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2001 Australia 2007
Australian federal election, 2004
All 150 seats in the Australian House of Representatives
and 40 (of the 76) seats in the Australian Senate
9 October 2004 (2004-10-09)
First party Second party
John Howard May 2006.jpg Ac.marklatham.jpg
Leader John Howard Mark Latham
Party Liberal/National coalition Labor
Leader since 30 January 1995 (1995-01-30) 2 December 2003 (2003-12-02)
Leader's seat Bennelong Werriwa
Last election 81 seats 65 seats
Seats won 87 60
Seat change +5 -5
Popular vote 6,179,130 5,536,002
Percentage 52.74% 47.26%
Swing +1.71% -1.71%

Federal elections were held in Australia on 9 October 2004. All 150 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 seats in the 76-member Senate were up for election. The incumbent Liberal Party of Australia led by Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and coalition partner the National Party of Australia led by John Anderson defeated the opposition Australian Labor Party led by Mark Latham.

Contents

Results

House of Reps (IRV) — 2004-07 — Turnout 94.32% (CV) — Informal 5.18%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Liberal Party of Australia 4,741,458 40.47 +3.39 74 +6
  Australian Labor Party 4,409,117 37.64 -0.20 60 -5
  Australian Greens 841,734 7.19 +2.23 0 0
  National Party of Australia 690,275 5.89 +0.28 12 -1
  Family First Party 235,315 2.01 * 0 0
  Australian Democrats 144,832 1.24 -4.17 0 0
  One Nation 139,956 1.19 -3.15 0 0
  Christian Democratic Party 72,241 0.62 +0.02 0 0
  Citizens Electoral Council 42,349 0.36 +0.20 0 0
  Country Liberal Party 39,855 0.34 +0.02 1 0
  Socialist Alliance 14,155 0.12 * 0 0
  New Country Party 9,439 0.08 * 0 0
  liberals for forests 8,165 0.07 -0.07 0 0
  No GST Party 7,802 0.07 -0.05 0 0
  Ex-Service, Service and Veterans Party 4,369 0.04 * 0 0
  Progressive Labour Party 3,775 0.03 -0.02 0 0
  Outdoor Recreation Party 3,505 0.03 +0.03 0 0
  Save the ADI Site Party 3,490 0.03 -0.02 0 0
  The Great Australians 2,824 0.02 * 0 0
  The Fishing Party 2,516 0.02 +0.01 0 0
  Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party 2,007 0.02 -0.02 0 0
  Democratic Labor Party 1,372 0.01 * 0 0
  Non-Custodial Parents Party 1,132 0.01 +0.00 0 0
  Help End Marijuana Prohibition 787 0.01 -0.02 0 0
  Nuclear Disarmament Party 341 0.00 * 0 0
  The Aged and Disability Pensioners Party 285 0.00 * 0 0
  Independents 286,206 2.44 -0.27 3 0
  Non Affiliated 5,830 0.05 -0.14 0 0
  Total 11,715,132     150
  Liberal/National coalition WIN 52.74 +1.71 87 +5
  Australian Labor Party   47.26 -1.71 60 -5

Independents: Peter Andren, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter

Senate (STV GV) — 2005-08 — Turnout 94.82% (CV) — Informal 3.75%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Won Seats Held
  Australian Labor Party 4,186,715 35.02 +0.70 16 28
  Liberal/National (Joint Ticket) 3,074,952 25.72 +1.85 6  
  Liberal Party of Australia 2,109,978 17.65 +1.96 13 33
  Australian Greens 916,431 7.67 +2.73 2 4
  Australian Democrats 250,373 2.09 -5.16 0 4
  Family First Party 210,567 1.76 * 1 1
  One Nation 206,455 1.73 -3.81 0 0
  National Party of Australia 163,261 1.37 -0.55 1 5
  Christian Democratic Party 140,674 1.18 +0.06 0 0
  liberals for forests 107,130 0.90 +0.15 0 0
  Democratic Labor Party 58,042 0.49 -0.08 0 0
  The Fishing Party 50,356 0.42 +0.18 0 0
  Country Liberal Party 41,923 0.35 +0.00 1 1
  Help End Marijuana Prohibition 41,501 0.35 -0.20 0 0
  Ex-Service, Service and Veterans Party 25,277 0.21 * 0 0
  Citizens Electoral Council 24,663 0.21 +0.14 0 0
  Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party 19,156 0.16 -0.04 0 0
  Australian Progressive Alliance 18,856 0.16 * 0 0
  Progressive Labour Party 18,424 0.15 -0.50 0 0
  The Aged and Disability Pensioners Party 17,401 0.15 * 0 0
  Outdoor Recreation Party 13,822 0.12 * 0 0
  Socialist Alliance 13,305 0.11 * 0 0
  Non-Custodial Parents Party 12,207 0.10 +0.06 0 0
  Australians Against Further Immigration 11,508 0.10 -0.08 0 0
  New Country Party 11,040 0.09 * 0 0
  No GST Party 9,713 0.08 -0.35 0 0
  The Great Australians 6,984 0.06 * 0 0
  Republican Party of Australia 4,168 0.03 -0.06 0 0
  Save the ADI Site Party 3,281 0.03 * 0 0
  Hope Party Australia 2,938 0.02 -0.01 0 0
  Nuclear Disarmament Party 2,163 0.02 -0.02 0 0
  Other 180,385 1.51 +1.13 0 0
  Total 11,953,649     40 76
This large election billboard by the Liberal Party in Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall was an example of an attack ad directed against Mark Latham's economic management credentials, and typical of many used during the campaign. Economic management has been identified by most commentators as the issue which most benefitted the incumbent government. The "L" is a reference to Latham's alleged lack of economic credentials (in Australia, learner drivers must carry an "L-plate" on their vehicles).

