ReachTEL: 52-48 to Coalition in New South Wales

Gladys Berejiklian’s government keeps its head above water ahead of three by-elections in New South Wales on Saturday.

Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald had a ReachTEL poll of state voting intention in New South Wales, showing the Coalition with a 52-48 lead on two-party preferred. After exclusion of the 8.1% undecided, primary votes are Coalition 40.9%, Labor 33.7%, Greens 9.9%, One Nation 8.9% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers 2.4%. Gladys Berejiklin recorded only a modest 52.1-47.9 lead over Labor’s Luke Foley in the forced response preferred premier question. The poll was conducted last Thursday from a sample of 1647.

This comes days before Sunday’s hat trick of by-elections, which are summarised below together with links to my election guide pages:

Blacktown: Former Labor leader John Robertson’s resignation has brought about a by-election in a seat where Labor looks set to go untroubled. The Liberals are not contesting, the Greens have little support in the seat, and the only other challengers to Labor’s Stephen Bali are the Christian Democratic Party candidate and a low-profile independent.

Cootamundra: Vacated by the resignation of Nationals member Katrina Hodgkinson. Labor is making the rare effort to contest this seat and Murray, but the main threat to Nationals candidate Steph Cooke may be Matthew Stadtmiller of Shooters Fishers and Farmers.

Murray: Vacated by the resignation of Adrian Piccoli, former deputy leader of the Nationals. Nationals candidate Austin Evans faces Helen Dalton, Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate who ran second as an independent at the 2015 election with 18.2% of the vote.

New South Wales and Victorian state by-elections

A deep look into the looming state by-elections for Northcote in Melbourne’s inner north, where Labor is in danger of losing to the Greens, and three in New South Wales, including two where Shooters Fishers and Farmers can hope to repeat their coup against the Nationals in Orange last year.

State by-elections are looming in New South Wales, where voters in three electorates go to the polls in a fortnight’s time, and in Victoria, where the death of Labor government minister Fiona Richardson has initiated a by-election in the seat of Northcote. The latter looms as a tight race between Labor and the Greens, while two of the three New South Wales by-elections present the Nationals with the challenge of holding off Shooters Fishers and Farmers, who deprived them of the formerly safe seat of Orange in a by-election last November. Quick precis follow, together with links to comprehensive by-election guides hosted on my personal web space, which I’m steadily making more use of.

Victorian state by-election, November 18: Northcote

Support for the Greens has been growing in this inner northern Melbourne seat since the party’s breakthrough in 2002, when it first outpolled the Liberals to finish second in Northcote, Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick. The ABC reports that Labor internal polling points to a Greens victory, with Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe on 40% and Labor’s Clare Burns on 28%, with 17% undecided.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Blacktown

Former Labor leader John Robertson’s resignation has brought about a by-election in a seat where Labor looks set to go untroubled. The Liberals are not contesting, the Greens have little support in the seat, and the only other challengers to Labor’s Stephen Bali are the Christian Democratic Party candidate and a low-profile independent.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Cootamundra

Vacated by the resignation of Nationals member Katrina Hodgkinson. Labor is making the rare effort to contest this seat and Murray, but the main threat to Nationals candidate Steph Cooke may be Matthew Stadtmiller of Shooters Fishers and Farmers.

New South Wales state by-election, October 14: Murray

Vacated by the resignation of Adrian Piccoli, former deputy leader of the Nationals. Nationals candidate Austin Evans faces Helen Dalton, Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate who ran second as an independent at the 2015 election with 18.2% of the vote.

New South Wales by-elections live

Live coverage of the count for today’s by-elections in Gosford, Manly and North Shore.

Gosford results

# % Swing 2PP Proj. Swing
Abigail Boyd (GRN) 3238 7.5% -1.6%
Andrew Church (CDP) 1313 3.1% 0.7%
Skyla Wagstaff (AJP) 1683 3.9%
Liesl Tesch (ALP) 21500 50.1% 11.4% 63.5% 62.4% 12.2%
Larry Freeman (SFP) 2227 5.2%
Jilly Pilon (LIB) 12951 30.2% -11.7% 36.5% 37.6% -12.2%
Booths counted (of 26): 26

11pm. Numbers from Gosford above are final for tonight, with 12,558 pre-polls behaving exactly as the 28,819 polling booth votes, confirming that a fairly tight primary vote battle in 2015 has turned into a 50-30 blowout in favour of Labor. 7826 pre-polls and 2,456 have given struggling Liberal Felicity Wilson a fillip, from 40.3% to 41.9%, and Antony Green is “hearing reports of 40% Green and Mutton exhaustion rates which suggests Corrigan can’t close 41% to 26% Liberal lead”. Conversely, pre-polls and iVotes have made little difference in Manly, where the Liberal’s lead over the leading independent is that little bit greater (43.3% to 22.3%).

