New South Wales leadership vote and by-election bonanza

As the New South Wales Liberal prepare to anoint a new Premier, the state faces three by-elections with expectations of more to follow.

Developments aplenty in New South Wales, starting with today’s Liberal party room vote to choose a successor to Gladys Berejiklian as party leader and Premier. This will pit red-hot favourite Dominic Perrottet, a conservative, against dark horse Rob Stokes, a moderate. However, Yoni Bashan of The Australian reports concern among Perrottet supporters that Stokes “could conceivably gather a bloc of votes by making promises for coveted cabinet positions”, despite “a pact brokered between conservative and moderate factions of the Liberal Party over the weekend to shore up Mr Perrottet as leader”. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Perrottet’s moderate backers include ubiquitous factional powerbroker Michael Photios.

A conservative leader would go against the state Liberals’ usual practice, but former adviser Peter Shmigel offers some insight into the party’s tactical thinking in the Sydney Morning Herald: Perrottet, it is argued, would win back support that is seemingly being lost in western and south-western Sydney, where many swinging voters will be receptive to his religious faith and determination to move out of lockdown, and to the fact that he “personifies economic management”. The emphasis on Sydney is further enhanced by the addition of Penrith MP Stuart Ayres to the Perrottet ticket as candidate for deputy, displacing arch-moderate Matt Kean, who it was thought wouldn’t play well there.

It seems that the new leader, whoever he might be, will face a “Super Saturday” of by-elections arising from a rash of parliamentary resignations running at three so far, with suggestions of others to follow. It is anticipated these will be held on December 4, coinciding with local government elections that have twice been delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This could potentially further weaken the Coalition’s position in the lower house, in which it presently governs in minority with 46 seats out of 93, political difficulties having forced two Liberals elected in 2019 to the cross bench. To start with the known knowns:

Willoughby (Liberal 21.0%): Gladys Berejiklian’s lower north shore seat has existed in name for all but one term since the end of the state’s multi-member regions experiment in 1927, being won by Labor only with Neville Wran’s once-in-a-lifetime landslide in 1978. Berejiklian’s margin over Labor in 2019 was 21.0%, though there was a 3.4% swing against her, unusually for a member at their first election as Premier. James O’Doherty of the Daily Telegraph reports “strategists” fear the seat will be lost to an as-yet-unspecified independent.

Monaro (Nationals 11.6%): The retirement of Nationals leader John Barilaro means a by-election for Monaro, which has traditionally been a marginal seat by virtue of balancing Labor-voting Queanbeyan against conservative rural and small town territory further south. Barilaro’s margin blew out by 9.1%, much of which is reckoned to be personal vote that now stands to be lost.

Bega (Liberal 6.9%): Liberal member Andrew Constance will resign from state politics to run for federal preselection in the corresponding seat of Gilmore, which Labor gained with a 3.3% swing against the trend in 2019 and holds by a margin of 2.6%.

James O’Doherty of the Daily Telegraph reports Liberal concerns that they could be shortly joined by Rob Stokes, member for Pittwater (Liberal 20.8% versus Greens), in the seemingly likely event that he is not elected leader; Melanie Gibbons, member for Holsworthy (Liberal 3.3%), who has been “touted for the federal seat of Hughes”; Health Minister Brad Hazzard, member for Wakehurst (Liberal 21.0%); and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock, member for South Coast (Liberal 10.6%).

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.

42 comments on “New South Wales leadership vote and by-election bonanza”

  1. The rehabilitating of Perrottet begins…

    As the Liberals prepare to anoint a new premier, Mr Barilaro said Mr Perrottet had matured as a leader and a minister during his five years as Treasurer.

    “He has grown up in that true Liberal style, the Menzies Liberal or Howard Liberal style and has very strong views about things like abortion as part of his Christian faith,” Mr Barilaro said.

    “But over the past five years Dom has matured and changed a lot, where some people would think he is this right-wing extremist but I can assure you he is not.

    “He is more centred with people than anyone, which is why he comes out to the bush with me because he connects with people.”

