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The 2017 Northcote by-election

The by-election

The electorate of Northcote requires a by-election due to the recent tragic death of Fiona Richardson, who had been the Member for Northcote since 2006. Ms Richardson was Minister for Women and Australia's first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. The by-election will be held on 18 November 2017.

The Northcote electorate

Northcote has been held by the Labor Party since its inception in 1927. It is an inner metropolitan electorate situated approximately 5 kms north east of the Melbourne CBD. As can be seen in the map of the electorate below, its boundaries are Bell St. Preston in the north of the electorate, the Merri Creek on the western boundary, the Darebin Creek on the eastern boundary and the Yarra River on the southern boundary.

Figure 1: Map of the Northcote Electorate

Source: Map of the State Electoral District of Northcote 2012-2013 Redivision, prepared by Parliament of Victoria

Within Northcote's electoral boundaries, the suburbs of Alphington, Fairfield, Northcote, Thornbury and parts of Preston make up this 20.1 sq km electorate. Predominantly residential, the electorate also contains small pockets of industry. It is well-serviced by public transportation and cycling paths and has a thriving café and music culture.

Housing

These above amenities, along with the electorate's proximity to the Melbourne CBD, are attractive to young people and consequently the electorate has undergone extensive gentrification over the last 20 years. Median house prices have risen from $149,000 in the suburb of Northcote in 1996 to $1,160,500 in 2016.[footnote 1] Table 1 presents a variety of property data recorded in ABS census data from 2001 to 2016, such as the rise in rental properties and properties under a mortgage, in the electorate.

Table 1: Selected property data for Northcote electorate, 2001-2016 censuses

Census Years

2001

2006

2011

2016

         

Median mortgage repayment ($/monthly)

1,000-1,199

1,483

2,000

2,000

         

Median rent ($/weekly)

150-199

195

310

361

         

Properties owned outright

35.8%

29.4%

30.2%

27.9%

         

Properties under mortgage

21.6%

26.9%

29.3%

29%

         

Rented properties

35%

34.9%

37.9%

40%

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) General/Basic community profiles and QuickStats, Northcote State Electoral District 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services tracks rental lease affordability in Victorian Local Government Areas and Figure 2 charts rental lease affordability in the City of Darebin, which is much larger than the electorate but includes most of the Northcote electorate within it. The graph highlights the very poor affordability of rental leases in the area since 2008.

Figure 2: Percentage of affordable rental leases, Darebin local government area 2000-2017

Source: Department of Health and Human Services website, Affordable lettings by local government area, June 2017

Cultural and language diversity

Although there are still remnants of the increasingly elderly Southern European-born population in the electorate, Table 2 shows the reduction in those language cohorts from the 2001 census to 2016 census, and a rise in English only being spoken at home. This is largely replicated in the birthplace data: a rise in persons born in Australia and England, and a reduction in persons born in Greece and Italy.

Table 2: Languages spoken at home and birthplace in the Northcote Electorate, 2001-2016 censuses

Census Years

2001

2006

2011

2016

Language, top responses (other than English)

%

%

%

%

Greek

12.0

10.5

9.0

7.4

Italian

8.0

6.4

5.4

4.4

Mandarin

1.5

1.5

1.3

1.5

Arabic

2.5

1.9

1.6

1.4

English only

60.5

61.9

65.7

68.4

Birthplace top responses

               

Australia

   

64.0

63.7

 

65.9

 

67.0

Greece

   

6.6

5.5

 

4.7

 

3.8

England

   

2.5

2.5

 

2.8

 

2.9

Italy

   

5.2

4.1

 

3.4

 

2.6

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) QuickStats, Northcote State Electoral District 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001.

Changing demographics has seen the gentrification of the electorate and an influx of young socially progressive voters, who Associate Professor and political commentator Paul Strangio, describes as 'post-materialist cosmopolitans' who are attracted to the Greens idealism.[footnote 2]

Income

Table 3 below, which compares household and family income in the Northcote electorate with Victoria as a whole, reveals that median weekly incomes in the Northcote electorate have been higher than the whole of Victoria for each census period and have been rising at a faster rate. Only in 2001 was the median weekly household income for Victoria higher than the Northcote electorate, but by 2006 Northcote incomes surpassed Victoria as a whole.

Table 3: Census income data – Northcote electorate and Victoria

Census years

 

2001

2006

2011

2016

Median household income weekly $

Northcote

700-799

1,036

1,394

1,721

Median household income weekly $

Victoria

812

1,024

1,216

1,419

           

Median family income weekly $

Northcote

1,000-1,199

1,291

1,818

2,257

Median family income weekly $

Victoria

964

1,189

1,460

1,715

             

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) QuickStats, Northcote State Electoral District 2016, 2011, 2006, Basic community profile 2001 and Time Series Profile Victoria 2011.

