I’ve just finished compiling my list of the 1402 candidates running for council or mayor in the 24 most populous councils, the ones featured in my election guide. Unfortunately the NSWEC has not published a single dataset with all of the candidate details, so it wasn’t really practical to do an analysis of the whole state. Instead I’ve just focused on those 24 councils.
One thing I noticed when I was browsing through the nomination lists is a surprising number of places where the ballot is much smaller than expected. The Epping ward of Parramatta has just two groups and one ungrouped independent, and there are other similar cases.
I didn’t want to just add up the number of candidates – many candidates are not serious and are just there to make up the numbers, since legislation requires a certain number of candidates to get a box above the line. It seems more useful to count the number of groups running in each ward.
Across these 24 councils, there were 400 groups in 2016-17, across 91 wards, for an average of 4.4 groups per ward. Those same councils have 371 groups running in 2021, across 90 wards (Fairfield’s three wards were redrawn into two), for an average of 4.2. It’s not a huge decline, but it’s there.
I mapped out this change at the council level and it wasn’t as clear-cut as I expected, but there were more drops than increases.
The average number of groups dropped in 13 councils, went up in eight, and stayed the same in three.
The number of groups even declined in Fairfield, despite the increased district magnitude making it easier to win a seat in a ward. The number of groups declined from 19 to 10.
I expected a pattern where the number of groups running was higher in wards with greater district magnitude. That is true of Campbelltown City Council, electing fifteen councillors in one ward. Eight groups are running in Campbelltown, more than anywhere else. But there’s no trend of more groups running in 4-member wards or 5-member wards than in 3-member wards, at least in this sample of large councils.
While I’ve been looking at this data, I also looked at the trends in terms of parties running. I already posted about the three biggest parties across Greater Sydney, but they aren’t the only parties running.
There are four other parties that contest state and federal elections that have nominated for at least two of these councils. The Animal Justice Party is running in Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Inner West and Newcastle. The Socialist Alliance is running in the Inner West, Newcastle and Parramatta. The Liberal Democrats are running in Ku-ring-gai, Parramatta and the Hills. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers are running in Camden and Lake Macquarie.
The Arts Party, Australia First, the Science Party and Sustainable Australia are all running for one council each: Randwick, Penrith, Wollongong and Wollongong respectively. Interestingly there is a party running in both wards of Fairfield council called the “Australian Womens Party”, but it’s shorter name is “Dai Le”, the name of a sitting independent councillor who is heading the ticket in one of those wards.
There are a bunch of local parties that just run in one council, but I am fascinated by one of only two “local” parties to run in multiple councils on my list. Our Local Community ran formerly-sitting councillors in Parramatta, Cumberland and Canterbury-Bankstown in 2017, and won two seats each in Parramatta and Cumberland.
This time around they are running three of those sitting councillors (the fourth, Andrew Wilson in Parramatta, has joined the Small Business Party of the City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas), and are running in nine out of ten wards in Parramatta and Cumberland, and may well benefit from the absence of Liberals in those councils.
They have picked up a third Cumberland councillor elected on the Labor ticket in 2017, as well as Angelo Tsirekas, the four-term Labor mayor of Canada Bay (not one of the councils I’ve been tracking) and a formerly Liberal councillor in Randwick. They’ve also got a ticket in one ward of Fairfield and Canterbury-Bankstown.
I don’t really know what the party stands for, beyond being an attractive brand for local independents that can be franchised out in different areas, but they’ll be worth watching.