Bradfield by-election

December 5, 2009

Bradfield was first created at the 1949 election, and has been held by the Liberal Party for the last sixty years. The seat was first held by former Prime Minister Billy Hughes up to his death in 1952, when he was replaced by Henry Turner. Turner held the seat until the 1974 election, when he was succeeded by David Connolly.

Neither Turner or Connolly ever held ministries, although Connolly served as a shadow minister during the early-mid 1990s. Prior to the 1996 election, Connolly was challenged for preselection by former AMA President Brendan Nelson, who was elected in Bradfield in 1996.

Nelson went on to serve in the Howard cabinet as Minister for Education and Minister for Defence. Following the defeat of the Howard government in 2007, Nelson was elected Leader of the Opposition. Nelson only served in the role for ten months before he was defeated by Malcolm Turnbull. Nelson had previously announced he would retire at the next general election, but in August 2009 he announced he would resign immediately, triggering a by-election in Bradfield.

Bradfield covers parts of the upper north shore of Sydney. The seat mostly correlates to Ku-ring-gai Council. In addition, a few suburbs around Hornsby are part of Bradfield, as are some suburbs in northwestern Willoughby, particularly around Chatswood. The seat is bordered by Berowra to the west, Bennelong to the southwest, North Sydney to the south, Warringah to the southeast and Mackellar to the east.

Political situation
Bradfield is held by a 13.5% margin by the Liberal Party. The seat has never gone to preferences in sixty years. It is the fifth-safest Liberal seat in the country and the eighth-safest Coalition seat. The 2007 primary result of 59.1% is the lowest ever received for the Liberal Party. However, the seat remains very safe.

The seat overlaps with the state electorate of Ku-ring-gai, held by NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell. Liberal-dominated Ku-ring-gai Council, which covers most of the seat, has been stripped of planning powers for controversial developments by the state government, and the Liberals and Greens have both used this issue to attack the state Labor government.

Fundamentally, this remains a safe Liberal seat, however we should see a strong performance for the Greens, who tend to do well in northern Sydney. There has been little word about potential independent candidates, and without a Labor candidate this turns into a Liberal-Greens contest. In these circumstances, I can’t see the Greens winning the seat, but it should be an opportunity for the party to raise its presence and build its organisation across Sydney, particularly if they can make climate change a key issue in the by-election.

The Liberal Party is running Paul Fletcher, former Optus executive and advisor to Communications Minister Richard Alston. His main opponent will be Susie Gemmell of The Greens, advisor to NSW MP Lee Rhiannon and candidate for the seat in 2007.

A major contribution to 22-strong field has been made by Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, who are standing no less than nine candidates. In ballot paper order they are: James Whitehall, Jodi Luke, Robyn Peebles, Darryl Allen, Leighton Thew, Andrew Hestelow, Esther Heng, Joseph Pender and David Pix.

Other candidates include Marianne Leishman representing the Australian Sex Party, Simon McCaffrey of the Democratic Labor Party, One Nation’s Victor Waterson, Lucy Gabb of the Liberal Democrats, Deborah Burt of the Climate Change Coalition and Goronwy Price from Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, a party which has recently had a name change after contesting the 2007 election as ‘Conservatives for Climate and Environment’, Also in the field are five independents – Peter Hanrahan, a 56-year old diagnosed with bipolar disorder who describes himself as a ‘universal Christian’ and opposes the ETS and a human rights charter, Bill Koutalianos representing the unregistered Climate Sceptics Party, Philip Dowling a former IT educator who resigned a position with the NSW Department of Education to contest the by-election, Brian Buckley, a right-wing republican who has been a frequent election candidate over more than 30 years, and local businessman Simon Kelly, who appears to be the same person who posted a number of comments on this thread previously.

The ALP announced early on that they would not stand.

