Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Our own not so Super Saturday

Posted by Possum Comitatus on March 4, 2008

crikeylogo.jpg This was me earlier today in Crikey as well.

With the rumour mills and gossip factories working overtime on just which Coalition pollies will exit Parliament and when, it might be time to take a quick squiz at the four most popularly mentioned by-election possibilities over the near term, particularly in light of the dismal polling that’s turning up all too regularly for the Coalition of late.

The four seats we’ll look at today are Costello’s seat of Higgins, Downer’s seat of Mayo, McGauran’s seat of Gippsland and Mark Vaile’s seat of Lyne.

If we look at the two party preferred margins of these four seats over the last 7 elections going back to 1990, it gives us an idea of the longer term demographic forces at work in these electorates.


The first thing that stands out here is the slow decline in the size of the margin that the Coalition enjoys in Gippsland, where the 2PP vote has been reduced from the 68.9% it achieved at the 1990 election down to the 55.9% it currently sits on. From these four seats, Gippsland is probably the greatest chance to change hands at a by-election, particularly if it becomes a three cornered contest. Continuing demographic change combined with the honeymoon of the Rudd government and poor Coalition polling makes this seat an interesting prospect from Labor’s perspective, especially since its current margin of 5.9% is well within the ballpark of the swings we seem to be seeing from the large pollsters.

If we graph the swing that each of these four seats have experienced over the same timeframe, where a positive swing is a swing to the Coalition and a negative swing is a swing to Labor, we also pull out a few interesting things. We’ll also throw in the national swing to give us an idea on how these individual seats behave compared to the national average.


What’s disturbing for the National Party here is the result in Lyne. Over the last 4 elections, the swing in Lyne has nearly perfectly mirrored the broader national swing. With every poll showing Labor support jumping between 5 and 10 points from their 2007 election result, Lyne becomes a cause for concern, sitting on a margin of 8.6%.

But the real problem for the Nats in Lyne is the possibility of a 3 cornered contest, as the last 3 cornered contest in Lyne back in 1993 had Mark Vaile coming in over top of the Liberal candidate by a mere 233 votes to take the seat.

The other big problem for the Nats in Lyne is Rob Oakeshott, the independent Member for Port Macquarie in the NSW State Parliament. If he threw his hat in the ring, the seat would simply be his. He would dominate the vote in the northern half of the seat (his current State electorate) which would carry him above the Nats and the Libs, picking up preferences along the way to knock out the ALP if they made it through to the final round of preference allocations.

Mayo and Higgins are different kettles of fish altogether, while we can see that the Coalition vote in Higgins is slowly eroding over time, for Higgins and Mayo to turn politically red would be the upset of the decade – it would take a serious bout of leadership failure for these seats to turn feral.

But what is certain is that Nelsons poor leadership performance in the polling suggests that he is not only failing to bridge the disparate views that make up the twin support bases of the Coalition (with their affluent metro seats like Higgins and Mayo on the one hand, and their regional seats like Gippsland and Lyne on the other), but that Nelson has successfully alienated both groups. At 37% two party preferred, that drop in support isn’t coming from a single place, it’s bleeding from everywhere.

Any string of by-elections for Nelson would bring the problems of the twin support bases of the Coalition to front and centre, as well as his thus far demonstrated inability to manage their opposing interests in a way that doesn’t destroy his own political standing in the electorate and the Coalitions vote share as a consequence. Poor leadership here could endanger seats which shouldn’t even be on the map. Especially in by-elections where the retiring sitting member generally takes around 1.5% of the party vote with them when they go.


24 Responses to “Our own not so Super Saturday”

  1. Cat said

    But what of my beloved representative Poss? Do you expect Philip “Ambassador for Refugees” Ruddock to die in office? I saw him up close on election day and despite all the rumours he looked no greyer than the Nightwatchman on reading the latest poll results.

  2. Enemy Combatant said

    The Coalition appear to be infected by a bacteria that is proliferating uncontrollably and eating away at their bodies politic. They can observe the self-necrosis, but are paralysed by their ideological polarisation into doing anything efficacious. No known penicillan seems capable of curing this most dreaded of political Golden Staphs.

    One wonders then if the Coalition are capable of mutating into something more epigenetically correct. Might be their only shot at survival. And how they must be overwhelmingly grateful to Johnny the Germ, the genius responsible for the long incubation period that spawned the tories’ present pathology and possible demise.

