Fremantle by-election, 2018

Cause of by-election
Sitting Labor MP Josh Wilson is expected to resign due to him being a dual citizen at the time of nomination for the 2016 election, after the High Court clarified the constitutional requirements on May 9, 2018.

Margin – ALP 7.5%

South-western Perth. The seat of Fremantle covers the City of Fremantle and the Town of East Fremantle, as well as most of the City of Cockburn and small parts of the City of Melville. Suburbs include Fremantle itself as well as Cockburn, Coolbellup, Palmyra, Success, Atwell, Jandakot, Spearwood, Coogee, Beaconsfield and Hamilton Hill.

Fremantle is an original federation electorate. After alternating between parties up to 1934, and since then has always been held by the ALP. From 1934 to 2007 it was held by a series of senior Labor figures.

Fremantle was won in 1901 by Elias Solomon, a Free Trader who had been in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly since 1892.

In 1903, Solomon was defeated by the ALP’s William Carpenter. Carpenter held the seat for one term, before losing in 1906. Carpenter went on to serve in Western Australian state politics.

Carpenter lost in 1906 to William Hedges, elected as the only representative of the Western Australian Party, a party formed from Anti-Socialists and Protectionists, but sat as an independent, before joining the new Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909. He was re-elected in 1910 but lost in 1913.

He was replaced by the ALP’s Reginald Burchell. He left the ALP over the conscription split and was re-elected as a Nationalist MP, serving as Member for Fremantle until his retirement in 1922.

Fremantle was won in 1922 by independent candidate William Watson. Former Liberal MP Hedges was pushed into third place behind the ALP. Watson held the seat until his retirement in 1928, when the seat was won by the ALP’s John Curtin.

Curtin held the seat for one term, losing in 1931 to Watson, who had returned as the candidate for the United Australia Party. Curtin returned in 1934 after Watson again retired, and the ALP has held the seat ever since.

Curtin was elected leader of the Labor Party in 1935, and became Prime Minister in 1941, leading Australia through the Second World War. Curtin died in July 1945.

The 1945 Fremantle by-election was won by the ALP’s Kim Beazley. Beazley was a prominent figure in the federal ALP through the 1950s and 1960s, and served as Education Minister in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1975. He retired from Parliament in 1977. His son is Kim Beazley Jr, who served as Leader of the ALP from 1996 to 2001 and from 2005 to 2007.

The younger Beazley contested the ALP preselection for Fremantle in 1977, but lost to John Dawkins, who had previously held the marginal seat of Tangney from 1974 to 1975.

Dawkins joined the Labor frontbench in 1980. He served in the Hawke cabinet from 1983, and was appointed Treasurer in the Keating government in 1991 after Keating replaced Bob Hawke. He served in the role until he resigned in December 1993 after facing opposition within Cabinet to his budget.

The 1994 Fremantle by-election was won by Carmen Lawrence. Lawrence had been a state MP in Western Australia since 1986, and had served as Australia’s first female Premier from 1990 until the ALP lost power in 1993.

Lawrence served as Minister for Health for the last two years of the Keating government. She served as a shadow minister in the Labor opposition from 1996 to 1997 and again from 2000 to 2002, having been forced to step down in 1997 due to allegations of perjury, for which she was later acquitted. She resigned from the frontbench in 2002 in protest at the party’s asylum seeker policy.

Lawrence was elected as the ALP’s first directly-elected National President in 2003, and served in the role in 2004. She retired from Parliament in 2007.

At the 2007 election, Fremantle was won by Labor’s Melissa Parke, a lawyer who worked for the United Nations from 1999 to 2007. Parke was re-elected in 2010 and 2013, and retired in 2016.

Labor’s Josh Wilson won Fremantle in 2016.


  • Mark Staer (Australian Christians)
  • Dorinda Cox (Greens)
  • Katrina Love (Animal Justice)
  • Josh Wilson (Labor)
  • John Gray (Liberal Democrats)
  • James Harfouche (People’s Party)
  • Jason Spanbroek (Independent)

Fremantle is a reasonably safe Labor seat, but this by-election could throw up something unexpected.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Josh Wilson Labor 34,792 41.0 -0.4
Pierrette Kelly Liberal 31,292 36.9 -0.6
Kate Davis Greens 15,053 17.7 +5.9
Mick Connolly Mature Australia 2,335 2.8 +2.8
Chris Jenkins Socialist Alliance 1,404 1.7 +0.8
Informal 3,535 4.0

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Josh Wilson Labor 48,821 57.5 +2.1
Pierrette Kelly Liberal 36,055 42.5 -2.1

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into four areas: central, north, south-east and south-west.

