Cooper – Australia 2019

ALP 0.6% vs GRN

Incumbent MP
Ged Kearney, since 2018.

Geography
Cooper covers parts of the inner north of Melbourne. Batman covers all of the City of Darebin as well as parts of Yarra and Whittlesea. Cooper covers the suburbs of Fairfield, Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Reservoir and Kingsbury.

Redistribution
Cooper is a new name for the seat of Batman. Cooper lost the strip of territory in Whittlesea council at the northern end of the seat, including parts of Bundoora, while the seat spilled over into Moreland council area (taking in parts of Coburg North) and lost a small area to the seat of Melbourne. These changes reduced Labor’s margin from 1.0% to 0.6%.

History
Batman was a long-standing Melbourne electorate, and for most of its history it has been held by Labor MPs.

The seat was first won in 1906 by Protectionist candidate Jabez Coon. Coon held the seat for only one term before losing it to Labor candidate Henry Beard in 1910. Beard was a former Labor state MP, and died only months after his election to the House of Representatives.

The ensuing by-election in 1911 was won by the ALP’s Frank Brennan. Brennan held the seat for the next twenty years, serving as Attorney-General in the Scullin government from 1929 until 1931. At the 1931 election Brennan lost his seat and the Scullin government was defeated, with Batman being won by UAP candidate Samuel Dennis.

Dennis only held on for one term, losing to Brennan in 1934. Brennan held the seat for another fifteen years, retiring in 1949.

Batman was won in 1949 by the ALP’s Alan Bird, a former Mayor of Northcote. Bird was re-elected throughout the 1950s, returning to the Northcote mayoralty for one year in 1958. He died in office in 1962.

The 1962 by-election was won by Williamstown mayor Sam Benson. Benson was re-elected in 1963 but in 1966 was expelled from the ALP over his support for the Vietnam War. He managed to win election as an independent in 1966. Benson retired in 1969, and the seat went to Labor candidate and Collingwood mayor Horace Garrick in 1969.

Garrick was re-elected at the 1972, 1974 and 1975 elections, but lost preselection in 1976 to Brian Howe, who won the seat at the 1977 election. Howe became a junior minister upon the election of the Hawke government in 1983, and was promoted to Cabinet following the 1984 election. Howe became Deputy Prime Minister in 1991 after Paul Keating moved to the backbench following a failed challenge to Bob Hawke’s leadership, and Howe held the position until 1995. He retired at the 1996 election.

Howe was succeeded in 1996 by former ACTU president Martin Ferguson. Ferguson went straight into the Labor shadow cabinet and was a shadow minister for the entirety of the Howard government, and joined the Cabinet in 2007 after the election of the Rudd government. Ferguson resigned from the ministry in early 2013, and retired at the 2013 election.

Batman was won in 2013 by Labor candidate David Feeney. Feeney had been a Senator since 2008, but had been demoted to the marginal third position on the Labor ticket. Feeney was elected in Batman, and was re-elected with a smaller margin in 2016.

David Feeney was forced to resign in early 2018 due to his inability to demonstrate that he had renounced his British citizenship before running for federal parliament. The subsequent by-election was won by Labor’s Ged Kearney, who gained a 3.4% swing.

Candidates

Assessment
This seat was very close in 2016 and was again close at the 2018 by-election, but Kearney will likely be strengthened by her incumbency at the next election.

2016 result

CandidatePartyVotes%SwingRedist
Alex Bhathal Greens 32,64536.2+9.836.7
David Feeney Labor 31,78035.3-6.035.0
George Souris Liberal 17,92419.9-2.619.7
Joel MurraySex Party2,3172.60.02.6
Caitlin EvansAnimal Justice1,5031.7+0.31.7
Philip SuttonIndependent1,5091.7+0.91.6
Elizabeth SyberMarriage Equality6820.8+0.80.7
Maurice OldisRenewable Energy Party5930.7+0.70.7
Franco GuardianiIndependent4800.5+0.50.5
Geoffrey CicutoAustralian Cyclists Party3860.4+0.40.4
Russell HaywardAustralian Progressives2820.3+0.30.3
Others0.1
Informal7,6017.8

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%SwingRedist
David Feeney Labor 45,97751.0-9.650.6
Alex Bhathal Greens 44,12449.0+9.649.4

2016 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%SwingRedist
David Feeney Labor 64,64571.7+0.872.0
George Souris Liberal 25,45628.3-0.828.0

2018 by-election result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Ged KearneyLabor36,84043.1+7.9
Alex Bhathal Greens 33,72539.5+3.3
Kevin BaileyConservatives5,4716.4+6.4
Miranda SmithAnimal Justice2,5283.0+1.3
Yvonne GentleRise Up Australia2,2172.6+2.6
Teresa van LieshoutIndependent1,2451.5+1.5
Debbie RobinsonLiberty Alliance1,1861.4+1.4
Mark McDonaldSustainable Australia9511.1+1.1
Adrian WhiteheadIndependent7450.9+0.9
Tegan BurnsPeople’s Party4960.6+0.6
Informal5,6506.2

2018 by-election two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Ged Kearney Labor 46,44654.4+3.4
Alex Bhathal Greens 38,95845.6-3.4

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three areas: north, central and south. The southern area is centred on Northcote. The central area is centred on Preston and Thornbury. The northern area is centred on Reservoir.