    Reckon an ALP candidate like Juian Burnside would waltz into Higgins. As for Adelaide’s exciting new FM stocking-jock du jour Dolly De Mayo’s seat, who knows? It’s certainly gettable for the right cadidate. Maybe John Schurmann who took Eddixinder to within an inch of his political life as a Dem. in 2001 might consider that a by-election shot at Mayo as an Indy is certainly not the roughest. The Dems are rooted and the factional ALP footsoldiers would dummy-spit major and possibly run dead on John S. if was annointed from on high as the ALP candidate.

  3. ozebaseball said

    In terms of Berowra, I would suggest there has been a gradual move to the ALP over time, but I haven’t crunched the numbers. It is discussed pretty heavily in the Party around the area that the vote is basically tied to the railway line and Pacific Highway. The further you get from the main public transport corridors the more feral the Liberal supporters become.

    Again, without having the numbers in front of me, I would suggest Berowra would show something like a slightly more pronounced version of the Higgins trend; moving to the ALP slowly over time, but not directly in play at the upcoming election. Should be interesting around 2020 when all the development around Hornsby CBD (if you can call it that) is complete.

  4. Thomarse said

    The only way they will come back is for the moderate wing of the Party to leave the Libs and form their own party. Their present structure with two incompatible wings will never fly!

  5. Bobby said

    Be interested to see how Mr Vaile will spin this to his consituents in Lyne on his return for his ‘personal leave’ http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23320906-5005941,00.html

    Perhaps he is just playing golf – apparently Dubai has some great courses.

  6. Cat said

    Ozebaseball my experience would concur with that. I worked a booth in Nov that had a 12% primary swing (10%tpp) to ALP and was for the first time a labor booth. The only other booths to swing a large amount were places like Mt Colah where going on current sales is a prime site for mortgage stress.

    Oh and it is no longer Hornsby CBD – it is Meriton Alley.

  7. Moondark said

    Yeah, articles like those about Downer and now Vaile are not doing the Coalition any favours. They have to lose this ‘right to entitlements’ attitude, which is a culture change that may not be possible.

  8. David Richards said

    What chance the Lib primary dips below 30%? Would this be a first for either major party?

  9. steve_e said

    Giving the funding crisis for the Libs, actually running several By-Elections in a short period of time will cost them. They are out of cash and it will be a big sell to get financial support from business with the current policy “no man’s land” they support at this time.

    A By-Election means a loss of the sitting member and the support they have built up over time, so the TPP margins will narrow in each case. It might yet get interesting. Maybe the 5% to 8% margin (see above graph) will not be enough.

  10. […] Comitatus explores what might happen if Costello, Downer, Vaile etc resign and cause by-elections in previously safe Coalition […]

  11. stevet said

    Can’t agree with you about Higgins, Poss.

    First of all, parts of Higgins such as Toorak are very affluent, but then you have the middle ground of Camberwell and then there is parts of the electorate such as Prahran which vote solidly Labor. The seat has somewhat of a split personality.

    Secondly, Peter Costello would carry a fairly hefty personal vote, especially in 2007 when John Howard was a major problem for the Government and Peter Costello was the absolute antithesis of Howard. I think it is one of the main reasons that Higgins resisted the national and Victorian trend so well.

    Thirdly, I think one of these reasons Labor is polling so well at the moment but the Tories are polling so badly is because a lot of traditional Tory voters not only find Kevin Rudd acceptable, but actually like him! This is particularly true of the small l variety Libs, many of whom populate the lower North Shore of Sydney and suburbs like Toorak in Melbourne. And on top of that, Labor under Rudd have not delivered the big trade union bogeyman that the Tories were shrieking about before the last election.

    With the right sort of candidate I think Labor could win Higgins and they would be mad not to try.

  12. Steve K said

    More crap on the conservative side of politics:

    Former prime minister John Howard has hit out at several of the Rudd Government’s policies while giving a major speech in the United States.

    Mr Howard has given an address at a gala dinner for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

    He has told the audience that scrapping the WorkChoices laws is the first time in 25 years that a major economic reform has been reversed.

    And he has described his disappointment at the moves to bring Australian troops home from Iraq.

