2010 Federal Election

Image taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_House,_Canberra.jpgWelcome to the Tally Room’s complete guide to the 2010 Australian federal election. This guide includes comprehensive coverage of each seat’s history, geography, political situation and results of the 2007 election, as well as maps and tables showing those results.

Seat profiles
Seat profiles have been produced for all 150 House of Representatives electorates. You can use the following navigation to click through to each seat’s profile.

I have primarily produced the maps for these seat guides and written the profiles myself, but I have received assistance from regular commenter Nick C, who has helped out with a large amount of work collecting and posting candidate announcements. Nick has also helped me by producing booth maps for a majority of seats in South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria.

Senate races
Guides have also been written for Senate races in all six states and both territories.

Political situation
In 2007, Labor leader Kevin Rudd brought his party back to power after eleven years in opposition, defeating John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition. The ALP won 52.7% of the two-party preferred vote, a swing of 5.4%. The ALP also gained 23 seats, giving them a total of 83 seats. The Liberal-National coalition lost twenty two seats, with 19 Liberal seats lost, two National seats and the sole seat of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party. The independent seat of Calare switched back to the Nationals, following a redistribution which cut the seat in half.

Sitting Prime Minister John Howard lost his seat of Bennelong, as did fellow ministers Gary Nairn, Mal Brough and Jim Lloyd. His deputy, Peter Costello, was expected to become Leader of the Opposition, but declined to stand. In a December 2007 leadership ballot former Defence Minister Brendan Nelson narrowly defeated former Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Rudd’s Labor government dominated in the polls throughout 2008. A by-election was held in the Victorian seat of Gippsland in June 2008 following the retirement of former Nationals minister Peter McGauran. The Liberal Party challenged for the seat, but the Nationals retained it, gaining a 6% on two-party preferred swing against the ALP.

Two more by-elections were held in September 2008, in the NSW north coast seat of Lyne, following the resignation of former Nationals leader Mark Vaile, and in the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, following the resignation of former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. In Lyne, the Nationals suffered a massive defeat at the hands of independent state MP Rob Oakeshott, himself a former National. In Mayo, the Liberal candidate managed 53% of the two-party preferred vote against the Greens in a race with no Labor candidate.

Ten days later, Nelson called a leadership spill, and was defeated by his Shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull, by a 45-41 margin.

Turnbull began to make ground against the Rudd government in early 2009, but was badly damaged by the OzCar affair in June 2009. Turnbull had used the testimony of a Treasury official to accuse Kevin Rudd and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, of misusing a government program. It was found that the official had fabricated the evidence, and was found to have links with Liberal frontbenchers.

In late 2009, the Labor government brought its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme back to the Senate for a second time, after it was rejected in August. After extended negotiations, Turnbull announced an agreement whereby his party would support an amended CPRS in the Senate. This caused ructions within his party, with a lengthy party room meeting where it appeared uncertain if a majority of the Liberal Party supported the deal. Turnbull closed down the meeting and affirmed the party’s support for the amended CPRS, which saw a number of his frontbenchers resign in protest. On 1 December, a leadership spill was won by Tony Abbott by a 42-41 margin.

The next weekend, by-elections were held in Peter Costello’s seat of Higgins, in Melbourne, and in Brendan Nelson’s seat of Bradfield, in Sydney. The ALP did not stand, and the main opposition came from the Greens. While the Greens polled highly in both seats, they performed no better than the ALP had done in those seats at the 2007 election.

Abbott’s leadership polarised Australian voters, solidifying his hold on Liberal supporters. He rejected the government’s climate policies and moved the party to the right.

In early 2010, the Rudd government made a number of policy changes to prepare for the election. On the grounds that the Senate was not willing to consider the government’s climate policies, Rudd postponed his climate scheme until 2013. The government also announced a freeze on processing of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

These changes, particularly the backflip on climate change, saw Rudd’s popularity and credibility collapse in the polls. Abbott inched closer to an election-winning position, although he only came out ahead in a handful of polls, and Rudd was in a much stronger position than Howard had been in the lead-up to his 1998 and 2004 election wins.