    Interesting the timeline is 5 years which presumably is referencing those pro-Trump tweets after he was elected.

  2. Ted Larkin won Willoughby for the ALP in 1913 (thanks Roy Orbinson) and while its member died at Gallipoli on Anzac Day 1915 along with his brother.

    I’m actually going to try and find out whether he is commemorated at all within this area. There’s a big honour board for him in Parliament house which the premier referred to in her first speech.

  3. One tipped to quit is Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons, so she can stand as a Liberal for Hughes against the odious Craig Kelly. The ugly side of Shire politics, epitomised from the member for Cook, is coloured by a family ties… Melanie Gibbons partner is Kent Johns, which will make for interesting discussion over cornflakes.

    “Sutherland Shire councillor Kent Johns is poised for another Liberal Party preselection battle to replace Craig Kelly as the MP for Hughes.

    At the same time, the Labor Party has begun a search for a candidate, with a key source saying, “With what’s been going on, we are looking at some more out of the box options, such as possibly someone who has a high profile even if they are not necessarily a long-time party member”.

    Moves within both parties have intensified as a result of this week’s events in which, as one prominent Liberal put it, “Craig Kelly blew himself up”, receiving a dressing down from Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his COVID-19 views.

    Cr Johns’ supporters are confident he has the numbers to beat Mr Kelly.

    If that happens, it will be third time lucky for Cr Johns, who looked likely to defeat Mr Kelly in preselection for the 2016 and 2019 elections only to have Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison intervene.

    Cr Johns, a former vice-president of the NSW Liberal Party, is from the Moderates faction. His partner Melanie Gibbons represents the same area as the state MP for Holsworthy.

    Cr Johns started in politics as a Labor Party member of Rockdale Council in 1995, and served one term as mayor, before quitting the party over a corruption scandal.

  4. Murdoch has moved quickly to condemn gladys and anoint Perrottet as the great white saviour. Headlines in the Oz:

    Berejiklian should have stepped down a year ago
    The ‘bad boyfriend’ defence won sympathy from shock jocks and gossip columnists. But Gladys Berejiklian’s poor judgment is wholly to blame for her resignation.

    From state of chaos to clear path out of Covid
    Dominic Perrottet is expected to emerge as NSW premier on Tuesday before announcing a new senior team to reinforce his opposition to economy-damaging restrictions.

    No apologies from a man of faith poised to be premier
    Family and politics are the twin themes in Dominic Perrottet’s seemingly inevitable path to become the youngest premier of the state, at 39. Then there’s his faith.

  5. Along with Murdoch, Morrison has moved with lightning speed to condemn Gladys and praise Perrottet. Oz headlines:

    Morrison: I have an honest relationship with Perrottet

    Berejiklian must deal with ‘issues’ before next move: PM

  6. Can someone clarify my understanding of the NSW ICAC legislation. If a politician is caught red handed with their hands in the public purse (or otherwise engaging in corrupt behaviour) and they are still serving then they lose their perks, BUT if they are caught after they have resigned then they get to keep their perks?
    If that’s the case then I daresay a few NSW politicians are aware of what’s about to come from ICAC and are leaving the ship with the proverbial golden goose in hand.

  7. Another couple of potential by-elections are Kiama (Liberal, 12%) and Drummoyne (Liberal, 15%).

    Kiama is held by the colourful Gareth Ward. Interesting recent events during his tenure as a minister of the crown have included police finding him naked and disoriented outside his apartment in Potts Point, and a dispute with 2 young men about the price and scope of massage services to be offered in his New York hotel room, which also lead to the police being called. Continuing this theme, recent allegations by another man against Mr. Ward of sexual violence are currently under investigation by NSW police. He has recently resigned from the ministry and moved to the cross bench.

    John Sidoti is the member for Drummoyne. While he was secretary for transport and then planning, in 2014-15, companies owned by his family members purchased multiple properties in central Five Dock, which turned out to be very lucky, as a new Metro station is now to be built adjacent to the properties purchased. Mr. Sidoti is currently appearing before our underfunded ICAC, where questions are being asked about his interactions with lobbyists and Liberals on the local council, regarding changes to building codes to allow construction of high-rise apartment blocks near the Metro site. He has now also been moved to the cross bench.

