Malcolm Turnbull repeats deadly mistake
IN what was dubbed "super Saturday", the Liberals, Labor and the minor parties slugged it out as half a million voters went to the polls in five electorates in four states.
There's one thing we know already - it's not been a good night for the Liberals with the party failing to win any of the three of the five seats it targeted.
Labor heavyweight Ed Husic has said it's "bad news for the PM" while Tony Burke has called for a snap federal election to be called. On these results, that won't be happening.
In Western Australia, the Labor seats of Fremantle and Perth were up for grabs. The Tasmanian seat of Braddon was also in play as was Longman, north of Brisbane and the Adelaide seat of Mayo which was tussle between the Libs and a former Nick Xenophon party member.
Was this Turnbull's big mistake?
Five elections in four states that cost $10 million to hold have concluded with absolutely no change. Labor went into the battles defending four seats and has prevailed in all of them.
But there's a common theme the candidates, victorious or not, are talking about - the sheer length of the campaign.
Campaigns can be as short as just 33 days, little more than a month. But it was more than eight weeks ago that the date of the so-called "super Saturday" quintet of elections was announced. That's a long time to shake hands and hold babies.
As the Liberal's Trevor Ruthenberg conceded defeat in Longman, he said what many thought: "Folks, it's been a long eight weeks." Georgina Downer in Mayo echoed those comments as she conceded to the Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie: "I really do appreciate all the support that you always showed me over a very, very long campaign."
Even the victors were knackered: "It has been a very long campaign, 11 weeks for me," said Justine Keay in Braddon, who, for some reason, campaigned for three weeks longer than everyone else.
In 2016, the federal election was an equally long eight weeks between the Governor-general calling the poll and Australians actually voting. That didn't end that well either. Mr Turnbull wanted a thumping majority, he finally managed to cobble together a majority of one in the Reps and a Senate just as fractious.
Australians don't thank a government for a long drawn out campaign.
There is another battle that has more than likely ended with the super Saturday elections - the battle for the Labor leadership.
Had Labor lost just one seat (and it should be noted the Libs have yet to concede Braddon), the mutterings of Anthony Albanese taking over from Shorten would have got louder and louder. But if Labor do indeed keep all of its four seats, it looks like Albo's opportunity has been snatched away.
That's the view of Labor former powerbroker Graham Richardson: "Bill Shorten can breathe easier but not easily. The Braddon result is not a great result. But Longman is a terrific result, and he can take all the credit for that," he told Sky News.
"It's an extraordinarily bad result" for the Libs.
Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has, perhaps unsurprisingly, laid into the Liberals. He told Sky News' David Speers that the government's decision to include the big banks in planned business tax cuts was "killing" the Liberals.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's an extraordinarily bad result for them.
"This $17 billion to the banks is killing them. If they stick with that they are just plain crazy or just plain dumb, take your pick".
Here's how things stand
It's been a dismal evening for the Liberals. They had hoped to pick up as many as three seats. But: Labor have likely won four of the five electoral contests with a former Nick Xenophon Team MP retaining the fifth. The Liberals had not conceded Braddon on Saturday night but electoral analysts have given it to Labor.
So, while on paper it's a stalemate, with the Libs and Labour on exactly the same amount of seats as yesterday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had pitched this as a referendum on leadership. He asked voters in the seats, many of them swing electorates, to back his vision for Australia. They didn't.
Now some in Labor, such as Tony Burke, has said the PM should call an election so the whole country can cast their vote.
If the Libs had managed to nab a seat or two, a confident Mr Turnbull might have done just that. The election could have shown that, post-budget, the multi millionaire with a harbour side pad was resonating more positively with blue collar Australia. Maybe he could surf that momentum to a bigger majority.
But we're back to where we were before these by-elections and that means the Libs will be loath to risk it all now. It's now looking more and more likely that the government will hold a national poll in 2019.
Labor's Patrick Gorman has won in Perth and the party has also won Fremantle with Josh Wilson.
In Braddon, in Tasmania, Labor's Justine Keay looks to have held off a Liberal challenge although Brett Whitely has yet to concede.
In South Australia, the Liberal's Georgina Downer has conceded to the Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie. As has the Libs' Trevor Ruthenberg in Longman in Queensland which has been retained by Labor's Susan Lamb.
Mr Shorten headed to Ms Lamb's victory party. He said the electoral success was a sign there will be "a Labor government after the next general election".
But Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman was in a more positive mood.
"It's been a good night for the government. The performance has improved. The momentum continues to happen," he told the ABC.
