Podcast #123: A history of two-party-preferred


Ben is joined by Murray Goot to discuss the two-party-preferred vote: the history of the metric, how it is used today, how it influences how we think about our party system, and whether it still works in the more complex party system we have today.

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  1. Great Podcast Ben
    Something that has has fascinated me is the growth of non classic races and how 2CP is often more important these days. In 1998, ONP made the 2CP in Blair and Democrats in Mayo. I am not sure if the DLP made the 2CP anywhere in their heyday. These days were are seeing interesting combinations such as NAT V GRN, NAT Vs SFF, ALP V ONP and i am sure there are more to come. It shows how politics is much more fragmented these days.

  2. The DLP made the 2CP Count in 1955 in five seats in Victoria:
    Fawkner, Melbourne, Melbourne Ports, Scullin, & Yarra.
    The first being a run-off loss against the Liberals and the other four against the ALP.
    At the state election in 1955 Frank Scully won the 2CP in Richmond, yielding the DLP’s only lower house election win.

  3. Thanks Phil, Much appreciated. Do you know of any other interesting examples of minor parties making the 2CP other than the ones i mentioned or the Greens since 2007. I note NXT made 2CP in Grey, Port Adelaide, Barker in 2016 as well.

  4. 1958 Scullin VIC.
    1961 Darebin, Scullin VIC.
    1963 Bonython, Hindmarsh, Port Adelaide SA.
    Curtin WA.
    … completes the list of DLP 2PP finishes federally.
    2013 UAP/PUP won a run-off against LNP in Fairfax, as did KAP in Kennedy.

  5. One Nation came second in Maranoa in 2016 and 2019. 2022 was a surprise even to Antony Green when Labor managed to finish second (Antony said that One Nation would finish second to the LNP for a third year in a row). Obviously the LNP has won it every single time quite easily though with One Nation only winning a couple of small polling places in 2016. Maranoa is David Littleproud’s seat and he has held it since 2016.

  6. That’s OK
    This is ADs next closest Federal HoR tilt:
    The Democrats gave Kingston a try in 1990, when Senate Leader Janine Haines resigned & ran in Reps at General Election. I’m not aware of any attempt by Liberals to campaign strategically here, & Gordon Bilney won primary with 37.1 percent of vote, over Lib with 33.0%, & Haines on 26.4%.
    AD preferences strongly favoured ALP.
    There was just no massive lead in the saddle bags of either major party candidate, and the House overall was of a two-party nature. Most importantly, the seat was marginal (4.8%) which increased slightly with 1990 results.

  7. If you’re interested in non-classic races, it’s worth checking out my chapter in ‘Watershed’. Figure 16.8 shows the number of non-classic contests since 1990.

    It’s worth noting that prior to 1984, preference distributions were only conducted up until the point when a candidate passed 50%. So while you could identify races that could have theoretically been non-classic, it’s less obvious.

  8. Thanks Ben
    Looking at Figure 16.8 realized that the Democrats made the 2CP in Cunningham in 1990 as well.
    @NP, i think ONP can make the 2CP in Maranoa again in 2025 as there is a long term decline in Labor primary vote.

  9. @Phil, the evidence suggests that there was definitely a coordinated campaign by the Liberal Party to block the Australian Democrats from winning Kingston in 1990. In fact, Alexander Downer said in 2004 that he worked “quite closely” with the sitting Labor member, Gordon Bilney to stop the Democrats from winning it.

    Another figure who confirmed this is Nick Minchin, the Liberal campaign manager for Kingston at the time. He later said that the Liberal Party were extremely worried about Janine Haines winning Kingston, as Liberal polling indicated the Liberals were running third and their preferences would elect Haines. As a result, they ran an extremely negative campaign against the Democrats in the last week which resulted in Haines’ support plummeting and then coming third behind the Liberals.

    (Alexander Downer’s comments can be found in the HOR Hansard for 29 November 2004, and Nick Minchin’s comments can be found in the Senate Hansard for 25 June 2008.)

  10. In Hindsight, Kingston was probably not the right seat for Janine Haines to win as the Liberals were not willing to run dead to assist the Democrats to win a seat they had an interest it themselves, if she had run in Port Adelaide or Bonythorn in 1990 they would have happily ran dead IMHO and there is no chance of a Liberal victory there. Janine Haines on the 1990 boundaries should have ran in either Mayo or Boothby as the Labor party could not have won those seats and would been happy to run dead for the Democrats to take a blue ribbon seat. Kingston was a classic swing seat.

  11. Kingston was a swing seat during the Howard years but it hasn’t been recently. Perhaps it’s due to Howard’s personal appeal which is especially true among working-class voters.

  12. @ NP
    Parts of Kingston are working class like Christie Downs but some are more affluent such as Hallet Cove, Flagstaff hill. I would class it as a mortgage belt growth area. In the 2022 thread, i actually described Amanda Rishworth and Tony Zappia as among the best performing MPs and i think a lot of the vote is hard work. The other thing in South Australia has improved for Labor since the early 2000s.
    The Northern Suburbs are the working class industrial heartland for SA Labor.


  13. @GreePPS, Thanks for that information & references. I was really referring to the absence, in Kingston, of a ‘run dead’ campaign like Labor in Teal seats in 2022. There was greater antipathy towards Haines than Bilney?


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