Bennelong by-election, 2017

Cause of by-electon
Sitting Liberal MP John Alexander resigned his seat in November 2017 after discovering that he held dual British citizenship.

Margin – LIB 9.7%

Bennelong straddles the north shore and western suburbs of Sydney. The seat covers the entirety of Ryde local government area, as well as Epping, Carlingford and Ermington, from Hornsby and Parramatta council areas. Main suburbs in the seat are Ryde, Epping, Ermington, Eastwood and Gladesville.

Bennelong was created in 1949, and was held by only two MPs between then and the 2007 federal election. Bennelong originally covered Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove, but not areas such as Eastwood and Epping that are now contained within the seat.

Bennelong was first won by John Cramer (LIB) in 1949. Cramer served as Minister for the Army under Robert Menzies from 1956 to 1963. During his time holding Bennelong the seat was never a very safe seat, and in 1961 Cramer only held on by 1832 votes. His largest margin was 15.4% in 1966.

Cramer retired at the 1974 election and was succeeded by John Howard (LIB). Howard went on to serve as a minister under Malcolm Fraser, including as Treasurer from 1977 to 1983. He then served in a variety of roles on the opposition frontbench after 1983, including as two stints as Opposition Leader (1985-1989, 1995-1996). He was elected as Prime Minister in 1996 and served until 2007.

The seat of Bennelong had gradually shifted to the north-west over the decades, taking in Epping. The 1992 redistribution saw the last parts of Lane Cove removed from the seat, and Howard’s margin was cut in 1993. After recovering in 1996 to a margin over 10% it gradually declined to a 4.3% margin in 2004, when the Greens ran high-profile former intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie against Howard.

The 2006 redistribution saw Howard’s margin cut slightly and the ALP decided to target the seat, running former journalist Maxine McKew. McKew won the seat with 51.4% of the two-party vote.

In 2010, McKew was defeated by former tennis champion John Alexander. Alexander was re-elected in 2013 and 2016.


  • Tony Robinson (Liberty Alliance)
  • Wesley Folitarik (Sustainable Australia)
  • James Jansson (Science)
  • John Alexander (Liberal)
  • Kristina Keneally (Labor)
  • James Platter (People’s Party)
  • Justin Alick (Greens)
  • Anthony Ziebell (Affordable Housing)
  • Anthony Fels (Non-Custodial Parents)
  • Joram Richa (Conservatives)
  • Gui Dong Cao (Christian Democratic)
  • Chris Golding (Progressives)

The Liberal Party hold this seat by a sizeable margin, but in the context of a 5% national swing in polling this seat could not be considered safe. A lot will depend on whether voters have sympathy for Alexander for being deemed ineligible due to his father’s birthplace, or blame him for his lax attitude to the constitution. Voters who would like to see an election would have an extra incentive to vote for Labor, as a Labor win would make the government’s position less stable and increase the chance of an early election.

Kristina Keneally is a strong and high-profile candidate, clearly qualified for the role, but she also led a very unpopular government, and this could weigh her down as a candidate.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
John Alexander Liberal 46,497 50.41 -2.58
Lyndal Howison Labor 26,270 28.48 -3.97
Justin Alick Greens 8,424 9.13 +0.71
Julie Worsley Christian Democratic Party 5,903 6.40 +3.99
Martin Mulcare Independent 2,885 3.13 +3.13
John August Pirate Party 1,260 1.37 +1.37
Christopher Gordon Arts Party 992 1.08 +1.08
Informal 4,942 5.09

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
John Alexander Liberal 55,077 59.72 +1.95
Lyndal Howison Labor 37,154 40.28 -1.95

Booth breakdown

Booths in Bennelong have been split into five parts: Epping in the north, Ryde in the east, West Ryde in the south-west, Gladesville in the south-east and Eastwood in the centre.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all five areas, ranging from 54% in West Ryde to 64% in Gladesville.

The Liberal Party also won around 59% of the pre-poll and other votes.

