages. There are roughly 45,000 voters on the Melbourne electoral roll, of whom about 7500 can be expected not to vote at a general election. Normally this could be expected to increase at a by-election to around 11,000, but this time it shot up to 15,000. No doubt Liberal voters were over-represented here, and its tempting to contemplate how different things might have been if the Greens had chosen a candidate as attractive to Liberal supporters as Adele Carles proved to be in Fremantle. However, it should not be assumed that the collapse in turnout can be entirely understood in terms of Liberals sitting it out, as there were also 3000 fewer votes for Labor as well as 750 fewer for the Greens.

Liberal voters made their impact felt in a a 7500-vote increase for “others”, most of which was garnered by (religious) conservatives and liberals. The latter were particularly prevalent around the CBD, where the Liberals have a considerable constituency. The standout example was David Nolte, who polled around 10% in Docklands and East Melbourne and also at the university end of Carlton, but very weakly elsewhere. Another independent with strong localised support was African community leader Berhan Ahmed, who polled 15.9% in Hotham Hill, 10.5% in Carlton and 10.1% in Flemington, but only 4.2% overall. There was a corresponding drop in the Labor primary vote in these booths. The other minor candidates to recover their deposits will be Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party, who is on 6.6% overall and reached double figures in and around the CBD, and Stephen Mayne, who failed to crack 5% but has a notable base of support in East Melbourne (11.3%).


11.22pm. While I’ve had my eye off the ball, the VEC has caught me off guard by adding huge numbers of postal (3066) and pre-poll (3975) votes, the former of which have, as far as I’m concerned, decided the result for Labor. Labor has received 1702 postals to just 1156 for the Greens, a split of 59.5-40.5: 1702 (59.5%) to 1156 (40.5%). Pre-polls have slightly favoured the Greens, 1914 (51.3%) to 1814 (48.7%), but the overall result is an unassailable lead 754-vote (1.4%) to Labor.

8.49pm. Examination of the results from 2010 shows up a very telling point: the Greens did exceptionally well on absent votes, scoring 54.4% on 2PP. However, absent votes are those cast in polling booths outside the electorate – which is to say that they don’t exist at by-elections, because there are no polling booths outside the electorate. That would seem to suggest that my projection is flattering to the Greens.

To those who are confused by all this – and in particular by the disparity between my figures and the VEC’s – what I have done here is calculated the swing on the booth results, which are all we have at the moment, and that swing is 6.6%. Labor scored 57.4% on booth votes in 2010, and 50.7% today. After other votes were added in 2010, Labor’s vote came down to 55.8% – so on that basis, a 6.6% swing would suggest they are headed for a narrow defeat. But as just noted, the reason they came down was that the Greens did so well on absent votes. The non-existence of such votes at this by-election puts a rather different complexion on things.

8.45pm. Flemington 2PP added, so the projection is final for the night.

9.35pm. With all but one booth now in on 2PP, my projection now leans a little further to the Greens. BUT … at this point, that matters less than what the dynamic of pre-polls and postals is going to be. There could be any number of reasons why they might be a little more favourable to Labor (in relative terms) than they were at the state election, and that’s all it would take. I’ll have a think about that and get back to you, but with the negligible exception of the one outstanding 2PP result, my projection has achieved all it’s going to achieve this evening, which is to say that it’s too close to call.

9.29pm. Still awating Docklands, Flemington, Melbourne and South Kensington on 2PP, remembering that all this is likely to do is nudge the preference share slightly in one direction or the other.

9.27pm. Final primary vote result in (Flemington), and it tips the Greens into the lead on my projection.

9.15pm. The addition of eight 2PP results in one hit didn’t change the complexion of things any: Labor’s share of minor preferences changed from 60% to 61%.

9.14pm. I’m back. We’ve now got 10 of 14 booths on 2PP and 13 of 14 on primary (Flemington the holdout), and it’s as close as close can be.

9.07pm. South Kensington and Melbourne have reported, but my spreadsheet’s crashed. With you in a minute or two …

9.00pm. Half-hourly results dump any moment now …

8.50pm. I’d say the VEC site is providing half-hourly updates, and we’ll get another blurt of results in about 10 minutes.

8.45pm. At North Melbourne booth, Stephen Mayne reports Labor got 32.5% of his own preferences, 92% of Nolte’s and 57% of the Sex Party’s.

