Nothing Has Changed As A result Of The Eden Monaro By-Election
The pundits have been saying that the Eden Monaro by-election was a test for the two political leaders, Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese. The consensus seemed to be that if Mr. Albanese lost the seat to the Government, the first time this would have happened since 1920, then his leadership would be under threat.
Both parties had good candidates. Labor’s Kristy McBain was a very competent mayor of Bega and was highly regarded because of her work during the Tathra fires a few years ago and during the recent fires that enveloped all the coastal regions of the electorate in January. The Liberal candidate Fiona Cotvojs nearly won the seat at the May 2019 general election.
As it transpired neither leader could claim the high ground as a result of this election because with 77% of the vote counted it appears that the result will be the same as it was in last year’s election with the same two-party preferred vote as Labor’s Mike Kelly achieved then.
There was one marked difference from the general election: there was an 8% swing in preferences to Labor. If preferences had flowed the way they did last May then Fiona Kotvojs would have won. However, it is evident that the Shooters, Farmers, and Fishers had a big impact on the result this time. They obtained 5.4% of the vote and these flowed to Labor. It is also clear that a solid proportion of National votes went to Labor.
It is difficult to claim that any of the dominant issues had an impact on the result. Back in January when the bush fires were raging, climate change was a major talking point but it doesn’t appear to have shifted votes away from the Liberals.
Bushfire recovery was constantly raised by Labor with claims that the Government had been incompetent with people still living in tents in the middle of winter. During the campaign, a lot of attention was focused on Cobargo because of the hostile reaction of people there to the Prime Minister’s visit to the town during the fires. On Saturday Cobargo voted for the Liberal candidate.
Nor did the Prime Minister’s popularity in national public opinion polls translate into votes for Ms. Kotvojs.
In the end, Labor was able to neutralize Scott Morrison’s advantage by casting doubts about the future of the Governments jobkeeper program, which many South Coast businesses are dependent on.
The fact is, the electorate of Eden Monaro is made up of two distinct groups: the former public servants who have retired to the coast and who are rusted on Labor supporters and the inland farmers and tradies who are strong Liberal supporters. These together make up close to 80% of the voters in Eden Monaro. The other 20% is likely to swing all over the place at any election, which is what makes the outcomes so unpredictable.
Labor did a better job of corralling their vote by distributing 4,000 postal votes but their primary vote still fell by nearly 3%. This has rattled some of the Labor rank and file who are concerned that Labor cannot win a general election with a primary vote below 37%.