*Julian McGauran later left the Nationals and joined the Liberals.

House of Representatives preference flows

  • The Nationals had candidates in 9 seats where three-cornered-contests existed, with 84.70% of preferences favouring the Liberal Party.
  • The Greens contested all 150 electorates with preferences strongly favouring Labor (80.86%)
  • Family First contested 109 electorates with preferences favouring the Liberal/National Coalition (66.57%)
  • The Democrats contested 125 electorates with preferences slightly favouring Labor (58.91%)
  • One Nation contested 77 electorates with preferences slightly favouring the Liberal/National Coalition (56.4%)

Seats changing hands

In the House of Representatives, the Coalition won eight seats from Labor: Bass (Tas), Bonner (Qld), Braddon (Tas), Greenway (NSW), Hasluck (WA), Kingston (SA), Stirling (WA) and Wakefield (SA). Labor won four seats from the Coalition: Adelaide (SA), Hindmarsh (SA), Parramatta (NSW) and Richmond (NSW). The Coalition thus had a net gain of four seats. The redistribution had also delivered them McMillan (Vic), formerly held by Christian Zahra of Labor and won by Liberal Russell Broadbent; and Bowman (Qld), formerly held by Labor's Con Sciacca and won by Liberal Andrew Laming. Labor, meanwhile, received the new seat of Bonner (Qld) and the redistributed Wakefield (SA), both of which were lost to the Liberal Party. The Labor Party regained the seat of Cunningham, which had been lost to the Greens in a by-election in 2002.

Seat Party, pre-2004 Member, pre-2004 Margin, pre-2004 % Swing % Margin, post-2004 % Member, post-2004 Party, post-2004
Adelaide, SA   Liberal Party of Australia Trish Worth 0.62 1.95 1.33 Kate Ellis Australian Labor Party  
Bass, Tas   Australian Labor Party Michelle O'Byrne 2.06 4.69 2.63 Michael Ferguson Liberal Party of Australia  
Bonner, Qld   Australian Labor Party Hon Con Sciacca* 1.89 2.40 0.51 Ross Vasta Liberal Party of Australia  
Braddon, Tas   Australian Labor Party Sid Sidebottom 5.96 7.09 1.13 Mark Baker Liberal Party of Australia  
Cunningham, NSW   Australian Greens Michael Organ 2.17 12.82 10.65 Sharon Bird Australian Labor Party  
Greenway, NSW   Australian Labor Party vacant 3.11 3.69 0.58 Louise Markus Liberal Party of Australia  
Hasluck, WA   Australian Labor Party Sharryn Jackson 1.78 3.60 1.82 Stuart Henry Liberal Party of Australia  
Hindmarsh, SA   Liberal Party of Australia vacant 0.96 1.02 0.06 Steve Georganas Australian Labor Party  
Kingston, SA   Australian Labor Party David Cox 1.35 1.42 0.07 Kym Richardson Liberal Party of Australia  
Parramatta, NSW   Liberal Party of Australia Ross Cameron 1.15 1.92 0.77 Julie Owens Australian Labor Party  
Richmond, NSW   National Party of Australia Hon Larry Anthony 1.68 1.87 0.19 Justine Elliot Australian Labor Party  
Stirling, WA   Australian Labor Party Jann McFarlane 1.58 3.62 2.04 Michael Keenan Liberal Party of Australia  
Wakefield, SA   Australian Labor Party Martyn Evans* 1.26 1.93 0.67 David Fawcett Liberal Party of Australia  
  • *Con Sciacca was in fact the member for the seat of Bowman, which had become Liberal in a redistribution; he instead contested the new seat of Bonner. Martyn Evans was the member for the abolished seat of Bonython; he instead contested the seat of Wakefield.

