Victorian nominations – Liberals sit out inner city?


Nominations will close tomorrow for registered political parties running in the Victorian state election, with independents having until Friday to nominate.

The Liberal Party today submitted their bulk nominations, but failed to nominate a candidate for the inner city seats of Brunswick, Melbourne, Northcote and Richmond – all of which are marginal Labor-Greens contests. Two are held by Labor, and two are held by the Greens.

This is a strange decision, not seen by a major party in decades. It will likely cost the party money and could hurt their upper house campaign, if the Liberals don’t change their mind in the next 18 hours.

The Liberal Party has been racked by difficulty in recent election cycles when it comes to making a decision about whether to preference the Greens or Labor higher on their how-to-vote cards. Most Liberal voters have been happy to follow the party line in these contests, which saw Liberal preferences substantially favour the Greens up until the 2010 federal election, when Liberal preferences helped Adam Bandt to victory in the federal seat of Melbourne.

Following this result the party changed its mind, and has preferenced Labor over the Greens at state and federal elections in Victoria, and usually in other states. This saw multiple races where the Greens would have won with the historical preference flows (see Melbourne state by-election in 2012 and Batman in 2016), but Labor instead held on.

Yet this was not a comfortable position for the Liberal Party: helping hold back the Green tide in the inner city while fighting Labor in other seats.

The NSW Liberal Party has consistently chosen to instead recommend voters just vote 1: effectively encouraging Liberal voters to abstain from the contest. But this can only be done in New South Wales state elections, which don’t require a full preference ticket.

Not standing candidates in the general election is another way to avoid this difficult decision, but it’s a strange one. It’s been decades since either major party chose to sit out contests at a general election (despite being commonplace at by-elections). The Liberal Party stood to receive $7 in public funding per vote in these seats, which is likely more than it would’ve cost to run a low-profile campaign in those seats. They could have instead chosen to recommend an open ticket, which instructs the voter how to cast a formal vote but does not recommend specific preferences.

The Liberal Party will still be contesting the Northern Metropolitan upper house region, where they polled 1.3 quotas and won one seat in 2014, and could have had a chance of winning a second seat. While I’m sure plenty of Liberal voters in these inner-city seats will still find their way to vote Liberal for the Legislative Council, it’s bound to hurt their vote and make it hard for the right in the upper house.

One possible explanation could be that the party is still considering nominating candidates, but is negotiating with Labor or the Greens. Quotes from Matthew Guy today suggest that the party is still discussing their options with Labor.

We should know what they are doing by tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve used this opportunity to run an update of our list of Victorian Legislative Assembly candidates. This list includes 454 candidates, including full slates of candidates for Labor and the Greens. Only 367 of these candidates had been listed as officially nominated as of 5pm on Wednesday night.

I will do a more thorough analysis of the breakdown of candidates once nominations are closed on Friday, but if you’d like to look at the list you can find it here.

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  1. Obviously the Liberal party are not going to win in these 4 inner city electorates but they could nominate only but not campaign as the ALP mostly did in Wentworth. Only a nomination fee spent but Liberals in those seats will have a Liberal to vote for. Anyhow who understands the working of 104 Exhibition St, Melbourne these days.

  2. At a general election, the last case of this was the Liberals not contesting the safe Labor seat of Armadale in 2001 – not the sort of area the Greens would ever do well in (Melbourne equivalent would be somewhere in the western suburbs) – local mayor came 2nd.

    Any more recent examples of a major party skipping a seat at a general election?

  3. LNP failed to contest Gladstone in 2009, where Liz Cunningham was the sitting MP and under threat from the ALP.

  4. NT and Queensland are a bit different (the CLP sat out Arnhem and MacDonnell in 2008 – and then won them both in 2012!) as they don’t have upper houses. I still think this would be a deeply bizarre decision for the Liberals to make, and would really be a sign that they believe they have no hope of winning the election outright and are instead gambling on forcing Labor into a minority government with Greens support.

    Should send a tidy bit of electoral funding the Liberal Democrats’ way, though.