2007 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Brendan Nelson LIB 49,817 59.07 -3.41
Victoria Brookman ALP 22,509 26.69 +5.11
Susie Gemmell GRN 9,495 11.26 +0.01
Witold Wiszniewski CDP 1,466 1.74 +1.45
James Turnbull FF 759 0.90 -0.88
Robert Butler CEC 285 0.34 +0.34
DEM 0 0.00 -2.40
OTH 0 0.00 -0.23

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Brendan Nelson LIB 53,512 63.45 -4.10
Victoria Brookman ALP 30,819 36.55 +4.10

Booth breakdown

For the purpose of analysis, I have divided the votes cast in Bradfield into five voter blocks. ‘Chatswood’ covers all booths in Willoughby LGA, along with the remainder of Roseville. ‘Hornsby’ likewise covers booths in Hornsby LGA. South Ku-ring-gai covers the southern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai Council, namely Gordon, Lindfield, Killara and Pymble. North Ku-ring-gai covers the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai Council, namely St Ives, Turramurra, and Wahroonga.

As this chart demonstrates, the Liberal vote peaks in the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai, polling 70.65% 2PP. The ALP actually won a two-party majority amongst the 12.5% of votes cast in Hornsby LGA. Chatswood gives 55% to the Liberals, while South Ku-ring-gai lies between North Ku-ring-gai and Chatswood. When examining the Greens vote, Chatswood is the strongest part of the seat, with the northern suburbs of Ku-ring-gai, which makes up the largest part of the seat, being the weakest. However, there isn’t a great deal of variation, from 10.55% in North Ku-ring-gai up to 12.22% in Chatswood.

Voter group GRN % LIB 2CP % Total votes % of votes
North Ku-ring-gai 10.55 70.65 25,384 30.10
South Ku-ring-gai 11.81 64.85 21,007 24.91
Chatswood 12.22 55.31 11,912 20.43
Hornsby 11.25 47.67 7,289 12.50
Other votes 11.00 63.46 18,739 22.22

“Other votes” includes postal, pre-poll, provisional and absent votes, as well as special hospital votes and those cast at Sydney Town Hall.

Two-party-preferred vote for Brendan Nelson, 2007 election, by booth.
Two-party-preferred vote per booth, 2007 election. Labor booths in pink, Liberal booths in blue.
Primary vote for the Greens, 2007 election, by booth.
Primary vote for the Greens, 2007 election, by booth. Below-median booths are coloured yellow.


  1. This is such exciting news. Congratulations Oz and the DLP. This choice of candidate clearly positions the DLP as a real force to be reckoned with. Where can I sign up to help you’re campaign Oz?

    And all this time I thought you were actually that anonymous One Nation candidate.

  2. I was in preliminary discussions with One Nation, but the DLP’s amazing resurgence around the country and the fact that they’re the only party to stand up for working class, moral folk wooed me in the end.

  3. Oz, I’ve just heard from my sources that Newspoll are about to release results of a poll of Bradfield voters just taken in the two hours since you announced your candidacy. Apparently you’re polling an impressive 23% of the primary vote, with Fletcher on 41%, Gemmell on 15%, the CDP candidates on a combined 6.66%, Leishman on 7%, Kelly on 3%, the anonymous One Nation candidate on 4%, and Buckley on none. Do you have any comment on these amazing poll numbers?

  4. Hello there. Just thought I’d introduce myself. I’m the anonymous One Nation candidate for Bradfield. Let me say how great it is that I’m not being crucified by the media (or the blogosphere).

    Oz, welcome to the contest. I’d like to meet you for a cuppa some time and have a chat about preferences. Could you please give me a call on my silent number or shoot me an email on my suppressed email address so we can arrange a time that’s convenient. Look forward to meeting you on the campaign trail – you can recognise me as the guy wearing the hood to hide my identity. Cheers.

  5. Not sure how much actually goes to the developer vs. how much is legal costs. Amounts to the same thing in the end though, I guess.