Labor prevail in Western Australia
The ABC's Antony Green has called the Western Australian seats of Fremantle and Perth for Labor. Uniquely, Tim Hammond, who had been the MP for Perth wasn't a dual citizen. He simply stood down because the Canberra commute was too much for his young family.
It wasn't much of a battle in the west, given the Liberals didn't field any candidates in the safe ALP seats. That's something some in the party have questioned. On ABC, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said it should have been considered.
"A lot of us would have liked us to field a candidate. You've got to be in it to win it."
But he was pragmatic. "It's very hard to do, to run a campaign in this type of environment
and say you're not going to put everything you can into it. That's a costly exercise."
With 32 per cent of the ballots counted, Labor's Josh Wilson is on 53 per cent of the vote and will probably prevail without preferences.
Patrick Gorman is on track to ensure the Perth electorate remains in the ALP's hands.
Liberal candidate refuses to concede
The ABC's Antony Green has called the Tasmanian seat of Braddon for Labor, but the Liberal candidate Brett Whiteley isn't having any of it. He's said he's going to wait until more votes come in - but he doesn't seem to fancy his chances much.
"This was a contest like climbing Mount Everest without any oxygen.
"And right now the summit is going to be hard to make from here. But we're close. But maybe not close enough. So we do need to wait to all the votes are counted."
Bill Shorten predicts "four from four" wins
The opposition leader has arrived at victorious candidate Susan Lamb's election night party in Caboolture. She saw off a battle from the Liberals to retain the seat.
Mr Shorten was all smiles and said the party's success was a sign there will be "a Labor government after the next general election".
"What a Super Saturday night it is. It's been a tough campaign, it's had ups and downs. But tonight we've had two great wins already and I'm hearing pretty good things from Western Australia as well. Four from four."
Two Liberal hopefuls concede defeat
Georgina Downer in Mayo and Trevor Ruthenberg in Longman have both conceded defeat in their respective electorates.
Knife edge seats, the two were the top targets for the Liberals. A small swing towards the Libs was all that was needed, maybe helped along with some One Nation preferences. It was not to be.
The Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie prevailed in Mayo.
"I have just spoken to Rebekha Sharkie and I have congratulated her on being re-elected," said Ms Downer.
"She put up an extremely good fight to retain the seat, and I do applaud her, because ultimately this was a by-election that was about the people of Mayo, and I absolutely respect the decision they've made today."
Mr Ruthenberg, whose campaign became unstuck due to a scandal which dogged him regarding his misidentification of a medal he was awarded during his time in the armed forces.
Speaking in Caboolture he congratulated Susan Lamb, whose dual citizenship triggered the by-election. He was also glowing about the Prime Minister.
"I have witnessed and been the beneficiary of all the character traits you would hope for in a Prime Minister. He truly cares about our community. He's deeply engaged with what happens locally and he's genuinely interested in the lives and work of the people in our community."
Results "bad news for Turnbull"
Labor heavyweight Ed Husic has said the "super Saturday" of by elections has been terrible for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On 12 July, Turnbull said the elections, particularly Longman, were a leadership test.
"The head up, the contests is between me and Bill Shorten as Prime Minister and Opposition Leader," he said.
But with three of the five seats that the Libs were targeting looking like they won't go their way, Mr Husic told the ABC it wasn't a great look for the PM.
"The claims were that while Queensland isn't warming to Malcolm Turnbull, they might warm up to him, (that) things were turning for the LNP. These figures don't show that; the Liberal candidate has 26 per cent.
"This is bad news for Malcolm Turnbull."
Shadow Treasurer also piled in tweeting "good on you Malcolm" for calling an election based on leadership, and then losing it.
A tale of two election parties
The white tablecloths have been laid, the balloons pumped up and the Champagne put on ice. But the mood is very different at two different official candidate election parties as these tweets show.
In Caboolture, where ABC analyst Antony Green has called the Longman electorate for Labor, it's all smiles and cheers.
Down in Tassie, where Green has also called Braddon for Labor, there is hardly a soul at the Libs' shindig in Penguin. At least there won't be a queue for the bar.
A recap - where are we at on super Saturday?
All the polls are closed and counting is underway. Booths in Perth and Fremantle were the last to shut, at 6pm local time and 8pm AEST. Both currently Labor seats, they have big majorities for the ALP. So much so, the Liberal Party hasn't even put up a candidate. Rather, it's Labor versus the Greens.
