Federal Elections 1998


Research Paper 9 1998-99

Federal Elections 1998

Scott Bennett
Politics & Public Administration Group
Andrew Kopras & Gerard Newman
Statistics Group
16 February 1999

Contents

Introduction

Nominations

Election Overview

House of Representatives

Senate

Divisions of Interest

Other Electoral Highlights

The Passing Parade

Endnotes

Table 1 House of Representatives: National Summary

Table 2 House of Representatives: State Summary

Table 3 House of Representatives: Regional Summary

Table 4 House of Representatives: Party Status Summary

Table 5a House of Representatives: Electoral Division Summary, Number

Table 5b House of Representatives: Electoral Division Summary, Per cent

Table 6 House of Representatives: Electoral Division Details

Table 7 House of Representatives: Two-Party Preferred Vote, State Summary

Table 8 House of Representatives: Two-Party Preferred Vote, Regional Summary

Table 9 House of Representatives: Two-Party Preferred Vote, Party Status Summary

Table 10 House of Representatives: Two-Party Preferred Vote, Electoral Division Summary

Table 11 House of Representatives: Electoral Pendulum

Table 12 House of Representatives Election: Electoral Divisions Ranked by Two-Party Preferred Swing to ALP

Table 13 Senate: National Summary

Table 14 Senate: State Summary

Table 15 Senate: Composition from 1 July 1999

Table 16 Senate: Candidate Details

Table 17 Comparison of Senate and House of Representatives Votes

Appendix 1: Electoral Division Classification

Appendix 2a: House of Representatives Elections 1949-1998

Appendix 2b: Senate Elections 1949-1998

Symbols and Abbreviations

ABR

Australian Bill of Rights Group

ACH

CTA Child Protection Party [Call to Australia]

ACS

Abolish Child Support/Family Court Party

ALP

Australian Labor Party

ASP

Australian Shooters Party

ARP

Australian Reform Party

AWP

Australian Women's Party

CDP

Christian Democratic Party

CEC

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia

CLP

Country Liberal Party

DEM

Australian Democrats

DLP

Democratic Labor Party

DSL

Democratic Socialist League

EFF

Independent EFF [Enterprise, Freedom and Family]

FLR

Family Law Reform Party

FST

Australia First Party

GRN

Australian Greens

GWA

The Greens WA

HAR

Senator Harradine Group

IND

Independent

LP

Liberal Party

NAN

No Aircraft Noise

NDP

Nuclear Disarmament Party

NLP

Natural Law Party

NP

National Party

OAP

One Australia Party

PHON

Pauline Hanson's One Nation

PLP

Progressive Labor Party

QF

Queensland First

RAR

Reclaim Australia Reduce Immigration

RPA

Republican Party of Australia

SEP

Socialist Equity Party

TFP

Tasmania First Party

TPS

Taxi Operators Political Service

UNI

Unity - Say No to Hanson

..

nil or rounded to zero

*

sitting Member for Division, sitting Senator

#

party holding or notionally holding Division

Introduction

This paper provides a descriptive account and a comprehensive statistical analysis of the federal elections held on 3 October 1998. The paper shows summary tables for both the Senate and the House of Representatives together with the detailed results for all House of Representatives Divisions. To assist in understanding the results a brief guide to the more interesting election facts is also provided.

For the House of Representatives, summary tables show the results at the State or Territory, geographic region and party status levels. The region and party status classifications are as used by the Australian Electoral Commission (see Appendix 1 for a listing of Electoral Divisions and their relevant classification). The party status of a Division is determined by the two-party preferred vote at the 1996 election adjusted for the effects of the electoral redistributions held during 1997 in Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Electoral Divisions are classified according to the two-party swing required for the party holding the Division to lose: 'Safe' require a swing of more than 10 per cent; 'Fairly safe' require a swing of between 6 per cent and 10 per cent; 'Marginal' require a swing of less than 6 per cent. Thus the 'Party Status' tables (Tables 4 and 9) show the results in those Divisions classified as being notionally held by the party status shown.

