State of the states post-election: experts respond

Every state and territory is different: how did they vote in Election 2013? Image from shutterstock.com

The Conversation asked Australia’s leading experts to profile the eight states and territories in the lead up to the election. With the result decided (albeit some details still to be ironed out), we look at how the predictions matched the results.


Queensland

Clive Bean, Professor of Political Science at the Queensland University of Technology:

As predicted, Queensland has played a pivotal role in the 2013 federal election, but in a rather different way than anticipated. Queensland’s role has been to help restrict the scale of the Coalition’s victory which, while decisive and comfortable by any standards, has fallen short of the crushing magnitude that appeared likely.

Rather than losing upwards of four or five seats, the ALP appears to have retained all but two of the eight seats it held in Queensland before the election. Even the two it may have lost – Capricornia, in central Queensland, and Petrie in the northern suburbs of Brisbane – remain in the balance at this stage, in particular Capricornia.

Incredibly, Labor has retained its most marginal Queensland seat, Moreton, with a small swing in its favour.

One factor that probably helped reduce the movement away from the ALP in Queensland was that the Liberal-National Party (LNP) already had a 55-45% two-party preferred margin in the state, following the strong swing away from the Labor government at the 2010 federal election.

What the ALP was unable to do, however, was to make inroads into any LNP-held seats, including the marginal seat of Forde – contested by former state premier Peter Beattie – which recorded a small swing away from Labor.

Perhaps the most interesting result in Queensland is the strong prospect that Clive Palmer will take the northern Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax from the LNP. Former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus also appears to have won Queensland’s sixth Senate seat for the Palmer United Party.

Read Clive Bean’s pre-election state analysis.


Victoria

Nick Economou, School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University:

Victoria has made its contribution to the change of national government but, as has been the case in a series of elections since 1993, the number of seats changing hands was not great and the party that won a majority of the two party vote did not win a majority of seats.

At 49.4%, the state-wide two-party vote swung to the Coalition by a substantial 5.8%. Only three seats - La Trobe, Corangamite and Deakin – changed from Labor to Coalition, with a fourth, McEwen, too close to call. Labor has won 19 seats, the Coalition 16 and the Greens one. Labor’s primary vote of 35.3 was 7.5% less than 2010, and the Greens’ statewide primary fell by 2.1%.

In Melbourne, however, the Greens’ Adam Bandt polled nearly 44% and held his seat. In Mallee, the Nationals’ Andrew Broad withstood a challenge from the Liberals, while in Indi, Liberal Sophie Mirabella and independent Cath McGowan await the arrival of postal votes.

In the Senate, Labor has won two seats, and the Coalition has secured two seats and is likely to win a third. The Greens will receive Labor surplus and should secure the sixth seat.

Read Nick Economou’s pre-election state analysis.


New South Wales

Mark Rolf, Lecturer, School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales:

Labor got the thumping we expected but the projected Coalition blitzkrieg in New South Wales did not eventuate – though it is in a strong position with 47% of first preferences.

Labor’s primary vote was at an historic low, with a national swing of 4.1%. In NSW the swing was below average, at 2.3%. So a swathe of traditional Labor seats across western, inner west and southwest Sydney were saved. Reid went Liberal but among these other seats there was a variation from large swings to Labor (such as Fowler 9.5%) to large swings against it (Barton 7.54%).

In Abbott’s home state, the swing in first preferences did not immediately travel to the Liberals, which only got 0.2%. The infamous Jaymes Diaz failed in Greenway, much to Abbott’s chagrin. But comments by Fiona Scott (50,000 boat people cause traffic jams in western Sydney) and about her (“sex appeal”) obviously didn’t hurt her in Lindsay, which has become more of a national bellwether seat for commentators, along with the Central Coast.

