Penrith by-election

June 19, 2010

Penrith was created as a state electoral district for the 1973 state election as a seat covering a large area around Penrith which included rural areas that have since been developed.

The seat was first won in 1973 by Labor candidate Ron Mulock. Mulock had previously won the seat of Nepean in 1971 before the redistribution. Mulock joined the cabinet in 1976 after the election of Neville Wran’s Labor government. He moved to the new seat of St Marys in 1981, and went on to serve as Deputy Premier from 1984 until his retirement at the 1988 election.

Penrith was won in 1981 by another Labor MP, Peter Anderson. Anderson had won the seat of Nepean in 1978 before its abolition in 1981. Anderson was appointed to the ministry in 1982, and served as a minister until the 1988 election, when he lost Penrith at the 1988 election to Liberal candidate Guy Matheson. Anderson returned to Parliament in a 1989 by-election for the seat of Liverpool after former minister George Paciullo failed to win election as leader of the Opposition and resigned. A bitter preselection fight for Liverpool between Mark Latham and Paul Lynch was resolved by imposing Anderson as a compromise candidate, although he was defeated for preselection by Lynch in 1995.

Matheson failed to win re-election in 1991, with Labor’s candidate, Mayor of Penrith Faye Lo Po’, winning the seat back. Lo Po’ served as a minister in the Carr Labor government from 1995 until her retirement in 2003.

The seat was won in 2003 by Penrith councillor Karyn Paluzzano. In late 2009 she faced accusations of illegal misuse of public funds from a former staffer, and this scandal forced her to resign in May 2010.

Penrith covers the centre of the City of Penrith and parts of the lower Blue Mountains. It covers the suburbs of Kingswood, South Penrith, Jamisontown, Blaxland, Glenbrook, Emu Plains and parts of Cranebrook. The seat of Penrith covers only a small part of the City of Penrith, including the most populated areas in the centre of the City.

Political situation
The ALP holds Penrith with a 9.2% margin over the Liberal Party. While that would normally be considered a substantial margin, recent by-election history and current NSW polling suggests that it is not a stretch for the Liberals to win the seat.

Current polling has the ALP down from their 39% primary vote at the 2007 election to 31% in the latest state Newspoll, although this was preceded by two polls on 30% and one on 26%. If accurate, these polls would suggest a uniform swing of 9% is a reasonable possibility. Penrith is also an area known for large swings, and the overlapping federal electorate of Lindsay swung strongly to the Liberal Party at the 1996 election and was held by Liberal MP Jackie Kelly for the entirety of the Howard government.

The ALP has also suffered massive swings at recent state by-elections in New South Wales. A triple by-election in 2008 in the Labor seats of Ryde, Cabramatta and Lakemba saw a two-party preferred swing of over 20% in Ryde and Cabramatta and over 13% in Lakemba. These swings would easily be enough to overturn Labor’s hold on Penrith, as it was in Ryde.

The ALP is clearly aware of how hard it will be to retain Penrith, and are engaging in heavy spin to lower expectations. ALP spin doctors have even suggested that they could fall into third place behind the Greens, which suggests they no longer care about saying anything that’s  even remotely plausible. The ALP polled 43% more than the Greens, and the Greens generally don’t perform so well in Western Sydney. The Greens vote should increase, due to the by-election context and the rising Greens vote in polls since the last election. This race still remains a race between Labor and Liberal, like previous races in Ryde, Cabramatta and Macquarie Fields.

It seems most likely that the Liberals will gain Penrith, reducing the ALP’s majority to seven, down from eleven after the 2007 election.



  • John Thain (Labor)
  • Suzie Wright (Greens)
  • Mick Saunders (Australia First)
  • Stuart Ayres (Liberal)
  • David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation Party)
  • Jose Sanz (Democrats)
  • Andrew Green (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Noel Selby (Independent)


2007 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Karyn Paluzzano ALP 19,983 48.66 +2.3
Tricia Hitchen LIB 13,368 32.55 -3.0
Andrew Green CDP 2,544 6.20 +3.4
Suzie Wright GRN 2,285 5.56 -0.3
Geoff Brown IND 1,468 3.57 +3.6
Andrew Mavin AAFI 1,052 2.56 +2.6
Geraldine Waters DEM 365 0.89

2007 two-candidate-preferred result


Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Karyn Paluzzano ALP 22,020 59.25 +2.6
Tricia Hitchen LIB 15,146 40.75 -2.6
3,899 9.49

Booth breakdown
The major dividing line in the seat of Penrith is the Nepean river. A majority of voters live on the eastern side of the river, while Emu Plains and the lower Mountains towns of Blaxland and Glenbrook lie on the western side of the river.