Past elections

Analysis of 2011 census data for the electorates of Melbourne and Prahran won by the Greens at the 2014 election, indicated that both electorates rated very highly for the census attributes of following no religion; being tertiary educated and working as managers and professionals.[footnote 3] Although Northcote had similar demographics it remained in Labor Party hands at the 2014 election with a margin of six per cent. Changes to these attributes in the seat of Northcote since the 2011 census are as follows:

· Persons who follow no religion rose from 35 per cent in 2011 to 46 per cent in 2016;

· Persons with tertiary education rose from 46.2 per cent in 2011 to 51 per cent in 2016; and

· Persons working as professionals or managers rose from 50.1 per cent in 2011 to 53.9 per cent in 2016.

The above statistics are all higher than the average for the whole of Victoria for these attributes, which were 31.7 per cent, 33.5 per cent and 36.8 per cent at the 2016 census, respectively.[footnote 4]

The electorate has only been represented by five ALP Members of Parliament since its inception in 1927:

· John Cain Snr, 1927-57;

· Frank Wilkes, 1957-1988;

· Tony Sheehan, 1988-1998;

· Mary Delahunty, 1998-2006; and

· Fiona Richardson, 2006-2017.

The graph of the first preference results for the last five elections presented in Figure 3, demonstrates how voting preferences have changed in the electorate since 1999. The 2010 election was notable for being the first year that first preference counts for the Labor Party fell below 50 per cent.

Figure 3: First preference counts at Victorian elections

Source: Victorian Electoral Commission website, State Election Results 1999, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 elections

Figure 4, which illustrates the results after the distribution of preferences for the two parties in contention, shows that the Labor Party has retained the seat with reasonable margins over the last three elections. Preference flows from the Liberal Party have strongly favoured the Labor candidate.

Figure 4: Results after the distribution of preferences

Source: Victorian Electoral Commission website, State Election Results 2006, 2010 and 2014 elections

Table 4 which sets out the distribution of preference votes for Northcote at the 2014 election demonstrates how Liberal Party preferences ultimately handed the seat to the Labor Party.

Table 4: Distribution of preferences votes at the 2014 Election

 

McCARNEY, Jamie

RICHARDSON, Fiona

FENN, Helen

PURCELL, Georgina

D'ANGELO, Anthony

EDWARDS, Bryony

McCARTHY, Trent

 

Basics Rock'nRoll Party

Labor

Family First Party

Animal Justice Party

Liberal

IND

Greens

Total first preference votes

1043

15928

390

678

6407

324

14101

First Preference Count %

2.7

41.0

1.0

1.7

16.5

0.8

36.3

Transfer of 324 EDWARDS

44

28

14

94

27

 

117

Progressive Total

1087

15956

404

772

6434

 

14218

Transfer of 404 FENN

58

105

 

68

120

 

53

Progressive Total

1145

16061

 

840

6554

 

14271

Transfer of 840 PURCELL

190

162

   

81

 

407

Progressive Total

1335

16223

   

6635

 

14678

Transfer of 1335 McCARNEY

 

584

   

189

 

562

Progressive Total

 

16807

   

6824

 

15240

Transfer of 6824 D'ANGELO excluded candidate)

 

4976

       

1848

FINAL TOTAL

 

21,783

       

17,088

Count After Preferences %

 

56.0

       

44.0

Source: Victorian Electoral Commission website, State Election 2014: Northcote District Distribution of preference votes

The preference flows favoured the Labor Party by 73 per cent to 27 per cent for the Greens. If the flows had been reversed, the Greens candidate would have won the seat. But even a 50-50 split of Liberal Party preferences would have resulted in a Labor win at the 2014 election.

Currently the Labor Party has a margin of six per cent on a two candidate preferred basis, versus the Greens.

While the Darebin Local Government Area is much larger than the seat of Northcote, the Rucker ward in the south of the municipality fits entirely within the Northcote electorate. It is not the same size as the electorate and misses the northern (Labor) section of the electorate, but, as an indicator, it is interesting to note that two of the three councillors elected at the October 2016 local government election in the Rucker ward were members of the Greens, and the third councillor was an independent.[footnote 5]

The Liberal Party have indicated that they do not intend to contest the by-election.[footnote 6] However, the Liberal Democrats are fielding a candidate and it is reported that they are preferencing Labor ahead of the Greens on their party ticket.[footnote 7] Presumably they will attract a share of the conservative vote in the by-election. Additionally, Fiona Richardson was highly regarded in her electorate and a sympathy vote may also play a role in the by-election (whereby some electors may vote Labor as a mark of respect).

At the close of nominations, the Victorian Electoral Commission lists 12 candidates for the by-election, presented below in ballot paper order.[footnote 8] Candidates without parties attached to their names are standing as independents. Laura Chipp is standing as an independent but is endorsed by the Reason Party, which is yet to be registered in Victoria.[footnote 9]

Hayward, Russell

Sanaghan, Brian

Thorpe, Lidia, Australian Greens

Lenk, Nina, Animal Justice Party

Chipp, Laura

Cooper, Philip

Rossiter, Dean, Liberal Democrats

Burns, Clare, Australian Labor Party

Toscano, Joseph

Edwards, Bryony

Spirovska, Nevena

Fontana, Vince

In any event, voters will return to the polls in November 2018 for the Victorian state election in circumstances in which all of the main parties and all sides of the political spectrum will be standing for election to the electorate.