The Liberals had hoped to win a seat or two on the east coast, but it's not going their way. The ABC's Antony Green has called Braddon and Longman for Labor and Mayo for incumbent Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance.
So, if his predictions come to pass, that means nothing will have changed.
But the Liberals are still hoping the dial may turn back towards them in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon as the night progresses. And that the One Nation vote will pick up in Longman which should, the operative word being "should", help the LNP as they are preferenced. But, it seems, sizeable numbers of One Nation voters have decided to preference Labor instead.
Liberals gutted - Longman called for Labor
Counting continues in the Queensland seat of Longman, centred on Caboolture. But Antony Green has said Labor have retained the seat. It's a dire result for the LNP who thought they had the greatest chance of all the five by-elections in this seat.
Why? Two words - One Nation.
The Libs had hoped that with One Nation preferencing them, they'd be a shoo-in to overturn incumbent Susan Lamb's small majority.
But it seems it wasn't to be. The LNP's Trevor Ruthenberg saw his vote drop while large numbers of One Nation supporters didn't heed their parties directive to preference the Liberals. Instead, they placed Labor number two on the ballot.
"One Nation's only up 6 per cent and the LNP first preference is down 9.6," said Green. "I don't think there are enough extra preferences in that flow to allow them to overcome the fact that the Labor vote's gone up. We think Susan Lamb has been re-elected after a disqualification. She looks like she's won the Longman by-election."
Antony Green calls it for Mayo
ABC pandit Antony Green has said the Adelaide hinterland seat of Mayo will remain with incumbent MP Rebekha Sharkie despite barely 10 per cent of the vote being counted. Previously with the Nick Xenophon Team Ms Sharkie resigned during the dual citizen debacle. She now campaigns under the Centre Alliance banner.
"The change in vote, the Centre Alliance Party is up 10 per cent, Liberal is down and Labor is down. Those figures indicate that Rebekha Sharkie should hold Mayo when we see the final figures," he said.
Christopher Pyne says the Libs have lost Mayo
You couldn't get a more true blue cut glass Liberal candidate than Georgina Downer, daughter of former minister Alexander Downer. But Christopher Pyne has said she's blown it.
Talking to Sky News, the frontbencher said: "I don't think we'll win Mayo."
Nevertheless he said she was "cabinet material" and would be back fighting for the seat at the next election.
With 3 per cent of the vote counted Ms Downer is on 36 per cent. But Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance, and formerly of the Nick Xenophon Team, is outpolling her with 46 per cent. With Braddon called for Labor and the Liberals not standing in Perth or Fremantle, that means the only chance the Libs now have is in Longman.
Antony Green calls Braddon for Labor
ABC election analyst has said the Tasmanian seat of Braddon is likely to be retained by Labor's Justine Keay. With 20 per cent of the vote counted, the Libs' Brett Whitely is in front with 39 per cent of the vote so far. But a strong showing by independent Craig Garland is complicating matters. He is polling well with around 12 per cent of the vote and it's likely his preferences will go to Ms Keay bolstering Labor's final count.
"Horrible hate" directed at Liberal candidate
Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has said supporters of Rebekha Sharkie, the incumbent Centre Alliance MP in the South Australian seat of Mayo, had directed "horrible hate" and his daughter, Liberal candidate Georgina Downer.
Posting on Facebook, Mr Downer said: "We are Adelaide Hills people and been in politics here for decades and through multiple elections never come across such abuse."
His comments cropped up after his wife posted a message to a local Facebook group asking people to vote for their daughter. But rather than support, the post led to many negative messages from people saying why they would do the exact opposite, reported the ABC.
"Sharkie supporters have brought such horrible hate to our district," Mr Downer wrote. "You must all be new arrivals."
Independent polling well in Tasmania
Just 4 per cent of the votes are in the north west Tasmanian seat of Braddon but independent Craig Garland is doing well with 17 per cent of the primary vote so far. The Liberal's Brett Whitely is in front in the seat currently held by Labor. But Mr Garland's preferences will likely flow to Labor's Justine Keay. Minor parties are making things interesting once again.
Antony Green makes his first prediction
ABC election pandit Antony Green is on our screens again helping us make sense of the twists and turns of the vote.
His first prediction is that even if Labor are leading in the tightest races (Longman and Braddon) by the night's end, they still might not win. Eh? We'll let Green explain.
"What isn't counted (tonight) is postal votes which favour the non-Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the LNP. So if Labor is only slightly ahead at the end of the night and then the result will be in doubt. If they're significantly ahead or behind we will be able to call the results on each seat."
