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The election in numbers

By Ken Wolff

We know the Liberals lost 13 seats, or in other words Labor gained 13 seats, with one seat, Herbert, still in the balance at the time of writing (which Labor has since one by 8 votes). (Labor actually won 14 but gave one back which I will come to later). The Liberals claimed a win because they did at least manage to hang on to government, thanks to the Nationals, and Labor claimed success because of the number of seats it gained. But can either party really claim success? The numbers suggest not. The numbers also suggest that individual seats varied markedly and there was not anything like a uniform swing to Labor although swing there was overall.

This is only for the House of Representatives and the numbers I have used are not the final numbers but are from the count a day either side of 13 July, so further changes will be only fractions of a percentage and make little difference to my overall conclusions, although it is the Labor vote that is reducing percentage-wise as the postal votes are finalised. All the numbers are from, or derived from, the AEC’s Virtual Tally Room.

Overall Labor gained a swing of about 3.1% on the two party preferred (2PP) count but it gained only 1.4% on its first preference vote to about 35%.

The Liberals lost 3.4% on its first preference vote, receiving only 28.6% of first preferences, and the multiplicity of groups making up the National side of the Coalition, the Nationals themselves, the LNP in Queensland and the Country Liberals in the NT, remained static – the Nationals gaining 0.39% but the LNP losing 0.32% and the CL losing 0.07% (and their only seat) for no nett gain. The National side of the Coalition, however, accounted in total for about 32% of the Coalition’s first preference vote and its vote was also equal to about half of the Liberal first preference vote. They are now providing 31 of the Coalition’s 76 seats (or roughly 40%). So the Nationals’ argument for a greater say in the Coalition has merit.

The Nationals and the LNP each hold six very safe seats with a 2PP vote above 60%. Since the Nationals only hold 10 seats in their own right, that is a high proportion of very safe seats, whereas for the LNP in Queensland it is out of a total of 21 seats. The Liberals hold 20 such seats, for a Coalition total of 32 very safe seats. The ALP has 25 such seats, with 9 above 65% — the Liberals have 8 seats above 65%, the Nationals 3, and the LNP 2. Obviously such seats will rarely change hands unless there are major changes to the electoral boundaries or in the make-up of the population.

As is to be expected from the overall result the Coalition parties lost first preference votes in 114 seats – an overall average of -2.7% and a median of -3.7%. People may like to know that the worst result for the Liberals, -17.3%, was in the seat of Indi: even in the seat of Mayo, gained by the NXT, the loss was slightly lower at -16%. They also lost on the 2PP count in 119 seats (although in 12 seats it was less than 1%). So although the Coalition has just managed to achieve a majority government, the fact that it lost votes in almost 80% of electorates suggests it can hardly be taken as a ringing endorsement of the government or its policies.

Some of the swing to Labor was wasted in seats which it had no chance of winning or in its own safe seats. It gained 2PP swings of more than 3% in 12 seats in which the Coalition vote was above 55% (even after the swing). And it also gained swings above 3% in 29 of its own seats where its vote ended up above 55%. So in 41 seats, over a quarter of all seats in the House of Representatives, Labor’s gains did nothing to change the outcome in terms of seat numbers and it could be said to have been most successful in its own seats, basically winning back some of the Labor-leaning voters that it lost in 2013 – overall, Labor improved its first preference vote in 43 of its own seats and its 2PP in 49. (There were 10 seats in which Labor was not involved in the final two candidate battle, so Labor 2PP is not readily available for those seats).

Labor cannot be complacent about its vote. Although it gained overall it actually had a reduced first preference vote in 50 seats (11 less than 1%) but that reduced to a smaller 2PP vote in 20 seats (5 less than 1%). It lost first preference votes in 23 Liberal held seats, 5 LNP seats in Queensland, and 5 National seats (and in 4 seats won by minor parties or independents). It also had a reduced 2PP in 9 Liberal seats, 3 LNP seats and 1 National seat.

More worryingly, Labor lost first preference votes in 13 of its own seats, five in Victoria, one in NSW, two in Queensland, four in SA and one in WA – One Nation or NXT were involved in six of those seats which drew votes from both major parties. The Greens were present in every seat and received more than 10% of first preference votes in five of the seats in which Labor lost first preference votes but that is not an explanation because Labor also gained in many seats where the Greens vote exceeded 10%.

It managed to reduce that to losses in only five of its own seats on 2PP and one of those still remained above 55%. That is where the Green vote benefits Labor, in both Labor and Coalition seats, with about 80% of its preferences flowing to Labor. The Greens, however, are a Left-of-centre party, as is Labor, and it is surprising that as many as a fifth of Green voters direct their preferences to the Right. While there are explanations for that, it is an issue for Labor.

