Inner West council election, 2017

The Inner West council covers suburbs immediately to the west of the Sydney city centre. The council is bounded by the Cooks River in the south and is bounded by Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River in the north, on the shoreline of the Balmain peninsula. The council covers the suburbs of Annandale, Ashfield, Balmain, Dulwich Hill, Enmore, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Marrickville, Petersham, Rozelle, Stanmore, St Peters, Summer Hill, Sydenham, Tempe and parts of Croydon, Camperdown and Newtown. The council as a whole has a population of about 186,000 as of 2014.

Council amalgamations
The Inner West Council replaced the former Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt councils.

Marrickville Council covered those suburbs in the south-eastern corner of the new council, bounded by Parramatta Road to the north and Old Canterbury Road to the west. Marrickville Council had a population of about 83,000 as of 2014.

Leichhardt Council covers those suburbs in the north-eastern corner of the new council, including the Balmain peninsula and bounded by Parramatta Road to the south. Leichhardt Council had a population of about 58,000 as of 2014.

Ashfield Council covers those suburbs in the west of the new council, and had a population of about 44,000 in 2014.

Wards
Inner West is divided into five wards, with each ward electing three councillors.

Ashfield ward covers the south-western corner of the council, including Dulwich Hill, Summer Hill and southern parts of Ashfield. The ward is bounded by Wardell Road to the south-east, by the light rail line and Parramatta Road to the north-east, and the north-eastern boundary (which divides the suburb of Ashfield) runs along the railway line.

Balmain ward covers the northernmost part of the council, including all of the peninsula of the same name. The ward covers the suburbs of Balmain, Rozelle, Lilyfield and the northern parts of Annandale. The ward’s southern boundary runs along Booth St, Moore St, Balmain Road and the City West Link.

Leichhardt ward covers those suburbs on the north side of Parramatta Road, as well as northern parts of Ashfield. The ward covers the suburbs of Haberfield, Leichhardt and parts of Ashfield and Annandale. The border runs through Annandale along Moore St and Booth St, while Ashfield is split along the railway line.

Marrickville ward covers the south-eastern corner of the council, including Marrickville, St Peters, Sydenham and Tempe. The ward is bounded by Wardell Road to the west, Newington Road to the north and Edgware Road and Wells St to the north-east.

Stanmore ward covers the the centre of the council, and its eastern edge. The ward covers the suburbs of Enmore, Lewisham, Petersham, Stanmore and those parts of Camperdown and Newtown to the west of King Street.

History – Ashfield
Prior to 2004, Ashfield council was usually dominated by Labor. Labor held the mayoralty continuously from 1972 until 1991, and again from 1997 until 2006.

The 2004 election saw Labor hold on to four seats – one in each ward. The Greens won three seats, and the Liberal Party won two. Three independents were elected – Ted Cassidy, Caroline Stott and Monica Wangmann.

Labor’s Rae Desmond Jones held the mayoralty for the first two years of that term, and handed over in 2006 to independent Ted Cassidy.

The 2008 election saw a repeat result, with the parties holding their numbers and the three independents winning re-election. Cassidy continued as mayor for five straight years until 2011, when he was succeeded by the Greens’ Lyall Kennedy.

The 2012 election saw a shift. Greens councillor Marc Rerceretnam and Liberal councillor Morris Mansour both ran as independents – Mansour was elected, Rerceretnam was not. The Greens lost all of their seats, while Labor and Liberal won four seats each. Mansour was the fourth independent elected, alongside the three who were elected in 2004 and 2008.

Mansour became mayor immediately after the 2012 election, despite opposition from his former party. In 2013, Mansour was succeeded by Labor’s Lucille McKenna, who held the mayoralty until the council was sacked in 2016.

History – Leichhardt
Leichhardt, like its neighbours, was traditionally dominated by the Labor Party, but at a local level the ALP was usually under threat from centre-left competitors. This included Nick Origlass, who served as mayor in the early 1970s and late 1980s, and Larry Hand, who held the mayoralty for an entire council term from 1991 to 1995. Hand’s mayoralty was captured in the documentary ‘Rats in the Ranks’, and both Hand and Origlass were former ALP members.

After Hand’s four-year term as mayor, community independent Maire Sheehan served as mayor from 1995 until 1996, followed by Labor’s Kris Cruden from 1996 until 1999. Sheehan held the mayoralty for the entirety of the 1999-2004 term.

