New South Wales by-elections: February 12

The New South Wales government fires the starter’s gun on a short by-election campaign, despite suggestions it might have been an idea to hold off.

It is now confirmed that the four looming by-elections in New South Wales will be held on February 12, despite reports overnight that they might be delayed until March 19 — which would have been inconvenient from my point of view, since that is the day scheduled for the South Australian state election. The New South Wales Electoral Commission has pleaded that its iVote digital voting system is not currently fit for use, after problems encountered in last month’s local government elections, and last night’s Sydney Morning Herald report said a February 12 by-election would require “an adequate alternative to in-person voting can be achieved, such as postal voting”.

I now have election guide pages in place: Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

The Liberals and Nationals now have candidates in place in each seat, following the weekend’s preselection upset in Willoughby. This saw Tim James, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre and former chief-of-staff to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, defeat former Willoughby mayor Gail Giles-Gidney in the final round by 58 votes to 52. Excluded in the first round was former television reporter Kellie Sloane, with 31 votes to Giles-Gidney’s 41 and James’s 37. While the success of the male candidate was inevitably widely noted, it would appear most of Sloane’s supporters swung behind James in the second round, despite James being of the hard right and both Giles-Gidney and Sloane being identified as moderates.

With its preselection of Bryce Wilson, Queanbeyan-Palerang councillor and adviser to federal Bean MP David Smith, Labor now has candidates in place for each seat except Willoughby, which it will presumably not contest.

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.

26 comments on “New South Wales by-elections: February 12”

  1. Some years ago I played cricket with Bryce Wilson in Wagga. Also he was a teaching colleague of the cheese and kisses. Fine upstanding bloke (unlike yours truly) who will one day end up in parliament, state or federal.
    Unplayable in the nets from this batting bunny’s point of view.
    We wish him well.

  2. GGG in Willoughby should be noted to have been the ex-Mayor at the time of the pre-selection, having not recon tested the Mayoralty in December.

  3. I would have thought that there would have been some independents nominate for these seats, particularly Willoughby. When do nominations close?

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  5. I’m curious to see how Labor will perform in Bega and Monaro. Previously with strong and well liked local members in both seats, I have felt that Labor has underperformed. With new Coalition candidates (and a perennially unsuccessful one at that in Bega), it wouldn’t be surprising if Labor perform better.

    It will be an interesting test of the mood of that South-Eastern NSW community, even more so given this will be the second pandemic by-election those in Bega and Monaro have had to face.

  6. Re Conor at 9.42 am

    There has been a marked turnaround in Minns’ attitude toward the by-elections. In the SMH report that William mentions, Labor is now eager for the by-elections to proceed early despite the pandemic.

    Bega and Monaro are the key seats. Labor will hold Strathfield, and even a 10% to 20% swing against Perrottet in Willougby will be viewed as due to the departure of Gladys. Gibbons has missed the boat in her declared aim of moving to Hughes, with another woman (Jenny Ware) more likely to be the Liberal candidate there, though LindaSeymour4Hughes may defeat whomever the Lib candidate is.

    Kotvojs has a few signs up already in Narooma, but her chances of getting a hat-trick of defeats (in 2019 and 2020 in Eden-Monaro + 2022 in Bega) are rising fast, due to chaotic Covid mismanagement.

    Results by polling booth for Bega after preferences in 2019 are available via this link:

    Partly because of the fairly high number of exhausted votes (courtesy of Neville Wran’s optional preferential system), Labor won only one substantial booth, in Tathra, at a time when there was a swing against federal Labor in Tathra (in Eden-Monaro) of about 6% two months later in 2019.

    Labor will perform strongly in Moruya where their candidate is based, and where they lost the vote after preferences only marginally in 2019. Labor’s biggest challenge is in Eden, where they were down by over 400 votes in 2019. Labor should perform well in Bega, and improve significantly in Narooma, as well as the Merimbula area (courtesy of the flow on effect from Kristy McBain as the federal MP).

    The seat will probably by decided by the extent of the swing to Labor around Bateman’s Bay, which is Constance’s home town. Including all the booths around the town (e.g. Bridge Club) but not Tomakin, the Lib lead after preferences was about 1350 in 2019. Kotvojs has no profile there (Eden-Monaro does not extend north of Bodalla). The Labor candidate, Dr Michael Holland, could gain a big swing around Bateman’s Bay, including among older conservative voters displeased with the Dud Premier’s errors.