As part of the May budget, the government announced a proposed ‘Resource Super Profits Tax’, which would have increased taxes on highly profitable mining operations, while generally cutting company taxes. The policy was generally popular, but came under fire from the mining industry and hurt the ALP’s position in Queensland and particularly in Western Australia. The ALP also began to lose ground to the Greens, who polled in the mid-teens in a number of polls in quick sequence.

In late June, Labor powerbrokers decided to switch their support from Rudd to his deputy, Julia Gillard, and she was elected unopposed as leader of the ALP, and therefore Prime Minister, on June 24.

Since the 2007 election, redistributions have been held in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. A redistribution is currently taking place in Victoria, but will not be finished in time for the election. The Northern Territory redistribution decided to make no changes to the boundaries of the Northern Territory’s two seats.

The redistributions in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were triggered due to seven years having passed since the last redistribution, with the three jurisdictions maintaining fifteen, five and two seats respectively. For the 2010 election, New South Wales lost one of its 49 seats to Queensland, who now have 30 seats, triggering a redistribution

On the new boundaries, the ALP has gained five more notional seats. In Western Australia, the seat of Swan, which fell from Labor to Liberal in 2007, is now notionally Labor. In Queensland, the new seat of Wright is notionally a Liberal National seat, but the Liberal seats of Herbert and Dickson are now notionally Labor.

In New South Wales, the safe Labor seats of Reid and Lowe have effectively been merged as a radically redrawn seat of Reid, but the ALP gained three other Liberal seats, namely Macarthur, Gilmore and Greenway. In the case of Greenway, the seat changed quite dramatically, changing the margin from 4.5% for the Liberals to 5.4% for the ALP.

Once you factor in the loss of the Nationals seat of Lyne to an independent at the 2008 by-election, this produces the following baseline on the new electoral boundaries:

  • Labor – 88 (+5)
  • Liberal – 50 (-5)
  • Nationals – 9 (-1)
  • Independents – 3 (+1)

Key seats
You can see which seats are held by the slimmest margins by examining the pendulum, which orders seats according to the margin of victory at the last election, adjusted for the redistribution.

The key seats for the ALP that they will need to defend to stay in power tend to be on the outskirts of big cities and in regional areas. On the fringes of big cities, the ALP holds the NSW Central Coast seats of Robertson and Dobell, as well as the Western Sydney seats of Macarthur, Macquarie, Greenway and Lindsay. The ALP also holds the marginal seats of Dickson, Longman and Forde on the fringe of Brisbane, and Hasluck in outer Perth.

In regional areas, the ALP is defending Eden-Monaro and Gilmore in southern NSW, Page and Richmond on the north coast of NSW. Flynn, Herbert and Dawson in central and northern Queensland are held by slim margins, as well as Leichhardt in far north Queensland. Other marginal Labor seats include Corangamite, to the west of Geelong, and Bass and Braddon in northern Tasmania.

There are a handful of Labor marginals closer to the centre of major cities, such as Bennelong in Sydney and Swan in Perth, but they are the exception.

The most vulnerable Liberal marginals are also concentrated on the urban fringe and in the regions, including seats such as McEwen in central Victoria, Hughes in southern Sydney, Sturt in outer Adelaide, Bowman to the east of Brisbane, Paterson in the Hunter, Cowper on the North Coast of NSW, and Wright in southeast Queensland.

There are a number of seats where the Greens will be challenging the ALP. Their best prospect is in the inner-city seat of Melbourne, which is the only seat where the Greens came second after preferences in 2007. The ALP holds the seat by 4.7%, and is held by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who will be retiring. The Greens are also a threat to the ALP in the inner-Sydney seats of Sydney and Grayndler. The Greens will be particularly focusing on other inner-city electorates such as Fremantle, Brisbane and Denison.

Three independents hold seats in the House of Representatives: Bob Katter in the north Queensland seat of Kennedy, Tony Windsor in the NSW seat of New England and Rob Oakeshott in the NSW seat of Lyne. All three hold their seats by massive margins, and should be untroubled at the 2010 election.