Breaking down the Inner West Council results


I’ve been paying quite a bit of attention to the Inner West Council results. It’s my former council area, but it’s also one of the most interesting councils. The Labor, Liberal and Greens parties all feature prominently, along with a wide variety of independents.

I’ve also written a piece for the Parramatta Sun about the Parramatta and Cumberland council results which I’ll share here when it’s posted.

The overall result in Inner West is not quite clear. Labor and Greens have each won at least five seats, along with progressive independent Pauline Lockie and two Liberals. Two other seats are in play.

Conservative independent Vic Macri is 171 votes ahead of progressive independent Victoria Pye in Marrickville ward. Second Labor candidate Linda Kelly, Liberal candidate Stephen Meates and independent John Stamolis are only separated by 54 votes – one of them will be knocked out first, and their preferences will decide the race between the other two.

Labor in the inner west has a history of forming governing alliances with the Liberal Party and conservative independents like Vic Macri. The Greens, meanwhile, have a better relationship with a string of independents who contested four of the five wards, and cooperated with each other in a variety of ways.

If Stamolis and Pye win their seats, there’s a plausible path to a working majority for the Greens and the independents they have been able to cooperate with. If Macri, Kelly or Meates win, that won’t be the case, and Labor will have the option to work with the Liberals, and possibly Macri. If Macri and Kelly both win, it’s plausible that Labor could form an alliance with the two independents and without the Liberals, but that will be hard to pull off. Of course, it’s also possible that Labor and the Greens would cooperate and share the mayoralty between the two bigger parties, as they have done recently in Leichhardt.

I’ve been looking at the swings at a ward level, and it’s very interesting.


The trend is very interesting, and not consistent between the five wards.

Labor did particularly well in Balmain, where former Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne ran explicitly as Labor’s ‘mayoral candidate’, and gained an 11.6% swing, and was the only group to poll over 40% in any ward. Labor gained a smaller swing in Leichhardt, and had no change in Ashfield. Labor lost ground south of Parramatta Road, losing 8% in Marrickville, where former Marrickville mayor Sam Iskandar headed the ticket.

There’s similarly large differences in the swing for the Greens. The Greens vote stayed largely steady in Leichhardt, Marrickville and Stanmore wards, ranging from a -2.1% swing in Stanmore, to a 1.4% swing in Marrickville.

The Greens vote shot up in the Ashfield ward. The Greens did not stand in the South ward of Ashfield in 2012, so that slightly exaggerates the swing, but in real terms the vote was higher in this ward than in three other wards. While it was a large swing, it’s worth noting that this ward isn’t just the old Ashfield council. It only covers areas south of the railway line, so doesn’t include Haberfield or northern Ashfield. It also includes all of Dulwich Hill. Dulwich Hill and Summer Hill have traditionally been better for the Greens than Ashfield proper. Having said all of that, it probably suggests that the gradual demographic change and gentrification in these areas has had a flow-on effect in local politics.

The real shocker for the Greens was in the Balmain ward. The Greens have performed much better this area in past elections at state and local levels, with the Greens winning the seat of Balmain in 2011 and 2015. The Greens primary vote dropped by 10.2% compared to the 2012 local government election, crashing to just 22%. This is the only ward in Inner West where the Greens failed to poll a full quota. The Greens vote in 2012 was over 32%, but even that was a low point compared to 2008, when Greens councillors Jamie Parker and Michelle McKenzie polled 39% and 41% respectively in the overlapping wards.

Labor Balmain candidate Darcy Byrne had a high profile, and the area has been shifting towards the Liberals, but even still it’s a surprisingly poor result. The Greens suffered double-digit swings in six booths in the ward, coming third in a number of booths, and even coming fourth in one booth. It should be a real cause for concern.

For those of you who are interested in diving further into the results, I’ve made a map which lets you toggle between the primary votes for the four biggest blocs in the council election, along with the swing to and from the Greens.