The Greens had a first preference vote above 15% in 17 seats but 11 of those were Labor seats and the Greens held one in their own right. Of the five Coalition seats three were safe for the Coalition, Labor gained one and failed to gain one in which it thought it had a chance (Corangamite in Victoria). So that level of support for the Greens, and preferences flowing to Labor, does not translate into Labor gaining a significant number of Coalition seats. The Greens tend to do better in Labor seats (obviously Left-leaning electorates) which is not beneficial in terms of achieving a Left-of-centre government.

At a state level, the NXT vote in SA had a major impact with Labor losing first preference votes in all but one of SA’s 11 seats – but increasing its 2PP vote in every seat. At the other end of the spectrum, it gained in four of the five Tasmanian seats and lost ground on its first preference and 2PP vote only against Andrew Wilkie in Denison.

In WA Labor lost first preference votes in four of the 16 electorates, including one of its own, but lost 2PP in only one, a very safe Liberal seat (above 65%).

In the larger states, Labor lost first preference votes in 11 of the 47 seats in NSW but lost 2PP in only four, each safe Coalition seats. On the other hand, NSW was also the state where Labor improved its first preference vote by more than 4% in 19 seats, including six that it won.

In Queensland Labor lost first preferences in seven of 30 seats and 2PP in four seats. It improved its first preference vote by more than 4% in only four seats, one of which it won (Longman).

Victoria was the state in which the Labor vote suffered most but that was off relatively high levels at the 2013 election, when it had 12 seats above 55% and 9 of those above 60% on 2PP. This year it lost first preference votes in 17 of the 37 seats including five of its own. That reduced to 2PP losses in 10 seats including four of its own but in two of those seats the loss was against a Green candidate. It did improve its first preference vote by more than 4% in seven seats but six of those were its own seats and the other a safe Liberal seat (61% of 2PP at the 2013 election and still slightly over 56% at this election) so had no impact on the election result.

Victoria was the state where Labor suffered its only loss – the seat of Chisolm from which Anna Burke retired at this election. Labor received 37.3% of the first preference ‘ordinary’ votes (at the ballot box) compared with the Liberal candidate’s 44.7%. The Greens received 12.1%. While the majority of the Green preferences would have flowed to Labor, putting Labor slightly ahead, the Liberal candidate also benefitted from preferences from the Family First Party (2.3% of ordinary votes) and Rise Up Australia (1.9%). The Liberal candidate, however, received 51.6% of about 13,000 postal vote first preferences compared to Labor’s 32.4% – on 2PP that translated to 58.1% of postal votes for the Liberals and only 41.9% for Labor. If Labor had held the seat it could have reached 70 seats in the House of Representatives and held the government to 75 (if Labor wins Herbert, or 69 and 76 respectively if it does not). There will no doubt be much soul-searching within the Labor party about this loss.

As Chisolm and Labor’s loss of first preference votes in a third of electorates indicates, there was much variation. Even where Labor did well, for example in NSW, its improved first preference vote varied from 0.7% to 13.9%. For such wide variations, it obviously becomes necessary to examine what was occurring in each seat, which is well beyond the scope of this article.

The other candidates in an electorate obviously have a significant influence, as with the role of NXT and One Nation in drawing votes away from the major parties. Local issues, like the CFA dispute in Victoria, can also have an influence, as does the perceived quality of the candidates. And it is of more than passing interest that Labor did well in the states that have a Liberal state government – NSW, Tasmania and WA.

So on the numbers it could be said that the election did not produce a clear winner. Although the Coalition scraped over the line, it lost votes in about 80% of electorates indicating the increased numbers who were rejecting the government and its policies. Labor, however, also achieved mixed results, losing votes in a third of seats and relying on third party preferences to improve its position. On that basis, both major parties have a lot of work to do to convince voters they deserve their vote.

What do you think?

Does the media pay too much attention to national trends when it appears elections are influenced just as much by local concerns and local candidates?

Were the minor parties and independents the real winners at the election?

Is a Left coalition of Labor and the Greens necessary to counter the coalition of the Right?


This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Rhona Eastment

    Of course what is not nearly emphasised enough is the role of main stream media in the last few elections, and especially what was OUR ABC, what is now the Coalition’s and Murdoch’s ABC.

    What chance did Labor have against the astonishingly blatant negative reporting of Labor, when Labor got any coverage, and the extreme electioneering of the ABC in their news, current affairs panel programs, in comments by presenters/journalists etc. I don’t watch commercial tv or listen to commercial radio, but I get snippets of these through Twitter.

    Something must be done about the biased reporting, especially with the ABC, and in articles such as this, mention should be made of the part the media has played in swaying the voting decisions of lazy voters, who by their numbers, influence just which party governs us.

  2. Wayne Turner

    Spot on Rhona – We sadly continue to be a mediaocracy.With the MSM owned by too few,and being the BIASED promotional wing of the LNP.