  5. I suspect the Reason Party will do well out of this, should the Liberals not backflip before the deadline. Their candidates in the 4 seats will likely get lots of votes from Liberal voter not wanting to vote for the ALP or Greens and this will also boost the Reason vote in the Legislative Council (Patten is an incumbent there).

  6. Personally I hope the liberals don’t stand. It’s a good strategic move as its forces the ALP to directly confront the Greens and address a key issue: Who speaks for the left?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the informal vote is the big winner in all seats…and we need an honest conversation about OPV…as no one should be forced to vote for a party that don’t agree with or who despises values they hold dear.

    I expect the Greens to win all four seats.

  7. Any party that does not contest a lower house seat risks loosing votes in the upper house were their candidates may be standing.

  8. Looks like they got someone in for Northcote, Melbourne and Brunswick. But they aren’t contesting Richmond. I imagine this is an experiment for them to see what they will do going forward.

  9. Seriously dumb decision by the Liberal Party. Richmond, Melbourne and Brunswick have pockets of Liberal support yet today the Liberals have basically given up on those voters just as the demographics start to potentially help grow that vote ever so slightly. The Batman by-election shows that the Liberals not running doesn’t guarantee the seat will fall to the Greens, so besides the Greens already holding Northcote and Melbourne with a strong chance of gaining Brunswick, with Richmond remaining a 50:50 seat all this decision does is show the Liberals to be weak. Call me cynical but is this a desperate attempt to appeal to outer suburban types that they have no relationship with inner city types.

  10. Adrian Jackson is correct on this issue failure to stand in lower house will impact in upper house vote.
    Liberal party is irresponsible to not stand as this will clearly benefit Greens.
    Liberals will still have to put out HTV for upper house so will presumably will have a HTV that favours a rabidly extreme left wing party ove an extreme left wing party. This is trating Liberal voters in inner city with contempt.

  11. Jake

    If they are skipping Richmond as an experiment, makes the decision look even sillier because surely the Batman by-election was that experiment, and it could be a big own goal if the VEC decided to move parts of Richmond into the state seat of Hawthorn or into a new seat covering South Yarra enabling the creation of a new St Kilda based seat.

    That may sound far fetched but St Kilda can no longer entirely fit into Albert Park, and cannot fit into Brighton so will likely be drawn more and more into Prahran, however at some point Prahran may need to lose areas to remain under quota, so the VEC may shift parts of Prahran into Malvern or consider shifting Richmond south to cover South Yarra while Fitzroy is moved into either Brunswick or the seat of Melbourne which in turn loses Docklands to Albert Park.

  12. I doubt they would have seen a by election as a proper experiment as you tend to have a large number of people not turn up at all compared to a normal election.
    I do agree that this is a silly decision and it’s going to cost them in other areas if this becomes their long term solution.

  13. It seems crazy to me that St Kilda is currently split between 3 state electorates – Albert Park, Prahran & Caulfield. Usually when a suburb is the focal point of its surrounding area, it’s not only united in a single electorate but also its namesake! St Kilda is by far the largest and most populated suburb with the most amenities and services in its area including the town hall. Very strange choice of suburb to be split up to become an afterthought in 3 other electorates that are focused elsewhere.

    The section in Caulfield is tiny (the small triangle between Inkerman St, St Kilda Rd and Chapel St) so at the very least it would make sense to move the Prahran section of Toorak into Malvern, and the Caulfield section of St Kilda into Prahran. That way Toorak is united in Malvern and St Kilda is only split between 2 electorates rather than 3, and Prahran losing more electors to Malvern than it gains from the tiny corner of Caulfield allows for the rapid population growth in South Yarra.

    Ideally though, from a ‘communities of interest’ perspective it makes the most sense to have St Kilda, Balaclava & Elwood united in a St Kilda based electorate.


    The Liberals stated reason for not standing in Richmond is that the Richmond MLA was one of the ALP MLA`s with staff used as part of the Red Shirts matter and “should already have resigned from Parliament”.

