New South Wales by-elections live

Live coverage of the count for the New South Wales state by-elections in Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

Full display of results: Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

Saturday, February 19

The Willoughby count has been updated with 9673 postals on the primary vote, and while these have leaned less heavily to the Liberals than postals did in 2019, they suggest Tim James’ lead is likely to widen from here rather than narrow. James has added 4357 primary votes, or 45.0% compared with 43.4% of all either votes, while Penn has gained 2651, or 27.4% compared with 32.2%.

End of Thursday

Counting has completed in Willoughby for what I expect will be all votes other than postals, leaving Tim James on 8365 (51.76%) to Larissa Penn’s 7797 (48.24%), with 2085 votes having exhausted. The total of 18,247 votes counted is put in the shade by the 25,071 postal votes that have now been received, which will be supplemented by a small number over the next week, counting of which will finally begin on Saturday.

End of Tuesday

I’m bumping this thread back to the top of the page because the NSWEC is conducting a new two-candidate preferred count in Willoughby between the actual leading candidates, Liberal Tim James and independent Larissa Penn, having conducted what proved to be a superfluous Liberal-versus-Greens count on the night. With results reported from 14 out of 24 booths, preferences are flowing heavily enough against the Liberals (10.2% to Liberal, 42.7% to independent and 47.1% exhausted) to perhaps make James nervous. The numbers are available at the NSWEC website – they are not being published to the media feed unfortunately, so my own results display doesn’t show them. James presently leads 51.4-48.6, which increases to 51.9-48.1 if the preference flow so far is projected across the yet-to-report booths.

That leaves, so far, 18,033 postal votes that have been received, which is more than the sum of the votes so far counted with many more still to arrive, none of which will be counted before the weekend. Ordinarily I would point to the fact that Gladys Berejiklian polled 66.5% of postals in 2019 compared with 57.6% of election day and pre-poll votes and deem the door still closed. But that was from a total of a mere 2269, in contrast to the present extraordinary circumstance where postal ballots were sent to every enrolled voter in the electorate. It may be that, as in the United States, that pool of postal voters, which is traditionally older and more conservative, is now dominated by those most concerned about COVID-19.

For more on the by-elections, below is a discussion between myself and Ben Raue which was recorded on Monday afternoon:

End of Saturday

Counting closed last night with quite a bit of the pre-poll vote still unreported – I’m unclear as to whether that will be finished off today or tomorrow. In the very unusual circumstances of these by-elections, there will then be very little to report for a full week, since counting of the unprecedentedly large number of postal votes will not start for another week, as was explained here. There may be a few other types of vote added to the count (absents, provisionals and telephone voting), but these will be few in number.

What we may see is a preference throw between the two leading candidates in Willoughby, Liberal candidate Tim James and independent Larissa Penn, to supersede the redundant count between the Liberals and the Greens that was conducted on the night. James leads by 43.5% to 32.2% on the primary vote, which as it stands might be dangerous for him under full preferential voting, but exhausted votes will result in a weaker flow to Penn. Besides, postal votes are likely to widen the gap, with Gladys Berejiklian having polled 66.5% on postals in 2019 compared with 57.6% on election day and pre-poll votes.

The headline-grabber is Labor’s win in Bega from a thumping swing of 14%, based on all election day votes and two out of six pre-poll booths. Michael Holland duly gains the seat formerly held for the Liberals by Andrew Constance, who will now run in Gilmore at the federal election. It was a better night for the Nationals, who have held Monaro against a 6.3% swing, with four of six pre-poll booths in together with the election day vote. This is a fairly creditable result, given they have held some of the 9.1% swing John Barilaro picked up at the 2019 election.

Labor appears to have held Strathfield with no substantial swing either way, leaving Jason Yat-Sen Li with a 4.4% lead based on all election day votes plus two out of three pre-poll booths. There’s presumably a good reason why no one is countenancing the possibility that the avalanche of outstanding postal votes might overturn this, but it’s very far from mathematically impossible. This would ordinarily be reckoned a soft result for an opposition party at a by-election: mitigating circumstances might include a particularly appealing Liberal candidate, the popularity of outgoing Labor member Jodi McKay, and the fact that independent Elizabeth Farrelly, who was recently a Labor council election candidate, polled nearly 10% and recommended an exhausted vote.

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.

393 comments on “New South Wales by-elections live”

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  1. Hmm, Willoughby is clearly still there for the Libs to lose.
    What is Scomocchio going to do if Willoughby is also lost?…. He was counting on large wins in NSW to compensate for the expected losses elsewhere. What would be the way ahead for him now?…. How is he going to deliver another “miracle”?

    To what extent will this federal election also reflect the situation for each state government, against the usual retort that state & federal politics don’t mix (of course, the retort is mainly used by those who find themselves in a losing situation)?