  3. Angry Old Man

    @Rhona Eastment

    Hear! Hear! I fear that the problem of lazy and Ill-informed voters will be as a millstone around our progressive necks for years to come.

  4. John Kelly

    While there will be much on the negative side to absorb from this result, it is perhaps more positive to look to the future. Labor requires only 8 additional seats to win the next election which, in all likelihood will take place around August 2018 (2years away).

    Bill Shorten has proved his credentials. The economy will worsen. Unemployment will be higher. Liberal party in-fighting will intensify. Malcolm Turnbull might be toppled or the speculation of it, will expose their dysfunction. The media will be compromised by their obsession for a juicy story over a softness for the Coalition.

    Labor, if they can stay clean, should be the beneficiary.

  5. Jack Russell

    The Coalition have this country in a choke hold. They’ve beavered away at our public institutions for decades to get themselves into a protected position and have just barely limped over the line, but they made it.

    Now we’ll see them drop all pretence of democracy as they shield themselves behind corrupted judicial, financial, media, corporate and law-enforcement systems while they further their agena of the the dismantling our social fabrics and the sellout of our citizens.

    This next term of government will certainly wake the sleepwalkers but how free and fair will the next election be? This one wasn’t free of interference.

  6. Alltherage

    Yep IMO its time for a Coalition of the progressive parties, to counter the regressive and exclusive agenda of the Coalition and ensure the next time, a progressive Government is formed. I do not think that Australia can afford 3 terms of the neo-cons.
    Labor is the reluctant bride in the scenario.
    What will it take to get it to the alter?

  7. Angry Old Man

    @John Kelly

    What an optimist you are. Good luck with that.

  8. Angry Old Man

    @Jack Russell

    Yes, comrade. You’re a realist, I see.

  9. Freethinker

    John Kelly I will light couple of candles for your prediction become a reality.
    I started to become an a pessimistic grumpy old man.
    IMHO Australian people have to suffer more for them to weak up and the ALP have to become more towards to the left to see positive changes for the lower income class and the middle that slowly disappear.

  10. Gangey1959

    100 % guys.
    ”Labor, if they can stay clean, should be the beneficiary.” John. Surely you jest.
    You don’t think that over the next 12 monts, if indeed that long, the above mentioned purple minions of lord voldemurdoch will not create some steaming pile of bullshit about the not lnp with which the citizenry will be side tracked.
    Personally, turdbott and his dickhead mates didn’t win, Shortarse’s team lost it. The reality was that Australia didn’t get enough real policy from billy. And he didn’t bash the libs whenever they gave him the chance. He should have used parakeelia to nail them to the wall, over and over, but he just sat quiet, and the MSM, including the ABC, did nothing except slag the not lnp off.
    Now we have another 3ish years of f*ckedness.

    @Alltherage. I agree. I don’t know why they haven’t thought of it themselves.

  11. Florence nee Fedup

    Seems parliament not sitting till 30/8. Then sitting for sitting for 6 weeks including 21/12 to 2/1. Senate sitting one week longer.

  12. MichaelW

    Mmm, my comment, for what it’s worth, and is probably a bit off topic.
    My prediction: Unemployment will increase to the worse levels since the great depression, once the car industries shut down the knock on effect will be devastating. As for ‘Jobs and Growth’ Lord spare me. Are these nutjobs for real?

    Jobs? Yep, there’s heaps of them, work in a cafe or restaurant on the weekend for $15.00 per hour cash in hand.
    Work in a shopping center (sorry, American spell checker, apparently we don’t have an Aussie one ) being paid a percentage of your sales working eight hours a day seven days a week on one of those stalls. No sales? No money for you…

    But hey, the coalition will fix everything , cuts to: Social services,dole bludgers, Legal centres, Aboriginal welfare, etc. etc. etc. But, the best cut of all to fix the Country and the economy will be a cut in tax for big business? Trickle, down on me, piddle, piddle.

  13. Kaye Lee

    As John points out, this government cannot run full term because we have to have a half senate election, and have it counted, in time for them to be sworn in by July 1 2019 which means the election will have to be between August 2018 and mid-May 2019.

    “Limiting his options are the Victorian election scheduled for November 2018, the NSW election scheduled in March 2019 and the 2019 budget, which is always held in mid-May.”

