Northcote by-election, 2017

Cause of by-election
Labor MP Fiona Richardson died on 23 August 2017.

Margin – ALP 6.0% vs GRN

Inner north of Melbourne. Northcote mainly covers the southern suburbs of Darebin council, as well as the northeastern arm of Yarra council. It covers the suburbs of Alphington, Fairfield, Northcote, Thornbury and parts of Preston.

Northcote was first created for the 1927 state election, and in that time has always been held by the ALP.

Northcote was first won in 1927 by John Cain, who had previously been the Member for Jika Jika since 1917. Cain became leader of the Victorian ALP in 1937, and led the party through extended periods of hung parliaments. He served as Premier briefly in 1943 when the Labor-supported Country Party government fell, and served as Premier for two years from 1945 to 1947, before losing the 1947 election badly.

In 1952, John Cain won the state election, and governed as Premier until 1955, when Labor MPs from the Catholic “Movement” faction crossed the floor and brought down the government. These MPs formed the basis of the Democratic Labor Party. Cain remained as leader of the ALP until his death in 1957 while campaigning for the ALP in a Queensland state election.

The 1957 Northcote by-election was won by the ALP’s Frank Wilkes. He became the ALP’s deputy leader in 1967, and became leader in 1976. He served as leader until 1981, when he was replaced by John Cain Jr, who won government in 1982. Wilkes served as a minister in the Cain government until his retirement in 1988.

In 1988, Northcote was won by Tony Sheehan, who was Member for Ivanhoe from 1982 to 1985, when he lost the seat to the Liberal Party. He served as a minister in the final years of the Labor government, serving as Treasurer in 1992 before the Liberal Party won the state election that year. He retired in 1998.

The 1998 by-election was won by former ABC newsreader Mary Delahunty. She served as a minister in the Bracks government from 1999 to 2006, when she retired.

In 2006, Northcote was won by Fiona Richardson, and she was re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Richardson became Minister for Women and Minister for Prevention of Family Violence following the 2014 election.

Richardson died in August 2017.


  • Clare Burns (Labor)
  • Lidia Thorpe (Greens)

The Labor Party won Northcote by a 6% margin in 2014 – a sizeable majority but by no means safe. A by-election triggered by the death of the sitting member is unusual circumstances, but it is certainly possible that the Greens could overcome Labor’s majority and win the seat.

2015 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Fiona Richardson Labor 15,928 41.0 -3.1
Trent McCarthy Greens 14,101 36.3 +4.4
Anthony D’Angelo Liberal 6,407 16.5 -3.2
Jamie McCarney Basics Rock ‘n’ Roll 1,043 2.7 +2.7
Georgina Purcell Animal Justice 678 1.7 +1.7
Bryony Edwards Independent 324 0.8 +0.8
Informal 1,713 4.2

2014 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Fiona Richardson Labor 21,783 56.0 -4.2
Trent McCarthy Greens 17,088 44.0 +4.2

Booth breakdown

Booths in Northcote have been split into three parts: north, south-east and south-west.

Labor won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote against the Greens in all three areas, ranging from 52% in the south-west to 62% in the south-east.

The Liberal Party came third with a vote ranging from 14% in the south-west to 19% in the south-east.

Voter group LIB prim % ALP 2CP % Total votes % of votes
North 17.1 59.9 10,028 25.8
South-West 13.8 52.4 8,702 22.4
South-East 19.1 62.0 5,189 13.3
Other votes 16.7 53.6 14,952 38.5

Election results in Northcote at the 2014 Victorian state election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Labor vs Greens) and Liberal primary votes.


  1. The lack of a Liberal candidate and/or how to vote cards directing preferences to the ALP increases the Greens chances. Having an ALP state government helps as well. This is likely to be close.

  2. If the leaked ALP internal poll of Northcote is close to the truth they are on track to being embarrassingly smashed. The claimed numbers were GRN 40% ALP 28% OTH 15% Undecided 17% (if you evenly distribute undecideds that’s GRN 48% (+12) ALP 34% (-7) OTH 18% (-5), brackets are swing compared to 2014 election).

    With no Liberal HTV card it could be impossible for the ALP to chase down a Green with a sizeable primary lead.

  3. I feel this one could be quite close.
    The Greens have a strong base here, although if this was based off the federal election results in Batman, the Greens would probably win here 60-40.
    That being said Feeney isn’t particularly popular and Clare Burns is a far better candidate.
    I would think Labor will sneak over the line due to Andrews popularity with progressive voters and the fact that the previous member passed away adds another dimension to the contest.

  4. Labor are spending big and Daniel Andrews is making plenty of policy announcements to match up with the election; funding for Northcote primary, renters rights policy, the Grange Road level crossing. I expect there’ll be plenty more; $500,000 goes a long way in a few dense suburbs..

    The Greens seem surprisingly light on policy so far.

    I would have thought it would be a shoe-in for Greens but Labor are looking very competitive. You also have parties like Reason (formerly known as Sex Party) on the ground soaking up Liberal votes and directing them to Labor above the Greens.

    It would be a big change from last year’s council elections where the overlapping ward elected 2 Greens and an independent that ran as a Green in the previous election, or the Federal election where the Greens won all but one of the booths south of Bell street.

