The New South Wales Legislative Council consists of 42 members who serve staggered eight-year terms, with half the seats falling vacant at each election. The Coalition duly reached a peak when it followed the 2011 landslide with another strong win in 2015, before losing ground in 2019 as the 2011 result washed out of the system. Where a disciplined Coalition was only two seats short of a majority before 2019, which could generally be provided by the Christian Democrats or Shooters Fishers and Farmers, it has since had to wheedle five extra votes from a cross-bench including four elected as Greens, two each from One Nation, Shooters and Animal Justice, and one from the Christian Democrats. Nonetheless, the chamber has had 22 members broadly of the right compared with 20 of the left, which will be neutralised at the coming election if the left collectively wins 11 seats out of 21, or overturned if it wins 12.
Party representation as determined by the 2015 and 2019 election results have been disturbed by Greens member Justin Field's resignation from the party a month after the 2019 election; the dissolution of the Christian Democrats in March 2022, after which Fred Nile sat as an independent; and a two-week spell on the cross bench for Liberal member Matthew Mason-Cox in May 2021. Shooters Fishers and Farmers retains the two seats it accumulated over 2015 to 2019, in contrast to the lower house where internal convulsions have cost it all three of its seats. One Nation has proved unusually stable under the stewardship of Mark Latham, who is cutting short his eight-year term to again run as the party's lead candidate, presumably on the basis that this will improve its chances of again winning two seats. This would mean four seats for a party that had only previously been represented in the chamber when David Oldfield held a seat for it from 1999 to 2000.
The election will be the thirteenth held since the Legislative Council went from being appointed to elected in 1978, and the eighth since the current model of 42 members serving staggered eight-year terms was adopted in 1995. This brought the quota for election to a new low of 4.55%, which encouraged a proliferation of micro-party preference harvesting that culminated in the metre-long “tablecloth ballot“ of 1999 and the election of three members from less than 1% of the first preference vote. The 1999 result led to reforms that foreshadowed those introduced for the Senate in 2016, abolishing group voting tickets and allowing votes to exhaust at the point where voters ceased to number boxes. The lowest vote share for a successful party since was 1.7% for Animal Justice in 2015, while the highest for an unsuccessful party was 2.2% when former Senator David Leyonhjelm ran for the Liberal Democrats in 2019.
The Coalition is defending nine seats from the 2015 result, three of which are held by the Nationals. After a Liberal preselection process marked by defeats of women in key lower house seats, including two who sought to move there from the Legislative Council, an initially all-male Coalition ticket was reordered over Christmas through an agreement among party leaders that roused resentments on both sides of the factional divide. Those dumped were Matthew Mason-Cox, who has served since in the chamber since 2006 and as its President since May 2021 (a position he secured through a manoeuvre that briefly resulted in his expulsion from the Liberal Party), and Lou Amato and Shayne Mallard, who were elected in 2015. This was followed in February by the dumping of Peter Poulos and his replacement by Jacqui Munro. The result is a ticket in which three Coalition candidates elected in 2015 maintain winnable positions, along with two who later filled casual vacancies.
To enhance the prominence of women on the ticket, Natasha Maclaren-Jones is cutting short the eight-year term to which she was elected in 2019 to run in top position. This creates a vacancy for her existing position that will later be filled by Scott Farlow, who will duly remain in parliament despite the expiry of his term and absence from the party ticket. A member of the centre right faction, Farlow entered parliament at the 2015 election, having earlier been elected to Strathfield City Council in 2004 at the age of 20, becoming mayor three years later.
Natasha Maclaren-Jones was elected in 2011 from eighth position, re-elected in 2019 from seventh, and promoted to the ministry in December 2021 in disability services and families and communities. She was long associated with Alex Hawke's centre right faction, but it was reported in December 2022 that she had switched to the hard right. Her elevation to top of the ticket follows her failure to her bid to secure a position in the lower house, which she sought to do first by nominating to succeed Brad Hazzard in Wakehurst, before shifting her attentions to Pittwater with the retirement of Rob Stokes. The latter bid was abandoned as it became apparent local councillor Rory Amon was unassailable.
The second position on the Coalition ticket is reserved to the Nationals and goes to Bronwyn Taylor, who became the party's deputy leader when Paul Toole succeeded John Barilaro in October 2021. Taylor is a former director of cancer services for the Southern New South Wales Local Health District and deputy mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire who was first elected in 2015. She was promoted to parliamentary secretary in August 2016 and the ministry after the 2019 election, taking on mental health, regional youth and women, exchanging regional youth for regional health in December 2021.
