Willoughby – NSW 2023

LIB 20.7%

Incumbent MP
Tim James, since 2022.

Lower North Shore of Sydney. The seat covers all of the City of Willoughby and small parts of North Sydney local government area. The seat covers the suburbs of Chatswood, Willoughby, Middle Cove, Northbridge, Naremburn, Crows Nest, Castle Cove, Cammeray and parts of Lane Cove North, St Leonards and Gore Hill.

Willoughby expanded in two directions, taking in Castle Cove from Davidson, and part of St Leonards and Gore Hill from Lane Cove. These changes reduced the Liberal margin from 21.0% to 20.7%.


The seat of Willoughby was first created in 1894. It was abolished for three elections in the 1920s and again for the 1988 election, but has existed at every other election. The seat has been dominated by the Liberal Party and its predecessors.

The seat was won in 1927 by Edward Sanders, an independent Nationalist. He joined the Nationalist Party and then the United Australia Party, and held the seat until his death in 1943.

The 1943 by-election was won by George Brain. He held the seat until his retirement in 1968.

Laurie McGinty won Willoughby for the Liberal Party in 1968. He served as a minister from 1973 to 1976. McGinty was defeated for preselection in 1978 by Nick Greiner. McGinty ran as an independent, and directed preferences to the ALP. The seat was won by Labor candidate Eddie Britt.

Britt was defeated in 1981 by the Liberal Party’s Peter Collins. He was re-elected in 1984. In 1988, Willoughby was renamed “Middle Harbour”, and Collins won the renamed seat. He became a minister following the 1988 election, moving up in the ranks to become Treasurer in 1993. In 1991, Middle Harbour was renamed Willoughby again.

When the Coalition lost power in 1995, Collins was elected Leader of the Opposition. He did not lead his party to an election, being replaced by Kerry Chikarovski in December 1998. He was re-elected to Willoughby in 1999 and retired in 2003.

Willoughby was won in 2003 by Gladys Berejiklian. She defeated independent Willoughby mayor Pat Reilly by only 144 votes. She was re-elected in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

Berejiklian became Transport Minister when the Coalition took power in 2011. She became deputy Liberal leader in 2014, and Treasurer in 2015.

Berejiklian became Premier and Liberal leader in January 2017. She led the government to a third term in 2019 and continued in her role until October 2021, when she resigned after the announcement of an ICAC inquiry.

The 2022 Willoughby by-election was won by Liberal candidate Tim James.


  • Sarah Griffin (Labor)
  • Edmund McGrath (Greens)
  • Larissa Penn (Independent)
  • Michael Want (Sustainable Australia)
  • Tim James (Liberal)
  • Assessment
    Willoughby could be vulnerable to the right independent.

    2019 result

    Candidate Party Votes % Swing Redist
    Gladys Berejiklian Liberal 27,292 57.0 -6.5 56.9
    Justin Reiss Labor 6,875 14.4 -1.5 14.7
    Daniel Keogh Greens 5,342 11.2 -4.7 11.4
    Larissa Penn Independent 4,742 9.9 +9.9 9.1
    Tom Crowley Keep Sydney Open 1,403 2.9 +2.9 3.0
    Emma Bennett Animal Justice 1,040 2.2 +2.2 2.0
    Greg Graham Sustainable Australia 779 1.6 +1.6 1.7
    Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow Flux 384 0.8 +0.8 0.7
    Others 0.4
    Informal 934 1.9

    2019 two-party-preferred result

    Candidate Party Votes % Swing Redist
    Gladys Berejiklian Liberal 29,142 71.0 -3.4 70.7
    Justin Reiss Labor 11,885 29.0 +3.4 29.3

    2022 by-election result

    Candidate Party Votes % Swing
    Tim James Liberal 18,949 43.5 -13.5
    Larissa Penn Independent 12,920 29.7 +19.8
    Lynne Saville Greens 5,892 13.5 +2.4
    Penny Hackett Reason 2,576 5.9 +5.9
    William Bourke Sustainable Australia 2,122 4.9 +3.2
    Samuel Gunning Liberal Democrats 1,104 2.5 +2.5
    Informal 697 1.6

    2022 by-election two-party-preferred result

    Candidate Party Votes % Swing
    Tim James Liberal 19,886 53.3 -20.5
    Larissa Penn Independent 17,421 46.7 +20.5

    Booth breakdown

    Booths in Willoughby have been split into three parts: north-east, south-east and west.

    At the 2019 election, the Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 69.0% in the west to 74.4% in the north-east.

