Grattan on Wentworth

In assessing the leadership ambitions of the member for Wentworth, Michelle Grattan provides the following intelligence:

Before any post-election events, Turnbull has the challenge of holding Wentworth. It’s on 2.6 per cent – although in practice rather more, because in 2004 then incumbent Peter King ran as an independent. Turnbull is locked in battle with lawyer and Waverley mayor George Newhouse. Liberals say Turnbull’s polling is good. Labor polling a few weeks ago had Turnbull on 47 per cent, Newhouse 42 per cent and Greens 11 per cent.

On those figures, Newhouse would still win the seat if he received 73 per cent of Greens preferences. Labor was shown to have received 74.8 per cent of Greens preferences at the 2001 election in a study by the Parliamentary Library.

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.

64 comments on “Grattan on Wentworth”

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  1. For so long the Greens have been ignored in the polls and serious discussions about the future direction our country could take.

    In Wentworth and across the country the Greens play an important role in deciding who wins particular seats and government, yet the Greens are hardly mentioned and the poll results of the Green are vertually ignored.

    I wounder if Malcolm Turnbull is thinking about the Green vote, and how it will impact his own seat, while he decides the future of the Tamar Valley?

    Congratulations William for bringing to our attention the ever increacing importance of the Greens in Australian polatics.

  2. Whilst the Greens are the same part of 3 or 6 years ago their voters are not. Primarily, they will be attracting a good part of the old Democrat vote. The Democrat TPP used to divide up 65/35 but you can’t be sure that the part that moves to the Greens will do the same. Of course those figures are national not local.

    Greens are good for the conscience, they make you feel better about driving your large 4 wheel drive through the suburbs to drop your son at one of the many private schools. It allows you to give your second preferences to Liberal and declare to your friends that you didn’t vote for Turnbull.

  3. I don’t believe that the Greens captured that much of the Democrat vote. At most it was 2/3 but probably more like 1/3, with the rest splitting between ALP & Coalition (this is watching is happening with the Greens vote as the Dems vote falls away). I don’t seen any evidence the Green vote is being diluted by Liberal-leaning Democrats, and in fact of late the opposite appears to be the case. Wentworth sits across the Woollahara & Waverley Councils where Greens have a strong and effective presence (Mayoralty in Waverley last year prior to Newhouse) and where, in the state seat of Vaucluse, the Greens outpolled the ALP.

    So, while this election is having a polarising effect that is eating into all minor party vote shares, I would suggest that the Greens will have an impact in this seat. Susan Jarnason, the Greens candidate in Wentworth, has already announced the Greens will be preferencing Newhouse. Wentworth has a solid (and very active) Greens activist base so will mobilise on election day. I think it is as close as William suggests.

    On whether its about Greens feeling better as they drive 4 wheel drives to private schools, that is an assertion with no evidence. Perhaps a better measure is that the inner-city and east (in Sydney) is where the educated and professional classes tend to live and these people also have a higher likelihood of voting Green. Given that ALP & Liberal policies support private schooling and don’t support increased tarriffs/taxes on 4-wheel drive/SU vehicles I would suggest the driver ‘ifonly’ was discussing is more likely to be an ALP/Lib voter.

  4. I take issue to ifonly’s comment too ‘they make you feel better about driving your large 4 wheel drive through the suburbs to drop your son at one of the many private schools’. I vote green and I neither have a 4WD and my children do not go to private schools – wrong on both counts. I would agree that the green do pick up some of the democrat voter, but many will dispurse back to the ALP and Libs.

    As Stewart J says the green activist base is strong in wentworth.

  5. My immediate thought was “split those Green prefs 9 to 2”.

    That puts Newhouse on 51% to Turnbull’s 49%.

    But perhaps that’s good news for Turnbull. With national polls putting Labor’s present 2PP figure at around 55%, there’s probably still some tightening to come.

  6. It’s good news for Labor to be anywhere near the ballpark in a seat like Wentworth when there’s no special circumstances.

  7. Of course the greens did well in Vauclase for two factors.

    The Liberals did particularly well as their leader was the member and candidate.

    Labor did particularly badly because it criticised Debnam as the member for Vaucluse as there was something particularly bad about it.

    Many Labor supporters would have voted Green as a protest about the way the residents of Vaucluse had been characterised, not necessarily because they are more Green than ALP.

  8. If Turnbull loses his seat come election day, then clearly others with greater margins will have already fallen due to already mentioned reasons. Labor would almost certainly win easily if they could pick this seat up.

  9. Michael Proud says

    Of course the greens did well in Vauclase for two factors.

    The Liberals did particularly well as their leader was the member and candidate.

