Australia Elections Federal

WA Federal Redistribution Prospects using Updated Enrolment Data

Last October, eagle eyed observers spotted that there was something wrong with enrolment projection data released by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The data had been released as base data for redistributions in Victoria and Western Australia. Data for the NSW redistribution was not affected.

The same enrolment growth rate had been applied across both states down to local statistical area level. This was a ridiculous assumption. It turned out the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had provided the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) with the wrong data.

In the last few days the has AEC released corrected enrolment projections with growth rates that vary across both states. This post examines how this new data will influence the redistribution in Western Australia. A second post, hopefully tomorrow, will run through a similar analysis for Victoria.

In a previous post I explained why the seat numbers by state are changing. Another post, now superseded by the post you are reading, looked at boundary change implications from last October’s initial release of incorrect enrolment projections.

What doesn’t change is that Western Australia is gaining a seat in the current redistribution, restoring the 16th seat removed three years ago. Population trends mean the new seat will be created in a different part of Perth than the previously abolished seat of Stirling.

In short, the projected enrolment data makes even clearer that WA’s new seat will be created in Perth’s east. The other 12 Perth seats will shuffle west towards the Indian Ocean. Current enrolment data, and last October’s incorrect projected enrolments, indicated that a Perth seat would need to cross the metropolitan boundary. The new projections remove this prospect meaning the redistribution will be largely confined to metropolitan Perth.Read More »WA Federal Redistribution Prospects using Updated Enrolment Data

Background on Federal By-election Swings

Federal politics will soon kick into gear for 2024 with campaigning for the Dunkley by-election, likely to be held in late February or early March.

The by-election has been caused by the sad death of former Labor MP Peta Murphy, who succumbed to breast cancer at the end of 2023. It will be the third by-election since the election of the Albanese government in May 2022.

You can find more on the seat of Dunkley and the by-election in my seat profile on the ABC Elections site.

The by-election will be a test for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party, keen to retain what is a marginal seat despite its on-paper electoral buffer of 6.3%.

It will also be a challenge for the Liberal Party and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. After the Liberal Party’s historic loss at last April’s Aston by-election, the opposition needs a good result in Dunkley to confirm recent improvement in opinion polls.

But there are arguments for and against whether Dunkley will be a good test of the national electoral mood.

Being fought in Victoria, currently Labor’s strongest state, can Dunkley be viewed as representative of the national electorate? The 2022 federal election reduced the Liberal Party to just eight of 39 Victorian seats, since cut to seven seats by the Aston loss. Only two of those seats, Deakin and Menzies, are entirely suburban.

The Liberal Party has also performed badly in Victorian state politics, losing six of the last seven state elections. There was a swing to the Coalition at the November 2022 state election but the Liberal Party lost seats and has since been dealing with internal party recriminations.

Arguing for the by-election’s importance, Dunkley is the sort of outer-suburban seat the Liberal Party needs to start winning if it hopes to overcome the loss of once blue ribbon Liberal seats to Independents.

Dunkley includes some newer housing estates where interest rate rises have bitten. Across the electorate there are families who are feeling the effects of inflation.

Based on national opinion polls, there is not enough movement to predict the Liberal Party will win Dunkley.

But by-elections are an opportunity for voters to send a message when the government’s fate is not in play. Will the anti-government swing common at by-elections be large enough to deliver victory to the Liberal Party?

The swing needed is 6.3%, and Labor achieved a 6.4% swing the other way to win Aston. Covering the full period since Federation, the average anti-government swing is a little under 4%.

More recently there have been 52 by-elections since the election of the Hawke government in 1983. Of those, 28 were traditional two-party contests between Labor and the Coalition, the type of contest we will see in Dunkley.

Across the 28 two-party by-elections, the average anti-government two-party preferred swing was 3.5%. It was 4.7% against Labor governments in 17 contests, and 2.3% against Coalition governments in another 11.

Of the 28 by-elections, 15 were in government held seats and 13 in seats held by an opposition party. The average swing against government in government held seats was 5.4% compared to only 1.2% in Opposition held seats.

At the eight by-elections in Labor seats during Labor governments, the average swing was 8.2% compared to 2.3% in seven similar contests during Coalition governments.

The Labor Party had an astonishingly good result in Aston, in contrast to poor first term by-election results for Labor governments led by Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd. Under both Hawke and Rudd, Labor was further ahead in polls than the Albanese government at the time of its Aston victory.

