Burns win delivers Labor majority amid big Green swing in Southbank

David Schout

Labor’s Josh Burns has retained the seat of Macnamara after a tense wait following the May 21 federal election, to deliver a majority to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s new government.

While almost all of Australia’s 151 lower house seats were called within a week of the election, Macnamara remained one of the few on a knife-edge due to a tight three-way battle, before Burns eventually prevailed.

The win delivered Labor a crucial 76th seat, and an ability to govern in its own right without having to negotiate with an expanded cross bench.

After the ABC called Macnamara for Labor on May 30, nine days after election day, Burns acknowledged Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May and Liberal candidate Colleen Harkin, and said he would work hard for all locals irrespective of who they voted for.

“This has been a humbling week and I want to acknowledge the strong campaigns of Steph Hodgins-May and Colleen Harkin. I especially acknowledge their volunteers who fought so hard for their worthy candidates,” he said on his Facebook page.

“I want to also thank my team, my family and every one of the true believers who gave so much to our campaign. My message to people who didn’t vote Labor is that we’re going to work hard every day to give people a reason to vote for us next time. That work starts right away. I’m excited to be a part of a majority Labor Government under Anthony Albanese and to work hard for the amazing people of Macnamara.”

The delay on who could declare victory in Macnamara was due to a number of factors.

Primary votes for Burns (31.8 per cent), Hodgins-May (29.6 per cent) and Harkin (29.0 per cent) finished within just three per cent of each other.

With three parties so close, postal, phone and absentee votes became critical, and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) admitted it took time to get all those votes compiled and finalised.

With no party exceeding 32 per cent of first-preference votes, preference flows played a huge role in determining the eventual victor.

Those went the way of Burns, who was able to hang on for a second term.

Labor won the primary vote count for the first time since 2010.

Greens heartbreak after strong Southbank result

The result was especially tough on third-time candidate Hodgins-May, who comfortably delivered the party’s best primary vote result (29.6 per cent — a 5.4 per cent swing) in the seat historically known as Melbourne Ports.

After the Greens romped home in neighbouring Melbourne and picked up three seats in Brisbane (their first ever lower house victories outside of Melbourne), there were high hopes for Hodgins-May to snare the party an historic fifth seat.

However late counting went the way of Burns, and the Greens fell just short in their bid to win a second inner-Melbourne electorate.

Hodgins-May however proved the overwhelming popular candidate in Southbank, with 40.7 per cent of voters in local booths (situated at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and the University of Melbourne Southbank Campus) putting a “number 1” next to the three-time candidate on the House of Representatives ballot paper.

This was comfortably the party’s best ever result in Southbank, and perhaps reflected the grassroots work done by the Greens, which Hodgins-May alluded to in an interview with Southbank News prior to election day.

“This is my third election campaign and I do know this community a lot better than what I did the first and second times,” she said.

“We have been more successful than in previous campaigns in actually getting to people in Southbank, meeting with them where they’re at.”

Burns’ first preference votes in Southbank (30.9 per cent) largely mirrored his overall result in Macnamara (31.8 per cent), while locals shunned Liberal candidate Colleen Harkin (19.8 per cent) compared with her overall vote across the electorate (29.0 per cent).

Harkin attracted criticism after declaring that climate emergency warnings given to children “border on abuse” at a Southbank candidates forum prior to the election.

Southbank makes up a small geographical part of Macnamara (which includes the suburbs of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Middle Park, South Yarra, St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood and parts of Elsternwick and Caulfield) but a significant part of the seat population-wise.

2022 Election – MACNAMARA first-preference votes

  • Labor: 31.8 per cent
  • Greens: 29.6 per cent
  • Liberal: 29.0 per cent

2022 Election – SOUTHBANK (VCA and Uni Melb voting booths) first-preference votes

  • Greens: 40.7 per cent
  • Labor: 30.9 per cent
  • Liberal: 19.8 per cent

Total votes: 2311 (67, or 2.9 per cent informal)

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