In all tables the votes received by each party or candidate are expressed as a percentage of the formal votes, formal and informal votes are expressed as a percentage of total votes (formal plus informal votes) and turnout (total votes) as a percentage of electors enrolled. The 'swing' figures compare the votes received at the 1998 election with votes received at the 1996 election adjusted for the effects of the 1997 Redistribution if applicable. The following example provides an explanation of the layout of the summary and Electoral Division tables. (Note: Table not available on Internet.)

 

Nominations

Nominations for Commonwealth parliamentary elections have risen steadily since the first election of the enlarged Parliament in 1984, and 1998 continued the trend. The 148 House of Representatives contests produced 1106 nominations, an increase of 21 per cent on the 1996 figure. The average per division was 7.5 (6.1 in 1996). By comparison, there were 628 nominations (4.2 per division) in the first year of the enlarged Parliament (1984). Women represented 27 per cent of nominations, a slight decline on 1996.

There were 329 Senate nominations, an increase of 29 per cent on 1996. Of these 301 were for State Senate positions, giving an average 50 names on each State ballot paper (39 in 1996). Female nominations declined 4.2 per cent to 30.7 per cent. Of all nominations for the two houses, women represented 27.9 per cent, a decline of 1.5 per cent.

Election Overview

As is usual in Commonwealth elections, the 1998 election was held early, on 3 October 1998. The Prime Minister could have waited until mid-May 1999 if he had sought to allow the Parliament to run its full term. Speculation had suggested that early 1999 was a possibility, but the Prime Minister apparently judged a 1998 election best suited the government.

Expectations

Most observers predicted a victory for the Government. Various factors were cited to justify these predictions.

  • The Government had made no fatal blunders during its two-and-a-half years since the previous election, a factor which was shown up in its relatively steady opinion poll standing-it was certainly well above the lowest figures of the ALP Government in the period between the 1993 and the 1996 elections. There seemed, in short, no compelling reason why a mass of voters would shift from the Government to the ALP.
  • In any case, the Government was said to be cushioned by the size of its majority of 40. With so many new members working hard to retain their seats, plus relatively few ultra-marginal seats, and with the Coalition vote likely to be steady, it seemed unlikely that sufficient seats would fall for Labor to come to power.
  • In 1996 Labor had lost 31 seats in winning barely one-third of the House of Representatives seats, by far its poorest performance since the elections of 1975 and 1977. On this occasion the party needed to pick up a minimum of 26 seats, while retaining all that it held, if it was to win office. Although it nominally held 49 divisions, this was effectively 48 due to the abolition of the ACT division of Namadgi. Its task appeared to have been made a little harder when the 1997 redistribution of Queensland divisions left Rankin nominally a Liberal rather than a Labor division. To win 26 seats seemed a tall order.
  • Commentators drew attention to the fact that it was 'usual' for the electorate to give a new Commonwealth government at least a second term-one had to go back as far as the 1931 election to find the last instance when this did not occur. As that had been the Scullin Government, riven by internal strife and beset by the problems of the Depression, it seemed unlikely that the Howard Government would suffer the same fate.
  • Such analysis seemed to be backed by the opinion polls. As well as the steadiness of the Government's standing, Labor was not able to get anywhere near the levels of support that it had enjoyed during the 1980s, and seemed unlikely even to reach the relatively poor 44.9 per cent of the 1993 election (which had seen it scramble back into office).
  • In opinion polling Labor's leader Kim Beazley had the usual difficulty facing new Leaders of the Opposition, namely how to lift his recognition factor, though this seemed to rise the longer he was in office. The gradual rise in his poll standing may have been a factor in the Prime Minister's deciding of the date for the election at the end of 1998 rather than in early 1999.

The GST

In a circumstance like that confronting the Opposition, the most a challenging party can do is hope that the Government makes enough errors to enable the challenger to make up ground. Implicitly such a view recognises the standard claim that elections tend to be decided by voters reacting to government error rather than to opposition virtue. In 1998 the major opportunity for the Opposition to win ground seemed to be the Government's re-adoption of its 1993 policy of introducing a Goods and Services Tax. The difficulty on this occasion, however, was that the Government had learned from its difficulties of 1993 and was much better prepared than the John Hewson-led team had been-there were no problems such as the price of birthday cakes that had caused so much embarrassment for Hewson.

