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.

Darling Range by-election live

Live coverage of the count for Western Australia’s Darling Range state by-election.

Final for Saturday. Some better results for Labor on pre-polls have brought the swing inside 10%. My own accounting of the results and swings can be found here.

8.24pm. Two booths are outstanding on the two-party vote, and with the writing well and truly on the wall, I won’t be waiting up for them. I’ve got the Liberal swing at 10.1%, which is a little down on where it was before, but still handsomely sufficient to account for the 5.8% margin. Other than Labor, the other losers are pollsters – ReachTEL was way off, and apparently there was a report this morning of Labor internal polling crediting Labor with 38% of the primary vote, which is 7% north of where they seem to have ended up.

7.57pm. All polling day booth results now in on the primary vote, Byford and Kwinana South doing nothing to disturb the overall picture. Still only eight booths in on two-party.

7.49pm. The biggest booth yet, Kelmscott Primary School, is round about par for the course.

7.47pm. Finally some two-party votes to play with: from seven booths, with an overall Liberal swing of 12.8%.

7.40pm. West Byford booth is consistent with the overall picture. We’ve also got a bunch of pre-polls and postals now, which are very slightly better for Labor than the polling booth votes.

7.34pm. Not sure where the numbers are, but Antony Green reports a 12.7% swing on two-party preferred from six booths counted out of 14, which is bigger than I’d figured.

7.27pm. Bedfordale and Mundijong booths maintain the overall picture of a double-digit drop in the Labor primary vote and only a slight improvement for the Liberals, with minor parties (not including One Nation and the Greens, who are static) soaking up the rest. The minor party vote is about evenly split between candidates of the left and the right, so presumably the primary vote will be a pretty good guide to the final outcome, and I’m projecting the Liberals will end up 4% in front (it’s 8% on the raw vote, but that’s because smaller rural booths have come in earlier than larger metropolitan ones). I’m not sure what’s going on with the two-party vote – I would certainly have expected to see quite a bit of it reported by now. There are four booths outstanding on the primary vote.

7.24pm. Roleystone Hall added, a slightly better result for Labor, but not enough to change the overall picture.

7.16pm. Mundaring Hall and Oakford are in, and Labor are still on track for a double-digit drop on the primary vote that could roughly be projected to give the Liberals a winning margin of maybe about 4%. Still no two-party results though, oddly.

7.12pm. Serpentine Primary and Picking Brook both in; the latter not bad for Labor, but the former has another double-digit swing on the primary vote and twice as big.

7.08pm. Big swing to Liberals at Marri Grove booth, so not looking good for Labor.

7.05pm. The non-major party vote is heavily right-of-centre, so Labor would want to be ahead on the primary vote, and I’m projecting that they won’t be.

7.04pm. Serpentine-Jarrahdale booth added, with nearly 1000 votes, and the primary swing vote against Labor is looking big enough now to be alarming for them. Still nothing on two-party preferred though.

6.59pm. I’m having trouble finding the error I thought I must be making, so it may just be a case of me and Antony doing things differently, and it generally being too early to tell.

6.53pm. It seems my projections are going awry, as Antony Green calculates a 7.6% primary vote swing to Liberal and minus 14.6% from Labor.

6.50pm. Another two smallish booths in: Armadale Primary and Bruno Gianetti Hall. Still looking close, but with a high combined non-major party vote, a lot will depend on preference flows we don’t know anything about yet.

6.42pm. Karragullen District Hall’s 234 votes in: Liberals up 3.3% on the primary vote, Labor down 7.2%. This suggests a very close result, but it is of course an extremely small booth.

6.32pm. I can’t quite get the formatting right, but my projections of the results can be found here. Unusually, we have 68 pre-poll votes in before anything else, which are impossible to booth-match. For what it’s worth, 28 of them are for Liberal and 19 for Labor.