  6. There’s been a number of instances of developers suing community activists in the Byron Shire over the years. Seems to be a favourite tactic of maverick developers. Not familiar with any as large as this, and I believe developers have often lost. Seems to usually result in the activist gaining a kind of celebrity status and plenty of public sympathy, so doesn’t do the developer any favours in the PR stakes. I guess Ian is the ultimate iconic target, so not surprising he’d be pursued to this extent. I actually thought I’d heard of this case a while ago and was under the impression it was over, but obviously my info was incorrect.

  7. Hamish – not to mention that it is also highly hypocritical of Niles to complain about religion in politics, given his determination to impose his own narrow-minded fundametalist inerpretation of Christianity upon political life!

  8. Nick C :Antony now has the details up on the candidate the DLP are parachuting in: Dr Simon McCaffery, who has a practice in Liverpool and Campbelltown. I believe all the other candidates listed there at this stage are previously mentioned in this thread:

    He certainly knows the area thats for sure. Residency & internship in North Shore Hospital. Played rugby union for North Sydney. Is well known and respected in the area.

  9. Yep, Bartlett, as expected – terrific news. Shame he can’t win, maybe he’d’ve been better off standing against Rudd in Griffith, but doesn’t matter.

  10. Philip Dowling not Phillip Dowling. Next you’ll be writing about Prince Phillip, the Queen’s husband.,_Duke_of_Edinburgh
    But then it’s probably all Greek to you.

  11. The Liberal candidate opined in the North Shore Times that many candidates are single issue candidates. He is in the fortunate position of being a bit like Melbourne weather. If you don’t like the Liberal party room’s policy now, come back in a few hours, and they will have another one.

  12. Have been concentrating on personal contact. Boy, am I sunburnt. More people know me, or are acquainted with me, or my wife and four children in the electorate than Paul Fletcher. I have been trying to get the message out to them personally that I am running and hence on to their networks, by word of mouth.
    I have also been talking to electors. With so many candidates, and Lib turmoil, I am still finessing a message that will cut through to electors.
    Site should be up by next Wednesday at latest.

  13. Basic site up earlier than planned. It is clear that The North Shore Times thinks that it the party newsletter for one candidate, or at least this is the opinion of two voters who rang me directly.

  14. Have emailed Andrew Priestley to ask him to clarify his understanding of the Journalists’ Code of Ethics. I bet this will come as a concept “shock” to him.

  15. I almost suspect that Gillard is reintroducing the CPRS Bills in February on the basis (hope?) that Dwyer and Fletcher will be elected this weekend, this will change the balance of power within the Lib Party Room, there’ll be another change of Leader, and then the CPRS will be passed. Or something like that…

    Of course it could just be a delaying tactic so that they can go to an election in August with the issue still fresh in voters minds.

  16. Stewart J, any swing against the Liberals this weekend will be used as justification by the moderates to take back control. If the polls plummet further, Turnbull will get another go and the CPRS will get through.

    I think Abbott in charge will all seem like a bad dream in a few months. The question now is whether the conservatives can hold on to the reins long enough to block the CPRS for a third (3rd!!) time in February. That seems an age away..

    If Fletcher & O’Dwyer both get resoundly swung against but get in still, this may all happen much sooner. Thus, ironically, the Greens sending a message to the Liberals on climate change will mean the CPRS that the Greens are against will more likely be pushed through the senate.

  17. deconst says; think Abbott in charge will all seem like a bad dream in a few months. The question now is whether the conservatives can hold on to the reins long enough to block the CPRS for a third (3rd!!) time in February

    I think Tony might just be there a lot longer than you think. Getting the CPRS through was always about timing. The longer the government waits the less chance it had to get it through. The public are starting to learn more about this tax and the coalition’s public struggle has certainly brought more and more out against it.

    If they’re worried about the revised governments CPRS then there’s no way they would even consider the very destructive option that the greens are pushing.

    Higgins is the big test. The liberals have a good margin, the greens have a prominent candidate. If Kathy canters in with that seat then the government might have to worry about their own ranks. I can’t imagine that too many labor members would be happy about the cost of living rises for pensioners, fixed income earners and small businesses.

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