Campaigning

The trend is for modern campaigns to be extremely-centralised, tightly-controlled operations, and both major parties operated accordingly in 1998. The tighter the control, mistakes tend to be fewer. Neither side seemed able to turn opponents' campaign errors to their advantage. The nett benefit thus lay with the incumbent.

The Government had to defend seats won from Labor in 1996 by members who were likely to be 'oncers'. These seats included Lindsay and Hughes in New South Wales and Leichhardt in Queensland. In a campaigning exercise reminiscent of Labor's marginal seat campaigns of recent years, the Coalition worked hard to retain those seats the loss of which would give Labor office. Table 9 indicates the extent of the success of this marginal seat strategy, where it can be seen that the two-party preferred swing to Labor was lowest in Coalition marginals-3.5 per cent in National marginals and barely 3 per cent in Liberal marginals. The Coalition efforts, combined with the electorate work performed by the sitting members, kept Labor at bay. In the 26 most marginal seats, the winning of which would have given Labor victory, the party managed to win the six most marginal Liberal seats (Paterson (NSW), Northern Territory, Lilley (Qld), Rankin (Qld), Bowman (Qld), Bendigo (Vic), and also picked up the Liberals' seats of Canning (WA), Griffith (Qld), Kingston (SA), McMillan (Vic), Chisholm (Vic), Stirling (WA), Capricornia (Qld) and Swan (WA). Labor regained Oxley (Qld), lost in 1996, and won Lowe (NSW) from the former Liberal member, turned independent. This was not nearly enough, however, for the Coalition retained Makin (SA), La Trobe (Vic), Lindsay (NSW), McEwen (Vic), Deakin (Vic), Dunkley (Vic), Adelaide (SA) and Robertson (NSW), and won Kalgoorlie (WA) from the independent member. Peter Andren retained Calare (NSW) as an independent. In the next ten most marginal Coalition divisions the Coalition did even better, losing only three (Dickson (Qld), Cowan (WA) and Bass (Tas) ). As a bonus the Government regained the Western Australian divisions of Moore and Curtin, held by former Liberal MHRs-turned-independent.

House of Representatives

Hugh Mackay's research has suggested one factor that may have helped the Government retain office. His findings seemed to point to a voter cynicism, a reluctance to believe politicians, and a resentment at having to vote yet again. His words are graphic:

Voters are not in good heart. They are sick of the lies, the shiftiness, the smugness, the policy backflips, the hollow promises and the blatant bidding for their votes. They are wary of the glibness of the spin doctors.(1)

Mackay's conclusion, in fact, was that voters were 'just too tired to change horses'.

Major party support

Mackay's view has a certain plausibility, especially when we note that the ALP House vote rose only 1.3 per cent. Despite the Labor euphoria with what was described by its partisans as an excellent effort, the vote of 40.1 per cent was actually one of its lowest votes since 1945. The vote was 2.7 per cent less than its severe defeat in 1975, and barely higher than the figure for 1977. The Labor vote in fact shows signs of stagnation, not having reached 45 per cent since the election of 1987.

Mackay's judgment seems rather less plausible when we note the performance of the Coalition. Although Labor's vote barely rose, it is clear that many voters did not remain with the Government, for the Liberal Party's vote was 33.9 per cent, a drop of 4.8 per cent in its primary vote. Although this was the party's lowest vote since 1972 and its third lowest national vote since its formation in 1944, it was in fact a return to a more usual share of the national vote, for in the four elections 1983-1990, its vote had remained steadily in the range of 34.3-34.8 per cent. The National Party's vote of 5.3 per cent, which was a drop of 2.9 per cent on the 1996 figure, was the rural party's lowest-ever national vote since its first contest in 1919. The party is used to warnings about its likely demise, but after this result such a fate seems far more plausible. Two of the three lowest National votes in a Commonwealth election have now occurred in the last three elections, and even in its stronghold of Queensland it barely secured one vote in ten, a drop of 5.9 per cent.(2)

With 20.4 per cent of first preferences going to non-majority party candidates, the two-party preferred vote becomes less valuable as a method of measurement.(3) Labor's topping of the two-party preferred count (51.0 per cent) was the fifth occasion when the party with a majority of the two-party preferred count gained fewer seats than its opponent. Labor has been in this position on four occasions (1954, 1961, 1969, 1998) and the Coalition once (1990).

