Two weeks after the election control of Victoria’s upper house is still in doubt, but with the lower house now resolved it’s worth taking a look at the final position.

The last doubtful seat, Ferntree Gully, was won by the Liberals (by 27 votes), giving them a total of six gains (I had tipped “four or five”, so I’m calling that a success). The Nationals also gained two seats, one from Labor and one from an independent.

The overall two-party-preferred swing (leaving aside the eight seats in which the contest was not Labor vs Liberal or National) was 3.4%.

Labor’s loss of seven seats was exactly what the pendulum predicted: two of its very marginal seats (Gembrook and Mount Waverley) held on, but they were balanced by the loss of two slightly safer seats (Morwell and Narracan).

There was, however, a pronounced pattern to the swing. In the six Labor vs National contests, it was a striking 8.2%. In the Liberal-held seats, it averaged 5.0%, although in the very marginal ones (up to 4%) it was 6.3%. But the Labor-held seats swung by only 2.5%, and in the critical middle group, with margins between 4 and 12% – territory the Liberals had to break into to regain some credibility – it averaged just 1.8%.

So while the overall swing is better than that achieved by John Brumby’s ALP in 1996, the resultant positioning is not as good. On current boundaries, the opposition would need a uniform swing of 6.2% to win a majority in 2010; the previous target was 7.6%. (Only indicative, because things will change with a redistribution in the life of new parliament.)

Many of Labor’s 2002 gains held up surprisingly well: for example, the seat that swung the most last time, Narre Warren North with 14.8%, came back only 0.5%. Further proof, if it were needed, that the pendulum does not just move of its own accord.

In the aggregate votes, the ALP dropped almost 4% to 40.1%, while the Liberals improved by just 0.5% to 34.4%. Most of the difference is explained by Family First, which debuted in fifth place with 4.3%. The Greens topped 10% for the first time (up 0.3% on 2002); indeed, the first time any third party has done so since the DLP in 1970.

The Nationals climbed from 4.3% to 5.2%, but it’s still a long road back for them: in 1996 they were getting 6.7%, despite contesting only half as many seats.

Peter Fray

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