Voter group GRN prim % LIB 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Eastwood 8.6 60.5 16,310 17.6
Ryde 8.6 58.1 15,348 16.5
Epping 10.0 61.6 14,595 15.7
West Ryde 8.0 54.3 11,895 12.8
Gladesville 8.9 63.7 8,387 9.0
Pre-poll 10.1 59.1 12,177 13.1
Other votes 9.4 58.8 14,090 15.2

Two-party-preferred vote in Bennelong at the 2016 federal election

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  1. Bennelong could very well fall, if One Nation run and preference Alexander last then things could get more interesting.

  2. Labor can’t win this, as much as it hurts me to say. The conservatives will hate it too as it will save Turnbull, even though he won’t be the reason they hold it. It’s a liberal seat. Forget 2007, that was just a one off. I like Keneally but she has baggage. Alexander will get sympathy vote. I expect a swing of only about 5-6 percent to Labor here.

  3. The Coalition has been very lucky with the two seats that had disqualified members. Both Joyce and Alexander are exceptionally popular in their electorates. Agree with FTB, can’t see any chance of Libs losing this, swing might even be less than 5-6%. Can’t compare it to a normal by-election as the sitting member is standing. Mistake on the part of Shorten to make a high profile contest out of this by running the former premier. Ryde had one of the biggest swings in the state against the former ALP state government, so dredging her up and reminding everyone is also not helpful to the ALP.

  4. Yep and if any other by elections happen based on the could be’s it’s likely to be a Labor seat aka Longman, which would actually be a chance to for One Nation.

  5. FTB, you clearly have very little knowledge of the area …… or are a professional doom-sayer if your Queensland election posts are anything to go by. I live in a neighbouring seat and spend a good deal of time on Bennelong “turf”.

    Certainly, Bennelong has traditionally been a Liberal seat but for much of that time was based further to the east; for the last 15 years of Howard’s tenancy it was no longer a safe seat.

    Alexander popular ?? More likely his margin is due to LAB not contesting this seat in 2013 & 2106. If he was such a stellar candidate then why did he “wash out” completely at preselection for Bradfield when touted as a favourite ? Having seen him in action, he’s frankly just an “empty suit” who’s completely out of his depth when forced to move past the party script of empty platitudes (as are many other MPs).

    Mick IS right in saying this area can “swing” ….. and when it does, it swings violently. Much of the eastern part of this seat is in the state seat of Ryde which was LAB for much of the 1995 – 2011 period. At the recent local government elections, LAB carried the central and western wards (the latter based on Eastwood) of Ryde Council leaving it a “hung” council. Bennelong MAY have been one of the electorates that (narrowly) favoured the No vote in the SSM plebiscite but this was almost certainly due to the major campaign mounted through the churches of the Chinese community.

    Kenneally has baggage ?? Realistically only that of being the “sacrificial lamb” put up at the 2011 State election …. whilst the real “rats” that had brought on the rot in that long term LAB govt had cut and run.

    This WILL be a push for LAB but the current poltical climate isn’t exactly favourable for the government and much of the territory of this seat has recently shown its willingness to give the Lib’s a belting. This will be the first time that Alexander will actually be in the sole spotlight rather than under the greater security of a general election and thus any missteps highlighted. This has the potential for a very very close result.

  6. My guess is that Kristina Keneally can win Bennelong. It’s a challenge for sure, but look how she has whittled that 9.6% margin away in 5 days campaigning. She is doing everything right. Her big team of enthusiastic volunteers doorknocking and phone calls, KKs Tweets,and exciting launch are proof that she knows what she is doing. The street encounter with Alexander and Bishop showed how she can deal with any situation. Bishop was hopelessly outclassed – she didn’t know how to handle it. Liberals immediate smear efforts are all they’ve got. KK has star quality and it’s infectious. Looking to the past won’t work here. Bernardi putting someone in will just split the Lib vote.

