Legislative Council – NSW 2019

The Legislative Council was directly elected for the first time in 1978. Since then the Council has been elected by a system of proportional representation, with the balance of power held by a variety of minor parties.

Prior to 1995, the Legislative Council was elected one-third at a time, with 15 seats up for election at each lower house election. No minor parties were elected at the 1978 election, but at the next four elections the Christian Democratic Party (under their former name of Call to Australia) won a seat, and at three of these elections the Democrats also won a seat.

The 1995 and 1999 elections produced results with a large number of minor parties winning seats. In 1995, single seats were won by the Christian Democratic Party, the Greens, the Democrats, the Shooters and A Better Future for our Children. In 1999, a seat was won by the CDP, Democrats, Greens, One Nation, Unity, Outdoor Recreation Party and Reform the Legal System.

Following the 1999 election result, the electoral system was changed to abolish ticket voting and allow individual voters to cast preferences for whole parties above the line.

At the 2003 election, the balance changed markedly, with the sole Christian Democrat and Shooters MLCs both re-elected, as well as the sitting Greens MLC. The Greens gained an extra seat.

In 2007, the same result was produced, with the two minor right-wing parties each winning a single seat in addition to the seat they won in 2003, while the Greens won two seats.

In 2011, the CDP and the Shooters and Fishers each maintained one seat, while the Greens won three seats (up from two in 2003 and 2007), producing a total crossbench of five Greens, two Christian Democrats and two Shooters and Fishers.

During this time, there were various results for the major parties. Labor won a majority of seats in 1978 and 1981, but the Labor representation gradually dropped from 9 to 6 from 1978 to 1991. The Coalition won six seats in 1978 and five in 1981, and then seven in 1984, 1988 and 1991.

In 1995, Labor and the Coalition each won eight seats out of 21 elected. Labor again won eight in 1999, but the Coalition dropped to six seats.

Following the change in the electoral system, both major parties gained seats in 2003. Labor’s seat count peaked at ten, with the Coalition increasing to seven.

Labor won nine in 2007, and the Coalition won eight. In 2011, Labor’s vote collapsed, and they only managed to win five seats, while the Coalition won eleven.

Labor partly recovered in 2015, winning seven seats. The Coalition won nine seats. The Greens retained their two seats, and the Shooters and Fishers and the Christian Democratic Party retained their seats. The Animal Justice Party won their first seat in any parliament in Australia.

Electoral system
The New South Wales Legislative Council is elected using a system of proportional representation, with all MLCs elected to represent the entire state.

There are 42 members of the Legislative Council, with 21 elected at each election for two terms. With such a large number of members elected as a single electorate, the quota is very low at 4.55%.

Up to the 1999 election, the upper house was elected with a ‘ticket voting’ system similar to that used in the Senate. This led to a situation where one third of seats were won by minor parties, some of whom won a very small vote.

Prior to the 2003 election, the system was reformed to abolish ticket voting. Under the current system, voters can vote ‘above the line’, but their vote will only flow to candidates of parties who have directly received a preference from that voter.

In practice this has significantly reduced the impact of preferences. There has only been two occasion swhere a candidate was leading before preferences were distributed but missed out after preferences: Pauline Hanson in 2011 and Peter Jones in 2015. These were both cases where the candidates were very close on primary votes.

Sitting MLCs

Term expires 2019
Term expires 2023
Niall Blair (Nationals), since 2011John Ajaka (Liberal), since 2007
Robert Brown (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), since 2006Lou Amato (Liberal), since 2015
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens), since 2011Robert Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), since 2010
David Clarke (Liberal), since 2003Scott Farlow (Liberal), since 2015
Rick Colless (Nationals), since 2000Mehreen Faruqi (Greens), since 20138
Catherine Cusack (Liberal), since 2003Justin Field (Greens), since 20169
Greg Donnelly (Labor), since 2005Ben Franklin (Nationals), since 2015
Wes Fang (Nationals), since 20171John Graham (Labor), since 201610
Paul Green (Christian Democrats), since 2011Don Harwin (Liberal), since 1999
Scot MacDonald (Liberal), since 2011Courtney Houssos (Labor), since 2015
Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Liberal), since 2011Trevor Khan (Nationals), since 2007
Taylor Martin (Liberal), since 20172Shayne Mallard (Liberal), since 2015
Sarah Mitchell (Nationals), since 2011Matthew Mason-Cox (Liberal), since 2006
Daniel Mookhey (Labor), since 20153Shaoquett Moselmane (Labor), since 2009
Peter Phelps (Liberal), since 2011Fred Nile (Christian Democrats), since 1981
Peter Primrose (Labor), since 1996Mark Pearson (Animal Justice), since 2015
Penny Sharpe (Labor), since 20054Adam Searle (Labor), since 2011
David Shoebridge (Greens), since 2010Walt Secord (Labor), since 2011
Dawn Walker (Greens), since 20175Bronnie Taylor (Nationals), since 2015
Natalie Ward (Liberal), since 20176Mick Veitch (Labor), since 2007
Ernest Wong (Labor), since 20137Lynda Voltz (Labor), since 2007

