Super Saturday Results
- The Federal Parliament remains unchanged following five by-elections held on Saturday.
- Labor has claimed victory in the two marginal seats of Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania.
- Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie has been returned as the Member for Mayo in South Australia, comfortably overcoming Liberal hopeful Georgina Downer.
- Labor is set to hold the WA seats of Fremantle and Perth, where the Liberals did not run candidates.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has claimed “four from four” victories following the Super Saturday by-elections, with Labor holding all four of its seats across three states. The fifth poll – Mayo in South Australia – saw Centre Alliance candidate Rebekha Sharkie prevail over the Liberals’ Georgina Downer with a 10 per cent primary vote swing toward Ms Sharkie.
The culmination of a long winter campaign, the polls spelled good news for Labor, ahead of the return to Parliament for the spring session on 13 August.
A collapse in the Liberal National Party (LNP) vote in the marginal Queensland seat of Longman is likely to be a concern for the Government, with candidate Trevor Ruthenberg suffering a primary vote swing of 9.4 per cent away from the LNP with just over 80 per cent of votes counted. The Government holds eight seats in Queensland by margins of 4 per cent or less, giving rise to questions about its prospects in the key battleground at the next general election, likely to be held in May 2019.
Labor’s Susan Lamb enjoyed a primary vote swing to the ALP of 4.6 per cent in Longman and is set to strengthen her grip on the seat, previously held by a razor-thin margin of 0.8 per cent. Meanwhile, One Nation secured around 16 per cent of the primary vote, with a swing of 6.5 per cent toward the party.
While ABC election analyst Antony Green called the result in Braddon for Labor’s Justine Keay just over an hour into the count, Liberal candidate Brett Whiteley stopped short of conceding in his speech to the party faithful on election night, saying “We’re close, but maybe not close enough”. Preferences from independent candidate Craig Garland boosted Keay’s tally, signalling the Liberals’ attacks on Garland may have backfired.
Rebekha Sharkie attributed her convincing win in the South Australian seat of Mayo to “people power”, while celebrating with supporters – including fellow federal crossbencher, Queenslander Bob Katter – in Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills. Former senator Nick Xenophon was notably absent during the campaign and on election night, however Ms Sharkie’s popularity among voters was more than enough to get her over the line. Liberal candidate Georgina Downer confirmed she will seek Liberal Party preselection to run again in Mayo at the next Federal Election, setting up a second attempt to win back the once safe Liberal seat.
The Opposition Leader used Labor’s strong results to intensify pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, suggesting voters have rejected the Government’s policy agenda. The Opposition framed the by-elections as a choice between funding for health and education, and tax cuts for large companies, bringing into focus the Government’s proposed company tax cuts. Celebrating with Susan Lamb and Labor supporters in Longman, Mr Shorten said “Tonight is another signpost into the destination that matters for Australians – a Labor government after the next general election”.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to hose down suggestions the Government had fared poorly, insisting the swing against the Government in Longman was “average” for a government in a by-election. While the PM said Labor has “nothing to crow about”, he also confirmed the Government will look “very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly” at Saturday’s results and committed once again to ensuring Australia has a competitive company tax rate.
History was not on the Government’s side, with no Australian government winning a seat from an opposition at a by-election for almost a century. Despite this, the Government had been hopeful of causing an upset in Longman or Braddon, with polling over recent weeks foreshadowing a close race in both of the marginal seats.
As expected, Labor will comfortably hold the seat of Fremantle in Western Australia, returning Josh Wilson to Canberra following his resignation in May due to his status as a dual citizen. Former ALP State Secretary Patrick Gorman will join the Labor caucus as the new member for Perth, replacing Tim Hammond, who resigned for family reasons.