The two-candidate-preferred vote in 2016 varied from 65.8% for Labor in the north to 62.7% in the south, and was roughly tied in the centre. The Liberal primary vote ranged from 15.7% in the south to 22.7% in the north.

Labor’s two-candidate-preferred at the 2018 by-election was 52.4% in the centre and 63.8% in the north. The Greens polled 57.9% in the south.

2016 booth breakdown

Voter groupLIB prim %ALP 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Central17.250.020,02522.8
North22.765.817,00819.3
South15.737.315,05817.1
Other votes23.252.414,76716.8
Pre-poll20.047.221,04323.9

2018 by-election booth breakdown

Voter groupALP 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Central52.419,97823.4
North63.819,46522.8
South42.118,61421.8
Other votes63.711,59213.6
Pre-poll52.915,75518.4

Election results in Cooper at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Labor vs Greens) and Liberal primary votes.

Two-candidate-preferred votes (Labor vs Greens) at the 2018 Batman by-election

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36 COMMENTS

  1. As always, this will probably depend on Liberal preferences.

    I think it’s inevitable that the Greens will win here eventually. The Green tide is creeping north of Bell Street into Preston, and it’s really only Reservoir that is holding out for Labor anymore.

  2. Yes and no. I agree that demographic changes favour the Greens here, but there’s plenty of evidence in Sydney that a good left-wing Labor MP (Albo, Plibersek) can hold off the Greens so long as they’re the incumbent. I don’t have much confidence predicting one way or the other, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Kearney entrenched herself here.

  3. I think the main reason Labor got a positive swing at the by-election was because they replaced David Feeney – he was parachuted into an assumed safe Labor seat that he wasn’t really suited to, whereas Ged Kearney is actually a good fit for this electorate. That said, Labor only won back about 1/3 of the swing against them in 2016 and the by-election result was still really a case of the Bell Street divide (the northern half voted Labor marginally more than the southern half voted Green).

    I agree that the increased urbanisation around Bell Street will probably increase the Greens vote, although it definitely could end up like Sydney or Grayndler where a popular Labor MP manages to hold a seat that would likely otherwise be a Greens seat. Of course it could all change if a future redistribution changes the boundaries asymmetrically.

  4. Given the unanticipated swing against the Green south of the divide (which was their stronghold), wouldn’t it be less likely that the Greens get caught off-guard in such a way again?

    Is there any info indicating how well the Greens would have gone in the by-election had the south stayed true?

  5. The Greens still have a chance as Kearney was elected to move Labor to the left on Adani and refugees, which hasn’t happened at all since she was elected – in fact the aforementioned Albanese has doubled down on LNP style refugee rhetoric.

    However they will need to win it this election, with Kearney still on “probation”. If they don’t, Kearney will get promoted to the front bench in an endearing ministry, and be impossible to dislodge barring a significant scandal.

    The Greens will need to repair their reputation and internal divisions – the Greens trade too much on people feeling good about voting for them. The state election campaign to re-elect Lidia Thorpe could go some way to doing that.

  6. This seat may show how much the ALP/Green swing voters bases their choice on impressions rather than actions.

    Kearney supposedly was going to #StopAdani and #BringThemHere but Labor don’t seem to be on track to change their policies on those. We shall see if that comes back to bite Labor.

    My experience with my ALP/Green swinging mother is that it’s totally on style not substance.

  7. The Greens have missed some favourable circumstances to win this seat lately:

    2013 election: Labor govt on the nose. Long term incumbent retires. Labor Right hack parachuted from Senate.
    2016 election: Said hack makes national dill of himself by somehow forgetting to declare $2+ million home.
    2018 by-election: Said hack also forgot he’s a dual citizen. No Liberal candidate to capture preferences. (Plus did I mention it’s a by-election?)

    This may well be a Greens gain eventually. But given (a) Labor’s improved standing in national polls; (b) a sitting member who’s a much better fit for the electorate; and (c) the Liberal party unlikely to change their preference strategy; Labor looks secure here in the short term.

  8. Wreathy – I think someone would need to just go through booth by booth in a spreadsheet. Presumably more than a few people have. I don’t know if anyone’s posted their results. I might be able to do it myself on Sunday.

  9. Bennee
    I guess it was inevitable, but somehow it is still a surprise that leaves me feeling somewhat uneasy !!!!. I agree with you completely !!!