6pm. Polls have closed. I will hopefully have tables presenting booth projected results by the time the first results are, which I’m guessing should be in about an hour, but I have a great many kinks to iron out before that can happen.

‘Twas the night before the Darling Range by-election

One last overview ahead of tomorrow’s Darling Range by-election in Western Australia.

Western Australia has its first state by-election involving both Labor and Liberal candidates tomorrow since the Peel by-election in 2007, at which, in a non-portent of things to come, the Labor government of Alan Carpenter picked up a rare pro-government swing. The circumstances this time around would not appear to be fortuitous for Labor, as the by-election was initiated by the resignation in disgrace of Barry Urban, who won the seat from Liberal incumbent Tony Simpson at the March 2017 state election by a margin of 5.8%, after a swing of 18.6%. This was the eighth highest swing of the election, making Darling Range the fourth safest seat lost to the Liberals and Nationals at the election.

Urban’s career unravelled last November when it emerged that a decoration he wore for police service overseas, which he originally claimed to have received for war crimes investigations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, had actually been bought online, and that two British universities he claimed had awarded him degrees had no record for him. He resigned from the ALP shortly after the story broke in November, and announced his resignation from parliament on May 7, a day before the parliament’s privileges committee was due to bring down a report on the matter. However, Labor’s troubles didn’t end there: a similar, though less severe, controversy would shortly engulf the candidate anointed by the party’s state executive as Urban’s successor: Colleen Yates, former chief executive of Regional Development Australia Perth. It shortly emerged that Yates had exaggerated her educational attainments on her LinkedIn profile, a misdemanour she could probably have glossed over under other circumstances, but fatal in the context of the by-election.

Labor promptly announced its new candidate would be Tania Lawrence, senior manager of global business integration at Woodside. The Liberal candidate is Alyssa Hayden, who held a Legislative Council seat in East Metropolitan region from 2008 to 2017, when she unexpectedly lost her seat to One Nation. Despite the seemingly ill portents for Labor, the one opinion poll of the campaign, from ReachTEL, credited Labor with a clear lead. My newly updated guide to the by-election can be viewed here.

ReachTEL: 54-46 to Labor in Darling Range

A week out from the McGowan government’s first electoral test in Western Australia, a new poll suggests Labor will do rather a lot better than they might have feared.

The West Australian had a ReachTEL poll yesterday of voting intention for next week’s state by-election in Darling Range, which Labor won by a 5.8% margin after an 18.9% swing at the state election last March, and which is now being vacated by Barry Urban after it emerged his CV had been littered with falsehoods. The result is remarkably strong for Labor, who hold a 54-46 lead on two-party preferred. The online report is a little vague on the primary vote, but it seems after exclusion of the 10% undecided that the primary vote for Labor candidate Tania Lawrence is little changed on the election result, while Liberal candidate Alyssa Hayden is up from 30.4% to around 34%. One Nation look to be around 10%, and the Greens on around 4%. More than half the respondents said Barry Urban’s resignation (and presumably also the first choice of Labor candidate, Colleen Yates, after it emerged she had exaggerated her educational attainments on her LinkedIn profile) would not affect their vote, with around a third saying they were less likely to vote Labor and 16% somehow registering that they were more likely to. The poll had 600 respondents; the field work data is not provided, but I’m assuming it was Thursday.

Darling Range by-election: June 23

A date is set and the main starters confirmed for the challenging by-election faced by Western Australia’s McGowan Labor government.

While we remain in suspense as to the timing of the federal by-elections, which appear likely to be held on either June 30 or July 7, we at least have a date for the Darling Range state by-election in Western Australia, for which a date of June 23 was confirmed on Friday. The major party candidates are now in place, with Labor last night endorsing Colleen Yates, former chief executive of Regional Development Australia Perth. The Liberal candidate is Alyssa Hayden, who held a Legislative Council seat in East Metropolitan region from 2008 to 2017, when she unexpectedly lost her seat to One Nation. Hayden reportedly had a narrow victory in the local preselection over Rob Coales, police sergeant and Serpentine-Jarrahdale councillor. Her backers included Christian Porter and Ken Wyatt, while Coales had the support of Tony Simpson, who held the seat for the Liberals until his defeat by outgoing Labor member Barry Urban last year. Nathan Hondros of Fairfax reports the party’s state council may have insisted on Hayden even if she lost the vote. The Poll Bludger’s guide to the by-election may be viewed here.

