Socialist Alliance’s analysis of the elections

September 3, 2010

The Socialist Alliance national office has produced its analysis of the August 21 federal election. It traces the precise mix by electorate of the increased Green, Coalition, independent and informal vote, produced as voters deserted Labor.

The differences among the seat-by-seat contests in an Australian federal election have never been so great. The general disillusionment with the two major parties expressed itself in quite different ways in different electorates and areas.

For example, along with inner-city seats, the epicentre of the national “Greenslide” was southern Queensland. Of the 28 seats where the Greens enjoyed a swing of 6% or more, half were in southern Queensland. After Melbourne, the second biggest swing to the Greens (10%) took place in the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher, where the Queensland government’s proposal to dam the Mary River at Traveston was defeated last year.

Even where the Greens recorded low swings and low votes, there were still big percentage leaps in the vote. For example, in Murray and Calare, the Green vote almost doubled, in the outback NSW seat of Parkes it increased 70% and in outback Queensland Maranoa 60%.

Barbara Shaw, a vocal opponent of the Northern Territory intervention, also increased the Greens vote by 60% in the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari. In the new Western Australian seat of Durack (with an Indigenous population of 16.8%), the swing to the Greens was 3% and the vote reached 20% in Broome.

Along with the “Greenslide” went an “informalslide”. The biggest leap was in Sydney’s working-class and migrant western suburbs, peaking at 14.2% in Blaxland.

This informal vote saved Labor in Sydney’s West. If the increase in the informal vote had gone to the Liberal candidates in a number of seats, Tony Abbott would have won on August 21. The Liberals had big swings in safe Labor seats but, except in Queensland, were largely kept at bay in marginal seats.

In NSW, Labor’s tactic of not worrying about safe seats, but throwing as much “pork” and organisation as possible at the marginals was effective. If the 4% swing there had applied evenly across all seats, then Labor would have lost Robertson, Eden-Monaro, Page and Dobell — and government.

The Coalition’s biggest swings took place in seats it already held or in seats it couldn’t feasibly win.

However, Labor’s “sandbagging” of key NSW marginals meant marginalising safe seats. For example, the “iconic” ALP seat of Werriwa (former members, Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham) is now close to marginal as defined by the ABC (held by a majority of 56% or less). The swing against Laurie Ferguson, who was preselected as part of a factional deal to reshuffle safe Labor seats, reduced his majority to 56.9%.

Labor’s biggest gains took place in seats where they won back votes from independents and minor parties that had stood in 2007 but not 2010 (Corio, based on Geelong, and the Tasmanian seats of Bass, Lyons and Braddon).

The full analysis is available here.

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