Labor vote falls but preferences, smears and donkeys save the day in Melbourne

July 23, 2012

Top of the morning to you all,

It wasn't until close to midnight when the Victorian Electoral Commission revealed a decisive win for Labor on postal votes (1702 vs 1156 2PP), thereby securing a hard-fought victory over the Greens in the state by-election contest for Melbourne.

With only 27,222 formal votes, Labor has secured 13,988 votes after preferences against the Greens with 13,234. That's a margin of 754 votes, 656 of which came from the postals victory. There are only 1000 postals to come and with these running almost 60-40 Labor's way, as Crikey's William Bowe explains here, it is hard to understand why the Greens aren't conceding today as Labor claims victory.

The turnout was down, the informal vote was up and the Liberals weren't running, yet somehow the Labor Party managed a 2.45% decline in its share of the primary vote from the 2010 state election. For Labor to fail to secure even one-third of the primary votes in a seat it has held for 108 years says something about the party's problems.

Yet the party of "whatever it takes" still somehow won the seat with a series of incredible preference deals, plus the donkey vote, which all combined to lift a primary vote of just 33.32% to a final 2PP of 51.38%.

Josh Gordon was spot on with his analysis in The Sunday Age, pointing to Labor's rainbow Coalition of "friends" which delivered a turnaround of 4.43% in the contest with the Greens once preferences were distributed.

To illustrate this point, let's list the top 10 candidate and explain the preference deals that were delivered:

1. Greens: 36.37%, beat Labor on primaries in Melbourne for first time and stuck with principles by preferencing progressive parties first.

2. ALP: 33.32%, primary vote slipped 2.45% but prevailed with all sorts of preferences deals after putting Greens 2nd last.

3. Sex Party: 6.61%, concerned about feminists in the Greens, so preferenced Labor with talk of 2013 Senate favours but only flowed about 55%.

4. Stephen Mayne: 4.75%, only candidate in top 9 to preference Greens on basis of support for $1 maximum bets. Flowed about 65% to the Greens.

5. David Nolte: 4.70%, Liberal member who put the Greens last and was supported by Labor dirt merchants. Was key to Kanis victory as preferences flowed about 80% to Labor.

6. Berhan Ahmed: 4.18%, labelled a "Green stooge" by Labor deputy leader James Merlino but was then duchessed by everyone from Lindsay Tanner to ALP Victorian President Cath Bowtell with promises of support for the African community. Ended up backing Labor and delivered a key preference flow of more than 80%. Also benefitted from the donkey vote which, at about 2%, was decisive in Labor's victory. His campaign manager Ken Betts is a former Liberal and various Liberals were seen assisting him on polling booths.

7. Family First: 2.94%, gay-hating climate denialists who stitched up a controversial deal with Labor that saw the Greens placed 15th on the Labor ticket. Preference flow vital for Labor's progressive Left faction candidate to prevail. Kanis still yet to recant her claim at a Docklands candidates' forum that the Greens have previously preferenced Family First ahead of Labor.

8. DLP: 1.91%, also flowed strongly to Labor after Greens placed near bottom.

9. Australian Christians: 1.24%, ran a candidate strongly opposed to abortion who was happy to support Labor ahead of the Greens.

10. Joe Toscano: 0.75%, radical medical doctor who supported Greens.

The other 6 candidates only managed about 3% between them, the majority of which were supporting the Greens on policy grounds such as climate change (Adrian Whitehead) and public housing (Kate Borland).

The contrast with the 2010 results in Melbourne are pretty interesting.

Firstly, the turnout was down substantially. Don't be fooled into thinking only 66% of the votes have been counted. That's the amount of formal votes cast by the 44,000-plus electors of Melbourne. The only votes which haven't been counted is the final 1000 postals, so the final tally won't even make 29,000.

As a candidate, I was delighted to come 4th and receive 4.75% or 1293 votes after only spending about $2000. However, it is still embarrasing to lose to some bloke called "Informal" who snagged 2,526 votes yesterday or 8.48% of the voters who bothered to turn up.

Even the p*rn industry was beaten by "Informal" as adult industry lobbyist Fiona Patten scored 6.61% for the Australian Sex Party which will crank up its negotiating power with regulators from the three major Australian parties. At least Fiona will collect on her $100 bet with me over who would finish 3rd.