8.48pm. Still two booths outstanding on the primary vote in Gosford, along with six on two-party preferred, and the projected Labor swing continues to nudge upwards. A few booths are outstanding in North Shore and Manly, but the picture there is clear enough – what remains to be established is whether the Liberals can nail down North Shore on pre-polls, although we won’t really be sure without a preference count. They are probably far enough ahead in Manly.

7.54pm. Three more primary vote results in Gosford, with little change to the projection.

7.51pm. New South Wales does a lot of non-booth counting on the night, so pre-polls in particular stand to add a bit of clarity in two hours or so.

7.48pm. The larger and more urban booths in Gosford have tended to improve Labor’s result — there are now 19 booths in on primary and 15 on two-party, and the swing is now well into double figures.

7.44pm. In Gosford, Booker Bay pre-school added on primary, and lots of new results in on two-party results bringing the total there up to 14 booths. The swing is now back to double figures.

7.41pm. In North Shore, Wilson (LIB) now down to 40.1%, Corrigan (IND) steady at 25.5%. That’s a shaky primary vote for the Liberals, but with postals likely to favour them, it should probably be enough.

7.39pm. Woy Woy South Public School primary vote added for Gosford.

7.38pm. And now the Glenvale School booth primary vote result brings it back to single figures.

7.37pm. Another primary vote result (Somersby) and one on two-party (Umina campus, where preferences flowed particularly strongly to Labor) pushes the projected swing in Gosford back into double figures.

7.33pm. Eleven booths in out of 19 in Manly, where Liberal candidate James Griffin is steady at 43.8%, and independent Kathryn Ridge is firming in second place with 23.4%. Presumably Griffin should be safe.

7.30pm. In North Shore, Felicity Wilson slips to 40.4% with 10 booths in on the primary vote, with independent Carolyn Corrigan up to 25.5%. A lot depends on how much of the 17.0% Greens vote is exhausting.

7.24pm. Liberal candidates are settling in at around 42% to 43% in Manly and North Shore, with the main challengers respectively at around 22% and 25%. Liberal-versus-Greens two-party counts are being conducted, which are unlikely to be much use, as they look to be coming in third.

7.23pm. Umina campus brings it to ten booths out of 26 in on the primary vote, with little change to the projection.

7.22pm. The large Peats Ridge booth in Gosford is a good one for Labor, pushing the swing back up towards the 10% mark. Peats Ridge now added on two-party.

7.20pm. A third booth in from Manly has Liberal candidate James Griffin up to 43.2%, with both Kathryn Ridge and the Greens a peek above 20%. Unless the trend changes, that should be enough for Griffin.

7.19pm. In Gosford, Mangrove Mountain Hall added on primary, Niagara Park Primary added on two-party, doing little to change the picture.

7.16pm. Five booths in now from North Shore: Felicity Wilson holding steady at 41.3%, Carolyn Corrigan dropping to 24.7%.

7.14pm. Some historical perspective: the Liberals got 41.0% of the primary vote and lost by 1.3% in 2003; then Mike Baird won by 3.4% with 45.1% in 2007. The independent incumbent, David Barr, got 33.4% and 31.2% respectively.

7.12pm. Four booths in now from North Shore, and Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson is back up 41.4%, with Carolyn Corrigan holding steady at 26.9%.

7.09pm. A second booth in North Shore, Forsyth Park, brings the Liberal candidate down to 38.8%, but Carolyn Corrigan is down too, to 26.0%. This was a better booth for independent Ian Mutton and the Greens, but it’s still clear that Corrigan is the main threat to Felicity Wilson.

7.07pm. A second booth in Manly brings the Liberal back to 42.4%, with independent Kathryn Ridge on 22.1% and the Greens on 19.9%. The Liberal primary vote might be low enough to be dangerous under compulsory preferential, but it’s probably enough under optional where there is such a big gap between the two front-runners.

7.05pm. The first booth in North Shore, Drill Hall, has Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson on 40.8%, potentially low enough to be dangerous. Far ahead of the independents is Carolyn Corrigan on 34.0%, who will be well in the game if this keeps up.

7.03pm. Four booths in on two-party in Gosford now, including the fast-working Point Clare booth. Preference flows to Labor seem to be a little bit weaker than in 2015, so now that I’m using the current results, the projected swing is now in single figures.

6.57pm. Seven booths now in on the primary vote, and little change on the projection.

