City of Sydney election, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 9.56.12 pmThe City of Sydney covers the central suburbs of Sydney, including Pyrmont, Ultimo, Glebe, Forest Lodge, Erskineville, Surry Hills, Chippendale, Darlinghurst, the Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Redfern, Alexandria, Waterloo, Zetland and Rosebery, as well as parts of Paddington, Newtown, Camperdown.

The City of Sydney has a population of approximately 198,000 people (as of 2014), which makes it the twelfth most populous council in New South Wales. The City of Sydney is the sixth most populous NSW council to be elected in September 2016.

The City of Sydney has no wards.

Incumbent mayor
Clover Moore (Clover Moore Team)

Incumbent councillors

Irene Doutney (Greens) Vacant (Clover Moore Team)1 John Mant (Clover Moore Team)
Christine Forster (Liberal) Robert Kok (Clover Moore Team) Linda Scott (Labor)
Jenny Green (Clover Moore Team) Edward Mandla (Liberal) Angela Vithoulkas (Living Sydney)

1Deputy mayor Robyn Kemmis, a member of Clover Moore’s independent team, died in December 2015 and her seat has not been filled.

The City of Sydney has been a key political prize since its creation in the 1840s, but has taken on different shapes over time. Since it was dramatically expanded in the late 1940s, the council has regularly been redrawn, taking in larger and smaller areas based on the self-interest of state governments.

The original council covered the northern half of the current council, including Pyrmont, Ultimo, Surry Hills and Kings Cross, but not much more. In 1909, the council expanded to take in the Camperdown council area.

For most of the twentieth century, the City of Sydney was a contest primarily between the Labor Party and Civic Reform, a local political party opposed to Labor control of the council.

Labor held the lord mayoralty for the majority of the time from 1916 until 1927, but the council was run by a panel of commissioners from 1928 until 1930.

Civic Reform dominated the lord mayoralty from 1930 until 1948. No Labor lord mayors served during this time, and Civic Reform only lost the lord mayoralty to independents for four years in the late 1930s.

The City of Sydney was expanded to cover its largest expanse in 1949, when a number of small councils bordering the City of Sydney were absorbed into a single council. These councils were Paddington, Glebe, Alexandria, Darlington, Erskineville, Newtown, Redfern and Waterloo. This version of the council covered all of the current boundaries, as well as the remainders of Newtown and Paddington.

This change was made by the state Labor government, and it improved the political fortunes of Labor in the City. Labor held the lord mayoralty continuously from 1949 until 1967.

The Liberal Party under Robin Askin returned to power in New South Wales in 1965, and quickly acted to rid the City of Labor rule. The council was sacked in 1967, and in 1968 was split into two halves. The City of Sydney lost Glebe to Leichhardt council, most of Paddington to Woollahra council and half of Newtown to Marrickville council. The remainder south of Camperdown, Chippendale and Surry Hills was formed into a new council which eventually took the name South Sydney. These suburbs took most of the Labor-voting areas with them, strengthening conservative forces in the shrunken City.

Civic Reform won power in 1969, holding town hall until 1980, when Labor won the lord mayoralty. Labor had also won state government in 1976, and in 1982 they merged South Sydney council into the City of Sydney, restoring the council to something close to maximum size from 1949 until 1967.

Labor’s Doug Sutherland served as Lord Mayor over this expanded council until 1987, when the council was sacked. The City of Sydney retracted to its smallest ever size in 1989, only covering the CBD, Pyrmont and Ultimo. The remainder of territory was handed over to another South Sydney council, again ruled by Labor.

Labor was not competitive in this tiny council. Jeremy Bingham became the last Civic Reform lord mayor from 1989 until 1991, when he was succeeded by independent Frank Sartor. Sartor was re-elected in 1995 and 1999. In 2003, he resigned as lord mayor to run as the Labor candidate for the seat of Rockdale. Sartor went on to serve as Member for Rockdale until his retirement in 2011.

Sartor was replaced as lord mayor for the remainder of his term by Lucy Turnbull. In early 2003, the council expanded to take in Glebe from Leichhardt council.

In early 2004, the state Labor government decided to merge the City of Sydney with the traditionally Labor-voting City of South Sydney to create a larger City of Sydney, covering similar areas to the 1949-67 council and 1982-89 council. Labor had ambitions of taking control of the new council, and ran former Keating government minister Michael Lee for lord mayor, but these ambitions came undone when independent state MP Clover Moore announced plans to run for lord mayor.

Moore had previously served on South Sydney council and then the City of Sydney in the 1980s, and ran for Parliament in 1988 after her plans for the local council were defeated by the council’s sacking.

Clover Moore easily defeated Lee for the lord mayoralty in 2004, and her independent team also won four out of nine seats on the council, giving Moore five out of ten seats, which was enough to govern with her casting vote. Labor won three seats, with the Greens and Liberal Party each winning one.

