Batman by-election, 2018

Cause of by-electon
Sitting Labor MP David Feeney is expected to resign due to his inability to find documents proving renunciation of his British citizenship.

Margin – ALP 1.0% vs GRN

Batman covers parts of the inner north of Melbourne. Batman covers all of the City of Darebin as well as parts of Yarra and Whittlesea. Batman covers the suburbs of Fairfield, Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Reservoir and Kingsbury.

Batman is a long-standing Melbourne electorate, and for most of its history it has been held by Labor MPs.

The seat was first won in 1906 by Protectionist candidate Jabez Coon. Coon held the seat for only one term before losing it to Labor candidate Henry Beard in 1910. Beard was a former Labor state MP, and died only months after his election to the House of Representatives.

The ensuing by-election in 1911 was won by the ALP’s Frank Brennan. Brennan held the seat for the next twenty years, serving as Attorney-General in the Scullin government from 1929 until 1931. At the 1931 election Brennan lost his seat and the Scullin government was defeated, with Batman being won by UAP candidate Samuel Dennis.

Dennis only held on for one term, losing to Brennan in 1934. Brennan held the seat for another fifteen years, retiring in 1949.

Batman was won in 1949 by the ALP’s Alan Bird, a former Mayor of Northcote. Bird was re-elected throughout the 1950s, returning to the Northcote mayoralty for one year in 1958. He died in office in 1962.

The 1962 by-election was won by Williamstown mayor Sam Benson. Benson was re-elected in 1963 but in 1966 was expelled from the ALP over his support for the Vietnam War. He managed to win election as an independent in 1966. Benson retired in 1969, and the seat went to Labor candidate and Collingwood mayor Horace Garrick in 1969.

Garrick was re-elected at the 1972, 1974 and 1975 elections, but lost preselection in 1976 to Brian Howe, who won the seat at the 1977 election. Howe became a junior minister upon the election of the Hawke government in 1983, and was promoted to Cabinet following the 1984 election. Howe became Deputy Prime Minister in 1991 after Paul Keating moved to the backbench following a failed challenge to Bob Hawke’s leadership, and Howe held the position until 1995. He retired at the 1996 election.

Howe was succeeded in 1996 by former ACTU president Martin Ferguson. Ferguson went straight into the Labor shadow cabinet and was a shadow minister for the entirety of the Howard government, and joined the Cabinet in 2007 after the election of the Rudd government. Ferguson resigned from the ministry in early 2013, and retired at the 2013 election.

Batman was won in 2013 by Labor candidate David Feeney. Feeney had been a Senator since 2008, but had been demoted to the marginal third position on the Labor ticket. Feeney was elected in Batman, and was re-elected with a smaller margin in 2016.


  • Yvonne Gentle (Rise Up Australia)
  • Ged Kearney (Labor)
  • Alex Bhathal (Greens)
  • Kevin Bailey (Conservatives)
  • Tegan Burns (People’s Party)
  • Debbie Robertson (Liberty Alliance)
  • Teresa van Lieshout (Independent)
  • Adrian Whitehead
  • Mark McDonald (Sustainable Australia)
  • Miranda Smith (Animal Justice)

The seat of Batman will be an interesting contest.

The seat was traditionally considered safe for Labor, even as the Greens grew in popularity in the seat of Melbourne to the south. While the southern end of the electorate is very good for the Greens, the northern end doesn’t look like your typical strong area for the Greens.

Alex Bhathal has run in the seat for multiple elections, gradually building up the Greens vote until the party overtook the Liberal Party in 2010. Bhathal has run for the party at every election bar one since 2001.

There were large swings against Labor at the last two elections, with David Feeney struggling to hold onto Labor’s base. While Labor is still quite strong in the north of the seat, the Greens have built up a much higher vote in that area.

The Greens recently won the state seat of Northcote at a by-election. Northcote covers some of the more difficult parts of the electorate for the Greens, and they gained a large swing. A similar swing in those areas in this by-election would lead to a Greens victory.