Overall result

The Coalition parties won 46.7% of the primary vote, a gain of 3.7% over the 2001 election. The opposition Australian Labor Party polled 37.6%, a loss of 0.2%. The Australian Greens emerged as the most prominent minor party, polling 7.2%, a gain of 2.2%. Both the Australian Democrats and One Nation had their vote greatly reduced. After a notional distribution of preferences, the Australian Electoral Commission estimated that the Coalition had polled 52.74% of the two-party preferred vote, a gain of 1.7% from 2001.

The Liberal Party won 74 seats, the National Party 12 seats and the Country Liberal Party (the Northern Territory branch of the Liberal Party) one seat, against the Labor opposition's 60 seats. Three independent members were re-elected. The Coalition also won 39 seats in the 76-member Senate, making the Howard Government the first government to have a majority in the Senate since 1981. The size of the government's win was unexpected: few commentators had predicted that the coalition would actually increase its majority in the House of Representatives, and almost none had foreseen its gaining a majority in the Senate. Even Howard had described that feat as "a big ask."

The election result was a triumph for Howard, who in December 2004 became Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister, and who saw the election result as a vindication of his policies, particularly his decision to join in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The results were a setback for the Labor leader, Mark Latham, and contributed to his resignation in January 2005 after assuming the leadership from Simon Crean in 2003. The defeat made Labor's task more difficult: a provisional pendulum for the House of Representatives,[1] showed that Labor would need to win 16 seats to win the following election. However, Kim Beazley said that the accession of Latham to the ALP leadership, in December 2003, had rescued the party from a much heavier defeat.[2] Beazley stated that polling a year before the election indicated that the ALP would lose "25–30 seats" in the House of Representatives. Instead the party lost a net four seats in the House, a swing of 0.21%. There was also a 1.1% swing to the ALP in the Senate. The Coalition gaining control of the Senate was enabled by a collapse in first preferences for the Australian Democrats and One Nation.

Members and Senators defeated in the election include Larry Anthony, the National Party Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, defeated in Richmond, New South Wales; former Labor minister Con Sciacca, defeated in Bonner, Queensland; Liberal Parliamentary Secretaries Trish Worth (Adelaide, South Australia) and Ross Cameron (Parramatta, New South Wales); and Democrat Senators Aden Ridgeway (the only indigenous member of the outgoing Parliament), Brian Greig and John Cherry. Liberal Senator John Tierney (New South Wales), who was dropped to number four on the Coalition Senate ticket, was also defeated.

A party worker for the Australian Labor Party hands out How-to-Vote Cards at a polling place in St Kilda, Victoria, in the Division of Melbourne Ports, on election day, 9 October 2004.

Celebrity candidates Peter Garrett (Labor, Kingsford Smith, New South Wales) and Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal, Wentworth, New South Wales) easily won their contests. Prominent clergyman Fred Nile failed to win a Senate seat in New South Wales. The first Muslim candidate to be endorsed by a major party in Australia, Ed Husic, failed to win the seat of Greenway, New South Wales, for Labor. The former One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, failed in her bid to win a Senate seat in Queensland as an independent.

Minor parties had mixed results. The Australian Democrats polled their lowest vote since their creation in 1977, and lost the three Senate seats they were defending. The Australian Greens won Senate seats in Western Australia and in Tasmania. They missed seats in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, partly because of preference deals by other parties. This was a poorer result than they had expected. They failed to win a seat in the House, losing the seat of Cunningham which they gained at a 2002 by-election.

The Australian Progressive Alliance leader, Senator Meg Lees, and the One Nation parliamentary leader, Senator Len Harris, lost their seats. One Nation's vote in the House of Representatives collapsed. The Christian Democratic Party, the Citizens Electoral Council, the Democratic Labor Party, the Progressive Labour Party and the Socialist Alliance all failed to make any impact. The Family First Party polled 2% of the vote nationally, and their candidate Steve Fielding won a Senate seat in Victoria.