Not that average swings are a useful measure given the wide variety of swings at by-elections. Swings are more about the time specific circumstances of a by-election and are not always comparable with an average calculated over several decades.

Larger swings than required in Dunkley afflicted the Hawke government at third term by-elections in 1988. The Adelaide and Port Adelaide by-elections, fought on the now forgotten issue of timed local calls for home phones, cost the government Adelaide and produced a double digit swing in Port Adelaide. Another double digit swing struck at the Oxley by-election later the same year. Labor’s position in all three seats was restored at the 1990 election when the Hawke government was narrowly re-elected.

Not so with the 16.2% swing that delivered a rare Liberal win in the ACT at the 1995 Canberra by-election. Labor recovered Canberra at the 1996 election, but it was a pallid highlight amidst the wreckage of the Keating government’s defeat.

Going further back in time to June 1975, the famous Bass by-election produced a Liberal gain after a 14.3% swing, accurately predicting the Labor Party’s fate under Gough Whitlam later in the year.

The biggest anti-government swing under a Coalition government was in the Brisbane seat of Ryan in March 2001. Labor won the seat after a 9.7% swing. John Howard famously described the result as not a repeat of Bass and Canberra, and the Howard government recovered Ryan and was re-elected to office at the 2001 election.

So will the by-election produce an average anti-government swing and see Labor retain Dunkley, or will we see larger swing that delivers victory to the Liberal Party?

Either way, the Dunkley by-election will set the frame for politics in the first half of 2024.

For more on the Dunkley by-election, see my profile of the electorate and candidates at the ABC website.

And for more on by-elections and results, read on in this post.
Read More »Background on Federal By-election Swings

Submissions Published for Victorian Federal Redistribution

Victoria is currently undergoing a redistribution of federal electoral boundaries that will reduce the state’s representation from 39 seats to 38.

This has come about due to Section 24 of the Constitution which determines state representation in the House of Representatives. I published a post in June explaining how the allocation of House of Representatives seats to states is assessed one year into each term or parliament.

Using the formula set out in Section 24 of the Constitution, it was determined that New South Wales and Victoria will each lose a seat for the next Federal election, while Western Australia will gain a seat. The size of the House of Representatives will be reduced from 151 seats to 150.

The change in numbers has triggered a redistribution in all three states. In the last month I have published posts looking at the major party proposals for New South Wales and Western Australia. Both posts include links to earlier posts looking at how projected enrolment numbers will drive the redistributions in each state.

With today’s release by the AEC of submissions to the Victorian redistribution, it is time to look at what the major parties have suggested for Victoria. For background on how the Victorian redistribution might unfold, you can read my previous post on the projected enrolment data.

I had planned to write a summary of the various submission yesterday but the submissions were not published until evening. I will update this post with key suggestions made in the party submissions. You can find all 63 lodged submissions at the AEC website. The submissions are now open for comment by the public as set out on the AEC website.

You will note there is no Liberal Party submission. I understand the party missed the deadline for submission, but you can find what they proposed to submit on the Victorian Liberal Party’s website. Having missed the suggestions deadline, the Liberal Party will submit it as part of the Comments process before the Commissioners draw draft boundaries.
Read More »Submissions Published for Victorian Federal Redistribution

Submissions Published for WA Federal redistribution

Proposals for the re-draw of WA’s federal electoral boundaries closed on Friday with submissions published today by the Australian Electoral Commission today.

There are 21 submissions in all. Understandably the greatest interest is in the proposals submitted by the Liberal and Labor Parties.

Both parties create a new seat based on the Darling Range in Perth’s east. The Liberal submission is for a new seat named Court that extends east into rural areas. Labor’s proposal is for a new seat called Farmer that runs south west into the Perth metropolitan area.

(I published a post several months ago on how the redistribution might unfold based on enrolment numbers.)

And the two submissions adopt different strategies in key parts of the Perth metropolitan area.

Note – maps taken from party submissions. The Liberal Party submission included maps of all proposed divisions. The Labor Party’s submission only included a map of the proposed Farmer.Read More »Submissions Published for WA Federal redistribution

The Changing Pattern of Results by Vote Type

With counting complete, the Australian Electoral Commission has returned the writ to the Governor-General formally declaring “The Voice” referendum defeated.

The final count has confirmed what was observed on election night, that there was a massive difference between how people voted in person on polling day compared to votes cast in the two weeks of early voting.

My professional interest in this difference is the impact the growing and variable gap between polling day and early votes has on when we know results on election night.