In 2007 the ALP polled much more strongly in the eastern part of the seat, polling almost 63% compared to almost 53% in the west. The Greens polled much higher in the west, although within this area the Greens polled much better in the Blue Mountains area, where they polled over 10% at every booth, while polling around 4-5% in the booths in the Emu Plains area.


Polling booths in Penrith. Eastern booths in green, Western booths in blue.
Voter group GRN % ALP 2CP % Total votes % of votes
East 4.02 62.77 21,666 52.81
West 7.61 52.87 12,299 29.98
Other votes 6.76 59.32 7,059 17.21
Two-party preferred results of the 2007 state election in Penrith.


  1. Ben, you might want to check your numbers re the size of Labor’s parliamentary majority.

    There’s also an independent candidate Noel Selby.

    The 2007 result in Penrith was actually quite interesting. Most people were tipping this as a gain for the Liberals, but there was actually a swing towards Labor.

  2. Well, I’ll throw my hat in the ring with the following prediction:

    Libs 47%
    Labot 32%
    Greens 9%
    CDP 4%
    Others (I’m expecting a bit of a field) 8%

    To wash out to a rough Lib-Lab reversal of the last election.

    The Sun-Herald noted that O’Farrell has been campaigning every day in Penrith. That paper was suggesting that it was as much a referendum on O’Farrell as the Government and the former member. I doubt many voters will see it like that, but anything less than a convincing win, given O’Farrell’s efforts in the seat, may yet herald a Baird for Lib Leader push. We shall see.

  3. Three more candidates:
    Jose Sanz of the Democrats, and, according to the NSWEC website, David Leyohnjelm of the Outdoor Recreation Party, and Mick Saunders, who lists no party affiliation, but I assume is the same guy who is contesting Lindsay for the Australia First Party (unregistered for state elections).

  4. Let me put in a plug for a non-Greens candidate (for once). I know Jose Sanz very well. I went to school with him and occasionally meet up with him for a beer or go on a holiday with other old school friends. (He’s also helped me out a couple of times at Panthers 😉 ). He is a true local Penrith man, well connected and knows an enormous number of people in the Penrith area. He has threatened to run as an independent a few times, so I am a little surprised he went for the Democrats. Good luck Joe!!!

  5. “David Leyonhjelm of the Outdoor Recreation Party” is also a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party… according to the LDP website, the ORP is registered only in NSW, and the LDP is registered federally but not in NSW, so they’re pooling their efforts. Leyonhjelm ran for the LDP against John Howard in Bennelong in 2007, and has previously been a member of the Shooters Party, Liberals and Labor. The guy gets around…

  6. Also, that Western Weekender page has a webpoll, with about 1000 votes over the last few weeks. The results are:

    Liberal 36.3%
    Other 35%
    Labor 28.7%

    Not sure what to make of that, if anything. If it was Blue Mountains I could almost believe the Greens were beating Labor into third place, but I can’t see that happening in Penrith. Probably a fair few people using ‘other’ as the ‘don’t know / don’t care’ option.

  7. A pox on both their houses. Won’t happen though, but a high informal rate wouldn’t surprise me.

  8. And another candidate listed by the NSWEC, Andrew Green for the CDP. (What! They’re only standing 1 candidate? 🙂 )

  9. The guy gets around…

    Err, if you think a bit harder you might discover why. The Labor Party opposed conscription, the Liberals opposed government control of the economy, the Shooters Party opposed the government owning all the guns. Is there a theme here?

    I’m a classical liberal. Governments have their place, but it’s not in my wallet or running my life.

  10. I beg to differ Brendan!
    CDP canditate Andrew Green may have played a bit of football in his youth; however this in no way taints the man, nor does it get a mention on his regime.
    Andrew Green is the father of ten children and Pastor of Christian Community Church Cambridge Park. He has provided counceling and family assistance to the underprivileged and needy in the community for years.
    Andrew was also Finance Director with Greens Food Ltd for twenty years, thus gaining good business experience in a commercial environment.
    Andrew is a fine man of integrity who stands for “Honest, Transparent Principles and Ethics” and exemplifies a most worthy canditate and representative.
    He may well provide you with a little “hope” Brendan; something that seems to be lacking in your simple and “ill-informed” generalisation!
    God Bless You.

  11. Simon,

    they will indeed preference labor. They are becoming more and more the radical left of the labor party and nothing more.

    I’m going with a rational voice and voting for Jose Sanz. He is the only one who actually has policies and answers the questions unlike all the others.

    Jose is a fresh, local approach and its good to see the Australian Democrats are back and supporting him!

  12. “they will indeed preference labor”

    link? I heard quite the contrary.

    “They are becoming more and more the radical left of the labor party and nothing more.”