In third position is Liberal incumbent Chris Rath, a factional moderate and former IAG government relations manager who filled the vacancy created by Don Harwin's retirement in March 2022. Rath was preselected for the vacancy through a state executive urgency motion without a membership ballot, which was seen as a win for an alliance between moderates and the hard right over the centre right. Those thwarted reportedly included Christine Forster, Sydney councillor, Woodside media relations minister and sister of Tony Abbott.
Fourth position goes to newcomer Susan Carter, a law lecturer at the University of Sydney and one of the three women for whom Matthew Mason-Cox, Lou Amato and Shayne Mallard were dumped in December. As with the similarly placed Rachel Merton, Carter is factionally aligned with the hard right, a situation that compounded displeasure among moderates and the centre right arising from Maclaren-Jones's move to the faction.
The fifth position is mandated to the Nationals and is taken by Ben Franklin, who was state party director before entering parliament at the 2015 election, and had earlier been state president of the Young Liberals. Franklin was promoted to parliamentary secretary in February 2017 and to the ministry in December 2021 in Aboriginal affairs, regional youth and arts, further gaining tourism when Stuart Ayres resigned in August 2022. He temporarily stood aside from his position in the Legislative Council to run unsuccessfully for the lower house seat of Ballina at the 2019 election.
The ticket was initially to include another moderate incumbent, Peter Poulos, who filled the vacancy created by John Ajaka's retirement in May 2021. However, he was dropped in February after admitting to sharing nude images of Robyn Preston, party colleague and member for Hawkesbury, who posed for Penthouse magazine in the 1980s. The incident occurred in 2018, when Poulos was working as a political staffer. His replacement in sixth position is Jacqui Munro, consultant for public relations agency Red Havas and president of the state party's women's council. Munro won moderate endorsement for the position with support from deputy leader Matt Kean, again overlooking Shayne Mallard and Melanie Gibbons. The state executive ratified Munro with 13 votes in favour, nine against and two abstentions, the closeness of the result reflecting objections to her history of expressing progressive sentiments online.
Seventh position goes to Rachel Merton, the third of the Liberal women for whom Mason-Cox, Amato and Mallard made way. Merton is a ministerial staffer to Natasha Maclaren-Jones, former head of government affairs at KPMG Australia and daughter of former Baulkham Hills MP Wayne Merton. As originally brokered between Dominic Perrottet, hard right leader Damien Tudehope and moderate leader Matt Kean, the deal to bring three women on to the ticket originally included a place for former Deniliquin school teacher Jean Haynes rather than Merton. However, Merton's hard right backers insisted she be included, and it was Haynes rather than Carter who made way due to moderate objections over the former's role in a challenge to Sussan Ley's preselection in the federal seat of Farrer.
The third of the Nationals incumbents, Scott Barrett, takes the loseable eighth position. Barrett filled the vacancy resulting from Trevor Khan's retirement in January 2022, having previously been state manager for charity group GIVIT, state government policy adviser and media adviser to federal independent Bob Katter. He was the unsuccessful Nationals candidate for Orange at the November 2016 by-election, which was won by Philip Donato of Shooters Fishers and Farmers.
Labor returned seven members at the 2015 election, of whom the only one seeking re-election is Courtney Houssos, with another two having filled casual vacancies in the interim. Three incumbents failed to win preselection to traditionally winnable positions, two of whom lost the support of the Right: Adam Searle, who lacked a union backer, and Shaoquett Moselmane, who had been under pressure over links to figures connected with the Chinese Communist Party. A third, Mick Veitch, won support from his Left faction but was trumped in the state conference ballot by Cameron Murphy, and has duly been relegated to the difficult ninth position. Also retiring is Walt Secord, a Right faction figurehead who resigned from the shadow ministry in August 2022 over bullying accusations, prompting Chris Minns to say he would not support his preselection.
Heading the ticket is Courtney Houssos, a Right faction member who was elected from seventh position in 2015. Houssos supported Chris Minns in the leadership vote after the 2019 election and was promoted to the shadow ministry when he became leader in June 2021, taking on better regulation and innovation, to which natural resources was added in September 2022.