6.53pm. We’ve not got two more central booths in Gosford on the primary vote, including the very large one at Point Clare Public, and it’s a pretty emphatic win there for Labor of 797-579 over the Liberals on the primary vote, compared with an 897-693 win to the Liberals at the election. So the projected swing to Labor is now into double digits.

6.49pm. The Kulnura Hall booth is in on 2PP, but it only tells us about the destination of 41 minor party votes in preferences. My projection above will continue to use the last election preferences until we’ve got more than 200 such votes to work with, and then it will switch to projecting from preference flows from the count thus far.

6.45pm. A fourth small booth in Gosford, Mooney Mooney Public, suggests Patonga is the outlier, and that Labor is picking up a solid but not overwhelming swing. But certainly they’re looking good to retain the seat.

6.44pm. The first result from Manly, Manly Hospital, has Liberal candidate James Griffin on 45.9%, which would likely be enough to see off any challengers, although the 34.8% vote for Kathryn Ridge would be a worry for him.

6.42pm. A third small booth from the Gosford hinterland, Mt White Rural Fire Service, is more like Kulnura than Patonga, with only a slight swing to Labor.

6.40pm. The second small booth from Gosford, Patonga Hall, is a much better result for Labor — they’ve beaten the Liberals 70-55 on the primary vote, having lost there 81-41 in 2015.

6.30pm. We’ve got Kulnura Hall in from Gosford — only 131 votes, but the result is little changed on 2015, suggesting another close result. The above table shows raw primary vote and percentage numbers, then swings and projections based on booth matching. At this stage, the 2PP assumes the same distribution as the 2015 election.

6pm. Polls have closed for today’s three New South Wales state by-elections in Gosford, Manly and North Shore, so now commences live commentary. We should get some very small booths in from Gosford first, followed by a lull, followed by large booths coming in from 7pm onwards.

New South Wales by-elections: Gosford, Manly, North Shore

A detailed look at today’s three New South Wales by-elections – two in blue-ribbon Liberal seats, the other in a lineball Labor-held marginal.

By-elections are to be held today in the New South Wales state seats of Gosford, Manly and North Shore, detailed overviews of which can be found here. The by-elections are the first electoral test for the new Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, since she succeeded Mike Baird in January.

Berejiklian will be hoping for a better result than the government could muster at the last round of byelections in November, which led directly to the resignation of Nationals leader Troy Grant. The sticking point on that occasion was the rural electorate of Orange, which had been vacated by Nationals member Andrew Gee’s move to federal politics at the July 2 election (the other two were in the safe Labor seats of Canterbury and Wollongong, where the Liberals did not field candidates). Voters seeking to vent displeasure at council amalgamations and the abortive ban on greyhound racing bypassed Labor to hand the seat to Phil Donato of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, a party that had previously been confined to the upper house.

As was the case in November, tomorrow’s round of byelections includes one of serious interest to both sides of politics, and two in safe seats which have been forfeited by the weaker of the two major parties. The contested seat is Gosford, located in the Central Coast region around 75 kilometres north of Sydney. Gosford falls within the federal electorate of Robertson, which has changed hands with each change of government since John Howard came to power in 1996. The seat proved particularly important in 2010, when Labor managed to defend a tiny margin despite the travails of outgoing member Belinda Neal — but for which Julia Gillard would not have been able to stitch together her minority government.

The history of the Gosford electorate has been complicated by a redistribution in 2007 that turned the seat from Liberal-leaning to Labor-leaning, by moving it into territory formerly accommodated by the abolished Labor-held seat of Peats. Labor held the redrawn Gosford in 2007, lost it amid the rout of 2011, then recovered it in 2015 by a margin of 203 votes. It is now being vacated by Kathy Smith, who announced her resignation in February after the recurrence of a cancer with which she was first diagnosed in the middle of last year.

Labor’s new candidate is Liesl Tesch, a local school teacher and gold medal-winning Paralympian who has been an incomplete paraplegic since suffering a mountain bike accident at the age of 19. The persistent Belinda Neal once again loomed as a preselection aspirant, but the leadership knocked this on the head by overriding the party’s democratic processes and installing Tesch by the fiat of the national executive. The Liberal candidate is Jilly Pilon, who has built a profile locally as an advocate for road safety and organ donation following the death of her son in a skateboarding accident two years ago.

The other two by-elections are to be held in the neighbouring harbourside seats of Manly, which has been vacated by Mike Baird’s resignation, and North Shore, where Jillian Skinner has called it quits after being dumped as Health Minister. As is the way of “safe” seats, both have the potential to embarrass the dominant party by electing independents, as Manly did on five successive occasions from 1991 until Mike Baird arrived on the scene in 2007, and North Shore did throughout the 1980s by returning Ted Mack, who later served two terms as federal member for North Sydney.