    More your comments are not just accurate , but thoughtful, & insightful.

    John
    I could almost say the same to you. However i cannot see Kearny ever being that secure, due to the strong underlying Green vote.

    The prospect , or possibility, of her being a minister i find quite chilling.

  10. Ben
    It is surprising that the redistribution seems to have had no effect on Labor’s margin. Is that correct ?

  11. No, it did have an effect. It dropped from 1% to 0.6% (although I just realised that the margin at the top says 0.7% so thanks for helping me catch that).

  12. WD, there’s only minor changes to Batman/Cooper and they kind of balance out. It lost a good Labor area in the north, a good Greens area in the south, and gained a 50-50 Labor/Green area around Coburg North.

  13. Something that was overlooked during the aftermath of the by-election was that the Greens received a swing of 3%+. Although they lost on the two party preferred due to Labor’s deals with conservative minor parties, the Greens actually strengthened their position in Batman/Cooper. Since Ged has been just another useless do nothing Labor backbencher since being elected, Labor could be in trouble here. It’s clear that the Greens aren’t going away in this seat particularly anytime soon.

  14. @Firefox
    By your logic you also seem to be overlooking that Labor had a 7.8% swing on primary votes.
    The fact is without a Liberal candidate their vote dispersed to Labor, Conservatives and the Greens.
    On the primary results there was little or no chance of the Greens getting up regardless of preference arrangements.

    As for the next election, Kearney should be safe enough, who knows if Bhatal runs for an 8th time, credit to her because that may well be a record for the amount times running without winning. IMO the Greens really need to run somebody new.

  15. Now that Ged Kearney represents the seat, I really cannot see the Greens winning this anytime soon. Much like Graynder, there is always the talk around pre-poll but come election day the result will be evident. Bhathal still has a cloud of controversy and this may have helped Labor win it, but Ged Kearney “suits” the electorate and should easily hold.

  16. Firefox, given thast about 20% of the vote was missing by the Libs not running, it’s very hard to argue the Greens picked up support. That’s why it is rightfully overlooked.

  17. KrispyNachos the Green increased in raw number of primary votes, only 1,000 votes though.

    Turnout was 81.4% which isn’t terrible for a by-election (turnout in Batman was 89.7% in 2016), but it is likely the lazy voters are Liberal voters (and therefore Labor preferencers)

  18. This guide needs to be updated to reflect the fact that Alex Bhatal has announced she won’t be the Greens candidate at the next election. She’s retiring from politics due to continued personal attacks against her and her family. Even though she was cleared completely of doing anything wrong and the complaints about her were just from a tiny number of bitter people who were upset that their favourite candidate wasn’t preselected, it will be good for the Greens to have some clear air going into the next election with a new candidate. They’re a massive chance of winning Batman/Cooper.

  19. The Labor primary vote increased largely due to Liberals who couldn’t bring themselves to go full fascist and vote for one of the far right minor parties. That and the negative press surrounding Alex Bhathal. Considering that, I think it’s rather impressive that the Greens managed a +3% swing. Bhathal has announced she won’t be recontesting the seat, so there won’t be any negative press related to that issue to effect the Greens campaign this time. Look for a larger swing to the Greens and an absolute cliffhanger which will probably take weeks to decide.

  20. Presumably one of the four Darebin councillors will be preselected by the Greens to run here, also interesting to see if the Libs run here and in Wills where they indicated previously they wouldn’t.

    Looking ahead the Greens have the state election to worry about where they should hold their seats, gain Brunswick, be close in Richmond, whilst aiming to come second in Williamstown, Footscray, Preston, Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern and Brighton. As well as other reasonable seats like Macedon and Monbulk.

    Interestingly enough the Greens actually passed the Libs on 3PP in Preston but the VEC ran a Labor – Lib preference count.

  21. All 4 of the Darebin councillors are signatories to the now discredited complaint that was strategically used to white ant Bhathal in the byelection.

    If any of them are preselected (unlikely), they will not win. Even if people close to Alex Bhathal bite their tongues, Labor will bring it up.

  22. L96 the VEC don’t do a full distribution of preferences, they just distribute until one candidate has a majority, and they also do an indicative ALP vs Lib count on election night.

    There are a handful of state seats that the Greens could win if the Liberals tactically preference them over Labor; Preston, Footscray, Williamstown, Pascoe Vale. Federally, Labor would be toast in this seat and Wills, and Greens would be an outside chance for Gellibrand, Canberra and Grayndler. However the Liberals haven’t preferenced Greens since they actually got one elected.

    You are also right about the Liberal held seats they can come second in. Hawthorn would be the closest to actually being winnable for Greens – the rest would be cosmetic and not amount to much, just like the Greens coming second in a handful of ultra safe NSW Liberal seats. There are a bunch of safe federal Liberal seats the Greens could edge into 2nd in (like Warringah 2016), but even ones held by unpopular prominent Liberals would not be at risk of falling over.