Result

e • d Summary of the 9 October 2004 Parliament of Australia election results
Parties Primary Votes House % House Seats House Votes Senate % Senate Seats Won Senate Total Seats Senate
  Liberal Party of Australia 4,741,458 40.5 74 2,109,978 17.7 13 33
  National Party of Australia 690,275 5.9 12 163,261 1.4 1 5
Liberal/National Party senate ticket (NSW and Vic) - - - 3,074,952 25.7 6 *
  Country Liberal Party 39,855 0.3 1 41,923 0.4 1 1
  Australian Labor Party 4,409,117 37.6 60 4,186,715 35.0 16 28
  Australian Greens 841,734 7.2 - 916,431 7.7 2 4
  Family First Party 235,315 2.0 - 210,567 1.8 1 1
  Australian Democrats 144,832 1.2 - 250,373 2.1 - 4
  One Nation Party 139,956 1.2 - 206,455 1.7 - -
  Christian Democratic Party 72,241 0.6 - 140,674 1.2 - -
  Other parties 108,313 0.9 - 652,320 5.5 - -
  Independents 288,206 2.4 3 - - - -
Total (turnout 94.85%) 11,715,132 100.0 150 11,953,649 100.0 40 76
Informal votes 639,851
Total votes 12,354,983
Registered voters 13,021,230
* Liberal/National senators shown under their respective parties
Sources: Australian Electoral Commission, Parliament of Australia Parliamentary Handbook

The Liberal and National parties run joint tickets in some states. The figures under "Seats" show the number of Senate seats won at this election. These have been added to the number of seats won in 2001 to give the total number of seats in Senate which each party will hold after 1 July 2005, when the new Senators take their seats.

The National and Liberal Parties won the fifth and sixth Senate seats in Queensland, thus giving the Coalition 39 seats and outright control of the Senate. Labor won the final Senate seats in New South Wales and South Australia, giving it 28 seats. The Greens won the final Senate seats in Western Australia and Tasmania, increasing their Senate seats from 2 to 4.

See Results of the Australian federal election, 2004

The campaign

The Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the election at a press conference in Canberra on 29 August, after meeting the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, at Government House.

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Opening shots: "who do you trust?"

John Howard told the press conference that the election would be about trust. "Who do you trust to keep the economy strong and protect family living standards?" he asked "Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust to lead the fight on Australia's behalf against international terrorism?"

Howard, who turned 68 in July, declined to answer questions about whether he would serve a full three-year term if his government was re-elected. "I will serve as long as my party wants me to," he said.[3]

At a press conference in Sydney half an hour after Howard's announcement, Opposition Leader Mark Latham welcomed the election, saying the Howard Government had been in power too long. He said the main issue would be truth in government. "We've had too much dishonesty from the Howard Government," he said. "The election is about trust. The Government has been dishonest for too long."[4]

Labor starts ahead in national opinion polls

The campaign began with Labor leading in all published national opinion polls. On 31 August the Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper gave Labor a lead of 52% to 48% nationwide, which would translate into a comfortable win for Labor in terms of seats. Most commentators, however, expected the election to be very close, pointing out that Labor was also ahead in the polls at the comparable point of the 1998 election, which Howard won. Howard had also consistently out-polled Latham as preferred Prime Minister by an average of 11.7 percentage points in polls taken this year.[5]

After the first week, the Coalition draws ahead

After the first week of campaigning, a Newspoll conducted for News Corporation newspapers indicated that the Coalition held a lead on a two-party preferred basis of 52% to 48% in the government's twelve most marginal held seats. To secure government in its own right, Labor needed to win twelve more seats than in the 2001 election. In the same poll, John Howard increased his lead over Mark Latham as preferred Prime Minister by four points. Meanwhile, the Taverner poll conducted for The Sun-Herald newspaper revealed that younger voters were more likely to support Labor, with 41% of those aged 18 to 24 supporting Labor, compared with 36% who support the Coalition.

A terrorist attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta marks the second week

On 9 September, during the second week of campaigning the election was rocked by a terrorist attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. John Howard expressed his "utter dismay at this event" and dispatched Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to Jakarta to assist in the investigation. Mark Latham committed the Labor party's "full support to all efforts by the Australian and Indonesian governments to ensure that happens". The parties reached an agreement that campaigning would cease for 10 September out of respect for the victims of this attack and that this would be in addition to the cessation of campaigning already agreed upon for 11 September in remembrance of the terrorist attacks in 2001. Some argue that this attack increased the Coalition's chances of victory because it refocused the election on the issue of national security, which was generally considered to be a Coalition strength.