If they get 51 per cent or more of the two-party vote they'll be good, less than that and the postal votes could make all the difference, he said.
But, the election analyst has said it's all too early to call yet.
Polls close in Queensland and Tasmania
And the voting is done in Longman and Braddon. The seats, in Queensland and Tasmania respectively, are being watched keenly as they will likely produce the tightest results.
Longman, north of Brisbane and centred on Caboolture, is a seat Labor currently hold with a slight majority. The Libs will be hoping preferences from one Nation voters will flow their way and help them nab the seat.
Braddon, in north west Tassie and including the conurbations of Devonport and Burnie, is a straight lab-Lib fight. Labor won it at the last election, the Liberal want it back.
Talking to the ABC, Liberal MP for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, said the vote was likely to be tight.
"The results tonight are on a knife edge. It's a flip of a coin at this stage as to which way they are going to land. The polling that I've been told about is in the margin of error. So the fact that it's so close is of itself quite remarkable."
Could be bad night for the PM as One Nation falters
Three Labor MPs and a crossbencher who resigned over their dual citizenship appear poised to hold their seats on a historic Super Saturday of by-elections, reports AAP.
Polling booths are due to close in Tasmania's Braddon and Queensland's Longman at 6pm AEST, with the latest Newspoll showing Labor ahead 51-49 in two-party terms in both seats.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who campaigned in Braddon on Saturday, talked down the Liberals' prospects given no government has won a seat from the opposition at a by-election since 1920.
"Let's be fair dinkum about it, Labor should be miles ahead," he said. "What that tells you is that many … are disgusted and appalled by Labor's lies." Mr Turnbull said Labor had misled voters across the country over health spending cuts - a similar criticism levelled at the opposition at the 2016 federal election which ended in a one-seat majority for the coalition.
Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigned with his candidate Justine Keay in Braddon on Saturday, seizing underdog status for the opposition.
"Labor started these campaigns well behind," he said.
"Anyone who tells you they know what's happening is having a lend of you." A strong flow of One Nation preferences to the Liberal candidate in Longman, Trevor Ruthenberg, will get him over the line.
But polls are showing a last-minute dip in support for Pauline Hanson's party, which will help Labor's Susan Lamb, who held the seat with a slim 0.8 per cent margin.
The two seats that just don't matter
Voting is taking place in five seats across three states and you'd think every vote would count. But not in two of the seats. In Western Australia, citizens are heading to the polls in Perth and Fremantle. However, if they want to vote Liberal they'll search in vain for the box to tick. The seats are so safe Labor, the Libs aren't even bothering to contest them. So all eyes are on the east coast vote and the knife edge seats of Longman, Mayo and Braddon where there is everything to play for.
Shorten's explanation for not campaigning
Labor leader Bill Shorten hit out at the PM who berated the alternative prime minister for not campaigning on Friday. Malcolm Turnbull was out and about having some animated conversation with potential voters.
But Shorten said he was just spending some dad time with his daughter. In a tweet he said, "Apparently Mr Turnbull was missing me today. "As for his whereabouts: After nearly three months on the campaign trail in every by-election seat, I decided to be a dad first on school pick-up duties for my youngest daughter and her best friend."
Independent could hold off Liberals
Voters in the former-blue ribbon seat of Mayo will have the chance to return the electorate to the Liberal fold at Saturday's by-election.
But candidate Georgina Downer would need to discredit consecutive polls to take the seat from Centre Alliance MP-turned-candidate Rebekha Sharkie.
The by-election was triggered after Ms Sharkie - who won Mayo for the Nick Xenophon Team in 2016 - became caught up in the dual citizenship saga and was forced to resign.
Her opponent, Ms Downer, is the daughter of Howard government foreign minister Alexander, who held the seat for the Liberal Party for 24 years. A recent poll in The Advertiser put her ahead 59-41 on a two-party basis while a ReachTEL poll of more than 700 voters returned a similar result on Wednesday night.
Despite the stark result, neither candidate has been willing to give weight to the poll.
"My intention is to be successful tomorrow and, of course, run next year for re- election as the member for Mayo," Ms Downer said.
"I expected this would be a difficult campaign but it's been a really fantastic time out here in Mayo and I've had a great reception in the community." Ms Sharkie, the clear favourite, denied she was in a "unlosable position". "I am so nervous here today," she told reporters on Friday.
"The poll that counts is the poll (on Saturday)." Counting will start after polling closes at 6pm local time.