    The Greens came third, with a primary vote ranging from 10.6% in the south-east to 13.1% in the west.

    At the 2022 by-election, the Liberal Party won the two-candidate-preferred vote in two out of three areas, with 51.9% in the north-east and 57% in the west. Independent candidate Larissa Penn polled 55% in the south-east.

    The Greens came third, with a primary vote ranging from just under 10% in the south-east and north-east to 16% in the west.

    2019 booth breakdown

    Voter group GRN prim LIB 2PP Total votes % of votes
    South-East 10.6 70.2 14,130 27.0
    West 13.1 69.0 10,336 19.8
    North-East 11.3 74.4 10,221 19.5
    Other votes 11.9 68.7 12,104 23.2
    Pre-poll 9.0 72.1 5,490 10.5

    2022 by-election booth breakdown

    Voter group GRN prim IND 2CP Total votes % of votes
    South-East 9.8 45.0 5,478 12.6
    North-East 9.7 51.9 3,508 8.1
    West 16.1 57.0 3,408 7.8
    Other votes 14.6 54.4 26,020 59.7
    Pre-poll 12.9 55.9 5,149 11.8

    Election results in Willoughby at the 2019 NSW state election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for the Liberal Party, Labor, the Greens and independent candidate Larissa Penn.

    Election results at the 2022 Willoughby by-election
    Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Liberal vs Independent) and primary votes for the Liberal Party, independent candidate Larissa Penn and the Greens.

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    1. @Insider my view is that the local anger in Northbridge, Cammeray, Naremburn etc remains red-hot about the tunnel. One thing I didn’t appreciate until recently is that the amenity of Northbridge residents will be greatly diminished because their speedy access point to the city via the freeway and Flat Rock Gully Road will be lost to them because of the tunnel. Northbridge is second only to Mosman on the north shore for exclusivity and routinely gave Hockey and Zimmerman their best 2pp results at booths (other than hunters hill). Penn HALVED the 2pp for the Libs at the two Northbridge booths at the byelection and won Naremburn with almost 70% 2pp! Maybe Labor will gain ground in Naremburn, which is the closest thing the north shore has to a slither of the inner west, but Northbridge? I think that’s a bridge too far. This electorate is so much more affluent than when Pat Reilly (whose vote was a strange Labor Right / Liberal right hybrid) ran Gladys close in 2003. There’s not as much of a Labor vote but the wealth means there is the potential for a latent progressive vote. Simon Homes a Court should have held his nose on Penn’s social views and backed her, hard. If I were Labor I’d have agreed to not run a candidate provided Penn’s people handed out HTVs recommending vote 1 Penn and vote 1 in the Leg Council.

      But what do I know?!

    2. The big raw problem for the Libs is that their comms strategy for the tunnel was “Gladys will be able to wave it through with the locals for us” except that when ICAC, Big Daz etc emerged, and she had to go, that strategy had to go. The intellectually honest thing would be to say (whether you agree or not) would have been: “Sydney is a city of 6 million people, we need to make it easier to get from the beaches to the city, inner west and beyond, and so we are looking to you suburbs that touch or rely on the freeway to again carry the burden for enduring both the construction and operation of this tunnel for the greater good of the people living around you, even if you don’t benefit”. But the Libs didn’t because the MPs weren’t willing to defy their friends/colleagues in the cabinet and take an independent line. James tried to do that, but too late and without sincerity. His North Shore preselection advantage meant being very strongly pro-tunnel. Great for Mosman and Cremorne Point, but sucks for Naremburn and Cammeray. That’s the issue.

    3. @David Walsh – no, I did not misinterpreted what Kevin Bonham is saying. My point was that if Penn is to do well on Primary vote much of the support will come from tactical voting – but Bonham is saying there is little justification for it.

      Opinions on Teal chances (Penn is not a Teal by the way) and the argument for tactical voting are basically inter-related – that was a key takeaway from the Federal election. I am told that the Teal IND in North Shore was pushing the tactical voting message hard on the weekend

    4. Who decides what a “teal” is though? The Climate 200 organisation? To me a “teal” is an anti-Liberal female independent running in an affluent electorate. What a “teal” actually believes in themselves is less important than doing whatever is necessary to achieve their electoral objective of success as an independent. Otherwise they’re effectively in a political party.