    The Greens also polled well in Vaucluse in 2003 state election: 17.8%;
    finishing 1st at Bondi Surf and 2nd behind the ALP at Bondi Beach (the largest booth in the electorate).

    The Liberal leader in 2003 was John Brogden – member for Pittwater.

  10. To be honest, I think Turnbull is pretty secure. John Black did some interesting analysis in Qld in 2004 where he said that redistributions made things more complex, and you had to factor in personal votes where areas now have a different sitting MP. I wouldn’t count out the possibility that some of the Labor voters that are now in Wentworth will be quite happy to vote for Malcolm Turnbull, as they’re not rusted on Labor voters, they are quite happy with either but have a strong personal appreciation of Tanya Plibersek, a high-profile, active MP I like a lot even though I’m a Grayndlerite and distinctly not a Labor supporter.

  11. o-oh, Turnbull, just approved the go ahead for the environmentaly disasterious pulp mill in Tasmania.
    That must be worth 1-2% of the vote in Wentworth.
    What’s the swing needed 4-5%??
    Whats next? approve MEGGA marina in Rose Bay?
    Another 1-2%.
    Where is the nuclear power plant going Centenial Park? South Head??
    Wentworth looks like a gift for the ALP,—– with Green preferances of course.

  12. Malcolm Turnbull has no intention of being a “oncer” -he is aiming for the top. No doubt he has been thumbing his AEC handbook on campaign funding, and figuring how best to spend up big to retain his seat. Whether the anti-Howard sentiment that shows no sign of abating will impact enough on Wentworth to turf out Turnbull only time will tell. Greens preferences will no doubt make it a tight contest, but my view is that Turnbull will buy his way back in.

  13. I think the presence of a reasonably strong Green vote in this electorate will influence the outcome. However, it would surprise me if many of the poll respondents did not change their vote between going to bed on election eve and waking up on election day morning, and Turbull’s primary will likely rise. I predict he will have a hard fight on his hands, but win the seat.

    As for Greens and 4WDs, last time I checked, my chosen mode of transport only had two wheels.

  14. James, you may take issue and we may never know how an individual votes but the AEC publishes how their vote is distributed as they knock out each candidate.

    For example,
    in North Sydney, when the greens were knocked out 60% of their vote went to the Liberals.
    Bennalong 56% went to the Liberals
    Wentworth 44% lib, 19% independent and 35% Labor
    Bradfield 69% Liberal
    Warringah 60% Liberal

    Statewide green preference may flow to Labor but doctors wives know who they want in charge.

  15. ifonly: your figures are just plain wrong. Go check the AEC site again. I think you’re looking at the progressive totals of the remaining candidates. On my inspection of the AEC site, it was 88% to ALP in Bennelong, 72% in Wentworth (with 17% to King), 82% in North Sydney and 78% in Warringah.

    For example, in Warringah, when the Green was excluded with 15% of votes, Abbott was on 57% and Beattie (ALP) was on 28%. With Greens excluded this went to 60.5% Abbott, and 39.5% Beattie:

  16. (Obviously, I meant I live in Grayndler, not making any comment on the man after whom the seat is named. FWIW, my 2PP vote goes Labor federally and Liberal at State level).

  17. Also, the Greens won’t have much effect on the outcome. There’s the odd Liberal voter who votes Green, but their 2PP will go back to Turnbull. The only way these supposedly-vital Greens preferences make a difference is if a Liberal voter decides to vote Green 1, ALP 2, or some other number lower than the Lib candidate.

    Said voter who does that has made a conscious decision to put the ALP ahead of the Liberals and the first preference doesn’t make a lick of difference.

  18. Stewart J is correct. In North Sydney 82.3% of Green preferences went to Labor. Reading across the wrong line of figures is an easy mistake to make, I’ve done it myself.

  19. Adam and Stewart J

    Is it not a little ambiguous to say that 82.33% of the Green preferences (in North Sydney in 2004) went to labor. What the AEC web page shows is that 82.33% of those people who had put Green before the major parties, then went on to put ALP before Lib? So this includes some voters (actually about 1 in 6 of the total left for Greens) who are better described as Democrats or supporters of the independent.

    In fact, possibly a much greater proportion of people who vote Green 1, voted Labor 2.


  20. “Barry Says:
    August 20th, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Michael Proud says

    The Greens also polled well in Vaucluse in 2003 state election: 17.8%;
    finishing 1st at Bondi Surf and 2nd behind the ALP at Bondi Beach (the largest booth in the electorate).

    The Liberal leader in 2003 was John Brogden – member for Pittwater.”

    Barry, I agree with you – the point I was making was that the ALP did very badly in this seat for a number of reasons. One of the benefits was the switch to the Greens, who got a bit under 3% swing on primaries, whereas the ALP lost around 7%.