  13. Hopefully the leaked Labor polling isn’t too wide of the mark and Stuart Ayres gets over the line, although talk of swings in the mid 20 percent range are patently ridiculous. Certainly will be good for the people of Penrith to have a representative with talent and energy, unlike previous time servers. Also good for the state Liberal Party in terms of its regeneration.

  14. “Also good for the state Liberal Party in terms of its regeneration.”

    In one sense. It’s good for the Libs that they’ve put in a younger person instead of an old lifelong backbencher. However, Ayres is closely linked to the former member for Lindsay, the infamous Jackie Kelly (think racist leaflet scandal), which isn’t exactly renewal. I doubt we’ll be seeing any particularly different ideas coming from Penrith. Interesetingly, Ayres is also the partner of Lib Senator Marise Payne, who I understand to be from the moderate faction of the Liberal Party (centre-right instead of lunar-right). So at the least we won’t be seeing another David Clarke protege in parliament.

  15. Let’s not forget voters decide preferences. Parties and candidates merely make recommendations.

    I will keep saying this because we had a big shit-fight in the media in my area last year caused by the language used when discussing preferences.

  16. Penrith voters should think twice about endorsing the Libs if they’re going to dump Labor. Western Sydney and the Blue Mtns, including Penrith, need the Epping-Parramatta rail link, so that they have fast access to the North Shore business hub and a reason to abandon their cars (and the M4 & M7 & M2). But the Libs don’t want them to have it.
    Vote for the Libs, and commuters are hoodwinked. I hope that the other candidates run hard on the Epping-Parramatta rail link and the issue of rail generally. (And no, I can’t follow the debate on Twitter.)

  17. Warren,

    You are aware of course that it was Labor who abandoned Epping-Parra about ten years ago? If you are saying they have re-announced it in the lead-up to the election I would be extremely cynical, given how often the NW rail, SW rail, metro and light rail projects have been promised only to be quietly dropped soon after.

    As far as I am aware the Liberals have proposed to build the NW link and dump the inner city metro, so in fact people of the Hills District will have a new rail option.

  18. I’ve been looking at preferences in the Ryde by-election. The NSW Electoral Commission doesn’t give where preferences for each party went, but you can work out that of 4400 Green votes, 1100 Independent votes and 650 Democrat votes, totalling 6150, that more than half, 3550 exhaused, 1518 went to Labor and 1126 went to the Libs. As the Indi seemed to be running on an anti-Government platform, it’s probably fair to assume that most of his preferences went the way of the Libs. Still, if Labor can only harvest what I’ll estimate as 1300-1400 preferences from 5000 Green/Democrat votes – that’s about 30%, they are in big trouble in the general election. Indeed, as polls go by preference flows at the last election, polls would actually be underestimating state Labor support. Expect some ‘Green’ initiatives to be announced in the next 9 months.

  19. Hamish, it’s my understanding that Stuart worked for Jackie Kelly for six months as a teenager back in 2000, I wouldn’t have thought that this meant he was “closely alligned”. He actually defeated the Clarke candidate in the pre-selection, so definately no worries there.

  20. Crossing from PB. Apparently the odds are:

    $1.10 for Libs
    $6.50 for ALP
    $17 for Greens
    More for others.

    Given that I haven’t met a single person who thinks Labor can be competitive let alone win in this kind of by-election environment, $1.10 could be considered generous odds.

    I’ll give anyone 100/1 for the Greens if they’re interested. Penrith is no Marrickville.

  21. The interesting thing about Penrith is that when I’ve run the seat projection on the last two state polls, using a modified version of the approach Ben was taking (discussed last December), Penrith has come up as still being held by the ALP, as does Ryde incidentally, so essentially Penrith and Ryde are in some ways two ‘bonus’ seats for the Liberals that they may have had to fight hard to win next year, but should now be secure.

  22. MDMConnell,

    When did I say Labor would build the Epping-Parra link? I know Labor won’t do it. I’m just saying the Libs won’t do it, even though it’s vital. The north-west railway is also vital, but it was going to run to the Hills from Cheltenham until noise-phobic whingers in the Cheltenham region shrieked about a loss of peace (backed by the Libs, who are paranoid about appeasing NIMBY protesters so as to shore up Liberal seats in Sydney’s leafy north). The whingers won and got the link diverted to Epping – because of that, the Epping-Parra link can’t proceed. Penrith voters are going to be hoodwinked – they should be looking elsewhere to “park” their vote.

  23. Firstly Joel your mate Jose turned out to be a fraud cheating to get his security license by getting false references hes a good one for the Democrats.
    Secondly Brendan just because you play football doesnt mean you are brainless or are you jealous of the money footballers make while you make very little?

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