Higgins – Australia 2019

LIB 7.6% vs GRN

Incumbent MP
Kelly O’Dwyer, since 2009.

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.

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%.

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.

Sitting Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer is not running for re-election.

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

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

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

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

2016 two-party-preferred result

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
Other votes16.061.619,32620.9

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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  1. I cant see why Costello would want to contest Higgins now, seeing as he refused to take on the leadership after the 2007 election and left Parliament in 2009 and the Liberal party now are more divided and unlikely to regain power than they were in 2007. Even if he wants to re-contest it’s far from certain he’d be elected.

  2. Agree, not a chance.

    Whoever commissioned that poll was clearly clutching at straws to try to whip up some numbers hoping it might make him consider the idea, but the results no doubt had the exact opposite effect. Why would he make a return to run for a seat that could go either way and he might lose?

  3. Another reason why Costello probably wouldn’t run, in 2007 it made sense for him to stay and become opposition leader because it was always possible the ALP would only last a term or two, whereas now the Liberals have burned many bridges with their traditional base that they potentially face a decade out of office. Costello should stick to enjoying his lunch time walks along Collins St.

  4. Peter Costello will not want to be in opposition again either which is likely after the next election. Move on and lets get new blood in parliament following the resignation of some serving MP’s. Parliament should not be a career or job for life. Three or four terms (9 to 12 years) at most is enough for any backbench MP and perhap a term or two longer for a minister (15 to 18 years).

  5. Costello is something like 60 to 62 years old…… this would be a bad choice for him even if only for lifestyle reasons. I don’t like the idea of fixed terms for mps…….. but now especially with the liberal party they cannot guarantee a safe election of their candidate……… so if they make poor or inappropriate choices then the voters may decide otherwise…….. this is the issue with Tony Abbott..he was first elected in 1994……. something like a quarter of a century in parliament. He is seen as destructive to his own party…… some one who is out of step with his electorate on issues like gay marriage and climate change….. his back ground goes back to the dlp…. ncc issues of the 1950s as he saw them in the 1970s. But now as there is no dlp he joined the catholic conservatives in the liberal… He I think is a similar age to Costello but a bit older…. times up?

  6. The greens selected a different candidate than 2016, what are some of you on about, Source if you think im wrong, and don’t post the Greens website, That was from 2016 list of candidate’s

  7. Jason Ball was definitely the candidate in 2016. I didn’t live in Higgins at the time, but was in neighbouring Melbourne Ports and remember his posters everywhere around Windsor/Prahran.

    2016 – https://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016/guide/higg/
    2019 – https://greens.org.au/candidates/vic

    I know you said don’t post the Greens website, but that page is specifically for 2019 hence why only 4 lower house and 1 upper house candidates are on there so far, and also Steph Hodgins-May is listed as “Macnamara (formerly Melbourne Ports)”.

    Jason Ball’s page makes reference to building on the 2016 result also.

  8. If Greg gets the Liberal preselection, this would be an ALP gain, because there would be allot of backlash replacing a woman with a man, the media will slam them hard over this and i also see many liberal party members resigning, but this is a big if, if the liberals lose it and select him, Hibbs will likely get it though

  9. I agreed with PvO when he said on Insiders that Oliver Yates might have been better off running in Higgins.

  10. I think that is pure speculation from PvO – trying to said like he is super intelligent – again. It would be more of a lottery in Higgins than Kooyong. Any IND in Higgins needs to reduce LIB vote by approx 9% from 52% to 43% and get over the Greens (probably) into 2nd place. A swing from LIB to the Left will help on the first count, but may make the 2nd more difficult. The soft LIB vote and the soft Green vote available to an IND, may be similar constituency and simultaneously able to be harnessed with the one campaign, but it also may not be. I think it likely that an IND in Higgins will be in a very close 3 way race for 2nd (of the last 4 candidates remaining) and a high chance of being excluded before ALP and Greens. The bar to get into 2nd is lower in Kooyong – its really a replay of Wentworth but with a 5% head start on the task of reducing the LIB vote.

  11. close result if 6% swing …..low liberal first preference less than 47%……… put liberals last strategy

  12. I agree with High Street. A lot of people have said Higgins would be a good electorate for a Phelps-like independent to run but the different between Higgins and seats like Wentworth & Warringah is that there will be significantly bigger Greens & ALP primary votes to overcome for second place in Higgins.

    In Warringah, ALP & Greens both polled under 15% in 2016. That’s a low bar for an independent to surpass. In Wentworth, Phelps only had to compete with 2016 primary votes of under 18% to get into second place. ALP & Greens never have a chance of winning either seat, so progressive voters are more likely to throw their support behind an independent with more chance of winning.

    Higgins is very different. Labor may have only polled 16% last time, but the swing they’ll get across Victoria combined with the fact the redistribution gave Higgins more ALP-friendly turf in Hughesdale & Murrumbeena should comfortably put their primary vote over 20% again. The Greens are already starting from a 24% primary vote, and hold a state seat within the electorate.

    On top of that, a combined ALP/Greens vote of around 45% and a Liberal vote expected to drop under 50% makes the seat very winnable for either ALP or the Greens, meaning both parties will campaign strongly and progressive voters have more reason to stick with them.

