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What role did small businesses play in election result?

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What role did small businesses play in election result?

Australian Parliament House

Prior to the election, COSBOA released figures on the number of small businesses within Australia’s 20 most marginal electorates. But exactly what role did these business voters play in the election outcome?

The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) sought to shine a light on the fact that many small-business owners had yet to make up their mind on who they would vote for, just two weeks out from the poll, and that how business owners in marginal seats ultimately voted could determine which way their seat fell – and with it who ultimately took power at the election.

With the election now behind us and the Coalition on track to win an outright majority, My Business was curious to take a look at how these marginal seats voted and whether it could have been small business that returned the Coalition to government.

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The seats in question

According to COSBOA, the 20 most marginal electorates in Australia, and their proportion of small-business voters, leading into the election looked like this:

  1. Herbert (Queensland) – margin: 0.02 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 9.25 per cent
  2. Corangamite (Victoria) – margin: 0.03 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 10.02 per cent
  3. Forde (Queensland) – margin: 0.6 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 11.46 per cent
  4. Capricornia (Queensland) – margin: 0.6 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 11.38 per cent
  5. Gilmore (NSW) – margin: 0.7 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 9.13 per cent
  6. Cowan (WA) – margin: 0.7 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 13.00 per cent
  7. Longman (Queensland) – margin: 0.8 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 8.26 per cent
  8. Wentworth (NSW) – margin: 1.0 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 22.19 per cent
  9. Flynn (Queensland) – margin: 1.0 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 13.74 per cent
  10. Dunkley (Victoria) – margin: 1.0 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 11.27 per cent
  11. Lindsay (NSW) – margin: 1.1 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 10.24 per cent
  12. Robertson (NSW) – margin: 1.1 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 10.89 per cent
  13. MacNamara (Victoria) – margin: 1.2 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 28.33 per cent
  14. Cooper (Victoria) – margin: 1.3 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 12.39 per cent
  15. Banks (NSW) – margin: 1.4 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 12.66 per cent
  16. Griffith (Queensland) – margin: 1.4 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 16.44 per cent
  17. Petrie (Queensland) – margin: 1.6 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 8.80 per cent
  18. Dickson (Queensland) – margin: 1.7 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 10.56 per cent
  19. Braddon (Tasmania) – margin: 1.7 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 9.03 per cent
  20. Hasluck (WA) – margin: 2.1 per cent, proportion of small businesses: 11.70 per cent

How things now stand

As of 2.30pm on Thursday (23 May), none of the 151 seats in the House of Representative had been officially declared by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), which only happens once every single vote has been counted and verified.

However, its Tally Room does track progress, and the composition of Parliament looks something like this:

  • Liberal/National Coalition: Leading comfortably in 76 seats (the minimum number needed for majority government) and slightly ahead in two more seats where numbers are very close.
  • Labor: Leading comfortably in 66 seats and slightly ahead in one more seat where numbers are very close.
  • The Greens: Leading comfortably in one seat.
  • Katter’s Australian Party: Leading comfortably in one seat.
  • Centre Alliance: Leading comfortably in one seat.
  • Independent: Leading comfortably in three seats.

If all seats fall the way they are currently projected, the Coalition will have 78 seats – two more than it had at the last election, while Labor will have 67 seats, a loss of two from the last election.

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The Greens, Katter’s Australian Party and Centre Alliance all retain their single seat, while the number of independents increases from two to three (note that former MP Julia Banks won her seat at the previous election for the Liberal Party, before resigning to become an independent).

What happened in these marginal seats?

As previously outlined, several of the marginal seats remain in doubt, but this is where current counting by the AEC has them sitting:

1. Herbert (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 0.02 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 9.25 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 7.82 per cent

2. Corangamite (Victoria)

  • Margin going into election: 0.03 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 10.02 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 1.07 per cent

3. Forde (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 0.6 per cent, held by Liberal National Party
  • Proportion of small businesses: 11.46 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 7.66 per cent

4. Capricornia (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 0.6 per cent, held by Liberal National Party
  • Proportion of small businesses: 11.38 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 11.27 per cent

5. Gilmore (NSW)

  • Margin going into election: 0.7 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 9.13 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 3.19 per cent