    I suspect that the greens are unlikely to come second again. But I could also envision a time when the greens replace the ALP in a number of conservative seats.

  21. Indeed. Looking at North Sydney and Bradfield, where there only 5 candidates contesting each seat (unlike the others which had between 7 and 11), you see between 75%-82% flowing to the ALP from the Greens, including the votes of the 2 other candidates. In the case of North Sydney that included a Dem and an independent, but in Bradfield it was an FFP candidate and a Dem. Interestingly, in that seat the Greens got 20% of the FFP 2nd preference, which was more than the ALP! Potentially the vote may have flowed at a higher rate, but as Adam points out we can’t know that short of scrutineering every vote cast at the time. As we don’t know who voted for the Independent or the Dem it is impossible to know what they did – although conceiveably they could have been more pro-ALP than the Greens (even if somewhat unlikely!).

  22. Hey Dr Good, I hadn’t seen that page before! Very interesting indeed!! Thanks for that. (and you were right, there was a dilution).

  23. Adam and other experienced election watchers,

    Turnbull won’t be short of cash to throw around his electorate. I noted someone elsewhere talked about Bob Day in SA giving away Bob day pens and so on.

    Does having a big personal stash of mullah {$$$} really make a difference in the outcome of a seat when the Federal issues are STRONG in the mind of the voters in that seat ?

    Discuss [please] in the context of Wentworth, Wentworth cf Bob Day’s tilt in SA, or in the national context.

  24. Primaries at 47 to Turnbull and 41 to Newhouse, probably won’t do it for the ALP because of the uncertainties of preferences.

    The ALP would really want 43/42 with Turnbull no more than 46 to be reasonably confident of taking the seat.

  25. I hate that! I make a great point and it is from the wrong figures!!!

    OK try these…..they completely fail to prove my point so please feel free to ignore them. These are the real preference flows from Greens

    10.79 Wentworth Liberal
    12.48 Bennelong Liberal
    17.67 North Sydney Liberal
    24.66 Bradfield Liberal
    71.88 Wentworth Australian Labor Party
    75.34 Bradfield Australian Labor Party
    82.33 North Sydney Australian Labor Party
    87.52 Bennelong Australian Labor Party

  26. In Wentworth.
    Turnbull is reported to have committed over $1,000,000 to his campaign.
    Labor have admitted to spending $100,000.
    While the Greens are to budget for $16,000.
    Are there any hospitals that need a bit of pork for their barrel, now’s the time to make your pitch.
    says it all

  27. ifonly

    If you look at the AEC TPP preference flow pages I mentioned above
    the real figures are:

    12.13 Wentworth Liberal
    11.25 Bennelong Liberal
    15.97 North Sydney Liberal
    22.49 Bradfield Liberal
    87.87 Wentworth Australian Labor Party
    77.51 Bradfield Australian Labor Party
    84.03 North Sydney Australian Labor Party
    88.75 Bennelong Australian Labor Party

  28. My gut feeling is that Wentworth will be a very hard seat for Labor to win, due to the nature of the area, and the Peter King effect distorting the level of Liberal support previously.

    But Newhouse will be a well-known candidate for the ALP, and I think the greens will campaign very hard against Turnbull. There are a lot of greens on the ground in inner Sydney, and they may go Turnbull in a big way because he’s the federal Environment Minister. Issues like the Federal conditional approval for a pulp mill in Tasmania could get a pretty big airing.

    The preference figures outlined by others show that Greens preferences will go pretty strongly to the ALP. And I can see areas like Bondi Beach voting a strong shade of Green.

    Incidentally, those preference figures don’t augur that well for John Howard either. He won’t get many flows from the Greens at all, and I imagine there’d be a fair Green vote to be tapped in Bennelong.

    I think buckets of money can help a candidate a lot, if it’s spent in sensible ways, on things like direct mailouts and local newspapers ads directly countering attacks on the candidate.

    But what would help Turnbull most of all is if the Libs dumped Howard and he became leader. The Wentworth electorate would flock to him, just as Howard gets more local voter support that a Liberal in a seat like his should.

  29. Turnbull can spend $10m or $100m, if there is a big swing on across metro Sydney, it won’t save him. There are only so many leaflets you can stuff in people’s letterboxes. What’s he going to do, buy TV time? If he spends too extravagantly, that will become an issue in itself.

    Having said that, I agree with those who say that Wentworth is stronger for the Libs than it looks, partly because of the distorting effect of King’s candidacy on the 2004 figures, and partly because Turnbull will be able to win over some voters in the areas added to the seat. As well as money, Turnbull does have profile and ability, and even some charm, and this will count for something. The real margin is probably 4 or 5%. So he is probably safe unless the Sydneywide swing is more than 5%. If it is over 7%, however, he will lose.