    So there are for sure 3 by-elections coming, with many other possibles. It’s a shame that the only one of the 9 seats mentioned where Labor looks to have a chance is Holsworthy, which is in one of the lockdown LGAs. I don’t really have a feel for how the current turmoil is going to play out politically. In the short term, there might be a surge of sympathy for poor Gladys, doing such a great job, and so unfairly treated for just doing a little favor or two for that conniving cad of a boyfriend of hers! Or so some might see it. But longer-term, surely the chaos inside the NSW LNP, and the likelihood of some protracted and highly embarrassing ICAC appearances for Gladys and others coming up, is going to change the game in NSW.

  8. Dom just lost one vote….

    ‘Liberal MP Ray Williams has been denied entry to parliament after receiving two inconclusive rapid antigen test results this morning.

    Mr Williams confirmed he would not be able to be part of the party room meeting on Tuesday, but will be given a proxy vote through a colleague.

    “The doctors have strongly advised that I’m not allowed to enter parliament,” the Castle Hill MP said.

    “I want to do the right thing, I don’t want to go in and infect 50 or 60 people.”

    Mr Williams said that he was in his way to get a conventional COVID-19 test, otherwise known as a PCR test.

  9. That’s pretty much the best case scenario for Perrottet – looks like he’s the clear choice but there was competition.

    Based on what I’ve heard – that’s not an endorsement for Perrottet, but one for stability and clarity.

  10. Premier Perrottet somehow reminds me of that other charismatic Liberal leader, Eric Willis. Ayres I Find to be more like Bob Askin and someone who might eventually attract some ICAC attention.

  11. So the election of Parrot Tit will go down well in Penrith where the local NRL team were conspicuous in their ‘prayer circles’ after the Grand Final win on Sunday.

  12. Minimal changes to Cabinet at this stage – he has picked Matt Kean as the new Treasurer.

    Still got to replace Constance and Barilaro though.

  13. jt1983says:
    Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 10:40 am
    That’s pretty much the best case scenario for Perrottet – looks like he’s the clear choice but there was competition.

    Based on what I’ve heard – that’s not an endorsement for Perrottet, but one for stability and clarity.

    It is hard to believe that Opus Die member and Trump supporter became Premier of NSW.

  14. I can’t believe Dominic Perrottet is only 39. He looks much older to me. Born in 1982, that makes him a Millennial… yet he comes across as such an old fogey.

  15. Mr Newbie

    “I can’t believe Dominic Perrottet is only 39. He looks much older to me. Born in 1982, that makes him a Millennial… yet he comes across as such an old fogey.”

    He’s what’s called a “young fogey”. 🙂

    He seems another John Howard. Privatisation is his main game.

    There can’t be much left to hand over to the profiteering mates ….. maybe the Police and other emergency services.

  16. So we have Dom making a play for Western Sydney, with Stuart Ayres as deputy. Obviously he will be hoping for the good news from the end of lockdowns and his economic recovery plan, to outweigh the bad that has happened this year. And his faith will probably be an asset…

    The downsides he faces are outside Sydney I think. Chris Minns is right – how can two ministers call it quits while their seats in the south have rising case numbers? They’d all better hope that it gets under control before the by-elections. And of course he’ll additionally have to deal with his predecessor appearing before ICAC, and the fallout of other Liberals who have left the party after being investigated. Finally, maybe he’ll improve on this… but he’s not as charismatic as, say, Mike Baird was. Can he connect with voters? Could be a problem if you’re in minority government and need to win seats in the next election.

  17. So its religious fundamentalists 39 to moderates 5. Modern Liberalism in action.

    If they can just nobble ICAC I am sure Perrottet can help NSW into a corruption-led recovery.

