Seat du jour: Bennelong

The Prime Minister’s electorate of Bennelong covers the northern shore of the Parramatta River from Gladesville west to Ermington, extending north through Denistone and Ryde to Epping. While the Ryde area has leaned to Labor in the post-war era, riverside suburbs to the south and east have made Bennelong a fairly safe seat for the Liberals since its creation in 1949. In this time it has had two members, Sir John Cramer until 1974 and John Howard thereafter. The narrowest Liberal margins were 0.8 per cent at the 1961 election, 2.4 per cent in 1972, 4.5 per cent in 1974 (when Howard was elected) and 3.2 per cent in 1993. However, redistributions and demographic changes have steadily weakened the Liberals’ position. When John Howard became member, the electorate extended east through Lane Cove to Chatswood and the Howard family abode in Wollstonecraft. This area was progressively lost as the electorate was redrawn with the expansion of parliament in 1984, the abolition of Dundas to the west in 1993 and most recently with the loss of a New South Wales seat going into the current election. Bennelong has taken on its share of the burden by absorbing Labor-voting Ermington and Melrose Park, previously in Parramatta, along with a smaller Liberal-voting area in Beecroft from Mitchell to the north. The three redistributions respectively cut the Liberal margin by 2.9 per cent, 3.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent.

Bennelong two-party booth votes from 2004, with suburbs colour-coded to show the proportion of residents whose dwellings are being purchsed. The electorate-wide figure is 28.0 per cent compared with 32.2 per cent nationally.

The other major change in Bennelong has been an influx of immigrants from China, Hong Kong and Korea, with the electorate ranking second only to safe Labor Watson for number of persons born in China. In holding the line against this influx, John Howard has found himself the only Liberal MP holding a seat in the top 20 list for non-English speakers. As indicated on the map below, the Asian communities are most heavily concentrated around Epping, Eastwood and Marsfield in the electorate’s centre and north, where particularly big swings to Labor were recorded in 2004. In the wake of Kevin Rudd’s show-stopping performance at APEC, George Megalogenis of The Australian wrote of “an increasing confidence in Labor ranks, and a sense of dread within the Government, that many of Bennelong’s more recent Chinese arrivals are favourably disposed to Rudd”. Megalogenis had earlier written of Labor research detailing the seat’s complex ethnic mix: This decade Bennelong has seen a rapid influx of new, mostly Asian migrants with the suburb of Eastwood transformed into a vibrant Korean community. Chatswood – split between the divisions of Bradfield and North Sydney – is another suburb on the north shore where there has been a concentration of new migrants in recent years. In Chatswood these migrants are mostly Chinese and Japanese … It’s not the case that the resulting new electors are ALP voters – at the last federal election they broke slightly in favour of the Libs, but they have replaced generally WASPs, who tended to break two to one against the ALP.

More broadly, the electorate is highly sensitive to economic concerns, with George Megalogenis of The Australian placing it high on a list of seats beset by “the double whammy of higher interest rates and capital loss”.

Bennelong booth swings from 2004, with suburbs colour-coded to show the proportion of residents who speak Cantonese, Mandarin or Korean. The electorate-wide figure is 17.6 per cent compared with 2.6 per cent nationally.

Talk of a Howard defeat first emerged from the realms of idle speculation at the 2004 election, when anti-Iraq war activists made the electorate the focus of their “Not Happy John” campaign. Office of National Assessments whistleblower Andrew Wilkie ran against Howard as the candidate of the Greens, prompting talk that he might secure Howard’s defeat either directly or by feeding preferences to Labor’s Nicole Campbell. Wilkie ultimately finished well to the rear of Campbell with 16.4 per cent of the vote, with Howard going untroubled on 49.9 per cent. The two-party margin was nonetheless shaved from 7.8 per cent to an uncomfortable 4.3 per cent, a swing not unlike those in the Liberals’ other inner Sydney seats of North Sydney and Wentworth. This time the high-profile candidate comes from the Labor camp, in the person of veteran ABC political journalist Maxine McKew. Talk of McKew entering Labor politics first emerged in 2001, when party heavyweights proposed moving Julia Irwin to the state upper house so McKew could be accommodated in Fowler. Speculation reached a new pitch when McKew resigned from the ABC last December without announcing plans for her future. The bombshell announcement that she would run in Bennelong came in February, a decision influenced by the calculations of McKew’s partner of 17 years, former Labor national secretary Bob Hogg. Hogg was recenty quoted by Imre Salusinszky of The Australian saying the plan was preferable to taking a safe seat as it would leave McKew “not owing any group or sub-group or individual for the privilege of being the candidate”.

