Fact sheet

Fact Check: Has a government not won a seat from an opposition at a by-election in 100 years?

Liberal Party of Australia By-elections

In the run up to a series of federal by-elections, Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann claimed no government, of either political persuasion, had won a seat off an opposition at a by-election in the past 100 years. Senator Cormann is correct. The last time an opposition lost a seat to a government at a by-election was in 1920 ' almost 100 years ago. The previous MP in that by-election, Hugh Mahon, remains the only member in the history of the House of Representatives to be expelled. He recontested the seat and lost. However, whilst by-elections on average swing towards the opposition of the day, experts told RMIT ABC Fact Check that there are a minority of historical cases where the government of the day has achieved a swing towards itself larger than those required to unseat Labor in Longman or Braddon. With this in mind, psephologist Kevin Bonham told Fact Check that Labor losing a seat would be "unusual, but not as unusual as the very poor historic win rate indicates".
Verdict: Correct

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