NSW election minus 16 days

Some happenings from the slow-motion train wreck that is the New South Wales state election campaign:

• Pauline Hanson has announced she will make yet another run for election, this time as a candidate for the New South Wales Legislative Council. This is her second tilt at this particular office, her first being in 2003 when polled an insufficient 1.8 per cent. Hanson has often been accused of running for office to access generous public funding arrangements for candidates with enough profile to clear a vote threshold, but the system in New South Wales was reformed late last year to prevent that happening (and in any case, she failed to clear the threshold in 2003). Antony Green offers a lowdown on Hanson’s electoral life and times.

• Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reported on Monday that Labor’s furniture-saving strategy involved abandoning any seat with a margin in single figures and focusing its energies on seats within the range of 10 per cent to 25 per cent. With new campaign finance laws limiting expenditure in any given electorate to $150,000, Labor reportedly plans to knock on the door of such limit in its western Sydney and Illawarra heartlands, while limiting the spend in its held seats of Blue Mountains and Heathcote to $20,000.

• The Greens have announced they will direct preferences to independent Gordon Bradbery in Wollongong. This is bad news for Labor member Noreen Hay, who was found by an Illawarra Mercury local poll last week to hold a narrow 53-47 lead over Bradbery, a local Wesley Uniting Church minister.

• Damon Cronshaw of the Newcastle Herald reports Lake Macquarie councillor Barry Johnston will run as an independent in Charlestown, where Labor member Matthew Morris will battle to defend his 14.6 per cent margin.

• Nominations close at noon today.

Meanwhile, I will continue to build on my election guide region by region and provide overviews in turn. The newest additions are from the Newcastle/Hunter region and its rural surrounds, home to a brace of seats in the low-teens margin range where the results are expected to be closest. The last time the Hunter region expressed its displeasure with Labor in a big way was with the defeat of the Unsworth government in 1988, when Newcastle and Swansea were won by independents, Cessnock fell to a Liberal and Port Stephens went within an ace of going the same way. The rebellion proved short-lived: Labor comfortably recovered the three seats it lost in 1991 and boosted its margins where they had held on.

The picture since has been of Labor security in every electorate except Port Stephens, which the 1991 redistribution rendered winnable for the Liberals. However, they were not able to fulfil their promise until the retirement of sitting member John Bartlett in 2007, when Liberal candidate Craig Baumann secured a 68-vote win. The 2007 election also saw Labor again come under assault from independents, unseating them in Lake Macquarie and running them close in Newcastle. This election represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Liberals to make more serious inroads in the Hunter region than just Port Stephens, although there is again the complication in some seats that independents might beat them to it. The seats of consequence are as follows:

Wallsend (Labor 15.6%): Wallsend covers the north-western suburbs of Newcastle, and has an unbroken record as a Labor seat going back to 1894, including when it was named Kurri Kurri from 1930 to 1968 and exclusing its abolition during the proportional representation years of 1920 and 1927. Sonia Hornery came to the seat at the 2007 election, and may have done herself some local favours by publicly opposing the privatisation of an aged care facility in her electorate, costing her her position as parliamentary secretary. The Liberals have endorsed Christopher Dolan, a paediatric nurse at John Hunter Hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit. A Newcastle councillor, Shayne Connell, is running as an independent.

Charlestown (Labor 14.6%): Charlestown succeeded the abolished seat of Kahibah in 1971; between them they have been in Labor hands since 1927, outside the interruption of an independent Labor in the early 1950s. Part of a local Labor dynasty, Matthew Morris has held the seat since 2003. His Liberal opponent is Andrew Cornwell, a veterinarian.

Cessnock (Labor 12.4%): Outside of the interruption of proportional representation between 1920 and 1927, Labor won Cessnock at every election after its creation in 1913 with the exception of 1988, when Liberal candidate Bob Roberts defeated sitting member Stan Neilly. Neilly recovered the seat in 1991, and it has been held since by Kerry Hickey. With Hickey joining the Labor exodus at the coming election, the seat will be contested for Labor by Port Stephens council officer Clayton Barr. Barr is opposed by councillors galore: mayor Alison Davey for the Nationals, James Ryan for the Gerens and independents Allan McCudden and Dale Troy, who was elected to council as a Liberal.

