Eden-Monaro by-election, 2020

Cause of by-election
Sitting Labor MP Mike Kelly announced his resignation on April 30.

MarginALP 0.9%

Geography
South-Eastern NSW. Eden-Monaro covers parts of south-eastern New South Wales surrounding the ACT, along the south coast and in the Snowy Mountains. Major centres include Bega, Yass, Tumut, Queanbeyan and Cooma.

History
Eden-Monaro is an original federation seat, and because of its position in the corner of the state, it has always covered mostly the same area. The seat was a safe conservative seat for the first few decades, but it has been a marginal seat since the Second World War, and was considered a ‘bellwether seat’ from 1972 until 2016, having always been won by the party of government for the last four decades until it swung to Labor in 2016.

The seat was first won by Austin Chapman of the Protectionist Party in 1901. Chapman held the seat until 1926, during which time he served as a Minister in Alfred Deakin’s governments. He later returned to the ministry under Stanley Bruce from 1923 to 1924. Chapman died in 1926, and John Perkins won the seat in a by-election.

Perkins was defeated by John Cusack (ALP) in 1929, but won it back for the United Australia Party in 1931. Perkins served in a number of ministerial roles under Joe Lyons, and was defeated in 1943 by Allan Fraser of the ALP.

Fraser served in the seat for over twenty years, including a period as a senior Labor member in opposition. Fraser was defeated by Dugald Munro in the 1966 landslide but regained the seat in 1969. He retired from Eden-Monaro in 1972.

Bob Whan (ALP) held the seat from 1972 to 1975, which was the beginning of Eden-Monaro’s period as a bellwether seat. Whan was defeated in 1975 by Murray Sainsbury (LIB). Jim Snow (ALP) defeated Sainsbury in 1983, and he was defeated by Gary Nairn (LIB) in 1996.

Nairn became a Parliamentary Secretary in the final term of the Howard government and then served as Special Minister of State. Despite the seat being held by a government MP for so long, Nairn was the first member for Eden-Monaro to be a minister since John Perkins in the 1930s.

Nairn was defeated in 2007 by Mike Kelly (ALP), a former senior lawyer with the Australian Army.

Kelly was re-elected in 2010 but lost in 2013 to Liberal candidate Peter Hendy. Kelly returned to win the seat back in 2016, and was elected to a fourth term in 2019.

Candidates

  • Riccardo Bosi (Independent)
  • James Jansson (Science)
  • Fiona Kotvojs (Liberal)
  • Kristy McBain (Labor)
  • Dean McCrae (Liberal Democrats)
  • Karen Porter (Independent)
  • Narelle Storey (Christian Democratic)
  • Andrew Thaler (Independent)

Assessment
This is a very marginal electorate and is very much in play.

It is very unusual that oppositions lose seats to governments in by-elections, but the sample size gets much smaller when you look at super-marginal opposition seats.

Mike Kelly was clearly a popular local member with a substantial personal vote and Labor will be missing that vote.

There have been two major national events which have intervened since the last federal election. This electorate was hit hard by the bushfires early this year. Both the coastal and inland areas were hit hard, while bushfire smoke was severe in the areas around Canberra for an extended time.

The by-election will be undoubtedly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the parties judged on their response, and it will likely also affect how people vote in a seat which already has an above-average rate of pre-poll voting.

2019 result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Mike Kelly Labor 38,87839.2-2.7
Fiona Kotvojs Liberal 36,73237.0-4.3
Pat McGinlay Greens 8,7158.8+1.2
Sophie Wade Nationals6,8997.0+7.0
Chandra SinghUnited Australia2,7482.8+2.8
David SheldonIndependent2,2472.3+2.3
James HolgateIndependent1,8831.9+1.9
Thomas HarrisChristian Democratic Party1,1571.2-0.7
Informal6,3996.3

2019 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Mike Kelly Labor 50,47250.9-2.1
Fiona Kotvojs Liberal 48,78749.1+2.1

Booth breakdown

Booths in Eden-Monaro have been split into five parts. Polling places in the Queanbyean urban area have been grouped together, and the rest has been split between:

  • East – Bega Valley and Eurobodalla council areas
  • North – Queanbeyan-Palerang and Yass Valley council areas
  • South – Snowy Monaro council area
  • West – Snowy Valleys council area

Labor won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in three of these five areas, ranging from 52.5% in the north to 56.3% in Queanbeyan. The Liberal Party polled 52.3% in the west and 57% in the south.

Voter groupALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
East54.315,40415.5
Queanbeyan56.314,52214.6
North52.510,75310.8
South43.15,2585.3
West47.74,0564.1
Other votes46.58,2108.3
Pre-poll49.441,05641.4

Two-party-preferred votes in Eden-Monaro at the 2019 federal election

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