At a Glance

You know the election is on when no shopping centre in a marginal seat is safe from the glare of television cameras, reporters and the campaign bandwagon, with leaders kissing babies, pumping the flesh and hugging pensioners.

In this election, the Government is protecting 23 marginal seats, of which Labor must win 19 to win Government. The Government cannot afford to lose more than 13 seats or once again there will be a hung parliament.

Things to bear in mind:

  • In 2013 there was a total of 12,914,927 votes cast
  • For Labor to win Government, they require an across board two-party preferred swing of 4%, (greater than the swing that swept Tony Abbott into office in 2013)
  • A loss of 14 seats by the Government with an across board swing of 3.3% would result in a hung parliament
  • If 42,735 voters, in the 19 key marginal seats were to change their vote to the ALP, it would result in a change in Government
  • If 23,350 voters in 14 key marginal seats were to change their vote to the ALP, we would see a hung parliament

The latest polls indicate that the major parties are currently neck and neck. At this stage neither party has established an election-winning lead in the campaign. With just under 5 weeks to go, expect the battle for the marginal seats to intensify – as this is where Government is won or lost.


The battle between the LNP and the ALP is who can win 76 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives in order to form the Government.

The marginal seats battleground is where the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader will spend their time fighting for every last vote. It comes as no surprise come election time that marginal seats tend to be the ones that receive the most largesse in regards to spending promises ie) “pork barrelling”.

People ask me, ‘what is a marginal seat’? In simple terms a marginal seat is defined as one held by a margin of 5% or less.

The Government hold 23 marginal seats and the ALP 26.

Expect the day-to-day media battle that plays out on our TV screens to be focused on these 23 Government held marginal seats.

Current Numbers

The House of Representatives is currently comprised of:

  • 88 LNP Members
  • 57 ALP Members
  • 5 crossbench members

These numbers represent the seats held after the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) completed its electoral redistribution in 2015.

Of the 5 crossbench members, one is the outgoing member for Fairfax, the colourful Clive Palmer, so realistically the Government start with 89 seats and the crossbench 4.

To retain Government, Malcolm Turnbull can only afford to lose 13 seats on a uniform swing of 3.3%. If the swing were to be greater, Australia will be looking at its’ second hung parliament since 2010.

For Labor, to win Government they need to win 19 seats on a uniform swing of 4.0%. This is a big challenge for Bill Shorten.

The 19 Marginal Seats Labor Needs to Win Government


They comprise:

  • 3 seats from Tasmania
  • 1 seat from the NT
  • 3 seats from Qld
  • 1 seat from SA
  • 3 seats from Victoria
  • 8 seats from NSW

In the modern age, across the board swings are a rare occurrence. Factors like a strong local candidate, geography and ‘bread and butter’ issues always tend to impact upon the outcome in the key seats.

What does it mean to be on the margin?

Commentators have said this election will be a close call and here is the reason why.

The table above demonstrates, that the Turnbull Governments total vote margin, across its 19 marginal seats is 85,470.

That means it would only take 42,735 voters to change their vote from Liberal to Labor in these marginal seats, for Australia to see a change of Government. Considering in 2013 there were a total of 12,914,927 votes cast, this is relatively small number.

In comparison there only needs to be a change in 23,350 votes in 14 seats for there to be a hung parliament.

This is why, in every Federal election, it’s the marginal seats that count. Its why you can expect to see both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader spending most of their time campaigning in these key seats.

Seats to Watch on Election Night

Eden-Monaro (NSW) – Since 1972 this seat has been won by the party that went onto form Government. For this reason, it is known as a bellwether seat. It is currently held by just 2.9% and is within the swing zone that Labor requires to win Government.

Lindsay (NSW) – Also a bellwether seat and has been won by the party of Government since 1984. Held by the Government with a 3.0% margin.

Batman (Vic) – Currently held by Labors David Feeney. He has been one of the most gaffe-prone candidates on the campaign trail to date. He holds the seat with a 10% margin against the Greens. His recent gaffes and the possibility of the Victorian Liberals preferencing the Greens has put Feeney’s future in real doubt. If the betting markets are anything to go by, the Greens are a real chance to win this seat.

New England (NSW) – This seat is held by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce by a margin of 14%. He is up against Tony Windsor who held the seat up until 2013 as an Independent. Tony Windsor is known for keeping Julia Gillard in power. This battle is intensely personal, with not much love lost between both men. The Government are campaigning on Tony Windsor’s support of the unpopular Gillard Government.

Mayo (SA) – Held by former Minister and Liberal rising star, Jamie Briggs by 12%. Briggs was promoted into the Ministry by Malcolm Turnbull. After a late night incidence in a Hong Kong bar hit the media, he resigned in late December. This seat is one to watch because of Rebekha Sharkie the Xenophon candidate who is a former staffer to Jamie Briggs. The consensus on both sides of politics is that this is one seat Xenophon’s party could win, given the unique factors in play.

Grandlyer (NSW) – Held by Labors Anthony Albanese, aka ‘Albo’ by 20%. (This margin is against the Liberal Party.) It’s not the Liberal Party but the Greens who are Albo’s greatest threat. They are aggressively campaigning to terminate his political career. Bear in mind, in the 2015 NSW State election the Greens won the seat of Newtown with 45% if the vote. Newtown and surrounding areas form a large part of his electorate.

Warringah (NSW) – Held by former PM Tony Abbott, by a healthy 13% margin. Don’t expect this seat to be lost by the Government. The question is will voters make a statement on his removal as PM by increasing his margin, or will they reduce it by sending a message that maybe it was time to go.


From this analysis you can see that the outcome could actually be decided by just a handful of voters in the key marginal seats.While Labor looks to win seats from the Government, the Greens are mounting an assault on Labors inner-city held seats, in Melbourne and Sydney.

Economists say that one’s marginal pleasure diminishes as you consume more of the same thing. Given the length of this campaign, it’s hard to imagine our Leaders gaining any additional pleasure from their campaign visits to Westfield shopping centres. In election 2016, their pleasure may well come from gaining success in the margins!

For more information in regards to this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Jody Fassina|Director|Insight Strategy

M: (0405) 103 493



One thought on “IT’S All ABOUT THE MARGINS

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