    But of course the purpose of the Labor tilt at Wentworth is not really to win the seat, tho that would be nice. The point is to divert Liberal time and money. If Turnbull has to spend $1m to hold his own seat, and spend the next three months door-knocking Woolloomooloo, rather than campaigning around the country, that is time and money that won’t be spent in Lindsay or Parramatta, and it will give Garrett a free hand to campaign on climate change in the marginals.

    It would be interesting to know how much the parties are spending in Bennelong.

  30. The purpose of the Labor challenge in Wentworth is to win the seat, make zero mistake about it. Let’s not overestimate how many attempts Labor are making at seats merely to “divert resources”. Eventually they have to pick a few seats to win, not merely create a bit of mischief in.

    Wentworth is the second most marginal seat in NSW (with or without the so-called King effect), where else is Labor supposed to campaign? They’re certainly not going to spend time in Fowler or Bradfield.

    Wentworth is the 9th most marginal Coalition seat (and even if u add 2% due to the King protest) that still makes it about the 15th or 16th most marginal seat (with 16 to win). Labor could well win without Wentworth but they would be foolish to disregard it out of hand. They’re not. Labor are pitching hard in Wentworth to win, no other reason.

  31. I would expect the Greens vote in Bennelong to fall somewhat (at least in the lower house), due to the fact that Andrew Wilkie is not the Greens candidate, and Maxine McKew is the ALP candidate. Thus, the anti-Howard vote will most likely go towards McKew rather than the Greens. Wentworth may be a different matter.

  32. I expect the Green vote to fall everywhere. This is a polarising election because everyone to the left of Attila the Hun wants to get rid of Howard really really badly, and so will vote Labor 1. The Garrett effect is also bringing soft Green votes back to Labor.

  33. I’m not sure we can really draw conclusions about what impact a candidate prepared to spend serious money (say, several million) might have because we haven’t seen it before in Australia. With that sort of money, for example, you could probably buy some seat-specific TV advertising, normally impossible for a city candidate (whether the party would be happy to see advertising time spent on candidates who most of the city couldn’t vote for is another question). Probably more chance of happening in Adelaide than Sydney.

    The Liberals were rumoured to have spent $300-400K in Doncaster at the last Victorian state election, which paid for something like 19 direct mail shots. What they were doing spending that sort of money in a seat totally irrelevant to their chances of actually forming a government is left as an exercise for the reader. (In any plausible Liberal government in Victoria they would hold Doncaster by a margin near or in double figures).

  34. I can’t imagine the Liberal Party agreeing to Turnbull buying Turnbull-specific TV advertising. It would cut across and undermine their national campaign, it would look extremely selfish and egocentric, it would highlight Turnbull’s fear of losing his seat, and it would raise the issue of how rich he is. All a bad look for a party trying very hard to save other Sydney area seats.

  35. Adam how do you see Garrett taking votes from the Greens? From all appearences Garrett has sold his soul and all he used to stand for. Green supporters, wether they be rusted on or not, tend to vote Green for their principled stances(tampa, refugees, Iraq). How on earth is a sell-out going to take the votes of people who like principles? Garrett if anything will have a negative impact, yet again leaving the Left with no one to turn to but the Greens.

  36. “But of course the purpose of the Labor tilt at Wentworth is not really to win the seat, tho that would be nice.”

    Are you crystal-ball gazing, Adam?

  37. I wonder if as expected the cashedupbogans/aspys/swingvoters in mortgage land vote against Howard, will the lackies in the Murdoch press and so on continue to worship them?

    Or will we go back to the ‘captains of industry/trickle down/benign elitism’? Did you see the so-called Centre for Independent Studies is bringing out speakers to talk about why elitism is justified – presumably not Christopher Pearson/David Barnett ‘elites’ though!

  38. The Garrett effect is also bringing soft Green votes back to Labor.

    And the Rudd effect is driving them away. Remains to be seen which is stronger.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Greens vote fall in lower house seats but rise in Senate seats, particularly if Rudd releases more “public interest not Greens’ interest” policies.

  39. I disagree with Martin B’s asserion that Kevin Rudd is driving Greens voters away from the ALP. I tend to credit a lot of Greens voters -not all, to be sure- with a touch more political sophistication nowdays. Many of the younger Greens voters cannot remember life in Australia under anything other than a Howard government, and they’re well aware that it is the Coalition that has dragged the country to the Right on environment and sustainability issues. On the other hand, a lot of the angrier Green ideologues have grown up a little and realised that compromise is an essential to happiness. I think they argue from an ambit position somewhere way out to the left of the ALP, but understand that Kevin Rudd has to temper his policy commitments in order not to frighten the financial market horses.

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