  5. Laura Chipp (Daughter of Don Chipp) is running for the Reason Party. They appear to be trying hard for the seat. Will be interesting to see if they get all of the Liberal Votes. Perhaps an Outside Chance?

  6. Which party would the Reason Party be hoping to overtake to make the top 2 runoff?

    Liberal and minor party voters are nowhere near enough, they would need to take a huge chunk out of Labor or the Green primary vote to get one of the top 2 parties in the ~25% range and with Labor and the Greens looking to run huge campaigns I don’t see that happening.

    More crucial will be if the Reason Party are planning on handing out a lot of HTV cards and directing preferences one way or the other (historically the Sex party flip-flopped between preferring Green over Labor and Labor over Green).

  7. My extremely rough booths-only analysis of the 2016 Batman results would give ~57.5 2CP to the Greens in Northcote.

  8. Reason Party will likely be handing out lots of HTVs preferencing Labor over Greens, and pick up a decent “don’t like either” vote (but won’t overtake Labor or Greens).

    Fiona Patten will do anything she can to hurt the Victorian Greens for as long as Kathleen Maltzahn keeps running for preselection in a winnable seat.

  9. The Could also be a bit of leakage in the Reason Preferences to the greens if they preference labor. The Greens will win but probably on by 51%.

  10. Reason party is the old Sex Party – socially libertarian, centrist in economics as far as I can figure – centrist gig to work requires hell raising dealmaking rooted in the local scene a la Nick Xenophon – hard to say what their appeal will be in Melbourne – probably Liberal voters who are actually Liberal

  11. Reason is probably very similar to the original democrats. They are trying to attract the small-l liberal voters in inner-Melbourne. Also similar to NXT.

  12. I think everyone expects the Greens will achieve a swing towards them in the 2PP basis, it’s just dependent on HTV cards & the flow of preferences from those who are also running as to whether Labor can hold on. According to ABC, former ALP Darebin Mayor is running as an independent, he was very much an anti-corruption councillor & ultimately quit from Labor five years ago, given Andrews-Labor Government’s track record it will interesting to see if he directs his voters to the Greens over Labor.

  13. They’re not going to get those votes in Northcote though – the small-l Liberal vote is very small there compared to, say, Higgins and Kooyong, and the Greens are going to pick up more of the non-major party vote than Reason anyway.

  14. Please. Reason is not even registered for this election. This is merely a publicity run to introduce the name change to the electorate. If they clear 10% they will have done very well, but they are not remotely in contention to actually win here. As others have said, their impact will be in preferences, but even there is likely to be a bit diminished.

  15. Are you talking about Gaetano Greco A78? He ran in Preston in 2014; got 11.3% of the vote. About 60% of his preferences went to Greens and a further 14% went to Liberals (final destination unknown as Victoria stops redistributing after a candidate cracks 50%). I expect the flows to Greens would be even stronger in Northcote.

  16. I do expect Labor will get a sympathy vote due to the circumstances that caused this by election. I also expect Labor to be generally competitive due to the fact that the Andrews government, putting aside it’s scandles, is generally progressive and is putting forward some good policy and legislative achievements. The Greens haven’t done much to differentiate themselves from the ALP at the state level when it comes to policy, and the Victorian Greens are comparatively centrist. The only thing the Greens seem to be pushing in this election is the whole identity politics schtick of “elect our first aboriginal woman to Victorian Parliament”.

    The inclusion of Reason (though it won’t be listed on the ballot paper) will therefore be competing with the Greens base (in fact, I’d argue that Reason will eat into more of the Greens vote then it will into Labor’s) which now consists of a large number of small l liberal types in the inner city Melbourne area, and Reason could very well have the numbers on the ground and will likely preference Labor ahead of the Greens on their how to vote cards.

    Taking into account all of the above, I predict that this will be a Labor retain. It’ll be close, though, probably with a Labor 2PP of 51-52 or thereabouts.

  17. There are a bunch of independents running most of which will probably preference the greens, the question could be where will Reason send their preferences because if the send them to labor then labor may win but it is still likely that the greens would gain the seat.

  18. Reason and Animal Justice Party are both preferencing Labor. I expect that will swing a few % Labor’s way. If Liberal Democrats staff booths that will also have the usual effect that Liberals have in seats like this, helping Labor get elected.

    It’s looking like Greens will need a reasonably good lead in Primary vote. A reachtel poll has them slightly behind, but Labor’s internal poll had Labor way behind.

  19. I had a dig for the AJP’s justification for their preferencing:

    “We note that Clare Burns is vegan and shares many of our views on the need to protect animals from the prevalent suffering that currently occurs. We believe she would be a positive advocate for animals within the Labor government.

    The Greens also have many good animal policies, but currently appear to be missing the leverage or will to achieve legislative changes to stop animal cruelty.”

    They don’t have leverage to achieve legislative changes, as in, they aren’t currently in the balance of power in the lower house??? Perhaps preferencing them might aid that…

  20. I suppose their point is valid since it’s a byelection and whatever happens Andrews still has a majority government, but the Greens have balance of power in the Upper House and the slew of announcements in recent weeks suggests the Greens have quite a strong influence that gets stronger as they win seats. Mind you, people complain about the Greens influence in SA (2 legislative council seats) and Queensland (no seats at all).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here