Five (5!) federal by-elections on their way with latest s44 blow


The High Court this morning ruled that Senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to sit in the Senate, making her the 13th federal politician to be undone by section 44 of the constitution in this current parliamentary term. The Court clarified that, while there is room for a person with dual citizenship to be eligible to sit in the parliament if they have taken ‘reasonable steps’, that is only excusable if it is not possible for them to renounce their citizenship. And delays are not enough to invoke that exception.

So Gallagher is out, because her British citizenship was not renounced in time. It also meant that it was no longer tenable for four lower house MPs to stay in parliament.

Labor MPs Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, along with Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, all resigned from parliament this afternoon, triggering by-elections in four different states. This is in addition to the Perth by-election, called following Labor MP Tim Hammond’s retirement last week. Presumably all five will be held on the same date.

Four of these five seats are held by Labor. It will be up to the government as to which seats they contest. Presumably they will contest some and avoid others. The Greens may also have ambitions in Perth or Fremantle, but both are probably out of reach.

I’ve now posted the seat guides for all five races. In Braddon, Longman and Perth, where I had already posted guides for the general election, those pages have now become by-election guides, including all of the pre-existing comments. The comments are now open:

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  1. I would imagine all of these seats should remain in the incumbents hands except for Mayo which should swing to the Libs, in fact I doubt Labor would even run and the Greens would pick up a fair amount of their votes.
    Labor should hold onto Fremantle and Perth pretty easily, I doubt the Libs would bother running in Fremantle and could set up an interesting race between the Greens and Labor.
    Labor may have some trouble in Longman and Braddon, that being said in the current climate they would be slightest of favourites.

  2. I think both Mayo and Longman are in play – One Nation preferences will determine who wins Longman and I agree with L96 that Mayo should return to Libs.
    Braddon is interesting and I think Libs will make a big play for it but doubt they can win – however it would not be a surprise.
    Freo is not in play and with 3 other possibilities I doubt libs will chase Perth

  3. Perth and Fremantle are near certain Labor holds, Braddon and Longman seen to me to be very likely Labor holds given the current position of the Government and Mayo is hard to analyse but probably a Liberal gain.

  4. The WA Liberals also have a state by election in the outer southeastern suburban seat of Darling Range coming up, so it won’t surprise me if they abandon Fremantle (and possibly Perth) to concentrate on that one.

  5. Each seat could be very important in determining whether Turnbull and Shorten will stay as leaders.

    Perth – Very likely Labor hold
    Fremantle – Likely Labor hold but would be very close if Scott Ludlum runs for the Greens which is rumoured.
    Braddon – Probable Labor hold
    Longman – Probable LNP gain especially if they can get One Nation preferences.
    Mayo – unknown. Sharkie is a well known MP and is very present but will be interesting to see what the swing against her will be given she is now a Centre Alliance MP.

    Also, the WA State by-election in Darling Range is an almost certain Liberal gain with rumour having it that the ALP won’t even run a candidate because they can’t hold the seat with the whole Urban fiasco.

  6. I think everyone is massively underrating Libs chances Braddon, at the state election the vote was 56 LIB, 27 LAB, 4 GRN. I find it unlikely that the gap between state and federal sentiment is anywhere near big enough for Labor to hold.

    My predictions,

    Perth – Safe Labor Hold
    Fremantle – Safe Labor Hold
    Braddon – Lib Gain
    Longman – Narrow LNP Gain
    Mayo – Narrow Ind Hold

    also I agree with everyone else that perth or freo would only be in play with Scott Ludlum running.

  7. Much was made of the personal vote factor in last year’s by-elections – Bennelong in particular – where normally it disappears at a by-election, it obviously doesn’t when the incumbent re-contests.

    An interesting additional factor here is that all four incumbents are first term members. So instead of a loss of personal vote for the incumbent party, there’s a gain. If these MPs have all been working hard the past two years, they should all be comfortably re-elected. (Even in Perth, the personal vote effect will be neutral.)

    Also, it’s very simplistic to apply the 2016 template and assume the election will change on the reversal of a single factor – preferences in Longman, Jamie Briggs in Mayo. Circumstances have changed; not just incumbency but also the government’s fortunes.

  8. It will be interesting to see the next newspoll versus the results. Most voters will see Labor as pompous hypocrites for claiming all their MP’s are eligible, when they were clearly not (Bill Shorten still has not apologised). count the fact Labor is currently opposing tax cuts in the new budget, which is popular in WA, the election might be incongruous to what the national polls are.

    Furthermore Labor also spoke about banning live export, which will annoy people who work at the docks in Fremantle and most people in WA. And lastly, most voters will see this as a waste of taxpayer money if there is an election next year anyway.