So there will be some alarm in the Liberal camp that their candidate in North Shore, Felicity Wilson, has hit heavy weather in the last few days over suggestions her connections to the electorate are not all that she has claimed. Her seven rivals for the seat include Ian Mutton, a law firm director who won the endorsement of North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson when she withdrew her own candidacy shortly before the closure of nominations.

Things seem to be running more smoothly for the Liberal candidate in Manly, James Griffin, a director at KPMG Australia. Opposition to Griffin stands to be dissipated among a large field of 12 candidates – an important consideration under the state’s system of optional preferential voting. The one fly in the ointment has been grumbling over Tony Abbott’s disinclination to involve himself in campaigns on the turf of his federal seat of Warringah, after his preferred candidates were defeated for preselection.

Orange, Wollongong and Canterbury by-elections

Background detail and live coverage for today’s trio of New South Wales by-elections, including the Nationals-versus-Labor contest in Orange.

Live count commentary

# % Swing Proj. 2PP
Janelle Bicknell (Greens) 2629 5.6% -1.0%
Scott Barrett (Nationals) 15039 31.8% -34.2% 49.4%
Philip Donato (SFF) 11193 23.7% 50.6%
Kevin Duffy (Independent) 3086 6.5%
Scott Munro (Independent) 4419 9.3%
Bernard Fitzsimon (Labor) 8688 18.4% -5.0%
Dianne Decker (CDP) 1594 3.4% 0.9%
Ian Donald (Independent) 620 1.3%

Thursday (later still). Antony Green has the results of the preference distribution.

Thursday (later). The distribution of preferences has ended with the Nationals 66 votes in front. Shooters Fishers and Farmers have issued a statement saying a recount will be held tomorrow, and they are hoping/expecting it will show up the anomaly noted below.

Thursday. I stopped following the late count, which failed to produce anything groundbreaking, but am now bumping the post due to commotion emerging from the count as the preference distribution is conducted. Shooters finished with an 84-vote lead on the notional preference distribution, but it now appears the Nationals candidate is 60 votes ahead during the preference distribution proper. However, the Twitter account of the Central West Daily says “it’s thought a bundle may be switched”, which presumably might mean the Nationals are being credited with 50 votes that ought to have gone to Shooters, in which case Shooters would be ahead by 40 votes when it’s corrected.

Sunday 6pm. The Nationals are still in the race thanks to very strong results on today’s counting of pre-polls and postals, and they have slightly improved their position on the most recently added booth-level preference results. We’ve had 5877 pre-polls, to go with the 9779 from last night which came from Forbes, and they’ve favoured Nationals over Shooters by 40.1% to 18.5%, while the gap on postals is 43.6% to 13.0%. That’s blown the primary vote gap out to 8.1% from 5.6% last night, and the Shooters’ projected winning margin is down to 0.6%, which doesn’t account for a likely trend to the Nationals on whatever late votes remain (particularly postals). So a lot depends on whether any pre-poll booths remain to be counted or how many postals we can expect, both of which I’m not sure about.

Sunday 5pm. There have now been 10 booths out of 38 completed in the notional Nationals-versus-Shooters count, and they point to a modest winning margin for the Shooters. Preferences so far have gone 35.5% to Shooters and 13.6% to the Nationals, with 50.9% exhausting, which I’m projecting to a winning margin of 1.5%.

End of night. Antony Green reports there are about 6000 pre-polls outstanding from Parkes and Forbes, which the Nationals will be hoping might widen the gap further. However, the number of postal votes should be quite modest, since there were only 1126 last time. So the Nationals have very limited opportunity to build on what currently looks like an insufficient primary vote lead, unless there is a remarkably high rate of exhaustion on preferences from Labor and minor candidates. Kevin Bonham notes that Labor’s how-to-vote card was backed by a union campaign to put the Nationals last, which would seem to bode ill for them.

11.09pm. 1537 iVotes have favoured the Nationals, adding 0.4% to their primary vote lead.

10.44pm. The Nationals have been given a steadier with the addition of 9805 pre-polls, of which 30.9% have gone to the Nationals and 21.7% to Shooters. This gives Shooters a hill to climb on preferences, and the Nationals will be hoping it gets steeper with postals.

8.57pm. The NSWEC has pulled the Nationals-versus-Labor count, so those numbers are “stuck”. We have all the numbers from the polling booths, but there could possibly be postals or pre-polls to come this evening.

7.53pm. Only one booth left to come in Orange. From memory though, I think you get a large postals result later in the night at New South Wales by-elections.

7.46pm. Orange High booth doesn’t change the primary vote margin much, but my delayed update of the two-party projection has the Nationals winning margin relative to Labor down below 5%, as little as that now means.