Swansea (Labor 10.8%): Formerly held by the notorious Milton Orkopoulos, currently serving 13 years for offences including sexual assault of a minor, Swansea stayed in Labor hands with Robert Coombs’s comfortable win in 2007. This time Coombs faces not only Liberal candidate and Lake Macquarie deputy mayor Garry Edwards, but also independent Gillian Sneddon – a former staffer to Orkopoulos who informed police of a call she had received from a man claiming to have been abused by him at the age of 15. Sneddon has since been seeking compensation for harrassment and bullying she claims to have been subjected to in the office afterwards.

Newcastle (Labor 1.2% versus Independent): Newcastle has been held by Labor for all but one term since proportional representation was abolished in 1927. The exception once again involved the Unsworth government’s defeat in 1988, when it fell to Newcastle Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and independent candidate George Keegan. Current member Jodi McKay was only just able to hold off further independent challenges after sitting member Bryce Gaudry was dumped for preselection in 2007. Lord Mayor John Tate polled 24.1 per cent of the vote last time, while Gaudry himself managed 21.0 per cent. Tate is again taking the field, and McKay does not appear well placed to hold him off.

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.

52 comments on “NSW election minus 16 days”

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  1. Thanks for the further guide William. A few of these seats are examples of the sorts of presumed safe seats that will probably fall on current numbers.

    Here is another example of the sort of behaviour that has merited NSW State Labor’s execution:
    [Minister ran down clock for approvals

    JUST hours before the NSW government moved into caretaker mode last week, the Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, approved four separate developments at Barangaroo, dealing another blow to critics attempting to stall the project.

    After granting the approvals on March 3, just before the caretaker period began at midnight, Mr Kelly waited until yesterday to announce the go-ahead for all completed development applications at the site.]

    The applications were the subject of an ongoing court case. Perhaps the approvals were reasonable and the court case may have been won on merit by the developer anyway. But, as has been too often the case, the process, and perception, were appalling.

  2. Why has there been so little spilt on UNFUNDED STATE SUPER during the election run-up? Barry O’Farrell briefly mentioned the $34,000,000,000,000 hole a week ago but has kept quite about it since. You’d think that this would be front page news – especially before a state election. Not to mention the fact that the poor sods who work at universities – not all professors, mate – are tipped to get no more super payments from 2014. Well, according to the “Pooled fund annual report 2009-10” carried out by the fund’s own accountants Mercer (Australia). As far as I can make out it’s a case of the usual Commonwealth/State ping-pong: “… negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government in respect of the responsibility for the Universities’ superannuation have been continuing for a very long time without resolution”. Berlin 10/3/11

  3. This is a bit like watching Canterbury play Cronulla, only without the suspense. What would be much more useful to voters at this point is some idea of what’s on offer in the Legislative Council upper house. Independents? Minor parties? Someone to do a bit of reviewing of bills and chucking out the dumbest ones? That is, if anyone actually remembers that we even have an upper house.

  4. Socrates – For me the big question about these last-minute fire sales and development approvals is not what it will do to the polls but whether ICAC will take any interest. They didn’t so much as blink at Bob Carr so I’m a bit confused what ICAC is good for, other than bringing down the man who created it.

  5. A tip for the people of NSW would be to watch the vast number of broken promises in the 120 days since big Ted got the job in Victoria.

  6. freecountry

    I don’t pretend to know enough about NSW Law to answer the question re: ICAC. Most state planning acts have discretionary powers for ministers so I have no evidnce that the actions by Kelly are illegal. But certainly to take an action that prejudiced teh outcome of a court case, whilt it was still in progress, would normally at least be challengable. However such appeals take time, and money, so even if the objector group has the cash, by then the election will be over. Hence my view of this as a very cynical use of those powers.

    In town planning and transport planning, my view of NSW Labor in government is no better than my view of Joh Bjelke Petersen.