    In the smallest booth, Wallaga Lake Koori Village (near Bermagui), Constance got 9 votes out of 24. That was a poor result there for Labor. There is no longer a separate Wallaga Lake booth for federal elections, but in 2007 the incumbent, Gary Nairn, got 1 vote out of 43 when defeated by Mike Kelly, which was better than his 1 out of 57 in 2004.

    The fact that the Labor candidate is a respected local doctor gives Labor a definite chance to win Bega. In the 2007 federal election the swing to Labor in Merimbula was 7.4%, while it was only 4.9% in Moruya and Narooma. Labor needs an overall swing of 7% to win the seat. Given the circumstances now, that is achievable. In this situation, a better performance for Labor should be defined as a win.

  7. Good breakdown Dr D. Dr Michael Holland spoke on Fiona’s zoom meeting with Gilmore last night. Certainly is passionate and well spoken.

  8. Thanks for your great analysis of Bega Dr. Doolittle. At the Federal level, do you have any thoughts on Eden-Monaro and Gilmore on the south coast? With the likelihood of some sort of swing to Labor, I’m thinking that Eden-Monaro should be a Labor hold, but Constance has some admirable qualities as a candidate and may well win against the swing, considering the dud candidate Morrison ran in Gilmore last time. Is that a fair assessment?

  9. GGG in Willoughby should be noted to have been the ex-Mayor at the time of the pre-selection, having not recon tested the Mayoralty in December.

    Thanks, fixed.

    I would have thought that there would have been some independents nominate for these seats, particularly Willoughby. When do nominations close?

    Presumably next Thursday, which possibly explains the government’s decision to announce the shortest possible campaign at the latest possible date.

  10. Re Boerwar at 4 pm and Dave at 7.04 pm

    Catherine Moore is well liked in Braidwood. Even the postmaster, a conservative Jaguar driver and a key figure in the community campaign to get a successful branch of the Bendigo bank going, has a good word for her. The Greens vote has been very stable at 7.8 or 7.9% in the past three elections. With the Nationals vote bound to drop, there is a chance that the Greens vote might edge up a little.

    Bryce Wilson has good standing in Queanbeyan but he will need to get all his deliveries on target in order to win. He should be aiming to bowl the opponent (Nicole Overall, not a big hitter despite her name) directly by linking her to the Dom (see Rowe cartoon on 19 Dec), aka the Perrottet shambles, because it will be a tough ask to rely on catching enough preferences from minor candidates.

    The 2019 preferencing figures for Monaro are sobering in showing the inability or disinclination of voters supporting minor candidates to distinguish among the main parties. Only about 70% of Greens votes did not exhaust, with Labor getting almost 80% of those, whereas in the federal by-election for Eden Monaro in 2020 almost 91% of Greens votes went to McBain, which was decisive.

    For other minor candidates in Monaro in 2019 the exhaustion rate was quite high. For Animal Justice the exhaustion rate was 43%, with Labor getting two thirds of the rest; for an Independent it was also 43%, with Barilaro getting a bit more than half of the rest; and for the Shooters it was close to 50%.

    Of the issues mentioned by Ms Moore, the cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service firefighting resources (which were huge in terms of numbers and experience) by Gladys and Porky in the years before the wildfire crisis is one issue (apart from Covid mismanagement) that could turn votes across the electorate. The planning mistake of trying to impose the new Bungendore High School on top of the only decent park in the town, which Barilaro celebrated, could shift many votes in that town. The fact that Ms Overall’s husband, the former Mayor, supported that mistake could lose her votes there.

  11. Re Parramatta Moderate at 2.45 pm

    Labor will hold Eden-Monaro with a significant swing. There was a swing against Labor in all of the Queanbeyan booths except East Queanbeyan in the 2020 by-election. McBain has an office in the main street, and reversing that swing will account for part of her likely comfortable win. She should also get a swing in towns in the west (Batlow, Murrumbateman, Tumut and Yass, where she once worked as a lawyer) and even perhaps in Cooma, while consolidating her position in coastal towns.

    Gilmore will be a closer result than Eden-Monaro, partly because the Liberals are organised now behind Constance whereas they are yet to find a candidate for Eden-Monaro. Constance is well known but not a stellar campaigner. He got a big swing in his state seat of Bega once in five elections (the 2011 landslide) and that was due to general anti-Labor sentiment. Apart from the continuing crisis of Covid mismanagement that looks likely to resonate until May, his problem is that Nowra, where his opponent (Fiona Phillips) is well known, is bigger than greater Bateman’s Bay, Constance’s town. He may also face an expectations gap: whereas Phillips has been in opposition with all its limitations, Constance has been in government, and many voters might ask: what has he achieved for them?

