North Sydney by-election: December 5

A regularly updated thread following the action, if any, in the campaign for the by-election to replace Joe Hockey in the safe Liberal seat of North Sydney.

Thursday, December 3

With two days to go, the Sean Nicholls Sydney Morning Herald reports that a ReachTEL automated phone poll of 678 respondents, conducted privately by the Save Our Councils Coalition, shows Liberal candidate Trent Zimmerman on 54.7% of the primary vote after exclusion of the 15.3% undecided. Accurately interpreted, this amounts to a 6.4% drop from Joe Hockey’s vote in 2013, rather than the 14.7% identified in Nicholls’ report, which ignores the undecided component. The poll result has the Greens on 22.8%, the Christian Democratic Party on 4.1%, and everyone else on 18.3%.

Friday, November 13

The declaration of candidates and ballot paper draw was conducted today. There are 13 candidates, with the ballot paper order shown here. I have a paywalled article on the by-election in in Crikey today.

Friday, October 27

Things are moving very quickly towards a by-election to replace Joe Hockey in North Sydney, with Hockey formalising his resignation and conducting his farewell speech on Friday, the date of December 5 being set yesterday, and the Liberals conducting their preselection last night. As anticipated, the winner of the preselection was Trent Zimmerman, the party’s acting state party president and a former staffer to Joe Hockey, and more recently deputy chair of the Tourism and Transport Forum. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson is considering running as an independent, potentially following the same path as Ted Mack, a former mayor who held the seat as an independent for two terms prior to Joe Hockey’s entry to parliament in 1996. The Greens are reportedly set to endorse Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a former Australian Democrats member for the state upper house. Given the seat’s 15.9% margin, it is very unlikely that Labor will field a candidate.

The haste with which the Liberals wrapped up their preselection process has aroused controversy, which can be broadly understood in the context of factional disputes that pit an alliance between moderates and the Centre Right, who between them control the state executive, against harder-edged Right elements who are frozen out by the arrangement. James Robertson of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that registration forms were emailed to eligible preselectors on Thursday evening, with the requirement that they be submitted no latter than noon the next day. The ABC reports that the preselection meeting attracted a small group of protesters, whose complaints partly related to the state council’s recent rejection of a push by the hard Right to have preselections determined by party plebiscites, in place of the existing model where the vote is divided between branch delegates and members of the state council and state executive.

In the event, Zimmerman enjoyed a fairly modest winning margin of 47-35 over John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia. Hart was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “another ally of Joe Hockey’s”, but David Crowe of The Australian reports that conservatives threw their weight behind him, presumably as an expression of displeasure with the way things were handled. A third nominee was Helen Cartledge, a late entrant whose credentials included a doctorate in engineering and a position as science adviser in the Australian Defence Organisation, could manage only two votes.

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.

34 comments on “North Sydney by-election: December 5”

  1. Just a thought, Parliament rises before this by-election. There is the potential for a double dissolution in March as this would be before the budget, would bring the senate election dates back into line, reduce the proportion of Greens in the senate. He may well have to fight and win two elections before he sits for the first time.

  2. 3

    Because the NSW redistribution does not finish until the Wednesday 25th of February and the election has to be held of a Saturday at least 33 days after the issue of the writs, it is not practical to call a DD until the second of April (there would be a mini-redistribution of the seats to join the contiguous pair of seats with the lowest enrolment together).

    I would not count on a DD reducing the proportion/number (since the size of Parliament is not changing, bar a very messy mini-redistribution process, unless it is only the number of territory senators being increased (not likely given that that would be neutral or harmful to the Coalition`s proportion of the Senate), involving turning many pairs of 2 seats into 3 seats) of Greens in Parliament. Only 2 of the seats are under really under threat (the second Green seats in WA and SA) with potential gains (second seats in NSW and Qld and the outside chance of a seat in the ACT (if the Liberals do really badly)).

  3. Re Shellbell @ 2

    A few thoughts from a Nth Sydney resident.

    Despite (in common with most of the electorate), living in a non-ALP voting household, there are enough Green (and potential Green voters) in the house for a small straw poll on whether Chesterfield-Evans is a viable candidate.

    Whilst there is no chance of a Green victory, the component state electorates (Nth Shore and Lane Cove) are seeing the Greens battling Labour for second spot. At the last state election, Chesterfield-Evans finished second in Nth Shore, whilst in Lane Cove (notwithstanding that Lib voters have to hold their noses and think of the party when voting for him) and a low profile ALP candidate, they dropped back to 3rd.

    So in the likely absence of a Labour candidate this time, the Greens have a good chance to make a reasonable showing with a credible candidate. If the household straw poll is any guide, Chesterfield-Evans is credible for this type of electorate and voter. He is from the ‘moderate’ wing of the party, still has a bit of a profile from his long time State Leg Co membership (as an Aust Democrats member), a career outside politics and is respected from his BUGAUP activist days in the late 1970’s and 80’s.

    In short, he won’t win but he should do okay.

  4. Rambler, I’d imagine Chesterfield-Evans understands that although he can’t expect to win, the publicity he receives could be enough to help him carry the day in a subsequent election at another level of Government.

  5. Re Rambler @ 5

    You might be a Nth Sydney resident, however you don’t know your electorate very well.

    William’s own state election guide informed us that the Willoughby state electorate contributes a greater proportion to North Sydney Federal electorate than North Shore and even Lane Cove. Almost all of Willoughby is situated in North Sydney, whereas its only 60% for Lane Cove and even lower at 40% for North Shore. The effect you describe of Greens relative ALP was the same though.