  7. The result is a foregone conclusion, but you’ve got to give Kristina Keneally some credit for showing up, day after day, to promote what is essentially a hopeless cause.
    I really feel that she can’t be blamed for the landslide defeat to come.

  8. Charlestown was extremely close in 1988. So much so that the wonderfully named Hon. Dick Face conceded defeat and was packing up his office before late votes saved his skin.
    ( I only wrote this because I like mentioning the members name)

  9. shepherdmarilyn

    In NSW, we are used to broken promises, we have been promised the NW railline about 6 times by the ALP now, and it was never built, so to prevent embarrasment, the ALP switch the election promise to a light rail at the last election and that was canned after the election too. So to bring up broken promises in NSW would actually increases the Liberal vote, you might try

    Agreed. KK has actually done well, since the electricity sale, she really should have been saved for a winnable election somewhere

  10. Peter Phelps – And just what will you do in the upper house other than the party’s bidding? We’ll have a Liberal government, like we should have had in 2007, and that’s good. But we have a bicameral parliament for a reason, and I expect the upper house to do a bit of checking the fine print–out in the open where I can see it, not just in the backrooms of the party caucus–because no matter how much I may prefer a particular team, I still don’t entirely trust it. What have you got to offer, other than the political equivalent of rear fire support for a main force which doesn’t really need it?

  11. As it would seem that Labor is in danger of losing any seat with a margin of 20% & under, perhaps the real surprise on election night might be them actually managing to hold a seat like Monaro LOL

  12. shepherdmarilyn:
    [… so to prevent embarrasment, the ALP switch the election promise to a light rail at the last election and that was canned after the election too.]
    Actually it was Peter Debnam of the Liberals who promised, among other things, to extend the Light Rail to Circular Quay, and I think Dulwich Hill. The ALP transport plan for the entire state of NSW consisted of the Inner West Metro and the Victoria Road upgrades around Drummoyne.

    I had a tough time figuring out why anyone voted Labor in the 2007 NSW election. Everything you can say about them now, people should have been saying about them then. They were already by that stage a complete joke.

  13. Labor were clearly on the slide in 2007 but hadn’t quite plumbed the current depths, and compared to the shambolic state of the Liberals, Iemma was able to project a veneer of competence.

    Plus of course in 2007 state Labor still had John Howard to kick around.

  14. Questions for Antony Green or Ben Raue or someone like that:
    – What sort of an advantage does the #1 position on a ballot paper give?
    – Under OPV, what sort of donkey vote is there – numbering down – compared to a full preferential election?

  15. I’m going to give this candidate the benefit of the doubt and assume some-one who knows me has a fine sense of humor subscribing me as member of the WA Branch of the labor party to a NSW lib candidates campaign, but if it is merely incompetence my you are going to enjoy your next government. For the record I didn’t need to delete my first name for the purposes of anonimity, the candidate thought it better to send a personal email but then forget to use the (first name) field:

    Dear ,

    There are only two weekends to go until the state election on March 26th. I know I have asked a lot of you the past few weeks, but we are nearly there. There simply isn’t a more important seat to the state election than that of Coogee – Labor have gripped it firmly since 1973.

    And that’s why I’m asking you to join me in a little bit of history this weekend, and bring a friend to the Coogee Beach promenade at 11am this Saturday

    To remind you what I believe this campaign is all about, I’m standing for the seat of Coogee for three main reasons: Firstly, our local transport and traffic situation is a disgrace, which is the direct result of the apathy and ineptitude of the state government. This matters, not just because of the teeth-grinding frustration of trying to get about but also because of the environmental impact – and the knock-on effect on our quality-of-life.

    Secondly, Anti-Social Behaviour has got out of control. Again, the state government has done nothing. But on the other hand if we listened to the Greens, we would be closing pubs at 9pm and wringing our hands at evil publicans, punishing the responsible and the irresponsible alike. I want to see a balanced, thought-through approach that tackles the WHOLE problem; from the individual right through to those few, problem hotels and pubs.