The National Party successfully raised its primary vote by 2.44% to over 10%. The Nats have taken one seat from Labor so far (Page); the other two wins were merely returning to the fold from the independents (held by Windsor and Oakeshott). They didn’t get Richmond on the north coast where many ex-Sydney people reside. In other words, the Nats did well but reached the regional and demographic limits which are their perpetual problems.

As elsewhere in the country, the Green primary vote went backwards in the house, although not as badly as some states, especially Tasmania. They were not the beneficiaries of the dissatisfaction that some felt with the majors, such as the Palmer United Party with 4.26%.

Overall, then, neither major party can take things for granted as the result somewhat reflects the dissatisfaction of many voters with the choice presented to them.

Read Mark Rolfe’s pre-election state analysis.


Northern Territory

Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Research Fellow, Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University:

The Northern Territory has only two seats, Solomon (covering Darwin and Palmerston) and Lingiari.

Labor had an excellent candidate in Solomon and campaigned on price hikes for electricity and the cost of living, both essentially Territory government issues. Nonetheless the Country Liberal Party’s Natasha Griggs looks set to narrowly retain the seat against a swing of less than 1%.

I wrote last week that Lingiari would be close. As predicted, a swing to Abbott occurred in the conservative heartlands of Alice, Katherine and the Darwin rural area. Yet Labor’s Warren Snowden survived by resuscitating Labor’s Aboriginal vote in the bush.

The CLP candidate for Lingiari, Tina MacFarlane, was a neophyte and damagingly dodged debating the old warhorse, Snowden, on the ABC. But it was Snowden’s campaign against the CLP Territory government in the bush that proved decisive. He will survive despite a swing of about 2.1% to the Country Liberals.

The Senate vote saw the usual voting pattern: one CLP and one Labor. Nova Peris (Gillard’s “captains pick”) polled just short of the usual Labor vote, so there was little backlash to her pre-selection.

Two features of the election in the NT deserve mention. The first is the collapse (by nearly half) of the Green vote. These voters may have previously been disillusioned with Labor and switched back to stop Abbott.

The Australian First Nations Politcal Party vote was also very low (less than 4%, which illustrated the difficulties new parties have as against the (publicly) funded incumbents. It may also reveal strategic voting by Aboriginal voters, who for the third time since the 2010 federal election have revealed that their loyalties are instrumental and have to be won.

Read Rolf Gerritsen’s pre-election state analysis.


Western Australia

Narelle Miragliotta, Visiting Research Associate in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at University of Western Australia and Senior Politics Lecturer, Monash University:

There was only minimal alteration to the political ownership of Western Australia’s 15 lower house seats.

Labor retained Brand, Fremantle and Perth, thereby avoiding complete electoral ruin in the west. The three returning ALP candidates even managed to buck the statewide trend to post a marginal increase in their respective primary (but not their two-party preferred) vote.

The Liberals comfortably held all 11 of their existing seats, and appear to have wrestled the seat of O’Connor from the Nationals. In doing so, the Liberals have increased their contingent of WA lower house MPs to 12. They are also on track to claim three of the six Senate positions on offer.

From among WA’s ranks of returning federal parliamentarians will be one minister (Julie Bishop) and potentially two or three others (Christian Porter, Michael Keenan and senator Mathias Cormann).

While the seat outcomes paint a picture of seeming continuity in WA, the aggregate statewide result reveals that support for the Liberals continues to grow and that disenchantment with federal Labor continues to harden. While the WA Liberals recorded the highest first preference vote of any state Liberal party at this election (just under 48%), Labor’s primary vote (29.12%) hit its lowest level in recorded history.

WA is the Liberals’ most emphatic heartland state, and Labor’s most recalcitrant.

Read Narelle Miragliotta’s pre-election state analysis.


South Australia

Haydon Manning, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University:

Water politics occupies a large part of political life in South Australia and was mostly absent from election 2013. But late in the campaign, the Coalition announced a cost-saving measure to slow the rate of Commonwealth water license buybacks. Unsurprisingly, this hit the headlines, with Labor premier Jay Weatherill warning of the neglect an Abbott government would bestow upon SA.