  7. Who is responsible for the education of common wombats?
    This one doesn’t even know that Labor ran candidates in Bennelong in 2013 and 2016, and lost each time by increasing margins.
    Nor does he/she know that John Alexander chaired the House committee on housing affordability in 2015-16, at which he defied the party and repeatedly shone the spotlight on the role of negative gearing. As a result, Turnbull shut down the committee after the 2016 election and set up a new one under a more compliant chair.
    Nor does he/she know that there were 17 candidates for Bradfield pre-selection in 2009, but only one could win, who turned out to be Paul Fletcher. Alexander made a very good impression, which is one reason why he won the next contest, which was Bennelong.
    If you think Alexander is just an empty suit, you clearly don’t know the guy.
    I like wombats, but you’re not a very smart one, are you?

  8. also john Alexander has moved out of the electorate…. maybe it was his intention to retire…… which is a reasonable decision……. but I think the electorate needs a younger vibrant women to represent it

  9. Sure, Bennelong is in the scheme of things a solid enough Lib seat, but there’s a lot going for Labor here.

    Energetic and quality candidate that I predict will clean up a lot of the younger vote. Resources that weren’t there last election. A sitting MP that moved to Bondi. A Turnbull government on its knees. Bad press over citizenship and cancelling Parliament. Low turnout that’s likely to help the party with more energised supporters (usually the opposition, so Labor in this instance)

    Right now I’d say Alexander by 1%, but a good Labor campaign can flip this, no doubt.

    I reckon KK to build momentum over the next four weeks to win by a whisker.

  10. @Commonwombat – let me be clear, I support, Labor, I sincerely hope Labor proves me and I really like KK but it’s just my gut feeling. Already there’s been 2 polls, one had it 50-50 the other 53-47 in favour of the Coalition. Realistically the sugar hit for Labor should be in the early polls so that’s not a great start. The old saying is right that there’s always swings back towards the conservative side in the last days of an election.

  11. And I’m also not sure what you mean about my negative election posts re qld? Just offering an opinion. If you live in Qld you will know One Nation are a force to be reckoned with, I hate it but it’s just the reality. Me saying they will win seats is obvious to anyone following the election. Anyway that’s nothing to do with Bennelong.

  12. We keep reading your assurances of being a Labour supporter but what we read smells more that of a “concern troll”. I sincerely hope that you are not but your Queensland posts which seem to see a One Notion threat behind EVERY tree certainly give one reason to ponder.

    Back to Bennelong. nowhere did I state that LAB WILL win. In fact, I regard it as a significant “ask” for LAB to win this by-election ….. frankly no seriously contested by-election is a “done deal”. I know this area; having grown up in a neighbouring seat; and have noticed both the social and political demographics of this area change over the past 30 years.

    KK does wear the tag of being the sacrificial offering put up by Sussex St at the 2011 state election but the extent to which the public hold her accountable for the sins/crimes of others is probably greatly overstated. Being seen as a “carpet bagger”/fly-in outsider with no real connection to the area maybe has some degree of resonance but that is more than counterbalanced by Alexander not living in his electorate (did/has he ever ?).

    It certainly will be an ask for LAB but the LIB brand in this area is currently on the nose. As per my previous post, Ryde Council saw a heavy swing against LIBs in at least 2 of the 3 wards and at the north of the seat (the Epping wards in Hornsby Council); the swing against LIB to GRNs was savage. State and local areas, primarily zoning/development, drove much of this but add this to what seems a current public antipathy to the Turnbull govt and we have a situation of this seat being very much “in play”.

  13. FTB there will be no Longman by-election. Lamb like all Labor members has met the standard set by the High Court.

  14. Pendulum may have swung to Labor today after the video airing of Alexander’s “funny” and racist rape joke.

  15. The Liberals cannot be complacent here. Because this is a by-election it automatically gives Kristina a 5 point edge. It will all come down to the preference swaps. My prediction is that this will be a Labor gain, Keneally will ultimately win with a 2PP result of 51/49. Bet on it.

  16. All the hallmarks of the Liberals being in trouble; John Howard hitting the campaign trail, frequent mentions in Question Time, huge campaign resources. This is despite a Liberal internal poll in The Australian showing 54/46 to Alexander. I think it’s in the government’s interest given the air of instability about them to look like they have it in the bag, instead of the usual “we’re behind please help” motive behind internal polls.

    Prediction: Narrow win to Labor


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