8.38pm. Still to come: Flemington, Melbourne and South Kensington, and 11 of the 14 booths’ two-party counts.

8.37pm. Carlton Central and East Melbourne primaries added, and my projection is staying lineball.

8.31pm. The VEC has published 2PP results from three booths, which suggest my preference splits were exactly right after I made the adjustment just noted to Sex Party preferences.

8.28pm. After half an hour of silence, the VEC has just unloaded seven booths in one hit. Poor effort. My figures now align what ALP sources just told James Campbell. On intelligence from Stephen Mayne, I’ve adjusted Sex Party preferences from 70-30 to Labor to 50-50.

8.23pm. So the ALP has results from seven booths, but the rest of us only have two.

8.20pm. Sunday Herald Sun reporter James Campbell tweets: “ALP sources say vote it will come down to preferences but with almost half the booths reporting 1st preferences they are behind.”

8.17pm. Stephen Mayne reports East Melbourne booth primaries are ALP 466, Greens 436, Mayne 175, Sex 151, Nolte 144 – which suggests to me little or no swing, which would be an excellent result for Labor.

8.10pm. That RMIT booth has apparently gone 55-45 to Greens, which suggests a swing of about 7-8% – further encouraging the idea that it’s going to be close.

8.04pm. So in a nutshell, the Greens’ raw primary vote lead gets closed on my 2PP projection because a) the better performing minor candidates are preferencing Labor, and b) these two booths collectively were relatively strong for the Greens in 2010.

7.58pm. Twitter reports “catering situation at ALP HQ has improved”.

7.56pm. Keep in mind also I’m assuming 70% of those voting for minor candidates favour the party favoured on the how to vote card. The better performing candidates are tending to be those favouring Labor. If they show more (or less) independence than I’m presuming, the projection could be off.

7.47pm. Very similar swings in booth booths. Labor basically steady on primary vote, Greens up 6% and 4% respectively. Both booths broadly representative of the electorate as a whole as well, North Melbourne East a little above average for the Greens (remembering that the swing calculations take that into account).

7.45pm. North Melbourne East and Parkville booths added, and my word it looks tight …

7.40pm. Slowest count ever.

7.24pm. Conversely, more Twitter talk is of lineball results in Carlton, which is the Greens’ best area. Some actual results would be helpful …

7.21pm. Twitter talk is of 3% swing away from Labor and 7% to Greens – assuming this is off the primary vote, it points to a Greens win in the 55-45 vicinity.

7.13pm. Word on Twitter is that the Greens won the RMIT booth with 489 votes to Labor’s 300, which would be more than encouraging for them if so.

6.47pm. The fact that there are 16 candidates on the ballot paper might cause the count to be a little slower than usual.

6.25pm. Some further technical detail while you wait. Until booths begin reporting two-party preferred results, preferences will be distributed on the basis of 70-30 splits according to their how-to-vote cards, or 50-50 where no recommendation was made. When two-party booth results become available, the preference splits from booths which have reported two-party results will be projected on to the ones that haven’t.

6pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the eagerly awaited Melbourne by-election count. Polls have closed, and the first results should be in in around three quarters of an hour. The table above will be display both raw and projected figures as the 14 booths progressively report. The first two columns will provide raw primary votes and percentages. The third “swing” column will show the primary vote swing for those parties which contested both this election and the 2010 election (Labor, Greens and Australian Sex Party), calculated by comparing the booths which have reported with the same booths at the election (which required some tinkering in one or two cases where booths have moved or are not being used). The two-party preferred swing will do the same. The latter will be compared against the total result from the 2010 election to project the outcome shown in the “2PP (projected)” column.

Melbourne (state) by-election: July 21

NOTE: With less than a week to go until polling day, I have changed the time stamp on this post to return it to the top of the page.

Wednesday, July 18

John Ferguson of The Australian reports the ReachTEL poll mentioned in the previous entry produced the following results on the primary vote, with minor candidate preferences said to be evenly divided between Labor and the Greens:

Cathy Oke (Greens): 38.1%
Jennifer Kanis (Labor): 36.5%
Fiona Patten (Australian Sex Party): 6.1%
Stephen Mayne (Independent): 4.3%
Ashley Fenn (Family First): 3.8%
Others: 11.2%

The sample on the poll was 400, resulting in a margin of error approaching 5%. However, we are also told that 25% of those who voted Liberal in 2010 were backing Stephen Mayne and 17% were backing Family First, which raises a difficulty: given the Liberals polled 28% at the election, it should lead us to expect at least 7% for Mayne and 5% for Family First. (UPDATE: Nick Adams from ReachTEL responds in comments. In fairness to them, recollections of past voting behaviour are notoriously unreliable.) The poll also reported that 70% would be influenced one way or the other by the performance of the federal government, and that 50% expressed opposition to the Baillieu government’s East West Road Tunnel project against 28.3% who supported it.

