PM Anthony Albanese and incoming Labor member for Dunkley Jodie Belyea
Labor's Jodie Belyea won the Dunkley by-election on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's birthday. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Libs optimistic as Labor holds Dunkley despite swing

March 3, 2024

More cost-of-living measures have been flagged for the upcoming federal budget after the government copped a swing against it while retaining the seat of Dunkley.

Community leader Jodie Belyea held the Victorian seat for Labor despite a swing of nearly four per cent away from the government in Saturday’s by-election that was triggered by the death of MP Peta Murphy in December.

She wasn’t a career politician but someone who wanted to make a difference for her community, Ms Belyea said.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent you in federal parliament – whether you voted Labor, Liberal or independent, I will be a voice for the people of Dunkley,” the victorious candidate told reporters in the electorate on Sunday.

“I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and lean into the legacy of the late Peta Murphy.”

Ms Murphy was a champion for gambling advertising reform, something her successor has flagged following her win.

Standing alongside Ms Belyea, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government would roll out reforms in an orderly manner when questioned on when it would ban gambling ads.

He pointed to measures also taken such as blocking credit cards being used for gambling, a self-exclusion register and better advertising codes.

Cost of living was also a major focus, he said.

“I’ve already foreshadowed that we’ll have more measures in the budget,” he said.

Deputy PM Richard Marles and incoming Dunkley MP Jodie Belyea
 Jodie Belyea says she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and lean into the legacy of her predecessor. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS 

Despite the overall swing, the government took solace in Ms Belyea slightly increasing Labor’s primary vote, taking it to about 41 per cent.

Frankston Mayor Nathan Conroy clawed a near seven per cent increase in people putting the Liberals first, up to just over 39 per cent.

Despite Mr Conroy pulling up short, the Liberals say the swing against the government has put them in good stead at the next election – due by May 2025 – with the seat’s margin cut from 6.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

The swing made the seat vulnerable at the next election, Liberal frontbencher Jane Hume said.

Senator Jane Hume
 Jane Hume has played down the loss, saying Dunkley has become a marginal seat ripe for targeting. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS 

“It was a really good campaign, we had a fantastic candidate, we left nothing on the field … so I think the Liberals should be proud and they should be really optimistic about our chances of the next election,” Senator Hume told Sky News on Sunday.

She also pointed to the fact the Liberals’ primary vote was the highest in a decade.

“I want to make sure that we not overcook it here, there’s work to be done but at this stage in the electoral cycle, I think that we can take this as a very positive sign,” the senator said.

Cabinet minister Jason Clare warned against drawing too much from a single by-election, which were always tough for governments.

The Greens vote went down and the fact the conservative One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party weren’t in the field meant the Liberal primary vote would have gone up, he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton had said anything more than a three per cent swing would be terrible for the government as both sides tried to temper expectations.

But Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek says the outcome is nothing to crow about for the Liberals.

“This is a result that Peter Dutton should be quite concerned about, the average swing against the government in a by-election is more than seven per cent,” she said.

Liberal frontbencher Dan Tehan contested this, saying the average of a first term government was a lot lower.

A similar swing at the federal election would put Labor into a minority government or possibly hand the Liberals power, he said.

“So this was a very good win,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program.

Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said the result sent a message to the prime minister to “do something about the cost-of-living crisis”.