    “No one should doubt what is at stake in Iraq,” he said.

    “There is a view in some quarters that Afghanistan is the good war and Iraq somehow a distraction from winning the war on terror.

    “While it may be politically convenient this view is profoundly naive and dangerous.”

    Don’t you just love it! I’d like to see what reception he’d get here if he was to spout that rubbish. His own party has reversed his policies and he still doesn’t get it – he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong. What a loser. He’s also been caught out tell lies again as it’s now well known that the former government were seriously contemplating pulling the combat troops out of Iraq this year.

    This former PM is an embarrassment to his party and an embarrassment to the country when he makes such speeches. I’d say it’s down right Un-Australian!

  13. Norfik said

    I agree very strongly that Rob Oakeshott is the man to beat in Lyne, if he wants it. If he did, I wonder whether Labor would run a candiate at all?

    Labor strategists surely realise that it is better to lock an independent into an otherwise Coalition seat than to run in the (probably vain) hope of holding the seat themselves until the next election. There is simply no way they could retain the seat in a general election, even with the benefit of incumbency, and I’m sure Labor knows it. The demographics of the Mid North Coast are changing, but not that fast. Cowper will fall to Labor well before Lyne becomes vulnerable in a general election.

    But maybe there could be some benefit to Oakeshott in having a Labor candidate direct some Taree preferences his way? The Labor candidate could be told not to set foot in Port Macquarie on pain of death. Maybe some more sophisticated psephos than me can work out whether this would help Oakeshott’s chances.

    Does anyone know if Oakeshott has already qualified for his NSW MP super? What are the rules for this, ie how many terms/years? I don’t know the man and maybe I’m selling him short, but these sorts of things can matter.

  14. B.S. Fairman said

    The ALP would have to run a candidate in Lyne if it was to be a Super Saturday. Plus it would look bad if they are such a long way out in front in the polls and decide not to run in a byelection if Lyne is by itself. However, a Super Saturday would allow the candidate to play dead because Kev and co. could excuse not visiting the seat by being elsewhere.

  15. Kirribilli Removals said

    Enemy Combatant Says:
    March 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    “As for Adelaide’s exciting new FM stocking-jock du jour Dolly De Mayo…”

    Sir, I’ll have you know that you are deriding the great Malvolio of Mayo, gastronome and backbencher extraordinare (in that order), and n’ere has such a fine stockinged leg strutted upon the international stage of world diplomacy since Will Shakespeare twas but in breeches.

    Desist! Or there will surely be surly sulking and pouting, ye poxy knave!

  16. Enemy Combatant said

    Kirri at 15:
    That Downer of Baghdad doth dine with Sir Shill of Sheridan whilst his backbench seat grows cold, and that Eddixinder’s insolence has smitten most foully the good citizens of The Fleurieu, is not for consideration by lowly born vassals like you and I, good sirrah; ’tis that Dolly De Mayo’s chunky thighs and beady eyes fail to persuade now that the embers of Ministerial patronage have dulled to dust.

    As our American cousins might impute:
    Modulate the frequency any which way whatever, he ain’t got no mojo no mo’, the guy’s a schmuck!

  17. kevin cudd is a runt said

    Bring on the bi-election i say

    in light of the scrapping of carers and now aged “bonus” payments

    “oh the humanity”

  18. Andos the Great said


  19. scaper... said

    @ 17

    Credibility was lost with your oh so not creative screen name.

    Don’t give me the humanity drivel…matie!

  20. Rx said

    Enemy Combatant #2

    If that is their disease, I hope it is terminal. Slow, painful and terminal.

  21. kevin cudd is a runt said

    well may they say good save the queen, cos nothing will save the iemma dilemna!

    and at least some arent ostriches to political reality!


  22. mate said

    Ohh please, Possum post a newie soon. If I have to read anymore scaper… bollocks then I will need to run a bath and punch a vein!

  23. Mathew Cole said

    Bleeding support, you say?

    I say they’re haemorraging it!

  24. Aspirational Aspirationalist said


    Care to say a few words now that Oakeshott has declared his intent to run for Lyne ? maybe in a new Mayo/Lyne thread.


    Nationals in danger of Losing Vailes seat

    Independent MP confirms federal tilt

    Upcoming by-elections put pressure on Coalition ties

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