Two-party vote recorded in Bennelong booths at the March state election. Two-party figures were not available from the electorate of Epping, so estimates have been derived from upper house figures. Suburbs are colour-coded to indicate median family income, which is $1510 across the electorate compared with $1171 nationally.

Galaxy (4/11, 800) 52 48 47 46
Morgan (19/2, 394) 55 45 42.5 41.5
Galaxy (13/5, 800) 52 48 47 44
Galaxy (12/8, 800) 53 47 47 44
Morgan (17/9, 472) 53 47 45.5 42.5

Five Bennelong polls have been published since McKew’s announcement, which have pointed with remarkable consistency to a narrow victory for Labor. These are shown on the table to the left, with the number after the date showing the sample size. In the first week of the campaign, Imre Salusinszky wrote in The Australian that Liberal internal polling confirmed these results, showing McKew’s two-party vote in the low 50s. In August, Michelle Grattan wrote in The Age that “Liberal sources” considered Howard to be in greater danger than Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth. As ever, Dennis Shanahan of The Australian offers a more encouraging view for the Coalition, reporting half way through the campaign that the seat “would appear to be safe, at least according to party sources on both sides”. Howard’s difficult position has had many noting the precedent of the only previous Prime Minister to have lost his seat, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, who lost Flinders in 1929 as part of an electoral debacle which resulted from disastrously unpopular industrial relations laws. A more hopeful precedent is the 1972 election, when many were tipping Billy McMahon would lose his seat of Lowe, then held by a margin of 4.9 per cent. McMahon was able to limit the swing to 1.9 per cent, half the statewide average. His government was nonetheless defeated.

NOTE: This item was previously published last week on my Crikey blog, which didn’t get past the experimental stage. The most recent plan was to junk their blog architecture and use WordPress instead, but even that might be too hard at this late stage. I will start investigating alternative hosting arrangements in light of today’s technical problems.

ANOTHER NOTE: I know this is a big ask, but please keep comments on this thread tangentially related to Bennelong. More general discussion should be directed to the other threads.

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.

210 comments on “Seat du jour: Bennelong”

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  1. Look at those numbers for ALP TPP over 12 months: 52 55 52 53 53

    Just like Possums point regardin the national poll numbers – rock solid. No movement in a year.

    Trust your instruments.

  2. Currently on my 4th (!) Maxine sign. I keep putting them up. They keep getting ripped down. I get a new one. Cycle repeats.

    The local ALP branch must have a million of the things stockpiled.

  3. I am in Bennelong. I know someone working in the McKew campaign (although actually I am good friends with people in the Howard campaign office in Bennelong too, which is an odd situation to be in).

    I think Howard will win, slightly, because of the demonstrated tendancy for ther Australian electorate to play it safe when they enter the polling booth, despite what they told the pollster last week. This might just be the 1 or 2% Howard needs.

    I hope I am wrong.

  4. Yep, as I thought. And it is relevant.


    It’s getting all so hard.

    Keeping up with the posts.

    Keeping up with the Last Launch of the about to be Marie Celeste 11.
    Keeping up with the Liberal Sub Prime Minister/s.

    Watching Four Corners.

    Might have to employ botox myself, the concentration lines are becoming deeper.

