It is far too early to assess the impact of any party on the upper house, in particular parties like Sustainable Australia and Keep Sydney Open who have not yet had a single one of their upper house votes counted. Even for other parties like the Greens we can’t judge how big the “swing” will be until we know how many of the ‘others’ votes are below the line or informal. But we can answer some questions about their impact.
I saw a number of comments blaming Keep Sydney Open in particular for Labor’s loss in the election. Meanwhile Greens MLC David Shoebridge has blamed Keep Sydney Open for a drop in the Greens primary vote, which has currently dropped by 0.8% in the upper house. The Greens are polling 9.5%, while Animal Justice, Sustainable Australia and Keep Sydney Open (all parties I’ve grouped together as competing for parts of the Greens voter base) are each on 1.5% in the lower house. That adds up to 14% of the total vote between these four parties.
In this post I will test both theories. In short I’ve found that there is little to no evidence of these minor parties hurting Labor’s two-party-preferred vote in key electorates, but some evidence that the Greens vote dropped in places where these other parties ran.
First, let’s look at Labor.
I identified 19 electorates which the Coalition held by less than 10% before the election. This includes pretty much every seat that Labor had its eye on. If Labor had won 13 of these 19 seats they would have won their majority. It was this group of electorates where the election was decided.
The first thing to note is that Labor didn’t come close to winning in the end. At the moment it looks likely they will pick up Coogee and Lismore, and that’s it. And while they fell short in a handful of others, it wasn’t close to enough for Labor to form government. But let’s explore this idea further.
In these 19 seats, Animal Justice ran candidates in twelve, Sustainable Australia ran eleven, and Keep Sydney Open ran just two.
Labor performed better overall in the seats where Animal Justice ran. They suffered an average swing of 2% against them (on two-party-preferred) in the seven seats where the AJP did not run. Meanwhile they increased their 2PP vote in nine out of twelve seats where the AJP did run.
Labor suffered relatively small swings in East Hills (1.6%) and Terrigal (3.3%) and a bigger 7.5% swing in Monaro. I guess it’s possible AJP’s vote had some impact in East Hills and Terrigal but it isn’t big enough to explain the Monaro swing, not even close.
The ALP suffered an average swing of only 0.03% in the eleven seats where Sustainable Australia ran, with negative swings in 4 out of 11 seats.
Labor gained 3.9% in Coogee, and lost 1.6% in East Hills. These are the only key Coalition-Labor seats where KSO ran.
There is more evidence for the Greens claim. For the remainder of this article I’m looking at the Greens primary vote, not at the two-candidate-preferred vote which increased in the three Greens-held seats.
These three minor parties ran 145 candidates between them across 93 seats. First, I treated each party separately, and found that there was a larger swing against the Greens in the seats where each party ran compared to those where that party did not run. There wasn’t much evidence that one particular party had more of an impact on the Greens vote.
But the trend is also more obvious if you look at the three parties collectively. This table breaks seats down based on how many candidates from these three parties ran in each seat, and what the average Greens swing was in these seats, and what the total vote was for those parties in those seats:
|Minor candidates||Seats||Minor %||Greens swing|
There is clearly more of a swing against the Greens in seats where two or three of these parties ran, while the Greens actually gained votes where none of these parties ran.
Now, this is not overwhelming evidence. It is possible that the Greens lost ground in seats where they have traditionally been stronger, and that these are the places these parties would choose to run.
It’s also clear that these parties aren’t just taking from the Greens, with their vote substantially higher than the Greens swing.
But I also find it interesting that this election does not fit a pattern at recent elections where the Greens lost ground statewide while strengthening support in their heartland. You might think this at first, since the Greens gained large swings in their three electorates but lost vote statewide. But I think that explanation doesn’t work. This map shows the Greens primary vote swing by seat.
You can see that the Greens actually gained sizeable swings in difficult seats like Bankstown, Fairfield, Mulgoa and Albury. In contrast, the Greens suffered their biggest primary vote swings in relatively strong areas near their best seats. Seats like Summer Hill, Willoughby and Vaucluse. The biggest swing was in Coffs Harbour, where an ex-Greens independent polled over 17%.
Now there could be a number of explanations for this. It could be that the Greens have done well here in the past and came back to earth. But these seats also tend to be the kinds of seats where these parties are challenging them for primary vote.
If you look at the map in this post (reposted below), you will see that it was these same areas where these other parties ran two or three candidates between them.
While this evidence is not definitive, and it will be interesting to revisit this question once the Legislative Council count is progressed, but I do think there is some evidence for this theory.