Liberal Party set to win Scott Morrison’s old seat of Cook

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Scott Morrison’s successor in Cook may on the surface appear all but locked in, but pollsters say there’s a chance things could go “pear-shaped” for the Coalition.

Mr Morrison retained the Sutherland Shire electorate with a 12.4 per cent margin in 2022 – although down from 19 per cent in 2019 – after he picked up almost two thirds of the two-party preferred vote.

It’s one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, but voter disenchantment and Labor’s decision not to run a candidate could create a “perfect storm” for the party to actually lose some of their margin, according to pollster Kos Samaras.

On one hand, some locals are unhappy with the Liberal Party’s selection of Simon Kennedy – who did not live in the electorate when he beat out the local mayor and a popular advocate in preselection – which Mr Somaras said could result in low voter turnout.

Voter turnout for by-elections is traditionally lower than a full federal election, but the Australian Electoral Commission said they were concerned by how few people had voted early in Cook and had put out “more communication for a single by-election than we’ve ever done”.

“The early voting numbers we’re seeing are down by approximately 11.2 per cent based on the same period in the 2022 federal election, and nearly 13 per cent for the same period in the 2023 referendum in the division,” Commissioner Tom Rogers said.

“While it may be that more people vote on by-election day this time around, typically if someone casts their vote early in one election, they’ll do so in the next one – this is why the numbers we’re seeing makes us worry about low participation.”

In the last three by-elections, voter turnout has ranged from 72.54 per cent in Fadden, 83.79 per cent in Dunkley, and 85.64 per cent in Aston.

On the other hand, the decision not to run a Labor candidate in Cook – despite candidate Simon Earle picking up 37.6 per cent of the vote at the 2022 election – could also send votes to the Greens or the other minor party and independent candidates.

The Animal Justice, Sustainable Australia, and Libertarian parties are on the ballot, alongside an independent, although not all of them are Cook locals either.

Polling from the Australia Institute this week had Mr Kennedy with 53 per cent of the first preferences vote and Mr Moore with 17 per cent, while nearly one in four voters had not yet decided their first preference vote.

“All the planets need to align for an independent or minor party candidate to win … If there’s low turnout of the Coalition vote, former Labor and Greens voters voting Green or independent and a bit of tactical voting,” Mr Somaras said.

“We could have a situation where the Liberal vote goes up, or it could go down if there’s an overinflation or other party votes and low Coalition turnout.”

Discontent has also left the door open for a “teal” contest in 2025.

A search for a local, independent candidate to run in the next federal election, using the model that put six “teals” in Canberra in 2022, began last month.

A “voices of Cook” community campaign launched on social media, stating “we deserve genuine local representation”.

“A local who knows our needs and goes to Canberra to represent us, not just toe another party line,” the group stated on Facebook.

Mr Somaras said a teal candidate was unlikely to win the seat off the Liberals at the next election, saying Cook had “unfavourable” conditions.

“When you look at the demographic traits for a successful teal campaign, Cook has the least favourable conditions,” he said.

“It’s really difficult to see how that could work because demographically the seat is so skewed towards the Coalition.”

The voices of group said “we deserve local representation”.

Who’s on the ballot

In official order:

1. KOLHATKAR, Vinay

Libertarian

2. BROWN, Natasha

Animal Justice Party

3. WOODWARD, Roger

Independent

4. MOORE, Martin

The Greens

5. KENNEDY, Simon

Liberal

6. GAGATAM, Simone Francis

Sustainable Australia Party – Universal Basic Income

Read related topics:Scott Morrison