My two articles on the Aston by-election were criticised because I made the wrong prediction in the first article and persisted with it in the second. For details readers are referred to Switzer of February 14 “Aston is blue ribbon Liberal” and March 29 “AEC is handling Aston well”. Why, then, do I persist with my prediction today? It is that the Liberal Party will win Cook and the Liberal National Party of Queensland will win Fadden.
I begin my explanation by giving the straight statistics of candidate preferred votes at the May 2022 federal general election. They are:
Alan Tudge (Liberal) 51,840 votes 52.81%
Mary Doyle (Labor) 46,320 votes 47.19%
Stuart Robert (LNPQ) 64,126 votes 60.63%
Letitia Del Fabbro (Labor) 41,645 votes 39.37%
Scott Morrison (Liberal) 61,080 votes 62.44%
Simon Earle (Labor) 36,737 votes 37.56%
The swing to Labor at the April 2023 Aston by-election was 6.38%. Therefore, even if Labor gained that kind of swing in Cook or Fadden, it would still not win either seat. Anyway, here are the Aston statistics:
Mary Doyle (Labor) 48,915 votes 53.57%
Roshena Campbell (Liberal) 42,402 votes 46.43%
I admit that in the above I am getting ahead of myself. As yet there is no Cook by-election. We know that Stuart Robert resigned his seat of Fadden on the afternoon of Thursday 18 May and the by-election will be held on Saturday 15 July. However, it is almost universally expected that Morrison will soon resign from his Cook seat - which leads me to predict that there will be Cook and Fadden by-elections on the same day.
The main basis of my assertion of Aston’s blue ribbon Liberal status was the fact that there is one blue ribbon Liberal state seat lying fully within Aston. The seat is Rowville held by Kim Wells (Liberal) who has represented Rowville (and seats in the same area of different names) since 1992. But all the other state seats with parts inside Aston are solidly Labor.
In this respect Cook and Fadden are strikingly similar – and different from Aston. The NSW state Liberal leader is Mark Speakman, and he represents Cronulla, which is almost entirely within Cook. He sits on a Liberal vote of 64%. His Queensland counterpart as Opposition leader is David Crisafulli, who represents Broadwater. It lies entirely within Fadden and his percentage last time was nearly 67%.
Both Cook and Fadden have bits that are Labor at the state level. In Cook’s case, the Labor state seats are Rockdale and Kogarah. In Fadden’s case the equivalent state seat is Gaven. But the other state seats are Liberal, albeit not as strongly as Cronulla or Broadwater. In Cook’s case the state seats are Miranda and Oatley. In Fadden’s case they are Bonney, Coomera, Southport and Theodore.
I wrote above that the swing to Labor at the Aston by-election was 6.4%. That reflected the reality of Victoria being the sick man of the Liberal Party. Nothing like that will happen in Cook or Fadden. The NSW division of the Liberal Party is reasonably strong, and the Queensland LNP is so strong it is quite likely to win the next state election in October 2024.
There is one respect in which Fadden is different from the other two. Over the past four decades the boundaries of Aston and Cook have remained relatively stable – but Fadden’s boundaries have changed hugely. Thus, Fadden elected a Labor member in March 1983, but it reverted to Liberal in December 1984 and has stayed that way ever since. On the boundaries applying at the 1977, 1980 and 1983 elections Fadden included Acacia Ridge, Beaudesert, Beenleigh, Coopers Plains and Sunnybank. It has now shrunk to being a northern Gold Coast seat, though it includes part of the Redland City Council map.
The above explains why those who draw these electoral maps dislike geographical names. If you call a seat “Sunnybank” and then take Sunnybank out of it, you need to change the division’s name. It is so much easier to call a seat after a deceased woman like Aston or deceased men like Cook and Fadden. By the way, Sunnybank now lies in the electoral division of Moreton.
Finally, in my 13 July 2022 article “A challenge to my critics about the AEC” I reverted to my long-standing criticism of the way in which the Electoral Commissioner conducts federal elections, but I have always excluded by-elections from that criticism. Hence my commendation (written from afar) of the way in which Aston was conducted. My article was written before the by-election’s polling day, but I am happy to note that the AEC received these messages of commendation from the general public after the polling was done.
Received Sunday 2 April: “The by-election process ran very smoothly”. The second message the AEC received was: “A good range of voting services was provided, and this by-election has yet again been an example of Australia’s strong democratic processes.” When the Cook and Fadden by-elections are over, I confidently predict that the AEC will again receive my commendation as well as commendations from those on the ground. I’ll be following the results from Canberra.