Northcote by-election, 2017

Cause of by-election
Labor MP Fiona Richardson died on 23 August 2017.

Margin – ALP 6.0% vs GRN

Geography
Inner north of Melbourne. Northcote mainly covers the southern suburbs of Darebin council, as well as the northeastern arm of Yarra council. It covers the suburbs of Alphington, Fairfield, Northcote, Thornbury and parts of Preston.

History
Northcote was first created for the 1927 state election, and in that time has always been held by the ALP.

Northcote was first won in 1927 by John Cain, who had previously been the Member for Jika Jika since 1917. Cain became leader of the Victorian ALP in 1937, and led the party through extended periods of hung parliaments. He served as Premier briefly in 1943 when the Labor-supported Country Party government fell, and served as Premier for two years from 1945 to 1947, before losing the 1947 election badly.

In 1952, John Cain won the state election, and governed as Premier until 1955, when Labor MPs from the Catholic “Movement” faction crossed the floor and brought down the government. These MPs formed the basis of the Democratic Labor Party. Cain remained as leader of the ALP until his death in 1957 while campaigning for the ALP in a Queensland state election.

The 1957 Northcote by-election was won by the ALP’s Frank Wilkes. He became the ALP’s deputy leader in 1967, and became leader in 1976. He served as leader until 1981, when he was replaced by John Cain Jr, who won government in 1982. Wilkes served as a minister in the Cain government until his retirement in 1988.

In 1988, Northcote was won by Tony Sheehan, who was Member for Ivanhoe from 1982 to 1985, when he lost the seat to the Liberal Party. He served as a minister in the final years of the Labor government, serving as Treasurer in 1992 before the Liberal Party won the state election that year. He retired in 1998.

The 1998 by-election was won by former ABC newsreader Mary Delahunty. She served as a minister in the Bracks government from 1999 to 2006, when she retired.

In 2006, Northcote was won by Fiona Richardson, and she was re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Richardson became Minister for Women and Minister for Prevention of Family Violence following the 2014 election.

Richardson died in August 2017.

Candidates

  • Clare Burns (Labor)
  • Lidia Thorpe (Greens)

Assessment
The Labor Party won Northcote by a 6% margin in 2014 – a sizeable majority but by no means safe. A by-election triggered by the death of the sitting member is unusual circumstances, but it is certainly possible that the Greens could overcome Labor’s majority and win the seat.

2015 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Fiona Richardson Labor 15,928 41.0 -3.1
Trent McCarthy Greens 14,101 36.3 +4.4
Anthony D’Angelo Liberal 6,407 16.5 -3.2
Jamie McCarney Basics Rock ‘n’ Roll 1,043 2.7 +2.7
Georgina Purcell Animal Justice 678 1.7 +1.7
Bryony Edwards Independent 324 0.8 +0.8
Informal 1,713 4.2

2014 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Fiona Richardson Labor 21,783 56.0 -4.2
Trent McCarthy Greens 17,088 44.0 +4.2

Booth breakdown

Booths in Northcote have been split into three parts: north, south-east and south-west.

Labor won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote against the Greens in all three areas, ranging from 52% in the south-west to 62% in the south-east.

The Liberal Party came third with a vote ranging from 14% in the south-west to 19% in the south-east.

Voter group LIB prim % ALP 2CP % Total votes % of votes
North 17.1 59.9 10,028 25.8
South-West 13.8 52.4 8,702 22.4
South-East 19.1 62.0 5,189 13.3
Other votes 16.7 53.6 14,952 38.5

Election results in Northcote at the 2014 Victorian state election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Labor vs Greens) and Liberal primary votes.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.