    We will know the answers to those questions in due course, I guess….. 🙂

  2. Boerwar @ Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at 8:26 am

    The Greens put out a HTV to number preferences how you prefer i.e. do not exhaust your vote, but they did not indicate whom to preference.

    If the race is this tight, A directed HTV from The Greens might just have made a difference. We shall know once the postals are counted. Antony Green has an excellent analysis of preferencing in NSW and the impact of HTV’s in the Hunter by-election last year.

    Willoughby is shaping up to be an excellent future case study. Beautiful psephological entrails in the offing 🙂

  3. Playing around with some regression models, my current prediction in Willoughby is that the Liberal candidate will be 427 votes ahead on a 2PP basis (versus Indepedent) before the addition of televoting/absent/provisonal/postals. The model relies on booth level primaries for the prediction, so final prediction cant be extrapolated using this particular model yet.

  4. Grif
    “The Greens put out a HTV to number preferences how you prefer i.e. do not exhaust your vote, but they did not indicate whom to preference.”

    Thanks. That is a cowardly and inexcusable tactic in my view. If the 47% of votes now exhausting had flowed through to the independent at a similar rate to the rest, she would already be in front. Hard to believe the exhausted votes would have flowed through to the Liberal candidate in any significant number, else those voters would have preferenced Liberal.

  5. Commentary on abc re Willoughby:
    ‘The result will be determined by the first count of postal votes on the weekend. If the postal votes split roughly the same as the votes counted to date, then Tim James will win. If the Liberals do better he will increase his margin, if he does worse the result will narrow. But at this stage Tim James is still the favourite to win because he is ahead and Larissa Penn now needs to reverse the current result on postal votes. The seat remains in doubt simply because the lead is narrow enough to be overturned when postal votes are added and we cannot be certain what will come out of the postal count.’

  6. Same comments on preferences also presumably apply to reason and sustainable aust party. And ajp hemp and other leftist groups. It will be a big issue in Senate with exhausting votes. At very least groups should say it is vital to give preferences to as many parties as you can otherwise your vote may not count.
    I can’t see anything on greens reason or sap websites related to prefeernce suggestions for nsw by elections. Vital given likely no handing out HTV.
    It is also the case that Labor not having a Willoughby candidate meant a fair no of Labor voters may have stayed home which might have made the difference.

  7. @ Boerwar
    Yes, it certainly is starting to appear that The Greens either misread the mood of the electorate in Willoughby or stuffed up the HTV ( or a bit of both). It’s also looking like The Greens , in doing so, enabled the Lib candidate to get up when the Independent was in with a chance. So much for them being anti- Liberal; strategic voting here would’ve helped. I’m not ignoring the fact it was OPV , and that could have been a factor too.
    FF and Rex can dissemble, try the look- over there tactic, throw in the Lib – Labor epithet or the fossil fuel cartel comment, but I believe The Greens are at a crucial point in their existence.
    Given the prevailing polling and tactical blunders by Morrison ( with “Tudgey” to come) ,there must be a strong viewpoint that only either Labor or Coalition will hold the House , and most people will direct their votes that way ( with some Teals or Indies as well, with those two latter impacting the non- duopoly vote in strategic seats) .
    The Greens may well suffer a decrease in voter support. Is Willoughby a harbinger of things to come?
    In The Senate, The Greens need a strong dose of support and their chances are much, much better than in The House. It is crucial that happens. However, with PHON and UAP running as well, anything could happen with voting permutations The Greens could be more than a little nervous about that.
    For example, in the ACT, David Pocock could be a factor. A strong environmental candidate with no duopoly connections , he could draw votes away from other progressive Parties.
    All in all, The Greens strategies appear to need retuning. In this election particularly, a good dose of political pragmatism, especially with preferences and making their policies more mainstream to start with. Their environmental policies are very worthwhile, but others appear to have major difficulties gaining public support.
    I understand they are competing with Labor, but in such polarised conditions, their failure to win more HoR seats could be an issue and a gamble on BoP in The Senate is risky. Most Labor voters will preference them second in both Houses ( again the Teals and Indies may be a factor putting The Greens third in the HoR. voting preferences.)
    I have said before that I believe the voting public is conservative by nature. Excepting environmental issues, it comes down to fairly conservative policies. The Greens are starting the electoral race with one proverbial leg missing a running spike.

  8. It is anyone’s guess what the postal votes do but they are a much larger proportion than in 2019.
    I would expect the same would be less proliberal… as some else quoted look at first bunch of postal counted on Saturday if same or better than election date then Jane’s wins if worse could be an alternative result

  9. It is anyone’s guess what the postal votes do but they are a much larger proportion than in 2019.
    I would expect the same would be less proliberal… as some else quoted look at first bunch of postal counted on Saturday if same or better than election date then Jane’s wins if worse could be an alternative result

  10. Postal vote counting starts on Saturday.

    The only votes counted so far have been votes cast at polling places and early voting centres, and some of the declaration votes.

