4 March 2024

Labor increases vote but now holds Dunkley by a slimmer margin

| Andrew McLaughlin
Start the conversation
Jodie Belyea & Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Jodie Belyea as someone worthy of continuing the work of former member Peta Murphy, who died in office late last year. Photo: Anthony Albanese Facebook.

Saturday’s Dunkley by-election saw Labor retain the federal seat and both major parties increase their primary votes, but the overall gap between them has closed.

There was a much-hyped swing to the Liberals of 6.58 per cent – mainly glorified by the Liberals’ Dan Tehan, Jane Hume and Sussan Ley in their post-election speeches and media commitments on Saturday night and Sunday morning. But they conveniently failed to mention that the swing wasn’t at the expense of Labor.

Labor’s Jodie Belyea retained the seat vacated by the death of Peta Murphy last December, with a rare increase in the primary vote to the party in government of 0.92 per cent.

The latest Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) count based on preferences sees Jodie Belyea ahead with an unassailable lead of 42,781 votes or 52.71 per cent, and Nathan Conroy with 38,379 votes or 47.29 per cent, an overall swing to the Liberals of 3.6 per cent from the 2022 federal election.

The Liberal Party’s increased primary vote can most likely be attributed to the fact that neither Pauline Hanson’s One Nation nor the United Australia Party (UAP) ran candidates in the by-election. Analysts say their absence saw their conservative voters from the previous election naturally drift to the Liberals’ Nathan Conroy instead.

READ ALSO Breast imaging suite opens at Frankston Hospital honouring Peta Murphy

In the 2022 federal election, One Nation took 2.81 per cent of the vote, while the UAP took 5.06 per cent, so combined they equate closely to the 6.58 per cent swing to the Liberals.

The seat of Dunkley was named after Louisa Margaret Dunkley, who was a union leader and feminist who founded the Victorian Women’s Post and Telegraph Association in 1900, and campaigned for equal pay for women.

The seat spans about 153 square kilometres and covers the Frankston City Council – of which Mr Conroy is Mayor – and part of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in Melbourne’s south-eastern bayside suburbs. There were 40 polling places and 113,517 registered voters in Dunkley for the by-election.

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast on Monday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the win was a fantastic achievement on the part of Ms Belyea to attract the same primary vote as Peta Murphy.

“I think we felt very confident about the standing of the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and he was in the electorate a lot during the campaign and certainly that was received very well and we had a sense of confidence about that,” Mr Marles said.

READ ALSO Vale Linda White: ‘Formidable’ Victorian Labor senator honoured by colleagues

“I mean, that really stands in contrast to Peter Dutton, who was essentially shielded from the campaign, didn’t even turn up on election day.

“So, when we look at where the government’s going, how we are travelling, the key policies that we have in place, we feel pretty good about how they were presented in Dunkley and the result.”

On Sunday morning, the Prime Minister described Ms Belyea as someone who is passionate about representing her community.

“I want to thank Jodie, but also all of the volunteers and her campaign team who worked so hard to make sure that she can carry on and build on the legacy that the late Peta Murphy provided over an all-too-short time in being the Member for Dunkley,” Mr Albanese said.

“Peta Murphy showed incredible judgment throughout her life. And one of the ways that she showed judgment was in recruiting Jodie to the Labor Party and encouraging her to be a candidate. Because yesterday proved that she was someone who was worthy of continuing the work that Peta Murphy did since 2019.”

electoral map

Image: AEC.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said, despite the loss, the Coalition was encouraged that it could take back some of the traditionally blue-ribbon seats of Warringah, Mackellar, North Sydney and Wentworth in NSW, Goldstein and Kooyong in Victoria, and Curtin in WA, which were lost to Teal independents in the 2022 federal election.

“Any analysis that we’re ignoring the Teal seats for the outer-metro seats, or vice versa, is just a nonsense,” he told The Australian Financial Review on Sunday. “The result gives us great encouragement in Teal seats.

“We will have a credible climate and economic policy. On that basis, we’re a good showing in some of those seats.”

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.