  18. They can’t nobble ICAC without the support of the upper house. Meaning it comes down, probably, to SFF, Animal Justice and one independent. After the president is discounted, Perrottet will need two of SFF, AJ and the independent. And that doesn’t take into consideration Green and One Nation grandstanding.

    Progressive (ALP, Green) = 17
    Conservative (LNP, Hanson, Nile) minus president = 19
    Others = 5

    I reckon they could get away with it.

  19. “The Uglies” as classified by the “Moderates” of NSW Libs have captured the top jobs in NSW Legislative Assembly ( i.e. The Premier) and Legislative Council ( The President). The ironic thing is that “The Uglies” do not have the majority within Libs in either Assembly or Council.
    In Legislative Council Matthew Cox (reportedly from Far-right) was elected as Council President with the help of ALP and Greens because they do not want woman ( of Lib moderate faction) to be elected because she is supporter of Gladys.
    In Legislative Assembly Dom P ( reportedly belongs to Religious Right faction) became Premier with the support of Lib ‘Moderates’ faction although Moderates are the dominant faction.
    In May 2021, we had women occupying post of Premier, Legislative President , Opposition leaders in Assembly and Council. Now we have none.
    Well done so called ‘Progressives’ and Lib ‘Moderates’ for enabling “The Uglies” to capture power.

  20. From his recent statements it seems that Mark Latham and One Nation will not be hobbling ICAC in the Legislative Council. I fully expect grandstanding though.

  21. I was just about to ask everyone on here does he look 39?
    As I thought maybe it was just me, but as others have commented on it, I assume he must look much older than that…
    Im only 3 years younger than him but look much younger…
    Im not saying that to be nasty to the guy…
    but we must all age differently I guess…

  22. The liberals are feeling bad for nsw labor and decided to give them a hand. It must be boring winning all the time I guess.

    Perrottet’s religious views are not an asset. Being catholic is maybe an asset, although unlikely to help the liberals as much as it would help labor – anyone old enough to just vote catholic regardless is old enough that their plan b is to vote coalition if no one is catholic.

    But being the sort of catholic that opposed abortion, co teaception, marriage equality and voluntary assisted dying does not generate votes in australia

  23. Poor Cameron, I’m 4 years older than Dom, and I (in my mind, anyway… though I have had a couple of people comment that I look younger than my age to back it up) look a lot younger than he does. Not that looks should count for anything when you’re a politician. I was just really surprised to learn that he was 39… 39 and such an old fogey already. I also think Scott Morrison looks at least 15 years older than his age.

    Maybe being a conservative… piece of work with a bitter personality ages you badly? Though having 6 kids probably does it, too.

  24. I don’t think that the NSW ALP should waste their money contesting any of those seats, none of which they are likely to win. Instead, they should save the money to provide some additional help to the Federal ALP at the coming Federal election, where ScuMo was heavily relying on an excellent performance in NSW on the back of “gold standard” Gladys, but now the situation for the Federal Coalition may look far more shaky than ScuMo hoped for in NSW…. A disappointing performance in NSW would be the nail in the coffin for ScuMo, as Covid will also bash him hard in Qld, WA and Victoria.

    In 2022 Covid will cause a synergism between State and Federal politics at the Federal election…. more so than before.

  25. “The liberals are feeling bad for nsw labor and decided to give them a hand. It must be boring winning all the time I guess.”… Winning “all the time” after “losing all the time” is not “winning all the time”. So, it looks like that for the NSW state Coalition is going to be “losing all the time again”…. starting at the next state election…

    It’s the NSW political pendulum: Change…Hope…Action…Corruption… OUT!… Change…. etc.

  26. Paul Toole will be the new deputy premier of New South Wales, after he was elected leader of the state Nationals in a ballot held this morning.

    Nationals MPs voted 15-3 in favour of Toole over water minister Melinda Pavey to replace outgoing Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro.

    Toole was previously deputy leader of the NSW Nationals, and his ascension to leader on Wednesday meant his party deputy leadership was vacant.

    The Nationals party room elected Bronnie Taylor as new deputy leader of the party.


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