Sydney – Election 2010

ALP 19.3%

Incumbent MP
Tanya Plibersek, since 1998.

Inner suburbs of Sydney. Sydney covers most of the City of Sydney and parts of Leichhardt. The seat covers the Sydney CBD, Pyrmont, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo, Alexandria, Erskineville, Glebe, parts of Newtown, and the southern parts of the City of Sydney, extending as far south as Rosebery. The seat also covers Annandale and the Balmain peninsular, including the suburb of Rozelle. Sydney does not cover eastern parts of the City of Sydney such as Kings Cross and Darlinghurst, which are included in Wentworth.

Sydney largely remained the same in the recent redistribution. The only change involved the transfer of Rosebery from Kingsford Smith to Sydney. This was the only suburb in the southern parts of the City of Sydney not included in Sydney at the 2007 election, and the redistribution aligned the southern border of the seat with the border of the City of Sydney.

Sydney was created for the 1969 election by the merger of the seats of East Sydney and West Sydney, which had existed since federation.

Sydney has been held by the ALP ever since its creation, and its predecessors had almost always been held by Labor.

West Sydney (which, despite its name, actually covered inner city suburbs like Darling Harbour and Pyrmont) always elected a Labor MP, although it was briefly held by a conservative party from 1916 to 1917, as its first MP was Billy Hughes, who as Prime Minister left the ALP and formed the Nationalist party. He proceeded to move to a different seat at the 1917 election, and the ALP held West Sydney from 1917 until its abolition, although Jack Beasley, who held the seat for eighteen years, left the ALP to join a Lang Labor breakaway party on two occasions in the 1930s and 1940s.

The seat of East Sydney was first held by George Reid, a former NSW premier and leader of the Free Trade party, from 1901 to 1909, when he retired. John West (ALP) won the seat in 1910 and held it until his death in February 1931. The ensuing by-election was won by Eddie Ward, who left the ALP later that year when he was one of a number of supporters of NSW Labor leader Jack Lang to cross the floor and bring down the Scullin government.

East Sydney was won at the 1931 election by John Clasby (UAP) who benefited from a split Labor vote, with the two Labor parties gaining 55% of the primary vote but enough preferences from the official ALP leaking to Clasby to see Ward lose. Clasby died a month later without taking his seat and Ward won back the seat at a January 1932 by-election, less than a year after he had previously won the seat at a by-election. Ward returned to the ALP in 1936 and the ALP held the seat from then until its abolition in 1969.

The new seat of Sydney was first won in 1969 by Jim Cope. Cope had previously held the seats of Cook and Watson before their abolitions. Neither seats have any connection to the modern seats with those names. Both Cook and Watson had covered parts of South Sydney now covered by Sydney. Cope had won Cook at a 1955 by-election following the death of the previous member, but the seat was abolished at the general election in the same year. Cope then held Watson from 1955 until it too was abolished in 1969, at which point he moved to the new seat of Sydney.

Cope held Sydney until 1975, and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1973 until a dispute with the Whitlam government saw him resign in protest in 1975.

Cope was succeeded in 1975 by Leslie McMahon (ALP), who served until he was defeated for preselection before the 1983 election.

The seat was won in 1983 by Peter Baldwin, previously a Member of the Legislative Council who had become a symbol of the conflict between the Left and Right within the ALP in the Inner West in 1980 when he was brutally bashed in his home. Baldwin served as a federal minister from 1990 to 1996 and retired at the 1998 election.

The seat has been held since 1998 by Tanya Plibersek, who has served as federal Minister for Housing since the 2007 election. The seat has always been considered a very safe Labor seat according to the two-party-preferred vote, but has recently become a priority target for the Greens. The seat of Sydney has seen votes for the Greens of over 20% in 2004 and 2007. The seat had the highest Greens primary vote in the country in 2004 and the second-highest Greens primary vote in 2007.


  • Brett Paterson (Democrats)
  • Christopher Owen (Secular Party)
  • Tanya Plibersek (Labor) – Member for Sydney since 1998 and Minister for Housing and the Status of Women.
  • Tony Hickey (Greens)
  • Gordon Weiss (Liberal) – Leichhardt councillor.
  • Jane Ward (Independent)
  • Denis Doherty (Communist)

Political situation
There is no chance in the short or medium term that this seat could be won by the Liberal Party. The only possible threat to the ALP comes from the Greens. In order to win the seat, the Greens need to overtake the Liberals on primary votes and win enough votes either as primary votes or Liberal preferences to defeat the ALP. It isn’t necessary for the Greens to come close to the ALP on primary votes. I have previously estimated that the ALP-Greens two-party-preferred margin in Sydney is 55-45.

It will be extremely difficult for the Greens to win Sydney in 2010. The ALP’s position as a first-term government makes it difficult for the Greens to win lower house seats like Sydney. While this is one of the best chances for the Greens to win a lower house seat in 2010, it will be extremely hard for the Greens to win seats off a popular and young ALP government. Chances will probably improve as we reach the later stages of this ALP government.

2007 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Tanya Plibersek ALP 37,506 48.99 +3.92
Georgina Anderson LIB 20,440 26.70 -0.81
Jenny Leong GRN 15,854 20.71 -1.38
Jane Ward IND 979 1.28 -0.29
Mayo Materazzo DEM 874 1.14 -1.00
John Lee CDP 727 0.95 +0.95
Adrian Ford CEC 184 0.24 +0.06

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Tanya Plibersek ALP 53,214 69.50 +2.12
Georgina Anderson LIB 23,350 30.50 -2.12

Results do not take into consideration effects of the redistribution.

Booth breakdown
I have divided booths into four areas:

  • Those on the Balmain peninsula, including Rozelle.
  • Those suburbs around Annandale and Glebe, which are divided between the City of Sydney and Leichhardt LGA.
  • South Sydney, including all booths south of Cleveland Street and the University of Sydney.
  • Inner Sydney, including all booths north of Cleveland Street and east of Glebe.

Considering that the ALP’s main threat in Sydney is from the Greens, the two-party-preferred figures between the ALP and Liberals are largely meaningless. Due to this, the following table and maps only show the primary votes for Labor, the Liberals and the Greens.

The ALP performs most strongly in the south of the seat and suburbs in the middle such as Surry Hills, Redfern and Glebe. The Liberals perform most strongly in the CBD and in Balmain and Annandale, as well as the less populated southern parts of the seat. The Greens perform particularly strongly in Glebe, Annandale, Newtown and Surry Hills. Indeed, three booths (Newtown East, Newtown North and Darlington Central) saw a Greens primary vote of over 35%.

Polling booths in Sydney. Inner Sydney in yellow, South Sydney in orange, Annandale-Glebe in green, Balmain in blue.

Voter group ALP % LIB % GRN % Total votes % of ordinary votes
South Sydney 52.52 22.93 21.13 20,170 34.11
Inner Sydney 47.73 30.20 18.48 16,999 28.75
Annandale-Glebe 50.73 21.85 24.17 11,368 19.23
Balmain 46.94 30.30 19.63 10,589 17.91
Other votes 47.57 29.05 19.18 19,939

Polling booths in Sydney, showing Labor primary votes at the 2007 election.

Polling booths in Sydney, showing Liberal primary votes at the 2007 election.

Polling booths in Sydney, showing Greens primary votes at the 2007 election.

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.