    Additionally, without a high profile independent, more of the usual ALP/Green vote in seats like Wentworth & Warringah is a teal/centrist protest voters ripe who probably align more with a centrist. Higgins is more diverse and has more pockets of genuine left-wing support that make up the ALP/Greens vote, making them less likely to switch to a centrist even when the seat wasn’t winnable. This makes it a lot harder for an independent to pick up votes from ALP & Greens to put them in second place.

    I agree with High Street that Kooyong fits the Warringah/Wentworth profile a lot better for an independent than Higgins does.

  13. Thanks for backing me in, Trent. You’ve added a few extra good issues I hadn’t thought of (and I agree with – from experiences of living in North Sydney but having spent a week in Higgins over the holidays). One caution on ALP and GRN vote and LIB vote in Warringah in 2016. There was already an IND that got 12% or so. That has sort of had the effect of their being half a credible IND already baked into the PV figures.

  14. High Street – I wouldn’t even call it pure speculation since Oliver Yates has indicated he will be running in Kooyong however my reason for thinking Yates might have been better contesting Higgins is that I think the bar might be lower than in Kooyong.

    1) Frydenberg has a good rep as a local MP, this is something missing in Higgins
    2) I am not sure the Green’s candidate Jason Ball is a strong candidate for a seat like Higgins particularly outside of Prahran/South Yarra

    The question mark next to Ball is how does he perform in an election favoring the ALP when he seems to be a limited candidate with his strength being marriage equality which has been successfully resolved.

    I agree with Trent’s assessment of Higgins however Kooyong is more difficult than it looks due to the ALP vote which was only 20% in 2016, but that was a soft result due to

    1) Frydenberg being an active MP
    2) Turnbull was Liberal leader
    3) There was a strong Green vote
    4) The ALP ran a poor candidate

    Both Higgins and Kooyong will be interesting.

  15. The Australian ran an article and the Greens vote is generally down. Liberal sources have revealed Labor is the biggest threat in Higgins and Kooyong and not the Greens. Liberal sources also believe Adam Bandt could be toppled in Melbourne however Labor has played that prospect down suggesting Bandt is too entrenched in the seat.

  16. The Liberals seem to have this one right but only time will tell if Katie is able to hold it for the Liberals.

  17. Golly…a moderate woman selected as a candidate…
    all those extreme, right wing, conservative,religious blokes…Abbott,Abetz,Andrews,Dutton,Morrison,Kelly…
    must be turning in their graves

  18. Liberal Hold, But only Just, I doubht the Greens can come 2nd place. Since you would think by the polls the Labor vote is up, And tactical voting might just put Labor ahead of the greens here,

  19. Katie Allan was the Liberal candidate for the seat of Prahran for the state election last year. Definitely a moderate compared to the rest of her ilk.

    I tend to agree that the ALP will be more of a threat this year than the Greens. The unions have even appointed an organiser in this area and they consider Higgins an outlier seat, which will help the ALP. Jason Ball is pretty prolific on social media, but that doesn’t win elections.

    There just isn’t as much of a ground effort this time around and if a mammoth effort for several months leading into the 2016 election netted only a ~2% swing on two party preferred terms against a 9% margin, combined with the party going backwards generally as well as internal scandals, I am not at all confident that they will gain ground this year. The only seat I am even slightly confident that the Greens can gain this year is Melbourne Ports/Macnamara and even then I’m doubtful.

  20. Union campaigning doesn’t necessarily help the ALP over the Greens. In 2016 their materials were “put Liberals Last”. There are some unions that will put good money into opposing Greens (eg the CFMEU were active in supporting Labor in the Northcote and Batman byelections), but they’re far less likely to do so in a blue ribbon seat, especially when there are marginal seats to be won.

  21. The union campaign will be put the liberals last this will only disavantage labour if the greens outpoll them which will not occur in Melbourne except for The Melbourne electorate

  22. The core of this seat is Liberal/Coalition, Greens and/or Labor will not be favored. On an interesting comment it is strange seeing that Sportsbet market has such a low likely hood of Liberal being a favourite, Coalition at 1.95 and Labor at 2.20 – Crazy!

  23. Anthony

    Under usual circumstances you are totally right in writing that this should be an easy Liberal hold however this area has a strong preference for Turnbull style Liberalism/Conservatives politics over the the more reactionary policies put forward by the likes of Abbott/Morrison.

    The ALP are a chance here for several reasons.

    1) Unlike many safe seats, this electorate has a number of strong ALP lending booths

    2) The Liberals scored only 52% primary in 2016, this I believe was their lowest primary in the seat’s history and if the polls are correct then it looks like going to primaries, two things that add to this likelihood is that the government is seeking a third term so we should see a swing against it and it doesn’t have an incumbent

    3) The combined non-Liberal vote is high enough for it to become at least marginal or lost in what looks like being a poor election result for the Liberal Party

    For me the Malvern booths will be critical because in the state election there was a 10% swing against the Liberals in the state seat of Malvern, if that is repeated and the ALP do okay in areas around Ashburton, Murrumbeena and South Yarra/Prahran then this seat looks like a possible gain, however if the Liberals can limit any swing to under say 5% across Malvern then they could hold on.

    I discount the Greens at this stage on the bases of Windsor being removed from the electorate in the last redistribution and the adding of areas that prefer the ALP over the Greens.

  24. Labor must be taking the seat quite seriously if they are changing to a high profile candidate. The libs have preselected well which they needed to to hold the seat, but still think this seat is in play. If a former safe seat like Higgins is in play, then you’d imagine that the government will probably lose the election in Victoria alone


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