New South Wales election guide

The Poll Bludger’s New South Wales election guide is now operational – all 30,000 or so words of it. Virtue is of course its own reward, but if you think my labours deserve a little extra you are invited to follow the directions here. Further embellishments, like candidate photos and local issue summaries, will be added in due course. Please drop me a line if you spot any errors, particularly if they’re of a kind likely to invite ridicule. With that out of the way, I really am going to be keeping a low profile around here in the next four weeks or so; heavy duty state election coverage will commence thereafter.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

197 comments on “New South Wales election guide”

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  1. From what I have seen so far I wouldn’t nominate any Labor seat as a CERTAIN loss, and Black has a good chance of retaining Murray-Darlinjg, which would count as a Labor gain. Newcastle, Tweed and Monaro must be considered most likely to fall, but none of them are being written off. Newell is a proved vote-winner, and the Whans are very well-known in the Monaro. But a lot can happen in five weeks.

  2. what Adam is saying is right given that there are a lot of good sitting members in marginal seats & the margins involved 4% before any losses( not counting Murray – Darling) it is possible that no seats are lost.this is unlikely
    but still possible

  3. I love it when people try to ignore The Greens and exclude 10% of the voting population. Just goes to show what an impact they and their policies are having on the minds of their opponents. Better get used to it The Greens will be around for a while yet.

  4. Maybe the people who tore down Greens. Port Jackson’s, Rochell Porteous, election telegraph poll posters are the same bunch that see The Greens as a threat to the status Que. Funny how the same night The Greens posters came down The Labour Party’s posters went up, how smart is that?

  5. Oh, I see it. For some reason I was led to believe it was initially a 4.4% swing required and then the QLD/NSW redistribution reduced it to 3.3%. Would I be correct in assuming that this is just for the Howard Govt to lose its parliamentary majority? Or did the redistribution help the Govt?

    In any case, that means that Rudd would need to get about 52% of the 2PP on a uniform swing across the seats in order to become PM and govern in his own right. This has completely changed by view about Rudd’s chances.

  6. Ted St John has misstaken electorates when he referred to Michael Egan. Egan held the neighbouring seat of Cronulla 1978-1984. Whilst similar demographics, Labour has had stronger bases in Miranda which was held during the Wran years and was not won by Libs until 1988. Agree this is not a natural Labour seat but local Lib argy-bargy havent helped. The choice of a “star candidate” such as Graham Annesley can work both ways. Libs a chance here but nigh 10% is a long way to claw back at once.

  7. Psephophile,

    After the 2004 election, the ALP needed a swing of 4.4% to take 14 seats where the coalition would lose its majority. The 14th or median seat was Bennelong (4.4%).

    After the redistribution, this was reduced to 3.3% to take 14 seats, with the median seat being Eden-Monaro (3.3%). So yes the redistribution helped the ALP. See the link from Malcolm Mackerras below:

    To take majority government (16 seats), the uniform swing would be 4.8%, which would take Bennelong (4.0%) and Eden-Monaro (4.8%).

    Of course swings are never uniform and many seats higher in the pendulum may fall before Bennelong.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Thanks for the correction Wombat, Memory escapes me as to the last ALP member in Miranda but I believe it was 84 not 88 they went

    My simple thesis is that there is a number of Sydney seats with a “natural” Liberal vote that abnormally went to the ALP in 2003 and to a lesser extent 1999, these inlcude:


    The point is that natural liberal vote is going to return in 2007 no ifs no buts, it may not be enough to see these change hands but it will mean each of these seats is considerably more competitive in 2011, ie single digit margins.

    For mine much of the commentary assumes a repeat of Qld and Victoria, ie that Labor is permanently entrenched in former Liberal seats – i just dont believe it!

  9. I would dispute that there is any such thing as a ‘natural liberal’ Sydney seat beyond the seats that they hold now. Of the list given by Edward StJohn above only Miranda could even be considered remotely as such.

    Georges River (the predecessor of Oatley) was always marginal but labor more ofetn than not post 1970 by election. Ryde is a potential liberal win but the demographics are moving against it (see also Bennelong comments on this site)and it contains no rock solid lib areas. Strathfield is probably gone from the liberals forever -again the demographics have moved and the seat has only a small lib base left. The libs haven’t held Drummoyne since 1953 or 59 -often close but not close enough – a potential win at some stage but when?

    Menai could be added to the list but really nothing else.

    Looking at the pendulum and looking at possible electoral behaviour it seems that the libs could never get a majority of more than 5 in their wildest dreams ever – (and that includes knocking off 6 of 7 inds).