7.40pm. Bletchington booth in Orange a good result for SFF, pulling the Nationals primary below 30% — three more to come.

7.34pm. Only four booths left to report now from Orange, where SFF continue to do at least as well in large large-reporting booths as the earlier small ones.

7.30pm. Another good SFF result from the large Canowindra High booth. To recap: the two-party results shown above are Nationals-versus-Labor, which are clearly redundant because Philip Donato of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers is well clear of Labor in second place, and close enough to the Nationals candidate on the primary vote that he will the seat unless something very surprising happens with preferences. Meanwhile, Labor are cruising to victory in Canterbury, and are doing well enough in Wollongong despite a 33.4% vote for independent Gordon Bradbery.

7.24pm. The latest batch of booths from Orange has included some excellent results for Philip Donato of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers in large town booths, and he is surely now very well placed to win the seat.

7.14pm. Labor looks to be doing it reasonably comfortably in Wollongong: their candidate Paul Scully leads independent Gordon Bradbery 50.1% to 28.9%.

7.12pm. There are now 21 booths in on the primary vote, the latest batch including one from Parkes and two from Forbes, and the SFF are doing at least as well as Labor here too, so they now seem assured of taking second place. I’m now projecting the Nationals’ margin over Labor at a more comfortable 7.2%, but that’s not what it will actually come down to. Presumably we will have to wait until, at best, tomorrow to see a Nationals-versus-SFF preference flow to determine the likely outcome.

6.58pm. Based on five booths, I’m calculating an 19.0% two-party swing to Labor, reducing the margin to 2.7%, if they can finish second.

6.51pm. Thirteen booths in now from Orange, and the picture is as before, still with no booths from Forbes or Parkes and only one from Orange. If SFF can indeed stay competitive on the primary vote, we will end the evening in the dark, as the preference throw being conducted is between Nationals and Labor, so it will not be known how preferences are flowing between the Nationals and SFF, and how many are exhausting.

6.48pm. Labor on 65.9% after a few booths in Canterbury, so I won’t be following that one. Nothing yet from Wollongong.

6.44pm. Another two booths, making seven in all, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers continue to look interesting, now pulling well ahead of Labor. However, the one town booth, Orange Hospital, has Labor on 26.6% and SFF on 15.6%, and there may be plenty more of that to follow from later booths in Orange, Parkes and Forbes.

6.38pm. Five booths in from Orange and the Nationals vote appears to have all but halved, but the slack has been taken up by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, who on these numbers are running ahead of Labor and in contention to win the seat. However, it may be that Shooters, Fishers and Farmers don’t end up polling quite so well in the larger town booths that won’t report until later.

Overview

Three state by-elections are being held in New South Wales today, from which I have been distracted by presidential election coverage. The only one of the three being contested by both major parties is Orange, which has been vacated by Nationals MP Andrew Gee’s move to federal politics as member for Calare. The recent decline in the Baird government’s standing has left Labor confident it can at the very least make up enough ground in the safe conservative seat to cause it embarrassment. The other two by-elections are in Labor-held Canterbury and Wollongong, and the Liberals found no reason to expose themselves to adverse swings by fielding candidates. However, Wollongong will be contested by a candidate who came within 0.9% of defeating the outgoing Labor member in 2012.

Orange

Nationals 21.7%

Dominated by the town 250 kilometres to the west of Sydney that bears its name, Orange has existed in one form or another since 1859, outside of the period of proportional representation from 1920 to 1927, and has been held by the National/Country Party since 1947. Former barrister Andrew Gee came to the seat at the 2011 election in succession to Russell Turner, the member since 1996. Labor’s last serious challenge to the seat came at the by-election in 1996 that marked Turner’s entry to parliament, when the margin was reduced to 2.6% on the same day that Labor won a by-election for the normally conservative North Coast seat of Clarence.

The Nationals candidate is Scott Barrett, a state government policy adviser who once worked as a media adviser to federal independent Bob Katter, who won a preselection ahead of Cabonne shire councillor Janelle Culverson, Orange city councillor Scott Munro and local barrister Duncan Brakell. Munro will now be running as one of three independents, along with former Cabonne mayor and local councillor Kevin Duffy and geologist Ian Donald. Labor’s candidate is Brendan Fitzsimon, a Public Service Association delegate who also ran for the candidate at the 2015 election. Also in the field are candidates for the Greens, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and the Christian Democratic Party.

