I’m currently rushing to prepare my guide to the NSW state election prior to Christmas. In the last ten days I’ve made booth maps for 55 out of 93 seats, which covers most of the Sydney basin and all of the Illawarra. I’m hoping to get those maps finished soon and then begin posting profiles.
Yesterday I was working on maps for the northern seats in Sydney. Every seat in that area is held by the Liberal Party, who regained two seats from independents in 2007 and then won Ryde off the ALP at a 2008 by-election. The area is particularly weak for the ALP. The only seats in the area that are at all close to being marginal are Epping (8% margin) and Ryde (13% after a by-election).
In four of these seats, the ALP did not come in the top two. In Pittwater and Manly sitting independent MPs were defeated by the Liberal Party but still came in the top two. Independent Mayor Pat Reilly was the runner-up in Willoughby, while the Greens came second in North Shore. The Greens also came second in Vaucluse, the only Liberal seat on the southern shore of the Harbour and a seat with a lot of commonality with the north shore. In Pittwater, the ALP were relegated to fourth place with only 7%, behind the Liberal, the sitting independent and the Green.
When I have been making the booth maps for these seats I noticed a number of seats where the ALP and Greens are neck-and-neck, and it was worth examining in which booths the Greens managed to outpolled the ALP. After doing this for a number of seats I thought it would be worthwhile to make one for the whole region, stretching as far west as Hornsby, Epping and Ryde.
The Greens have surged in the north shore, and there is potential for the Greens to become the primary organised opposition to the Liberals following the 2011 state election. The Greens have already overtaken the ALP in North Shore and Pittwater. In Manly, the Greens were outpolled by Labor by only 50 votes. If strong independents do not emerge again in Manly and Pittwater, they will likely become Liberal-Green contests.
In Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell’s seat of Ku-ring-gai, the Greens only fell 24 votes short of overtaking the ALP at the key point in the distribution of preferences. The Greens are only behind Labor by 3% in Davidson and 4% in Willoughby.
The Greens are a long way from challenging the Liberal Party’s hold on any of these seats, but there is certainly potential for the Greens to substantially increase their vote in the area at the expense of Labor. The ALP is weak on the ground in the north shore, with no state or federal members of Parliament and few councillors. Without any infrastructure it will be hard for the party to maintain its presence, particularly when marginal seat campaigning means that the region is pretty much ignored by the party’s head office. The Greens in contrast have a lot to benefit by increasing their upper house vote substantially by poaching the roughly 10% of north shore voters who remain with the ALP.