  9. Huge
    Ben reckons Braddon will be contested on pre redistribution boundaries. Makes no sense to me, but doubt he is wrong.
    It is worth reminding everyone that there have only been 5 opposition seats lost since federation. Mayo will be the sixth. History indicates there will be no more.
    Having said that Longman, & even Braddon are not done deals. IMO Labor would be extremely foolish to allow ANY of the former MPs to contest. There is the undeniable fact that they have broken the law, indeed they ought to be prosecuted. Won’t happen of course.
    Quite simply if the Labor MPs had acted lawfully they would have stood down months ago. Instead they defied the constitution , & dared the govt to move against them.
    Christian Porter refused to be pressured into action, believing that Shorten would damage himself. Though I doubt that the govt will capitalise on Shorten’s duplicity, or Labor’s serial mendacity.

  10. Remember that a by-election is basically a re-do of that division’s contest at the previous general election. So of course it will be contested on the old boundaries. Everyone else in the parliament was elected on those boundaries.

    It would hardly be fair for areas redistributed out of the electorate to have no MP; nor for areas redistributed in to have two.

  11. Even on pre redistribution boundaries Braddon is in comfortable liberal territory. Not sure I buy the “opposition rarely loses seats in by-elections” argument, the sample size is too small and most by-elections (in opposition seats) seem to occur in very safe seats.

  12. Mossy
    Agree with you on all counts. It will be interesting to see if these factors translate into votes

  13. Braddon and Longman are the only 2 seats I saw as possible Lib gains off Labor (which they’ll need to win the next election), and now they’re both up. Liberals would also need to regain Mayo to have a decent chance at majority government, and are hoping that a huge swing isn’t on in WA. A Fremantle by-election is a once in a generation opportunity for the Greens

    These byelections will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the next federal election. If Liberals cant pick up any seats, they’re doomed. If they do (especially a Labor held seat), it will be like the Copeland by-election in the UK and they’ll go to an early election.

  14. WD, all by-elections are contested on the pre-redistribution boundaries. The new seats don’t come into effect until the next election.

    e.g. Canning was fought on the old boundaries despite being the subject of a major redistribution.

  15. WD: It’s disingenuous saying Mayo is an opposition seat, it’s currently held by a minor party, and one pretty sympathetic to the Libs (Nick X would roll over for a magic bean or two). The actual opposition, the ALP would never be able to get a look in in that seat (and nor would any Australian left party like the Greens). Both Nick X and Sharkie were ex-Libs themselves. If X had stayed in the Senate, then NXT would likely still win, but without that name recognition, Sharkie’s going to have to stand on her own.

    As for the boundaires, it has to be contested on the old boundaries, or in *this* term of government, some electors would be represented twice (the ones move into Braddon since 2016) and some not at all (the ones moved out).

    This would also be true in Longman and Mayo, while Perth and Fremantle are unchanged in this term.

  16. Matt Q
    Mayo is a technical argument. I was just speaking in historical terms. I am not trying to be disingenuous .
    I accept what you & Mark Mulcair say about boundaries, makes sense.

  17. Crossbencher seats are not included in the five Opposition seats lost at by-elections. Also one of the five that is included was a voiding of the original result, so while the seat was Opposition-occupied it wasn’t validly won by the Opposition in the first place.

    There have been four by-elections for Independent-held seats after the Independent died or resigned. All were won by a government or opposition party. The Country Party retained one seat at a by-election while temporarily out of Coalition. All these were in the first half of the 20th century. Mayo as a crossbench by-election recontested by the vacating crossbencher is completely unique at federal level.

    My comments on the by-elections at this stage are here:

    Currently I think Labor should retain all its four.

    Re state/federal gap in Tasmania, it is often large. For instance at the 2013 federal election Labor won the 2PP in the state with 51.2% but was unlucky to get only one of the five seats with that. Six months later Labor was utterly destroyed at the state election, a result which had been on the cards for years. I’m going to do some analysis of the state-federal gap in Tas and how it compares with other states.

  18. Date is set. July 28. Same weekend as the Labor national conference. Excellent trolling.

    And a more detailed “ways you could be in violation of S44” form for all nominees.

  19. I just read Kevin’s comment above. While Mayo is unique as a by-election where an independent member is reconnecting, there is one similar case. When Phil Cleary was disqualified in Wills, there was no by-election due to the calling of the 1993 general election. However Cleary contested the seat at the general election and was re-elected. Of course, a sample size of 1 is still no basis for making predictions about what will happen in Mayo.

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