Wollongong

Labor 8.9% versus Independent

The traditional Labor bastion of Wollongong is being vacated by Noreen Hay, who came to the seat in 2003 and survived the 2011 disaster by a 0.9% margin ahead of independent candidate Gordon Bradbery. Hay has been an occasional subject of unwelcome attention for Labor, causing her to be dumped from parliamentary secretary positions on two separate occasions during Labor’s last term in office before the defeat of 2011. The first instance came after she was named in an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into corruption in Wollongong Council, for which she ultimately emerged with no adverse findings, and the second followed after an incident in which Kiama MP Matt Brown danced semi-naked in her office during a late-night party and, it was alleged –- though denied by both — simulated a sex act on her, costing him his job as Police Minister (the then Premier, Nathan Rees, denied her demotion was related to the incident). Her resignation from parliament follows her loss of the party whip position after electoral fraud charges were laid against one of her staff over her preselection ahead of the 2015 state election. One of the unsuccessful candidates from the preselection, Paul Scully, chief operating officer of the University of Wollongong’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, is now Labor’s candidate for the by-election.

On its present boundaries, Wollongong covers the coast for about seven kilometres in either direction from central Wollongong, as far as Towradgi in the north and Windang in the south. From there it extends inland to Mount Kembla and Berkeley on the northern bank of Lake Illawarra. Since it was first created in 1904, its existence as an electorate has been interrupted between 1920 and 1927, when single-member electorates were replaced with multi-member districts; between 1930 and 1941, when Wollongong was renamed Illawarra and Illawarra renamed Bulli; and between 1941 and 1968, when it had the name Wollongong-Kembla. Labor’s collective dominion over Wollongong, Illawarra, Wollongong-Kembla was disturbed on three occasions: when sitting member John Nicholson defected to the Nationalists in the split of 1917, followed by his defeat at the election the next year; when Jack Hough held the seat for the Liberals from 1965 to 1971; and when Frank Arkell held it as an independent from 1984 to 1991. Labor’s member from 1950 to 1963 was Rex Connor, who later held the local federal seat of Cunningham from 1963 until his death in 1977, and was famously a principal of the Khemlani loans affair as the Whitlam government’s Minerals and Energy Minister.

Frank Arkell won election as an independent on his second attempt in 1984, having served as Lord Mayor of Wollongong since 1974 and come within 51 votes of unseating Labor member Eric Ramsay on his first attempt in 1981. With Ramsay retiring at the 1984 election, Labor’s candidate was Rex Connor Jr, the son of the late former member, whom Arkell defeated by a margin of 4.2%. The redistribution before the 1988 election set up a contest between Arkell and the Labor member for the abolished neighbouring seat of Corrimal, Laurie Kelly, in which Arkell prevailed by 5.5%. The seat returned to the Labor fold when Gerry Sullivan secured an 8.6% winning margin over Arkell in 1991. Arkell was brutally murdered in 1998, two months before he was due to face court on child sex charges.

Gerry Sullivan held the seat for Labor until the 1999 election, when his preselection was successfully challenged by Left faction colleague Col Markham after a post-redistribution deal delivered Markham’s existing seat of Keira to the Right. Markham in turn fell victim to a preselection challenge from a fellow Left faction member ahead of the 2003 election, when the seat passed on to present incumbent Noreen Hay, formerly a Miscellaneous Workers Union official and electorate officer to federal Throsby MP Jennie George. Support from local councillor and numbers man Kiril Jonovski, along with lingering resentment at the manner of Markham’s imposition in 1999, were said to have been the crucial factors behind Hay’s winning the preselection vote by a 95-81 margin against the urgings of Bob Carr, who said Markham was an “ideal member”. Hay’s relationship with her Left faction was widely seen to have deteriorated as a result of the preselection ructions, and by the end of her first year in parliament she had defected to the Right.

Hay faced a strong challenge at the 2011 election from Gordon Bradbery, then a Wesley Uniting Church minister and now the Lord Mayor of Wollongong. Bradbery comfortably outpolled the Liberal candidate to take second place, with Hay on 35.6% and Bradbery on 29.5%, but Hay made it home by 674 votes at the final count. The result was unsuccessfully challenged in court by Bradbery, who claimed voting irregularities and distribution of fake how-to-vote cards. Hay’s preselection ahead of the 2015 election was challenged by both Paul Scully and Wollongong councillor Ann Martin, but she secured an easy victory in the local ballot with 80 votes to 35 for Scully and 13 for Martin. She again faced a strong independent challenge at the ensuing election, this time from South Coast Trades and Labor Council head Arthur Rorris, but prevailed at the final count by a margin of 8.9%.

