Thanks so much for joining us as we followed the results of the Aston byelection today.
If you’re just tuning in, here’s the key events of the day:
- Labor’s Mary Doyle remains significantly ahead of Liberal Roshena Campbell, leading 53.6 to 46.4 per cent on a two-party preferred margin – a 6.4 per cent swing against the Liberals.
- Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto said this afternoon he doesn’t believe people in Aston voted based on the suspension of controversial state Liberal MP Moira Deeming, who attended at an anti-transgender rights protest which was crashed by neo-Nazis.
- But federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told the ABC that people in outer suburban areas are “very worked up” about women’s rights and gender. He also said as opposition leader, he had to take responsibility for the loss of the federal seat, but the party undoubtedly had a “problem” in Victoria.
- Dutton’s interview on Insiders caused a significant stir, with Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews rebuking suggestions Victorians were “up in arms” about transgender rights. He called the Liberal Party a “nasty, bigoted outfit” and said that’s why the party keeps losing in Victoria.
- Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was also put out by Dutton’s comments on Sunday, saying that Victoria was a “little-l liberal” state and the Liberal Party’s lurch to the right had caused problems for their vote in Aston.
- Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Doyle said the new role was a “gigantic honour” and she would “always do the best I can for this area”.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was “humbled” by the result and Australians had shown they wanted a government “focused on their needs, on their issues, on their lives and improving them”.
Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto has denied the furore that engulfed controversial Liberal MP Moira Deeming and the Victorian Liberal Party contributed to the party’s loss in the federal seat of Aston.
Earlier this week, Deeming was suspended from the state party room for attending an anti-transgender rights protest in Melbourne that was crashed by neo-Nazis.
Pesutto had initially insisted there wasn’t any option but to expel the MP, before backflipping during a party room meeting and suspending her for nine months.
At a press conference this afternoon, Pesutto denied the saga had affected yesterday’s byelection, asserting that voters cast their ballot on federal issues.
“It’s clear to me, based on the comments of candidates and people on the ground, that it simply wasn’t an issue … In essence, it was about cost of living. It was a federal byelection with some local issues in it,” he said.
“None of the issues surrounding the Victorian parliamentary [Liberal Party] were being raised with people on pre-poll or yesterday.
“I know the last two weeks were tough, but there was a purpose – it was to say to the Victorian people that I will fight for these principles, I will fight for these values.”
After losing his seat of Hawthorn in the 2018 state election, Pesutto said he was keenly aware that the Liberal Party “needs to reform if it’s to be a winning force again”.
“If we are to restore our standing with the Victorian people and the Australian people, we have to take actions that demonstrate to the people that we are committed to being that inclusive, welcoming and engaging party,” he said.
“I feel for Roshena Campbell, she’s a good candidate and I hope that we can see her in the parliament one day, and I’ll do everything I can to support her in that effort.”
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has disputed Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s analysis of why his party lost the Aston byelection, arguing the Liberal Party has lurched further to the right.
Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program this morning, Dutton had pointed to longstanding Liberal Party difficulties in the nation’s second most populous state, saying the party’s brand has “suffered terribly in Victoria”.
“Malcolm who is small-l liberal, good leader of our party, [but] didn’t do any good in Victoria. [Same as] Tony Abbott before him,” Dutton said.
“In fact, we’ve gone backwards since John Howard’s high-water mark in ’96. Do we have a lot to rebuild in Victoria? Of course we do … I accept responsibility for us not winning the byelection.”
Turnbull fired back via Twitter, arguing the party has had successes in Victoria since the 1990s, including when Julia Banks won the seat of Chisholm in 2016, the only member of the Coalition at that election to win a seat from the then-Labor opposition.
The former prime minister said Victoria is a “small-l liberal” state and the Liberal Party “has moved further and further to the right”.
Banks has also chimed in via Twitter to congratulate Mary Doyle, likening photos of Doyle and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese celebrating in Bayswater this morning to pictures of her and Turnbull after she took the seat of Chisholm in 2016.
The former member for Chisholm said that “sadly the right-wing surge” from Dutton and former prime minister Scott Morrison, as well as Victorian Liberals, marked the end of the party.
Newly-minted NSW Premier Chris Minns says the success of Labor in Saturday’s byelection was a positive indicator about Anthony Albanese’s government, rather than a reflection on Peter Dutton’s Liberal leadership.
“Obviously an amazing result for federal Labor and Mary Doyle in particular, and a credit to the campaign that she’s run and that the prime minister’s run,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“There’s been a lot of rhetoric and commentary about the Liberal Party and Peter Dutton over the last 12 hours.
“But it’s probably more of a reflection of the federal government doing well and getting a mid-term report card from the people of Australia that they like the direction of the Albanese government and they want to see more of it.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has launched a scathing rebuke of federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton following the Liberal Party’s comprehensive loss in the Aston byelection.
Speaking on ABC’s Insiders program earlier today, Dutton alluded to the furore surrounding controversial Victorian state MP Moira Deeming, who was suspended from the state party room for attending an anti-transgender rights protest in Melbourne that was crashed by neo-Nazis.
While key Liberal figures noted the controversy which engulfed the Victorian Liberal Party this week had not helped their chances in retaining the seat of Aston, Dutton weighed in today, saying that “people should have respect and the debate runs two ways”.
“Maybe not right here in the inner-city areas of our country, but in the outer metropolitan areas, this is an issue in terms of women’s rights and the gender issue that has parents and others very worked up,” he said.
Andrews described the opposition leader’s comments as “extraordinary”, rejecting the suggestion that suburban families are “up in arms” about transgender rights.
