Sydney – Australia 2019

ALP 15.3%

Incumbent MP
Tanya Plibersek, since 1998.

Inner suburbs of Sydney. Sydney covers most of the City of Sydney and a small part of the Marrickville council area. The seat covers the Sydney CBD, Pyrmont, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo, Alexandria, Potts Point, Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Erskineville, Glebe, parts of Newtown, and the southern parts of the City of Sydney, extending as far south as Rosebery.

Sydney was created for the 1969 election by the merger of the seats of East Sydney and West Sydney, which had existed since federation.

Sydney has been held by the ALP ever since its creation, and its predecessors had almost always been held by Labor.

West Sydney (which, despite its name, actually covered inner city suburbs like Darling Harbour and Pyrmont) always elected a Labor MP, although it was briefly held by a conservative party from 1916 to 1917, as its first MP was Billy Hughes, who as Prime Minister left the ALP and formed the Nationalist party. He proceeded to move to a different seat at the 1917 election, and the ALP held West Sydney from 1917 until its abolition, although Jack Beasley, who held the seat for eighteen years, left the ALP to join a Lang Labor breakaway party on two occasions in the 1930s and 1940s.

The seat of East Sydney was first held by George Reid, a former NSW premier and leader of the Free Trade party, from 1901 to 1909, when he retired. John West (ALP) won the seat in 1910 and held it until his death in February 1931. The ensuing by-election was won by Eddie Ward, who left the ALP later that year when he was one of a number of supporters of NSW Labor leader Jack Lang to cross the floor and bring down the Scullin government.

East Sydney was won at the 1931 election by John Clasby (UAP) who benefited from a split Labor vote, with the two Labor parties gaining 55% of the primary vote but enough preferences from the official ALP leaking to Clasby to see Ward lose. Clasby died a month later without taking his seat and Ward won back the seat at a January 1932 by-election, less than a year after he had previously won the seat at a by-election. Ward returned to the ALP in 1936 and the ALP held the seat from then until its abolition in 1969.

The new seat of Sydney was first won in 1969 by Jim Cope. Cope had previously held the seats of Cook and Watson before their abolitions. Neither seats have any connection to the modern seats with those names. Both Cook and Watson had covered parts of South Sydney now covered by Sydney. Cope had won Cook at a 1955 by-election following the death of the previous member, but the seat was abolished at the general election in the same year. Cope then held Watson from 1955 until it too was abolished in 1969, at which point he moved to the new seat of Sydney.

Cope held Sydney until 1975, and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1973 until a dispute with the Whitlam government saw him resign in protest in 1975.

Cope was succeeded in 1975 by Leslie McMahon (ALP), who served until he was defeated for preselection before the 1983 election.

The seat was won in 1983 by Peter Baldwin, previously a Member of the Legislative Council who had become a symbol of the conflict between the Left and Right within the ALP in the Inner West in 1980 when he was brutally bashed in his home. Baldwin served as a federal minister from 1990 to 1996 and retired at the 1998 election.

The seat has been held since 1998 by Tanya Plibersek. Plibersek served as a minister during the last Labor government, and has served as deputy Labor leader since 2013.


This electorate is one of the best seats in the country for the Greens, and they continue to hold ambitions to win the seat. Tanya Plibersek has always been a strong candidate able to hold on to voters who may otherwise consider voting Green, and her rise to the deputy leadership has increased her profile. It seems unlikely that the Greens would be able to win this seat while Plibersek is running, but would still have ambitions to run a strong campaign and break through into the top two.

2016 result

Tanya Plibersek Labor 38,44943.7+0.1
Geoffrey Winters Liberal 25,62229.1-3.0
Sylvie Ellsmore Greens 16,53718.8+0.5
Mark BerrimanAnimal Justice1,4971.7+1.7
Ula FalangaChristian Democratic Party1,4891.7+0.8
Rebecca LanningSex Party1,4561.7+1.7
Tom GeiserScience Party1,3611.5+1.6
Kris SpikeSustainable Australia6060.7+0.7
Peter BoyleSocialist Alliance5000.6-0.1
Tula TzorasOnline Direct Democracy3830.4+0.4

2016 two-party-preferred result

Tanya Plibersek Labor 57,41065.3+2.4
Geoffrey Winters Liberal 30,49034.7-2.4

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into four parts:

  • North-East – Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Millers Point, Sydney CBD, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo
  • North-West – Glebe, Pyrmont, Ultimo
  • South-East – Alexandria, Redfern, Rosebery, Waterloo, Zetland
  • South-West – Camperdown, Darlington, Erskineville, Newtown

Labor’s two-party-preferred figure (against the Liberal Party) ranged from 61% in the north-east to over 79% in the south-west.

The Greens vote ranged from 15.6% in the south-east to over 29% in the south-west.

Voter groupGRN prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Other votes18.462.915,01117.1

Election results in Sydney at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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  1. In the short term, this seat is Tanya’s for as long as she is in the seat and the reason for that is the relatively stronger Liberal Performances in very north and very south of the seat (compared to the Greens). The Greens may continue to make inroads up the middle through Camperdown but I can’t see the other ends of the seat changing much.

    Their best chance will be when Plibersek stands down (which won’t be for some time) and even then, a solid Labor Left candidate would still have an at-worst 50:50 chance of retaining the seat.

    Greens will need to be thinking 4-5 elections away for this seat.

  2. Yes, the Liberal vote is pretty strong here. Over time, I wonder if this seat will become like Melbourne Ports, a genuine 3-way marginal between Labor/Liberal/Greens.

  3. I agree Sydney has potential for the Greens post-Plibersek, assuming she does have a significant personal following. However I don’t see any prospect of increasing Liberal competitiveness. The Liberal primary vote has been pretty steady at around 30% for some time.

