Legislative Council – NSW 2015

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.

Prior to 1995, the Legislative Council was elected one-third at a time, with 15 seats up for election at each lower house election. No minor parties were elected at the 1978 election, but at the next four elections the Christian Democratic Party (under their former name of Call to Australia) won a seat, and at three of these elections the Democrats also won a seat.

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.

In 2011, the CDP and the Shooters and Fishers each maintained one seat, while the Greens won three seats (up from two in 2003 and 2007), producing a total crossbench of five Greens, two Christian Democrats and two Shooters and Fishers.

During this time, there were various results for the major parties. Labor won a majority of seats in 1978 and 1981, but the Labor representation gradually dropped from 9 to 6 from 1978 to 1991. The Coalition won six seats in 1978 and five in 1981, and then seven in 1984, 1988 and 1991.

In 1995, Labor and the Coalition each won eight seats out of 21 elected. Labor again won eight in 1999, but the Coalition dropped to six seats.

Following the change in the electoral system, both major parties gained seats in 2003. Labor’s seat count peaked at ten, with the Coalition increasing to seven.

Labor won nine in 2007, and the Coalition won eight. In 2011, Labor’s vote collapsed, and they only managed to win five seats, while the Coalition won eleven.

Electoral system
The New South Wales Legislative Council is elected using a system of proportional representation, with all MLCs elected to represent the entire state.

There are 42 members of the Legislative Council, with 21 elected at each election for two terms. With such a large number of members elected as a single electorate, the quota is very low at 4.55%.

Up to the 1999 election, the upper house was elected with a ‘ticket voting’ system similar to that used in the Senate. This led to a situation where one third of seats were won by minor parties, some of whom won a very small vote.

Prior to the 2003 election, the system was reformed to abolish ticket voting. Under the current system, voters can vote ‘above the line’, but their vote will only flow to candidates of parties who have directly received a preference from that voter.

In practice this has significantly reduced the impact of preferences. There has only been one occasion where a candidate was leading before preferences were distributed but missed out after preferences, which was Pauline Hanson in 2011.

Sitting MLCs

Term expires 2015
Term expires 2019
John Ajaka (Liberal), since 2007 Jan Barham (Greens), since 2011
Robert Borsak (Shooters and Fishers), since 2010 Niall Blair (Nationals), since 2011
Sophie Cotsis (Labor), since 2010 Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers), since 2006
Mehreen Faruqi (Greens), since 20135 Jeremy Buckingham (Greens), since 2011
Amanda Fazio (Labor), since 2000 David Clarke (Liberal), since 2003
Marie Ficarra (Independent), since 20076 Rick Colless (Nationals), since 2000
Luke Foley (Labor), since 2010 Catherine Cusack (Liberal), since 2003
Jenny Gardiner (Nationals), since 1991 Greg Donnelly (Labor), since 2005
Don Harwin (Liberal), since 1999 Mike Gallacher (Independent), since 19967
John Kaye (Greens), since 2007 Duncan Gay (Nationals), since 1988
Trevor Khan (Nationals), since 2007 Paul Green (Christian Democratic), since 2011
Charlie Lynn (Liberal), since 1995 Scot MacDonald (Liberal), since 2011
Matthew Mason-Cox (Liberal), since 2006 Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Liberal), since 2011
Shaoquett Moselmane (Labor), since 2009 Sarah Mitchell (Nationals), since 2011
Fred Nile (Christian Democratic), since 1981 Greg Pearce (Liberal), since 2000
Melinda Pavey (Nationals), since 2002 Peter Phelps (Liberal), since 2011
Adam Searle (Labor), since 20112 Peter Primrose (Labor), since 1996
Walt Secord (Labor), since 20111 Penny Sharpe (Labor), since 2005
Mick Veitch (Labor), since 2007 David Shoebridge (Greens), since 2010
Lynda Voltz (Labor), since 2007 Steve Whan (Labor), since 20113
Helen Westwood (Labor), since 2007 Ernest Wong (Labor), since 20114

1 Walt Secord was appointed on 20 May 2011 to replace Eddie Obeid, who resigned on 10 May 2011.
2 Adam Searle was appointed on 20 May 2011 to replace John Hatzistergos, who resigned on 19 May 2011.
3 Steve Whan was appointed on 20 June 2011 to replace Tony Kelly, who resigned on 6 June 2011.
4 Ernest Wong was appointed on 24 May 2013 to replace Eric Roozendaal, who resigned on 6 May 2013.
5 Mehreen Faruqi was appointed on 19 June 2013 to replace Cate Faehrmann, who resigned on 18 June 2013.
6 Marie Ficcara withdrew from the Liberal Party in April 2014.
7 Mike Gallacher withdrew from the Liberal Party in May 2014.