    Now I see an email from the OZ on line pollster, asking me to continue in their online qualitative polling, this time on the Launch of the funeral pyres.

    Tricky, seeing as I could barely bring myself to hear or see!

    Probably means I have to watch TV, listen to Laura Tingle on Philip tonight, and/or read all the posts.

    To deliver any kind of coherent response. By midday, Tuesday.

    Oh, and worse! Laws is on Denton.

    Come on, Philip!

    Okay, that’s done.

    Now for Lateline.

  5. On the subject of media bias. Did anyone catch the 4.00pm bulletin on Channel 7? The presenter asked the NewsLimited stooge who was providing Newspoll analysis whether Howard could still win. He replied “well if WE can pull back a couple of point per week between now and the election and get to 48% TPP then yes WE can win.” What a tosser! The female presenter looked to be highly embarrassed.

  6. Well, I wonder how that story which just ran on Lateline re. a long term Asian visa holder being locked up for 5 years and losing his wife and son (who was born here) when they were sent back to South Korea might play in Bennelong? BTW, it turned out he should never have been detained.

    Just off topic, that Overington thing is a disgrace. Even by GG standards, they’ll have to at least stand her down from the campaign reporting/ comment, won’t they?

  7. I’m still recovering from hearing about the Tran case as related on Lateline. I’ll ask my wife tomorrow (she’s Vietnamese-Chinese and is working tonight) if either the Vietnamese or Chinese press have mentioned the case. I might check also with her brother, who lives in Balwyn – one of the many Asians in that bible-bashing Mongrel for Immigration’s seat. It would be sweet if Andrews lost Menzies. It’s at times like these I wish I too belived in eternal damnation. Having the bastard lose his seat is no decent revenge for what he, Ruddock and the rest of the vicious, gloating, wedge-happy, feral swine have perpetrated.

  8. Malcolm Mackarras at the beginning of the year predicted that JWH would lose his seat. He reasoned that once the Bennelong voters realized that the coalition was likely to lose, they would vote for Mckew to avoid a by-election.

    Now that JWH has announced his retirement sometime in his next term (if re-elected) there is even more reason to vote Mckew to avoid a by-election. IMHO Mckew will win Bennelong.

  9. Mr Squiggle – I am interested in your comment that you would never vote Labor again because of what happened in the early 90s. I have never understood that kind of viewpoint. At what point do you think one should let bygones be bygones? There’s noone left in Labor 2007 from Labor 1993, and it’s not like the world or domestic economies are in a similar position.

    I have always felt I would be willing to change sides based on policy and competence, regardless of what has happened in the past. Hence although I generally support Labor ahead of Liberal, I would consider voting Liberal once Howard etc has left. I would have happily voted Brogden verses Carr/Iemma (and probably might yet support O’Farrell), despite the fact I didn’t like Greiner/Fahey.

    Intentional unfair rememberences of history bother me, I suppose. As does selective history – like when Howard says Liberal means surplus and Labor defecit. It didn’t when he Howard was Treasurer (4/5 defecit). Or when he says that interest rates are always lower under Liberal governments. Based on what evidence? The average cash rate was lower under Whitlam than Fraser so that’s not true.

    I mean, how far do you have to go back to find incompetence that is so unforgivable that your electoral retribution is passed on from generation to generation? (And yes, I am after a serious answer, not just trolling!).

  10. Burgey at 109.

    Re Lateline. The Tony Tran story.

    Would affect many others, as well. Including parents and foster parents.

    No end to this persecution of any one not Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie.

    That Department is very, very sick. Its culture is clearly infectious, contagious and in need of urgent quarantine.

  11. Back to Bennelong from me sorry –

    Has Howard said that after handing over to Costello he will NOT sit out the remainder of his time on the back bench a la Beazley? It would only be a year or so.

    Why all the certainty of a by-election?

  12. Kuwashima.

    Howard has said he will retire something like 18 months into term.

    He wants to be PM.

    He wants to be PM forever.