The leaders debate and the worm turns in Latham's favour

A debate between John Howard and Mark Latham was televised commercial-free on the Nine Network at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday 12 September. In a change from previous election debates, which involved a single moderator, the leaders were questioned by a five member panel representing each of the major media groups in Australia. There was a representative from commercial television (Laurie Oakes), the ABC (Jim Middleton), News Limited (Malcolm Farr), John Fairfax Holdings (Michelle Grattan) and radio (Neil Mitchell). After an opening address, Howard and Latham responded to questions posed by the panel and had the opportunity to make a closing statement. The Nine Network permitted other television organisations to transmit the feed, but only the ABC decided to.

The debate was followed (only on the Nine Network) by an analysis of the leaders' performance by the "worm". The worm works by analysing the approval or disapproval of a select group of undecided voters to each statement that a leader makes. Throughout the debate, according to the worm, Latham performed strongly and Howard performed poorly. A final poll of the focus group found that 67% of the focus group believed that Latham won the debate and that 33% of the focus group believed that Howard won. Major media outlets generally agreed that Latham had won the debate, although they pointed out that with no further debates scheduled and nearly four weeks of the campaign remaining, Latham's gain in the momentum from the debate was unlikely to be decisive. Political commentators noted that the 2001 election debate, between Howard and then opposition leader Kim Beazley, gave the same worm results yet Labor still lost that election.

Officials of the Australian Electoral Commission conduct a blind ballot to determine the order of candidates on the House of Representatives ballot paper in the Division of Melbourne Ports, 17 September 2004

At the midpoint, it is too close to call

By the midpoint of the campaign, after Labor had released its policies on taxation and education, polls showed that the election was still too close to call. The Newspoll in The Australian, showed (21 September) Labor leading with 52.5% of the two-party vote. The ACNielsen poll published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age showed the Coalition ahead on 52%. The Morgan poll, which has a poor recent record of predicting federal elections, showed Labor ahead with 53% on the weekend of 18-19 September. A Galaxy Poll in the Melbourne Herald Sun showed the Coalition ahead with 51%, but showed Labor gaining ground.

Despite Latham's strong performance in the debate, most political commentators argued that he had not gained a clear advantage over Howard. They pointed to anomalies in Labor's tax policy and the controversy surrounding Labor's policy of reducing government funding to some non-government schools as issues which Howard was successfully exploiting.

John Howard and John Anderson launched the Coalition election campaign at a joint function in Brisbane on 26 September. Howard's policy speech can be read at the Liberal Party website.[6] Anderson's policy speech can be read at the National Party website.[7]

Mark Latham's policy speech was delivered, also in Brisbane, on 29 September.

Contradictory polls in the fourth week

During the fourth week of the campaign contradictory polls continued to appear. The ACNielsen poll published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 25 September showed the Coalition ahead with 54%, which would translate into a large majority for the government. The Newspoll in The Australian on 28 September showed Labor ahead with 52%, which would give Labor a comfortable majority.

Tasmanian forests erupt as the main issue during the last week

In the last days of the campaign the environment policies regarding the logging of Tasmania's old-growth forests were released by both major parties, but too late for the Greens to adjust their preference flows on how-to-vote cards in most electorates as the majority were already printed. In the game of "cat and mouse" on Tasmanian forest policy between Mark Latham and John Howard, Latham eventually lost out when Dick Adams (Labor member for the Tasmanian seat of Lyons), Tasmanian Labor Premier Paul Lennon and CFMEU's Tasmanian secretary Scott McLean all attacked Latham's forest policy. At a timber workers' rally on the day Labor's forestry policy was announced, Scott McLean asked those gathered to pass a resolution of no confidence in Mr Latham's ability to lead the country.[8] Michael O'Connor, assistant national secretary of the CFMEU said the Coalition's forest policy represented a much better deal for his members than Labor's policy.[9] Australian Labor Party national president Carmen Lawrence later said that "Labor has only itself to blame for the backlash over its forestry policy" and that it was a strategic mistake to release the policy so late in the election campaign. She stated that she was disappointed in criticism from within the ALP and union movement, and that the party did not leave itself enough time to sell the package.[10]

Treasury and the Department of Finance reported on the validity of Labor's costings of their promises. They claimed to identify a different flaw to that identified by Liberal Treasurer Costello, but overall Labor was satisfied with the report.