Minor party support

The combined major party vote thus fell 6.4 per cent to 79.6 per cent, the lowest such figure since 1943. It seems, therefore, that voters were tired of the major parties and a significant number chose to follow a non-major path rather than the shift from one major party to another.

Not many took the Australian Democrat option. The national Democrat vote of 5.1 per cent was a drop of 1.6 per cent, and was a long way from the party's high point of 11.3 per cent in 1990. The party's vote was 3.3 per cent behind Pauline Hanson's One Nation (PHON), which ran nine fewer candidates. Only in South Australia (10.1 per cent) was the vote reasonably healthy helped by its showing in Mayo (see below). The Australian Democrats seem to be very much a Senate elections party, for apart from 1990, in the eight other elections held since the party's formation the average House of Representatives vote has been just 5.4 per cent.

The drift of votes from established parties benefited Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, which secured 8.4 per cent of the first preference vote. By comparison with other significant minor parties of the past it was a performance that matched some minor party votes of the past:

House of Representative votes won by minor parties

Party

Year

Vote (%)

Democratic Labor Party

1958

9.4

1961

8.7

Australian Democrats

1977

9.4

1990

11.3

Pauline Hanson's One Nation

1998

8.4

The largest regional vote for the new party was the 14.4 per cent of the vote it secured in Queensland. This included Pauline Hanson's topping of first preferences in Blair (36 per cent), as well as impressive performances in Wide Bay (26.3 per cent) and Maranoa (22.4 per cent). PHON received over 17 per cent in seven other divisions, and had ten other seats in the range of 10-17 per cent. If the party's Queensland vote were to increase in the next Commonwealth election by another 5 per cent, or if it were to receive more preferences from the Coalition, it would probably win some House of Representatives seats in that State.

Senate

In the Senate election, only Victoria saw the major parties winning all seats, something that is now a relatively rare occurrence. In Queensland the major parties won only four seats, the first time this has occurred in any State since the increase in the size of the Parliament for the 1984 election.

As is usual, the nett outcome of the 1998 Senate election was of little overall change, but such change as there was primarily benefitted the Australian Democrats. The Labor and Liberal tallies remained as they had been, but the National Party-and hence the Coalition-lost two seats overall. The Nationals' representation of three is its lowest figure since 1980. The Western Australian Greens lost a seat, while the Australian Democrats gained an extra seat in each of New South Wales and Western Australia. In Queensland Heather Hill won the first Senate seat held by PHON, with a party vote of 14.8 per cent. In Western Australia, PHON fell just short of a seat, winning 10.4 per cent of first preferences.

The Australian Democrat successes included the election of Aden Ridgeway (NSW) the second indigenous candidate to be elected to the Senate since Federation. Australian Democrat candidate, Rick Farley, came close to winning an ACT Senate seat, a result which would have had an instant impact on Senate numbers, as Territory Senators take their seats immediately after an election. The Australian Democrat tally of nine Senators is the largest total held by the party and effectively gives it the balance of power from 1 July 1999 when new Senators take their seats. The Government can carry any issue with the support of the Democrats; without the Democrats, the most votes the Government could secure on any issue would be half of the Senate.

Divisions of Interest

Bass (Tas)

The Minister for Family Services, Warwick Smith (LP), was the only Minister to lose his seat, losing Bass in his second 'cliffhanger' election in five years. In 1993 Sylvia Smith defeated him by just 40 votes, while on this occasion Michelle O'Byrne defeated him by 78 votes.

Blair (Qld)

Pauline Hanson, leader of PHON and MHR for Oxley, gained 36 per cent of first preferences in the seat of Blair, leading all three major party candidates. In the first six counts she maintained a comfortable margin. On the second-last count Cameron Thompson (LP) moved ahead of the Labor candidate, though he was still 7.1 per cent behind Hanson, and he finally defeated her by 4600 votes after the distribution of Labor preferences. The Liberal candidate gained 72.5 per cent of National preferences (Hanson 14.4 per cent) and 73.8 per cent of ALP preferences (Hanson 26.2 per cent).

Canning (WA)

Between 1984 and 1993 Ricky Johnston (LP) had four unsuccessful contests before she finally won this Western Australian seat in 1996. Less than three years later she lost her hard-earned parliamentary position by 7 per cent after preferences.