    He will never hand it over.

    Discussion of any other is futile.

  13. This is certainly a site which attracts a lot of the scum of the feral movement, the un-Australian filth of this election.

    I hope you wither and die as the polls tighten.

    The Member for Bennelong has done all right today.

  14. 117 Hilton Says “The Member for Bennelong has done all right today” – yeah right! What is it about the obvious that eludes and/or confounds you Hilton? He’s gone daddy gone, forget the ‘fight them on the beaches’ attitude and familiarise yourself with an elegiac.

  15. I am wondering, with electors of Vietnamese and Korean background in Bennelong forming a significant voting block in these uncertain times, how the story on tonight’s Lateline about the illegal imprisonment and a series of tragedies visited upon Tony Tran by the Immigration Department under Kevin Andrews and overseen by PM John Howard of will go over.

  16. Evening bludgers.
    I have just letterboxed 500 and I am wrecked. If I ever get into parliament I am going to standardise every letterbox in the country, to make me and the posties jobs easier.

    The liberal launch was pants. Complete rubish. No maternity leave. They are now finished. Kaput. Konets. Finir. Teliomeni. Finito!!!

    The post from now should all be speculative as to how many seats and which ones. Inside info stuff.

  17. 117 Hilton. Quite misplaced.

    The scum is at the top, not here.

    The ferals can be quite pleasant, but you will need to tidy up your manners, if you hope for a reasonable reception.

    ‘Filth’ is hardly an acceptable idea.

  18. Sir Henry, it will have gone over like a plumbic dirigible, (a lovely term I came across the other day!) to anyone who doesn’t ascribe to the Brown Shirt theory of social control.

    And the Supreme Court judge dissing ASIO’s little escapade with al Haq, and all the other grotty, underhand, fear-mongering, zenophobic stunts these sc*mbags like to pull to show how big they are in the underpants, and atrophied in the heart and spirit.

    Bring it on!

  19. Howard is gone in Bennelong. At the moment all the ALP has to do is avoid mistakes and they will cruise to a win. Once that is obvious in the last week i think there will be a shift in Bennelong as people try to avoid a by-election.

    That said, I’ll be interested in the ALP campaign launch now to see if they try and match the spending. I hope they don’t, or , if they do, its on things that are relatively non-inflationary like services, infrastructure, health, education.

    Rattus’s bribe to private school fee payers is disgusting, and probably a crude wedge in waiting. I reckon the ALP will simply ignore it. The people who’s vote will be bought by the promise of $800 at some time indeterminate the future (was it core or non-core??) are probably already going to vote for him anyway. I think a lot of people will realize though, that as soon as its available their school fees will rise by something close to that amount anyway.

    oh, and Hilton at 117. You are a rude and no doubt odious creature. Crawl back into the pond and go back to bottom feeding.

    Hey, at least the scum will be floating on top come the 24th!!

    Does that make us floaters?? No, shouldn’t go there!!

  20. Hilton – you should hate John Howard as much as the rest of us.
    He has destroyed the Liberal party and it will be relegated to the dustbin of history, where you are an insignificant speck.

  21. Yes, you’re right Lath – Balwyn’s Kooyong. Still, the local papers (when I visit there) are full of ads, often with Chinese characters and all, for real estate in Doncaster etc. I wasn’t hoping to check my in-laws reaction in order to work out how they’ll vote; they’re from North Vietnam originally and endured American bombing, so wouldn’t vote for Howard in a fit. It was more a question of checking the zeitgeist in the Asian community in north-eastern Melbourne (which has many parallels with the community in Bennelong). For instance, how many Labor posters are up in the Asian groceries in Box Hill – the grocery destination for the population in both electorates.

  22. PS – more specifically related to Bennelong and psephology…How do pollsters deal with electors who don’t speak English? If the Chinese community plumps for Rudd in a big way (and by definition those with limited English will be the most impressed with his ability to shuo Putonghua) how does that get registered in an opinion poll conducted by monolingual English people over the telephone?

