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How well did our experts’ predictions match the results at the ballot box? AAP/Richard Wainwright

State of the states: what were the issues and seats that mattered in Australia’s state and territories?

Before the election The Conversation took a close look at Australia’s eight states and territories to identify key seats and the local and national issues that might swing the vote. So how well did our experts’ predictions match the results? We reconvened our panel to respond.


Anne Tiernan, Professor, School of Government and International Relations; Director, Policy Innovation Hub, Griffith University

The overall result in Queensland, which was predicted to go badly for the government, still hangs in the balance. The seats of Capricornia, Flynn and Herbert are still too close to call.

The Coalition has done well to retain Petrie and Bonner. Trevor Evans, who will replace retiring MP Teresa Gambaro in Brisbane, also achieved an increased margin, recording a swing to the government of 1.6% on a two-party-preferred basis.

Everywhere else, the two-party-preferred swings against the Coalition ranged from 0.4% in the safe seat of Fisher to 8% in Longman, which was enough to unseat Assistant Innovation Minister and Turnbull supporter Wyatt Roy.

At one level this was unsurprising. A correction was inevitable after Labor’s poor showing in 2013. The statewide swing to Labor was 1.6% on primary votes, but aside from the seats still in doubt, it comfortably retained Blair, Oxley, Rankin and Lilley.

Labor’s primary vote in Queensland of 31.4% is – as the Coalition has sought to emphasise – structurally low. And the overall figure masks the worrying decline of the party’s primary vote in the inner-city seats of Brisbane (26.3%) and Griffith (33.8%). Greens candidates in these seats received 19.1% and 16.8% of primary votes respectively.

But there is no doubt Labor’s was the superior campaign. Its grassroots strategy that commenced in Queensland in 2015, and ranged from “Bill’s Bus” to the reported 62,000 calls made by local volunteers in the last 72 hours, vividly contrasted with the LNP’s.

Much of the national interest is in the “the rise” of Pauline Hanson, whose One Nation party received 5.47% of primary votes in Queensland. Most worrying for the major parties is the support it attracted from voters in the outer-western Brisbane seat of Wright (20.9% of primary votes), Maranoa (18.1%) and Wide Bay (14.9%), to the seats of Herbert (13.4%) and Leichhardt (7.5%) in the north.

The low quotas brought about by the double-dissolution election enabled Hanson’s return to federal politics after 18 years and numerous failed attempts. One Nation received 9.03% of the Senate vote, giving it 1.1729 quotas – which translates to at least one seat, and possibly one more.

Much ink has been spilled in the quest to understand whether the shift to One Nation is a “protest” vote that echoes the rise of populists in Europe, the UK and the US, or a cry for attention from voters in regions blighted by high unemployment, job insecurity and falling living standards to the much-loathed “elites” who seem to have stopped listening.

It may be salient, too, to consider the role hard-right MPs George Christensen and Peter Dutton may have played in stoking some of the anti-Islam sentiment that One Nation happily exploited. Within their own electorates, however, both members suffered two-party-preferred swings against them (4.4% and 5.3% respectively) – in part due to the aggressive campaigning by activist group GetUp!

Overall, Queensland lived up to its reputation for volatility and for delivering “strong messages” to Canberra. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has already implored Hanson to be responsible – to temper her language so as to avoid damaging the state’s tourism and international education exports. It would be ironic if the voter backlash yielded a bitter harvest among those who already feel left behind.

Pauline Hanson will return to federal politics after 18 years. AAP/Dan Peled

New South Wales

Gregory Melleuish, Associate Professor, School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong

There is a certain irony that the “liberal” Liberal Malcolm Turnbull may owe his return to office to the conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDP).

There was a considerable swing against the Liberals in New South Wales but two factors prevented that swing from being completely devastating. One was that much of it was concentrated in Labor seats, especially in western Sydney; both Blaxland and Chifley, for example, had two-party-preferred swings to Labor of more than 8%. The swing in Watson was 9.3%. Only previously Liberal Macarthur had a larger swing of nearly 12%.