The Handshake

The Handshake

On the morning of 8 October, the day before the election, a television crew filmed Latham and Howard shaking hands as they crossed paths outside an Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio studio in Sydney. The footage showed Latham appearing to draw Howard towards him and tower over his shorter opponent. The incident received wide media coverage and, while Latham claimed to have been attempting to get revenge for Howard squeezing his wife's hand too hard at a press function, it was variously reported as being "aggressive", "bullying" and "intimidating" on the part of Latham. The Liberal Party campaign director, Brian Loughnane, later said this incident generated more feedback to Liberal headquarters than anything else during the six-week campaign, and that it "brought together all the doubts and hesitations that people had about Mark Latham". Latham disputes the impact of this incident, however, having described it as a "Tory gee-up: we got close to each other, sure, but otherwise it was a regulation man's handshake. It's silly to say it cost us votes - my numbers spiked in the last night of our polling." (Latham Diaries, p. 369) According to Latham's account of events, Latham came in close to Howard for the handshake to prevent Howard shaking with his arm rather than his wrist.

Final opinion polls are not conclusive

The final opinion polls continued to be somewhat contradictory, with Newspoll showing a 50-50 tie and the Fairfax papers reporting 54-46 to the Coalition. Most Australian major daily newspaper editorials backed a return of the Howard government, with the notable exceptions of The Sydney Morning Herald which backed no party and The Canberra Times which backed Labor.[11]

Preference deals

As in all Australian elections, the flow of preferences from minor parties can be crucial in determining the final outcome. The close of nominations was followed by a period of bargaining among the parties. Howard made a pitch for the preferences of the Australian Greens by appearing to offer concessions on the issue of logging in old-growth forests in Tasmania, and the Coalition directed its preferences to the Greens ahead of Labor in the Senate, but the Greens nevertheless decided to allocate preferences to Labor in most electorates. In exchange, Labor agreed to direct its preferences in the Senate to the Greens ahead of the Democrats (but critically, not ahead of other minor parties), increasing the chances that the Greens would displace Australian Democrats Senators in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

The Democrats in turn did a preference deal with the Family First Party, which angered some Democrats supporters who viewed Family First's policies as incompatible with the Democrats'.

The effect of preference deals on Senate outcomes

In Victoria, Family First, the Christian Democrats and the DLP allocated their senate preferences to Labor, in order to help ensure the re-election of the number three Labor Senate candidate, Jacinta Collins, a Catholic who has conservative views on some social issues such as abortion. In exchange, Labor gave its Senate preferences in Victoria to Family First ahead of the Greens, expecting Family First to be eliminated before these preferences were distributed. In the event, however, Labor and Democrat preferences helped Family First's Steve Fielding beat the Green's David Risstrom to win the last Victorian Senate seat[12] and become Family First's first Federal parliamentarian. This outcome generated some controversy and highlighted a lack of transparency in preference deals. Family First were elected in Victoria after receiving 1.88% of the vote, even though the Greens had the largest minor party share of the vote with 8.8%. In Australia, 95% of voters vote "above the line" in the Senate.[13] Many "above the line" voters do not access preference allocation listings, although they are available in polling booths and on the AEC website, so they are therefore unaware of where their vote may go. The end result was one Family First, three Liberal and two Labor Senators elected in Victoria.

In Tasmania, Family First and the Democrats also directed their Senate preferences to Labor, apparently to preclude the possibility of the Liberals winning a majority in the Senate and thus reducing the influence of the minor parties. The Australian Greens' Christine Milne appeared at risk of losing her Senate seat to a Family First candidate shortly after election night, despite nearly obtaining the full required quota of primary votes. However, strong performance on postal and prepoll votes improved Milne's position. It was only the high incidence of "below the line" voting in Tasmania that negated the effect of the preference swap deal between Labor and Family First.[14] The end result was one Green, three Liberal and two Labor Senators elected in Tasmania.