    I doubt that the Yarra will be crossed by a Legislative Assembly district, except on the outskirts of Melbourne. Firstly, it is a strong natural boundary and secondly, it would unbalance the efforts needed to shift seats inwards from declining population middle seats into growing inner-city areas, on both side of the Yarra. Although there is a chance that Melbourne or Richmond, instead of Bundoora, will be the seat shifted from Northern Metro as growth in the North and West of Melbourne moves the dividing line of half the state`s population further over the Yarra-Great Dividing Range line.

    St Kilda is likely to be split between Brighton (which might loose Hampton) and Albert Park. Prahran will probably loose more of Toorak. The rest of the Southern Metro seats will probably move outwards, although one may be abolished, due to low population growth in the middle suburbs.

    I think in the next state Coalition government, the National will pressure for an expansion to Parliament, so that the regional regions don`t have any Melbourne in them. The Liberals may also support this as more and more of Melbourne in Western and Northern Metropolitan does not seem to be going too well for them.

  15. On this occasion I agree with Adrian Jackson. Failure to stand in lower house leads to no campaign in lower house seat which leads to lower upper house vote.

  16. Tom

    Assuming Andrews is re-elected there will be at least one redistribution before the next Coalition government and without know what the quote will be, I doubt there will be any change to the number of seats in the lower house any time soon and as things currently stand, the ALP hold most of the urban fringe seats minus South Barwon, Elidon, Evelyn, Bass, Nepean and Hastings.

    In 2010, the AEC wanted to add Docklands to Melbourne Ports, and in 2018 included Eltham and surrounding areas into Menzies.

    From a community of interest standpoint there are links between Richmond and South Yarra or Richmond with Hawthorn, and as Trent outlined above, a St Kilda based seat would possibly cover Windsor and Prahran resulting in South Yarra needing a new home, it could be added to Malvern however that may result in Malvern going over quota although Malvern East could be accommodated by Hawthorn.

    St Kilda and Brighton could fit into one seat and it would make for an interesting seat however I am not sure that could be justified by the common community of interest test when that test can be more easily made by having St Kilda coupled with Prahran, Windsor and Balaclava.

    The thing the VEC will be mindful off is the growth in apartments along the northern side of Toorak Rd, Southbank, along St Kilda Rd and the future Fisherman Bends redevelopment although that will possible take two or three redistribution to fully play out.

  17. I think a simpler solution to the boundaries in that area is simply to unite St Kilda in Prahran. It could then shed all of Toorak to Malvern, plus perhaps some parts of St Kilda East to Caulfield. That would mean no major changes to any of the surrounding seats, and would probably balance reasonably well.

  18. Trent – Yes St Kilda is split between 3 state electorates but so are others I assume and so what? The areas south of St Kilda Botanical Garden went to Brighton in the last Albert Park redistribution and if population growth in the north of the electorate continues as predicted St Kilda as a whole may be completely out of Albert Park electorate in 20 years time.

  19. I agree Mark, that’s the most sensible and easy solution. Albert Park should only stretch down to St Kilda West, Malvern should take the rest of Toorak, St Kilda East should all be united in Caulfield, and Prahran should cover all of South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor & St Kilda. They would be very neat boundaries with strong communities of interest if the numbers balance.

    Adrian – I know that other suburbs are split too, my point was that it’s strange for such a significant, focal point suburb like St Kilda to not be united when it’s the primary centre of activity for most of the bordering suburbs around it.

  20. I don’t understand why the Liberals can’t just run in the inner-urban ALP vs Green seats and then fail to campaign. Nothing forces them to distribute letterbox or polling booth HTV’s. They can even issue an online HTV, preferencing the Greens last, for appearances sake.

  21. When a redistribution is proposed by the VEC and AEC anyone can make a submission even we private citizens. The VEC and AEC also propose new names for electorates like Bean in the ACT and Mcnamara in inner southern Melbourne.

    I recall Michael Danby wanted Melbourne Ports renamed Monash but that honour went to the former Macmillan electorate I think. Sir John Monash developed the SEC of Vic sites in Gippsland, with all that brown coal from open cut mines to power the state after WW1. Monash’s work has provide coal power for Victoria for over 90 years and Victoria’s sky are still clear when there is no cloud cover. At night Melbourne is one of a small number of large cities were the stars are viable at night too.

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