    Perhaps most of all though, this campaign is about accountability to YOU. I completely understand the cynicism people feel about politics (and much as we might love to, we can’t blame it all on the state Labor government). People have almost become immunised to it: the twenty two Labor MPs who resigned in the run-up to the election; the disgrace of stuffed-envelope property deals shielded from public view by Part 3A; botched, expensive privatisations; a revolving door of leaders, as power-brokers attempt to spin their way out of the self-inflicted malady. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    That’s why I’m asking YOU to be a part of this. Coogee is one of the best-educated, best-informed electorates in the country. I know this; I have lived here all my life. And I’m sure we can fix this together.

    Will you invite a friend to come down to the Coogee Beach promenade at 11am this Saturday?

    Don’t believe what the media tells you – This election is not a ‘done deal’ by any means. The power is in YOUR hands, not theirs. We all want to see an end to the corruption, we all want better public transport and action on alcohol abuse, but you can’t get it if you don’t vote for it. Which is why I’m asking for your involvement this weekend.

    The Greens are hopeless opportunists – pre-occupied with organising boycotts on Israel and China, they have done nothing to support Light Rail for Randwick and have NO policy on law & order in NSW at all. Meanwhile, Labor is relying on a Coogee machine that has served it so well for 38 years.

    I’m asking YOU. Please forward this email to your friends or contacts. Maybe they are not much interested in politics, but perhaps they would like to register their support for cleaner, greener transport; or safer streets; or just a change in the direction in our state. Will you ask them to join us?

    Bring a friend to the Coogee Beach promenade at 11am this Saturday.

    Thanks so much for being part of this campaign,


    I’m hoping some angry greens and some sad labor members can head down there for a bit of fun, let him know that local traffic is almost always a local government issue, and if anti-social behaviour is the areas next biggest problem then they don’t have too many problems.

  16. Interesting to note he is keen on honesty and accountability but tells a massive porky about the election not being a done deal, even Tony wouldn’t say something as stupid and dishonest as that … oh wait yes he would, he is from NSW too isn’t he?

  17. I don’t remember that rule Gus but I do clearly remember every second rule of the bruces would be relevant to his dislike of the greens.

  18. isn’t that rule number 2 and 4 and 6? i will need to look this up but we were referring to the same thing – only you were much smarter about it …

    and how right you were …

    Fourth Bruce No right, well gentlemen, I’ll just remind you of the faculty rules: Rule one – no pooftahs. Rule two, no member of the faculty is to maltreat the Abbos in any way whatsoever – if there’s anybody watching. Rule three – no pooftahs. Rule four – I don’t want to catch anyone not drinking in their room after lights out. Rule five – no pooftahs. Rule six – there is no rule six! Rule seven – no pooftahs. That concludes the reading of the rules, Bruce.

    First Bruce This here’s the wattle – the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle or you can hold it in your hand.

  19. Was Socrates in that song?

    I can’t think of anything relevant to rhyme with that apart from ‘Meg Lees’ and I think Soc would kill me for that.

  20. Well Labour in NSW apart from being incompetent, can thank the geniuses of the NSW Right in Sussex st for their presents problems, also for a lot of Federal Labours as well,I hope after this debacle the party moves in and boots the lot of them.
    Along with the AWU mafia in QLD including Paul Howes

  21. Free Country,

    I think u got confuse, in NSW we have a light rail to Pyrmont, and Iemma/Reese/Keaneally wanted to extend the Light rail, which is not Liberal policy

    The ALP was better at putting lipstick on a pig, we present Iemma, the renewal of NSW… too bad, they tried it again with KK, unfortunitely KK have some ability, but most in NSW just see the pig now and will feast in 2 weeks


  22. Jasmine

    In this case re-public transport, he is probably right, since the election of the ALP, there has been around 1 million new Sydneysiders, during that time, no new train line had been built or planned (as kevin Rudd tell us) and the ALP decided to reduce the amount of trains every hour, so they can report more trains on time

    So for trains, there are now less trains in Sydney then 15 years ago, and there are 1 more million people on the road.

