Legislative Council – NSW 2011

The NSW Legislative Council consists of 42 members, with 21 members elected by proportional representation every four years for an eight year term. All MLCs represent the entire state.

The Legislative Council was directly elected for the first time in 1978. Since then the Council has been elected by a system of proportional representation, with the balance of power held by a variety of minor parties.

The 1995 and 1999 elections produced results with a large number of minor parties winning seats. In 1995, single seats were won by the Christian Democratic Party, the Greens, the Democrats, the Shooters and A Better Future for our Children. In 1999, a seat was won by the CDP, Democrats, Greens, One Nation, Unity, Outdoor Recreation Party and Reform the Legal System.

Following the 1999 election result, the electoral system was changed to abolish ticket voting and allow individual voters to cast preferences for whole parties above the line.

At the 2003 election, the balance changed markedly, with the sole Christian Democrat and Shooters MLCs both re-elected, as well as the sitting Greens MLC. The Greens gained an extra seat.

In 2007, the same result was produced, with the two minor right-wing parties each winning a single seat in addition to the seat they won in 2003, while the Greens won two seats.

Following the 2007 election, the Legislative Council included 19 Labor MLCs, 15 Coalition MLCs, 4 Greens MLCs, 2 Shooters, and 2 Christian Democrats.

Since the last election, a large proportion of the Council has been replaced through casual vacancies, but in all those cases the vacating MLC was replaced by an MLC from the same party. Two changes have been made to party affiliations.

Christian Democratic Party MLC Gordon Moyes was expelled from his party in 2009 after an extended conflict with fellow MLC Fred Nile. Later in 2009, he joined the Family First party as their first NSW parliamentary representative. Moyes’ current term expires at the upcoming election.

In October 2010, the President of the Legislative Council, Amanda Fazio, was suspended from the ALP after crossing the floor and voting in favour of a Greens amendment on legislation to do with classification of x-rated pornography. Her term does not expire until the 2015 election.

The upcoming election seems set to produce a significant shift in the Legislative Council. The Greens have been consistently polling over 13.65%, which they would need to elect three MLCs (an increase of one) with full quotas. If the Greens were to poll around 2% in surplus over three quotas (15.7%) they would begin to have a chance of electing a fourth MLC. Recent polls have regularly put the Greens on around 15%, and some polls have gone as high as 16% or 17%.

The Shooters Party has won seats in the Legislative Council in 2003 and 2007 with a vote of less than 3%. They certainly stand a good chance of winning a seat, but with a vote that low there is always a danger they could fall below that level. Since 2007 the party has changed its name to the Shooters and Fishers Party. The issue of marine parks and fishing was a key election issue on the north coast in the federal election, and the party will certainly look to mop up some of that vote. With a resurgent Coalition, however, they may struggle for attention.

The Christian Democratic Party has been hurt by internal divisions since the 2007 election. Many supporters and activists left the party when sitting MLC Gordon Moyes was expelled in 2009. Moyes is up for re-election, and will be competing against a new Christian Democratic Party candidate. The CDP are running Paul Green, Mayor of Shoalhaven.

Moyes will have the higher profile, but his profile is minimal compared to that of Fred Nile (who is not up for re-election). Family First has always been particularly weak in New South Wales, and it will be interesting to see how the two conservative Christian parties stack up.

It is a plausible scenario where the parties divide the conservative minor-party vote in a way which locks out both parties (if both parties poll 2%), or both squeeze in with the perfect vote (say 3% for each party).

As far as the major parties go, the ALP is set to lose a large number of seats. In 2003 the ALP won ten seats. Six full quotas would require 27% of the primary vote, and yet that may be too much for a party that has managed to poll only 20% in January 2011.

It will be a tight contest to see whether the combination of the Coalition and minor right-wing parties can achieve a majority in the Legislative Council. In 2007 Labor and the Greens collectively won 11 seats, while the Coalition, Shooters and CDP won 10 seats. Eleven conservative seats would tie the Council at 21 seats each, but twelve would give them an outright majority.

