29 May 2016
There’d been speculation a few months ago that a Federal election would happen in Australia around the middle of this year. As it turns out, the speculation has ended up being correct.
It was common knowledge that an election was due this year, probably around September or October, which would’ve been around three years since the last election, in September 2013. A July election was talked about, although it was thought unlikely, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been publicly implying that the election would come later in the year. But now it’s happening on 2 July.
The last election was a win for the Liberal-National Coalition over the Labor Party. The Coalition had won ninety seats, and Labor had won fifty-five seats, with five other seats going to crossbenchers. This left the Coalition with a majority of thirty seats, and Labor needed to win twenty-one seats in order to win the next election.
Since the last election, there have been electoral redistributions in several areas. These have left Labor chasing a slightly smaller target of nineteen seats for victory at the coming election.
An electoral redistribution usually happens every ten years or so, because of population change across a state or territory. Some areas have population growth over time, while other areas have population decline, and the result is that some electorates have much bigger voting populations than others. So a redistribution, or a redrawing of electorates’ boundaries, is undertaken to give all electorates, within the affected state or territory, as near as possible to an equal number of voters. This factors in population change, be it growth or decline, not just as it’s happened over time but also how it’s predicted to happen in the years ahead.
Sometimes, electorates notionally change hands in a redistribution. For example, a Labor-held electorate might lose some areas where the Labor vote was stronger than the Coalition vote at the last election, and gain some areas where the Coalition vote was stronger than the Labor vote at the last election, making it notionally a Coalition-held electorate, because of the Coalition vote across the redrawn electorate being stronger than the Labor vote. And the reverse can also apply, with a Coalition-held electorate becoming notionally Labor-held.
As a result of electoral redistributions in various places, the Coalition’s majority has been reduced by two seats. The most significant change has taken place in New South Wales, with one Labor-held seat north of Sydney being abolished and three Liberal-held seats becoming notionally Labor-held. There’s also been a new seat added in Western Australia, which is notionally Liberal-held.
With the redistributions leaving Labor chasing nineteen seats for victory, as opposed to twenty-one in the immediate wake of the last election, Labor now needs a slightly smaller swing to win the coming election. Labor hitherto needed a swing of about 4.3 per cent to win, but now Labor needs about 4.1 per cent to win.
The nineteen most marginal Coalition seats are spread out across Australia. Eight of those seats are in New South Wales, so that state will be watched. Victoria and Queensland and Tasmania have three seats apiece, while South Australia and the Northern Territory have one seat apiece.
Mixed results seem to be coming from opinion polls, but the election could go either way in many people’s minds. Labor now needs nineteen seats for victory, and whether it can get them remains to be seen.