Tuesday, July 17

George Hasanakos at Poliquant offers a very handy analysis of the by-election, including a table laying out the various candidates’ preference recommendations, present or former party affiliations, and, where applicable, shares of the lower and upper house vote at the 2010 election. The post further evaluates past by-elections where the Liberals did not field a candidate, federally and across all mainland states, going back as far as 2005. It finds that on average the Labor primary vote fell slightly while the Greens went up 7.4%, with other candidates taking up the 20.9% balance. Projecting that on to the 2010 results for Melbourne points to a lineball result: assuming minor candidates’ preferences will flow 70-30 in favour of the preferred party on their how-to-vote card, results range from 52-48 in favour of the Greens to 53-47 in favour of Labor, depending on how votes spread among minor candidates of the left and right.

However, this strikes me as being at the high end for Labor, as it assumes the Greens’ yield from a Liberal absence to be unrelated to its base level of support in the relevant electorate. In fact, experience indicates the Greens tend to stay becalmed in by-elections held in Labor’s low-income heartland, whereas they mount strong challenges in seats behind the proverbial latte curtain. This is borne out if the results from the 11 relevant by-elections are charted to show the relationship between the Greens vote at the previous election (the x-axis) and the swing to them at the by-election (the y-axis).

This shows a statistically significant relationship (though statisticians would no doubt quibble that there are too few observations) in which every percentage point of existing support for the Greens is worth about half a point of swing to them at a Liberal-free by-election. On that basis, a “par for the course” primary vote result for the Greens would be in the mid-forties (as it was in the by-election for Fremantle which I keep going on about, which is represented as the top right data point on the scatterplot), rather than the 38% calculated by Poliquant. Like Poliquant, I should stress that this is intended to illustrate what result might be considered “par for the course”, rather than an actual prediction.

For that, we are better served by opinion polls. On that note, Andrew Crook of Crikey reports ReachTel conducted an automated phone poll of the electorate last night, to be published in an undisclosed newspaper over the next few days – remembering that ReachTel’s last by-election poll, for South Brisbane, had a small sample and overstated the Labor vote. Josh Gordon of The Age further reports that a poll conducted, for some reason, by the Liberal Party in late May suggested a very close race: the Greens had 40% of the primary vote compared with 39% for Labor, with 21% for others or undecided. It is interesting to note that whereas supposed Labor polling suggested Julia Gillard was an encumbrance for them, supposed Liberal polling found her to be very popular in the electorate. Daniel Andrews on the other hand was said to be recognised as Labor leader by only two-thirds of respondents.

Sunday, July 15

The by-election campaign having been sucked into the vortex of national politics, Canberra press gallery journalists have been having their overheated way with its federal implications. Geoff Kitney of the Australian Financial Review writes: “The idea that the toxic unpopularity of the Gillard government has seeped so deeply into the Labor brand that it could lead to the loss of an iconic state seat to the Greens will add urgency to debate about Gillard’s leadership and about the challenge Labor faces from the Greens.” Similar themes were pursued by Michelle Grattan in The Age under a piece headlined, “A byelection defeat will cause shock waves in Canberra”.

Certainly the loss of a seat which has been in Labor hands since 1908 (outside of an interruption during the 1955 split) would be a significant electoral milestone. However, as the Greens came within 2.0% in both 2002 and 2006 before being poleaxed by Liberal preferences in 2010, the suggestion that a win this time should in and of itself cause “shock waves” is pure hyperbole. As I noted at the start of proceedings, this by-election has a lot in common with that in Fremantle in May 2009, in that it confronts a state ALP still recovering from an unexpected election defeat with a struggle to retain a once-safe seat where the rise of the Greens has changed the game. The results at the preceding general elections were very similar in both cases: in Fremantle, 38.7% for Labor, 30.2% for Liberal and 27.6% for the Greens; in Melbourne, 35.7%, 28.0% and 31.9%. Then as now, the decisive factor was how homeless Liberal voters would divide between Greens and Labor. In the case of Fremantle, the split was sufficiently in the Greens’ favour to deliver them a 4.0% win after preferences – with nary a word from anyone about implications for a federal Labor government which enjoyed towering opinion poll leads at the time.