    Gilmore has swung against the national trend in two of the last three elections (3.3% to Labor in 2019 and 2.6% to Labor in 2013, as well as a 3% swing to Phillips in 2016). If Warren Mundine was Labor’s candidate (remember he was once President of the Labor Party, albeit a ceremonial type role), then Constance would be the favourite. Phillips may claim to be the underdog, but I doubt that she really is. If Constance loses, the result will be put down to the likely strength of the general Labor swing, but if that result eventuates then another factor will be an effective local campaign by the incumbent that was well underway long before Constance announced his candidacy.

    Comparing the 2007 and 2019 polling booth results in Gilmore shows very big drops in the Liberal vote around Nowra especially, even with a swing of around 5 to 10% in Nowra in 2007 (i.e. the drop is bigger if one compares 2019 with 2004). The comparison is complicated by the large shift to prepolls but still revealing. The Liberal vote after preferences in several Nowra booths in 2019 was under 40%, whereas in 2007 it had been between 50 and 65% (e.g. in Nowra Centre booth, not the largest but still significant, the drop was from 58.4% in 2007 to 38.4% in 2019). From news reports, Constance has a problem with distances (e.g. his crazy idea during the wildfire crisis to clear all trees up to 40 m from both sides of any major highway). He may find that the Liberal vote gap in Nowra is too big to bridge.

  12. Re William at 5.04 pm

    The likely rationale for that government decision will not inspire confidence in swinging voters.

    I was just polled (landline in Monaro) by Media Reach. They have now exited the silly season. They got all the names right, including Catherine Moore (whose candidature was announced today). The only problem was that they put the Hanson franchise as one of the options, instead of the Shooters, who came a close 4th in 2019.

    The most interesting thing about the questions was that they were introduced as being about state politics (and particularly the by-election) but there was a question inserted about views of the federal government’s Covid response for the past two years, before the same question on the state response. In other words, ProMo is now a drag on Perrottet, and vice-versa.

  13. Dr D, Fiona has worked her tush off, solidified her base, and has an overrated opponent[eee awe]. Apparently the conservatives here are unimpressed with another blow in.

  14. Re outside left at 8.42 pm

    That’s interesting and significant. Many voters relate more to a very responsive local member than to a show pony. In a quite different seat, that is one of several factors that could help Zoe Daniel in Goldstein.

  15. Comment by Antony Green

    Antony Green – elections
    This is a big first. As a Covid measure, all voters at the four NSW by-elections will be sent postal vote packs. Voters can either use them or vote pre-poll or in polling places on the day. Interesting experiment. My guide to the by-elections here #nswpol

    January 21, 2022

    Green has figures for the exhaustion rate in 2019 during preference count: 30.7% for Greens, 62.5% for Sh0oters, 52.2% for Animal Justice, and 47.3% for Australian Conservatives. Overall 44.8% of preferences exhausted, Labor got 41.6% and the Liberals only 13.6%. One would think that if Minns ever has the capacity to put Neville Wran’s optional preferential system out to pasture, he will.

  16. NSW State by-election, Feb 2022, the materials for a postal vote haven’t arrived as yet, just text and email messages asking for details update to the NSWEC.

    Strathfield candidates now seem to include independent Dr Elizabeth Farelly whose flater mentioned overdevelopment, a RC into property development, consultative decision making .

    Courtney Buckley is standing for the Greens, and mentions access to public early education, pandemic payments for nurses, taxing developers and banning fossil fuels industry donations (flyer was handed out near station).

    So far the Libs lite candidate Jason Yat-Sen Li had the most elaborate letter/ flyer[/ personal presence at the station] mentioning sending DoPe/ Gladystan Borisjiklian a message, common sense public health measures, breaking point of essential services, access to free RAT. (So far he’s not respondent to an emailed request on his posture on other matters.)

  17. And Strathfield by-election flyer for the Fibs/ Nats is in too, weighing more than the others combined, even if the Libs lite dropped the same material again.
    Messaging seems to be a tough Wuflu and community support, for some reason religious schools are mentioned, your voice in parliament, roads (daughter killed by a “drunk and drugged” driver), home ownership (seems to have a home loans business), businesses.
    Regular church goer.
    The GTD list seems to be roads (which given WestConnex isn’t popular probably means local rather than state or federal road initiatives …), small biz, access to better healthcare, housing affordability …

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