Seat in focus – Goulburn

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Goulburn, on paper, was a very safe Liberal seat prior to the recent election, with Liberal MP Pru Goward holding the seat by a 26.8% margin.

This masked a lot of change in the area. Goulburn shifted significantly west, taking in Yass and other areas from the abolished Nationals seat of Burrinjuck, and barely half of the seat’s population was included in Goulburn prior to the election.

Nationals MP (and minister) Katrina Hodgkinson held Burrinjuck, and initally planned to run against Goward in Goulburn, before shifting to the neighbouring seat of Cootamundra.

Polling places in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election. Goulburn in blue, North-West in green, Southern Highlands in yellow, Yass Valley in red. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election. Goulburn in blue, North-West in green, Southern Highlands in yellow, Yass Valley in red. Click to enlarge.

At this election, Goward suffered one of the largest swings against the government across the state. Currently the swing sits at 20.1% on a two-party-preferred basis, with most of the special votes not counted. Goward was still comfortably re-elected, but her huge 26.8% margin was cut to a much slimmer 6.7% margin.

There was huge variations in the swing across Goulburn, with Labor winning the vote in the main towns of Goulburn and Yass, while the swing was much less in the Southern Highlands.

In the pre-election guide, I split booths in Goulburn into four parts. Polling places in the Goulburn Mulwaree, Yass Valley and Wingecarribee council areas have been grouped as “Goulburn”, “Yass Valley” and “Southern Highlands” respectively. Polling places in the remaining parts of the seat were grouped as “North-West”.

The entirety of Goulburn and Southern Highlands were in Goulburn prior to the redistribution. All of Yass Valley, and most of the North-West, were contained in Burrinjuck prior to the redistribution.

Voter groupLIB 2PP %ALP 2PP %ALP swingTotal% of votes
Goulburn50.749.322.910,26921.1
Southern Highlands65.035.09.68,95818.4
Yass Valley53.146.923.06,12112.6
North-West63.336.720.54,6259.5
Other votes54.545.523.118,61038.3

The swing was large, and well above average, in three out of four areas, ranging from 20.5% in the north-west to 23% in Yass Valley. In the Southern Highlands, the swing to Labor was less than 10%.

Overall, the Liberal Party won a narrow majority in Goulburn, and a slightly larger majority in Yass Valley, to be contrasted with the larger majorities in the southern highlands and the north-west. While there was a large swing against Goward in the north-west, the Coalition majority was so large that she still managed 63% after a large swing.

When you look at the maps, you see an even more interesting trend. Over one-third of the seat’s population lives in the towns of Goulburn and Yass (as opposed to the larger area and population covered by the respective local council areas of Goulburn Mulwaree and Yass Valley).

Labor only won seven booths in the whole of the electorate of Goulburn, and all seven of these booths are in these two larger towns. In Goulburn, Labor won five out of seven booths, and overall won 50.8% of the two-party-preferred vote. In Yass, Labor won both local booths and won 53% of the two-party vote overall.

Two-party-preferred votes in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred votes in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred swings in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred swings in Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred votes in the town of Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred votes in the town of Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred swings in the town of Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
Two-party-preferred swings in the town of Goulburn at the 2015 NSW state election.
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4 COMMENTS

  1. Ben: other factors you might mention are that Labor did not waste any resources on either Goulburn or Burrinjuck in 2011,. This time it endorsed former senator Ursula Stephens, a local, and she said on polling night that her team had campaigned hard for six months. Their goal was not just to get a big swing, it was to win the seat.
    Pru Goward pointed out on polling night that Yass has an electricity depot with 150 workers, and the unions had been very active in canvassing votes for Labor.
    A growing population in the southern part of the electorate are Federal public servants, and the Abbott government’s campaign to cut their real pay and conditions would not have helped the Liberals.
    It’s also possible that some rusted-on Nationals in the former Burrinjuck areas took it out on Goward because they wanted one of their own.
    Finally, if you go through the records, it was the 2011 result that was so unusual in this seat. The Coalition’s winning margins at the past five elections in Southern Highlands (1999-2003) and Goulburn (2007-15) are 5.7 per cent, 7.6 per cent, 1.3 per cent, 26.6 per cent and 6.6 per cent. This result was normal. It was the previous one that was out of line.

  2. Granted but then again, you could say that the 1.3% margin was against a very strong independent candidate. I think the natural Margin for this seat will be somewhere around the 10% margin.

  3. Firstly, thanks Ben on another excellent page.

    Secondly, in reference to Tim’s column, Goulburn like many other seats had a swing recorded to reflect a correction as in many other seats in this Election compared with 2011. Another important consideration is the parties candidate choice in a country seat is especially critical and in many cases can decide the outcome of the Seat. Ursalla Stephens would have received a significant following in Goulburn, which is a 50-50 town, which would have cancelled out Pru Gowards following. Just have a close at the result in Monaro, which has Queanbeyan included. If any Federal issues were going to played out in this area, it would be in Queanbeyan and to a lesser extent in Yass, where many people travel to Canberra.

    Thirdly, in the case of Yass and Borowra, a popular figure in Katrina Hodgkinson moved to another electrate in Cootamundra and much of her vote would have gone to Yuruslla Stephens, based on her following.

  4. The Labor vote was the best it has been in about 20 years……. the key to a Labor win is an excellent vote in The City of Goulburn…… need 56 to 57% there a good spring board probably also Pru Gowards last term

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