  14. cornlegend

    Essential Poll: ALP 51: LNP 49

    19th July 2016
    Labor need to stay out of the inevitable bun fights the LNP will inevitably end up in, stay clear of the cross bench as they muscle flex and jockey for positions that may give them an iota of relevance under Turnbull and be ready.
    The best Turnbull can hope for is about 2 years because of Senate ,as Kaye Lee mentions above .
    Bill and the ALP need to stay out of the limelight so any Media focus has to fall on Turnbull , the dogs dinner Senate and the cross benchers.
    Inevitably some Australians are going to get hurt, and these will be the ones least able to afford it.Already the diabetes test strip subsidy on BSL test strips from 1st July is but a first of many.
    Labor need to be positioned to take a lead with effective policies and responses, but not for a while yet.
    Let the voting public witness the LNP and crossbenchers in action, and realise just what they voted for and the consequences.
    Bill and Labor have plenty of time to step up, just not for a few months,

  15. Bighead1883

    cornlegendJuly 20, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Wise advice comrade and somehow I knew this would be a case of buyer regret>>Essential Poll: ALP 51: LNP 49

  16. cornlegend

    This is a perfect time for Bill to learn from the Rudd experience.
    Rudd saved the ordinary mortgage belt working class, no, the country for that matter from the GFC.
    Around the world Australia is looked at as the model and Rudd, Swanny, Wong and Ken Henry as bloody genius in what they did.
    Here in Aus, people don;t realise just what he saved them from.
    I have often had it said to me, overseas, that the thing Rudd did wrong was acting so swiftly.
    In pure political terms, their opinion is, had Rudd let us cop the early affect of the GFC them acted he would long be remebered in his own country for just what an effort his GFC plan was., but no one sampled the problem first hand so didn’t fully appreciate what Kev did,
    Here’s Bill chance.
    LNP madness. a coming global crisis, and LNP domestic policy about to hit, starting August 2016.
    Bill need to keep his powder dry, sit it out then act.

    Bill needs to learn from Kevin

  17. Freethinker

    cornwell, I agree with you about Swan measures but unfortunately grand part of the electorate does not understand economy and believe that Howard and Costello and the coalition for that matter are better in managing the economy than the “old Labor”
    Until the electorate is not educated about this we do not have a hope.
    What I hope is that Bill and his team do not change their mind and start agreeing with the government about some policies.
    He already opened his mouth about super instead of let the coalition revolt within.

  18. Bighead1883

    cornlegend July 20, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Well seeing the way he handled Abbott this may not be hard for him at all

    I believe a lot has been learned by Labor from the Rudd experience,good and bad

    Like any good formula,application is the key and I feel he has learned from Kevin

  19. cornlegend

    Let’s sit back and see

  20. Alltherage

    Paul Walter your calculations about what constitutes a majority in this case, differ.
    Total 150 seats.
    If Coalition win 76, then the others have 74.
    One Speaker out of the 76 leaves 75. The others still have 74.
    The Coalition has a one seat majority. No?

  21. Alltherage

    MichaelW re your comment on the type of work available.
    In The West Australian today, an article about a large increase in part time jobs for men, growing six times faster than overall employment.
    Explanation many taking up an offer of part time work instead of losing their jobs completely or because they cannot find a full time job.
    And still we are importing nearly two hundred thousand immigrants and tens of thousands of temporary workers per annum.
    The MSM failed to decode the “jobs and growth” slogan during the campaign – which it appears really means growth in part time jobs (until robots replace most workers)

  22. Alltherage

    Correction to my comment at 1.23pm ………. “differ from mine”.

  23. Freethinker

    Speaking about seats and polices to be pass this is interesting:
    Conservative Queensland MP George Christensen has warned he will defy the Coalition leadership and vote against aspects of the government’s “Labor-style” superannuation reforms if they do not change.
    “If the government’s superannuation policy does not change, I will be crossing the floor and voting against these measures.”

    Looks like that it is another battle between Malcolm and George, who will win? Who has the “mandate”?
    Malcolm said that the policies taken to the election are “ironclad”.

  24. king1394

    Postal vote applications should not be permitted to be sent out by political parties.
    And the Greens and ALP need to learn to play the Liberal and National Party’s game – Nationals do not compete against sitting Liberals and Liberals do not compete against sitting Nationals. Greens should stop competing for seats held by sitting ALP members. This would allow the Greens to work to unseat Liberals like Kelly O’Dwyer, with extra support from the ALP in such seats

  25. Matters Not

    Postal vote applications should not be permitted to be sent out by political parties.

    Why? Who cares which ‘party’ provides the ‘application’ form? And remember it’s only an application to the AEC.

    Here’s a thought, let’s ban Boy Scouts and or Girl Guides from helping ‘little old ladies’ across roads and only allow … to provide …

    Please explain. (Give me a break.)

  26. Ken Wolff

    Matters Not and king1394

    I tend to agree that postal votes should not be sent out by political parties partly because, as I understand it, the envelopes handed out by the Liberal party are returned first to the Liberal party which then passes them on to the AEC. That is the particular part of the process that I think is wrong. If political parties simply handed out the postal votes and then played no other role, allowing the voter to return the envelope to the AEC, it may be okay.

    king1394: In an ideal world, I agree that the Greens and Labor should have a Coalition-type arrangement not to contest seats held by the other. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen any time soon.

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