Feeney had become a liability for Labor. We don’t know whether that will cause ongoing problems for Labor, or if a strong alternative candidate like Kearney can win back voters that have switched to the Greens.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Alex Bhathal Greens 32,645 36.23 +9.83
David Feeney Labor 31,780 35.27 -6.02
George Souris Liberal 17,924 19.89 -2.57
Joel Murray Sex Party 2,317 2.57 -0.01
Philip Sutton Independent 1,509 1.67 +0.86
Caitlin Evans Animal Justice 1,503 1.67 +0.27
Elizabeth Syber Marriage Equality 682 0.76 +0.76
Maurice Oldis Renewable Energy 593 0.66 +0.66
Franco Guardiani Independent 480 0.53 +0.53
Geoffrey Cicuto Cyclist 386 0.43 +0.43
Russell Hayward Progressive 282 0.31 +0.31
Informal 7,601 7.78

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
David Feeney Labor 45,977 51.03 -9.58
Alex Bhathal Greens 44,124 48.97 +9.58

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three areas: north, central and south. The southern area is centred on Northcote. The central area is centred on Preston and Thornbury. The northern area is centred on Reservoir.

There is a large variation in the vote across these three areas. The Greens won with a 63% majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote in the south, while Labor won 66% in the north. The centre was almost perfectly tied – Labor won 17 more votes in those booths.

The Liberal Party’s vote is also much stronger in the north of the seat.

Voter group LIB prim % ALP 2CP % GRN 2CP % Total votes % of votes
North 23.0 66.4 33.6 18,833 20.9
Central 17.2 50.0 50.0 18,745 20.8
South 15.7 37.1 62.9 15,650 17.4
Other votes 23.2 52.3 47.7 15,160 16.8
Pre-poll 20.3 47.7 52.3 21,713 24.1

Two-candidate-preferred vote in Batman at the 2016 federal election


  1. I don’t disagree that the race could be quite close, but I don’t find that stat particularly compelling – the differences between state and federal politics are numerous, including the candidates, the issues and the respective governments, and there was still a substantial swing to the Greens at the by-election compared to the last state contest.

    I do think it’s likely that Feeney has dragged down the Labor vote, but we can’t assume that this damage will be undone simply by his absence.

  2. If the Liberals don’t run, perhaps many Liberal voters won’t vote at all? I would have thought that without Liberal preferences, the Labor candidate would struggle.

    I know Feeney and Marn Fern were both very unpopular in the electorate, but I think there are also a lot of voters who have given up on the Labor party altogether and the Northcote tidal wave can perhaps be seen as an indication of this.

  3. Is the Liberal Party likely to field a candidate? Or will they clear the field for the ALP and Greens to fight it out? What impact will their decision have on the outcome?

  4. This will be a very close election I think. The Greens vote, really, is only firm south of Bell St. North of Bell St they seem to be incapable of knocking any real dent into the Labor vote and really, the key to winning this seat for the Greens is to achieve massive enough swings in the north to turn a number of those booths green.

    Ged Kearney’s candidacy will also no doubt be weighing up in the minds of soft (anti Feeney) Greens voters, as well. It can’t be denied that Feeney was a big liability for Labor and that a good chunk of the Greens vote at the last election in particular would have been a protest vote. Will those people vote Labor again now that Feeney is out of the picture and that Kearney is the Labor candidate?

  5. Interestingly Alex Bhathal would have won if Liberals preferenced Greens over Labor like they did when Bandt first won. Not just in 2016, but in 2013 as well.

    In the absence of a Liberal candidate I can see Liberal voters preferring the Alex Bhathal over very union Ged Kearney, and that will likely give them the seat.

    Also worth noting that Alex Bhathal didn’t run a negative campaign at all in 2016, so I think the “anti-Feeney” vote may be overrated.

    Still, even if Labor loses, they’ll do enough damage to the Greens brand by having a progressive candidate campaigning on inequality get beaten by inner city gentrifiers and crossover Liberals. Labor seems to have been working hard to position the Greens as LNP collaborators and to their right, as well as overly focused on the inner city demographic.

  6. Interestingly Alex Bhathal would have won if Liberals preferenced Greens over Labor like they did when Bandt first won. Not just in 2016, but in 2013 as well.

    In the absence of a Liberal candidate I can see Liberal voters preferring Alex Bhathal over staunch unionist Ged Kearney, and that will likely give them the seat. The most recent example of this I can remember is in polls in South Brisbane, Liberals self allocated 80% to Greens over Labor, but reliably followed HTV cards on the day.

    Still she’s probably their best chance; If they ran a candidate designed to appeal to undecided voters that usually vote Liberal, it would be a traditional left vs right campaign with Labor being on the right; a losing formula in Batman. Labor will try very hard to outflank the Greens on the left, and the Greens will try very hard not to be outflanked (while not scaring off people who usually vote Liberal).

