Super Saturday is important, and here is why

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This Saturday, voters in the Federal electorates of Longman (QLD), Braddon (TAS), Mayo (SA), Perth (WA) and Fremantle (WA) will go to the polls to elect their representatives at crucial by-elections. These by elections will have significant implications on the make-up of the House of Representatives, leadership tensions, and when the next Federal election will be called.

THE STATE OF PLAY

The Coalition Government holds 76 seats. The Labor Party holds 65 seats, and there are 4 cross benchers, consisting of Adam Bandt (Greens), Bob Katter (Katter Party), Andrew Wilkie (Independent) and Cathy McGowan (Independent). That leaves the 5 vacancies, four of which were held by Labor and one independent. 

HISTORY

Only once has the government of the day won a seat off the opposition in a by-election. That was in December 1920 under the William Hughes Nationalist Government in the electorate of Kalgoorlie, when Hugh Mahon was expelled. 

Typically at by-elections, the government of the day averages a swing against them of around 4%. Generally there’s a lower voter turn out at by-elections too, making it a tough task for the Coalition to win a seat off Labor.  

TESTING LEADERSHIP

The five by-elections will be a test for Bill Shorten’s leadership. Tensions within the Labor Party have been brewing for months. Losing a seat to the Government could well be a tipping point. Many predict that Anthony Albanese is preparing to mount a challenge.

Shorten has been feeling some heat this week, with Monday’s YouGov-Galaxy poll saying 53% would vote for Labor in Braddon if Albanese was leader, slightly more than the 50% who said they’d vote Labor with Shorten as leader. The same poll in the Queensland seat of Longman also found 53% would vote Labor if Albanese was leader compared with 51% with Shorten at the helm.

This isn’t to say that all the scrutiny is on Bill Shorten. This is a test for the Prime Minister too. Malcolm Turnbull is by far the preferred Prime Minister over Shorten in opinion polls, yet the Coalition still trails the Labor Party on a two party preferred basis in most key polls.

While the latest poll puts the government in a good position, Super Saturday is a test of whether the Government is getting its message through. Not running candidates in either the Perth or Fremantle seats might be sending another message to Western Australian voters.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, has been missing in the last week of the campaign in Longman, allegedly taking a pre-planned holiday.

PREDICTING THE RESULTS

LONGMAN (QLD)

LONGMAN (QLD) – If the Coalition Government is to win one Labor seat, it will be most likely be in Longman. It is the most marginal of the five seats being decided in these by-elections. Labor’s Susan Lamb will re-contest her seat, facing the Liberal National Party’s Trevor Ruthenberg. Lamb won the seat at the 2016 election, defeating Wyatt Roy, aided by One Nation preferences. This time One Nation will not be preferencing Labor, which gives the LNP a chance to win back the seat. It seems as though the LNP might make history in Longman although ‘Big Trev’s’ gaffe on his war medals might have tainted his brand. But

BRADDON (TAS)

BRADDON (TAS) – The Coalition also fancies themselves in Braddon of Tasmania. Justine Keay will face a challenge from the man she defeated at the 2016 Federal Election, Liberal candidate Brett Whitely. Labor holds the seat by 2.2%, which is marginal enough for the Liberal to give this seat a red-hot crack. Local polling says this one will be a tight result and could go either way. If the Tasmanian State election is anything to go by, the Liberals might be a chance.

MAYO (SA)

Mayo in South Australia started off well for the Liberals, hoping to win back what once was a safe Liberal seat.  The independent Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance (formerly Nick Xenaphon team) will contest her seat against the high-profile Liberal candidate Georgina Downer. Her father and former Minister in the Howard Government, Alexander Downer, held the seat from 1980-2008. Sharkie was a staffer for Jamie Briggs, the previous member who she defeated at the 2016 Federal Election. Sharkie has since become an incredibly popular local member so will most likely retain her seat. 

PERTH (WA)

The electorate of Perth was held by Labor’s Tim Hammond, who resigned from parliament to spend more time with his family. Labor candidate Patrick Gorman, a former senior advisor to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will contest the seat with Caroline Perks who is the Greens candidate. Labor should hold the seat, although it relied on Greens’ preferences to win in the last election. The Liberals had the most primary votes but won’t be running a candidate in this by-election, which will distort the numbers. It may play out similarly to the Batman by-election where Labor held off the Greens with no Liberal challenger.

FREMANTLE (WA)

Labor’s Josh Wilson will recontest the seat of Fremantle against the Greens candidate, Dorinda Coz. Labor hold the seat by 7.5% so they shouldn’t lose. 

WHAT WILL FOLLOW?

Will this weekend’s result impact on when the next Federal Election will be? Yes it will. 

Even if the Coalition were to win one (or two) seats on Saturday, it shouldn’t mean that we go to the polls early. The latest an election can be held is November 2 next year. Should Labor change leadership, the date of the election will likely be closer to that date in November.

It has been my opinion for a long period of time that we will have an early budget in April before going to the polls some time in May. 

So you can see why Super Saturday IS important.

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