The other factor is that the CDP close to doubled its percentage of the vote from 2013. Hence, in two key electorates, Banks and Gilmore, swings against the sitting Liberal member in the primary vote came back to the Liberals from what looks like the CDP in preference votes.

The increase in the CDP vote may indicate that conservative Liberal voters were looking for ways of sending the Liberal government a message. But that was only part of the story. The Liberals lost three far-western Sydney seats of Macarthur, Macquarie and Lindsay with considerable swings to Labor, along with the former “bellwether” seat of Eden-Monaro.

The swing against the government in western Sydney generally indicates that despite the strong economic position delivered to NSW by the Baird state government, the federal Coalition government is on the nose in that part of Australia.

No single reason can be given for this situation. Clearly the rise in the CDP vote indicates some dissatisfaction with Turnbull’s eastern-suburbs-style liberalism. The Medicare scare also had its impact.

But there are also aspects of this result which reflect what happened in the UK with the Brexit vote. Turnbull’s breezy optimism about the future and innovation rhetoric resonates with bankers but has little appeal to the people of western Sydney for whom innovation may simply mean the destruction of their livelihood.

Does Malcolm Turnbull’s style of politics connect with voters in western Sydney? AAP/Lukas Coch


David Hayward, Professor and Dean, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT Unisversity

The federal election will be remembered in Victoria for a dispute that had nothing to do with national politics. A long-standing enterprise bargaining fight between the Country Fire Authority and the United Firefighter’s Union ignited into a fireball that overwhelmed everything that really mattered.

Now that the smoke has cleared, the electoral effect of the dispute is difficult to see clearly. Federal Labor’s primary vote in Victoria increased by 1.3%, and by 1.33% on a two-party-preferred basis. Labor’s primary vote in Victoria was higher than it was nationally (by 1%), as was its two-party-preferred share of the vote (by 1.66%).

Seats that might have been expected to fall to the Coalition because of the dispute, such as Bendigo and McEwen, swung back to Labor – in McEwen’s case by 7.8% of the two-party-preferred vote.

The one seat that fell to the Coalition, Chisholm in Melbourne’s middle-southeast, sits firmly in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s boundaries; it is hard to see how the dispute would have had much of an effect there.

In the seats that ended up not falling back to Labor, such as Dunkley and Corangamite, the CFA dispute most probably mattered little.

So, did the dispute have any real effect at all? It may not have hurt Labor. But it certainly did Bill Shorten no favours. Without it, Labor might have picked up one more seat, but Malcolm Turnbull may still be prime minister.

Labor may feel a bit disappointed, but sorrier still will be the Greens, who failed to win the two seats they thought were in the bag. Labor’s David Feeney hung on to the once-safe inner-northern seat of Batman, despite a disastrous, career-limiting campaign. Michael Danby retained his also once-safe inner-southern seat of Melbourne Ports despite winning only a touch more than one-quarter of the primary vote.

Victorians’ attention will now shift back to Spring Street and their premier. If anything, Daniel Andrews has emerged from the smoke with a goodly share of his nine political lives regained, when not so long ago they seemed to have permanently gone up in flames.

The electoral effect of the CFA-UFU dispute is difficult to see clearly. AAP/Jacqueline Le

Australian Capital Territory

John Warhurst, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Australian National University

The modest swings towards Labor in the Australian Capital Territory, where the two House of Representatives seats have been safely held by Labor for some time, were among the smallest in any state or territory. This was clearly the case when compared with New South Wales, including the formerly bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro across the border.

The House of Representatives two-party-preferred swing to Labor was about 1%. This leaves the southern seat of Canberra held by Gai Brodtmann with a two-party-preferred majority of 58.2% and the safer northside seat of Fenner, held by Andrew Leigh, with a two-party-preferred vote of 64.1%. The primary vote swing to the Greens was about 1.3%.