    Even if Labor loses, they’ll do enough damage to the Greens brand by having a progressive candidate campaigning on inequality get beaten by a coalition of inner city gentrifiers and crossover Liberals. Labor seems to have been working hard to position the Greens as LNP collaborators and to their right, as well as overly focused on the inner city demographic. It might even be enough to win back the seat at the general election with a Liberal candidate running.

  7. I will not be voting ALP(again) because they have an outsider and unionist brought in. I’m sick of it.

    Many other ALP members will switch to Green because of this.

    If we wanted to win, we should never have picked anyone from a union. A doctor would have been a good idea.

  8. Any liberal voter who considers voting Green should read Adam Bandit’s attack on Major General Molan The ALP have the odd nut in their ranks but they are not a Macadamia Tree. Compare this to Greens.

    Think of Sarah Hansen Young and Lee Rhiannon before casting a vote for the Greens.

    Surprisingly no minor parties appear to be running. I would have thought $26K would have seen many minor parties rushing. There is little doubt about there financial motives of one minor party in determining where to stand. NO Liberal Candidate means that someone is going to pick up the $26K they got in Batman for last election. one groups motivation in standing.

    How about some details about what is happening on the ground?

  9. Minor parties might not preselect candidates until the election looms. I’m sure several are going through their processes.

  10. If i were a Batman voter i would vote for Alex Bhathal. It is hard to imagine she will not be a totally devoted MP. She has after all spent 16 years running for Batman. I don’t believe Ged Kearny is a strong candidate, she is a moron. Totally one dimensional. If she ever has an original thought , it will be her first.
    As a libertarian i find most Green policy bizarre, & insane. If the Greens take Batman more people will be exposed to these policies, & the true Greens agenda. Ultimately that will be a good thing.
    If i had to bet, the Greens will take this seat, simply on the basis they already took Northcote

  11. Considering in 2016 the Greens actually got the highest primary vote but Labor won thanks to Liberal preferences, it seems like there are two key factors:
    (a) Whether Labor’s more high profile/more left-wing candidate increases their primary vote.
    (b) Whether Labor’s candidate having such strong union links is off-putting for Liberal-leaning voters, causing them to vote for/preference the Greens.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Batman (and other inner-city electorates) will be impacted by the current Victorian electoral redistribution. Whoever wins might be representing a quite different electorate at the next election.

  12. Feeney is one of the last of Danby’s right wing allies after Conroy, Arbib and Dastari departed the parliament. The ALP candidate is just another union hack a former nurse I think. The ALP often select a women candidate when it is clear the seat will be lost to them. The same with the Libs but are unlikely to contest the seat. The Greens will win.

    Looking forward hopefully to Danby’s in Melbourne Ports loosing. I dont care who wins as long as its not the Member for Israel.

  13. Andrew Jackson (no relation), Adam Bandt is not standing in Batman.

    As for Senator Molan I remember him when he was a major at the Infantry Centre, Singleton NSW in the mid 1980’s and he was aloof and distant from other officers. In other words he came across as a bit of a nerd and he has not change much in 2018.

  14. Andrew Jackson (no relation), Adam Bandt is not standing in Batman.

    I remember Sen Molan when he was a Major in 1980’s at the Infantry Centre Singleton NSW and he was odd and aloof from the other officer. In other words he came across as a bit of a nerd.

    As far as the shambles in Iraq is concerned it was the Howard/Downer Liberal government that were responsible.

  15. Adrian
    Of course Adam Bandt is not standing but the Greens are standing a candidate who is similar in outlook to Adam Bandt Lee Rhiannon and Sarah Hanson-Young..

    In this post we hav been talking about what LIberal VOters will do if faced with the choice of putting GReens ahaead of ALP or vice versa.

    Why would any LIberal voter preference GReens ahead of ALP?

    ALP Economic and social policies are moderate tah Greens policies. I will ask Question again why would any Liberal voter prefer Greens to ALP?

    I am not asking why a LIberal voter will not want to vote ALP but the reason Liberal voters are faced with this appalling choice is that the Liberals have deserted the field of battle.

  16. Australian Conservatives sent out a Press Release today stating that Kevin Bailey would be standing as their candidate in Batman.

    Australian Conservatives are extreme economic rationalists and are not truly part of Australian conservatism that supported the Deakenite Compromise.

    My guess is that most Liberal voters oill however vote for Bernadi’s man unless Liberals or a moderate third party stands and in any case these voters preferences ill decide whether Greens or ALP is in wins the seat.

    All other Minor Parties needs to get their act together to determine outcome

  17. Bennee

    Sorry but my spelling let me down should be Deakinite Compromise.