Paul Scully’s preselection for the by-election was achieved through the intervention of Luke Foley, who said he was “taking charge” due to the “irregularities” that had characterised the party’s local affairs. Those thwarted by the move included Ann Martin, lawyer Deb Langton, and serial local preselection aspirant and Noreen Hay ally John Rumble. Gordon Bradbery will again be running as an independent, and there are also candidates for the Christian Democratic Party and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

Canterbury

Labor 15.7%

Canterbury is located about 10 kilometres south-west of central Sydney, encompassing Earlwood and northern Kingsgrove along the Cooks River, from which it extends north to Campsie, Canterbury and Hurlstone Park. It was one of 20 seats retained by Labor amid the debacle of 2011, and has been held by the party for all but one term since 1913, the exception being after the 1932 election when it fell to an independent. The outgoing member, Linda Burney, was a former director-general of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and became the state’s first indigenous MP when she came to the seat in 2003. This was achieved with backing from Left heavyweight Anthony Albanese, after the previous member Kevin Moss of the Right, reluctantly agreed to step aside. Burney rose to the deputy leadership after the 2011 election defeat, and moved to federal politics at the July election in the corresponding seat of Barton.

Labor’s new candidate for Canterbury is Sophie Cotsis, a member of the Legislative Council since September 2010, when she filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Right faction warlord John Della Bosca. She was assigned to the front bench after the 2011 election defeat and served in a range of portfolios, most recently ageing, disability services and multiculturalism. At the 2015 election she was the lead candidate on Labor’s upper house ticket. Cotsis’s preselection was determined by the party’s national executive in an arrangement that ensured Burney would take Barton, which Labor looked all but certain to gain after a favourable redistribution; preserved Right member Joel Fitzgibbon in his federal seat of Hunter after the neighbouring seat of Charlton was abolished by a redistribution; and maintained the factional balance in state parliament by having Cotsis’s vacancy in the upper house go to John Graham, the party’s assistant general secretary and a member of the Left. Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Left faction’s local control would have given it the numbers to install Graham, Luke Foley wished to see the seat go to a locally connected candidate, and was concerned about the “perception of a factional boss moving into a safe Labor seat”.

There are two other candidates at the by-election: Kristian Bodell, a solicitor, for the Greens; and Branka Kouroushis, a Montenegro-born counselling and community service work student.

Newcastle and Charlestown by-elections live

Live coverage of counting in the Newcastle and Charlestown state by-elections.

9.34pm. Since the Labor-versus-Greens results yet to be reported are barely even of academic interest (Labor currently leads 64-36), I’ll more or less wrap it up here, although I’ll have another look at the numbers later tonight given that we should get some pre-polls and postals. To summarise: Labor has easily won Charlestown, being just a shade under 50%, but has struggled a bit in the face of a strong performance from independent Karen Howard in Newcastle, who seems to have inherited the Liberal vote. Nonetheless, Labor’s 37.1% to 25.9% lead over Howard on the primary vote is too big for her to run down on preferences.

9.31pm. Now all the polling booths are in, Carrington and Mayfield East being the last to report, and it looks like this:

Labor 11,831 37.1% (+6.1%)
Howard 8,263 25.9%
Greens 6,460 20.2% (+5.8%)
Others 5,364 16.8%

With about half of the preferences likely to exhaust, Howard would need a four-to-one advantage over Labor on the remainder, which obviously isn’t going to happen. It’s equally clear though that the Greens are not going to overhaul Howard and take second place, but the NSWEC is nonetheless proceeding with its Labor-versus-Greens count, and has reported results from two booths so far.

9.21pm. Howard barely makes double figures at the large Stockton booth (1931 votes), pushing her total down to 26.6% with Labor up to 36.4%.

9.19pm. Adamstown reports (1160 votes), Labor doubles Howard’s vote but the totals aren’t much changed, Labor on 35.4% and Howard on 27.8%.

9.06pm. The NSWEC two-party results page is configured for a Labor-versus-Greens count, but it seems clear enough that Karen Howard will in fact finish second. Presumably they are holding off on conducting the two-party count until its clear which two candidates they should be looking at.

9.00pm. Lambton High is smaller (1260 votes) but has a similar result, and the gap widens a little further.

8.59pm. The big Waratah booth (2266 votes) has really widened the gap – Labor now leads 35.0% to 28.1%.

8.56pm. Hamilton South Community Hall (716) is the first Newcastle booth where Labor has over 50%. It was Labor’s strongest area in 2011, along with still-to-report Stockton.

8.50pm. Sixteen of 24 booths in from Charlestown, and Labor remains fractionally over 50% on the primary vote.

8.46pm. WEA Hunter Laman Street is quite a good result for Labor from a weak booth, their primary vote up 8.6% and a 30.4% to 28.0% win over Howard. Booths outstanding are Adamstown, Carrington, Hamilton South Community Hall, Lambton High, Mayfield East, Stockton and Waratah, which reads like a list of Labor’s very best booths. Their current lead over Howard is 33.5% to 29.2%, which should now start to widen decisively.

