Australia’s Federal Election – The Marathon Just Went into Overtime

After a marathon eight week election campaign, the question of who will form the next government remains unanswered, with the Federal Election result too close to call. Results will trickle in over the course of this week, with both main parties hoping to avoid a hung parliament and secure a majority, avoiding a second general election.

Australia’s Federal Election result is too close to call following a national 3.38 per cent swing against the Coalition in two-party preferred (2PP) terms, and strong gains for Labor in NSW and Tasmania. This uncertain result reflects the very tight national opinion polling taken throughout the campaign and shows Labor recovering the losses they incurred at the 2013 election.
 
Based on the ABC’s election analysis this morning, the Coalition has secured 65 seats and Labor 67 seats in the House of Representatives, while five seats have gone to the crossbench and the remaining 13 electorates hang in the balance. The most recent data from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) places the Coalition on 50.1 per cent of the national 2PP vote, compared to 49.9 per cent for Labor.
 
The final election result will not be known for a number of days, with the AEC only set to resume counting Lower House votes on Tuesday and postal and absentee votes yet to be counted. Given the very close result and the number of seats still in play, there is a substantial prospect of a hung parliament, as occurred at the 2010 poll, if neither major party is able to form government in its own right. If this scenario eventuates on finalisation of the count, one of the major parties will aim to negotiate with members of the crossbench to form government or, if this is not possible, the nation will return to the polls. The Coalition, however, is at this stage saying it remains hopeful that most of the currently undecided seats will fall their way and enable Malcolm Turnbull to form a majority government.
 
The race is still too close to call in the Queensland seats of Capricornia, Forde, Dickson, Herbert and Petrie; Cowan in Western Australia; Chisholm, Dunkley and La Trobe in Victoria; Robertson and Gilmore in NSW; and Hindmarsh and Grey in South Australia.
 
Representation of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) in the Lower House for the first time is assured, with Rebekha Sharkie claiming victory over incumbent Liberal MP Jamie Briggs in the South Australian seat of Mayo. The seat of Hindmarsh – the State’s most marginal seat – is a tight contest, with Labor’s Steve Georganas currently ahead of Liberal incumbent Matt Williams and the NXT securing almost 15 per cent of the primary vote. There was a bigger-than-expected swing toward Labor in Tasmania, where the Party appears to have unseated three incumbent Liberal MPs in the seats of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, while at the other end of the country, Labor’s Luke Gosling has claimed victory in the marginal Northern Territory seat of Solomon which was previously held by Country Liberal Party MP Natasha Griggs.
 
Labor also looks likely to pick up between two and four seats in Queensland, including the seat of Longman held by Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, which is an unexpected result for the Coalition. Incumbent Liberal MP Luke Howarth is slightly ahead in the marginal seat of Petrie, while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton looks likely to hold Dickson despite strong competition from Labor’s Linda Lavarch. As predicted, the Coalition has picked up Clive Palmer’s former seat of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast, while LNP incumbent Michelle Landry trails by a small margin in the Rockhampton-centred seat of Capricornia.
 
In the NSW battleground of western Sydney, Labor candidate Emma Husar has claimed victory in the seat of Lindsay formerly held by the Liberal Party’s Fiona Scott. In the so-called bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, Labor’s Mike Kelly has edged out incumbent Liberal MP Peter Hendy, while Labor has also nabbed Macarthur with a swing of almost 15 per cent. Dobell, Paterson and Macquarie have gone to Labor, with former NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney becoming the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives after her victory over Liberal incumbent Nickolas Varvaris in the inner-west Sydney seat of Barton. 
 
Commentators suggest the Country Fire Authority industrial relations dispute damaged Labor’s prospects in Victoria, where it has so far failed to pick up any seats. The marginal Labor seat of Chisholm – held by former Speaker Anna Burke since 1998 – looks likely to go to the Liberal Party’s Julia Banks, and incumbent Labor MP David Feeney is expected to hold Batman despite a 9 per cent swing toward Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.
 