The two sitting senators were comfortably re-elected. The swing to Labor (3.69%) was larger than in the lower house.

During the campaign, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce announced he would insist on moving the Pesticides Authority from Canberra to Armidale in his electorate of New England. This invigorated ACT Labor’s campaign to defend the public service against the Coalition government.

The Liberal candidates, especially Seselja, campaigned by linking federal Labor with the ACT Labor government. Their advertisements linked Bill Shorten and Chief Minister Andrew Barr as well as former chief minister Katy Gallagher with ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury. The theme was: “Don’t risk a Labor double whammy”.

The ACT Electoral Commissioner has concluded that the cost of the anti-ACT light rail advertisements may be deducted from campaign funds available to the Canberra Liberals for the September ACT election campaign. Such an outcome would be an unprecedented entanglement of territory and federal politics.

Andrew Barr’s ACT government will face voters in September this year. AAP/Lukas Coch

South Australia

Rob Manwaring, Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University

This election confirmed the arrival of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) on the national stage. The NXT phenomena has taken over the mantle of the Democrats in South Australia, reflecting a significant swathe of the state that favours a centrist check on the major parties.

The great prize for NXT was Rebekha Sharkie’s anticipated scalping of Jamie Briggs in Mayo. However, NXT was unable to pinch the seats of Grey and Barker. NXT also looks set to take three Senate seats.

Yet despite NXT attracting 21.2% of the SA first-preference vote, Sharkie’s win owed a good deal to local backlash against Briggs. To some extent, then, NXT might be slightly disappointed with its overall performance.

The loss of Briggs capped a bruising election night for the Liberals, despite Christopher Pyne comfortably holding Sturt, and newcomer Nicolle Flint winning Boothby.

Labor scored strong swings in all the seats it held. And, after a close fight, Kate Ellis held Adelaide. All eyes are on the perennially marginal seat of Hindmarsh. Former Labor MP Steve Georganas is just ahead of Matt Williams with 82.4% of the vote counted; postal votes might see Williams just hold onto the seat.

Ultimately, the Liberals were punished in SA – not necessarily due to Labor’s Medicare campaign, but because the Liberals’ “jobs and growth” plan failed to cut through on two fronts. First, it did not offer any immediate relief – despite a belated commitment to Arrium. Second, in the longer term, the proposed tax cuts did not really amount to much of a “new economy”.

This election confirmed the arrival of the Nick Xenophon Team on the national stage. AAP/Dan Peled


Richard Eccleston, Professor of Political Science; Director, Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of Tasmania

Tasmania was at the front line of the swing against the Coalition that left Malcolm Turnbull struggling to retain government.

Polling indicated the races in the Liberal-held Tasmanian seats of Bass, Braddon and Lyons would be tight; the so-called “three amigos”, all elected in 2013, would have a fight on their hands. But early on election night it was clear the Coalition had lost all three seats.

Two-party-preferred swings of 4.9% and 3.5% respectively saw Labor regain Braddon and Lyons. Bass maintained its reputation for ending short-lived political careers, with the voters of Launceston and its surrounds turning their back on Andrew Nikolic with a 10.5% swing. The only consolation for Nikolic is he is in good company; Bass electors have voted out their sitting member at six of the last seven federal elections.

It is still early days in the Senate count. What is clear is there has been a swing to Labor. Yet the real Senate story both in Tasmania and across Australia is the growing vote for minor and protests parties. In Tasmania, Senate support for the two major parties fell to about 66%.

Jacqui Lambie secured a quota in her own right. Whether she would have been returned under a normal half-Senate poll is less than certain.

In contrast to the mainland, the Greens’ Senate vote in Tasmania didn’t recover from their poor showing in 2013. They gained 1.4 quotas from the above-the-line vote, and while they are likely to fare better below the line, former Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim is in a fight with the Liberals for the last Senate spot. With the fragmentation of the Senate vote and the new electoral system we may have to wait until August for the final result.

