Bennelong – Australia 2019

LIB 9.7%

Incumbent MP
John Alexander, since 2010.

Bennelong straddles the north shore and western suburbs of Sydney. The seat covers the entirety of Ryde local government area, as well as Epping, Carlingford and Ermington, from Hornsby and Parramatta council areas. Main suburbs in the seat are Ryde, Epping, Ermington, Eastwood and Gladesville.

Bennelong was created in 1949, and was held by only two MPs between then and the 2007 federal election. Bennelong originally covered Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove, but not areas such as Eastwood and Epping that are now contained within the seat.

Bennelong was first won by John Cramer (LIB) in 1949. Cramer served as Minister for the Army under Robert Menzies from 1956 to 1963. During his time holding Bennelong the seat was never a very safe seat, and in 1961 Cramer only held on by 1832 votes. His largest margin was 15.4% in 1966.

Cramer retired at the 1974 election and was succeeded by John Howard (LIB). Howard went on to serve as a minister under Malcolm Fraser, including as Treasurer from 1977 to 1983. He then served in a variety of roles on the opposition frontbench after 1983, including as two stints as Opposition Leader (1985-1989, 1995-1996). He was elected as Prime Minister in 1996 and served until 2007.

The seat of Bennelong had gradually shifted to the north-west over the decades, taking in Epping. The 1992 redistribution saw the last parts of Lane Cove removed from the seat, and Howard’s margin was cut in 1993. After recovering in 1996 to a margin over 10% it gradually declined to a 4.3% margin in 2004, when the Greens ran high-profile former intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie against Howard.

The 2006 redistribution saw Howard’s margin cut slightly and the ALP decided to target the seat, running former journalist Maxine McKew. McKew won the seat with 51.4% of the two-party vote.

In 2010, McKew was defeated by former tennis champion John Alexander. Alexander was re-elected in 2013 and 2016.

John Alexander was found to be a British dual citizen in 2017, and resigned from his seat to recontest without any citizenship concerns. He was re-elected at that by-election, despite a swing to Labor.


  • Edwina Clifton (Greens)
  • Brian Owler (Labor)

Bennelong could be vulnerable to Labor, but a strong candidate (now unavailable) and a high-profile campaign weren’t enough to win the seat in 2017, so it’s hard to see Labor doing better and winning.

2016 result

John Alexander Liberal 46,49750.4-2.6
Lyndal Howison Labor 26,27028.5-4.0
Justin Alick Greens 8,4249.1+0.7
Julie WorsleyChristian Democratic Party5,9036.4+4.0
Martin MulcareIndependent2,8853.1+3.1
John Peter AugustPirate Party Australia1,2601.4+1.4
Christopher GordonArts Party9921.1+1.1

2016 two-party-preferred result

John Alexander Liberal 55,07759.7+2.0
Lyndal Howison Labor 37,15440.3-2.0

2017 by-election result

John AlexanderLiberal37,89845.0+5.4
Kristina KeneallyLabor30,08535.8-7.3
Justin Alick Greens 5,6886.8-2.4
Joram RichaConservatives3,6094.3+4.3
Gui Dong CaoChristian Democrats2,6263.1-3.3
James JanssonScience1,0411.2+1.2
Wesley FolitarikSustainable Australia9951.2+1.2
Anthony ZiebellAffordable Housing7420.9+0.9
Tony RobinsonLiberty Alliance7190.9+0.9
Chris GoldingProgressives4260.5+0.5
James PlatterPeople’s Party1860.2+0.2
Anthony FelsNon-Custodial Parents1320.2+0.2

2017 by-election two-party-preferred result

John AlexanderLiberal46,17954.9-4.8
Kristina Keneally Labor 37,96645.1+4.8

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into five parts around the main suburbs of Bennelong: Eastwood, Epping, Gladesville, Ryde and West Ryde.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all five areas at both the 2016 general election and the 2017 by-election. The 2016 vote ranged from 54.3% in West Ryde to 63.7% in Gladesville. The 2017 vote ranged from 50.5% in West Ryde to 60% in Gladesville.

2016 booth breakdown

Voter groupLIB 2PP %Total votes% of votes
West Ryde54.311,89512.9
Other votes60.713,65714.8

2017 by-election booth breakdown

Voter groupLIB 2PP %Total votes% of votes
West Ryde50.510,91713.0
Other votes60.412,51414.9

Two-party-preferred votes in Bennelong at the 2016 federal election

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2017 Bennelong by-election

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  1. Last year was a saturation campaign around a section 44 issue with a careerist candidate vs a reasonably popular incumbent. It will be quite different in a general election if Labor selects a more down to earth local candidate, John Alexander retires (I believe he was on his way to doing so before he was 44’d) and voters face less “noise” that causes them to revert to their normal voting patterns.

    I wouldn’t write Labor off, although Labor themselves might and I don’t imagine Bennelong being a high priority for them.

  2. John
    I really doubt whether John Alexander is ready to change his image to “retiree”. As an image point, probably a Type 3 fixation he’d be heavily invested in remaining productive, & appearing successful . You might also put it down to simple vanity.

    It is remarkable that Bennelong was Labor held less than 10 years ago. Alexander must be paid his due for his success in making it so convincingly Liberal. HE must be doing a lot right.

    How much change is due to demographics is unknown. However i suspect the voting population has altered considerably, to the point where Labor has no chance whatever.

  3. I think the Liberals have simply done a better job of connecting to the middle-class Asian community than they have in the past. Possibly their success in Reid and Banks is something similar.

    John Howard himself admitted that he never had much of a personal vote in Bennelong ….if anything he thought that being PM probably hurt him more than helped him.

