June 29, 2008 | Graham

Who said the Nats were washed-up?

The results in the Gippsland by-election have to give a few people pause for thought. By-elections this close to elections generally punish the candidate associated with the party that causes them, in this case the Nationals. However, they were rewarded with a 7% two-party preferred swing to them.
Both the Liberal Party and the ALP got bloodied noses from the contest. The ALP dropped 9% on first preferences, and the Liberals came in third with 20.54% of the vote, not much more than half that of the National Party.
Senior Liberals have been confidently predicting to me that the National Party will merge with the Liberals at a federal level because they are “washed-up”. This result says not. And if they are not washed-up, then proponents of amalgamation have to explain why they should merge with the Liberals. The National brand is a valuable one to be able to pull out in rural and regional seats.
Pollsters and pundits should also beware relying on the opinion polls to predict exactly how well Kevin Rudd is travelling. The realities of high petrol and food prices look to be eating into his support when electors get to make a mark on the ballot paper, rather than air an opinion to a pollster, which mirrors the fact that the polls in the lead-up to the last election gave him a much more comfortable margin than he eventually received.
My friend, and occasional colleague, John Black’s prediction for the by-election was interesting, but ultimately spectacularly wrong. Something is happening out in voter-land which is very difficult to measure.

Posted by Graham at 2:16 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. The Liberals/Nationals will only take government again as a merged structure. Not sure how many loops the other states and feds will do to arrive at that point though. Not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’.

    Comment by Steve — June 30, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  2. It surprised me to find Family First did not field a candidate – and that their former Gippsland candidate only got 32% as many votes running as an independent.
    Maybe the very fact that she was an independent prevented people who would have voted for Family First turn to the Nationals? Or are the Nationals, more than other major parties, cimply copying Famiyl First so the latter does not win power in the long term?

    Comment by Julien Peter Benney — July 3, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  3. Family First didn’t run, and neither did their last candidate run as an independent. There were no independent candidates in Gippsland. Just Liberals, Labor, Nationals, Greens and the LDP.
    The Green vote increased by 1%, but that would have come from the WWW vote (which was a Green feeder party anyway). So not too good for them.
    The Liberals did fine taking 10% each from Labor & Nationals. It was the ALP result that was the worst.
    The Family First vote would probably have gone to the Liberals. The independent vote went to the LDP, maybe along with some free-market liberals picking the low-tax party.

    Comment by Temujin (John Humphreys) — July 3, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  4. “Something is happening out in voter land which is very difficult to measure” Yes,well Kev has under performed.He and Wayne Swan screamed that the inflation genie was out of the bottle and egged the RBA on to increase rates.The RBA could not decipher the difference between inflation,whereby too much money was chasing too fewer goods and services and simple price increases by oil producers which have the same effect as increasing interest rates,ie the money leaves Aust and goes to OPEC.
    If Kevin does not quickly grasp the reality,then he will be gone by next election,making Gough look like a marathon runner.

    Comment by Arjay — July 3, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  5. The Nat voters made their protest last year, especially against their sitting member. Things are back to normal in Gippsland now. Protest votes from nata and ALP obviously went to the Libs.
    When the price of oil skyrocketed in the early 70’s every Western governemnt lost the next election. Rudd must watch his back as well as his front.
    Also current economic times should make McCain unelectable.

    Comment by Kevin Rennie — July 4, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

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