2011 result

Group Votes % Swing Quota Seats won
Liberal/Nationals 1,943,246 47.7 +13.5 10.49 11
Labor 967,242 23.7 -15.4 5.22 5
The Greens 453,125 11.1 +2.0 2.45 3
Shooters and Fishers 150,741 3.7 +0.9 0.81 1
Christian Democratic Party 127,233 3.1 -1.3 0.69 1
Others 434,437 10.7 2.34 0

On primary votes, the Coalition gained ten seats, Labor five, Greens two. The Shooters and Fishers and the CDP were in a strong position to win one seat each, leaving the last two seats up for grabs between the Nationals, the Greens and Pauline Hanson.

At count 296, Hanson was 9720 votes ahead of Nationals candidate Sarah Johnston (now Sarah Mitchell), and 16592 votes ahead of the Greens’ Jeremy Buckingham. At every point of the count Buckingham and Johnston gained more preferences than Hanson, with a few candidates playing a key role.

The Greens gained boosts from the exclusion of Socialist Alliance candidate Peter Boyle (1609 vote net gain on Hanson), Democrats’ Arthur Chesterfield-Evans (3074 votes) the ALP’s Andrew Ferguson (3580) and independent John Hatton (3983). Johnston particularly gained votes from the Democrats, No Parking Meters and the Fishing Party, but were gaining votes slower than Hanson.

When John Hatton was excluded, Buckingham overtook Johnston. When Gordon Moyes of Family First was the only candidate remaining, the vote was:

  • Hanson – 102,466 votes
  • Buckingham – 102,276
  • Johnston – 101,183
  • Moyes – 64,738

While a vast majority of Moyes’ votes exhausted (52,101 votes) and over 4000 went to the Christian Democratic Party, Moyes’ preferences allowed both Buckingham and Johnston to jump over Hanson, leaving the final figures:

  • Buckingham – 105,472
  • Johnston – 104,341
  • Hanson – 103,035

At this point Hanson was excluded, leaving four candidates for the four remaining seats.

These two links include more analysis of the 2011 election results:

Retiring MLCs
Four MLCs are retiring at the 2015 election: Amanda Fazio, Marie Ficarra, Charlie Lynn and Jenny Gardiner. In addition, Helen Westwood is running for re-election in the ninth position on the Labor ticket, which is almost certainly unwinnable.

Another four MLCs are contesting Legislative Assembly seats. Labor leader Luke Foley and Nationals MLC Melinda Pavey were due to run for re-election in 2015. Labor MPs Steve Whan and Penny Sharpe’s seats do not come up for election until 2019, and it is unclear who will replace them for the remaining four years of their term.


There are three tickets who have a realistic chance of electing more than one candidate: the Liberal/National coalition, Labor and the Greens. All of those candidates in winnable positions for these parties are listed, along with the lead candidates for every other group.

The absence of ticket voting makes the NSW Legislative Council easier to predict than the Senate.

In terms of the major parties, both parties will win a large number of seats. Current polling suggests that Labor will win more seats than in 2011 and the Coalition will win less, but the overall impact will still be pro-Coalition since they will be performing better than they did in 2007.

Current polling has the Coalition on track to win 8-9 seats, compared to 11 in 2011, and 8 in 2007. Labor’s polling suggests they will win 7-8 seats, compared to 5 in 2011 and 9 in 2007.

The Greens will win at least two seats, and current polling suggests it will be touch-and-go as to whether they can win a third seat, as it was in 2011.

We don’t have concrete polling for the Shooters and Fishers or the Christian Democratic Party, but it seems reasonable to assume that these parties will retain a single seat, as they have done at every election since 2003.

There are numerous other parties who are running. Without ticket voting, most of these parties will win a very small vote and won’t make a significant impact on the result, let alone win a seat.

The only wildcard comes from the No Land Tax party. This party is newly registered, and is running in all 93 electorates. They also gained first position on the ballot, and appear to be well-funded. They are advertising for booth workers, which suggests that many voters will receive a No Land Tax how-to-vote. It is conceivable that this party could win enough votes to challenge for one of the final seats.


  1. Well, the Galaxy poll says 45/36/10. Given it’s the upper house, I’ll change it slightly to 42/32/10, plus 4 for the Shooters, 3 for Fred Nile and 2 for No Land Tax, plus a bit of change for the rest.

    That gives 9 LibNats, 7 Labor, 2 Green, 1 Shooter, 1 Nile, plus one up for grabs. With the top spot, people are talking about No Land Tax, but with Labor, Cyclist and Animal Justice preferences, I’ll tip the Greens for a third. The Libs could even grab a tenth seat if they are lucky.

  2. “The only wildcard comes from the No Land Tax party. This party is newly registered, and is running in all 93 electorates. They also gained first position on the ballot, and appear to be well-funded. They are advertising for booth workers, which suggests that many voters will receive a No Land Tax how-to-vote. It is conceivable that this party could win enough votes to challenge for one of the final seats.”

    It’s unbelievable that winning depends on money! So the political system is for the rich to win to advance their agenda!

  3. Just incidently Stuart, you can get $4.88 (an odd figure) for Nile to lose his seat if you think it’s worth a punt.

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