Bradfield by-election

December 5, 2009

Bradfield was first created at the 1949 election, and has been held by the Liberal Party for the last sixty years. The seat was first held by former Prime Minister Billy Hughes up to his death in 1952, when he was replaced by Henry Turner. Turner held the seat until the 1974 election, when he was succeeded by David Connolly.

Neither Turner or Connolly ever held ministries, although Connolly served as a shadow minister during the early-mid 1990s. Prior to the 1996 election, Connolly was challenged for preselection by former AMA President Brendan Nelson, who was elected in Bradfield in 1996.

Nelson went on to serve in the Howard cabinet as Minister for Education and Minister for Defence. Following the defeat of the Howard government in 2007, Nelson was elected Leader of the Opposition. Nelson only served in the role for ten months before he was defeated by Malcolm Turnbull. Nelson had previously announced he would retire at the next general election, but in August 2009 he announced he would resign immediately, triggering a by-election in Bradfield.

Bradfield covers parts of the upper north shore of Sydney. The seat mostly correlates to Ku-ring-gai Council. In addition, a few suburbs around Hornsby are part of Bradfield, as are some suburbs in northwestern Willoughby, particularly around Chatswood. The seat is bordered by Berowra to the west, Bennelong to the southwest, North Sydney to the south, Warringah to the southeast and Mackellar to the east.

Political situation
Bradfield is held by a 13.5% margin by the Liberal Party. The seat has never gone to preferences in sixty years. It is the fifth-safest Liberal seat in the country and the eighth-safest Coalition seat. The 2007 primary result of 59.1% is the lowest ever received for the Liberal Party. However, the seat remains very safe.

The seat overlaps with the state electorate of Ku-ring-gai, held by NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell. Liberal-dominated Ku-ring-gai Council, which covers most of the seat, has been stripped of planning powers for controversial developments by the state government, and the Liberals and Greens have both used this issue to attack the state Labor government.

Fundamentally, this remains a safe Liberal seat, however we should see a strong performance for the Greens, who tend to do well in northern Sydney. There has been little word about potential independent candidates, and without a Labor candidate this turns into a Liberal-Greens contest. In these circumstances, I can’t see the Greens winning the seat, but it should be an opportunity for the party to raise its presence and build its organisation across Sydney, particularly if they can make climate change a key issue in the by-election.

The Liberal Party is running Paul Fletcher, former Optus executive and advisor to Communications Minister Richard Alston. His main opponent will be Susie Gemmell of The Greens, advisor to NSW MP Lee Rhiannon and candidate for the seat in 2007.

A major contribution to 22-strong field has been made by Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, who are standing no less than nine candidates. In ballot paper order they are: James Whitehall, Jodi Luke, Robyn Peebles, Darryl Allen, Leighton Thew, Andrew Hestelow, Esther Heng, Joseph Pender and David Pix.

Other candidates include Marianne Leishman representing the Australian Sex Party, Simon McCaffrey of the Democratic Labor Party, One Nation’s Victor Waterson, Lucy Gabb of the Liberal Democrats, Deborah Burt of the Climate Change Coalition and Goronwy Price from Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, a party which has recently had a name change after contesting the 2007 election as ‘Conservatives for Climate and Environment’, Also in the field are five independents – Peter Hanrahan, a 56-year old diagnosed with bipolar disorder who describes himself as a ‘universal Christian’ and opposes the ETS and a human rights charter, Bill Koutalianos representing the unregistered Climate Sceptics Party, Philip Dowling a former IT educator who resigned a position with the NSW Department of Education to contest the by-election, Brian Buckley, a right-wing republican who has been a frequent election candidate over more than 30 years, and local businessman Simon Kelly, who appears to be the same person who posted a number of comments on this thread previously.

The ALP announced early on that they would not stand.

2007 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Brendan Nelson LIB 49,817 59.07 -3.41
Victoria Brookman ALP 22,509 26.69 +5.11
Susie Gemmell GRN 9,495 11.26 +0.01
Witold Wiszniewski CDP 1,466 1.74 +1.45
James Turnbull FF 759 0.90 -0.88
Robert Butler CEC 285 0.34 +0.34
DEM 0 0.00 -2.40
OTH 0 0.00 -0.23

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Brendan Nelson LIB 53,512 63.45 -4.10
Victoria Brookman ALP 30,819 36.55 +4.10

Booth breakdown

For the purpose of analysis, I have divided the votes cast in Bradfield into five voter blocks. ‘Chatswood’ covers all booths in Willoughby LGA, along with the remainder of Roseville. ‘Hornsby’ likewise covers booths in Hornsby LGA. South Ku-ring-gai covers the southern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai Council, namely Gordon, Lindfield, Killara and Pymble. North Ku-ring-gai covers the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai Council, namely St Ives, Turramurra, and Wahroonga.

As this chart demonstrates, the Liberal vote peaks in the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai, polling 70.65% 2PP. The ALP actually won a two-party majority amongst the 12.5% of votes cast in Hornsby LGA. Chatswood gives 55% to the Liberals, while South Ku-ring-gai lies between North Ku-ring-gai and Chatswood. When examining the Greens vote, Chatswood is the strongest part of the seat, with the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai, which makes up the largest part of the seat, being the weakest. However, there isn’t a great deal of variation, from 10.55% in North Ku-ring-gai up to 12.22% in Chatswood.

Voter group GRN % LIB 2CP % Total votes % of votes
North Ku-ring-gai 10.55 70.65 25,384 30.10
South Ku-ring-gai 11.81 64.85 21,007 24.91
Chatswood 12.22 55.31 11,912 20.43
Hornsby 11.25 47.67 7,289 12.50
Other votes 11.00 63.46 18,739 22.22

“Other votes” includes postal, pre-poll, provisional and absent votes, as well as special hospital votes and those cast at Sydney Town Hall.

Two-party-preferred vote for Brendan Nelson, 2007 election, by booth.

Two-party-preferred vote per booth, 2007 election. Labor booths in pink, Liberal booths in blue.

Primary vote for the Greens, 2007 election, by booth.

Primary vote for the Greens, 2007 election, by booth. Below-median booths are coloured yellow.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.