  11. “Gettysburg1863says:
    Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at 12:22 pm
    ….The Greens may well suffer a decrease in voter support. ”

    Yes, I am also thinking along those lines. I predict an 8% primary vote for the Greens, down 2% from their previous 10% obtained in 2019.

    Still that 8% will be important in terms of their second preferences which, unless they are in complete suicidal mode, should go to the ALP.

  12. I just saw this on Twitter, one hour old. Can anyone confirm it?

    “ George Simon@george_simon·1h

    This is your friendly reminder that Liberal Party lead in Willoughby is down to 257 votes”

  13. On ABC commentary:
    On the NSWEC website, there is a check count preference count showing Tim James (LIB) leading Larissa Penn (IND) 6,675 votes to 6,418, that is 51% to 49%. However, this tally misses several centres for which original first preference votes are available but the check count preference tally isn’t. Applying current preference flow values to the original first preferences suggests these votes will come in at 54.8% for the Liberal Party.

    These missing votes are the difference between the NSWEC totals and the figures shown on the ABC’s website. The ABC system is applying the current available preference flow data to the overall result and is projecting that James currently leads 8,355 votes to 7,808, or 51.7% to 48.3%. This higher figure for the Liberal Party takes account of votes that are yet to be check counted.

  14. The Greens stood against the hard right Liberal in Willoughby – Labor did not.

    If only the political masterminds from the NSW Labor Right hadn’t of pulled out of the electorate completely, then the Liberal primary vote would be even lower.

    Of course, the seat is far from decided, but if the Libs do hold on there is no doubt that the blame will lie squarely at Labor’s feat for vacating the field and gifting them a tonne of free votes.

    It is disappointing that Labor constantly feels the need to blame mistakes of their own making on the Greens. People can see through that kind of petty politicking and have frankly had a gut full of it.

  15. “@ Boerwar
    Yes, it certainly is starting to appear that The Greens either misread the mood of the electorate in Willoughby or stuffed up the HTV ( or a bit of both).”


    The hypocrisy of Laborites claiming the Greens misread the electorate when it is Labor who PULLED OUT COMPLETELY is just too much.

    Labor literally hands the Libs a completely free kick at the 14.37% who voted ALP last time and then they turn around and claim the Greens are the ones who make a mistake? Ha! You have got to be joking!

  16. I’ll bite. I am in Willoughby.

    It seemed pretty clear that there were 4 candidates roughly ‘anti-liberal’ the liberal candidate and the liberal democrat (who seemed your typical candidate from that party and got as many votes as you would expect – not many).

    Given the exhaust rate of around 46% would a labor candidate actually help Penn or not?
    Would be really interesting to look at exhaust rates Hackett->Penn vs Saville->Penn (Hackett specified vote 2 Penn, Saville didn’t).

    I expect that Hackett may have taken some natural liberal voters and via her preference suggestion put them in the Penn tally – even with exhaustion taken into account.

    I would have thought Saville will have just taken Penn votes and exhausted a percentage.

    Am looking forward to the count of postal votes but suspect James will hold on.

    # The irony is that the liberal party would have had an easy time if they had just gone with the well recognised Gail Giles-Gidney…

  17. The greens tactic in.not suggesting preferences helped the liberals
    Why? I don’t know can guess that did not want a teal or the green party members in Willoughby made this decision
    It is possible that such a decision would not have been strongly followed any way

  18. A few slackos in Willoughby probably didn’t get around to doing the paperwork last weekend. Would have maybe got interested when they saw the anti Lib swing.
    If anyone not a Lib could see that a vote would make a difference they would probably have got active and voted this week.
    Only way to go for all non Libs would be Independent first with Greens irrelevant.
    The trend should be to the Independent.

  19. @Socrates: Wouldn’t that also be said of Penn – that if the voters had considered her worth preferencing, they’d have done it with or without a HTV directing them to do so? I’m no great fan of the Greens, but I think there’s a hole in your logic there.

    @Firefox: Labor was trying to avoid spoiling the chances of the best anti-Coalition candidate. And yes, it’s a real problem under OPV, much like in FPTP voting system – just less so. Why should Labor run, when they’ve no chance at all of winning and will have a demonstrable detrimental effect on the chance of any non-Coalition candidate winning?

