Labor appears to have pulled off an ‘extraordinary’ win in the Aston by-election which was formerly a safe Liberal seat held by ex-Cabinet minister Alan Tudge.
ABC’s political analyst Antony Green called the Melbourne seat for Labor at 8.17pm after ballot counts revealed voters had turned against the Coalition in unprecedented numbers.
Labor’s Mary Doyle has 41.6 per cent of the votes after 43.8 per cent of the vote is counted, with Liberal Roshena Campbell on just 35.6, with a 6.3 swing to Labor.
If the result is confirmed, it will be the first time in over a century where a federal government has claimed a by-election win in a previously Opposition-held seat.
‘This is a terrible result for the Liberals,’ said Green as he called it for Labor. ‘It’s extraordinary.’
It would be the first time a federal government has won a seat off the opposition at a by-election since 1920 when the conservative Nationalist Party won the seat of Kalgoorlie off Labor.
Liberal supporters are clinging to the hope of a huge reversal when postal and pre-polling votes are counted, but Green said the swing now required is too great to be a realistic possibility.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese claimed the victory in a statement at 8.44pm and said he had called Ms Doyle and congratulated her on her historic win.
A Labor victory is being hailed as a devastating blow for Opposition leader Peter Dutton in the wake of him taking the Liberal leadership after former Prime Minister Scott Morrison was defeated at May’s federal election.
Former Labor Senator Stephen Conroy said postal votes historically leaned towards the Liberal Party, and those are expected to be counted on Sunday.
Liberal MP Dan Tehan told Sky News it’s still too early to tell who will win the by-election.
‘The early figures aren’t great but we have to wait and see,’ Mr Tehan said.
‘We always thought it would be close.
‘The early indications make you a little more nervous than you normally would have been.’
Ms Doyle gained a massive 7.3 per cent swing for the party in the Federal election but retiring MP Alan Tudge still retained the seat on a 2.8 per cent margin.
Australian Electoral Commission workers will spend the next few hours counting the votes collected from the 32 polling places on Saturday.
A total of 110,331 people are enrolled in Aston.
About 12,000 postal votes had been received by the AEC by 5pm on Friday, after there was 18,000 applications.
There was also an additional 23,000 people who have already voted before Saturday at an early voting centre, according to the AEC.
Push to ‘send message’ to the Liberal Party
The Labor Party earlier called on voters in Aston to send a message to the Opposition leader Peter Dutton in a last-ditch attempt to win back the historically safe Liberal seat.
Immigration minister Andrew Giles told Sky News on Saturday Aston voters now had a chance to ‘send a message’ to the opposition leader.
‘Now this is a seat that had a 55 per cent Liberal primary vote only four years ago and here something extraordinary is happening,’ Mr Giles said.
‘It’s a very tight race, it’s a tight race because of Mary’s campaign and also because Peter Dutton and the Liberals are just out of touch with the values of voters in the suburbs of Melbourne.
‘That’s something I’ve heard time and time again as I’ve been out here with Mary.’
But Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who joined Liberal candidate Roshena Campbell on Saturday, today’s by-election is not about ‘changing the government’.
‘Today is not about a general election,’ Mr Dutton said.
‘It’s about electing a strong local representative.
‘The Labor Party has spent the last month throwing mud – they haven’t explained to the people of Aston why it is that they cut road funding as their first act in government.’
ANTHONY ALBANESE MARY DOYLE
Albo lends a helping hand
Anthony Albanese paid a visit to the electorate in Melbourne’s outer east on Saturday morning hours after polls opened.
Mr Albanese said he hopes Labor’s policies around social issues will be enough to attract suburban voters to put their support behind Ms Doyle, a single mum and cancer survivor.
‘The trend going in the right direction this week with the figures but we know cost of living pressures are there,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘That is why we have done measures like the reduction in costs of pharmaceuticals and cheaper child care.
‘That is why we support people on the minimum wage not continuing to go backwards.’
ANTHONY ALBANESE MARY DOYLE
ANTHONY ALBANESE MARY DOYLE
Mr Albanese went on to say that a win would be a hard win for the government to clinch on Saturday.
‘(The opposition) have become the observers rather than the participants in our national parliament and that is why I want Mary Doyle to be elected today,’ he said.
‘It is tough, oppositions generally get swing. When Labor was in government, the by-election swings have been between 5-6 per cent towards the opposition.
‘No government has won a seat off the opposition in a by-election for over 100 years. We are giving it a crack today.’
