An unsurprising landslide

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Yesterday’s by-election in the NSW state seat of Northern Tablelands saw a result in line with expectations: the Nationals won the seat with a massive swing and a comfortable majority on primary votes.

The seat has a history of being held by the Nationals before Richard Torbay won the seat in 1999. At the last NSW state election, the three other rural independents lost their seats to the Nationals, and support for rural independents in federal Parliament has declined after the decision of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to support the Labor federal government in 2010.

In the current circumstances, it would have been very hard for an independent without a pre-existing high profile to compete with the Nationals. Jim Maher attempted to run as a successor to the independent vote which used to dominate in the New England region. Maher polled 13.8% across the seat, and 20.8% in the Armidale area, but didn’t come close to holding on to more than a small part of Richard Torbay’s vote.

It will be very easy to interpret this result as a sign that Tony Windsor is set for defeat in New England at the September federal election. Windsor is certainly facing a tough race, but this by-election was very different to Windsor’s upcoming race. The independent and Labor candidates in the by-election had little profile, while Windsor has a history of winning his seat with massive majorities and still has a high profile. While he will have a serious fight on his hands, the Nationals can’t expect the result to be anywhere near as lopsided as yesterday’s result.

Polling places at the 2013 Northern Tablelands by-election. Armidale in blue, Inverell in green, Glen Innes in yellow, Gwydir in orange, South in red. Click to enlarge.
Polling places at the 2013 Northern Tablelands by-election. Armidale in blue, Inverell in green, Glen Innes in yellow, Gwydir in orange, South in red. Click to enlarge.

As a final point in analysing the by-election, I have broken the results down using the same geographic areas I used for the pre-election profile.

While a map showing the results for the seat wouldn’t be particularly interesting, as the Nationals have dominated the race across the seat, there are some interesting variations in the vote, particularly between Armidale and the rest of the seat.

All polling places have reported, along with the prepoll votes and some postal votes. More votes in the ‘other votes’ categories are yet to be reported.

The following table shows the primary vote for the top three candidates at yesterday’s by-election, as well as the vote for Richard Torbay at the 2011 election.

Voter groupNAT %IND %ALP %Torbay 2011 %Total votes% of ordinary votes
Armidale51.1220.7911.3865.858,77731.12
South69.4011.069.1757.616,43522.82
Inverell64.8110.408.3968.385,55619.70
Glen Innes63.9110.839.7762.404,87417.28
Gwydir75.413.5911.1259.452,3845.52
Other votes65.4516.717.6963.285,056

Overall, the Nationals performed most strongly in the Gwydir region and in the south of the seat, which were Torbay’s worst areas in 2011. The Nationals vote was lowest at 51.1% in Armidale, which also saw the highest vote for Jim Maher and the ALP.

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