If the ALP is dropping to six seats, the Greens would need to win four seats to tie the Council. That would be a very strong result for the Greens. If the ALP drops to five seats (approximately under 25%) then conservative MLCs would definitely gain a majority.

A Council with the balance of power in the hands of right-wing minor parties would be very different to one where the Coalition government was forced to get the votes of either the ALP or the Greens. The Shooters and the CDP in particular have been happy to support most of a government’s agenda in return for support of their pet issues. The Greens, on the other hand, would likely be a much tougher force to hold the balance of power.


  1. Based on the galaxy poll, the left will struggle to tie the council.

    Using Antony’s calculator, it takes 25 and and 18 for Labour and the Greens respectively to tie with 21.

  2. Although it’s always possible, why must the Galaxy Poll be a rogue? The ALP didn’t exactly help itself with the electricity privatisation mess. It’s hard to see the ALP/Greens collectively getting 10 seats, especially given that any recovery in the ALP vote will likely be at least partially at the cost of the Greens. In both the Australian and Victorian elections last year, the last opinion polls significantly overestimated Greens support – it’ll be interesting to see if this continues – underlying sample bias perhaps.

  3. Eric, Tony Kelly and Peter Primrose all on the Upper House Ticket and all likely to be gone within 12 months. Will their seats go to failed Lower House candidates or to new blood?

  4. With the current standard of MPs in NSW, it’s an injustice that Arthur Chesterfield-Evans of the Democrats was not re-elected in 2007. With Arthur’s re-nomination this time, voters have a chance to return Arthur to the Upper House.

    A former president of the Doctors’ Reform Society, a health (anti-smoking) and peace activist with a much-needed vision for a healthier society. He’s bright and humble.

    While not a friend of the Democrats, Joe Hildebrand (Daily Telegraph) voted for Arthur in 2007 on the basis of his conviction and hard work. İf ever a candidate offered the jaded NSW electorate considerable experience, dedication and ability, rather than an oversized ego, it’s Arthur.

  5. The Liberals wouldn’t care less. Preferences in the upper house are relatively meaningless. The vast majority of voters just vote ‘1’ for one group and don’t preference.

    And yes, it will be the first time Roozendaal has faced an election. He was appointed in 2004 to replace Tony Burke when he resigned to run for federal parliament.

  6. Probably easy to tip.
    Coalition 10 seats, Labor 6, Greens 3, and the other 2 going to who-knows-what.

  7. My personal bet for the LC is 2 between CDP/FF/Shooter&Fishers/Pauline. I’m tipping CDP & Pauline.

    Greens will get 3

    Labor will get 6 (might lose a further 1 to John Hatton)

    Liberal will get 10 (might lose 1 in conservative split to FF or S&F)

    I’m thinking quite a few won’t vote Liberal in both houses because there’ll be enough rust hanging on to not let the Liberals have outright control with the right-wing nutters. That would give a finely balanced council.

  8. Am I right in saying the upper house result will be: Coalition 10, Labor 5, Greens 3 (on below the line votes), Shooters, CDP, Pauline, with a possibility that the Coalition get 11 and knock out Pauline on below the line votes?

  9. Maybe the Greens might not get a third seat.

    So on second thoughts, this may be more accurate:

    10 Coalition
    5 Labor
    3 Greens
    1 Shooters
    1 CDP

    And 2 of Coalition, Greens, Pauline

  10. I’ll get it right eventually:

    10 Coalition
    5 Labor
    2 Greens
    1 Shooters
    1 CDP

    And 2 of Coalition, Greens, Pauline

  11. Sad to see Gordon Moyes lose his spot, he would be a much more moderate person to share balance of power.

  12. On paper, I think that it will go to the Coalition and the Greens. We have seen funnier things happen though…

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