Sydney by-election, 2012

October 27, 2012

Cause of by-election
Sitting independent MP Clover Moore also serves as Lord Mayor of Sydney. The state Coalition government recently passed legislation prohibiting sitting MPs from running for Mayor or Council. Clover Moore has stated that she will resign from Parliament prior to the September council elections in order to run for a third term as Lord Mayor. Read the profile for the seat of Sydney at the 2011 state election.

Incumbent MP
Clover Moore, since 2007. Previously Member for Bligh 1988-2007.

Central Sydney. The seat of Sydney mainly covers parts of the City of Sydney, as well as parts of the neighbouring Woollahra and Randwick local government areas. It covers the Sydney CBD and the suburbs of Pyrmont, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Potts Point, Woolloomooloo, Paddington and Woollahra.

The current electoral district of Sydney was only created in 2007, replacing the abolished seat of Bligh.

The original Legislative Assembly had four members elected representing the City of Sydney. In 1859 the seat was split into the two districts of East Sydney and West Sydney. Each district elected four members, and were the most prestigious districts in the colony. Leading political figures would contest these seats, and if they failed to win them, they would then move on to another district, as elections were not all held on the same day.

The 1894 election was the first where all MLAs were elected in single-member districts. The former multi-member districts of South Sydney, East Sydney and West Sydney were broken up into ten districts, all of which had “Sydney” in their name, along with the name of a significant figure in early NSW (Bligh, Phillip, Cook, Gipps, Lang, Flinders, Fitzroy, Denison).

From 1904, the word “Sydney” was dropped, but there continued to be numerous seats in the area now covered by Sydney. The 1904 seats included Pyrmont, Darling Harbour, Surry Hills, Belmore, Darlinghurst, Paddington and King (which covered the CBD itself).

Throughout this period, most of these seats reliably elected Labor candidates. In 1920, the multi-member district of Sydney was created, covering a similar area as the current seat, stretching from Pyrmont/Ultimo to Paddington. The seat elected a majority of Labor MPs for all three elections, but it was abolished in 1927, being replaced by a number of inner-city seats.

By the 1970s, the area only included three seats. The seat of King covered the CBD and stretched west to cover Glebe and Newtown. The seat of Phillip stretched from Surry Hills to Rosebery. The seat of Bligh covered Paddington and Kings Cross.

The 1973 election reduced the number of seats to two. King was abolished, and Phillip moved up to cover Redfern, Glebe, Ultimo and the city centre.

For the 1981, election, Phillip was renamed Elizabeth, and Bligh shifted closer to the city centre. The new boundaries saw the ALP’s Fred Miller win Bligh. He only held it for one term, losing in 1984 to the Liberal Party’s Michael Yabsley.

In 1988, Yabsley was challenged in Bligh by City of Sydney councillor Clover Moore. She had been elected to South Sydney Council in 1980. The council was merged with the City of Sydney in 1981, and she was elected to the new council. Moore was the favourite to win the next Lord Mayoral election when the ALP state government sacked the City of Sydney council in 1987. She then decided to run for the seat of Bligh as an independent, and defeated the sitting member Yabsley.

Not long after the 1988 election, Liberal Member for Vaucluse Ray Aston died, and Yabsley won his seat at the following by-election. He immediately became a minister in the Coalition government. He moved to the backbench in 1992 and resigned in 1994.

Meanwhile, in 1988 the seat covering the CBD and western parts of the City of Sydney was again renamed as McKell. This seat, whatever the name, had been held by the ALP continuously for decades. The seat of Phillip had been won in 1954 by Lord Mayor of Sydney Pat Hills. He became a minister in 1959, and Deputy Premier in 1964. He served as Leader of the Opposition from 1968 until 1973, when he was succeeded by Neville Wran. When Phillip was renamed Elizabeth in 1981 he won the new seat, and retired in 1988.

The again-renamed seat of McKell was won by Sandra Nori, also of the ALP. In 1991, McKell was merged with Balmain to form the new seat of Port Jackson, which stretched from Leichhardt and Balmain to Potts Point and Woolloomooloo. Nori held the seat from 1991 until her retirement in 2007. She served as a minister from 1999 to 2007.

Clover Moore continued to win Bligh throughout the 1990s. In the 1991 parliament she was a number of independent MPs to support the Coalition government in minority. She won re-election in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.

In 2004, the ALP state government merged the City of Sydney and the City of South Sydney together just before the local government elections, much as they had done 23 years earlier. The ALP expected that strong Labor-voting areas in South Sydney would allow Labor to gain control of Sydney Town Hall, and ran former federal minister Michael Lee. Clover Moore ran for Lord Mayor and won a solid victory, with a number of her supporters elected to the City of Sydney council. She won re-election in 2008.