1Wes Fang was appointed on 9 August 2017 to replace Duncan Gay, who resigned on 31 July 2017.
2Taylor Martin was appointed on 3 May 2017 to replace Mike Gallacher, who resigned on 6 April 2017.
3Daniel Mookhey was appointed on 6 May 2015 to replace Steve Whan, who resigned prior to the 2015 election.
4Penny Sharpe resigned from the Legislative Council in 2015 to run for the seat of Newtown. She was subsequently appointed to fill the same vacancy following the election.
5Dawn Walker was appointed on 22 February 2017 to replace Jan Barham, who resigned on 13 February 2017.
6Natalie Ward was appointed on 16 November 2017 to replace Greg Pearce, who resigned on 15 November 2017.
7Ernest Wong was appointed on 24 May 2013 to replace Eric Roozendaal, who resigned on 6 May 2013.
8Mehreen Faruqi will be resigning from the Legislative Council to run for the Senate, and is expected to be replaced by Cate Faehrmann.
9Justin Field was appointed on 23 August 2016 to replace John Kaye, who died on 2 May 2016.
10John Graham was appointed on 12 October 2016 to replace Sophie Cotsis, who resigned on 16 September 2016.

2015 result

GroupVotes%SwingQuotaSeats won
The Greens428,0369.9-1.22.182
Shooters and Fishers167,8713.9+0.20.861
Christian Democratic Party126,3052.9-0.20.641
No Land Tax82,0541.9+1.90.420
Animal Justice Party76,8191.8+1.80.391
Voluntary Euthanasia Party40,7100.9+0.90.210
No Parking Meters Party34,8520.8-0.40.180
The Fishing Party31,8820.7-0.60.160
Outdoor Recreation Party31,4450.7-0.00.160

On primary votes, the Coalition gained nine seats, Labor six, Greens two. The Shooters and Fisher, CDP and Labor were all in a strong position to win a seat, with one more seat wide open.

At count 374, when there was no more than one candidate left in each group, the leading candidates stood at:

  • Robert Borsak (SFP) – 0.8555 quotas
  • Courtney Houssos (ALP) – 0.8307
  • Fred Nile (CDP) – 0.6457
  • Peter Jones (NLT) – 0.4137
  • Mark Pearson (AJP) – 0.3913
  • Hollie Hughes (LIB) – 0.3716

Borsak, Houssos and Nile all stayed well ahead of the pack and won their seats at the end of the count, but the final seat was a close race between Jones, Pearson and Hughes.

The chart at the end of this section shows how these three candidates’ votes shifted in the final rounds of counting.

The Animal Justice and Liberal candidates gradually closed the gap with No Land Tax on each round of counting.

Pearson narrowed the gap substantially when the Outdoor Recreation candidate was excluded (count 386), and then made another big jump on Voluntary Euthanasia Party preferences (count 388).

The exclusion of Greens candidate Justin Field saw Pearson gain 4887 votes on Peter Jones, and pushed him into the lead. At this point, Hughes was eliminated and her preferences slightly extended Pearson’s lead, and Pearson won the final seat.

Retiring MLCs
Greens MLC Dawn Walker was preselected for the fourth seat on the party’s ticket, which is not considered winnable.


  • Greens
    1. David Shoebridge
    2. Abigail Boyd
    3. Jeremy Buckingham
    4. Dawn Walker

Statewide polling suggests a small shift away from the Coalition and towards Labor, which should make Labor hopeful of winning eight seats (which would be three more than they hold now). The Coalition won’t have any chance of holding all eleven of their seats: they should be happy if they can hold on to nine, but could drop to eight.

The Greens will be defending three seats. They should win at least two, with an outside chance of a third. The Greens won three in 2011, and were not far off winning a third in 2015.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers should be able to retain their single seat. The Christian Democratic Party should also retain their seat, but their vote has been slowly dropping over time and they are slowly being eclipsed by the Shooters as the main conservative minor party in the state.

It’s possible another minor party could perform well and win a seat, like Animal Justice did in 2015.

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.