Weeks before elements of the ALP launched their rhetorical offensive against the Greens at federal level, a small-sample Morgan poll of Melbourne voters found the Greens headed for a very similar result to the one they enjoyed in Fremantle, which has been consistently reflected in the betting markets. It therefore seems a bit rich for Michelle Grattan to crash the party at this late stage with claims a Greens win would amount to “an existential moment for the deeply depressed federal Labor Party” – something which is being served up on a weekly basis by the polls in any case.

Continue reading “Melbourne (state) by-election: July 21”

Niddrie by-election

UPDATE (6.07pm). With two booths counted, Ben Carroll is travelling nicely on 52.2 per cent, with the Sex Party (9.4 per cent) leading the Greens (8.6 per cent) for second place.

The Queensland election is not the only electoral game in town tomorrow: voters in the north-western Melbourne suburbs seat of Niddrie, which covers suburbs south of the airport from Niddrie itself west to Keilor and south to Avondale Heights, go to the polls to choose a successor to former Deputy Premier Rob Hulls. The Liberals, rather weakly, have opted to sit this one out despite Labor’s solid but by no means overwhelming margin of 6.9 per cent. There is nonetheless a large field of nine candidates, but there is little reason to suspect Labor’s Ben Carroll has much to worry about. A former adviser to Stephen Conroy and earlier to Steve Bracks, Carroll won preselection ahead of Jaclyn Symes, a former electorate officer to Hulls, and solicitor Sebastian “Sam” Agricola. Carroll in fact came third in the local branch with 35 votes to 46 for Agricola and 43 for Symes, with Moonee Valley councillor John Sipek on nine. Agricola, who according to an entry in Crikey’s not-always-reliable “tips and rumours” section is not a member of Labor Unity and hence never had a serious chance in the factional bailiwick of Niddrie, then withdrew before the party’s Public Office Selection Committee added its 50 per cent share of the vote. Labor Unity was split over which of Carroll and Symes to support, with Conroy and Bracks supporting their former employee but John Brumby and Rob Hulls backing Symes. However, John Ferguson of The Australian reported that the factional vote produced a strong 20-4 victory for Carroll, ensuring him an easy victory when the votes from the POSC ballot were added. The Moonee Valley Weekly reports Symes might be a prospect to replace Justin Madden in Essendon, should the eventuality emerge.

The candidates in ballot paper order are Gerrit Hendrik Schorel-Hlavka (Independent), Ben Carroll (Labor), Andrea Surace (Independent), David Hugh Linaker (Independent), Josie Lester (Greens), Michael Deverala (DLP), Amy Myers (Sex Party), Jim Little (Independent) and Frank Papafotiou (Independent).

By-elections: Port Adelaide, Ramsay, Niddrie

I’ve been a bit lax on the by-election coverage front lately, so here’s a post for discussion of the forthcoming events, including tomorrow’s two South Australian by-elections which will as always be covered live on Poll Bludger tomorrow evening. All three are for safe (or reasonably safe) Labor seats and none will be contested by the Liberals.

• Two by-elections will be held in South Australia tomorrow, to fill the vacancies created by the retirements of former Premier Mike Rann and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley. The more interesting contest is for Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide, where Labor has a weaker primary vote (49.9 per cent in 2010) and faces some reasonably solid opposition from independents. A poll of 402 respondents in The Advertiser last week had Labor candidate Susan Close on 44 per cent, independent Liberal Sue Lawrie on 18 per cent, independent and Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson on 14 per cent and the Greens on 12 per cent. There are nine candidates in the field all told.

• The by-election for Ramsay, where Rann polled 57.9 per cent in 2010, is unlikely to present any trouble for Labor candidate Zoe Bettinson, who faces six other candidates.