Lesman, B., Macreadie, R., Ross, Dr C. and Darby, P. (2015) The 2014 State Election,

Research Paper, No. 1, Parliamentary Library, Melbourne, Parliament of Victoria.

Victorian Electoral Commission website, State Election Results

Antony Green's 2017 Northcote By-election webpage

Australian Bureau of Statistics website Census Data

Parliament of Victoria website Re-Member Database


Key resources

Additional resources

Media releases

Australian Sex Party (2017) Laura Chipp hopes to usher in age of reason in Northcote, media release, 10 October.

Liberal Coalition (2017) Did someone mention there was a by-election, media release, 15 September.

Premier of Victoria (2017) Statement from the Premier, media release, 23 August.

News articles

Towell, N. (2017) 'Northcotes's byelection turns nasty', The Age, 27 October.

Hore, M. (2017) 'Green was bankrupt', Herald Sun, 27 October.

Gardiner, E. (2017) 'A dozen to contest', Northcote Leader, 25 October.

Gardiner, E. (2017) 'Council uses poll to push priorities', Northcote Leader, 25 October.

Talbot, C. (2017) 'Vegan, renter, op shopper. Labor's Northcote candidate ticks all the right boxes', The Age, 25 October.

Willingham, R. (2017) 'Northcote by-election polling shows Labor holds small lead ahead of Greens', ABC News website, 25 October.

(2017) 'Triple the ad splash', Northcote Leader, 25 October.

(2017) 'Bagging votes in by-election', Herald Sun, editorial, 19 October.

Gardiner, E. (2017) 'Fontana slams ALP 'neglect': former Mayor to contest by-election' Northcote Leader, 18 October.

Johnston, M. and E. Gardiner (2017) ''Fairer deal' for renters: Tenants given more rights in overhaul', Preston Leader, 17 October.

(2017) 'Laura chips in for Northcote', Ballarat Courier, 10 October.

Hutchinson, S (2017) 'Labor throws $500,000 into by-election bid to lock out Greens threat', The Australian, 6 October.

Gardiner, E. (2017) 'Close-up on candidates', Northcote Leader, 4 October.

Sullivan, K. (2017) 'Metro is key to rural', Weekly Times, 4 October.

Offer, K. and E. Gardiner (2017) 'MP poll to be hot contest: Greens and Labor set to face off in state by-election', Northcote Leader, 27 September.

Johnston, M. (2017) 'Fight for hot seat', Herald Sun, 22 September.

Dowling, J. and E. Gardiner (2017) 'Burns eyes state seat spot', Preston Leader, 12 September.

Research & Inquiries Service

Research Notes are produced by the Parliamentary Library's Research & Inquiries service. They provide analysis on selected components of new Bills and topical issues in response to, and in anticipation of, the needs of Members of the Victorian Parliament.

This research publication is current as at the time of printing. It should not be considered a complete guide to the particular subject or legislation covered. While it is intended that all information provided is accurate, it does not represent professional legal opinion. Any views expressed are those of the author(s).

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Author

Bella Lesman

Statistical Research Analyst

Victorian Parliamentary Library & Information Service

Department of Parliamentary Services

The author would like to acknowledge Carolyn Macvean, Jon Breukel, Debra Reeves, Alice Petrie, Igor Dosen, Marianne Aroozoo and Michael Graham for their valuable suggestions and proof-reading.

Enquiries:
Jon Breukel

Coordinator, Research & Inquiries

Victorian Parliamentary Library & Information Service

Parliament House

Spring Street, Melbourne

Telephone (03) 9651 8633

Email: research@parliament.vic.gov.au

 


[footnote 1] Valuer-General Victoria, (2016) Guide to Property Values, p. 76. and (2006) Guide to Property Values, p. 40

[footnote 2] B. Lesman, R. Macreadie, C. Ross and P. Darby (2015) <href="#focus">The 2014 State Election,

Research Paper, No. 1, Parliamentary Library, Melbourne, Parliament of Victoria, p. 30.

[footnote 3] ibid., p. 30.

[footnote 4] Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) QuickStats, Northcote State Electoral District 2016 and 2011 and Basic community profile 2011.

[footnote 5] Source: Victorian Electoral Commission website, <href="#e3">Darebin City Council election results 2016, see Rucker Ward.

[footnote 6] M. Johnston (2017), 'Fight for Hot Seat', Herald Sun, 22 September.

[footnote 7] R. Willingham (2017), 'Northcote by-election polling shows Labor holds small lead ahead of Greens', ABC News website, 25 October.

[footnote 8] Victorian Electoral Commission website, 2017 Northcote State By-election candidates

[footnote 9] Victorian Electoral Commission, personal communication with the author, 25 October 2017.