  23. Whether or not Howard wins Bennelong (and for that matter Turnbull in Wentworth and Hockey in North Sydney), this situation is quite incredible. had you asked me 3 years ago if the ALP and Greens would be campaigning hard in the aforementioned seats with an eye to knock off the sitting members, I would have told you to lay off the cough syrup!

    The fact that the Libs are assailed in their very strongholds points out an electorate that is fed up with them. While they may hang on to fortress Wentworth, I believe that their overall prospects are very dim indeed. I, for one, can’t wait to see them go.

    Not that I think Labor are all that much better mind you…

  24. one of the best things about this election is the times. Instead of being bombarded with most of the seats at once we will have a slow drip and absord it all. The slow release pleasure that will be like no other.
    6pm counting starts Vic, NSW, Tas
    6.30 SA starts
    7pm QU starts
    7.30 NT starts
    8pm WA starts

  25. [120
    Sir Henry Says:
    November 12th, 2007 at 11:51 pm
    I am wondering, with electors of Vietnamese and Korean background in Bennelong forming a significant voting block in these uncertain times, how the story on tonight’s Lateline about the illegal imprisonment and a series of tragedies visited upon Tony Tran by the Immigration Department under Kevin Andrews and overseen by PM John Howard of will go over.}

    Like Worchestershire Sauce in chop suey, Sir Henry. But I like Kirribilli Removal’s plumbic dirigible a lot. And your sentiments KR.

  26. What the Papers Say.

    Apart from GG and Fin Review, Libs who Launch doesn’t sound like top of the pops.

    At GG. Nothing triumphal from Lauren Wilson on the topic.
    Nicole Kidman capturing attention at second billing.

    Melb Age.
    Reporting on cops shopped.
    Melb city councillor CEO quits to go to Dubai.
    Human cloning.
    No mention of La La Launch.

    Transport Smart Card debacle.
    The Gap to be security fitted. (not surprised)
    Employee of 18 years dismissed for having 2 beers at lunchtime Safeway/Woolies.

    Fin Review
    Yes, will mention the Launch, in detail.

    Tiger airways to fly to adelaide. (to old airport, mysteriously)
    Kevin Foley really, really mad on racecourse issue.

    Hobart Mercury.
    Tassie group forming to litigate, re pulp mill.
    Some mention of a Mr Hunt.

  27. not quite Bennelong, but close, just dared Overington to open a thread on the Media Watch story, plenty of punters out there, who’d dare to give me some odds on the GG visiting this issue?

  28. 130 centaur_007, re the drip feed, I’m going to have to start on light beers otherwise I’ll be a mess before the WA numbers start flowing, oh the expectation!

  29. Crikey Whitey,

    If I was worried about a reasonable reception on this site, I would not have posted on the Vanguard News Network.

    Link to, er, “radical” website deleted – PB

    Crikey! You are not a Whitey Aussie!

  30. Hilton,
    You speak of ‘filth’, yet it ios you who link to a site that contains vitriolic references to ‘hebes’, ‘coons’, and ‘gliberals’.
    Unless you are aiming at some sort of sophomoric, post-ironic art project, perhaps you should find a political site more suited to your interests.

  31. Albert Ross Says:
    November 13th, 2007 at 12:54 am
    @ 32 Ratsak Says:

    The swingers aren’t stupid.

    Obviously you didn’t watch 4 Corners.

    Classic! So they are the people who decide what government we get! Holy Sheet Batman! Let’s sell the whole country to China now and we can all go and live in the Bahamas and drink cocktails on the beach, ‘coz we’s sunk otherwise!

    There just may have been, maybe, a three figure IQ between them, but only just. Hate to say it, but that’s why they call it ‘dumbocracy’, ‘coz they’z the few percent who make a majority a majority.

    Scary, isn’t it?

  32. @ 104 adherent Says:

    Currently on my 4th (!) Maxine sign. I keep putting them up. They keep getting ripped down. I get a new one. Cycle repeats.