Darling Range by-election guide

Mark McGowan’s government faces its first serious by-election test as Barry Urban calls time in troubled tenure as member for Darling Range.

A difficult by-election looms for the Labor government in Western Australia in the seat of Darling Range, which was among the 20 seats it won as it swept to power in March last year. The outgoing member is Barry Urban, whose career unravelled last November when it emerged a decoration he wore for police service overseas, which he originally claimed to have received for war crimes investigations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, had actually been bought online, and that two British universities he claimed had awarded him degrees had no record for him. He resigned from the ALP shortly after the story broke, and has announced his intention to resign from parliament a day before the privileges committee brings down a report into the matter. I have posted a preliminary guide to the by-election, although there are no details to offer at this stage on the timing or who the candidates might be.

Monday miscellany

Passing observations on the Batman by-election, the Cottesloe by-election (look it up), and the state of the Senate after Section 44.

I don’t believe we’ll be getting any sort of a federal opinion poll this week, with Newspoll presumably holding off through South Australian election week to return before the resumption of parliament next week, and Essential Research having an off-week in their fortnightly schedule. You can find a post updating progress in late counting in South Australia here; other than that, for the sake of a new general post, I relate the following:

Ben Raue at The Tally Room has a very illuminating map showing the pattern of swings within Batman, showing a largely status quo result north of the Bell Street curtain, but a quite substantial swing to Labor in the presumed Greens stronghold area in the south. I’ll have more on the Batman by-election in today’s Crikey, if you’re a subscriber.

• Lost in the excitement, the weekend’s other by-election has entirely escaped mention on this site. It was held in the blue-ribbon Western Australian state seat of Cottesloe, to replace Colin Barnett. This produced the predicted walkover for Liberal candidate David Honey, an 59-year-old Alcoa executive and former state party president. Honey finished the night on 59.8% of the primary vote, and 70.2% on two-party preferred over the Greens. At the time of Barnett’s resignation in January, it was generally assumed the party could not let pass an opportunity to add a woman to a parliamentary ranks, but Honey nonetheless won a preselection vote by twenty to eight ahead of BHP Billiton lawyer Emma Roberts. The Liberals elected only two women out of thirteen to the lower house in 2017, along with one out of eight to the upper. At the 2013 election, the party’s lower house contingent included only four women out of thirty-one in the lower house, along with five out of seventen in the upper house, two of whom suffered preselection defeats going into last year’s election.

• A reallocation of Senators’ three-year and six-year terms has been conducted after the Section 44 disqualifications, affecting every state except Victoria. This involved allocating six-year terms to the first six elected candidates in the recounts conducted to fill the vacancies, and three-year terms going to those elected to positions seven through twelve, who will be facing re-election (almost certainly) at the next federal election.

There are two pieces of good news for the Liberals, who gain a long-term seat in New South Wales at the expense of the Nationals, and in Tasmania go from two long-term and two short-term seats to three and one. Fiona Nash’s long-term vacancy in New South Wales goes to Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, whose short-term vacancy has been filled by splashy newcomer Jim Molan. The vacancies in Tasmania, Stephen Perry of the Liberals and Jacqui Lambie of Jacqui Lambie, were both long-term, and have both gone to lower order Liberals, Bushby and Duniam. The one short-term Liberal position goes to Richard Colbeck, returning to parliament after his (provisional) defeat in 2016.