As I outlined in a previous post, 83.8% of votes were cast on polling day at the 1999 Republic referendum. In 2023 the figure was close to half at only 43.7%.

There has been a huge increase in pre-poll voting since its availability was first liberalised in 2010. Over the 13 years since, the number of polling day votes has declined. While pre-poll voting centres are counted and reported on election night, the larger number of votes taken per centre compared to polling places means pre-polls generally report later in the evening. At recent by-elections, all polling places have reported their results before the first pre-poll centre reported.

With pre-poll counting revealing different trends, and unreliably different trends as well, it means that close elections will take longer to call on election night.

Pre-poll and postal voting has always had a conservative lean compared to election day voting, but never have we seen a gap as wide as at the referendum.

When non-polling day votes made up less than one-in-five votes, you could factor in the last election’s postal and pre-poll trend safe in the knowledge there were not enough votes to shift a result more than a few percentage points.

With early votes now outnumbering polling day votes, an early prediction based on polling day votes can be significantly shifted. That is shown clearly by the referendum.

At the 2022 Federal election, the Labor two-party preferred vote declined 1.6 percentage points between the tally of polling day votes and the final count. That was high by past election trends.

But the shift was even greater at the referendum. The Yes% shifting down a remarkable 3.8% between the tally of polling day votes and the final result.

The table below breaks down the referendum Yes vote by vote type and compares it to the same categories for Labor’s two-party preferred vote at last year’s Federal election.

Vote By Type – 2022 Federal Election and 2023 Referendum Compared
Percent of Total Votes Percent of Vote
Vote Type 2022 2023 ALP 2PP Yes “Swing”
Polling Day Ordinary 45.1 43.7 53.7 43.7 -10.0
Pre-Poll Ordinary 33.3 35.3 50.6 35.4 -15.2
Postal 14.3 11.0 49.1 33.1 -16.0
Pre-Poll Declaration 3.6 4.3 53.3 44.7 -8.6
Absent Votes 3.2 4.4 57.4 48.9 -8.5
Other vote types 0.5 1.3 59.1 47.7 -11.4
Total .. .. 52.1 39.9 -12.2

Read More »The Changing Pattern of Results by Vote Type

NSW Redistribution Submissions – which seats could be for the chop.

As outlined in a previous post, NSW is set to lose a seat at the next Federal election.

The AEC has released submissions to the redistribution that will reduce the state from 47 to 46 seats. In this post I’ll run through some of the major features of party proposals. You can find the submissions at this link.

Read More »NSW Redistribution Submissions – which seats could be for the chop.

Projected Enrolment Data released for the Victorian Federal Redistribution

This post was prepared last year based on an initial release of projected enrolment numbers. The data proved to have a major fault and a completely new data set was released at the end of January 2024. I have written an entirely new post based on the corrected data that you can read at this link. The old post with the wrong data has been retained for posterity.
Read More »Projected Enrolment Data released for the Victorian Federal Redistribution

The Voice Referendum Results by Vote Type and Electoral Division

10 November – The AEC has carried out its final adjustments to the roll to take account of deaths, re-instated voters and several other causes of adjustment. This reduced national roll by around 5,000 voters and lifted the final turnout figure from 89.92% to 89.95%.

In this post I’m publishing several charts dissecting the referendum result by Vote Type and by electoral division. The post includes a table of Referendum Yes percentages and comparison columns for Labor two-party preferred percentage from the 2022 election, plus the gap between these two figures.

The electorate table shows how much lower the Yes% vote was in many traditional Labor seats. The seats where the Yes% was higher are clustered in seats won by Greens and ‘teal’ Independents at the 2022 election, and also several Liberal seats gained by Labor.

The ‘gap’ column shows a similar pattern to the 1999 Republic referendum. Both the 1999 and 2023 referendums saw Yes support distributed very differently from two-party preferred patterns at the preceding Federal election. The 1999 referendum pattern was also very different to the 2001 Federal election, which suggests the 2023 referendum is unlikely to be a guide to voting patterns at the 2025 Federal election.

That’s with the possible exception of the result in seats lost by the Liberal Party in 2022. Of the 17 Liberal seats that voted for the Republic in 1999, only five were won by the Liberal Party in 2022. The other twelve seats are now held by Labor, the Greens and ‘teal’ Independents. Eight of these seats voted for The Voice in 2023.Read More »The Voice Referendum Results by Vote Type and Electoral Division