• Another former Deputy Premier, this time Rob Hulls in Victoria, is also headed for the departure lounge, citing a health scare late last year. The by-election will be held on March 24. Most frequently mentioned in relation to Labor preselection have been Ben Carroll, a ministerial staffer; John Sipek, an aircraft maintenance engineer; and Jaclyn Symes, a former staffer to Hulls. VexNews respectively describes the first two as “highly regarded” and “popular”, which I take to mean they’re from Labor Unity; the latter like Hulls is presumably from the Socialist Left (UPDATE: Shows you how much I know – Hulls is from Labor Unity too, as is Symes. The Moonee Valley Leader notes factional arrangements will ensure the seat stays with Labor Unity.) The Age also mentions Hawker Britton lobbyist Danny Pearson. Despite the government’s one-seat majority and a reasonably modest Labor margin in the seat of 6.9 per cent, the Liberals announced this week they will not be fielding a candidate, prompting a slew of negative headlines.

Broadmeadows by-election live

Frank McGuire (ALP) 10516 51.0% -11.8% 10215 74.4%
Graham Dawson (GRN) 1227 5.9% -1.4% 3523 25.6%
Mark Hobart (DLP) 1180 5.7%
Merinda Davis (SEX) 1139 5.5%
Celal Sahin (IND) 4758 23.1%
Other Independents 1804 8.7%
Total 20624 13738
Informal 2216 9.7%
Counted (% of enrolled) 54.7% 36.4%
Booths counted (out of 13) 13 10

8.24pm. He also notes that Sahin ran McGuire close in Meadow Heights: 40 per cent to 37 per cent.

8.23pm. Antony Green reckons final turnout will be 76 per cent, which isn’t that unusual.

8.22pm. Meadow Heights added, so all the polling booths are in. Pre-polls and some of the postals will also be added this evening.

8.12pm. Roxburgh Homestead and Campbellfield added; only Meadow Heights to come.

8.01pm. Three booths added on meaningless Labor-versus-Greens two-party count.

8.00pm. Antony Green projects 67.1 per cent versus 31.9 per cent result for Labor versus Sahin on the final count.

7.58pm. GhostWhoVotes notes Sahin won the Upfield booth with 49.5 per cent primary vote.

7.56pm. Hume Central and Upfield booths added. By popular demand, Celal Sahin’s vote is now recorded separately in table. Psephos in comments notes Sahin has obviously harnessed the support of the electorate’s considerable Turkish community.

7.46pm. Independent Celal Sahin is easily the best performing non-Labor candidate on 17.8 per cent, and will finish far ahead of the Greens who are neck and neck with two other independents for third. So the notional two-party figures are purely a measure of the relative support for Labor and the Greens, not how the result will look after final distribution of preferences.

7.44pm. Lineball as to whether the Greens vote will be up and down. Not too big a shock: they also went nowhere in the Altona by-election.

7.43pm. Bethal, Broadmeadows North and Roxburgh Park primary vote results confirm the general trend, although the informal vote is back down to single figures.

7.41pm. I’ve added a row for the informal vote to my table, which is a very high 10.7 per cent from the five booths counted.

7.38pm. Two-party results from Glenroy East and Gowrie Park added, showing Labor with a thumping 81.8-18.2 lead over the Greens – but it’s by no means clear the Greens will in fact finish second, so this is as much a measure of their weak show as anything.

7.36pm. Broadmeadows, Coolaroo and Glenroy East booths added: Labor down quite sharply on the primary vote, further concerning for them with the informal vote is taken into account. Still a clear win on the primary vote however.

7.34pm. Antony Green points to high informal rate: 12.1 per cent.

7.30pm. Basically Labor took a big hit in their extremely strong Gowrie Park booth, but there was little change in weaker Glenroy North (which I have combined with the Glenroy booth, which is not in use at this by-election).

7.28pm. I’d made an error there on my swing calculations: Labor and the Greens are in fact both down, by 6.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively.

7.24pm. To cut a long story short, Frank McGuire has won. Both Labor and Greens are up slightly, but the Greens trail the Sex Party and two independents.

7.22pm. Glenroy North and Gowrie Park have reported: results added.

7.20pm. “Not the most exciting by-election count I’ve covered” – Antony Green.

7.16pm. That same someone reports the Greens vote is down in Glenroy North: from 11 per cent to 8.2 per cent.

7.13pm. Taking their time. Someone on Twitter reports: “Labor’s @Frank_McGuire wins on primary at Glenroy Nth”.

6pm. Polls have closed in the Broadmeadows by-election, which is basically an exercise to rubber-stamp the entry into parliament of Labor candidate Frank McGuire. First results should be in at about 6:45pm. The above table shows the raw primary vote and percentage; booth-adjusted primary vote swing results, which match the available booth results against the equivalent from the November state election; and a raw two-candidate preferred figure, which assumes the Greens will finish second.