Federal Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Labor government’s have implemented policies in the past year which have negatively impacted locals.
‘[Labor] haven’t explained to the people of Aston why it is that they cut road funding as the first act in government, and it’s quite remarkable,’ Mr Dutton said.
‘It’s a disaster for locals and people realise that the first act of the Albanese government was to cut road funding here in Aston … They’ve never apologised for it, they never explained why.’
Mr Dutton also took aim at the rising cost of living since last year’s Federal election.
‘There are a lot of Australian families who have heard Anthony Albanese promise before the last election on 97 occasions that he would reduce your power to $275,’ he said.
‘That was a promise he made before the election, he’s never mentioned it since, not once.
So cost of living pressures are real for families and the opportunity in the election today is to send a very clear message to Labor that they shouldn’t be cutting local road funding, and they shouldn’t be abandoning this community.’
The seat of Aston was created in 1984 and was held by Labor until 1990, but it has not won it since.
AMBITIOUS ASTON PLAN REVEALED
Labor’s candidate for the Aston by-election has detailed her ambition to take the seat in a ‘history making’ effort.
Mary Doyle, who gained a massive 7.3 per cent swing for the party in the Federal election, said she has no qualms about not being the favourite to win in Saturday’s poll.
‘I really hope I can win it but I realise it’s a very big mountain to climb but I have never shied away from climbing mountain, even with a dodgy knee,’ she told Today.
‘I was born in the year of the dog and I hope this will be the year of the underdog.’
The breakfast show’s reporter went on to clarify if Labor nabs the seat it will be ‘history making’ as no government has taken a seat off the Opposition in a by-election in more than 100 years.
ASTON BALLET DRAW
However, the Liberal party is expected to hold on to the seat in the first electoral test for both Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton.
The Liberals hold the previously safe outer east suburban seat – vacated by former minister Alan Tudge when he retired in February – on a 2.8 per cent margin after a massive swing against the party at last year’s election.
Both sides say it will be a tough fight, but expect the Liberals to hold on.
‘I think it is tight, but we will get there,’ Mr Dutton said on Friday.
But the by-election is also being framed as a test of the leaders, especially Mr Dutton who took over the leadership of the Liberal party from Scott Morrison after the coalition was thrown out of government.
The Prime Minister told the Labor caucus earlier this week that anything less than a five per cent swing to the opposition would be a ‘failure’ for the Opposition Leader.
PM Anthony Albanese
When asked whether a poor showing would prove his leadership was terminal, Mr Dutton took a page out of the Morrison playbook, labelling it as ‘Canberra gossip’.
‘I am concentrating on making sure Roshena Campbell is sitting in parliament next week because the seat of Aston deserves a very strong local member and that is what this by-election is about,’ he said during the week.
The Liberal campaign has focused on cost of living pressures.
‘There’s an opportunity here to send a message to Labor that it’s just not good enough because living pressures continue to go up,’ Mr Dutton said.
The unpopularity of Scott Morrison, paired with the controversy surrounding Alan Tudge, contributed to a 7.3 per cent two party swing against the Liberals in Aston last May.
The result of the by-election will have no effect on the make-up of the house of representatives.
But after a bruising defeat in NSW left Tasmania as the only blue state, the Liberals will be looking to the results for a morale boost.
Mr Albanese says it would be ‘very difficult’ for Ms Doyle to topple the Liberals as history was against them. As are the polls. No government has won a seat off the opposition in more than a century.
‘The Liberals should retain Aston with a massive majority,’ he told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.
‘The fact that the Liberal Party are having to spend so much money, and they have massively out-spent Labor in this by-election in order to hang on to one of their heartland seats says everything about the state of the Liberal Party brand.’
PM Anthony Albanese
ASTON BALLET DRAW
Meanwhile, the Australian Electoral Commission is urging all voters in Aston to ensure they vote in by-election, reminding them it is compulsory.
Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was concerned by the low number of votes cast ahead of polling day.
‘Typically, if someone casts their vote early in one election they’ll do so in the next one as well – and we’re not quite seeing that here which makes us worry about low participation,’ he said.
‘Failure to vote may result in a fine and will mean you have no say on who represents you in federal parliament.’
Aside from Ms Campbell and Ms Doyle, another three candidates are standing. They are Owen Miller for the Fusion Party, Angelica Di Camillo for the Greens and independent Maya Tesa.
There will be 32 polling places open on Saturday from 8am to 6pm. A total of 110,331 people are enrolled in Aston.
Counting will begin at 6pm.