Moore’s team won a second term in 2008, and won an additional seat on the council. The opposition consisted of two Greens councillors, and one each from Labor and the Liberal Party.

Moore won a third term as lord mayor in 2012, despite a swing against her team. Moore’s team held four out of nine council seats, alongside two Liberals, one Labor councillor, one Green and one from the Living Sydney party, which had previously been led by Frank Sartor.

Moore was forced to resign from state parliament to run again in 2012, due to a law change prohibiting sitting state MPs from running for local council. Her state seat of Sydney was easily won by her independent ally Alex Greenwich.

Since the 2012 election, the election law covering the City of Sydney was changed. Local businesses were already entitled to vote in council elections, but only had one vote and were not required to enrol or vote. The law was changed to make voting for businesses compulsory, and to give each business two votes. This was seen as an obvious strategy to remove Moore from town hall.

Candidate summary
There are five main groups running for the City of Sydney. Clover Moore’s independent team, Labor, Liberal, the Greens and the Sydney Matters independent team.

Clover Moore is running for a fourth term as lord mayor, and also heading her party’s ticket. Only one of the three sitting councillors elected on Moore’s ticket are running for re-election. Robert Kok is running fifth on the Moore ticket, and he would only get elected if Moore is re-elected as mayor and also gets another four councillors elected.

Liberal councillor Christine Forster is running for lord mayor and at the head of her party’s council ticket, with Craig Chung running for the winnable second seat. Sitting Liberal councillor Edward Mandla has defected to run on the Sydney Matters ticket.

Independent councillor Angela Vithoulkas is heading up the Sydney Matters ticket, joined in second place by Mandla.

Incumbent Labor councillor Linda Scott is heading up the Labor ticket, and Lindsay Johnston is heading up the Greens ticket.

The full candidate list is at the bottom of this guide.

The City of Sydney is a difficult election to predict due to the change in business voting.

The 2014 legislation made it compulsory for businesses to vote, and also gave each voting business two votes. There was an estimate that 80,000 businesses would vote, but only 22,972 managed to enrol in time. With each of these businesses voting twice, that is a significant increase on the just over 120,000 formal votes cast in 2012. Only 1709 businesses were registered to vote in 2012.

This isn’t enough to rule out Clover Moore. Moore beat her closest rival, Liberal Edward Mandla, by a massive margin in 2012, 51.3% to 16%. Unfortunately for this reason we don’t have a two-candidate-preferred count between Moore and Mandla, but it’s reasonable to assume that most of the 20% of the vote which went to Labor, Greens and Sex Party would flow to Moore as preferences. If all 46,000 new business votes flowed to the Liberal, he would be roughly neck-and-neck with Moore on primary votes, with Moore likely to gain better preference flows from Labor and the Greens.

This isn’t to say that Moore may not suffer a swing against her on the residential vote, but she has been a popular mayor and could even pick up extra votes in the context of the state government’s attacks on the council. Moore will also likely pick up a sizeable share of the business vote, although it is fair to assume these voters will be more conservative than the residents of the City.

Vithoulkas and Forster will be fighting hard to come out as the primary conservative opponent to Moore, and it’s hard to predict that result.

While Moore is likely to survive as mayor despite the change to business voting, it will likely hit her on the council. Moore’s four councillors give her an effective majority. If that drops to three, she will lose her majority. This doesn’t mean that the conservative opposition would gain a majority – it seems more likely that Moore will rely on Labor and the Greens to pass business through the council.

The Greens may also be victims of the business vote. They will not do very well amongst this constituency, and are running a low-profile lord mayoral candidate after running sitting councillors in 2008 and 2012. The Greens generally had one safe seat on the council before changes to the business vote, but business casting one quarter of all votes will make life tough for the Greens.

2012 council election result

Party Votes % Swing Seats won
Clover Moore Independents 30,352 46.00 -3.9 4
Liberal 12,067 18.29 +3.3 2
Labor 8,093 12.27 -4.4 1
Greens 6,197 9.39 -8.8 1
Living Sydney 5,524 8.37 +8.4 1
Sex Party 2,149 3.26 +3.3 0
Dixie Coulton team 819 1.24 +1.2 0
Denis Doherty team 764 1.16 +1.2 0
Ungrouped independents 16 0.02 -0.3 0

2012 mayoral election result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Clover Moore Clover Moore Independents 62,388 51.28 -5.2
Edward Mandla Liberal 19,468 16.00 +2.0
Linda Scott Labor 12,613 10.37 -4.7
Angela Vithoulkas Living Sydney 11,892 9.77 +9.8
Irene Doutney Greens 7,987 6.56 -6.9
Zahra Stardust Sex Party 4,031 3.31 +3.3
Dixie Coulton Independent 2,298 1.89 +1.9
Denis Doherty Independent 991 0.81 +0.8

Booth breakdown

Since there are no wards in the City of Sydney, I have split booths into four arbitrary divisions:

  • North-East – CBD, Surry Hills, Wooloomoolloo, Kings Cross, Darlinghurst
  • North-West – Glebe, Pyrmont, Ultimo
  • South-East – Redfern, Waterloo, Rosebery, Zetland
  • South-West – Newtown, Erskineville

Clover Moore’s vote was highest in the north-east and south-west, and lowest in the south-east, on both the council and mayoral ballot.