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  1. Labor picked up votes in Balmain in the State election in 2015 but the greens picked up more. The “community preselection” run by the ALP for that election saw former MP Verity Firth get up over Darcy Byrne (but she lost in the general election). These results in the Balmain ward make me wonder if Darcy Byrne should be the Labor candidate in 2019 for the state seat.

  2. As always, thanks for your detailed and informed commentary. As a Balmain resident, here’s three observations from my perspective:

    1. Darcy ran a very active and visible campaign and was rewarded for his investment of considerable time and effort. I’m no fan of the ALP but I give him credit for hard work, and I think it’s good for all candidates and aspiring candidates to see that campaigning matters.

    2. It felt like the Greens ran dead. They barely had any more of a campaign than the Liberals – just a couple of posters and the odd leaflet in the last week. Perhaps they made a judgement call that, with 3 vacancies, the Greens were guaranteed one without needing to invest much effort.

    3. John Stamolis sucked away a lot of votes that would otherwise go to the Greens. They basically appeal to the same crowd but Stamolis worked a lot harder and was able to take away a significant chunk of their vote.

    I wonder what Jamie Parker is making of all this? As Ant said, Darcy would seem to be the obvious ALP candidate for Balmain in 2019, even if he fell at the first hurdle last time around.

  3. Macri and Stamolis have been elected, according to the votesnsw web site. It’s quite hard to find the results, you’d think they could make it easier. 14 counts required for Macri.

  4. Hey Ben,

    I realise you are not “following” it, but how about a mention of the ALP winning a seat on Lane Cove Council. Only been >70 years! Not worth even a quick mention??

  5. Yes, the NSWEC declared the results for the Inner West Council on Friday night. I didn’t learn that from their confusing website, but by reading in the SMH next morning that “Samolos” (sic – Fairfax doesn’t appear to employ subs any more) had won. I then persevered online, and learned that Macri had won too.

    Darcy should be able to wear the robes for the 3 years on those results – but only if he talks to Julie Passas. According to her (quoted in City Hub) she’s prefers Labor to the “up in the air” Greens.

    But Darcy may prefer to has sat at the feet of Albo for long enough to learn the dark arts of politics, and may let common sense triumph – especially if any power sharing arrangement with the Greens involves splitting the mayors position (18 months each). With who? Surely not Rochelle after that atrocious result. Colin Hesse is my guess.

  6. Hmmm, something happened to my last post.

    SMH spelt Stamolis as “Somalis” (auto-spell has trouble with that). Also a bit of my third par has gone missing. It should have read:

    “But Darcy may prefer not to “deal with the Tories.” At least that’s what he has said in the past. But he has sat at the feet of Albo for long enough…” etc

  7. GNav, this is my turf too (Rozelle)… I’m not surprised by that -10 swing from the Greens. I am surprised they put Rochelle ( a previous Mayor of Leichhardt) up as a candidate though. It may surprise some of Ben’s readers and Greens voters, but not everyone was a fan of the old Leichhardt Council, and certainly don’t want it to return. The Greens somehow imagine they can conduct some sort “plebiscite” and force a return to the pre-amalgamated past. A totally fanciful notion, but if that did come to pass, I think they’s be surprised by the result.

    Ant – indeed. I bumped into Verity while she was campaigning that last time and asked her “why not give Darcy a go?”, and suggested she’s only got the pre-selection by a process “that looked undemocratic.” She laughed that off and said “he’s young, he’ll get his chance later.” I doubt Jamie could have got his second term up against Darcy. Since then Jamie has kept a remarkably low profile… Lets call the 2019 election now!

    Re gentrification: That process is complete in Balmain, and the implications for the rest of the inner west are clear. Gentrification means rich people (Greens and Lib voters) replace poorer resident (Labor voters). But as the experience on the peninsula shows, the Greens vote tails off at a certain point (say 30% with smaller isolated peaks) and then plateaus or declines over time. The peak for the Greens on the old council was 2008-12, where they had 6 councillors, plus the ever-loyal Stamolis. Those days will not return.

