Bennelong by-election, 2017

Cause of by-electon
Sitting Liberal MP John Alexander resigned his seat in November 2017 after discovering that he held dual British citizenship.

Margin – LIB 9.7%

Geography
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.

History
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.

Candidates

  • John Alexander (Liberal)
  • Kristina Keneally (Labor)

Assessment
The Liberal Party hold this seat by a sizeable margin, but in the context of a 5% national swing in polling this seat could not be considered safe. A lot will depend on whether voters have sympathy for Alexander for being deemed ineligible due to his father’s birthplace, or blame him for his lax attitude to the constitution. Voters who would like to see an election would have an extra incentive to vote for Labor, as a Labor win would make the government’s position less stable and increase the chance of an early election.

Kristina Keneally is a strong and high-profile candidate, clearly qualified for the role, but she also led a very unpopular government, and this could weigh her down as a candidate.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
John Alexander Liberal 46,497 50.41 -2.58
Lyndal Howison Labor 26,270 28.48 -3.97
Justin Alick Greens 8,424 9.13 +0.71
Julie Worsley Christian Democratic Party 5,903 6.40 +3.99
Martin Mulcare Independent 2,885 3.13 +3.13
John August Pirate Party 1,260 1.37 +1.37
Christopher Gordon Arts Party 992 1.08 +1.08
Informal 4,942 5.09

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
John Alexander Liberal 55,077 59.72 +1.95
Lyndal Howison Labor 37,154 40.28 -1.95

Booth breakdown

Booths in Bennelong have been split into five parts: Epping in the north, Ryde in the east, West Ryde in the south-west, Gladesville in the south-east and Eastwood in the centre.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all five areas, ranging from 54% in West Ryde to 64% in Gladesville.

The Liberal Party also won around 59% of the pre-poll and other votes.

Voter group GRN prim % LIB 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Eastwood 8.6 60.5 16,310 17.6
Ryde 8.6 58.1 15,348 16.5
Epping 10.0 61.6 14,595 15.7
West Ryde 8.0 54.3 11,895 12.8
Gladesville 8.9 63.7 8,387 9.0
Pre-poll 10.1 59.1 12,177 13.1
Other votes 9.4 58.8 14,090 15.2

Two-party-preferred vote in Bennelong at the 2016 federal 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.