Dickson (Qld)

On election night former Australian Democrat Cheryl Kernot's challenge for the seat of Dickson seemed to have faltered, for her 40.6 per cent of the vote seemed insufficient to win the seat, especially as the Democrat and Green candidates had decided not to direct preferences to her. After an exciting count of preferences and postal and absentee votes in which the lead fluctuated, Kernot finished 176 votes ahead with 50.1 per cent of the final vote.

Eden-Monaro (NSW)

Eden-Monaro has long had a name as bell-wether seat, for it has been won by the winning side in every election since that of 1972. Gary Nairn (LP) was challenged by Steve Whan, son of a former member for Eden-Monaro. Nairn led by 4.1 per cent after first preferences, but saw his margin steadily reduced until he managed to hold on to the seat by just 262 votes (0.4 per cent).

Hughes (NSW)

Danna Vale's hold on Hughes needed to be broken if Labor was to win office. In a determined effort to do so, New South Wales bureaucrat and Australian soccer chief, David Hill was pre-selected. Labor's first preference vote fell 4 per cent (it had been 17.7 per cent higher in 1993), and Hughes was one of a few seats to see a swing away from the Opposition.

Hume (NSW)

Hume has been a seat in which some of the strongest competition has been between the Coalition partners. The resignation of former Minister, John Sharp (NP), produced another struggle in which long-standing Liberal MLA for Burrinjuck (1988-98), Alby Schultz, wrested the seat from the National Party.

McMillan (Vic)

Labor's Christian Zahra was 1517 votes behind the Liberal, Russell Broadbent, after the count of first preferences in the Victorian division of McMillan. Although he narrowed the gap over the next eight counts, he was still behind the sitting member. He finally won by 1048 votes when he picked up 55.2 per cent of the preferences of the former ALP sitting member, Barry Cunningham, Zahra's former employer, despite Cunningham's direction of preferences away from the Labor candidate.

Mayo (SA)

The seat of Mayo is usually one of the Liberal Party's safest seats-in 1996 Alexander Downer's first preference vote was 57.0 per cent. In 1998, the Liberal vote fell 11.4 per cent, much of it being picked up by the Democrats whose vote rose by 10 per cent. The fact that the Democrat candidate, former entertainer John Schumann, remained in front of the Labor candidate through the counting, meant that Labor was the last to be eliminated. Although 90 per cent of Labor's preferences flowed on to Schumann, the margin to overcome was too great and Downer retained the seat by almost 3000 votes (51.7 per cent).

Wide Bay (QLD)

The second-highest PHON vote occurred in Wide Bay, when Graeme Wicks' 26.3 per cent was less than 2 per cent behind the Labor vote. The Nationals' Warren Truss retained the seat despite a majority of PHON preferences favouring Labor, but the flow of preferences was sufficiently strong to give the ALP a remarkably high two-party preferred swing of 15.6 per cent.

Other Electoral Highlights

Women Elected

Forty-four women were elected in 1998, an increase of 22 per cent on 1996. Of these, 33 were elected to the House (23 in 1996) and 11 to the Senate (13 in 1996). Thirteen of the 17 Liberal MHRs elected in 1996 retained their seats.

 

Divisions 'Lost' After Preferences

Seven divisions produced a winner different from the first preference leader:

Division

First preference leader

Winning party

Bass, Tas

LP

ALP

Blair, Qld

PHON

LP

Hinkler, Qld

ALP

NP

Kingston, SA

LP

ALP

McMillan, Vic

LP

ALP

Parkes, NSW

ALP

NP

Stirling, WA

LP

ALP

In the last three elections, Labor has 'lost' 14 divisions in this fashion, the Coalition has 'lost' 11, and PHON has 'lost' 1.

PHON Preferences

The question of where PHON preferences would flow caused controversy during the election. In the event, two main tendencies could be observed. In seats where the final two candidates were from the Coalition and the ALP, such as Gwydir (NSW), Parkes (NSW), Blair (Qld) and Maranoa (Qld), PHON preferences clearly favoured the Government. For example, in Hinkler (Qld), Paul Neville (NP) was nearly 3000 votes behind Labor on the second-last count, but 61.6 per cent of the PHON pile of votes pushed him ahead by 490 votes. Not all results ran this way, however, with Eden-Monaro (NSW) and Wide Bay (Qld) being seats in which more PHON preferences were picked up by the Labor candidate.