    Maybe the ALP hard heads realised that reducing the house to 93 seats may actually lock the Libs out forever – another Bob Carr legacy – a one party state! What does the readership think of that hypothesis?

  10. Hard to see bbp,

    Look at Sydney property prices in those areas and tell me again that these are “gone forever”. Its true there is a bias towards the ALP – largely due to wasted liberal votes on the north shore but the natural cycle is more like the libs winning 1 out of every 4 elections on average.

    The second issue is that this is probably a good election to lose, the choices are bad for the govt after 24 March – cut services, raise taxes (which Iemma basically reversed due to the political fallout) or borrow (a la Cain Kirner) for the ALP this will have to mean a major fallout with its public sector union base.

  11. As a resident in the Seat of Drummoyne, I cannot see a 9% swing occuring. Whilst the area is becoming more affluent, and the demographics shifting, there does appear to be a consistent growth in the number of ‘new-age’ families who’s views would resonate with those residing in the ‘cosmopolitan’ inner city, and is represented by the Green showing at the polls. This has been my observation not only at the last state election, but also at the 2004 Federal Election where the Greens obtained, 9% and 10% respectively. Further, the ALP obtained 46% of the primary vote in 2003, which would require something remarkable to change.
    Ultimately, to form government the Coalition needs to win Drummoyne, which despite having a solid Liberal candidate, is highly unlikely.

  12. My seat of Epping will be retained by the Liberals, although I predict the independent candidate Martin Levine will do quite well.
    One seat to watch on March 24 will be Maitland: the longtime Labor member has retired, so there is no incumbancy factor, and the ex-Liberal member and current mayor Peter Blackmore is running as an independent, so that should be an interesting 3 way contest between the ALP, the Libs and the Independent.

  13. Does anyone else here read The Australian? Does anyone have local knowledge to support the article on p6 which says that Grant McBride is “gone” in The Entrance, a seat he has held since 1991?

  14. Ted, you are correct viz 1984 with Miranda, I was mistaken in my recollection of Ron Phillips winning this one in 1988. It’s boundaries have changedsomewhat since then being moved westward as part of the abolition of Sutherland pre 99 poll.

    Georges River has always been a marginal with its longest term MP over past 35 years being Frank Walker (state and Fed minister). Held 99-99 by Libs but boundaries of this seat changed considerably as it has moved more north taking in more of old seat of Hurstville. An inflated margin but not really in play here.

    Drummoyne has been Lab held for the past 45 years. Agree with Stewart’s comments re demographics.

    Strathfield is unlikely to go back to Libs considering the current demographics of the seat. Since 99 redistribution, this seat has taken in territory further east in the prev Lab safe seat of Ashfield.

    Ryde is not a natural Lib seat, more a natural marginal. Looking at the history of the seat, it has primarily been Lab held with the exception of 88-91. The abolished seats of Gladesville and Ermington that made up most of the current seats were marginals either way with the more conservative northern areas from abolished seat of Eastwood now in Epping. An inflated margin, agree.

  15. I am also interested in what is happening in the country, just how weak are the Nats?
    I would think the Liberals would be upset at passing on the Country marginals due to their coalition agreement particularly if the night goes well for them in the City (ie more than four seats from the ALP [ Miranda, Wollondilly, Port Stephens and Penrith and 2 from independants Manly and Pittwater)

  16. Edward,

    There was an opinion poll published in the Tweed Daily News on 5th Feb for the seat of Tweed. It had Newell (ALP) 55%, Provest (Nat) 25% & Other/undecided 20%. Things may have changed since then.

    Article can be found at, then click on More Local News, then More Archived News. Scroll down to Monday, February 05, 2007.

  17. Edward StJohn

    Stories of the demise of the Nats have been around since about 1922, and have generally been found to be exaggerated. The real story is the demise of the ALP in country NSW with the candidates and party structure being sacrificed to the strategy of supporting/running dead for the so called independent candiidates.

    This time round I predict that the Nats will achieve their “quota”

  18. Countrylad,

    I admire your optimism.

    Since 1988 the NSW National Party has been going backwards. In my opinion, all of the seats they have lost in that time can be attributed to their own mistakes (apart from seats abolished at redistributions).