  4. As a Greens member and someone that voted for Jim Casey in 2016 I’m disappointed when this seat and Grayndler get such focus. Going after the two most famous Labor left front benchers is tilting at windmills.

    I would posit that there is a belief amongst Labor-Green “swing voters,” ie- the ones that see the Greens dominate the state seats of Balmain and Newtown, that Albo and Tanya are good progressive voices in the Labor party and parliament. That’s a misguided view, but that doesn’t magic away the electoral effect.

    In my view Greens NSW would do best to concentrate on the senate and the division of Richmond at the next election. Certainly if Albo or Tanya retire or make a gargantuan gaff throw everything at their seat, but before that I don’t think the Greens can take federal seats in central Sydney.

  5. Mathematically Greens are certainly far closer to winning Richmond than Sydney at the moment. Which is stronger in the future will depend on how the Greens evolve as a party in terms of strategic direction and political positioning. Certainly agree Greens are unlikely to have any chance here whilst Plibersek is the MP though.

  6. A lot of my friends love this girl.
    Mrs WD & i have had a “spirited” debate (argument !!) over her (enneagram) fixation. Mrs WD pronounced that Tanya is a type 6 social subtype. She now concedes i was right (this IS RARE !!) Tanya is a highly fixated Type 3 ( Same as Phelps, Turnbull, & probably the PM).
    3’s “Propagandise” themselves & their success, or the IMAGE of their success, how great they are, their achievements etc, etc. There is always a massive risk of (self!!) deception. Tanya is unfailingly consistent in illustrating this for us all. You go girl !!!.

    Last night i watched a clip of Tanya at the National Press Club. What happy convivial lass she was. I’ve never seen her more content, & self -satisfied. “I mean we’ve already won the next election (successful) we have great policies (direction, authority etc), The position ( we have achieved) . I mean we are just SO great !!.”
    Excellent !!.

    Seemingly Tanya got so carried away with her delightful reverie that she was moved to explore “new” policy directions !!. Apparently BS is wrong in thinking that Chrissy Island is “Fine”. Tanya “has real concerns”
    Apparently the thermal coal industry “is dying” . This is a new one for me !!. I’D have thought that near record prices, record export growth forecasts, & record volumes were “significant “, Signs of LIFE !!. Apparently also Adani is a very doubtful proposition. But no biggie !!. Three clear differences of view, if not outright contradictions , do not division, & discontent make !!??. mmmmm!!! that is not what i am seeing !!

    But what would i know ? . I am just a poor ignorant schlub (in comparison to the gleaming brilliance, of a remarkable individual like Tanya) !!. All i have ever done is run a company for more than a decade, employed , & trained many people, & created Tens of millions of $ of taxes for the country, what would i know ??. My clients were thousands of (mostly) successful (mostly) small businesspeople, whose clientele were also hundreds of thousands of mostly successful people. What could i have possibly learn’t (of any value) !!??. Of course parenting, being married for more than three decades, becoming a healer, & therapist count for little really….!! I mean anyone can do all that !!.
    I’ve just illustrated (personally) above, how 9’s move to Point 3 & therefore can also propagandise the/an image of success. The difference is usually the level of delusion, & deception. This is because Type 3’s need unendingly continue to prove they are worthy of love, are loveable, or not worthless, & unlovable . If it all sounds a bit pathetic, & limited, that is because it is.

    Having said that i do believe Tanya was an effective, & successful minister, in spite of the public housing debacles. She is clearly a very talented individual, & this is why she was elected, & promoted. However her fixation weaknesses are also very clear, & i believe she represents a far more potent danger, & potential damage, to labor, & her own causes, than she could ever inflict on the government.

    In short Tanya is still stuck in the mentality, & position of a radical student activist. Because Tanya has always been unwilling to acknowledge the limitations, futility, & failures (god that WORD !!) of her former identity ( because she has always been successful !!) Tanya has not properly grown beyond that identity. This illustrates a fundamental deception, & consequent limitation.
    However i remain absolutely convinced that Tanya will continue to “show us the way” (to success !!)

  7. This might JUST* be a turning point for the coalition. I heard her announcement, And i have to say my tax money is NOT going to women for abortions.Me and my hard working familys money is not going to taxpayer funded abortion. Because half of the abortion cases are for bad reasons like Mental health/Divorce of breakup/Not enough money/ or accidental pregnancy from unprotected sex. I understand Life of the mother, rape of incest. BUT my money aint going towards those other reasons, This was one of the reasons i immigrated from the UK to this country since thats their law there, But we cannot afford a Labor goverment if that is what they are going to do, My taxes will go up for somthing silly. I predict this will not go well in conservative states like qld which may just result in a Hung parliament of a very small coalition majority. We cannot afford Labor’s Pro-Choice laws

  8. Daniel

    Polling over the years has shown a strong majority of Australians support a woman’s right to choose. I don’t think it’ll do them any damage, generally the people who’d change their vote on this probably won’t be voting labor anyways.

    Seat is safe as for Labor as long as Plibersek is there

  9. Wow Daniel. Lucky there are some moral crusaders prosecuting this argument while the usual suspects (Abbott, Howard, Pell) are either busy defending George Pell or are in prison for egregious crimes. Good luck to you. No seriously.

  10. Tonight on the Drum,Kathrine Greiner praises the ability of Tanya Pilbersek

    Scomo must not be happy

  11. TPB – watching the Drum as well. Amazing that the guy who has one of the biggest houses in Neutral Bay is suggesting that he has too much and should give more. I am sure Tanya would be happy to receive the house (or the proceeds from its sale) to support some poorer people / homeless in the seat of Sydney.

    Oh – there goes another flying pig….




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