Sydney – Australia 2019

ALP 15.3%

Incumbent MP
Tanya Plibersek, since 1998.

Inner suburbs of Sydney. Sydney covers most of the City of Sydney and a small part of the Marrickville council area. The seat covers the Sydney CBD, Pyrmont, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo, Alexandria, Potts Point, Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Erskineville, Glebe, parts of Newtown, and the southern parts of the City of Sydney, extending as far south as Rosebery.

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. Plibersek served as a minister during the last Labor government, and has served as deputy Labor leader since 2013.


This electorate is one of the best seats in the country for the Greens, and they continue to hold ambitions to win the seat. Tanya Plibersek has always been a strong candidate able to hold on to voters who may otherwise consider voting Green, and her rise to the deputy leadership has increased her profile. It seems unlikely that the Greens would be able to win this seat while Plibersek is running, but would still have ambitions to run a strong campaign and break through into the top two.

2016 result

Tanya Plibersek Labor 38,44943.7+0.1
Geoffrey Winters Liberal 25,62229.1-3.0
Sylvie Ellsmore Greens 16,53718.8+0.5
Mark BerrimanAnimal Justice1,4971.7+1.7
Ula FalangaChristian Democratic Party1,4891.7+0.8
Rebecca LanningSex Party1,4561.7+1.7
Tom GeiserScience Party1,3611.5+1.6
Kris SpikeSustainable Australia6060.7+0.7
Peter BoyleSocialist Alliance5000.6-0.1
Tula TzorasOnline Direct Democracy3830.4+0.4

2016 two-party-preferred result

Tanya Plibersek Labor 57,41065.3+2.4
Geoffrey Winters Liberal 30,49034.7-2.4

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into four parts:

  • North-East – Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Millers Point, Sydney CBD, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo
  • North-West – Glebe, Pyrmont, Ultimo
  • South-East – Alexandria, Redfern, Rosebery, Waterloo, Zetland
  • South-West – Camperdown, Darlington, Erskineville, Newtown

Labor’s two-party-preferred figure (against the Liberal Party) ranged from 61% in the north-east to over 79% in the south-west.

The Greens vote ranged from 15.6% in the south-east to over 29% in the south-west.

Voter groupGRN prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Other votes18.462.915,01117.1

Election results in Sydney at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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  1. In the short term, this seat is Tanya’s for as long as she is in the seat and the reason for that is the relatively stronger Liberal Performances in very north and very south of the seat (compared to the Greens). The Greens may continue to make inroads up the middle through Camperdown but I can’t see the other ends of the seat changing much.

    Their best chance will be when Plibersek stands down (which won’t be for some time) and even then, a solid Labor Left candidate would still have an at-worst 50:50 chance of retaining the seat.

    Greens will need to be thinking 4-5 elections away for this seat.

  2. Yes, the Liberal vote is pretty strong here. Over time, I wonder if this seat will become like Melbourne Ports, a genuine 3-way marginal between Labor/Liberal/Greens.

  3. I agree Sydney has potential for the Greens post-Plibersek, assuming she does have a significant personal following. However I don’t see any prospect of increasing Liberal competitiveness. The Liberal primary vote has been pretty steady at around 30% for some time.

  4. As a Greens member and someone that voted for Jim Casey in 2016 I’m disappointed when this seat and Grayndler get such focus. Going after the two most famous Labor left front benchers is tilting at windmills.

    I would posit that there is a belief amongst Labor-Green “swing voters,” ie- the ones that see the Greens dominate the state seats of Balmain and Newtown, that Albo and Tanya are good progressive voices in the Labor party and parliament. That’s a misguided view, but that doesn’t magic away the electoral effect.

    In my view Greens NSW would do best to concentrate on the senate and the division of Richmond at the next election. Certainly if Albo or Tanya retire or make a gargantuan gaff throw everything at their seat, but before that I don’t think the Greens can take federal seats in central Sydney.

  5. Mathematically Greens are certainly far closer to winning Richmond than Sydney at the moment. Which is stronger in the future will depend on how the Greens evolve as a party in terms of strategic direction and political positioning. Certainly agree Greens are unlikely to have any chance here whilst Plibersek is the MP though.


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