In the wake of Labor’s historic Aston by-election bombshell, the most striking analysis was not about Anthony Albanese and Labor at all, but the almighty rejection of Peter Dutton and the Liberals.
When Liberal candidate Roshena Campbell phoned Labor’s Mary Doyle to congratulate her just before 9pm there was no way back from a huge swing against the Coalition.
Ms Doyle, a mother-of-two from Melbourne’s east championed cheaper childcare and fee-free TAFE policies during the election – traditional Labor policy values.
But it was how the recent struggles of the Coalition; shocked by Anthony Albanese’s Federal Labor in May 2022, and demoralised by Chris Minns’ NSW Labor only a week ago, seems to have now lurched into a full blown crisis for the Liberals on Saturday.
Former union official and breast cancer survivor Mary Doyle (pictured) won the seat previously held by Liberal Cabinet minister Alan Tudge is a dramatic swing to Labor
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured with Mary Doyle) told the Tasmanian 120-year anniversary dinner he had spoken to Ms Doyle and congratulated her on the historic win
Labor Mary Doyle (pictured with deputy prime minister Richard Marles) has claimed an historic win in the Aston by-election, seizing the seat from Liberals and breaking a 100 year hoodoo
Labor’s win seemed impossible. Even when it appeared obvious, analysts shied away from calling it because the result would have been too incredible.
Former Labor Minister Stephen Conroy described the win as ‘an earthquake’ to Sky News on Saturday night. ABC kept calling it ‘extraordinary’. Both were correct.
It was the first time a sitting government has won an opposition-held seat in a by-election in more than a century.
While Albanese has promoted Labor as a positive force for change, the Coalition – once perceived to be a safe pair of hands – appears to have twisted itself into an unpopular ‘nasty’ brand, warns even the party’s own analysts.
‘The perception from the electorate might be it is just the “nasty” party,’ said former Liberal strategist Tony Barry.
‘The “nasty” party has come out in our research – they are just a bit “nasty”. They have lost the brand of economic management.’
The Libs’ failed attempt to pin blame on the ALP for the cost of living crisis and soaring interest rates was apparently outright rejected by voters.
The loss leaves the Liberal Party with just two seats in the entire metropolitan area of Melbourne after 20 years of underperforming in Victoria, said Mr Barry.
And he said it’s now obvious the party is dragging down its Coalition with the Nationals – who have consistently maintained their seats and share of the vote.
Mr Barry added ominously: ‘It will get worse – before it gets [even] worse…’
The struggles of the Coalition seemed to lurch into full blown crisis on Saturday in Melbourne’s east (pictured defeated candidate Roshena Campbell)
Liberal candidate Roshena Campbell (pictured with leader Peter Dutton) called Labor’s Mary Doyle to congratulate her on the win just before 9pm after it became clear there was no way back from a huge swing against the Coalition
The quip makes light of some deeply worrying long term trends for the wounded giant.
The next generation to vote comprises a higher proportion of LGBTQI people than ever before, said political researcher Kos Samaras.
Historically most people in those cohorts would vote Greens or Labor.
Already the Libs struggle with Generation Z, people born in the late 1990s or the early 21st century.
Analysis shows the Liberal party secures around one in five (20 per cent) Gen Z votes across Australia while in Melbourne it’s said to be only single digit return.
Rarely has the horizon looked so bleak for one of Australia’s major political parties.
Speaking to the party room earlier in the week, the Prime Minister said anything less than a five per cent swing would be considered a failure for Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.
Publicly there’s plenty of support for Peter Dutton (pictured), but behind closed doors he’s seen as far from safe
As the outcome became clear, federal Liberal MP Keith Wolahan issued a plea to his party to come together.
He also stood by Mr Dutton’s leadership, adding: ‘I saw good and bad leaders in the most trying of circumstances and he has all the qualities of a good leader.’
His comments were backed by fellow Victorian and senator Jane Hume, who said she ‘cannot imagine there would be any mood in the party room for (a change of leader)’.
‘There is no doubt this is a blow but he is a leader with a solid team behind him,’ she told the ABC.
Ms Hume said she was sad to see Ms Campbell lose out on the seat, but denied the result would trigger a move on Mr Dutton as leader.
‘There’s no agitation in the party room,’ she said. ‘He holds a united team.
But behind closed doors, there is consensus that Dutton is far from a sure thing to take the Liberal Party forward nationally – although there is no-one waiting in the wings to grab the poisoned chalice.
Anyone with ambitions to take over leadership may wait until they are sure the party has hit rock bottom before staging their challenge.
Earlier, ABC’s political analyst Antony Green had called the Melbourne seat for Labor at 8.17pm after ballot counts revealed voters had turned against Dutton’s Opposition in unprecedented numbers.
‘This is a terrible result for the Liberals,’ said Green as he called it for Labor. ‘It’s extraordinary.’
Albanese claimed the victory in a statement at 8.44pm and said he had called Ms Doyle and congratulated the mother of three on her historic win.
On two party preferences, Labor has 53.45 per cent of the vote and the Liberals 46.55 per cent with a 6.3 per cent swing that not even Labor supporters expected.
‘Aston has been painted red from end to end,’ said Green on ABC. ‘This is just an extraordinary result.’
Ms Doyle gained a massive 7.3 per cent swing for the party in the Federal election in May last year but retiring MP Alan Tudge still retained the seat on a 2.8 per cent margin.
The previously safe outer east suburban seat was vacated by former Minister Mr Tudge when he retired in February, triggering Saturday’s by-election and giving Ms Doyle a second run at winning.
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