Higgins – Australia 2019

LIB 7.6% vs GRN

Incumbent MP
Kelly O’Dwyer, since 2009.

Geography
Higgins covers suburbs in the inner south-east of Melbourne. Its suburbs include South Yarra, Prahran, Toorak, Carnegie, Malvern, Glen Iris, Murrumbeena and Hughesdale. Most of the seat is covered by Stonnington LGA, as well as southern parts of Boroondara LGA and small parts of Glen Eira and Monash LGAs.

Redistribution
Higgins lost Windsor to the renamed seat of Macnamara, and gained Murrumbeena and Hughesdale from Hotham. It isn’t possible to precisely estimate the Liberal vs Greens margin for the new seat, but the closest estimate suggests a drop from 8% to 7.6%.

History
Higgins was first created in 1949 when the Parliament was expanded in size. Its first member was Harold Holt, who had previously been Member for Fawkner in the same part of Melbourne. Holt was a minister in the Menzies United Australia Party government at the beginning of the Second World War.

Holt returned to the ministry in 1949 as Minister for Immigration. He became Menzies’ Treasurer in 1958 and became Prime Minister upon Menzies’ retirement in 1966.

Holt disappeared in sensational circumstances in December 1967 while swimming at Cheviot Beach in Victoria. Higgins was won by new Prime Minister John Gorton in a 1968 by-election. Gorton had previously been a Senator and was required to move to the House of Representatives.

Gorton held the seat continously until the 1975 election. Following Malcolm Fraser’s accession to the Liberal leadership Gorton resigned from the Liberal Party and sat as an independent. At the 1975 election he stood for an ACT Senate seat and Higgins returned to the Liberal Party.

Roger Shipton won the seat in 1975 and maintained his hold on the seat until 1990, when he was challenged for preselection by Peter Costello. Costello held the seat from 1990 until his 2009 resignation, triggering a by-election.

The ensuing by-election became a contest between the Liberal Party’s Kelly O’Dwyer and the Greens candidate, prominent academic Clive Hamilton, as the ALP refused to stand a candidate. O’Dwyer won the seat comfortably, and was re-elected in 2010, and again in 2013. O’Dwyer was re-elected with a smaller 8% margin against the Greens in 2016.

Candidates

Assessment
Higgins is a reasonably safe seat – the Greens would need a big swing to win here, but there is probably potential for growth in Greens support.

2016 result

CandidatePartyVotes%SwingRedist
Kelly O’Dwyer Liberal 46,95352.0-2.451.6
Jason Ball Greens 22,87025.3+8.524.2
Carl Katter Labor 13,49514.9-9.116.5
Nancy BassettNick Xenophon Team2,0072.2+2.22.1
Eleonora GulloneAnimal Justice1,3441.5+1.51.6
Rebecca O’BrienMarriage Equality1,2651.4+1.41.3
Jessica TregearDerryn Hinch’s Justice Party1,2641.4+1.41.3
Robert KennedyLiberal Democrats1,0931.2+1.21.1
Others0.3
Informal3,5503.8

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Redist
Kelly O’Dwyer Liberal 52,35958.057.6
Jason Ball Greens 37,93242.042.4

2016 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%SwingRedist
Kelly O’Dwyer Liberal 54,79860.7+0.860.1
Carl Katter Labor 35,49339.3-0.839.9

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into four areas: central, north-east, south-east and west.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote (against the Greens) in three out of four areas, ranging from 53.2% in the west to 59.9% in the centre. The two-candidate-preferred vote was a tie in the south-east.

Labor’s primary vote ranged from 13.1% in the centre to 26.1% in the south-east.

Voter groupALP prim %LIB 2CP %Total votes% of votes
West14.153.215,03916.2
South-East26.150.014,26715.4
Central13.159.912,00013.0
North-East14.757.09,0299.8
Other votes16.061.619,32620.9
Pre-poll15.160.822,90924.7

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


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60 COMMENTS

  1. When i look for possible surprises, I look to see how many booths held by less than 55% TPP. In Higgins we see about 13 to 14 such booths, if some of those booths move against the sitting MP then the seat can either become very marginal or flip. Compare Higgins with Goldstein (8) and Kooyong (4), neither of those two seats have as many marginal booths as Higgins does and this is why Higgins is viewed by some as a seat to watch if the swing is on.

  2. Looking at the 2PP results on the map, noting all those question-mark booths without a Liberal-Greens 2PP around Hughesdale were Labor booths (ranging between 51-62% TPP), I honestly think the only part of the seat that’s safe for the Liberals is the Toorak-Malvern-Glen Iris heartland.

    Prahran, South Yarra, Glen Huntly, Carnegie & Hughesdale already have a 2PP favouring the Greens (or ALP in the area that’s moved over from Hotham) and will likely swing further in that direction.

    Murrumbeena, Malvern East and Ashburton were only marginal 30% in some booths), so a base is already there to build upon.

    In any case, even if those suburbs remain relatively stable for the Liberals, the rest of the electorate is vulnerable to enough of a swing to make the seat marginal; and if the Liberal swings from 60%+ to closer to the 55% range, you have to wonder if that will be enough?