The Victorian premier said if you’re not willing to accept that life is not easy for transgender people, “then don’t pretend that you’ve got anything to offer other than your own insipid, nasty little version of bigotry”.
“(The) Liberal Party are a nasty, bigoted outfit, and people have worked it out. And that might be why they keep losing,” Andrews said at a press conference.
“To the extent that ordinary Victorians are concerned about issues of transgender Victorians, they’re concerned about extending a hand of friendship … recognising the fact it’s not easy to be a trans Victorian.
“I think the people of Aston might also have remembered exactly what went on last year in the state election where the Liberal Party cuddled up and entered into a political partnership with racists, with extremists, people who have no place in mainstream politics.”
I think people have in Victoria, at least in Aston, have passed judgment on [Dutton’s] leadership and what he offers. [The Liberals have] a nasty brand of politics that is all about themselves.
For so long as the Liberal Party put forward a political offering that’s all about them, and not about hard-working Victorian families, then I think they will seldom be the choice of hard-working Victorian families.
Labor’s victory in Aston, a seat held by the Liberals since 1990, was the first time in a century that a sitting government has won a seat from the opposition in a byelection.
Andrews also congratulated Labor’s Mary Doyle, the newly elected member for Aston.
“[Doyle’s] a great local voice and she’s going to be a great champion for her neighbours … she will work hard and that’s what every community is absolutely entitled to.”
There’s been a small update from the Australian Electoral Commission on the two-party preferred count in Aston.
With a couple of hundred votes added to the tally this morning, Doyle remains significantly ahead of Campbell, leading 53.7 to 46.3 per cent on a two-party preferred margin – a 6.47 per cent swing against the Liberals.
Speaking on Sky News earlier today, Industry Minister Ed Husic said Labor’s success in the Aston byelection was a mandate for the Albanese government to continue “getting on with the job”.
Husic said the opposition wasn’t taking the “proper lessons” from Aston, and seemed to be “blaming the voters” for the loss by saying it was just hard for the Liberal Party to win in Victoria.
“This is a heartland Liberal seat held by the Liberals for 30 years. As much as it’s historically significant, it’s politically significant,” he said.
“You’ve got a situation where Anthony Albanese and the Australian government’s approach to governing has received a degree of support here in just getting on with the job, acting as a mature government.
“This has also been a huge thumbs-down to the way of working by the Liberal Party – being problem-makers rather than problem-solvers.
“The Liberal Party’s addiction to negativity and to saying ‘no’ has received a resounding ‘no’ from their own voters in Aston, and I think that’s a big part of why the Liberal Party is currently in such strife.”
Senior Liberal senator Jane Hume says she does not believe Peter Dutton should be replaced as opposition leader following the Liberal Party’s failure in the Aston byelection.
“I cannot imagine there would be any mood in the party room for (a change of leader),” she told AAP.
“There is no doubt this is a blow, but he is a leader with a solid team behind him.”
Earlier, we heard from federal Nationals leader David Littleproud, who maintained that Dutton is “by far the best leader of the Liberal Party”.
Hume said cost-of-living pressures remained the number one issue with voters yesterday, but other factors meant it didn’t cut through at the byelection.
Liberals repeatedly chastised Labor for running a “dirty” movement on the ground, but also said voters blamed them for having to go to the polls for the third time in a number of months.
The Aston byelection was driven by the resignation of former Morrison government minister Alan Tudge in February.
“You will never put it down to one thing; otherwise, we would have fixed it,” Hume said.
“There was a confluence of events and timing. Even with a great candidate, we couldn’t overcome that confluence.”
AAP, with Ashleigh McMillan
Peter Dutton has vowed to rebuild the Liberal Party’s brand so that it has a shot of winning the next federal election, saying the party has allowed itself to be defined by its political opponents for too long.
Speaking after the Liberals’ historic defeat in the Aston by-election, Dutton told Insiders: “I can tell you it makes me more determined to rebuild this party and be in a winning position by 2025.
“I have been in a marginal seat the last 22 years, won by 217 votes, won by 9 per cent and low and high-water marks. That is the nature of politics.
“Ours is now an opportunity to rebuild. We will do that over the course of the next couple of years and we will go into the next election in a position that will see us win it.”
Dutton said he was proud the Liberal Party had not gone through a “period of self-destruction” in opposition under his leadership, as had occurred in the past.
He said the party needed to better sell its achievements, including on climate change and environmental issues.
“I think in recent years, the Liberal Party has allowed itself to be defined by our opponents and I think it’s time for us to take that back,” he said.“Stand up for what we believe in, whether it’s trendy or not.”
Returning to Peter Dutton’s interview on Insiders now, and the opposition leader says Australians with conservative views about gender should not be silenced because many people in suburban and regional areas are “very worked up” about transgender rights issues.
As the Liberal Party was fighting to hold onto the seat of Aston, it suspended controversial Victorian state MP Moira Deeming for attending an anti-transgender rights protest in Melbourne that was crashed by neo-Nazis.
Deeming later accepted that attending the Let Women Speak event outside the Victorian Parliament may have been an error of judgement.
Appearing on the ABC’s Insiders program after the Aston defeat, Dutton said he would not tolerate any discrimination based on gender but added: “I think people should have respect and the debate runs two ways.
“There are very strong views within many parts of Australian society.
“Maybe not right here in the inner-city areas of our country, but in the outer metropolitan areas, this is an issue in terms of women’s rights and the gender issue that has parents and others very worked up.”
Asked what the Liberal Party stands for under his leadership, he said: “Well, we stand for aspiration. We stand for entrepreneurialism, so small businesses.
“We stand for national security obviously, and we always stand for cleaning up a Labor mess when we get back into government so that people can make their own choices.”