6. Cowan (WA)

  • Margin going into election: 0.7 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 13.00 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing against it of 0.17 per cent

7. Longman (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 0.8 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 8.26 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 4.08 per cent

8. Wentworth (NSW)

  • Margin going into election: 1.0 per cent, held by an independent following a by-election last year, but previously held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 22.19 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 52.05 per cent

9. Flynn (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 1.0 per cent, held by Liberal National Party
  • Proportion of small businesses: 13.74 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 6.19 per cent

10. Dunkley (Victoria)

  • Margin going into election: 1.0 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 11.27 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 1.74 per cent

11. Lindsay (NSW)

  • Margin going into election: 1.1 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 10.24 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 6.28 per cent

12. Robertson (NSW)

  • Margin going into election: 1.1 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 10.89 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 3.33 per cent

13. MacNamara (Victoria)

  • Margin going into election: 1.2 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 28.33 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 6.63 per cent

14. Cooper (Victoria)

  • Margin going into election: 1.3 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 12.39 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 14.36 per cent

15. Banks (NSW)

  • Margin going into election: 1.4 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 12.66 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 5.76 per cent

16. Griffith (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 1.4 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 16.44 per cent
  • Likely victor: Labor, with a swing of 1.07 per cent

17. Petrie (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 1.6 per cent, held by Liberal National Party
  • Proportion of small businesses: 8.80 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 6.68 per cent

18. Dickson (Queensland)

  • Margin going into election: 1.7 per cent, held by Liberal National Party
  • Proportion of small businesses: 10.56 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberal National Party, with a swing of 2.64 per cent

19. Braddon (Tasmania)

  • Margin going into election: 1.7 per cent, held by Labor
  • Proportion of small businesses: 9.03 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 5.12 per cent

20. Hasluck (WA)

  • Margin going into election: 2.1 per cent, held by Liberals
  • Proportion of small businesses: 11.70 per cent
  • Likely victor: Liberals, with a swing of 3.20 per cent

What has changed?

Overall, not that much. The majority (12) of the 20 most marginal seats going into the election actually stayed with the same party.

Interestingly, most of these saw the incumbents increase their share of the vote, regardless of which party held it. So Coalition seats became more Coalition-favoured, while Labor seats became more Labor-favoured.

The only exception to this was Cowan in WA, which saw a very slight swing away from the incumbent Labor.

That meant that eight of the seats changed hands at the election. Seven of those switched between the two major parties, while Wentworth in NSW had been held by independent Dr Kerryn Phelps and reverted to the Liberals.

Of the eight seats to change hands, five were won by the Coalition, and three were won by Labor.

What happened in the seats with a higher concentration of small-business voters?

Of the 20 marginal seats, 11 had proportion of small-business voters of 11 per cent or greater. These were Hasluck, Griffith, Banks, Cooper, MacNamara, Dunkley, Flynn, Wentworth, Cowan, Capricornia and Forde.

But when looking at the seats that have switched parties this election, only two (Wentworth and Dunkley) were among those with the higher proportion of small businesses. And they did not fall the same way either – Labor picked up Dunkley, while the Liberals won Wentworth.

So what?

For the sake of transparency, we should point out that this analysis has only looked at 20 seats – there are, of course, 151 electorates at a federal level. It also has looked solely at the winning party and not at the preference flows that may have helped them achieve victory, and made no account for other factors which can influence voting intentions, such as age demographics.

Nevertheless, it has delivered some interesting insights into the election: namely that there was no uniform result; the results were very much a mixed bag.

Most seats stayed with the same party, regardless of the concentration of small businesses among the mix of voters. And only two of the 11 seats with high numbers of small businesses actually changed hands, one to each of the major parties.

That makes it really difficult to suggest that small-business voters as a collective across these marginal seats helped to return the Coalition government to power.

However, if the same breakdown were done in all seats across the country – particularly those that changed hands on Saturday – the power of the small-business vote would likely be much more measurable.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the editorial direction of the publication since the beginning of 2016. Before joining My Business, he worked on fellow Momentum Media titles The Adviser and Mortgage Business.

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Adam has written across both consumer and business titles, including for News Corp Australia and Domain.

You can email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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