    5. Effectively a let leaning candidates who pretend to conservative so they can get elected and gets financial backing from climate 200 because they can’t find a decent campaign any other way since they’re not a member of the greens of labor party. They run in liberal electorates which are well off because people there don’t care about cost of living increases and can afford these ridiculous policies

    6. So :), someone that is actually conservative but pretends to be left leaning is not a Teal then? Hughie basically says above that Penn has social views so conservative that SaC would have had to hold his nose to back her.

      To be credibly labelled a Teal you need to have the support/endorsement of the local “Voices of” group or something like North Sydney’s IND, or be backed by Climate200 – and Penn has neither. So I don’t think it a stretch to say she not a Teal . I saw on he weekend the Guardian referred to both her and Michael Regan in Wakehurst as IND outside the Teal grouping.

    7. I wouldn’t label every female independent candidate running in a safe Liberal seat a “Teal” nor would I label teals a party though they may act like one. It’s a loosely-aligned group of candidates that has the backing of Climate 200 and Voices group as @Insider alluded to. Andrew Wilkie counts as a teal, according to Climate 200, even though he is a male and he flipped a Labor seat and his seat isn’t even affluent.

      Larissa Penn is not a teal candidate. She’s not even on the Climate 200 website. The independents next door in Lane Cove, North Shore and Manly are Climate 200-endorsed teals.

    8. @insider conservatives dont pretend to be left leaning (as far as I know) I never stated she was a teal i simply answeed hughies question. some independants are not teals correct. @votante i would argue hes not a teal. hes clearly independant and gets elected on his own vote and doesnt fake his position to get elected. i think he regretted backing gillard in 2010

    9. Agree Andrew Willkie is not a Teal – to say so is a nonsense.

      🙂 – you’ve got several people on here stating that Penn is a conservative pretending to be left learning. It’s not just me.

    10. Check out some of the earlier commenters in this thread. It’s not just me saying she has some fairly socially conservative views on some issues, it’s others saying it too.

    11. @insider I have seen surprisingly little campaign literature for Willoughby this time. I saw the postal vote form that Tim James sent out but that was because I was working from home, waiting for a repairman to fix the air conditioning. We got two flyers for Sarah Griffin but I don’t remember seeing one for Larissa Penn. I also think there are fewer campaign signs for candidates compared to the federal election. Labor signs tend to be on the front gates of private homes (probably hard to arrange as so many houses have hedges instead of fences) whereas the Libs tend to have them at both houses, or at shops or petrol stations. Penn has plenty of supporters who live on the corners of busy roads! If I were on the Labor campaign, I would suggest approaching the manager of the Quadrangle complex at Castlecrag to see if they would take a Griffin sign in one of the empty shops that look out over Eastern Valley Way – there are Penn and James signs there side by side now.

    12. HQ are feeling a bit more confident around Willoughby
      AE Forecasts – LIB 3.4%
      Sportsbet – $1.60 LIB
      TAB – $1.55 LIB

      Based on these numbers, you would think that one good push from Tim James gets him over the line.

    13. Surely this is a Liberal Retain.

      Tim James ahead before the big Chatswood prepoll booth and postals are counted. Can’t see how Larissa wins this.

    14. Yes, this is a Liberal retain. A very interesting result!

      If you compare the booth 2CP results at the by-election with Saturday’s results, what you get is two patterns emerging.

      In the wealthier south of the electorate, closer to the dreaded Beaches Link Tunnel, James actually improved his vote. Big swings to him on 2CP in the two Northbridge booths, and smaller swings on 2CP to him in plenty of booths close to the planned tunnel – Anzac Park, Artarmon Community Centre, Cammeray Public School, Castlecrag, Naremburn Community Centre.

      Away from the tunnel areas though, and the vote looked a lot like a normal anti-Government swing at a change-of-government election. Big swings against James on 2CP at Artarmon Public School, Civic Pavilion, St Barnabas’ Roseville, Chatswood High School.

      My thesis is that James won points for trying hard as MP for the previous twelve months, and gained small bits of ground in some parts, and a lot in Northbridge. But in the areas near high density buildings and railway stations, Labor did very well and the Liberal copped big swings against.

      Note also the high Labor exhaustion rate, and the notable Lab 1 Lib 2 preference rate. About a third of Labor voters in the electorate had the option to give their preferences to Penn – and they didn’t. I’m guessing this is due to the large mainland Chinese communities in Chatswood and Artarmon.

      Complaints about optional preferential voting from some Penn supporters overlook that if these exhausted ballots instead had to be fully preferential, many (maybe most) of the voters whose votes did exhaust this time would probably have just preferenced Liberal ahead of the Independent. Denying agency to those voters seems strange.

      James now on 51.85% 2CP and Antony Green has called it for him.