  3. Sorry it looks like I accidentally deleted a whole section out of the middle of that so it makes no sense!! Please ignore the above comment, it was supposed to be the below:

    Looking at the 2PP results on the map, noting all those question-mark booths without a Liberal-Greens 2PP around Hughesdale were Labor booths (ranging between 51-62% TPP), I honestly think the only part of the seat that’s safe for the Liberals is the Toorak-Malvern-Glen Iris heartland.

    Prahran, South Yarra, Glen Huntly, Carnegie & Hughesdale already have a 2PP favouring the Greens (or ALP in the area that’s moved over from Hotham) and will likely swing further in that direction.

    Murrumbeena, Malvern East and Ashburton were only marginal <55% Liberal suburbs that will most likely be 50-50 at best for the Liberals with some booths flipping to marginal Greens/ALP.

    These suburbs are all vulnerable to enough to swing to the Greens/ALP without even needing a Phelps type of independent in the race.

    This only leaves the Toorak, Armadale, Malvern & Glen Iris heartland where the Liberals will need to rely on their stable vote. Wentworth showed those type of suburbs are vulnerable to a big swing to an independent, but whether or not they can swing much to the Greens is a different story. Although those suburbs already have a Greens primary vote about 3-4 times higher than comparable Wentworth suburbs (30% in some booths), so a base is already there to build upon.

    In any case, even if those suburbs remain relatively stable for the Liberals, the rest of the electorate is vulnerable to enough of a swing to make the seat marginal; and if the Liberal heartland even swings from 60%+ to closer to the 55% range, you have to wonder if that will be enough to counter the rest of the seat?

  4. I think the state election in 3 weeks could give an indication of what sort of swings we may expected in the Liberal heartland.

    Obviously state & federal comparisons are never that reliable, but if anything the state election should favour the Liberals considerably more than the federal election because the state Liberals tend to do better than their federal counterparts in Victoria, the state polls are closer, and the issues the federal Libs are having will obviously have a smaller impact on the state election than they will on the federal one.

    The state seat of Malvern is obviously very safe and will have nothing to see regarding state results, but it will be interesting to see if there is even a 2-3% swing away from the Liberals in a state seat that’s not even on the Greens or ALP’s radar where federal issues are only a distraction, what will that say about how those same booths might swing in Higgins where federal issues are front & centre and the Greens will be targeting the seat aggressively?

  5. Trent, you are being overly optimistic about the Greens chances in Higgins short term and long term.

    The loss of Windsor is a blow to the Greens and there is too much Liberal terrain all in the seat.

    Murrumbeena and Hughesdale are more expensive and affluent than in the past and less Green friendly than other parts of Higgins.

    The Liberals will hold this seat comfortably and probably extend the margin in future on the current boundaries.

  6. Stan, Actually they are unlikely to extend the margin with O’Dwyer She isn’t the most likeable local member she will hold on but your being sarcastic if you think she can hold on until she retires.

  7. I have no optimism at all for the long term, I just think in the 2019 election specifically where the Libs are likely to be destroyed across the board, seats like this which have a more progressive type of Liberal voter are likely to have a bigger post-Turnbull swing and a near 50-50 result isn’t so far fetched.

    Obviously I still think O’Dwyer is the favourite but it’s far from guaranteed this time around.

  8. If the Libs get anywhere near 50-50 in Higgins that would be a wipeout scenario that leaves them in opposition for at least 3 terms. The Wentworth result was unique due to Turnbulls departure to New York. And we had his son campaigning for the Greens.
    The Liberals are a big chance to be defeated nationally by their biggest margin ever but Higgins is unlikely to be a repeat of Wentworth.
    My prediction is 53 to 56 percent 2PP for the Libs in Higgins, depending on the effectiveness of the actual election campaign.
    A poor campaign like the last one and it becomes a marginal seat, a decent campaign and it stays a relatively safe but almost marginal seat at 55 or 56 percent.

  9. Oh of course I would never be suggesting a swing anywhere near what was in Wentworth, which was 18%.

    Polls are consistently pointing to about a 5% national swing though, so even with a uniform swing that would reduce the margin to 2.6%.

    However it’s the seats with a Wentworth-like demographic who will probably feel the swing the hardest. Outer suburban seats, areas around the Sutherland Shire and QLD are probably likely to be more Morrison-friendly. The most recent QLD poll had the federal Libs at 50-50 in QLD (posted on Poll Bludger this morning).

    So while I’m not suggesting a Wentworth wipeout, I think inner Melbourne Liberal seats (and particularly Higgins which has more Greens & Labor friendly pockets, more diverse suburbs, a less popular member and a smaller margin than Kooyong & Goldstein) definitely have the potential for the Turnbull factor to add an extra 1-2% above the national swing, and in Higgins that extra 1-2% brings the 2PP very close to 50-50.

    I still think the Liberals will hang on but I think it will be very close with a <2% margin and will be a seat to watch.

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