The 2004 election saw a boom in support for the Greens. Labor and the Greens each won four seats (one in each ward) along with two Liberals and two independents: Carolyn Allen and Maire Sheehan. Labor, Liberal and the independents shared power during the 2004-2008 term, with Labor’s Alice Murphy serving two terms, and the Liberal Party’s Nick Dyer serving as the council’s first Liberal mayor from 2005 to 2006 and independent Carolyn Allen serving as mayor from 2007 until the 2008 election.

The Greens gained further ground at the 2008 election, winning six out of twelve seats on the council, thanks to second seats won in the Annandale and Leichhardt wards. Greens-friendly independent John Stamolis was elected in the Balmain ward, giving the Greens a stable working majority on the council. There were also two Labor councillors and three Liberal councillors.

The Greens’ Jamie Parker became mayor in 2008, and held the role until he resigned in 2011 after his election as state member for Balmain. He was succeeded by Rochelle Porteous.

There was a swing back to Labor and Liberal in 2012. The three main parties each won four seats, with each ward splitting three ways between Labor, Greens and Liberal. A Labor-Liberal alliance locked the Greens out of power in the first year of the term, with Labor’s Darcy Byrne becoming mayor, but after that first year Labor and the Greens agreed to share the mayoralty. Byrne served as mayor for a second year, with Porteous returning as mayor for a year from 2014 to 2015. Darcy Byrne returned to the mayoralty in 2015 and held the position until the council was sacked in 2016.

Liberal councillor Melinda Manikas, who represented the Balmain area, died in early 2014, triggering a by-election. The by-election was won by returning independent councillor John Stamolis.

History – Marrickville
Labor had traditionally dominated Marrickville council, holding the mayoralty from the early 1950s until 2004. Most recently, the mayoralty was held by Barry Cotter from 1991 until 2004.

The 1999 election elected seven Labor councillors, alongside two Greens councillors, one No Aircraft Noise councillor and two independents: Dmitri Thanos and Morris Hanna. The council was divided into three wards, with four councillors elected per ward. That No Aircraft Noise councillor (Sylvia Hale) went on to join the Greens while sitting on council and ended up sitting as a Greens member of the upper house.

Prior to the 2004 election, the Labor council majority changed the voting system so that the council was divided into four wards, with three councillors elected per ward, seemingly with the expectation that this would make it harder for the Greens to win second seats in any wards.

The 2004 election instead saw Labor lose ground to the Greens and independents. The Greens won five seats (thanks to a second seat in the Newtown-based North ward) and Labor won only four. The remaining three were won by independents Thanos, Hanna and Victor Macri.

The Greens and independents formed a governing alliance in 2004, with Morris Hanna becoming mayor. He was succeeded in 2005 by Greens mayor Sam Byrne.

This governing alliance soon broke down, with independents Hanna and Macri siding with Labor over the Greens and Dimitri Thanos. This produced a 6-6 split on the council, which would result in the mayoralty being decided by the flip of a coin.

Hanna became mayor in 2006 with the support of Labor, defeating Thanos (supported by the Greens) on a coinflip. Thanos came back and won the mayoralty in 2007.

The 2008 election saw a repeat result, with the Greens holding their five seats, Labor holding four, and the three independents winning re-election. The coinflip continued to decide the mayoralty until 2012, with Labor’s Sam Iskandar winning for two years, followed by the Greens’ Fiona Byrne and finally independent Morris Hanna.

The 2012 election was a strong result for the Liberal Party, who won two seats. Independent councillor Dimitri Thanos retired, and the Greens lost their fifth seat.

An alliance of Labor, Liberal and independent councillors decided the mayoralty, which first went to independent Victor Macri, followed by Labor’s Jo Haylen. In the third year, the mayoralty went to Mark Gardiner, a former member of the Liberal Party who had become an independent, and finally Labor’s Sam Iskandar returned to the mayoralty in late 2015, holding the position until the council was abolished in 2016.

Labor councillor Emanuel Tsardoulias died in 2014, and his seat was filled at a by-election by Labor’s Daniel Barbar.