    Tamworth – lost to independent in 1991 due to preselection stuffup.
    Port Macquarie – lost due to National MP quitting the Party
    Northern Tablelands – lost to independent due to National Party MP being a poor local MP (this was a widely held view within the National Party long before his defeat)
    Dubbo – lost to independent in 1999. The National Party candidate made too many gaffes during the campaign.
    Tweed – lost to ALP in 1999. I suspect that the key issue was the Pacific Highway upgrade through Tweed shire. Coalition spent 7 yrs trying unsuccessfully to find a consortium to build a Tollway. ALP government built the road without a Toll.
    Clarence – lost to ALP at 1996 by-election. National Party candidate ended up in hospital with stress during the campaign after it was discovered that he didn’t live in the electorate as he had claimed. Regained by Nationals when Harry Woods retired in 2003 – one of the Nats 2 bright spots in the last 20 years! (the other was Katrina Hodgkinson winning Burrinjuck).

    This time around I reckon they will be one down at best – Lachlan has been abolished and they have chosen not to run in Goulburn.

  19. Barry,

    Thanks for that. Apart from what you “reckon”, I’m not sure on what you base the analysis.

    Look to the commentators and you get a different story. Tamworth, Dubbo Murray Darling Monaro and Tweed are all seen as strong chances.

    I’m happy to comment on each of the seats you refer to but the reality is the loss of Tamworth in 91 has had a ripple effect. Neverthless in ’99 we were all told the independents would roll out across the state, but they didn’t. In 2003 the same thing.

    Additionally, as I said earlier, the ALP has played an interesting game with the independents. Look at their vote in the last election in Tamworth in 2003. It was 12%. In Northern Tablelands it was about 6.5%.

    The facts are that the ALP vote in some country seats is transferring to the independents. Coupled with that is the run dead factor. Apart from Tamworth, just when did the ALP announce it’s candidates in the independent seats? Was it only in the last couple of weeks?

    Look at those candidates. Look, for instance at Dubbo. I think the candidate who has been announced is a 22 year old student from Bathurst (not even in the electorate).

    I might be getting a little cynical but it looks to me like their plan does not involve even trying to win the seat.

  20. Barry

    You could argue Tweed was lost by the Nats because of changing demographics- it’s basically now an urban seat which should be contested between Labor and the Liberals.

  21. I agree with most of your comments, country lad. The ALP has created a problem for itself in country NSW. Most would agree that the relabelling of the party as “Country Labor” was a procedural move to give the Sussex St Right control of the branches and mors ghost votes at the state conference. The result has been the destruction of the branches. There are now a number of seats in country NSW where Labor is unable to get 10% of the vote. Port Macquarie is another where the vote was 8% last time. (Bizarrely Mackerras’ pendulum has PMQ requiring a swing of 7% for Labor to win. Presumably because the Nat vote last time was 15%).

    It looks as if Labor is only trying in Murray-Darling, Monaro and Tweed where the demographics are changing the seats into the poor man’s Gold Coast. This is a great pity given the long tradition of Labor in Country NSW and the suprise results like Clarence that regularly occurred when top candidates were supported.

    I suspect Sussex St is not too unhappy because running dead with drongo candidates has allowed the party to support impressive independents and has discomforted the Nationals who as a result have lost 4 or so seats in the process.

    Of course such a situation cannot continue without Labor eventually losing its credibility in non-urban NSW. I suspect it will only change when sussex St realises that the lack of a rural party infrastructure has resulted in a decline in the LC vote

  22. Much angst lately about the election being there to lose for Labor, but I really can’t see how. No one is paying the slightest bit of attention to the campaign, which this week (for example) has been drowned out by: Federal politics, a losing cricket team (news-worthy in itself of course), 2 big boats, Britain leaving Iraq, Anna Nicole Smith, Britney shaving her head, and numerous other inconsequentialities.

    The average voter is not going bto pay too much attention until the final week – and look! The NRL and the cricket World Cup start. Barring Morris being caught in flagrante with a sheep in Martin Plaza, it’s hard to see how the Libs are going to get people worked up enough to get a big enough swing.

  23. Hugo are you in NSW? If so is that how you read the mood at the moment? I’m a Victorian – don’t hold that against me – and unable to judge naturally enough. I had the mood right for our last state election though – there just wasn’t the feeling for change. Have you seen the polls in the Daily Telegraph? Me thinks the Libs are having a field day there.

  24. Gary, yes I am from NSW, and so consequently would advise you not to take an on-line poll in the Terror too seriously. All of the press seem to have it in for Iemma and the ALP, but it doesn’t seem to be making any difference (this could be because newspapers aren’t nearely as influential as their owners would have us believe). The ALP should be miles behind, given the state they are in, but the more reputable polls (Newspoll, AC Neilson) have Labor comfortably in front, and given the margins at play, even a “protest vote gone wrong” would be unlikely to dislodge them. It’s also late summer, which is a pretty nice time of year in this part of the world (ie Sydney). It’s just hard to see Debnam getting the traction he needs to surf into office.