    So perhaps 2007 was a bit of a perfect storm for Labor, that might be difficult to replicate in the immediate future.

  4. Mark Mulcair
    Funnily enough it is almost as if that (asian ) community have done the connecting. I just don’t feel like the libs have really extended themselves.

    Same in Strathfield (Reid) & IN Burwood the Libs don’t seem to have progressed . Not much of Hurstville is in Banks so i don’t see where there would be an Asian vote there
    Interesting comment about JWH. Don’t you think he always suffered from a perception (mainly in the asian community ) that he was a racist ?
    As for the” perfect storm”, it would need to be a “Kamakaze”!

  5. Liberal retain, regardless if Alexander retires or not.

    Labor had their chance here last year and poured everything into winning it and fell well short.

  6. High profile candidate Brian Owler apparently running for labor. Clearly they must think this seat is competitive, which it may well be if Alexander retires

  7. boatswain1025
    If labor think they are a chance here, they are delusional. This seat has only be going in one direction for the last decade.
    It would not be surprising if Bennelong resumed it’s previous trajectory & ended up with a 10% + MARGIN.
    Owler is a shocking choice of candidate.After his stint as AMA President he is universally reviled by his colleagues. Why would anyone trade an income of literally $millions a year for a few hundred thousand ? Then throw in the normal abuse, & contempt handed out to pollies. What gives ??

  8. I’m also dubious as to Labor’s announcement of a “high profile” candidate and this supposedly making it a real race.

    If Labor were serious about tackling this seat they should have started months ago.

  9. I am not sure why anybody would want to be the ‘star outsider’ for the ALP – they always come to a sticky end – Peter Garrett, Maxine McKew, Cheryl Kernot – to name a few. The ‘stars’ are taken advantage of and then told to sit in the corner and shut up. The organisation is tribal to its DNA and outsiders should realise that before they put their hand up. Kerryn Phelps will get a lot more done as an indie than if she had gone into the ALP.

  10. 51-49 Liberal Hold, However i don’t see how a tennis player who knows little about health beat a person who is extremely experienced in this area, Only saying Liberal hold because Labor might not be able to get enough of the Chinese/Asian Community vote

  11. Daniel, Labor actually got a lot of that vote back in the byelection if you look at booths like Eastwood and Carlingford. They lost votes among affluent voters who didn’t appreciate an extremely noisy section 44 byelection.

    I think Labor can gain although it’s a question of resources.

  12. Daniel
    How is health the critical issue in Bennelong ? Really i’d have thought a dedicated, active local MP would be preferable to a part timer, regardless of who was a doctor.

  13. Redistributed
    Agreed. The “Sell out” factor seems to always dominate “star candidates”. Consequently i’m not sure whether they have in fact silenced themselves from the Get.
    I’d be fascinated as to what you think Phelps can possibly achieve. I plan to excoriate her in the near future.

  14. Bennee
    Spot on. IT really is a pointer to the whole election. The libs will not win. That is not to say they can’t. Can’t means can, but WILL not. That is that can’t, is an exercise in wilfulness ( OR stupidity is you like !)

  15. Actually, I think the residents would rather elect an experienced person who knows allot in an area like Health, Than a Tennis star, The only reason he won 2010 and 2013 and 2016 is because Labor didn’t win a Majority government, Whoever wins the Primary vote nationwide likely wins this, Its a new Bell weather (Primary vote) They didn’t win the By-election because voters have not forgotten about Kristina Kennealy as premier, She led a Labor government that got brutally smashed in 2011

  16. Daniel – Well 3 win in this electorate by the tennis player is credible. Nothing wrong with an MP being a former sportsman either. Daniel who would you prefer as a candidate? Now let me guest perhaps a union hack, lawyer, or grovelling staffer.

  17. Daniel
    You have a lot to learn about 5 fixations of which Owler is a typically shockingly fixated example. He has all the warmth , & humanity of Mr Freeze !!! (who was actually a doctor). Have you heard anyone say anything nice about him ??. Colleagues, friends (does he have any?) acquaintances ??. No he is widely reviled, & despised.
    He may know a lot about health. However a lot of people know a lot about a great deal. That doesn’t mean they are any good at it. In fact more damage has been done by so called experts, & professionals, than ordinary people approaching challenges with “beginners mind’, & the humility that this requires. That kind of humility is not just alien to 5 fixations but it is virtually incomprehensible

  18. Redistributed – Spot on about the celeb ALP candidates of the recent past and yes Dr Phelps will do well in parliament provided she is re-elected in the general election in 2019.

  19. Daniel – are you really asserting that Bennelong (won once by the ALP since Federation in 2007) is a bell weather. ALP threw what they thought was their best asset at the govt, in a by-election no less, and came up 5% short.
    If you really think that, then the Coalition are certs to win in 2019 (which obviously they are not) because they are certs to win here.
    Owler doesn’t have any connection with the electorate at all….

  20. The Liberals are concerned about retaining Bennelong.

    The bland Angus Taylor even joined the bland John Alexander for a visit to Fletcher Building recently.

    It seems such a long time ago since former PM Turnbull joined Alexander on the podium celebrating the by election “victory”(which cost us just over $1,500,000)who will ever forget Alexanders gaffe on the night
    Alexander has barely made an impact after 8 years as the MP……there is a reason why he sits glumly on the backbench,occasionally asking a silly Dorthy Dixer…the bloke just makes up the numbers

    I wouldn’t be surprised if JA decides to retire…the prospect of at least another 6 years in opposition isnt something to really look forward to
    there is money to say Brian Owler can win the seat for Labor…he has firmed from $3.50 to $3 with Sportsbet


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