Question: What's been the biggest
federal primary vote for a party (or Coalition) since 1946?
Answer: Fifty-three percent for Malcolm Fraser's
Coalition in his famous 1975 post-dismissal landslide, a forty five seat
majority. No surprises there.
And the runner up? That was Labor's 50.1 percent in 1954. But that translated
into a seven seat loss.
And the lowest primary vote? That's easy - Labor's last
year at 38 percent. The second lowest was Labor's in 1996, the third Bob Hawke's 1990 victory, 39
percent to the Coalition's 43.
The lesson: primary vote is only indirectly related to a
We have preferential voting, and so it is the two party preferred vote that
So moving along to two party preferred
Uneven playing fields
In March 1995 Liberal Premier John Fahey lost office despite getting 51
percent of the two party preferred vote. Bob Carr's share, 49 percent, was
enough for a one seat majority.
In September 1999 Steve Bracks got 50.2 percent. Were it not for the support
of three independents from otherwise Coalition seats, Labor would have remained
Kim Beazley won the 1998 vote by over 51 percent, a larger "win"
than John Howard's last year.
Claire Martin became Chief Minister of Northern Territory in September 2001
with about 48 percent of the vote (Dennis Burke's Country Nationals got 52).
And Bracks looks like needing a substantially more than half the two party preferred vote to stay in
office this time. (He also looks like getting it.)
And so on. Australian politics is not always fair.
Once upon a time these distortions were deliberate, usually to give bushies
a hand up.
Nowadays the rorting's gone and it's just the luck of the draw. But the
hurdles remain. NSW generally works against the Coalition at the state level.
Victoria works against Labor. (Although John Cain's last hurrah in 1988 was a
minority vote win.) It's about "wasting" votes in safe seats and
not getting them elsewhere.
At the federal level this has usually worked in the Coalition's favour. The
Hawke government's longevity was built on tackling this wastage and distributing
votes more evenly. (They alienated the heartland and impressed voters
elsewhere.) They won in 1987 and 1990 with votes that, at any previous election,
would probably have been insufficient. Kim Beazley won a bigger vote majority in
1998 than either of those two.
Winners are grinners though. They are political colossi, slaying all on-comers.
They retain this status until the second the voters toss them out. History
rewrites itself instantaneously.
As Bob Ellis and the Tralfamadorians would say: so it