Liberal member and North Carlton pharmacist David Nolte spent more than $30,000 and finished 5th with 13 votes less than me.

To illustrate the plunging turnout and staggering informal vote, consider the Labor primary vote which was 13,116 in 2010 even when competing with the Liberals who snaffled 10,281 votes. Just 18 months later and with an extra 2000 voters on the roll, Labor only managed 9079 primary votes yesterday - a decline of 30.8% or some 4037 votes.

In terms of our campaign, it was good to elevate the pokies issue and I'll be surprised if the Labor Party still benefits from the operation and management of more than 1000 poker machines north of the Murray within a couple of years. With Labor having failed to deliver Federally on meaningful poker machine reform, the onus will now shift to the Abbott-led Coalition, a point I made strongly to Federal Liberal director Brian Loughnane on the East Melbourne booth yesterday afternoon.

There was plenty of support on the big East Melbourne booth, which is the strongest Liberal booth in the electorate and delivered 175 votes or 11.3%.

I was prepared to support Labor if they'd embraced $1 maximum bets on poker machines but in the end feel perfectly happy having supported the Greens with their principled position on pokies and genuine support for transparency, good governance and fair campaigning.

The Greens had a strong candidate in Cr Cathy Oke and ran a clean, positive and professional campaign, albeit with some costings mis-steps in the final days. There were no illegal Green dirt shirts, unlike what various Labor-backers served up.

I've enjoyed working with the solitary Green councillor at Manningham and have been appalled with what the Labor Party served up in our municipality, as was explained in the July 6 Mayne Report email edition.

These views were only reinforced during this campaign. There is something toxic about the Labor culture which produces Graham Richardson, the HSU, 1000 poker machines, Julia Gillard's AWU shenanigans and the Bill Shorten-backed Vexnews.

That said, Daniel Andrews and Cathy Oke, who both hail from the Labor Left, do not appear to support this culture and Andrews rose in stature during the campaign with some clear-speaking performances, especially on 7.30 and up against Greens leader Greg Barber on Insiders.

If elected to Melbourne City Council later this year, I'm looking forward to working with Cathy Oke who has impressed many observers with hard-work and strong achievements in a council where the Greens have only her vote.

Indeed, Liberal Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was happy to provide a reference for Cathy Oke's campaign and even intervened at one point to kill a ridiculous beat-up which Andrew Landeryou's great mate James Campbell was preparing to write in The Sunday Herald Sun.

Landeryou, a colourful former bankrupt and Bill Shorten's favourite smear-merchant, was handing out for Liberal member David Nolte yesterday even though he attended the big Kanis fundraiser at St Kilda Town Hall with his wife Kimberley Kitchings, the ALP admin committee member and aspiring Federal member for Wills.

The next time Shorten, Kitchen, Landeryou and the Governor General's daughter are seen out having breakfast together, they should have a discussion about Labor's toxic culture.

Landeryou and Kitchings were still boozing on with Murdoch tabloid hacks such as James Campbell, Mitchell Toy and Liam Houlihan at 1.30am on Sunday morning as the party faithful celebrated their "whatever it takes" victory over the Greens at the Flemington-Kensington bowls club. If Daniel Andrews is serious about his less aggressive stance with the Greens, he needs to publically denounce the Shorten-endorsed tactics pursued by Landeryou's dodgy crew and stop inviting him to party functions.

As for Nolte, he's got a snowflakes chance in hell of knocking off Robert Doyle as Lord Mayor later this year. The North Carlton pharmacist infuriated the Liberal Party with his criticisms of Ted Baillieu during the campaign and I'm looking forward to his apology after his booth worker Landeryou behaved aggressively towards a volunteer of mine (male, not female as reported earlier) in North Melbourne yesterday.

It will be interesting to see what all the pundits make of yesterday's drama as the Greens fell agonisingly short. Tune on your TV sets for Insiders and all the other political programs later this morning as everyone assess the impace of offshore processing, One Nation comparisons and preference deals.

The Australian has been predictably brutal with the Greens, although the Herald Sun, to its credit, treated the by-election seriously and covered Cathy Oke's performances reasonably.

But what will the Murdoch press say tomorrow after one of the most fascinating by-election contests in a while.

That's all for now.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.