  8. Teddy, Darcy did deals with the Liberals when he was mayor, famously cutting the bike budget one year. There was a strong backlash and the next year he promised to maintain the funding in the ten year plan. This year he promised a $10 m “bicycle fund”, which wasn’t too hard to do as the Council budget already approved a $17m spend over the next 3-4 years. Greens promised $40 m, but not all for bike infrastructure. A big step up anyway, from previous budgets. If only “Local Labor” could stomach working with the Greens, but it seems too much to ask from them.
    As for Verity, she got preselected by winning the popular vote didn’t she, under the new selection process where non Labor members could vote.

  9. Robert – re: Verity. I was referring to Labor’s policy of weighting the pre-selection votes towards a female candidate.

    re: Deals. We’ll know for sure on Thursday night when the mayor and deputy will be elected at Ashfield Town Hall. A change of venue for “Rats in the Ranks” fans… The Inner West Courier today gives us a hint. Pauline Lockie’s ambitions there is a surprise. We shall see:

    “Stamolis” is spelt correctly too. Looks as if News Corp still employs subs. Good on them

    re: Lab/Green animosity. That goes back a long time, way back to when the NSW Greens was formed from ex-ALP leftists who left or were expelled during the purges of Trots in the party during there Hawke/Keating years. Labor finds it hard to co-operate with a party which is determined to destroy them, while those on the other side have very long memories and grudges that will never die. This won’t change until these veterans of an ancient Cold War retire or pass away.

  10. “Labor finds it hard to cooperate with a party (Greens) that is determined to destroy them”. So it is a Lib/Lab conspiracy to keep themselves in power? No matter they swear they are ideological opposites.

  11. Robert, there no “conspiracies” behind any of this. Use of that word implies a certain mindset though, and anyone who thinks that way won’t understand what happened last night.

    Darcy Byrne was been voted Mayor 8/5. What you find on many councils and in politics generally, is that Labor and Liberal often do unite in order to secure outcomes – despite their differing ideologies. For people who want results, to achieve something for their constituents out of their time in local government that’s simply common sense. However if you only want to uselessly shout from the sidelines and protest then you won’t deal with anyone. You’ll be “pure but powerless”. I’m hardly making a novel point here!

    Colin Hesse makes it clear in that SMH story that his party is only interested in protest. Against the WestConnex (fair enough perhaps, it is a bad project), but he is also against public transport – the Metro.

  12. Correction: the vote was 8/7.

    I don’t understand why the Greens didn’t put up their own candidate for Mayor… Colin Hesse surely, “experienced” enough to satisfy Vic Macri. Darcy Byrne is copping quite a backlash for this decision. Julie Passas (his Lib deputy) has proved she’s both a difficult customer and an extremely unlikely ally for rainbow “Local Labor.” Her record on the old Ashfield Council provided a succession of colourful headlines in the IW Courier – it seems she had a lot of trouble working with anyone as well as holding hardline rightwing attitudes.

    Check the outrage on the IW Courier’s Facebook page – everyone piling on and denouncing this deal. The suggestion that Darcy wanted the Mayor position to step himself up for the 2019 State election is probably correct – he’s made no secret that he wants to follow in Albo’s footsteps (he works in his electorate office). But most of the Facebook warriors seem to think their Council can “stop” the WestConnex. Sorry to break the news kids, but it can’t.

  13. There is no way Macri would’ve supported a Greens candidate. The idea he went in “with an open mind” and decided based on “experience” is nonsense. He’s fiercely anti-Greens and has been for a decade. Maybe they figured a fresh candidate like Lockie had a slim chance of getting support, but it seems more likely just a decision to solidify the Greens’ alliance with those two indies.