In New South Wales, Democrat preferences flowing to Labor rather than the Greens were instrumental in Labor winning the last Senate seat. Had Democrat preferences flown to the Greens rather than Liberals for Forests and the Christian Democrats, then the final vacancy would have been won by the Greens' John Kaye. The scale of Glenn Druery's (of the Liberals for Forests party) preference deals was revealed by the large number of ticket votes distributed when he was eliminated from the count. He gained preferences from a wide range of minor parties such as the Ex-Service Service and Veterans Party, the Outdoor Recreation Party, and the Non-Custodial Parents Party. Liberals for Forests also gained the preferences of two leftish parties - the Progressive Labour Party and the HEMP Party. When Druery was eventually excluded, these preferences flowed to the Greens, but the Greens would rather have received the preferences earlier in the count. In the end, three Liberal/National Senators and three Labor Senators were elected in New South Wales.[15]

In Western Australia, the Green's Rachel Siewert was elected to the final vacancy after the final Labor candidate was excluded. This was a gain for the Greens at the expense of the Democrats Brian Greig. While the Democrats had done a preference swap with Family First, the deal in Western Australia did not include the Christian Democrats. As a result, when the Australian Democrats were excluded from the count, their preferences flowed to the Greens, putting them on track for the final vacancy.[16] The end result was one Green, three Liberal and two Labor Senators elected in Western Australia.

In South Australia, the Australian Democrats did a crucial preference swap with Family First that prevented the Greens winning the final vacancy. If the Democrats had polled better, they would have collected Family First and Liberal preferences and won the final vacancy. Former Democrat Leader (now Progressive Alliance Senator) Meg Lees also contested the Senate in South Australia, but was eliminated late in the count. However, Lees did have some impact on the outcome, as there were large numbers of below the line preferences for both the Progressive Alliance (as well as One Nation) which were widely spread rather than flowing to the Democrats. When the Democrats were excluded, preferences flowed to Family First which prevented the Greens' Brian Noone passing the third Labor candidate. This resulted in a seat that could otherwise have been won by the Greens instead being won by Labor on Green preferences. The flow of One Nation preferences to Labor made it impossible for either Family First or the Liberal Party to win the final vacancy. Labor's Dana Wortley was elected to the final vacancy.[17] The end result in South Australia was split 3 Liberal, 3 Labor.

In Queensland, Pauline Hanson attracted 38,000 below the line votes and pulled away from One Nation. Preferences from the Fishing Party kept the National Party’s Barnaby Joyce ahead of Family First and Pauline Hanson. Joyce then unexpectedly won the fifth vacancy ahead of the Liberal Party. The sixth and last vacancy was then won by Liberal Russell Trood.[18] The final outcome was 1 National, 3 Liberals and 2 Labor.

The election of both Barnaby Joyce and Russell Trood to the Senate in Queensland resulted in the Coalition gaining control of the Senate and was confirmed by the National Party's Senate Leader Ron Boswell's in a televised telephone call to Prime Minister John Howard.[19] This result was not widely predicted prior to the election.

The effect of preference deals on House of Representatives and national outcomes

Despite constant media attention on preference deals, and a widely held belief that the two party preferred result for the election would be close, the Newspoll figures during the three months prior to the election showed little alteration in the first preference margin between the parties, nor was there any evidence of any voter volatility. The figures suggested, then, that as the Coalition’s first preference vote was healthy, the most likely result was a Government victory. This was born out in the election results when the Liberal first preference vote of 40.5 per cent was 3.4 percentage points higher than in 2001, while Labor’s first preference vote of 37.6 per cent was its lowest vote since the elections of 1931 and 1934.[20] Preference flows from minor parties are much more likely to affect an election outcome when the two major parties are close. The collapse of Labor's primary vote therefore negated this effect, even though 61 out of 150 House of Representatives seats were decided on preferences.[21]

The national outcome of minor party preference distributions (in order of number primary votes received) is summarised in the following table:[22]

Minor party Total votes % to Liberal/National Coalition % to Labor
Christian Democratic Party 72,241 74.63 25.37
Citizens Electoral Council 42,349 47.83 52.17
Socialist Alliance 14,155 25.55 74.45
New Country Party 9,439 59.16 40.84
liberals for forests 8,165 60.18 39.82
No GST 7,802 38.11 61.89
Ex-Service, Service and Veterans Party 4,369 52.69 47.31
Progressive Labour Party 3,775 19.36 80.64
Outdoor Recreation Party 3,505 44.37 55.63
Save the ADI Site Party 3,490 33.12 66.88
The Great Australians 2,824 61.47 38.53
The Fishing Party 2,516 45.15 54.85
Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party 2,007 52.96 47.04
Democratic Labor Party 1,372 58.53 41.47
Non-Custodial Parents Party 1,132 26.86 73.14
HEMP 787 41.93 58.07
Nuclear Disarmament Party 341 20.82 79.18
Aged and Disability Pensioners Party 285 45.96 54.04