The 2007 redistribution redrew the central Sydney electorates substantially. Port Jackson was split between the seat of Balmain, which covered everything west of Glebe, and the seat of Sydney. Sydney covers the city centre and much of Moore’s former seat of Bligh. Cr Moore moved to the new seat, and won re-election for a sixth term in the Legislative Assembly with relative ease.

At the 2011 election, the Liberal Party gained a substantial swing, increasing their primary vote by 14%. Clover Moore, Labor and the Greens also suffered swings. Labor fell from third place to fourth place on primary votes. Labor had come second after preferences in 2007, but the Liberal Party replaced them in that position in 2011. Clover Moore’s margin fell from 16.6% against Labor in 2007 to 3.1% against the Liberal Party in 2011.


Political situation
Clover Moore previously dominated the seat of Sydney as an independent. Without her presence, there are two key questions: how much of her independent vote goes to her anointed successor Alex Greenwich, and how the rest of her vote breaks down party lines.

You can analyse what Sydney looks like without a strong independent by looking at the vote in the NSW upper house at the 2011 state election. The Legislative Council vote in Sydney was dominated by the Greens and the Liberal Party, while the ALP was far behind.

Alex Greenwich is a strong candidate. Clover Moore is actively supporting him with endorsements and he is running a well-resourced and prominent campaign. His marriage equality activism is well suited to a seat with a large gay population.

One poll in the electorate had Liberal candidate Shayne Mallard and Alex Greenwich tied on 31% with Chris Harris not far behind on 25%.

If the vote is split roughly evenly between the three serious candidates, the seat will likely go to Greenwich or the Greens. If the Liberals were to come in the top two in that scenario the other candidate in the top two would likely win with a solid preference flow.

If the Liberals are to win they will likely need to have a substantial lead on primary votes, however some preferences will exhaust so it won’t be necessary for the Liberal candidate to win a majority of the primary vote.

2011 result – Legislative Assembly

Clover MooreIND16,90936.3-3.3
Adrian BartelsLIB16,85536.2+14.6
De Brierley NewtonGRN5,96112.8-2.8
Sacha BlumenALP5,24711.3-8.7
Andrew PattersonIND6761.5+1.5
Peter MaddenCDP5081.1+1.1
Victor ShenFP4641.0+1.0

2011 two-candidate-preferred result

Clover MooreIND20,65153.1
Adrian BartelsLIB18,22046.9

2011 result – Legislative Council

John Hatton1,0842.3
No Parking Meters8781.9
Pauline Hanson4671.0
Christian Democratic Party4180.9

Booth breakdown
Booths in Sydney have been divided into four areas. Most booths lie in the east of the seat, around one of three suburbs: Surry Hills, Darlinghurst or Paddington. Booths have been divided into these three areas. The remainder of the seat, including the CBD, Pyrmont and Ultimo, has been grouped as “Sydney”.

Clover Moore won three of the areas, with the Liberal Party winning Paddington. In the Legislative Council, the Liberal Party won three of the areas, with the Greens winning Surry Hills.

Breaking the seat down geographically, the Liberal Party won the six booths in Woollahra Council as well as five booths in the City of Sydney, while Clover Moore won sixteen booths, all in the City. Moore’s vote peaks in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst.

When you look at the Legislative Council vote, the Liberal Party won all the same booths, as well as five that were won by Moore in the Legislative Assembly. The Greens won the remaining eleven booths, all of which were won by Moore in the lower house.

Polling booths in Sydney at the 2011 state election. Sydney in red, Darlinghurst in green, Surry Hills in blue, Paddington in yellow.

Voter groupIND %LIB %GRN %ALP %Total votes% of votes
Surry Hills46.624.613.811.45,80312.4
Other votes31.938.113.812.614,06530.2

Primary votes for independent Clover Moore in Sydney at the 2011 state election.

Liberal primary votes in Sydney at the 2011 state election.

Greens primary votes in Sydney at the 2011 state election.

Labor primary votes in Sydney at the 2011 state election.

Polling booths in Sydney at the 2011 state election. Booths are coloured according to the party that won the vote in each booth in the Legislative Assembly: Clover Moore in yellow, Liberal in blue.

Polling booths in Sydney at the 2011 state election. Booths are coloured according to the party that won the vote in each booth in the Legislative Council: Greens in green, Liberal in blue.

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.