Vasse by-election, 2014

October 18, 2014

Cause of by-election
Troy Buswell, a former leader of the Opposition, served as a minister in the Liberal government from 2008 to April 2010, and again from December 2010 until March 2014, serving as Treasurer for a majority of this time. Buswell resigned from the ministry in March 2014 after suffering a mental health breakdown. Buswell revealed that he was suffering from bipolar disorder, and on 3 September 2014 he resigned from Parliament, citing the incompatibility of his mental health with his public career.

MarginLIB 21.2%

South-western Western Australia. Vasse covers the town of Busselton and surrounding areas. Vasse covers the entirety of the Busselton council area, and northern parts of the Augusta-Margaret River council area. The electorate’s southern border runs close to the town of Margaret River but does not actually cover the town.

The electorate of Vasse has existed since 1950, and has been won by the Liberal Party at every election in its history. The seat was first won in 1950 by the Liberal and Country League’s William Bovell in 1950. The LCL was the state branch of the Liberal Party, and was renamed as the ‘Liberal Party’ in 1968.

Bovell retired in 1971, and was succeeded by Barry Blaikie. Blaikie held Vasse as a Liberal MP from 1971 to 1996.

Bernie Masters won Vasse in 1996, and was re-elected in 2001. After the Liberal Party lost power in 2001, Masters joined the opposition frontbench.

In 2004, Masters was defeated for Liberal preselection by Busselton Shire President Troy Buswell. Masters resigned from the Liberal Party and served his final year as an independent. In 2005, Buswell defeated Masters, running as an independent.

Buswell was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Party in October 2005, after only eight months in Parliament.

Buswell was elected Leader of the Liberal Party in January 2008, after challenging then-leader Paul Omodei.

Buswell’s short tenure as Opposition Leader was marred by controversy, with a number of examples of embarrassing behaviour emerging. He resigned as Liberal leader in August 2008, and was replaced by former leader Colin Barnett. An early election was called by Labor Premier Alan Carpenter shortly after Barnett resumed the Liberal leadership, and in September 2008 the Liberal Party and National Party won the election.

Buswell served as Treasurer in the new government until early 2010. At that time, Adele Carles, who had been elected as a Greens MP at the 2009 Fremantle by-election, revealed that she had conducted an affair with Buswell, and Buswell confessed to using a ministerial car and a government credit card to pay for accomodation for himself and Carles. Barnett demanded Buswell’s resignation from the ministry, and Buswell moved to the backbenh in April 2010.

In December 2010, Buswell returned to the cabinet, and was reappointed Treasurer in July 2012.

He was re-elected to a third term in Vasse in March 2013. In March 2014, Buswell resigned as Treasurer after revealing that he suffers from bipolar disorder, and had suffered a breakdown. In September 2014 he resigned from Parliament.


  1. Wayne Barnett (Australian Christians)
  2. Peter Gordon (Nationals)
  3. Peter Johnson (Independent)
  4. Libby Mettam (Liberal)
  5. Michael Baldock (Greens)
  6. Teresa Van Lieshout (Independent)

Vasse on paper is a very safe Liberal seat. The last time there was no incumbent MP running, in 1996, the National Party performed quite strongly. In the absence of a Labor candidate, the Nationals will be hoping to do well, but the Liberal Party will probably hold on.

2013 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Troy Buswell Liberal 11,593 57.3 -4.1
Lee Edmundson Labor 2,501 12.4 -8.3
Michael Baldock Greens 2,206 10.0 -5.6
Bernie Masters Independent 1,624 8.0 +8.0
James Wishart Nationals 1,474 7.3 +7.3
Gary Norden Independent 601 3.0 +3.0
Julie Westbrook Family First 412 2.0 +2.0

2013 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Troy Buswell Liberal 14,396 71.2 +3.4
Lee Edmundson Labor 5,822 28.8 -3.4
Polling places in Vasse at the 2013 state election. Busselton in green, North in orange, South in blue. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Vasse at the 2013 state election. Busselton in green, North in orange, South in blue. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths in Vasse have been divided into three parts. A majority of votes were cast in the town of Busselton. The remainder of the seat was split into “north” (rural parts of the Shire of Busselton) and “south” (those polling places in the Augusta-Margaret River Shire).

The Liberal Party won a large majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 65.2% in the south to 71.9% in Busselton. The ALP came a very distant second, not that far ahead of the Greens. The Labor primary vote ranged from 10.2% in the north to 13.1% in Busselton.

The Greens vote ranged from 6.7% in Busselton to 21.3% in the South. The Greens polled over 20% in three small rural polling places, including both of those closest to Margaret River. The Greens outpolled Labor in the rural parts of the electorate, but polled much less in the town of Busselton.

Voter group GRN % ALP % LIB 2PP Total votes % of votes
Busselton 6.69 13.07 71.85 8529 42.16
North 13.12 10.15 70.74 5929 29.31
South 21.28 13.01 65.15 1076 5.32
Other votes 9.54 13.71 71.81 4697 23.22
Two-party-preferred votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.
Two-party-preferred votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.
Labor primary votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.
Labor primary votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.
Greens primary votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.
Greens primary votes in Vasse at the 2013 state election.



    Six candidates: Libs, Nats, Greens, Christians and two indies (including far-right serial candidate Teresa van Lieshout). I don’t see any reason why the Libs wouldn’t win on primary vote. AC should take FF’s vote from last time, and the 11% indie vote will probably drop (that included 8% for former MP Bernie Masters, who did much better in 2005).

    It’ll be interesting to see where Labor’s vote ends up. The last by-election in a safe Lib seat was Murdoch in 2008. The non-contestants from 2005 were Labor (35.5%), FF (2.5%) and an indie (1.8%); resulting swings were:

    Grn 19.0%
    Lib 14.4%
    CDP 4.3%
    ONP 2.1%

    Based on that, the Greens can expect a result in the high teens. If they crack 20% they’ll have done well (or it could be a sign of an improving Labor vote under the surface – the two Newspolls since the election had Labor 2pp votes of 49% and 50%).

    The last comparable by-election before that was Cottesloe in 1990 (I’m not counting Nedlands after Richard Court resigned), and the last one outside Perth was Dale in 1988… there’s not many of them. Fun fact: the Libs have never lost a seat in a by-election in WA.

  2. There’s another by-election on this day, in the NT: Casuarina, a fairly safe Labor seat in Darwin. Two for the price of one.

  3. Labor wins Casuarina but with a surprising swing against them.

    Early big swing from Liberals to Nationals in Vasse, but these are the rural booths where I guess the Nat vote is strongest.

  4. Wouldn’t call it surprising considering the popularity of the sitting MP and the CLP picking a Greek candidate. Still not a result either party can probably spin to claim as a victory on a bigger scale

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