Broadmeadows by-election: February 19

Friday, January 28

The Victorian Supreme Court has rejected the attempt to force a normal preselection process, clearing the path for Frank McGuire’s endorsement. The ABC reports Justice Tony Pagone “found that the internal party rules used as the basis for the unions’ case were not legally enforceable”, while VexNews says the applicants’ failure to pursue the matter through the party’s disputes resolution processes was a “big factor” in the decision. Andrew Crook of Crikey wrote yesterday that the challenge threatened the unintended consequence of a party investigation into local preselectors’ bona fides, which Yigit’s opponents claimed had the potential to expose a “ghost branch” of 200 members where “a mysterious anonymous benefactor services most of the membership fees”. Crook also reported that the local balance of power was finely poised between Yigit in central Broadmeadows and the Socialist Left around Craigieburn and Sunbury, where federal Calwell MP Maria Vamvakinou wields considerable influence.

Thursday, January 27

Evening. VexNews reports the Supreme Court is today hearing a challenge being pressed by HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson, who has engaged Minter Ellison to pursue a strategy that most likely involves seeking an injunction or application to conduct a local vote. Given that nominations for the by-election close on Monday, this would not allow time for local preselectors’ bona fides to be checked. The site tells an intriguing tale of the NUW/SDA bloc of the Right being desperate to remain on side with Burhan Yigit owing to his standing in the local Turkish community and consequent ability to deliver it votes at State Conference. VexNews appears to think a legal challenge more likely to succeed than I suggested in my previous entry, given the disconnect between “the rarefied air of the Practice Court of the Supreme Court” and the “real-world issues and problems” facing a functioning political party. However, it is suggested that the challenge might be a token effort to keep Yigit on side, given that it is being pursued so late in the game.

Morning. As reported by Richard Willingham of The Age yesterday, Labor’s administrative committee has voted 18 to 13 to fast-track Frank McGuire’s preselection by referring the matter to the national executive, while also waiving the usual requirement that candidates be party members of over a year’s standing. David Rood of The Age today reports that the elements who favoured Hume councillor Burhan Yigit, namely the SDA, NUW and HSU on the right and the CFMEU on the left, have threatened legal action to enforce the normal procedure in which preselections are jointly determined by local members and the Public Office Selection Committee. A case brought by former South Australian deputy leader Ralph Clarke in 1999 established the power of the courts to rule on internal party matters, but the effect of this was to overturn a crude branch-stacking operation: what the aforementioned unions appear to be hoping for is a highly prescriptive intervention into the way the party organises its affairs, which would not seem to be promising ground. McGuire’s backing comes from the Shorten-Conroy axis on the Right and the Socialist Left, the latter of which is identified as accusing Yigit of having “effectively killed local activism” through branch-stacking.

The Richard Willingham report also tells us that Gerrit Hendrik Schorel-Hlavka and Joseph Kaliniy have nominated as independents, while the Moreland Leader relates that hardy perennial Phil Cleary is considering once again throwing his hat into the ring.

Saturday, January 23

The by-election to replace outgoing former Victorian Premier John Brumby has been set for February 19. Labor’s state administrative committee will meet next week to select a candidate, having chosen to circumvent the normal process where the vote is jointly determined by local branches members and the party’s Public Office Selection Committee. This decision has presumably been taken to smooth the path for Frank McGuire, a property developer and former journalist best known as the brother of Eddie. Although he has not been a member of the party (and served a decade ago as a strategist for the Australian Democrats), McGuire has in his favour a lifelong family association with an electorate which – with all due respect to it – would count few likely ministerial contenders among its residents. Royce Millar of The Age reported that possible rivals with more current links to the area included Hume councillor Burhan Yigit, a member of the NUW/SDA sub-faction of the Right, and Mehmet Tillem, a convenor for the rival Bill Shorten-Stephen Conroy group. Also hoping for the latter’s support were Nathan Murphy, who lost his Northern Metropolitan upper house seat at the election, and Danny Pearson, a “former Bracks adviser turned lobbyist”. However, Millar also wrote that it was this group which first floated McGuire as a contender. More recently, but The Age’s Richard Willingham wrote that McGuire was “believed to be enjoying growing cross-factional support as the preferred candidate”. State party secretary Nick Reece was believed to have been Brumby’s choice, but he met resistance due to his lack of connection with the area.