In second position is Rose Jackson, a member of the Left who filled the vacancy created when Lynda Voltz moved to the lower house seat of Auburn in 2019, where she had defeated Jackson for preselection. Jackson had previously been the state party's assistant general secretary, and is the daughter of the late ABC broadcaster Liz Jackson. She was promoted to the shadow ministry in water, housing and homelessness when Chris Minns became leader in June 2021, and supported him over Jodi McKay in the leadership contest after the 2019 election.
The third position has gone to barrister Cameron Murphy through a preselection coup at the party's state conference against his own Left faction. Murphy had accrued fewer votes in a factional ballot than Rose Jackson, John Graham and Mick Veitch, which had his backers in the “soft Left” crying foul over the exclusion of 23 CFMEU delegates due to the union's withdrawal from state conference the previous year. He then ran independently in the state conference ballot, receiving decisive support from the Health Services Union and Electical Trades Union. Murphy is the son of the late High Court justice Lionel Murphy and was narrowly unsuccessful as candidate for the lower house seat of East Hills in both 2015 and 2019.
In fourth position is Cessnock registered nurse Emily Suvaal, one of two newcomers who won a high position at the expense of Right faction incumbents.
Number five is John Graham, who filled the vacancy created in 2016 by Sophie Cotsis's move to the lower house seat of Canterbury, which was in turn vacated by Linda Burney's move to the federal seat of Barton. A member of the Left, Graham has held shadow ministry positions since November 2018 and became Labor's upper house deputy leader when Chris Minns succeeded Jodi McKay as leader in May 2021. Graham has held the night time economy and music portfolio since November 2018 and roads since after the 2019 election, further gaining Special Minister of State in June 2021 and the arts in August 2022.
The ticket initially determined at the party's state conference included Khal Asfour, but he withdrew in January amid negative publicity over his expenses claims as mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown. Asfour's dispute with Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk had earlier led to her break with the party and defection to One Nation. Chris Minns moved quickly to impose as Asfour's replacement Bob Nanva, the state party's general secretary since 2019 and previously secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, who takes the sixth position on the ticket. This required a national executive exemption to a rule barring party secretaries from preselection until they had served in the position for five years.
The seventh candidate is newcomer Stephen Lawrence, a barrister and former mayor of Dubbo, and the other of the two candidates to win a strong Right faction position at the expense of an incumbent along with Emily Suvaal.
In eighth position is Sarah Kaine, an honorary professor at the University of Technology Sydney. Kaine is the ex-wife of former Senator Tony Sheldon and sister of Michael Kaine, Sheldon's successor as Transport Workers Union national secretary, although her main backer for preselection was reportedly the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association.
Incumbent Mick Veitch, who has held a seat since 2007, has been relegated to the electorally dubious ninth position. Veitch was one of three members who won the Left endorsement to a normally safe position, but was thwarted when Cameron Murphy successfully went over the faction's head at state conference. He has served in the shadow ministry since 2015, holding the agriculture portfolio since Chris Minns became leader in June 2021.
The Greens won two seats in both 2015 and 2019, but were reduced to three in April 2019 when Justin Field quit the party citing its “hyper-partisanship and winner takes all approach”. Field came to the seat in May 2016 when he filled the vacancy created by the death of John Kaye, who had been elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2015. His term is duly set to expire, and he is not seeking re-election. The other candidate elected in 2015, Mehreen Furuqi, moved to the Senate in August 2018 and was succeeded by Cate Faehrmann, who will now head the party's ticket.
Cate Faehrmann first entered the Legislative Council in September 2010, when she succeeded Lee Rhiannon upon her move to the Senate. She resigned in June 2013 to run unsuccessfully as the party's lead Senate candidate in New South Wales, and later worked as chief-of-staff to the party's then federal leader, Richard Di Natale. Her bid in 2018 to fill the vacancy caused by Furuqi's move to the Senate was initially blocked by party administration on the grounds she had until recently been a member of the Victorian rather than the New South Wales branch, which she succeeded in having overturned through an action in the Supreme Court. In a win for the party's moderate tendency over its more radical element, she then prevailed in a preselection ballot ahead of Abigail Boyd, who later won election as the second candidate on the ticket in 2019.
The non-incumbent second candidate on the Greens ticket is Amanda Cohn, a general practitioner and deputy mayor of Albury from 2016 to 2021.