    15. From my perspective (as a Willoughby local), Penn had limited electoral appeal. She really got the most out of it but she was never going to be strong in the more multicultural, more densely populated areas of Willoughby. An anti-development platform is not going to appeal to these voters and she didn’t even try to get their vote anyway. The ALP beat her in primary votes in 3 Chatswood and 1 Artarmon booths and given how tight the 2CP looks like atm (within 2%), it looks like it was a difference maker.

    16. Tim James got roughly the same PV as he did at the 2022 by-election. I didn’t think Penn would win at the state election but for quite different reasons – I suspected Labor, who didn’t contest the by-election, would split the anti-Liberal vote.

      I agree with @SP that her NIMBY, anti-development platform didn’t appeal to the densely-populated north, which is much further away from the controversial tunnel plans. In Chatswood, most people are apartment dwellers, renters, young professionals, or quite mobile and had no plans to stay there for years. Penn had a year to increase her appeal around Chatswood but failed.

      She was ahead in the count since Saturday night and for a few moments, I thought she’d win. I commend Penn for coming quite close as a non-teal independent.

    17. As a non-local, I had a similar impression as the above comments. Penn seems to have been the default “non-Coalition” candidate during the by-election and because of the close result at that time warded off any challenges by a teal. But I doubted she would be able to summon enough preferences from Labor/Greens voters by virtue of her policy positions which appears to have been crucial.

      Still might have been winnable but uniting the anti-Coalition block during a general election as compared to a by-election was always going to be an uphill battle without having the recognisable “teal” branding. And it appears her campaign infrastructure wasn’t good enough to get past that, although I’m mostly judging off comments here and elsewhere for that.

    18. The TCP’s are up for all seats. Labor got strong preference flows here and this resulted in a 14.8% 2PP swing – I think that is second highest in state behind Kogarah but could be proved wrong. On a 2PP basis the margin is now just 5.9%.

    19. thats distorted though because of exhausted votes it doesnt account for those who would have voted liberal if penn didnt run

    20. @Insider

      The North Shore have been giving weird results for Labor lately.

      Zbik won Lane Cove Mayorality for Labor
      Federal North Sydney having 8% swing on notional 2pp to Labor to give a 1.3% margin
      (Labor put in effort here)
      Federal Bradfield having 10% swing on notional 2pp to Labor to give a 6.5% margin
      (Labor probably DID NOT put in effort here)
      Bradfield (Fed.) having the largest anti-Liberal primary swing in the country in 2022 (Though Boele helped with this one)
      State Willoughby (on a notional 2pp Labor vs Liberal, i.e. ignore Penn), swinging harder (14.8%) than even Lismore (hence presumably every seat in the state bar Kogarah), with lane Cove and North Shore also swinging quite hard (9-ish%)

    21. @Potatoes
      It is distorted both ways
      Like you said, some who would have gone Penn -> Liberals on CPV would not have ranked Liberals (or Labor) at all
      On the other hand, some who would have gone Penn -> Labor on CPV would not have ranked Labor (or Liberals) at all

    22. potatoes – it could be distorted the other way. 31% of votes exhausted in a Liberal vs Labor count. Perhaps more of those would have voted Labor? I’m pretty sure the margin with OPV is always made to look bigger in favour of the leading candidate on primary, which in this case is Liberal. All the results are very similar to the Federal election, where the result on 2PP is about 51/49.

      I actually don’t think 56/44 results is distorted to either side due to exhaustion of only 31% – its about what would have happened under CPV

    23. Leon, what’s so weird about the good folk of the lower(ish) North Shore realising they don’t live in a one party state?

      Don’t forget Bradfield and North Sydney had already swung 4.3% in 2019. FYI – Kevin Bonham and I think there is still an uncorrected error in the North Sydney results and the swing was 8.6% and the margin is about 0.7%.

      There also an ALP Deputy Labor Mayor and centre left majority on North Sydney Council.

    24. @Ben
      Oh. Then I guess the Gareth Ward voters didn’t preference the parachuted candidate.
      If we count Ward as a Liberal then the figure is 11.2% which is still high but is no Lismore/Kogarah

    25. @Ben 31.7% 2PP swing to Labor is a rubbish figure and a Labor 2PP of 69.7% is not what’s going to happen in Ward’s absence. Such a massive 2PP swing to Labor occurred because a large number of 2019 Liberal voters who voted for Gareth Ward as an independent this time followed Ward’s 1-only HTV recommendation and didn’t preference the Liberal Party.


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