Addressing Labor supporters in Melbourne at 11:30pm last night, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declared “the Labor Party is back”, and said the Australian people had rejected the Coalition’s “ideological agenda”. In a short and upbeat address, Mr Shorten acknowledged Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek for being “all class and all heart”, and thanked his family, supporters and the “mighty trade union movement”.
 
It was after midnight in the eastern states when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed Liberal Party supporters in Sydney, saying he had “every confidence” of forming a majority Coalition Government, while conceding it would be a “very, very close count” and drawing parallels with the 1998 Federal Election result. The Prime Minister accused Labor of telling “the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia” during the election campaign and referenced a text message Labor sent to voters on Election Day, which showed Medicare as the sender and stated “time is running out to Save Medicare”. Mr Turnbull reflected on his move to call a double dissolution election, denying it was a tactic to clean out the Senate crossbench and emphasising the Government’s plan to “restore the rule of law to the construction industry”.

Election Result Highlights

  • Labor has comfortably won the new seat of Burt in Western Australia, with candidate Matt Keogh claiming victory last night after a 48 per cent (primary vote) win.  
  • Nationals MP for the NSW North Coast seat of Cowper Luke Hartsuyker has seen off a challenge from former Independent MP for Lyne Rob Oakeshott, while Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals Barnaby Joyce has also prevailed over former Independent MP for New England Tony Windsor.
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was comfortably re-elected in Warringah despite a swing of 9 per cent, with Independent James Mathison securing almost 12 per cent of the primary vote.
  • The Liberal Party retained the marginal Victorian seat of Corangamite, with incumbent MP Sarah Henderson securing just over 46 per cent of the primary vote.
  • Labor appears to have kept the Greens at bay in the Victorian seats of Batman, Wills and Melbourne Ports, while Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer has been re-elected in Higgins despite strong competition from Greens candidate Jason Ball.
  • Victorian Upper House MP Damian Drum has won the Victorian seat of Murray for the Nationals, defeating the Liberal Party after the retirement of Liberal MP Sharman Stone.
  • Independent Cathy McGowan has defended her regional Victorian seat of Indi against a challenge from the Liberal Party’s Sophie Mirabella, achieving a swing of 3.3 per cent.

State of the Senate

While the Senate vote count began last night, the final result is unlikely to be known for a number of weeks in light of both the recent Senate voting reforms and complex distribution of preferences to be undertaken. New voting rules for the Senate mean only first preferences have been counted at this stage, with others to be calculated over the coming weeks meaning that the indicative election night results will be subject to ongoing revision.
 
Whoever forms government, the one thing that is clear is that non-major parties will continue to play an important role in the Senate as they did in the last parliament. Early indications based on the election night Senate vote count are that both the Coalition and Labor will have around the same number of Senators as previously (33 and 25, respectively), plus or minus one or two positions; the passage of legislation through the Senate requires 39 votes.
 
Initial results suggest the NXT will secure at least three Senate seats in South Australia, while Jacqui Lambie is on track to retain her Tasmanian Senate seat. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has secured a Senate seat in Queensland with the possibility that it will pick up another in NSW or Western Australia, while controversial broadcaster Derryn Hinch appears to have claimed a seat in Victoria.
 
Early indications suggest former Palmer United Party Senator Glenn Lazarus is unlikely to be returned, while fellow crossbenchers Ricky Muir, John Madigan and Zhenya Wang also look to have been defeated. Family First’s Bob Day is a chance in South Australia, as is Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm in NSW. The Greens are likely to hold nine of their 10 Senate seats, with South Australia’s Senator Robert Simms unlikely to be returned.

gracosway

For more information on the Australian elections and wider political scene, contact Alex Cramb at GRA Cosway:

E: acramb@gracosway.com.au
T: 61 2 8353 0407