  23. Ah the MP Philosopher’s song, one of my favourites too 🙂
    [There’s nothing Neitsche couldn’t teach ya bout the raising of the wrist,
    Socrates himself was permanently pissed…]
    Well they may have exaggerated there, but Xanthippe and I do have a well stocked cellar 😉

    As for comparisons to Meg Lees, I am against killing on any grounds other than self-defence, but this suggestion does test that principle!

    We could no doubt come up with a modified version of the MP philosopher’s song with various politician’s names insertd instead. We could do it for journos too … that would be accurate.

  24. [So for trains, there are now less trains in Sydney then 15 years ago, and there are 1 more million people on the road.]
    Very true Dovif. We have done more to improve rail services in Adelaide than NSW Labor has done while in power in Sydney. And Adelaide is about the size of the additional population you refer to.

    Not only has NSW Labor done little, lied, and cancelled many projects, but they have blocked private proposals that would have helped, notably the Macquarie proposal to put a fast Metro to Parramatta.

    The mismanagement is even worse than the indecision – high costs, inquiries lead nowhere, corruption found without prosecutions, and safety breaches. Just aweful.

  25. The information I am getting is that there will be massive swings away from the ALP in the subrubs.

    I lives in an electorate with an 18% margin, and the ALP stop campaigning in the seat about a week ago.

    There have been about a 5-6% drift in the polling away from the ALP in the last week and the ALP’s resources are now focus on seats in the 20 to 30% 2PP range

    Both Nathan Reese and Carmel Tebbett are way behind, which will be sad loss for everyone in NSW

    This will be an unprecedented election

  26. This is depressing, if you’re a Labor supporter.
    At this rate, assuming he wins Blacktown, Robbo will be leading a lower house team of less than 10 MPs, & the Nationals would have more MPs.

  27. You poor buggers, having to put up with a rampant “Pushy Pru” Goward, who used to run the Adelaide ALP Sub-Branch back in the 1970s.

  28. [Both Nathan Reese and Carmel Tebbett are way behind, which will be sad loss for everyone in NSW]


    far too much sentimentality from you. Rees was OK, maybe oven goodish and deserves another spot in the shadow cabinet.

    But Carmel Tebbutt is nothing but a seat-warmer. As Environ Minister she made ZERO decisions and returned boxes and boxes of reports and policies she was supposed to sign off on, back to the department.

    Sartor has made more decisions as Enviro minister in three months than the previous 5 ministers did in 3.75 years.

    It is really a shame that he missed out on becoming Premier by one vote.

  29. I am guessing irony in Dovif’s observation about Carmel Tebbutt. Rees will be a loss although I think he has a good guy dealt bad hand factor which might save him.

  30. No I liked Carmel, the few time I heard her speak, I through she made good sense.

    Agreed Rees was a good guy, who wanted to make a difference, he probably was the only one who could have saved the furniture, but electricity privatisation was a step too far for the Unions… still it beats the KK model we have at the moment

  31. Socrates @ 41

    Sorry I could have googled it, or have played my record but the record player is still packed in a box from our last house move. I could do a version on South Aussie pollies and mention their peccadilloes, not so confident on Federal ones. Give me some time and I’ll do it.

    Back onto NSW politics…

    OMG, the massacre is about to begin.

    The ALP could lose a number of seats to the Liberals, or where there are decent independents with a profile and a campaign, them too.

    Yes, the ALP could be stuck with a cricket team and they could have avoided the severity of the calamity if they had simply admitted they were terrible and they will lose…when will they finally admit they will get annihilated so they will invoke some sympathy from people who don’t really want to vote non-Labor but will…some voters are dying for an excuse.

    Why can’t they admit the truth?

    KK and friends in Sussex Street, it’s coming down to the last chance to save enough seats to be able to be an efficient opposition. Even if you don’t care about that, it’s time to save some asses…do it for your own sakes, I’m quite happy for you to be mown down like the unarmed Russian soldiers of WWI especially if it means more Independents, I’m just trying to give some logical, effective advice.

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