First Round of Presidential Voting, 2017: Australia

  • Leigh Sales: Hello and welcome to the ABC special coverage of the first round of the Presidential election. Polling stations have officially closed, and I am thrilled to be joined by my colleague Kerry O'Brien as we dissect the results from across the country. Polls first closed on the east coast, so Sydney, Melbourne, and the rest of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria will be reporting their results first. Kerry, this has been quite the extraordinary moment. The first ever presidential election in Australia's history, and it has been dominated by populism.

    Kerry O'Brien: Yeah, Leigh. It's amazing to see the rise of Andrew Kligenberg, the mining and television mogul to prominence in Australian politics. Coupled with Pauline Hanson embracing him as the One Nation candidate, the two have really shaken up the order of things. In a year that should still belong to Hillary Clinton and the Progressives, who enjoy a 53% approval rating and have largely avoided scandal since Emailgate and the Clinton Foundation trappings. The Conservatives who looked to be the main opposition to both the incumbent President Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy have instead enjoyed being pummelled into fourth place out of seven.

    LS: Let's take a look at some of the exit polling conducted by the ABC. We asked 50,000 voters across New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland who they voted for, and here are the first results:

    Stephen Conroy (Progressive)33%
    Andrew Kligenberg (One Nation)30%
    President Julia Gillard (Labour)25%
    Malcolm Turnbull (Conservatives)10%

    KB: If that holds up, I can guarantee we will have an election in April between Stephen Conroy and Andrew Kligenberg. It would be an immediate referendum on the Clinton Government, and the political establishment. He may win, he may not win, but Kligenberg would put up an interesting fight. If our exit polling holds up and Julia Gillard is that high on the list, she has a real shot being the one to take on one of the other two candidates. She is popular, particularly in Victoria and among the left in New South Wales.

    LS: We will take a short break and then coming up, we will have word from the Conroy, Kligenberg, and Gillard campaigns. Then in an hour, we will get our first state results.

  • LS: Welcome back, let's take a peek at the first statewide results, and they're coming in from Queensland. With about 25% of the statewide polling in, here are the preliminary results:

    Andrew Kligenberg (One Nation)45%
    Stephen Conroy (Progressive)19%
    President Julia Gillard (Labour)25%
    Malcolm Turnbull (Conservative)10%

    Kerry, is this a surprising development so far in Queensland?

    KB: No, not really. Queensland is a more conservative state, perhaps the largest conservative state in Australia. It IS shocking that Kligenberg not only turned out his people, those One Nation supporters from places like Ipswich, but also ate into the bush and the former National Party strongholds that have been the Conservative Party's firewall for years. In his plain speaking way, Kligenberg has really tapped into the concerns of the people out in the bush, in the regions, and it has gained him popularity.

    LS: What does this say about Gillard and Conroy, the two duking it out over the left?

    KB: It means that they may have a winning coalition, but they will have to court their opposite supporters on the left and even some of the Turnbull Conservatives who haven't gone all in for Kligenberg. They could do it, but they will need to settle on a candidate, and this process may alienate others on the left, making it harder to unite that coalition that saw Clinton to government.

  • LS: Alright, we're getting finalised totals from New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria as we've moved on in our coverage to the middle of the country. That's you Northern Territory and central South Australia. Here is where we stand so far with most of our big cities counted:

    Stephen Conroy (Progressive)32%
    Andrew Kligenberg (One Nation)31%
    President Julia Gillard (Labour)
    Malcolm Turnbull (Conservative)8%

    Kerry, Julia Gillard has found more support from somewhere in the east of the country.

    KB: IT's not really a surprise that she did well in Victoria, her home state, where she also had a giant win, including the Melbourne metro area. It was a surprise that in New South Wales, she ran second ahead of Andrew Kligenberg, so it is very close heading out west, and as the results come in from out there, we will get a taste of whether or not Julia will move on to the next round of voting. Remember, we're narrowing down the field of seven to a field of two. A Kligenberg - Gillard match up would be interesting because one would have to wonder would the Clinton voters come out for her. We've seen that Labour voters, who get support in suburban areas and some rural places as well, backed Clinton as it became clear she would win. The test is whether the Clinton supporters would support Gillard.

  • KB: Leigh, we've got results coming in from Western Australia. As we know, Western Australia contains Perth, and in 2016 it was an unexpected battle ground when the Progressives took Labour seats in Perth. Let's take a look at what we could

    Andrew Kligenberg (One Nation)36%
    President Julia Gillard (Labour)25%
    Stephen Conroy (Progressive)20%
    Malcolm Turnbull (Conservative)10%

    This could be what secures a victory here for Andrew Kligenberg. Tasmania is going to go overwhelmingly towards Conroy and Gillard, and South Australia will remain loyal to the Conservatives. If this holds up in Western Australia, it will be Kligenberg winning this round, which is more than what we thought he would when he started his candidacy. What could that mean internationally, Leigh?

    LS: Well, considering the Turkmenbaijanis have reacted negatively in the past, I think Hillary Clinton is going to have a lot to do when it comes to Turkmenbaijan. I mean, this is the same man who said that Australia should build a border wall. It will definitely be an interesting time to be Prime Minister, and Hillary Clinton will have her hands full with this.

  • LS: Well, we've had quite the first round in this presidential election, and it has come down to the wire, but it looks like this at the end of the night:

    Stephen Conroy (Progressive)30%
    Andrew Kligenberg (One Nation)32%
    President Julia Gillard (Labour)24%
    Malcolm Turnbull (Conservatives)18%

    This is a huge shock, Kerry. I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Andrew Kligenberg has won in this current climate of anti-politician sentiment that seems to be a very large undercurrent in Australia and in the world. Stephen Conroy came in second, buoyed a bit by the result of his party coming into Government at the last federal election. What will the implications of a race like this be on federal and state politics?

    KB: Leigh, we don't know is the correct answer. There is a huge anti-politician, anti-EU sentiment in Australia at the moment, and it's picked up from where the Duxburians were heading into the end of last year, where the British were in reference to the European Union (but they have since come back down a bit). It's the fact that people in rural Australia feel like the Progressives, Labour, and the Conservatives have all left them behind. They're seeing jobs vanish and people are struggling, and they came out in droves to Andrew Kligenberg. Remember, mining is a huge industry in the bush and in the Outback. Thousands of jobs around the country are dependent on the Australian mining industry, and Andrew Kligenberg is perhaps the biggest lion in the forest.

    LS: Do you have any predictions?

    KB: Considering where Andrew Kligenberg was at the beginning of the campaign, no I don't. What Stephen Conroy will have to do to beat Kligenberg is get the Gillard voters onside. If the left and the right voted for just these two candidates, It looks like Kligenberg would be ahead 54 to 50, with him left courting the 8% of people who voted against the major parties. However, one would think that if they didn't vote for a major party, Kligenberg could get the lion's share of them and it could, COULD propel him to the Presidency.

    LS: Well, thank you all for watching the ABC's coverage of Australia's first round of its historic presidential election. As a reminder, the final round will be underway on April 8. Stay tuned for more news about a debate schedule between Andrew Kligenberg of One Nation and Stephen Conroy of the Progressives.

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