The Liberals will not be fielding a candidate at the by-election, which even after a 10.8 per cent swing at the recent state election has a Labor margin of 21.0 per cent. It would thus appear that only the emergence of a strong independent candidate between now and the closure of nominations on February 1 offers the chance of a serious electoral contest. VexNews believes the Greens candidate is likely to be Graham Dawson, a City of Hume librarian who ran for the seat of Yuroke at the state election.

Altona by-election: February 13

Monday, February 8

The Sunday Herald Sun (report available at VexNews) reports that Labor internal polling conducted by Auspoll has Labor “bracing for a similar sized swing to the 2008 Kororoit by-election where its vote dropped by almost 17 per cent on a two-party preferred basis” – although this meaninglessly compares the Labor-versus-Liberal result in Kororoit at the 2006 election with the Labor-versus-independent result at the by-election. It has been widely noted that new developments around Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes will have brought an infusion of high-income new voters to the electorate.

Monday, February 1

Background on the candidates from Antony Green.

Friday, January 29

Ballot paper order here.

Thursday, January 28

The Age reports Jill Hennessy, “a 37-year-old lawyer who lives in West Footscray and sits on the board of Western Health”, has won formidable backing in her preselection bid from Steve Bracks, Joan Kirner, Lynne Kosky and Gellibrand MP Nicola Roxon. However, she appears to be facing a serious challenge from 24-year-old Hobsons Bay councillor Luba Grigorovitch, who is determinedly playing the true-local-versus-head-office-outsider card. VexNews reports Grigorovitch is a “rebel Left” candidate running in defiance of an arrangement which reserved the seat for the Right, and in doing so has won support from the NUW and SDA forces which had been frozen out in the Left-Right unity deal (CORRECTION: Andrew Crook points out in comments that I’ve got this wrong: both candidates are from the Left, for whom the seat is reserved). The issue will be decided by a vote split evenly between branch members and the state party’s Public Office Selection Committee.

UPDATE: The ABC reports Hennessy has won; much, much more from VexNews.

Monday, January 25

The Greens’ candidate is David Strangward, a management consultant from Altona North, who managed to get a soundbite on the Channel Ten news this evening. Comments thread chat informs us Margarita Windisch will run for the Socialist Alliance.

Friday, January 22

I am pleasantly surprised to discover, via VexNews, that the Liberals look set to turn the by-election into a two-party contest by endorsing Mark Rose, a Wyndham councillor and police officer who ran in Tarneit at the 2006 election. Meanwhile, The Age reports Labor Left figureheads wish to preselect former state party president Jill Hennessy, but she may face opposition from an as yet undetermined candidate sponsored by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, which last night announced it was walking out on the faction.

Thursday, January 21

The Age reports:

The contest for Labor preselection for the seat has already drawn a wide field, including the daughter of the late trade union leader John Halfpenny and a former Victorian Labor president. Party insiders say six women have expressed interest in nominating for the seat. Lori Faraone, a former ministerial adviser to Lynne Kosky, is believed to be the current front-runner, with strong support also for former ALP state president Jill Hennessy. Catherine Van Vliet, a research officer at Melbourne University, and Ingrid Stitt, an officer with the Australian Services Union, have also expressed interest. Other names in the mix are Luba Grigorovitch, a former electorate officer to Ms Kosky and current Hobsons Bay councillor, and Bronwyn Halfpenny, who works for the Victorian Trades Hall Council. The ALP administrative committee will meet on Thursday night to open nominations. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is yet to decide whether to contest the safe Labor seat, but insiders say there is a strong expectation among members that the party should run. The Greens are planning to pre-select a candidate this weekend.

Tuesday, January 19

Victorian Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky has announced she is quitting politics immediately, citing “significant” but unspecified health problems in her family. This will initiate a by-election in her safe western suburbs seat of Altona, which she won by a margin of 20.2 per cent in 2006. VexNews‘s sources relate that the government is keen to get the by-election out of the way as soon as possible, and that Kosky’s Socialist Left will determine her successor under the terms of the cross-factional unity deal – and will be meeting “as early as today” to decide who gets the nod.

UPDATE: Peter Young in comments relates that writs have been issued in what might be world record time, for a by-election on February 13.