    I agree with you about holding their noses in Lane Cove but I can’t come at the ALP candidate being low profile – any profile round these parts is better than normal. ALP result in Lane Cove was the highest swing against government in a metropolitan seat that it retained.

    Hopefully we see disgruntled Liberals running as Independent’s since they are so angry at pre selection fix.

  6. Up Up Sharkies, why not stick to following football where you might understand what’s happening?
    Your ‘interpretations of politics seem about as accurate as your misspelling of “its” and “Independent’s”.

  7. Peter Jones was a spear carrier for the Terrigals in the 90s. He was engaged in an outrageous branch stack in Western Sydney to get pre-selection for his then girlfriend now wife, Cathy O’Toole in Lindsay in 1998. Her hopelessness as a candidate was only matched by Belinda Neal in Robertson. Both seats were essential for Labor to win and both were sacrificed by the selection of poor candidates.

    Jones later fell out with Tripodi over his earner for assisting in the takeover of the Fairfield Calabrian Club.
    He then hijacked the No Land Tax Party and missed putting his bum on the red leather by about 4000 votes.
    He now writes occasionally very witty attacks on Joe and Eddie as #realfakeeddie

  8. On the other hand I knew ACE when he was a surgical registrar when the stories of his ineptitude were legendary. This was a relatively short part of his career.


    [Ted Mack is plotting the defeat of another Liberal Party candidate in North Sydney.
    The former federal MP, who twice won the blue-ribbon Liberal seat as an independent, is not contesting the upcoming byelection himself but will steer the campaign of Dr Stephen Ruff, a longtime senior orthopaedic surgeon at Royal North Shore Hospital.]

    This by-election might just get interesting!

  10. Ruff got 10% for North Shore at the state election compared to ACE’s 14%. Labor got 13

    I am surprised that Jillian Skinner’s 58% primary translated to 72% 2PP despite the above 3 candidates presumably having some common ground. Maybe due to a strong personal vote.

  11. As a North Sydney voter I will give my first preference to whichever Left or Centrist candidate I judge to have the best chance of ending the Liberal stranglehold on the seat. I like the look of Dr Ruff, but if as the campaign proceeds the Green Chesterfield-Evans seems the more likely chance I’ll vote for him. Ruff and Greens 1 & 2, Liberals and right wing nutjobs last (but I repeat myself?) with the others to make up the numbers in between.

  12. I received a flyer in my letterbox today in the form of a short letter by Tad Mak headed “Be independent – Vote 1 – Dr Ruff”. It doesn’t say a great deal about the Doctor or his policies, but says more info will ‘be provided during the campaign’. I await it with interest. I will be putting the Liberals last, there is no Labor candidate, so I need to decide who gets my Number 1.

    In the meantime, there have been more robo calls and flyers from the Liberals. They normally don’t bother too much in this blue ribbon seat.

  13. Looking forward to voting at Willoughby Girls High School albeit it is the venue of where my school (and me) was knocked out of the state-wide debating competition in 1987.

    I am getting over it, slowly.

  14. I’ve been seeing more campaigning here than usual. The Liberals normally don’t pay too much attention to this seat. But we’ve had representatives of different candidates in the shopping centre, several robocalls from Malcolm Turnbull, plenty of flyers, the latest being a printout of an SMH article by John Ruddick linked by a PB poster last week urging us to put the Liberals last because of dodgy deals that got Trent Zimmerman the preselection.

    On the above numbers, it looks like the Liberals don’t have much to worry about. Given that Stephen Ruff looks like he’s going nowhere, I’ll probably switch to the Greens 1, Ruff 2 and Libs last.

  15. Out and about early this morning, heaps of election posters on Pacific Highway North Sydney, most of them for the tories – but the majority have turnbull’s picture on them, but some photos of zimmerman as well. Turnbull’s image would be 10:1 zimmerman at least.

    A number of schools with long frontages to the highway with turnbull posters running the full length of their fence line.

    The posters refer to turnbull’s “plan for Australia” which *Still* hasn’t been spelt out.

    Many new PM’s set the 100 day mark of being sworn in to get significant achievements in place, not turnbull it seems – he is coming up on the 80 day mark with bugger all to show.

    Pretty ordinary.

  16. Voted at Willoughby Girls. ACE was there and I wished him well.

    Voting 1-13 is challenging when there are 8 candidates I would never vote for under any circumstances.

    As always I turned around for the flurry of photographers as I popped my paper in the box but alas none were there(as always).

  17. [ Posters of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used in the run-up to Saturday’s North Sydney byelection have led to calls by Labor for an investigation.

    Labor will ask electoral authorities to investigate whether the Liberal Party used illegal posters of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in its campaign to hold on to Joe Hockey’s former seat.

    ALP National Secretary George Wright will write to the Australian Electoral Commission over corflute posters of a grinning Mr Turnbull – on display across the North Sydney electorate as voters went to the polls on Saturday – with no clearly visible party authorisation.

    Mr Wright believes the posters could contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which dictates that all such campaign material must contain the name and address of the authorising person.

    A Liberal spokesperson said all the party’s campaign material contained the necessary authorisation details.

    Indeed, a close look at one of the corflutes revealed an authorisation was there – but hidden behind a frame and so ​minuscule it was barely visible.

    The federal Department of Finance’s 2013 Electoral Law Authorisation Guidelines says while there is no requirement that authorisations be a particular size it says they should always be “reasonably legible and accord with relevant signage industry practice”.

    If the corflutes do constitute a breach of the act it could be a costly mistake for the Liberals, with fines of up to $5000 per poster.]

    Read more:

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