The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in three out of four areas, ranging from 56.4% in the south-east to 65.3% in the centre. The Liberal Party polled 51.9% in the north.

The Greens primary vote ranged from 10.6% in the south-west to 25.3% in the centre.

Voter group GRN prim % ALP 2PP % Total votes % of votes
South-East 12.0 56.4 23,297 27.4
Central 25.3 65.3 20,176 23.8
South-West 10.6 58.8 10,260 12.1
North 20.7 48.1 6,836 8.1
Other votes 19.6 54.2 13,033 15.4
Pre-poll 18.7 54.3 11,274 13.3

Election results in Fremantle at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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  1. This will be the least interesting of the byelections – the ALP will hold this seat comfortably.

    The Greens might like the idea of this seat, but the Federal seat of Fremantle is not the same as the state seat, and the bits that aren’t in the latter aren’t really Greens friendly territory.

  2. Some speculation that Scott Ludlam may run in Fremantle, if this were to be true the Greens may be an outside chance, however as always will be difficult for them gaining enough support outside of the City of Fremantle proper.

    Would not expect the Liberals to run here.

  3. The Green vote is particularly strong in the proximity of the town of Fremantle and its nearby surrounds although drops off to standard levels in the suburban parts of the seat.

    I doubt the Liberal party would run considering the by-elections in Perth and Darling Range where they have a better chance of winning.

    The only way the Greens could possibly win this seat is if Scott Ludlam ran, and even if that was the case it would be an uphill battle for the Greens.

  4. Oops just discovered an error on the Fremantle map of the Greens primary vote where it’s showing the Forrest booths. Fixed now.

  5. If you look at the last map and toggle 2PP off and Greens primary on you can see the shape of the electorate. The Greens are already polling in the 20s and 30s in the northern half of the seat. Maybe there’s room to grow there but it’s all about the south.

  6. Greens could win with Ludlam or maybe Lynn Maclaren, but I’m not sure either of them have renounced their foreign citizenships. I also think Ludlam is genuinely done with politics.

    Someone like Kate Davis (2016 candidate) will run and get a decent vote but not enough to topple Labor.

  7. The first map doesn’t show a booth on Rottenest, I distinctly remember there being one as me & my family where there last election day.

    As for who will the win the by-election I’m predicting an easy Labor hold with a small-ish swing towards the Greens.

  8. There is a booth on Rottnest but I don’t show it on the map because it’s quite far from the rest of the seat. It’s included in the ‘other votes’ category with postals, absent, etc.

  9. As a matter of historical interest Fremantle was indeed a marginal seat up until 1943 and subsequently after 1949 when it contracted towards Fremantle itself. In 1940 John Curtin almost lost the seat, which included much of the western suburbs of Perth while reaching round to South Perth/Victoria Park.
    As has been noted, Green support falls sharply away outside the City of Fremantle and they have no chance against Labor, despite the absence of a Liberal candidate.
    Conservative voters have a choice between Australian Christians and Liberal Democrats, who elected their own MLC for the South Metropolitan Region (covering 95% of the seat) in 2017. All other candidates seem left-of-centre.

  10. Has there ever been another by-election (federal or state) where the Liberals didn’t run but the Greens voted decreased? Quite an amazing result given if anywhere in WA is a Greens “stronghold” it would be Freo. I would assume it’s partly a result of the low turnout.

  11. Smoking gun for the Greens primary vote decrease would have to be the presence of Animal Justice.

  12. A lot of the Greens vote is actually quite soft. I would think quite a bit of that 5% that voted for the Animal Justice Party usually vote Green.

    Still, a pretty bad result for Greens in what was one of their “target” seats in 2016. Jordon Steele John should get reelected, but I think the Greens should set their minds on other WA seats in the general election; Perth was actually quite solid, and they could also get quite a good vote in safe Liberal seats like Curtin and Forrest where Labor are likely to run dead.

  13. Josh
    Not if you factor in just how impressive Josh Wilson is. If labor don’t make him a shadow immediately they are even dumber than i think they are. I’ll elaborate more when Ben puts up a thread for Freo


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