    My experience which goes back many years is that this sort of thing ie. persistent vandalism by one party’s activists is symptomatic of the fact that they know they are in deep trouble. If they thought they were OK they wouldn’t bother.

    This convinced me to put my free $100 on Maxine but Sportingbet has a touch of the Pollbludgers and is down at the moment.

  33. 142 Kirribilli Removals, as I said on Poss, I do feel sorry for them, but not because they appear stupid, rather they are an apposite indication of the electoral mess JWH has created over 11 years. This is serious Mum! And people who make fun of this mob because they say ’stoopid fings’ are wits, wits with a capital F. These are not the people to get all smug about, these are the mob who we need to convince of the need for change, so to all you clever dicks that reckon those 4corners lot were a joke, pull your fuggen heads in and think about how to convince them Toad of Toad Hall has crashed the car one too many times.

  34. 142 Kirribilli Removals

    Dear oh dear. I watched Four Traumas. And it was indeed.

    Country certainly needs brain skills upgrading, though doubt chucking money at their heads will work.

    Howard’s approach, which I’m sure Hilton will appreciate, of bringing in many thousands of smart, savvy Asiatic types, each year, should do the trick for Australia.

    Assuming Howard is not around to see them off Australia’s shores. For greener fields. Taking their brilliance with them.

    Take comfort. The swingers will not decide this time, if they ever have.

  35. In reply to Sir Henry’s post in 120:

    There aren’t too many people of Vietnamese descent in Bennelong. Not sure how many Koreans would watch Lateline, though I’m sure it has/will get some play in the korean papers and have some of them asking themselves: “what if that was me/my child”.

    It should be noted that a good chunk of the koreans in the area aren’t registered voters as they haven’t enrolled, or more likely the case: not taken up australian citizenship.

    Also, if you see a chinese person under 30 years of age in Bennelong, they are probably MORE likely to be a Chinese international student than a registered voter. All of this leads me to believe that the “asian vote” in Bennelong is slightly exagerrated. The young asian professionals in the area tend to vote no differently to other young professionals: chardonnay socialist, and a few economic right-centre Lib voters.

    In response to an earlier question: the schools in/bordering Bennelong are *predominantly* single-sex public schools, all of which produce strong year 12 results. This is huge drawcard in attracting asians to the area (they know a bargain when they see one!) The wealthier parents send their boys to one of the GPS schools on this side of the river or Loreto Normanhurst, Woolwich, Pymble, et al for the girls. Not sure whether Rudd’s plan will actually have any affect, but Rudd talking about education is also welcome news to the eudcation obsessed bennelong families

    Touch and go for the result, but that $2.80 looks good value for Maxine.

  36. ps Kirribilli, are you a member of the smugocracy? (wow SIEV XI used the ‘ocracy’ suffix in an inventive way, isn’t he clever!).

  37. Robert Bollard,
    I’d be very interested if your soundings about the Chinese-speaking voters in Menzies reveal anything. I understand that the Liberals are polling Menzies. I doubt that Andrews is in real danger, but his ministerial performance can’t be helping him in a somewhat multicultural electorate.
    Just to meet William’s strictures about relevance, I reckon Maxine will win with over 51%, and that short-term Bennelong will be a comfortable hold for Labor. I’m sure that Howard’s personal vote has been a factor until now, and should still influence the numbers on Saturday week.

  38. SIEVXI: you doth protest way, way too much. Johnny Howard did not make them thick, and the only thing you’re likely to convince some people of is that a free beer is the best brand.

    More to the point, why is the ABC doing pieces like this instead of journalism? Now that IS something you can lay at the feet of the Rodent.

  39. You guys are wasting time on a Vox Pop, and meanwhile we have Howard fan Hilton giving us links to Vanguard. And why bother removing the link? We can find it easily enough, if Hilton wants to damn itself then stand back and give it more rope.

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