Jeff McCloy resigns – yet another by-election

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The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Jeff McCloy, resigned his position this morning, after recent ICAC revelations that he had donated money to a number of Hunter-based Liberal MPs despite being a property developer and thus not being permitted to donate money. Two of the beneficiaries of his money have already resigned from Parliament, triggering by-elections in the NSW state seats of Newcastle and Charlestown for October 25.

McCloy’s resignation will trigger yet another by-election for the City of Newcastle.

newcastle2014To give you a sense of the geography, the following map shows the existing NSW state electorates (which will be used for the two state by-elections) with the boundaries of the City of Newcastle overlaid as a green line.

The electorate of Newcastle lies entirely within the City of Newcastle. The electorate of Charlestown is mostly in the neighbouring City of Lake Macquarie, but the suburb of Kotara is contained within the City of Newcastle and the electorate of Charlestown.

In addition, most of the Labor electorate of Wallsend, and parts of the Labor electorate of Cessnock and the Liberal electorate of Port Stephens are contained within the City of Newcastle.

It’s appealing to consider the possibility of rolling together the lord mayoral by-election with the two state by-elections, but it does have the potential to cause confusion.

If that was to happen, some Charlestown voters would be voting for the lord mayor, while most weren’t, and there would be a large number of Newcastle residents voting for a new mayor but not for a local member.

In terms of precedent, I can’t think of a recent example of a directly-elected mayor of a major Australian city resigning mid-term and triggering a by-election during the term.

Frank Sartor resigned as Lord Mayor of Sydney in 2003 when he was elected as a Labor state MP, but Lucy Turnbull filled the role until the coming election after being elected by the council. I’m not sure if that was due to the fact that the by-election would have been held so close to the coming council election. In the case of Newcastle, McCloy has resigned not even halfway through his four-year term.

In terms of scale, the Newcastle lord mayoral by-election is about the same size as a federal by-election. 85,000 formal votes were cast for Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 2012, which is about the same as the number of votes in federal electorates in 2013. For this reason, I’m considering doing a profile for that race, as well as for the two state by-elections. They will be my first priorities once I finish my guide to New Zealand 2014 this week.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. First directly elected mayor of Geelong resigned in 2013 supposedly due to ill health but also due to conflict between himself & Councillors. Result was a by-election.

  2. Firstly I thought the title Lord Mayor was only for capital cities not a provincial city like Newcastle but it is apparently? In the media McCloy was referred as an Independent but this morning on ABC News Radio he was referred to as a Liberal. Perhaps an administrator need to be appointed to rule Newcastle for a few years. I have a relative near Newcastle at Fishing Point so I will ask him what he thinks.

  3. Lord Mayor is used in NSW for the four main centres: Sydney, Parramatta, Wollongong and Newcastle.

    McCloy is an independent but he’s in an alliance with the Liberal councillors on Newcastle City Council, and the MPs he was donating to were Liberals.

  4. Thanks Ben for clarifying that.

    Is the Lord Mayor in the four provincial cities in NSW elected separately to other councillors or is he chosen by the councillors after the election like a mayor in other municipalities in NSW?

  5. The title ‘Lord Mayor’ is not related to the method of election.

    The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong are elected directly by voters, as are mayors in a number of other councils. The Lord Mayor of Parramatta is elected by the council.

  6. In 2003 local government elections were originally scheduled to be held in September of that year, hence Sartor’s resignation might have been within the period where vacancies aren’t to be filled by a by-election. (I believe that period is currently 12 months, but I thought it used to be shorter). The elections were subsequenlty put back to March 2004 by the state government, allegedly because the electoral commission needed more time to prepare following the glitches with their counting software in the state upper house election,

  7. Instead of a costly by election so close to a general election a better option could be to install the 2nd placed candidate from the previous election (which would be from another party or an independent) or to nominate a replacement MP from the retiring MP’s party as is the case for a Senate vacancy.

  8. BTW I assume this by-election will be run by the same private contractor who ran the last Newcastle City Council election??? That would be one major practical barrier to running it on the same day as the state by-elections.

  9. It looks like the original contract in 2011 was only awarded for the 2012 general election. I can’t find anything since so yes it could be run by Elections NSW or there may be another contract that I couldn’t find.

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