In Western Australia, the Greens order shuffles after Scott Ludlam’s departure with Rachel Siewert taking his long term, and Jordon Steele-John filling Siewert’s short-term vacancy. The loss of Skye Kakoschke-Moore in South Australia has cost the Nick Xenophon Team a seat because the successor to her short term, Tim Storer, has become estranged from the party since the election. It’s a similar story for One Nation in Queensland, where Malcolm Roberts’ short-term vacancy has been filled by the party’s number three candidate, Fraser Anning, who has eventually resolved to sit as an independent after a dispute with Pauline Hanson.

Vasse by-election live

Live coverage of Western Australia’s Vasse by-election, where the Nationals are vaguely hopeful of poaching Troy Buswell’s old seat from the Liberals.


The table below summarises the results for the Busselton booths, the non-Busselton booths, and the current total inclusive of postals and pre-polls with swings calculated off the final result from 2013.

Clearly Peter Gordon’s local recognition in Busselton stood him in very good stead, the increase in the Nationals’ vote being 10% higher than elsewhere. I don’t find it quite as easy to explain why the swing to the Greens was substantially larger outside Busselton – certainly not because of homeless Labor voters, there being quite a few more of them inside Busselton than out. The biggest swings to the Greens were in Dunsborough and Yallingup, which are chiefly notable for having a large number of surfers. So perhaps it reflects a hostile reaction to shark culling from those it presumes to protect. The Liberal vote also held up relatively well in these booths, with a smaller swing to the Nationals.

All told, the Liberal vote was entirely in line with what I’d been told during the week the party’s internal polling was saying. However, the Nationals did quite a bit better, and the Greens quite a bit worse. The Greens can and will point to the fact that their vote was up by 8%, but the absence of Labor means their 2013 result is not a realistic baseline. Their vote was below the 21.7% combined Labor and Greens vote from 2013, and they would have hoped for better than that. Of the other candidates, Rebels bikie identity did okay to score 4.4% (853 votes), and can draw some amusement from outpolling Australian Christians on 3.5% (680 votes), who had the advantage of the donkey vote. Teresa van Lieshout’s bikini-wearing wasn’t able to boost her any higher than 1.4% (265 votes).

Election night

9.37pm. Final 2PP for the night: Liberal 10,435 (53.45%), Nationals 9,088 (46.55%). The WAEC has published booth-level 2PP on its media feed but not its website, so Antony Green has those numbers and the WAEC site does not.

9.24pm. That tweet being, as you might have expected, a claim of victory. The pre-poll primary vote have been added to the WAEC site, and the 2PP will apparently show them breaking 56-44 to the Liberals. The final two-party preferred looks like it will be about 53-47.

9.15pm. 4750 pre-polls will shortly be added to the count, and indications are that they’re favourable to the Liberals. From the WA Liberal Party’s Twitter account: “With Vasse early in person votes counted, we will make an announcement shortly about the overall result of this by-election.”

7.58pm. The WAEC have blurted out a single two-party result in one hit, and it has the Liberals on 7855 (52.7%) and the Nationals on 7038 (47.3%). Which is closer than I was expecting at the start of proceedings, but no, as they say, cigar. Preferences split 67.3%-32.7% in favour of the Nationals, so I was right to think Warren-Blackwood wasn’t going to be much of a guide. We can still expect maybe 2000 pre-polls to come in this evening, and further postals over the coming days, but with the Liberal lead now established at 817 votes, the only issue is the size of the margin.

7.44pm. 1335 postals added, and the Liberals get 55.2% of them to 22.0% for the Nationals, which is obviously very good news for the Liberals. Now things start getting difficult in doing projections off the 2013 results, as there won’t be any absent votes and there were only 521 postal votes last time. So the raw primary votes are as good a guide as any, and they have the Liberals on 43.3%, which should be more than enough. But it would still be interesting to see some two-party results.

