By: Charlotte Lever
Forget what you’ve heard about ‘safe’ seats - recent elections have shown the concept of one political party winning in the same electorate over and over is increasingly a thing of the past.
In the 2015 NSW State election, the previously secure National Party seats of Ballina and Lismore witnessed massive swings away from the incumbents towards the Greens. While the sitting member for Lismore managed to hold onto his seat, a Greens representative went on to win Ballina for the first time in the electorate’s history.
At the same election, the Greens also won a seat in the newly created division of Newtown, a previously safe Labor area, and managed to re-elect a candidate in the electorate of Balmain, the birthplace of the NSW Labor Party.
Perhaps the best example is provided by Australia’s second longest ever serving Prime Minister John Howard, who lost his seat in 2007 after representing the people of Bennelong for thirty years.
More recently in October 2018, independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps won the historically safe Liberal seat of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat), waging a grassroots campaign that focused on the Liberal Government’s lack of action on climate change.
Going into the 2019 Federal election, it looks as though there will be more challenges made to safe seats, with ex-Liberal MP Julia Banks to challenge her former colleague Greg Hunt for the seat of Flinders, and high-profile human rights lawyer Julian Burnside contesting the ‘blue ribbon’ seat of Kooyong with the Greens.
If there had not been a groundswell against the party or candidate that had held these seats for aeons, nothing would have ever changed. These shifts would not have been possible without people getting out there to vote. The above examples reveal that safe seats are a thing of the past. Politicians simply cannot take their electorate for granted - at least not anymore.