Party leaders

  • John Howard had been an MP since 1974, leader of the Liberal Party since 1995 (he was previously leader from 1985 to 1989), and Prime Minister since March 1996. He turned 65 in July 2004, and is more than 20 years older than Mark Latham. Howard is by far the most experienced politician in Australian federal politics and is considered a master of political strategy, a reputation which was enhanced during the 2004 campaign. Although most commentators agreed that he did not perform well in the debate with Latham, his dogged campaigning on interest rates, economic certainty and national security was effective in persuading voters in marginal seats to stick with the Coalition.
  • John Anderson had been an MP since 1988 and leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister since 1999. Although talented and personable, he was unable to stem the long-term decline in the Nationals' rural electoral base. During 2003 he considered retiring from Parliament at this election, but was persuaded not to. Despite his personal standing, the Nationals lost another seat (Richmond) and struggled to win a Senate spot in Queensland. Anderson stepped down as leader in July 2005.
  • Mark Latham had been an MP since 1994 and was elected leader of the Australian Labor Party in December 2003. Latham initially made a good impression, but a series of controversies during 2004 caused much criticism of his alleged inconsistency and volatility. His campaign was aggressive and colourful, with a series of bold policy announcements late in the campaign. This galvanised Labor's base but many commentators felt that Latham's policies and personality alienated middle class voters. In retrospect Labor's forests policy was a major miscalculation, costing two seats in Tasmania. Latham also failed to effectively counter Howard's campaign on interest rates. Latham resigned for health reasons in January 2005 from both his position as Leader of the Opposition and as Member for Werriwa in the House of Representatives.
  • Andrew Bartlett had been a Senator since 1997 and leader of the Australian Democrats since 2002 when Natasha Stott Despoja stood down from the position. The efforts to revive the Democrats' public support were unsuccessful. A widely publicised incident in December 2003 where he confronted Liberal Senator Jeannie Ferris while exiting the Senate chamber did not help these efforts. The Democrats' election result in 2004 was the worst in the party's history to that time. He chose not to recontest the leadership after that election, and Senator Lyn Allison took on the leadership role.
  • Bob Brown had been a Senator and the informal leader of the Australian Greens since 1996. By opposing Australia's participation in the Iraq War he established himself as the most prominent figure of the Australian left. But media predictions that the Greens would greatly increase their vote and win a Senate seat in every state, or even win House seats, were not realised. Although the Greens took some votes from the Democrats, many flowed to other parties and the predicted big inroads into Labor's base vote did not occur.

Disclosure

Dates for financial disclosure for the 2004 Federal election were specified by the Australian Electoral Commission. Broadcasters and publishers had to lodge their returns by 6 December, while candidates and Senate groups needed to lodge by 24 January 2005. This information was made available for public scrutiny on 28 March 2005.

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Risky strategy ends in disaster for Labor - Election 2004 - www.smh.com.au
  3. ^ See full report and transcript of Howard's press conference.
  4. ^ See full report of Latham's press conference.
  5. ^ http://www.newspoll.com.au/cgi-bin/display_poll_data.pl?mode=trend&page=continue_results&question_id=2422&url_caller=
  6. ^ http://www.liberal.org.au/documents/Sept26_Speech_-_Coalition_Campaign_Launch_-_Brisbane.pdf
  7. ^ http://www.nationals.org.au/downloads/DPM%20Speech_from_Coalition_Campaign_Launch_2004.pdf
  8. ^ Union official may be dumped in election fallout. 14/10/2004. ABC News Online
  9. ^ Howard trades trees for jobs - Election 2004 - www.theage.com.au
  10. ^ Forestry policy too rushed, Labor president says. 12/10/2004. ABC News Online
  11. ^ Article | ninemsn news
  12. ^ How party preferences picked Family First - Election 2004 - www.theage.com.au
  13. ^ Federal Election 2004. How Senate Voting Works. Antony Green's Election Guide. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
  14. ^ Above or below the line? Managing preference votes - On Line Opinion - 20/4/2005
  15. ^ 2004 Federal Election. Senate - NSW Results. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
  16. ^ 2004 Federal Election. Senate - WA Results. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
  17. ^ 2004 Federal Election. Senate - SA Results. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
  18. ^ 2004 Federal Election. Senate - QLD Results. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
  19. ^ Lateline - 28/10/2004: Coalition gains Senate control
  20. ^ Commonwealth Election 2004
  21. ^ Seats Decided On Preferences
  22. ^ Preference flows at the 2004 House of Representatives election

Bibliography

See also

External links

Electoral sites
Party sites

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