  20. Michael Pascoes article in The New Daily ( Feb 17) is a doozey. He really lays into the decision- making processes of the Libs in NSW with the side comment that the old view of State/ Federal voting patterns diffentiating is not a truism ( courtesy of Antony Green). Clearly, the voting imbroglio the NSW Libs have got themselves into is absolutely self- inflicted and it will have consequences for the Fed Libs. One can only look at the state of the Liberals in Vic and WA to back that view up.
    One can repeat the old meme about”if you laid all the economists of the world head to toe across the world , they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion ” but in my opinion , Pascoe has made the transition from regular economist to a sharp economic- political journalist. More power to him and to the New Daily, which is becoming a competitive player in the digital media.

  21. Firefox
    Either deliberately or by incompetence the Greens have gifted Willoughby to the Liberals

    I am no sure it smart to be re posting the nonsense that highlights you lack of understanding or misinformation trying to justify the greens gift to the Liberals.

  22. @ Mr Mysterious
    If the Independent pulls Willoughby off the Libs, all those James’ posters will be souvenired by progressives as metaphorical “scalps” to hang in places in offices or homes. (May I suggest the back of the toilet door as one place? The jobs not finished until the paperwork’s done..)
    Alternatively, someone could collect them all and leave them outside the offices of the NSW Liberal Party.

  23. In Willoughby whatever the final result. The damage has been done 18 to 23% swing.Also looking at the next election the lnp have 47 seats only and if only Labor retains Bega there is a hung parliament.

  24. “Firefox
    Either deliberately or by incompetence the Greens have gifted Willoughby to the Liberals

    I am no sure it smart to be re posting the nonsense that highlights you lack of understanding or misinformation trying to justify the greens gift to the Liberals.”

    You are trying to reason with pure moral narcissism here you realise that?

  25. Since everyone got a postal vote for the By-election there are more votes than normal to count. So the postal votes might be:
    1. More conservative than the votes on the day.
    2. The sort of the same as the vote on the day.
    3. Actually less friendly to the LNP than the vote on the day

    If 1 is the case as normal older people vote postal, Bega probably doesn’t switch back as the margin is too much.
    If 2 is the case, it might get nail biting close in Willoughby with only a few hundred votes this way or the other.
    If 3 is the case, which basically nobody is talking about but since we don’t know who prefers to vote early, thinks might even get interesting in Monaro.

    Who is going to have early using a postal vote? People who are aware of there was a by-election and had made up their mind before election day. Normally people are busy and/or not organised don’t vote postal as it takes basically two efforts to do so (apply and then vote). But if they got a postal vote automatically, they might actually have used it as they are busy on Saturday.

    So it will be interesting….

  26. I spoke too soon! A large batch of postal votes (9,784) has been added to the count in Willoughby. The Liberal has 45% of the 1st preferences – so a slight improvement on the pre-poll and election day votes. You can out down your glasses on this one.

  27. Similar story in Bega, with nearly 10,000 postals added, although if anything Labor’s position has barely changed at all, with a near identical share of first preferences.

  28. Nothing added yet for Monaro and Strathfield.

    I am sure Mr Green will be very interested in the behaviour of these postals, given the methodology he uses for projecting an election result. Based on the 20,000 postal votes added so far, my sense is that they are less biased towards the Liberals than would usually be the case.

  29. People need a bit of perspective regarding the greens.

    Greens voters are politically engaged and well educated. They tend to preference how they like and are much less impacted by htvs than other parties’ voters are.

    The greens recommended vote 1 greens, and then work out preferences yourself. The amount of votes they could have shifted with htvs is very low.

    And this was not forecast to be close. Everyone thought it was a walk in the park for the liberals.

    The greens aren’t like labor. Labor can strike preference deals with whoever. Moving a government vote to the crossbench is an achievement for labor, even if it moves the vote to someone worse than the government and the end result is worse policy outcomes. No one expects the labor party to take the moral choice over the one that helps them win.

    The greens can only recommend preferencing someone if they know that it’s the moral decision.

    They can only do that under two conditions – they’ve done the research on the person, or they know that the candidate’s party has done the research.

    It takes time and money to dig for dirt on a candidate. Why would the greens waste resources on a by election they didn’t think would even be close?

  30. All the silly stuff about the Liberals being gifted Willoughby by the Greens should be put to bed now. The Liberals will end up winning reasonably comfortably, but it is arguable that it is OPV that saved the Liberals. However, it does seem to have been a bit churlish on the part of the Greens to make no preference recommendation – at the minimum, they could have recommended a “put the Liberals last” approach.

    Notwithstanding that, I doubt anyone within the Greens organisation gave this much thought at all, and perhaps they were working on the unfounded assumption that they would be a distant second to the Liberals.

  31. The Strathfield postals (10,000 added) include a 2PP – which shows that the postals are behaving almost exactly the same way as other votes – the extra votes sees the total voting % remaining unchanged at Labor 55.7% and Liberal 44.3%.

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