Tasmanians are worried about access to public services: Labor’s grassroots campaign was much better calibrated to these concerns.

Another factor at play is that, in the absence of conflict over forestry and mining, the working-class vote has been drifting from the Liberal Party, which has championed the extractive industries in Tasmania, back to Labor.

But, as Andrew Wilkie has demonstrated, Tasmania can’t be regarded as a Labor state. Tasmanians want pragmatic centrist government that provides quality infrastructure and a decent safety net to the most vulnerable in the community. Promises of “jobs and growth” driven by corporate tax cuts largely fell on deaf ears.

Jacqui Lambie won a Senate quota in her own right. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Western Australia

Natalie Mast, Associate Director, Performance Analytics, University of Western Australia

Given the national result, the Liberals must be thankful the predicted two-party-preferred swing against the government in Western Australia declined in the last weeks of the campaign – from 10.9% at the beginning of June to 5.5% two days before the election.

While the overall WA two-party-preferred swing to Labor was 4.07%, well above the national trend of 3.36%, as with the rest of the country, the swing in WA wasn’t uniform.

The larger swing in WA is likely to be the result of Labor coming off a very low base following the 2013 election, in conjunction with the poor performance of the WA economy and, although less influential than anticipated, the unpopularity of the Barnett government at the state level.

Labor increased its two-party-preferred majority in all three of the seats it held, particularly in Brand, and convincingly won the new seat of Burt. However, overall, Labor will be disappointed with its performance in WA.

While it appears Labor’s Anne Aly will win Cowan, the Liberals have held onto Swan despite a 4.04% two-party-preferred swing to Labor, as well as Hasluck, which also had a 3.72% swing to Labor and will now be considered a marginal seat.

By the time counting is complete, it is likely the Liberal Party will still hold eight seats in WA that require a swing of 5.5% or more at the next election if they are to change hands.

In the Senate, the ABC is predicting the Liberals have won five seats; Labor has won three and are likely to win four; and the Greens have won one seat. The two remaining seats are in doubt, although the Greens have an addition 0.37 of a quota; Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has 0.48 of a quota; and the WA Nationals have 0.32 of a quota.

Labor’s Anne Aly looks set to win the seat of Cowan. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Northern Territory

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

The Northern Territory, with only two House of Representatives seats and two senators, was just a small cog in the 2016 national election machine.

I was reminded of this when I attended my local booth to vote. Unprecedentedly there was no sausage sizzles. That was because it was the Alice Springs show weekend, and school holidays. Malcolm Turnbull obviously did not think of that when he set the date for the election.

Nevertheless, the election in the NT followed the national pattern, although the swings to Labor (at about 8% of the two-party-preferred vote in the two seats) were more like Tasmania than the national swing of about 3%.

Labor’s Luke Gosling took the Darwin/Palmerston-based seat of Solomon. Gosling was a better campaigner than the Country Liberal MP he defeated, Natasha Griggs. Her ownership of 14 houses was a point of discussion on social media.

Labor secured its swing even in Palmerston in previously strong CLP booths. This reflected the national swing plus a larger local factor of the unpopularity of the NT’s CLP government.

Labor incumbent Warren Snowdon easily retained Lingiari, achieving a two-party-preferred swing of 8%. The challenger, the CLP’s Tina MacFarlane, did not replicate her strong 2013 showing. Again, this was a combination of the NT government’s unpopularity, evidenced by Snowdon winning polling stations in Alice Springs and Katherine, in a first for Labor.

Snowdon maintained his vote in Indigenous communities by opposing his own party’s policy on the Intervention and its successors.

Other voting patterns in the NT were similar to national ones. The Greens slightly increased their vote to nearly 9%, near the national average. Other minor parties increased their primary vote from 11.7% of first preferences in 2013 to nearly 17%, again reflecting national patterns.

Pre-polling rates were double those of the last election, although postal votes remained static. Only the latter can be expected, albeit marginally, to reduce Labor’s majorities.

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