One Nation candidates
The One Nation ticket will again be headed by Mark Latham, who held the federal seat of Werriwa for Labor from 1994 to 2005 and led it to defeat at the 2004 election, after which he became increasingly alienated from the party and progressive politics in general. Latham was elected to an eight-year term in 2019 but it will cut it short to run again, ostensibly to “renew his mandate”, but seemingly with a view to boosting the party's electoral stocks and again securing it two seats.
The second position on the ticket will be taken by a more recent Labor defector, Tania Mihailuk, who has held lower house seat of Bankstown since 2011. Mihailuk resigned from the ALP in October 2022, a month after being dumped from the shadow ministry for using parliamentary privilege to attack Khal Asfour, Canterbury-Bankstown mayor and short-lived nominee for Labor's Legislative Council ticket, over alleged business and personal links with Eddie Obeid. She was also at the centre of a preselection impasse arising from the abolition of the seat of Lakemba that looked likely to shunt her to the seat of Fairfield, where she would potentially face a formidable independent challenge from local mayor Frank Carbone. Echoing her new leader, whom she had once described as a “buffoon”, Mihailuk complained that a “woke” ALP had “lost its way to the left-wing extremists and property developer mafia”.
The Shooters Fishers and Farmers ticket will be headed by the party's leader, Robert Borsak. Borsak came to parliament in September 2010 when he filled the vacancy created by the death of Roy Smith, who was elected in 2007, and retained the seat as the lead candidate in 2015. He survived a move against his leadership in December by the party's two remaining lower house members, Barwon MP Roy Butler and Orange MP Phil Donato, after being heard saying in parliament that a Liberal member “should have got up and clocked” Helen Dalton, who won the seat of Murray for the party in 2019 but had sat as an independent since February 2022. Butler and Donato resigned from the party after failing in a bid to wrest control of its executive committee from Borsak loyalists, leaving it with none of the three lower house seats it held after the 2019 election.
Animal Justice holds two seats, one held by Mark Pearson, elected in 2015 and with his term set to expire, and Emma Hurst, elected in 2019. With Pearson not seeking re-election, the party's ticket is headed by Alison Waters, a Lismore-based social worker.
An independent ticket headed by Lyle Shelton, high-profile former managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby and a leading figure in the campaign against same-sex marriage, has drawn the coveted Group A position on the ballot paper. Shelton was nominated to fill Fred Nile's vacancy when he announced his retirement in 2021, before Nile had a change of heart and opted to serve out of his term.
The election marks the effective end of 88-year-old Fred Nile's parliamentary career, which goes back to 1981. However, he is running as the second candidate on a ticket headed by his wife, Silvana Nile, under the informal banner of the unregistered Revive Australia Party (Fred Nile Alliance), which has drawn Group G on the ballot paper. Nile's former party, the Christian Democrats, was wound up in March 2022 amid internal fighting and declining membership, and he at first aligned himself with the unregistered Seniors United Party. His wife, Silvana Nile, will attempt to succeed him, with her husband keeping his hand in to the extent of taking second position on the ticket. They will run under the informal banner of the unregistered Revive Australia Party (Fred Nile Alliance).
The ticket of Legalise Cannabis, which holds two upper house seats apiece in Victoria and Western Australia, will be headed by former Greens member Jeremy Buckingham. Buckingham was elected in 2011 and broke ranks with the Greens in 2018 in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. He sought re-election as an independent in 2019 without success.
The United Australia Party is not registered in the state, but its nominal former federal parliamentary leader, Craig Kelly, remains the party's national director and will run at the head of an independent ticket that has drawn Group B on the ballot paper. Kelly held the federal seat of Hughes for the Liberals from 2010 to 2021, when he quit the party citing his need to speak independently on enthusiasms including climate change skepticism and the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID. He joined the United Australia Party soon after and was unsuccessful in his bid for re-election at the May 2022 federal election.
Former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly is the lead candidate for her own formally registered party, Elizabeth Farrelly Independents. Farrelly polled 9.9% as an independent candidate at the Strathfield by-election in February 2022.
The Liberal Democrats ticket will be headed by John Ruddick, a former conservative factional activist in the Liberal Party who quit in July 2021. The Liberal Democrats state executive voted four-to-three to disendorse Ruddick in December over allegations of bullying and abuse, but he was reinstated following a membership revolt.