  25. Oakeshott, the real reason Labor has abandoned most of rural NSW is simply demographics. The disappearance of the rural proletariat (shearers, railway workers, postal workers, miners, timber workers etc etc) has greatly eroded Labor’s base. Farmers and small-town businessfolk are not going to vote Labor no matter how sterling our candidates are. The days 30 years ago when Labor could win (from memory) Murrumbidgee, Castlereagh, Burrinjuck, Armidale, Albury and Clarence are gone – the same is true of federal seats like Gwydir, Hume and Riverina. “Sussex St” is quite right to concentrate on seats we can win and leave the unwinnables to the independents.

  26. N.S.W ALP heavyweights are talking about the Iemma Government being in danger of losing 14 seats: Labor spin to blunt a protest vote, or something more?

  27. Hugo, I hope you’re right. With these new IR laws the last thing any state needs at the moment is a conservative government. I hope Labor is highlighting IR in the campaign because I believe this is the issue that is holding many back from voting conservative.

  28. Adam, I disagree at least as far as coastal NSW is concerned. The North Coast population is expected to double in the next 25 years. Most of these sea changers are from the Western Suburbs or are Mexicans . When they arrive on the coast there is no Labor infrastructure and they find that they can not vote for a reasonable candidate. Their best alternative is an independent. Don’t be fooled by the tag, most of the current lot of independents are former Nats. In the case of Oakeshott he stated that he left the party because it was controlled by the self-confessed local Rob Jolly but I suspect he really had no future in a rural party. During his last days as leader the bewildered Brogdan publically invited Oakeshott to join the Liberals so I don’t see how supporting him is in Labor’s interests.

    The Nats have difficulty connecting with sea changers and as a result continue to threaten to disintegrate on the coast. At the last state election in this previously rock solid Nat electorate, the Nats were down to 15%. If the disintegration happens there is a strong chance that these seats will become straight Lib/ALP contests but there will be no ALP to take part.

    I agree that the Rural proletariate no longer exists and except for Murray-Darling and Monaro the Alp is unlikely to win seats on the west of the divide. But this area is depopulating and with each redistribution interior seats disappear and new seats appear on the coast or in the city. Demographic changes can work to Labor’s advantage as well as its disadvantage. This is shown by seats like Clarence, Port Stephens and Maitland (admittedly the last two get a slice of Greater Newcastle) in State elections and Patterson, Page and Richmond in Federal elections.

    There are two other important reasons that Sussex St should support a rural infrastructure. Firstly to maximise the LC vote (How else are the apparatchiks going to continue their careers) and secondly because of the large amounts the electoral commission gives to the party if the candidates get more than ? 10%.

    Well said Hugo, there really is no campaign yet apart from the papers. I also think the Bridge Celebrations in the week prior to the election will have a numbing effect provided the transportation system works. Both the Herald and the Terror have spent an enormous amount of effort in bagging Iemma during the last year but I just don’t hear it being said over barbeques. Today’s Herald front page is a good example. It is all Iemma’s fault that North Shore folk had to wait an hour to catch a ferry when the QE2 and QM2 were in the harbour. However, most of the letters in the paper commented on how well the city coped with 200000 people suddenly turning up. I think the papers have just been bored by a Labor Government that most unusually hasn’t sunk into corruption after 12 years. Maybe they are trying to breathe some life into a lack-lustre campaign.

  29. There still is a rural working-class but it is more lower level non-manual retail etc. and its not unionised. One Nation won some of their support. There is one Labor voting group whose numbers are increasing in rural areas: indigenous people, as farms get bigger and farmers’ children go to the cities for good their numbers will increase.

  30. * Oakeshott, it should have been obvious that I wasn’t talking about the North Coast seats, which are getting better for Labor as they urbanise. I was talking about The Bush.
    * Geoff, yes that’s true, but shop workers in Dubbo are MUCH less likely to vote Labor than were the shearers and railworkers of the yesteryear. As for the indigenous vote, I’m not aware of any seats in rural NSW where it amounts to much. Can you suggest a seat which is, say, 5% indigenous?

  31. Countrylad,

    Thanks for your reply & apologies if I’ve ruffled your feathers.
    I was a financial member of the NSW Nationals for 20 years, so I heard a lot of gossip about which MPs are looking after their electorates and also what went right or wrong in election campaigns.

