House of Representatives By-Elections


Date to be announced
Margin: Liberal 17.7%
Region: Inner Eastern Sydney
State: New South Wales

Primary vote
Two-party preferred


Malcolm Turnbull's resignation from parliament after losing the Liberal leadership on August 24 has precipitated the tenth by-election of the forty-fifth parliament, equalling the record for by-elections set by the twentieth parliament from 1951 to 1954. However, it is only the second out of the ten to have arisen independently of the Section 44 crisis. Wentworth has an unblemished record as a conservative seat going back to federation, although Turnbull's personal vote forms a substantial part of its current 17.7% margin. Turnbull has held the seat since 2004, when he successfully challenged the Liberal preselection of one-term member Peter King.


Wentworth encompasses the entrance to Sydney Harbour at South Head, extending southwards along the coast through Bondi to Clovelly and westwards to Paddington. The electorate is the nation's wealthiest, and contains its largest Jewish population and fifth highest concentration of same-sex couples. The harbourside suburbs of Vaucluse, Point Piper and Darling Point are proverbial for their wealth, and have historically overwhelmed Labor's areas of relative strength near the city and in the south. However, Turnbull's successes have obscured a trend of Liberal decline, in which margins that often exceeded 20% up to the 1960s came down to single figures before Turnbull secured his hold. The seat was held successively by Robert Ellicott (1974 to 1981), who as Shadow Attorney-General plyed a crucial tactical role in the 1975 supply crisis; Peter Coleman (1981 to 1987), conservative intellectual and father-in-law of Peter Costello; and John Hewson (1987 to 1996), Opposition Leader from 1990 to 1994.

Turnbull came to the seat in 2004 after winning a Liberal preselection vote against Peter King by 88 votes to 70, having gained the upper hand in a vigorous local party recruitment war and won at least the tacit support of John Howard. Sympathy for King's plight was tempered by the fact that he himself gained the seat three years earlier in a preselection coup against Andrew Thomson, who succeeded Hewson in 1996. King ran against Turnbull as an independent but only managed third place, but his campaign may have contributed to a 2.4% Labor swing that reduced the margin to 5.5%. Redistribution then reduced the margin to 2.5%, but Turnbull was able to add 1.3% to this at the 2007 election, at which he was the only Coalition candidate outside of Western Australia to pick up a favourable swing. He then placed his decisive stamp on the seat with an 11.0% swing in 2010.

Numbers represent two-party vote percentages at polling booths, coloured in red for a Labor majority and blue for a Liberal majority, and varying in size to reflect the number of votes cast. Numbers with black borders are from pre-poll voting centres.