In other divisions, however, when a non-major party candidate was likely to feature in the final count, PHON preferences tended to favour that candidate, irrespective of ideological factors. This could be seen in Calare (NSW), Kalgoorlie (WA) and Moore (WA), though not in Curtin (WA). In Mayo (SA), the Australian Democrats' John Schumann received 46 per cent from the PHON pile in contrast to the 37.3 per cent that flowed to the Liberals' Alexander Downer.

The Passing Parade

In every new parliament there will be a change of faces. The following Members and Senators retired, were defeated or returned to the Parliament:

Retired Members

Retired Member

Electoral Division

Party

Baldwin, Peter

Sydney, NSW

ALP

Beddall, David

Rankin, Qld

ALP

Bradford, John (contested Senate)

McPherson, Qld

CDP

Brown, Bob

Charlton, NSW

ALP

Cobb, Michael

Parkes, NSW

NP

Dargavel, Steven

Fraser, ACT

ALP

Grace, Ted

Fowler, NSW

ALP

Halverson, Bob

Casey, Vic

LP

Hicks, Noel

Riverina, NSW

NP

Holding, Clyde

Melbourne Ports, Vic

ALP

Jones, Barry

Lalor, Vic

ALP

McLachlan, Ian

Barker, SA

LP

Morris, Peter

Shortland, NSW

ALP

Mutch, Stephen

Cook, NSW

LP

Reid, Bruce

Bendigo, Vic

LP

Sharp, John

Hume, NSW

NP

Sinclair, Ian

New England, NSW

NP

Taylor, Bill

Groom, Qld

LP

Willis, Ralph

Gellibrand, Vic

ALP

 

Defeated Members

Defeated Member

Electoral Division

Party

Baldwin, Bob

Paterson, NSW

LP

Broadbent, Russell

McMillan, Vic

LP

Cameron, Eoin

Stirling, WA

LP

Campbell, Graeme

Kalgoorlie, WA

Ind

Dondas, Nick

Northern Territory

CLP

Evans, Richard

Cowan, WA

LP

Filing, Paul

Moore, WA

Ind

Grace, Elizabeth

Lilley, Qld

LP

Hanson, Pauline (contested Blair)

Oxley, Qld

HAN

Jeanes, Susan

Kingston, SA

LP

Johnston, Ricky

Canning, WA

LP

McDougall, Graeme

Griffith, Qld

LP

Marek, Paul

Capricornia, Qld

NP

Miles, Chris

Braddon, Tas

LP

Randall, Don

Swan, WA

LP

Rocher, Allan

Curtin, WA

Ind

Smith, Tony

Dickson, Qld

LP

Smith, Warwick

Bass, Tas

LP

West, Andrea

Bowan, Qld

LP

Zammit, Paul

Lowe, NSW

Ind

Among the Senators leaving the Parliament on 30 June 1999 will be

Retiring Senators

Retired Senator

State or Territory

Party

Colston, Mal

Qld

Ind

Reynolds, Margaret

Qld

ALP

Defeated Senators

Defeated Senator

State or Territory

Party

McGibbon, David

Qld

LP

Macdonald, Sandy

Vic

NP

O'Chee, Bill

Qld

NP

Margetts, Dee

WA

GWA

Synon, Karen

Vic

LP

 

Returning Members

Five former MPs returned to the Parliament, all to the House of Representatives:

Returning MP

Division

Party

Horne, Bob

Paterson, NSW

ALP

Kernot, Cheryl (former Senator)

Dickson, Qld

ALP

Sciacca, Con

Bowman, Qld

ALP

Snowdon, Warren

Northern Territory

ALP

Swan, Wayne

Lilley, Qld

ALP

Endnotes

  1. See Scott Bennett, 'The decline in support for Australian major parties and the prospect of minority government', Research Paper, Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998-99 (forthcoming).

  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 1998.

  3. Scott Bennett, Winning and Losing: Australian National Elections, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp. 177-82.

 
 

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