    I make no claims that I am able to accurately predict election results, but I suspect the commentators you are referring to have looked at the pendulum and said if there is a uniform swing of this amount then these seats will change hands. Local issues tend to affect state seats in country areas, so it is unusual for them to all swing in the same direction.

    As for ALP candidates “running dead” to help independents, you are probably right. Major parties tend to not waste resources in seats they can’t win. In Sydney, the ALP nominates token candidates in safe Liberal seats and the Liberal Party nominates token canidates in safe Labor setas. The Liberals are still announcing candidates this week. If the Nats receive over 50% of the vote in a seat, then it doesn’t matter whether the ALP receives 6.5% or 49.5%.


    You may be right about changing demographics. It is now mostly an urban electorate on the coast. Prior to the latest redistribution, it still contained Murwillumbah and all the farming areas in the Tweed valley. In Murwillumbah, the ALP outpolled the Nationals in 1999 and 2003.

    I don’t know how much difference there would be between a Liberal or National candidate. Some people will vote Liberal but not National and other National but not Liberal and most can’t tell the difference.


    The name “Country Labor” was adopted after the Nationals began referring the ALP as “Sydney Labor” in all of their press releases.

    Clarence was probably not a surprise result. Since 1971, the area has changed parties each time the sitting member retired.

  32. Adam said:

    Oakeshott, the real reason Labor has abandoned most of rural NSW is simply demographics. The disappearance of the rural proletariat (shearers, railway workers, postal workers, miners, timber workers etc etc) has greatly eroded Labor’s base. Farmers and small-town businessfolk are not going to vote Labor no matter how sterling our candidates are. The days 30 years ago when Labor could win (from memory) Murrumbidgee, Castlereagh, Burrinjuck, Armidale, Albury and Clarence are gone – the same is true of federal seats like Gwydir, Hume and Riverina. “Sussex St” is quite right to concentrate on seats we can win and leave the unwinnables to the independents. ”

    Mate, not only is that cynical, it fails to recognise that there is a goodly proportion of the vote that is available in rural electorates. Look at seats like Northern Tablelands. In the past it had a Labor member. Now what is the Labor vote?

    Think of it this way. The ALP is destroying its branch structure to the extent it cannot field candidates, and cannot even be guaranteed to man all the booths. I suppose that’s not my problem but it strikes me there are loyal party members out there who are not being shown any loyaly by head office.

    Let me use an example of what I am talking about. Look at the ALP vote at the last federal elecvtion in the seat of New England. Look at the vote the Independent got, look at the vote the Nats and Liberal candidates got. Then go and have a look at the vote the Coalition got in the Senate.

    Now compare the vote the ALP got with what it could achieve, say, twenty years ago.

    It’s not just that the seat is fundamentally conservative. It is the failure of the ALP to put up a decent showing. The result is a strong Senate vote.

  33. In the long term the changes in demographics will wipe out the
    National party. they will not win seats on the north or south coasts of NSW
    nor will they win seats in the urban corner of south east Queensland or the
    provincial cities, eg Townsville, Cairns Mackay. The problem for the National
    party is they do not have a seperate identity from the liberals.Watch what happens in the next Queensland election, to win Government the opposition
    leader will need to be replaced by a liberal as the liberals will win more seats.
    Also witness the first Federal election where Labor polls well in country
    areas and the liberals decide to challenge the National sitting members

  34. Mick, Mick, Mick,

    At my age I have heard these arguments before, seems to an old gent like myself the real revelation of the future is going to be the ALP. Union density of less than 20% outside of the public service. The real lesson is Richard Milhous Nixon and the famous Southern Strategy,
    Split white conservative democrats from the party at a national level in the 60’s over civil rights a stratey that is only now really percolating down to the state level in the US
    Is the real trend of the future to watch for who will be the first to find Howard battlers at the State level? Poor old Debnam has amateurly tried out his dog whistle (a la lock up 100) but the Libs will eventually find someone who can play the sweet tunes – What do you all think?

  35. Adam, I hear what you say but I think it supports my argument.

    As the coast becomes urbanised, the ALP vote should obviously increase. However this has not occurred. Look at the results from the 2003 election at which there was a state swing to Labor (thanks to Antony):

    Seats with strong independents:

    Seat ALP primary vote Swing

    Coffs Harbour 19% -12%
    Ballina 26% – 2%
    Lismore 25% – 3%
    Myall Lakes 22% -7%
    Port Macquarie 8.5% – 19%

    Seats without independents:
    Tweed 44.3% Steady
    Clarence 39.3% +2%
    Oxley 33% + 8% (ONP collapsed)

    Labor is not gaining from the demographic changes on the coast.;

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