Higgins by-election, 2009

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Higgins by-election, 2009

← 2007 5 December 2009 2010 →

  Kelly O'Dwyer 2017.jpg Hamilton Clive 07.JPG
Candidate Kelly O'Dwyer Clive Hamilton
Party Liberal Greens
Popular vote 36,421 21,628
Percentage 54.6% 32.4%

Location of Higgins within metropolitan Melbourne

MP before election

Peter Costello

Elected MP

Kelly O'Dwyer

A by-election was held for the Australian House of Representatives Division of Higgins on 5 December 2009.[1] This was triggered by the resignation of former Treasurer and former Liberal Party deputy leader Peter Costello.[2] The by-election was held on the same day as the Bradfield by-election.

It was contested on the same boundaries drawn for Higgins at the 2007 federal election. At that election, the Liberal Party won the seat over the Labor Party with 57.04 per cent of the vote on a two-party-preferred basis, the closest result in the seat's 60-year history. The Liberal candidate has never had to go to preferences to win the seat.

The writ for the by-election was issued on 30 October, with the rolls closing on 9 November. Candidate nominations closed 12 November, and were announced the following day.[3] The Labor Party did not nominate a candidate.

Both the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections were the last by-elections for the House of Representatives until the 2014 Griffith by-election.


Costello first won the seat of Higgins at the 1990 federal election, and retained the seat in the six subsequent elections. At the 2007 federal election, the opposition Kevin Rudd-led Labor Party defeated the incumbent John Howard-led Liberal-National coalition government. This marked the first change of government in over 11 years. Costello was deputy Liberal leader since 1994, firstly under Alexander Downer and then under John Howard, and was Treasurer in the Howard government from its formation in 1996. On the defeat of the Howard government in 2007, Costello declined to become Liberal leader and a position in the shadow ministry and returned to the backbenches.[4] Costello had initially indicated (15 June 2009) he would stay as the member until the next election, at which time he would retire from parliament. However on 7 October 2009, Costello announced he would be resigning from Parliament when it resumed later in the month. He resigned on 19 October 2009.[5]


A polling booth at Toorak on polling day

The Labor Party did not nominate a candidate for the by-election.

The Higgins and Bradfield by-election campaigns were overshadowed by Liberal infighting over Labor Party government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, culminating in the replacement of Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott as Liberal leader. Although fairly safe on paper, some commentators including Malcolm Mackerras tipped the Greens to defeat the Liberals in Higgins, and force the Liberals to preferences in Bradfield.[6][7]

Liberal Party candidate Kelly O'Dwyer focussed her campaigning on local issues and attempted to distance herself from federal affairs, whereas the Greens Clive Hamilton campaigned primarily for stronger action on climate change.[8]


The following table is the order and party affiliation of each candidate that has nominated to contest the seat of Higgins. Candidates are placed in the order of the ballot paper.[9]

Ballot Number Party Candidate Profession Notes
1   Independent Stephen Murphy Computer programmer Supported by the unregistered Climate Sceptics Party[10]
2   Australian Sex Party Fiona Patten Party leader [11]
3   Liberal Party of Australia Kelly O'Dwyer Executive, National Australia Bank Former staffer for Peter Costello[12]
4   Liberal Democratic Party Isaac Roberts Accountant
5   Australian Greens Dr Clive Hamilton Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Former Executive Director, the Australia Institute[13]
6   Australian Democrats David Collyer Former Parliamentary Advisor Worked for former senator Lyn Allison [14]
7   Independent Joseph Toscano Anarchist campaigner
8   One Nation Steve Raskovy Former Hungarian wrestler and refugee[15]
9   Independent Peter Brohier Lawyer
10   Democratic Labor Party John Mulholland Psychologist

The Australian Labor Party did not stand a candidate.


The Liberal Party easily retained the seat.[16]

Higgins by-election, 2009[17]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer 36,421 54.57 +0.96
Greens Clive Hamilton 21,628 32.40 +21.65
Democratic Labor John Mulholland 2,572 3.85 +3.85
Sex Party Fiona Patten 2,144 3.21 +3.21
Democrats David Collyer 1,531 2.29 +1.08
Independent Stephen Murphy 1,145 1.72 +1.72
Independent Joseph Toscano 523 0.78 +0.78
Liberal Democrats Isaac Roberts 336 0.50 +0.50
Independent Peter Brohier 236 0.35 +0.35
One Nation Steve Raskovy 211 0.32 +0.32
Total formal votes 66,747 95.85 −1.58
Informal votes 2,870 4.15 +1.58
Turnout 69,637 79.00 −14.77
Two-party-preferred result
Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer 40,203 60.23 +3.19
Greens Clive Hamilton 26,544 39.77 +39.77
Liberal hold Swing N/A

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Higgins, Bradfield by-elections announced, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 26 October 2009.
  2. ^ "Peter Costello to resign from federal Parliament: The Australian 7/10/2009". Theaustralian.news.com.au. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  3. ^ "Candidates for Higgins (Vic) 2009 by-election (Saturday 5 December)". AEC. 8 June 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  4. ^ "Costello won't stand". smh.com.au. 
  5. ^ "The Hon Peter Costello MP". aph.gov.au. 
  6. ^ 3 December 2009 12:00AM (3 December 2009). "Mackerras predicts boilover in Higgins: The Australian 3 December 2009". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  7. ^ Grattan, Michelle (4 December 2009). "A day that changed everything: SMH 4 December 2009". Smh.com.au. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  8. ^ Milanda Rout, Higgins hopeful in climate-change push, The Australian, December 2009
  9. ^ "The AEC has recently restructured our content". Aec.gov.au. 8 June 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  10. ^ "Higgins by-election: December 5 – The Poll Bludger". Blogs.crikey.com.au. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  11. ^ 6 November 2009 5:59PM (6 November 2009). "Parliament 'needs a sex party': The Australian 6 November 2009". News.com.au. Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  12. ^ "Kelly O'Dwyer secures preselection for Peter Costello's seat of Higgins: Herald Sun 17/09/2009". Heraldsun.com.au. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  13. ^ "Greens announce candidate for Higgins: ABC News 23/10/2009". Abc.net.au. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  14. ^ "Australian DemocratsAustralian Democrats Press Releases". Democrats.org.au. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  15. ^ Strong, Geoff (5 November 2009). "Olympian steps up to grapple for Higgins: SMH 5 November 2009". Smh.com.au. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  16. ^ "Antony Green by-election commentary". ABC. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  17. ^ Virtual Tally Room: AEC Archived 11 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]