    I think it’s fair enough for people to be angry at how Labor keeps putting conservatives in positions of power in an area where most people are quite far to the left (including the people who vote for the Greens).

    12 of the 15 councillors can be broadly considered to be centre-left. It would be sensible if the people running the council were centre-left. Instead we’ve had conservative mayors in Marrickville, and even with Byrne as mayor, the deputy mayor will get to chair meetings. And if Macri’s alliance on the old Marrickville council is a precedent, I expect him to run an important committee like the development committee. It’s not just about the mayoralty (although that is an important position).

    There is a viable alternative – which is that Labor, the Greens and possibly the progressive independents share the positions of power and lock out the small number of conservatives who clearly represent a small minority in the area. That wouldn’t be “pure” for the Greens but they offer it every year.

  14. Ben, my understanding is that Macri is anti-Greens and anti-Labor. He’s a conservative, and like Julie Passas, dislikes progressive politics in general. However, like Passas, he elected to support someone he didn’t agree with – for whatever reasons.

    It was always very clear that his vote was the only one in play. Although Lockies’ position is as clear as mud (more on that below).

    As to just how the deal came about, it’s probably worth trawling through Darcy Byrne’s Facebook page. There are hundreds of posts and messages there of course, most of them questioning (some quite abusively) how his “betrayal” came about. Understandably, Byrne is defensive, and you can take what he says with a grain of salt if you like. But he does give a detailed account of the maneuverings that went on in the days prior to the mayoral vote, and suggests that the Greens bungled the negotiations for the coalition you suggest “should” have happened due to their disunity and incompetence. Well, he would say that… My own view is that he was guided only by ambition, but that’s hardly unusual in a politician. But I was very surprised to read that Pauline Lockie was also desperately dealing with the Liberals in her own bid for power (yes, the people building the WestConnex!), and also of the disingenuous role that more the more experienced politicians Jamie Parker and John Stamolis were playing.

    I’ll be stronger than that, and can safely say I was disgusted.

    I have “defended” the deal (above posts) on the basis of outcomes, and for now, will stick to that. Morality, “should haves” and “sensible”s don’t come into real-politics Ben, I’m surprised you suggest that they could happen. But I agree this case is all pretty dispiriting… Anyway, one thing for sure now, Julie Passas won’t be a silent partner in the arrangement. Actually, Byrne is in for a rocky road ahead and I don’t expect it to last.

    Ps. Thanks for your analysis, and the platform Ben.

  15. Oh come off it Teddy, Vic Macri has voted with Labor in every mayoral election for the last decade.

    Of course Darcy Byrne will find excuses to explain why he chose what he did but he had a choice. He chose to work with the conservatives, not the progressives, and that was a political choice. I do think allying with Passas and Macri will be hard for him, particularly with the greater scrutiny that comes from the bigger council.

  16. If as you say Macri is a Labor loyalist then it should be easy for Darcy. But (you know this, surely Ben) outside of the party workers (both paid and volunteer), very few people care about the argy bargy that excites the players. I’m not a partisan, just an observer with a fairly mild opinion, and as a local ratepayer really only care about outcomes. So I’m (cautiously) pleased with this result.

    I also work in media organisation which gets all of the Inner West Council’s (and Leichhardt before it) press releases. During the time of the administrator and Darcy’s previous mayorship, they were all (generally) concerned with local government matters – the cultural festivals, various community initiatives, parking issues, budgets, local business concerns etc. Pretty boring wonk stuff, but core local government responsibilities.

    During the time of the progressive councils of Rochelle Porteous and Jamie Parker’s 2008-11 one, the only communications we ever received from their (ratepayer-paid for) media staff were bellicose declarations of war against various State and Federal government responsibilities. Well, they were at least more entertaining than Richard Pearson’s, but not once did anyone take any notice of these other than to laugh at how pompously preposterous they were.

    I’m glad those days are over – for now, at least.

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