    Australia’s Second Prime Minister brought in a policy that served Australia very well from early 1900’s to 1980’s. In effect it was compromise (sometimes called Deakinite Settlement) between Labour and Capital. All major Parties from 1910’s to 1980’s supported ort at least tolerated this compromise. Industry was protected from foreign competition by tariffs and Labour was protected from laissez faire capitalism by Arbitrated wages and a white Australia Policy to keep wages high. Government intervened when market failed. Generally this intervention remained in place when governments changed. Nicklin Government in Qld (1957) did not close Public Abattoirs when ALP government defeated. Electricity generation remained in public ownership once large centralised power plants were established.

    Currently Deakinite Compromise would be supported by DLP, Katter, Xenophon, Jackie Lambie, and to some extent by National Party and Green’s. ALP and Coalition now reject completely the concept of protecting Australia and even Award wages protect no one. IN all cases the minor parities call the Deakinite by a name that appeals to their target audience. DLP talk about DIstributism , Katter about opposition to neo-liberalism, but in reality they mean a compromise that leads to a fair go.

    Examples of the compromise are or were :
    Arbitrated Wages
    Centralised marketing of Agricultural products
    Government Owned Enterprises to feal with Natural monopolies and oligopolies
    Trade Practices Act
    Arbitrated prices in wartime
    Social Services protecting the vulnerable.
    Support for Cooperatives in marketing and retailing.

    IN effect the compromise resulted in what I all Social Justice.

    DLP even proposed arbitrated Social Service Payments in 1960;’s and 70’s.

    Compromise came to an end after the Fraser Government. Thatcher Government in UK fuelled neo-liberalism in Australia and as result we are now dependent upon a Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund for airlines, tele-communications.

    Unfortunately electors of Batman haver no middle party to turn to. Most Liberal voters are not neo-liberals supporting the Institute of Public Affairs and most ALP voters are not socialist. Most Green voters would run from Green’s Government. Tax would be too high.

    Ged Keaney will be closer to the Compromise position than Greens or Liberals but as an ALP MP she will abide by the Candidates Pledge and do as she is told.

  18. The Australian Conservatives must be short of members who are suitable to be a candidate as their State Director in Victoria is their candidate for Batman.

    Kevin Bailey was once a money reporter for the Herald Sun as well a money businessman and a former infantryman.

    I also note, horror of horrors, that former Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Director, Lyle Shelton, is now the spokesman for the Australian Conservatives.

    ACL on so many fronts, most recently the SSM poll (and I am straight and I voted YES) have been shot down in flames and I did not here them speaking up on pedophilia in the Christian and Jewish religion here in greater Melbourne either.

  19. No Liberal candidate and no Catherine Cummings either as mentions by Supun Liyanage and another contributor who thought she was running for the Hinch party but Hinch party is not standing in Batman either. Why dont these people check their fake news facts?

    Also why is Adrian Whitehead not shown as a party or independent candidate both here and in AEC site, I think, from memory.

  20. Adrian – if you’re standing for an unregistered party (and I believe Whitehead is) you don’t get to have the party name on the ballot paper, but can usually opt to not have “independent” on there either.

  21. AlexJ – Thanks for that. So if the party is unregistered because they did not get registered in time or dont have the required number of financial members, which I believe is 500, it would be nice to know what the name of the unregistered party is and what is its platform. Sounds like a job for Mr or Ms Google. I will report back if I find something useful on Whiteheads group.

  22. Batman candidate Adrian Whitehead is from a group called “Save The Planet”.

    There is another Adrian Whitehead but he is a former Carlton footballer and is not this bloke

  23. Adrian Jackson, Derryn Hinch said on radio that Catherine would run Batman and she said herself on social media, but after close of nominations she said she decided not to run.

  24. Krispy Nachos – we have lots of people, many high profiles, who chatter about standing for election by never do. Some tabloid and commercial TV reporters like the speculation but only confuse the issue. Take Melbourne City Council for example as well.

    Anyhow some say its a women’s prerogative to change her mind.

  25. Will the Greens near wipe out in Tasmania have an impact on Batman?

    Surely by now we should be getting some on the ground reports bout the actual campaign in Batman.

    What Candidates are doing what? Where were candidates on Saturday morning. What issues are they pushing?

    Are local newspapers running any polling any leaks from party polling?

  26. The Liberals one in Tasmania because they have the economy under control.

    While JLN only stood candidates in 3 seats that got on average about 5% of the primary vote.