While the Liberals’ win in Hindmarsh was built on a solid local campaign with a quality candidate, Labor’s Kate Ellis survived in Adelaide due largely to the Liberal’s poor candidate choice.

The collapse of the Labor Senate vote was unprecedented and overshadows any solace that the lower house vote (a 4.56% swing against) was not as bad as many expected. With a paltry 22% support, Labor looks set to elect only one senator, Penny Wong. The tenure of one of Labor’s factional warlords, senator Don Farrell, appears terminated due to the remarkable vote independent senator Nick Xenophon managed to secure.

With 25%, Xenophon would be pleased but one cannot help ponder what may have transpired had he struck a more favourable preference deal with the Greens. With few beneficial preferences flowing to Xenophon’s running mate, it’s likely that a wildcard win by Family First will transpire, despite Family First’s primary vote declining.

Read Haydon Manning’s pre-election state analysis.


Australian Capital Territory

Robin Tennant-Wood, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Government at the University of Canberra:

The two ACT electorates of Canberra and Fraser, as expected, returned their ALP members, Gai Brodtmann and Andrew Leigh respectively, with almost unchanged margins. With a margin of 14.2%, Leigh now has one of the safest Labor seats in the country.

It was in the Senate that the real action occurred. The fallout from the Liberals’ preselection - which saw Zed Seselja oust former Senator Gary Humphries - did not reflect well on Seselja. Many Canberrans saw Humphries as a good representative of the Territory rather than a representative of his party.

Seselja, on the other hand, is seen to be a party man who will toe Abbott’s line rather than necessarily advocate for the ACT. This factor may well have been a large contributor to the vote for parties such as Palmer United, Katter’s Australian and the Sex Party.

The election result will be met with some caution in the ACT. With public service jobs and university funding on the line there will be a degree of nervousness until the dust settles and the new government’s priorities are made clear. The prime minister-elect has already made it known he intends to cut funding for research in some areas. He has also vowed to prune the public service, although there is no indication of which departments will be affected or how many jobs are likely to be lost.

The flow-on from public service cuts will affect the private sector in the ACT and surrounding regions. It was partly this potential loss of Canberra business that resulted in a stronger ALP vote in neighbouring Eden-Monaro that could have been expected. While the result in Eden-Monaro is still uncertain, it remains that a lot of businesses in Queanbeyan and along the coastal strip south from Batemans Bay rely on jobs and income from the ACT.

Read Robin Tennant-Wood’s pre-election state analysis.


Tasmania

Tony McCall, Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations Program, School of Social Sciences, at the University of Tasmania:

Tasmanian voters, deeply dissatisfied with minority government in Canberra and Hobart, grabbed their baseball bats and savaged Labor and the Greens at the federal election.

Labor’s vote fell across Tasmania by 8.8%, compared to the national swing against Labor of 4.1%. The Greens vote fell by 8.7% compared to the national swing against the party of 3.3%.

Labor will lose three seats: Bass, Braddon and Lyons. The result in Lyons is symptomatic of Labor’s voting collapse. Dick Adams, a 20-year incumbent (1993) held a massive 12.3% margin but was beaten by Eric Hutchinson, the Liberal candidate who had unsuccessfully challenged Adams in 2010.

Only Labor’s Julie Collins (Franklin) might comprehend the significance for the Labor faithful of Kevin Rudd’s “concession speech” where he claimed “victory” from the jaws of an historic defeat. Collins held Franklin by limiting the negative swing to 2.6%.

Andrew Wilkie increased his margin in Denison, where the Green vote collapsed to 7.9%.

The Palmer United Party (PUP) attracted a significant first-up vote in Tasmania: 6.3% in the House of Representatives. The PUP is in a contest to win the sixth Senate seat at the expense of a Liberal hopeful, or a Labor or Green incumbent senator.

Read Tony McCall’s pre-election state analysis.

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