Candidate summary
Of Labor’s five lead candidates, four were members of the councils sacked in 2016:

  • Ashfield – Mark Drury (former Ashfield councillor)
  • Balmain – Darcy Byrne (former Leichhardt mayor)
  • Leichhardt – Lucille McKenna (former Ashfield mayor)
  • Marrickville – Sam Iskandar (former Marrickville mayor)
  • Stanmore – Anna York

Of the Greens’ five lead candidates, one was a member of a council sacked in 2016, and another was a member of a former council at an earlier time:

Assessment
The Inner West election will primarily be a contest between Labor and the Greens. The Liberal Party came a close third in 2012 thanks to a surge in support across the council area, but that vote is likely to slip backwards.

Labor and the Greens are likely to win one seat each in the five wards, with the five remaining seats up for grabs. The Greens are strongest in Balmain and Stanmore and may have ambitions of winning additional seats in those areas. Labor’s best chance for a sixth seat would likely come in Ashfield or Marrickville. The Liberal Party did best in Ashfield, Leichhardt and Balmain and may well win a seat in those wards.

Independents held numerous seats on the former councils: two were elected in Marrickville in 2012, alongside four in Ashfield, while independent John Stamolis represented Balmain from 2008 to 2012 and from 2014 to 2016. It’s not clear which of these candidates run but they could also be contenders. Victor Macri would likely be a contender for the third seat in Marrickville ward, while a number of former Ashfield councillors could be in with a shot in the Ashfield ward.

2012 council result

Party Votes % % where contested
Labor 28,756 30.7 30.7
Greens 25,725 27.5 29.0
Liberal 20,845 22.3 22.3
Marrickville independents 4,610 4.9 22.6
Stott/Wangmann Ashfield independents 2,618 2.8 25.6
John Stamolis 1,599 1.7 24.8
Ted Cassidy 1,573 1.7 30.5
Morris Mansour 1,384 1.5 13.5
Marc Rerceretnam 931 1.0 18.5
Sergio Redegalli 570 0.6 5.7
Socialist Alliance 391 0.4 3.9

Ward breakdown – federal
Since there are different factors in each local council election, I’ve included the results of the 2013 federal election to give a sense of underlying support.

Labor won the two-party-preferred vote (against the Liberal Party) in all five areas, ranging from 63% in Balmain to over 75% in Marrickville.

Labor’s primary vote follows a similar pattern – lowest in Balmain and Leichhardt, and highest in Marrickville.

The Liberal vote peaked at 32.6% in Balmain, and was under 20% in Marrickville.

The Greens polled best in Stanmore (29%) and Marrickville (24.5%), with only 18% in Balmain. It’s worth noting that the results would look wildly different if state election results were used, with the Greens polling well over 30% in the Balmain area.

Ward ALP 2PP % ALP % LIB % GRN % OTH %
Ashfield 69.0 47.8 25.8 20.8 5.6
Balmain 62.8 44.5 32.6 18.0 4.9
Leichhardt 64.1 44.4 31.1 19.3 5.2
Marrickville 75.5 50.8 19.7 24.5 5.0
Stanmore 74.9 46.5 20.2 28.6 4.7

Ward breakdown – 2012 council results

I have also broken down 2012 council election results by ward.

The Labor vote ranged from 37% in Marrickville down to only 26.6% in Leichhardt. Labor topped the poll in the Ashfield and Marrickville wards.

The Greens vote ranged from only 25% in Ashfield (and that includes votes for disendorsed councillor Marc Rerceretnam in South ward of Ashfield council) to 36% in Stanmore. The Greens vote in Balmain was second-best in 2012, while it was the worst area for the Greens at the 2013 federal election. The Greens topped the poll in Balmain and Stanmore.

The Liberal vote ranged from 16% in Marrickville to almost 30% in Leichhardt, where they outpolled both Labor and Greens.

Ward ALP % GRN % LIB % OTH %
Ashfield 34.7 25.11 25.2 20.2
Balmain 31.1 32.6 27.7 8.6
Leichhardt 26.6 28.3 29.5 15.6
Marrickville 37.0 27.8 15.9 19.4
Stanmore 33.2 36.4 17.2 13.2

1 No Greens candidate stood in the South ward of Ashfield council, but incumbent Greens councillor Marc Rerceretnam stood as an independent, and his votes have been credited to the Greens in this table and the following map.

Election results in the Inner West at the 2012 council election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for the Labor, Greens and Liberal parties.

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.