    The Greens will win in Batman as I have said before.

  27. Andrew Jackson (no relation) – While JLN only contest 3 out of 5 seats their vote was on average 5% for each of the 3 seats. These votes had come from somewhere, other that population increase, if they have that in Tasmania.

    So called local papers are hopeless in 2018. They started going down hill about 5 years ago. Most have now dropped letters to the editor, at least in my area of Port Phillip, and once real estate ads go on line fully these papers will cease to exist.

  28. Surely an allegation that a Candidates Forum restricted the breed of candidate that is permitted an audience rates a mention?

    I thought Adrian Jackson had to be wrong about local newspapers and spent a few minutes ;looking for details but the local Batman papers appear to be political free zones. In fact there was more info on Perth NOW about Batman than in Victoria.

  29. I just looked a few leaders from the inner north and northern suburbs and the Preston leader had a led story (front page) on the Greens candidate and there was a full page ad on page 6 for the ALP candidate but that was basically it.

    The remaining 52 pages were mostly ads for real estate, tradies, schools, cars and local sports results.

  30. The Greens candidate has no dual citizenship with India, Malaysia or UK it was advised in the Herald Sun today after this confirmed by the UK home office and similar in the other two countries. All three are Commonwealth countries though.

    The Greens have done their homework it appears unlike that dopey ALP right winger Feeney.

    While all these dual citizens who have had to leave Parliament should probably keep the salary they were paid as MP’s they should be disqualified from a parliamentary pension for the period they were dual citizens.

    In the case of Feeney he should get nothing as a pension. In the case of Joyce this would be all before the recent by-election were he was elected legally.

  31. Over coffee this morning it was put to me the reason for all the taxation turmoil for retired people & others at this time by Labor was to undermine Labor’s Ged Kearney’s chances in Batman.

    By why said I? “Because she would represent a threat to Bill if she got up”.

    Someone has been reading the Bible.

  32. Anton Kreitzer – I agree but a bit more than a whisker. Greens by 2% 2PP.

    The ALP candidate was wearing an old blue denim jacked today on TV, I assume to make he look like she is from the “work’en class” from the 1970’s. Who wears blue denim jackets in the 21st century?

  33. Hard to see Labor winning Batman given the lack of a Liberal candidate to direct some preferences to them. While Kearney seems to be a much better candidate then Feeney I expect the Greens to win this fairly comfortably around 53-47.

  34. ABC TV at 5;15 pm Saturday (election day) asked Batman voters how they voted and what concerned them. The issues reported were health, education and child care.

    Batman folks it is a federal elected not a state or local government election. All these issues are state and council issues.

    Some voters still cant separate responsibilities of the three level of government.

  35. ADrian

    I have just returned to Burpengary from Central Queensland where a big team is competing to win a By-election for a single seat on the Livingstone Shire Council. All of these candidates appear to have policies that intrude into state jurisdiction and none that I could see wee interested in Roads sewers and drains. IF candidates are confused between jurisdictions why should one expect constituents to be other than confused.

  36. Ged Kearney has considerable ability but the only job she will be concerned about will be retaining her seat and improving her seats margin at the next federal election. The suggestion it was in Shortens interest to lose Batman was lame for a couple reasons.

    1. A Batman win is seen as a triumphant to Shortens leadership.

    2. Kearney a backbencher and a new comer does not rate a mention as a leadership contender unlike the experienced Anthony Albanesse.

    3. Labor has not had a leader contest back to back elections since Kim Beazley in 2001. The party is pretty committed to sticking with Bill to contest the next federal election rather then chopping and changing.

    And a backbencher on a very marginal seat who is at most will only be there for 18 months by the next poll is probably not something Shorten is too worried about.

  37. Shorten should remember that Hawke was a backbencher in 1980 with zero Parliamentary experience but was leader of ALP in Feb. 1983 and Prime Minister in March 1983,

    I think Shorten is performing well at moment. HIs attack on Di Natale post the Batman By-election showed he had a spine which Turnbul seems to be lacking.

    Hopefully this will eb the beginning of the end ogf the Greens. They have no hope of keeping all if their Senators at next Senate Election. They will certainly lose 1 in NSW and unless they can put a sock in her mouth Hanson-Young will self destruct. It will take someone on the extreme of the political spectrum to vote for a candidate who wants to flood the nation with self selecting refugees. I support the acceptance of refugees who will integrate so I am neither in the Rhiannon-Hanson-Young camp nor the Ashby -Hanson camp both nearly as vile as each other.


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