Analysis of election results in Australia in the past 10-20 years has, more often than not, focused on the impact of minor parties and independents.

With disenchantment in the major parties seemingly on the rise, there has been a drift of votes to minor parties and independents in many recent elections. However, there is one notable exception.

The outcome of the Victorian state election, which was held in November last year, was the Andrews Labor Government was returned (for a second term) with an increased majority. Labor won 55 of the 88 seats in the Legislative Assembly (lower house), the Liberals and Nationals won 27, the Greens won three and three independents were elected (in the seats of Shepparton, Morwell and Mildura). But it’s where the Labor Government picked up votes which is of interest. On the primary vote, the swing to Labor at the election was 4.8 per cent. Given the swing against the Liberals was 6.0 per cent (and the swing against their coalition partner, the Nationals, was 0.8 per cent), it’s clear that the majority of votes which shifted in the Victorian election went from Liberal to Labor. This is reinforced by the Greens suffering a swing against them of 0.8 per cent. As for other candidates, including independents, they attracted a collective swing to them of 2.8 per cent. Yes, it was an increase, but it wasn’t anything like the 4.8 per cent swing to Labor.

Away from the statewide figures, the swing from one major party to another was never more apparent than in the eastern Melbourne suburban seat of Hawthorn. Those who follow politics closely would recall the Liberal member for the supposedly safe seat (its margin going into the election was around 8 per cent), Mr John Pesutto, watched it slip from his grasp as he was involved in live television coverage on the night of the election. The end result is that Hawthorn is now held by Labor, the first time this has happened since 1955.

Two other major elections are now upon us – tomorrow’s New South Wales state election and the 2019 federal election, which is expected to take place in May. When the counting of votes concludes after both elections – long after governments have been formed – it will interesting to analyse the movement of votes through the swings for and against, and determine if what happened in the Victorian election is a one-off or if it is the start of a trend.

– By Hamish Arthur