  23. @John
    I completely agree.
    Whilst the Greens could finish in 2nd in many seats it is only cosmetic.
    In Vic they should aim for Richmond and Brunswick before any other seats.
    That being said Hawthorn and Preston aren’t unrealistic gains.

    As for the Libs preferencing the Greens, I feel it would be smart for them, although they 100% won’t

  24. The Liberals could prevent Labor from getting a majority, in the state election at least, by preferencing Greens over Labor. There’s enough seats like Preston to even make what would have been a convincing Labor victory into one where the Liberals win the most seats.

    What they run the risk of is a party with up to 9 seats in each house; that’s no minor party. Furthermore Labor/Greens governments, for all the implied animosity around election time, are actually very productive in terms of legislation.

    Either way I expect the Greens to do reasonably well in the state election as they will get similar coverage to One Nation in the Queensland election, and the Liberals will have a strong attack line about the “risk” of a Labor/Green government. More exposure and being talked about like an electoral contender is a good thing for the Greens.

    How much of that will translate to the federal election? Not sure.

  25. @John, exactly. I think Labor ought to be worried about being squeezed from both sides – this is an issue they’re going to have to face sooner or later. If the Greens do particularly well, it becomes very difficult for Labor to get to a majority. This will evoke all sorts of questions about legitimacy that an incoming government can ill-afford to have.

    In my time with the Libs, I was a big proponent of this strategy. However, a significant number of people were motivated by a heavy disdain, even visceral hatred of the Greens. So much so, that they’d rather not have anything to do with them, even if that potentially meant a Labor government.

  26. The smartest move the Libs could do would be preference the Greens, in seats like Cooper, Wills, Fremantle, etc. As this would likely deprive the ALP of a majority. Even though an ALP/GRN Gov would be possible, history has shown that those governments are chaotic thus setting up the Liberals for a win at the 2022 election. But I doubt the Libs would do this as they can’t look forward and have no view on the future.

  27. @L96 “Looking ahead the Greens have the state election to worry about where they should hold their seats, gain Brunswick, be close in Richmond, whilst aiming to come second in Williamstown, Footscray, Preston, Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern and Brighton. As well as other reasonable seats like Macedon and Monbulk.”

    You’ve somehow left out Albert Park which is in amongst Brunswick and Richmond as a red hot chance, should be a WAAAY bigger a target for them than the other seats you mentioned.

    The Greens should be planning to win Albert Park, they would win it with 2016 federal Melbourne Ports votes in the relevant booths… Plus campaigning in Albert Park would help their federal campaign for Macnamara. A lot of the districts you named have no such overlap.

  28. It seems strange to me that the Liberals can run a scare campaign about a Labor-Greens government even though the Liberals are guaranteed to form government with the Nationals. There are plenty of examples of dysfunctional Liberal-National Coalition governments (just look at the current federal government) and yet it’s rarely acknowledged. Labor is actually the only party that’s in a position to form government alone – I’m surprised they don’t mention that more often.

    It’s also worth noting that the Greens don’t only compete with Labor – they picked up LNP seats at the last NSW, Victoria and Queensland state elections (Ballina, Prahran and Maiwar respectively). They’re also competing with the Liberals for federal seats like Higgins, Brisbane and Macnamara.

  29. @Some Guy, that’s because the Libs-Nats are a formal Coalition. Yes, they’re technically different parties and they’ve disagreements, of course. However, IMO they should be viewed as intra-party disagreements, no differrent than internal party disputes within the Labor umbrella.The Coalition has been around for so long they mas as well be one party. That’s not the case with Labor and the Greens.

  30. @Wreathy of Sydney, then why don’t they run as a single party? The Liberals and Nationals specifically choose to remain two distinct parties and Coalition governments face the same problems as any other coalition/minority government.

  31. It’s purely a brand thing. Nationals attract completely different demographics to Liberals. If the Nationals disbanded there would be quite a few seats in regional NSW that would flip to Labor or an independent candidate.

    The Greens could ultimately be in a similar position to the Nats, with the Greens cornering the inner city and tree/sea changer demographics that aren’t necessarily strong for Labor. However right now they’re still competing for the same votes, and have never stood aside for each other. Labor at this stage also stands to lose support in working class suburbs and regional centres from being closely associated with the Greens – why you see the Liberals trot out Green peril lines.

  32. I think you’re right John: if the Coalition actually became a single party it would struggle to appeal to all Coalition voters. I’d guess the average voter in Toorak doesn’t have very similar political views to the average voter in Traralgon. But that’s basically my point: a Liberal-National government is just as much of an awkward marriage of convenience as a potential Labor-Greens government, plus it’s far more likely to actually happen.

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