8.38pm. St Johns Cooks Hill is a weak result for Labor, with no swing and a 35.6% go 25.7% win to Howard.

8.17pm. St Columba’s Adamstown booth in Newcastle has a big 10% swing to Labor, and they win the primary vote there 34.1% to 31.8%.

8.12pm. Two strong booths for Labor at Hamilton North (651 votes) and Islington (1078) swing 5% and 9% to Labor, their total lead over Howard now out to 33.9% to 28.5%.

8.04pm. Newcastle: Small Hamilton North booth (651) gives them a fairly weak 5%+ swing, but they outpoll Howard 41.8% to 22.4% and edge ahead on the primary vote.

8.00pm. Eleven booths of 24 in from Charlestown, and Labor still over 50% on the primary vote.

7.56pm. Two more Newcastle booths in: St Andrews Mayfield (1160 votes), a strong booth for Labor where they’re up 9%, and The Junction (1886 votes), a weak one where they’re up 5%, and where Howard has outpolled them 36.8% to 28.9%. Labor has a narrow overall primary vote lead, which should widen from here.

7.53pm. Booths reporting in Newcastle are continue to be their weakest from 2011. Merewether Uniting was somewhat stronger for Labor than some of the others, but they’re only up 5%, and have been outpolled by Howard 35.9% to 30.7%. Still, a 5% primary vote increase would probably do it for Labor, even if they weren’t generally doing better than that elsewhere.

7.50pm. Tighes Hill has Labor up 8%, and point to the strong vote for the Greens, who are on 31.6% in this booth to Labor’s 36.8%. They seem to be up at least 5% across the board.

7.48pm. Back in Newcastle, a weak swing to Labor of a little over 4% in the Newcastle East Public School booth. This is once again in the weak part of town for Labor, and Howard shades them on the primary vote, 29.7% to 29.6% (out of 1477 votes).

7.47pm. Meanwhile, Labor continue romping it in in Charlestown, now on 52.6% with eight booths in.

7.45pm. New Lambton South, a strong booth for Labor, is back on script with an 11.1% increase in the Labor primary vote, and a 45.4% to 23.3% lead over Howard.

7.43pm. Another bad booth for Labor reports in Newcastle, Holy Family Church Hall Merewether, and Howard has outpolled them 41.4% to 23.5%. This time, Labor’s primary vote is only up about 4%.

7.40pm. If, as it seems, Karen Howard has succeeded in establishing herself is the proxy Liberal candidate in Newcastle, Labor could be said to be heading for a two-party swing of nearly 10% against a margin of 2.6%. So while they continue to trail on the primary vote, they are likely to win very comfortably unless the current pattern changes.

7.38pm. Even bigger Labor swing in the large Charlestown booth of Warners Bay Public (2112 votes) – up 23.0%.

7.32pm. Swings against Labor in the three Newcastle are between 7.2% and 11.7%, which continues to suggest a primary vote of around 40%, which under OPV shouldn’t be a problem for them. There are no such dramas in Charlestown, their primary vote up 17.4% in a third booth if Wirapaang.

7.28pm. The first booth from the Labor-voting part of town, Mayfield, is as strong as Labor needs for it to be: of the 854 votes, they beat Howard 47.2% to 16.1%.

7.20pm. Antony Green nonetheless projecting over 40% primary vote for Labor in Newcastle, so clearly things will get better for them from here.

7.16pm. Howard also wins big in Merewether Heights Public School – fewer votes this time, 1137 rather than 2129 in Hamilton South, but she demolished Labor 41.5% to 22.9%. This is an even worse booth for Labor than Hamilton South though – nonetheless, Labor will need to turn it around big in the stronger parts of town for them.

7.11pm. A big result for independent Karen Howard in the first booth from Newcastle, Hamilton South (located in the Newcastle electorate but serving both as a polling booth, as is New Lambton South), who has outpolled Labor 37.7% to 32.9%. This was one of Labor’s worst booths in the electorate in 2011, but even so this is a strikingly good result for Howard.

6.55pm. Second booth is New Lambton South, with 207 votes. Here Labor is cut finer by the Greens, leading 35.9% to 25.1%. Their primary vote is up about 10%, rather than 18% in Hamilton South.

6.37pm. The first booth is Hamilton South in Charlestown, and Labor has 44.3% of its 61 formal votes and the Greens in second on 18.0%, which does not suggest any surprises are brewing.

6pm. Live coverage of the Newcastle and Charlestown by-elections in New South Wales, which Labor are expected to go untroubled in the absence of Liberal candidates.