The Liberal Party came second in three out of four areas, but dropped to fourth behind Labor and the Greens in the south-west on the council ballot.

Council results breakdown by booth

Voter group CM % LIB % ALP % GRN % LS %
North-East 48.7 19.7 9.4 7.6 8.8
North-West 46.4 16.3 12.8 10.4 7.9
South-East 41.9 20.4 14.0 8.6 9.5
South-West 47.1 11.5 15.1 14.6 6.1
Other votes 44.8 20.5 12.4 8.3 8.8

Mayoral results breakdown by booth

Voter group CM % LIB % ALP % LS % GRN %
North-East 53.8 17.7 7.5 9.8 5.0
North-West 51.5 14.6 11.0 9.6 7.2
South-East 46.3 18.1 12.1 11.4 6.2
South-West 53.7 10.4 13.1 7.3 9.7
Other votes 49.4 17.3 10.9 10.3 6.2

Election results (Moore, Liberal and Labor) at the 2012 City of Sydney council election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for the Clover Moore Team, the Liberal Party and Labor Party.

Election results (Living Sydney and Greens) at the 2012 City of Sydney council election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for the Greens and Living Sydney

Election results (Moore, Liberal and Labor) at the 2012 City of Sydney mayoral election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for independent candidate Clover Moore, Liberal candidate Edward Mandla and Labor candidate Linda Scott.

Election results (Living Sydney and Greens) at the 2012 City of Sydney mayoral election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for Greens candidate Irene Doutney and Living Sydney candidate Angela Vithoulkas.

Candidates – Mayor

  • Christine Forster (Liberal)
  • Lindsay Johnston (Greens)
  • Clover Moore (Clover Moore Independent Team)
  • Linda Scott (Labor)
  • Angela Vithoulkas (Sydney Matters)

Candidates – Council

  • A – Liberal
    1. Christine Forster
    2. Craig Chung
    3. Adrian Bartels
    4. Shauna Jarrett
    5. David Glasheen
    6. Dominic Patterson
    7. Lyndon Gannon
    8. Divya Diwan
    9. Carrington Brigham
  • B – Labor
    1. Linda Scott
    2. Jonathan Yee
    3. Norma Ingram
    4. Holly Rebeiro
    5. Ian Roberts
    6. Graham Brecht
    7. Darren Jenkins
    8. Damien Minton
    9. Ariane Psomotragos
  • C – Clover Moore Independent Team
    1. Clover Moore
    2. Kerryn Phelps
    3. Philip Thalis
    4. Jess Scully
    5. Robert Kok
    6. Jess Miller
    7. Catherine Lezer
  • D – Sydney Matters
    1. Angela Vithoulkas
    2. Edward Mandla
    3. Grace Zou
    4. Maurizio Vespa
    5. Margaret Harvie
    6. Mat Beeche
    7. Lorraine Chung
  • E – Greens
    1. Lindsay Johnston
    2. De Brierley Newton
    3. Mark Smith
    4. Caroline Alcorso
    5. Chris Brentin
  • Ungrouped
    • Erica Liu


  1. Hi I think your numbers are wrong.

    There are not 22,972 businesses registered with 44k voters. There are only 23k voters registered from the businesses to vote.

    Most of which are from the creative industries expected to vote heavily for Clover Moore Team.

    That is my understanding but I would love to know if you are right? If you can check and confirm these numbers that would be great.

  2. Unfortunately I can’t find any definitive source of the data. I couldn’t find anything on CoS or NSWEC websites so I’m just relying on news reports which are vague. You may well be right.

  3. What’s the criteria for a business to get two votes in the City of Sydney? If I have two hundred shelf companies all registered to the same address in Surry Hills, do I get four hundred votes in the council election?

  4. Sydney Council needs to pass a motion to put a 2018 referendum to the voters to establish five wards, 3 councillors each, to give true community representation. This also allows small parties to run candidates on low campaign budget because they only have to campaign in one ward instead of a whole council the way that Angela Vithoulkas did to get re-elected. For more detail please go to my Facebook page

  5. Thank you for your great work and analysis, Ben! Based on your numbers from 2012 booths, I guess that with five wards for Sydney being North, East, West, Central and South, the councillor election results would be CM 9, Lib 3, ALP 2 and IND 1.

  6. Not a good advertisement for wards. Clover Moore’s team wins 46% of the vote and 60% of the seats? I’m all for more councillors but if there are wards they should elect more than three.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here