7.30pm. All booths now in. The last Busselton booth was very much like the earlier ones, so nothing I said in the previous entry seriously needs to be revised. Apparently we’ve still got some pre-polls and postals to come. More to the point, we still don’t have any two-party preferred results, apparently because the WAEC wanted to be sure who the top two candidates were before they proceeded. The preference flow is very much a wild card here, but it would have to be very strong indeed to give the Nationals a shot. They would also have to do well on pre-polls and postals. They’ve given it a good shake though, and defied Colin Barnett’s suggestion that the contest was in fact between the Liberals and the Greens.

7.23pm. Two big booths in from Busselton (quick count, BTW), and it’s now more interesting still. In Busselton itself, Liberal are down 19.4% and the Nationals are up 24.6%. My regionalised projection is 41.7% Liberal, 28.4% Nationals, 19.5% Greens. In neighbouring Warren-Blackwood last year, preferences only favoured the Nationals 54-46. If that’s any guide, the Liberals will still get home with a margin of 6%. However, my intuition is that the Nationals should do better than that.

7.15pm. Things have taken a turn for the interesting again with the first two Busselton results (if you count Vasse Primary School, which I do), together with Cowaramup. The Busselton booths have the Liberals down 18.2% and the Nationals up 23.9%. Based on a projection that gives appropriate weight to Busselton and non-Busselton results, I have the Liberals at 42.5%, the Nationals at 28.0% and the Greens at 19.4%. So the Nationals look set to clear the first hurdle of outpolling the Greens, although they would still have to do extremely well on preferences to be seriously in the hunt.

7.06pm. Yallingup and the two Dunsborough booths are now in, and while there’s still nothing from Busselton, I think we’re past the point that the Liberals are actually in danger. The booth-matched swing against them is about 7%, coming off a 2013 vote of 57%. The Nationals are up 14%, putting them on course for a bit over 21%, and the Greens are up 10%, suggesting they’ll get to about 20%.

6.59pm. Projecting booth swings on to the 2013 totals, I get 44.2% for the Liberals, 23.6% for the Nationals and 23.1% for the Greens — remembering that half the battle for the Nationals is to finish ahead of the Greens. However, it must also be remembered that we don’t have anything in yet from Busselton, and you would not intuitively expect the swings away from the Liberals to be of the size we’ve been getting from the rural booths, notwithstanding the size of Troy Buswell’s personal vote there.

6.57pm. Yallingup supports the trend of the huge swing being rurally specific: here the Nationals are up 11.6% and the Liberals down 6.1%. A great result here for the Greens, up 36.3%. Their overall swing on ordinary polling booths is 15.3% (UPDATE: Belated correction – those were their total votes, not their swings, which were actually 10.3% in Yallingup and 11.3% overall)

6.47pm. At Rosa Brook Hall, the Liberals and Nationals are both up by 9%, whereas the other three booths have the Liberals down by between 15.4% and 26.5%. So we may be seeing a big shift to the Nationals that’s specific to the more agricultural areas of the electorate.

6.45pm. Another two small booths, rural Carbunup and Rosa Brooks Hall just north of Margaret River, have slightly modified the situation, but in the ordinary polling booths so far there’s a 20.5% swing to the Nationals and a 21.3% swing away from the Liberals. If that’s maintained, it will be very close. But Busselton might well behave differently.

6.38pm. Very similar story at the similar booth of Yoorangillup Hall.

6.36pm. The first ordinary booth result is from rural Acton Park Hall, and while it’s only 249 votes, it’s very interesting: the Nationals vote is up from 6.1% to 35.3%, and the Liberals are down from 75.4% to 51.0%. If those swings are in any way reflected in Busselton, we’ll have a contest.

6.24pm. 118 Special Institutions and Hospitals votes are in. These were unusually strong for Labor at the election, so Liberals, Nationals and Greens are all up. However, the Liberals are up most of all, by 14.1%, which would be very encouraging for them.

6pm. Polls have closed, and since a few of the booths are of a small and rural nature, we would should get our first results in reasonably shortly.