According to the media Anthony Albanese will follow his Marrickville home base from the electorate of Grayndler to Barton. The boundaries of the electorates have been changed and Marrickville is now in Barton. Grayndler now includes Balmain which is currently in the electorate of Sydney held by Tanya Plibersek. At the 2013 election Labor easily retained Grayndler with a primary vote of 47.2% and the Greens with 23% were in third place behind the Liberals. This was in seat which according to ABC Vote Compass was the most left-wing in Australia. How much of Labor’s strong performance in Grayndler was due to Anthony Albanese? Is it true that as one media report claims: ‘The move, however, risks the seat of Grayndler falling into the hands of the Greens at the next election, with Mr Albanese’s personal popularity said to be the only factor that has kept it Labor’ ? In my chapter for Abbott’s Gambit I developed a simple linear regression model to predict party votes by electorate according to the social composition of the electorate. This is ‘back of the envelope’ procedure but it does give us some idea which electorates are distinctive in their behaviour and of the existence of regional effects.
For the Greens there are two distinct regional patterns: a stronger performance in the inner-city and ‘alternative’ coastal regions and on top of this a very strong performance in Melbourne (especially the electorate but also across the inner city). In 2013 the Green votes in Melbourne, Batman and Wills were 24.9 , 13 and 10.4 percentage points above that predicted by the model. The Green vote in Grayndler was 7.1 percentage points above that predicted by the model, in Sydney it was actually 2.5 percentage points below that predicted. We cannot simply take these residuals as direct evidence of personal vote for Albanese and Plibersek, Sydney has a notably stronger Liberal base than Melbourne and the 2013 Green candidate in Grayndler was not electorally appealing, but the Green vote is lower because of Albanese and Plibersek.
Could the Greens win Grayndler in 2016 when the Labor candidate will lack the personal support of Plibersek or Albanese? If the Greens over performed to the same extent as they did in Melbourne in 2013 they would, but the Greens’ 2013 triumph in Melbourne owed much to Adam Bandt’s personal vote as sitting MP. A better standard for Grayndler in 2016 is Melbourne in 2010. Here long-serving Labor MP Lindsay Tanner, who like Albanese had a distinct appeal to left voters, retired. Labor’s vote fell 11.4 percentage points points to 38.1%, the Green vote rose 13.4 percentage points to 36.2%. The Greens won on Liberal preferences, by 2013 Bandt had consolidated and squeezed the Labor vote a further 11.5 percentage points to secure an easy victory. In 2007 the Greens had over performed in Melbourne by 7 percentage points about the same as they did in Grayndler in 2013. In 2010 they over performed by 15.9%. If there was similar Green surge in Grayndler in 2016 Labor would still hold the seat on Liberal preferences. Another relevant comparison might be the state electorate of Newton where in 2015 the Greens increased their vote by ten percentage points on the retirement of the sitting Labor MP. Grayndler may be more left-wing than Melbourne but for the Greens to win in 2016 they would need to push their primary vote into the high 30s. The Greens could probably only achieve this is there was a broader national shift in their favour, but Albanese vacating Grayndler puts them within striking distance.