Wentworth by-election, 2018

Cause of by-election
Sitting Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull resigned from parliament in late August following his removal as Liberal leader and prime minister.

Margin – LIB 17.7%

Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Wentworth covers Woollahra and Waverley local government areas, as well as eastern parts of the City of Sydney and northern parts of Randwick LGA. Wentworth covers the southern shore of Sydney Harbour as far west as Elizabeth Bay, and covers the east coast from South Head to Clovelly. Main suburbs include Bondi, Woollahra, Vaucluse, Double Bay, Kings Cross and parts of Randwick, Darlinghurst and Clovelly. Wentworth also covers Moore Park and Centennial Park.

Wentworth is an original federation electorate and has always existed roughly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It has always been held by conservative parties, including the Liberal Party since its foundation in 1944.

The seat was first won by William McMillan of the Free Trade party in 1901. He was elected deputy leader of his party but retired at the 1903 election. He was succeeded by William Kelly, also a Free Trader. Kelly joined the Commonwealth Liberal Party and served in Joseph Cook’s ministry from 1913 to 1914.

Kelly retired in 1919 as a Nationalist and was succeeded by Walter Marks. Marks joined with other Nationalists, including Billy Hughes, to bring down the Bruce government in 1929, and was reelected as an independent. Marks joined the new United Australia Party in 1931, but was defeated in that year’s election by Eric Harrison, another UAP candidate.

Harrison held the seat for twenty-five years for the UAP and the Liberal Party. He usually held the seat safely, although he only held on by 335 votes in 1943, when feminist campaigner Jessie Street (ALP) challenged Harrison. William Wentworth also polled 20%. He later joined the Liberal Party and was elected in Mackellar in 1949.

Harrison had served a number of brief stints as a minister under Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies in the 1930s and early 1940s, and served as the first deputy leader of the Liberal Party from its foundation until his retirement in 1956. Harrison was a minister in the Menzies government from 1949 until 1956, when he retired.

Les Bury (LIB) won the seat at the 1956 by-election. He served as a minister from 1961 until 1971, serving as Treasurer under John Gorton and briefly as Treasurer and then Foreign Minister under William McMahon. Bury retired in 1974.

Robert Ellicott (LIB) was elected in 1974. He served as Attorney-General in the first Fraser Ministry and as Minister for Home Affairs from 1977 to 1981, when he resigned to serve on the Federal Court. The ensuing by-election was won by Peter Coleman. Coleman had previously served as Leader of the Opposition in the NSW Parliament, and lost his seat at the 1978 state election.

Coleman retired in 1987 and was succeeded by John Hewson. Hewson was elected leader of the Liberal Party following their 1990 election defeat. Hewson led the party into the 1993 election, where the party went backwards. He was replaced in May 1994 as leader by Alexander Downer, and he retired from Parliament in 1995.

Andrew Thomson won the following by-election. Thomson served briefly as a Parliamentary Secretary and junior minister in the first term of the Howard government. Thomson was defeated for preselection by Peter King in 2001.

King himself was defeated for preselection in a heated preselection campaign in 2004 by Malcolm Turnbull. The preselection saw a massive explosion in membership numbers for the Liberal Party in Wentworth. King ran as an independent and polled 18%, and Turnbull’s margin was cut to 5.5%.

The redistribution after the 2004 election saw Wentworth extended deeper into the City of Sydney, and Turnbull’s margin was cut to 2.5%. Turnbull managed to win the seat in 2007 with a 1.3% swing towards him, in the face of a national swing against the Liberals.

Turnbull had served as a minister in the final term of the Howard government, and ran for the Liberal leadership following the 2007 election, losing to Brendan Nelson. After serving as Nelson’s Shadow Treasurer he was elected Leader of the Opposition in September 2008. After a rocky term as Leader of the Opposition, Turnbull was defeated by Tony Abbott by one vote in another leadership vote in December 2009. Turnbull served as a shadow minister and then as Minister for Communications under Tony Abbott’s leadership.

In September 2015, Turnbull successfully challenged Abbott for the Liberal leadership, and became Prime Minister. He led the Liberal-National coalition to a second term in government in 2016.

Malcolm Turnbull led the Liberal Party in government until August 2018, when he resigned following a motion to spill the Liberal leadership. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Scott Morrison. Turnbull resigned from Wentworth shortly after losing the leadership.


  • Robert Callanan (Katter’s Australian Party)
  • Dominic Wy Kanak (Greens)
  • Shayne Higson (Voluntary Euthanasia)
  • Steven Georgantis (People’s Party)
  • Tim Murray (Labor)
  • Ben Forsyth (Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party)
  • Tony Robinson (Liberty Alliance)
  • Samuel Gunning (Liberal Democrats)
  • Dave Sharma (Liberal)
  • Angela Vithoulkas (Independent)
  • Deb Doyle (Animal Justice)
  • Andrea Leong (Science Party)
  • Licia Heath (Independent)
  • Barry Keldoulis (Arts Party)
  • Kerryn Phelps (Independent)
  • Kay Dunne (Sustainable Australia)

Wentworth had become a very safe Liberal seat under Malcolm Turnbull’s candidacy, but will likely become a lot more marginal in his absence.

Kerryn Phelps is a serious threat to the Liberal Party and has a good chance of winning if she can stay in second place. Labor has also performed well in the sole public poll, but will struggle with Phelps preferences flowing to the Liberal Party, so Phelps has the best chance of ousting the Liberal Party.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal 52,353 62.3 -2.4
Evan Hughes Labor 14,913 17.7 -1.0
Dejay Toborek Greens 12,496 14.9 +0.8
Anthony Michael Ackroyd Arts Party 1,478 1.8 +1.8
Peter Xing Science Party 988 1.2 +1.2
Beresford Thomas Christian Democratic Party 901 1.1 +0.6
David Allen Independent 573 0.7 +0.7
Marc Aussie-Stone Independent 390 0.5 +0.5
Informal 4,549 5.1

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal 56,971 67.7 -1.2
Evan Hughes Labor 27,121 32.3 +1.2

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three parts: Beach, Harbour and City.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 58.4% in Beach to 79.1% in Harbour.

The Greens came third, with a primary vote ranging from 9.7% in Harbour to 19.0% in Beach.

Voter group GRN prim % LIB 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Beach 19.0 58.4 21,244 25.3
Harbour 9.7 79.1 18,310 21.8
City 17.7 61.3 11,563 13.8
Other votes 13.7 71.1 14,891 17.7
Pre-poll 14.4 68.7 18,084 21.5

Election results in Wentworth at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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  1. Still believe IND Gain, Theres no way a Conservative wins in a socially progressive seat, Allot of voters are frustrated about whats going on at the moment in Canberra, But they also don’t think the Labor party is the solution, As long as Labor and the Greens Prefernce Phelps she could narrowly be pushed over the line,

  2. If Phelps wins, will she support any no-confidence notion against the Morrison Government? Has she said anything on the subject (or who’d she back in a hung Parliament after the next election?)

  3. It wouldn’t make sense for Phelps to sink the government before the May election, it would only hurt get chances of being re-elected into the 2019-2022 parliament where she might have time to get something done in.

  4. This will be a squeaker, Phelps is a good candidate and has a lot going for her in the way of ALP/GRN preferences and the progressive nature of this seat, but i’m not convinced she will win it, although I wouldn’t be shocked.

    I’ll slightly lower my prediction to LIB 51% IND 49%, give or take 2% each way, It’s probably also too far off to say how this seat will vote next election.

  5. Not sure I agree with the Ractel poll having the Greens polling at 12.6%, I kind of feel the Liberals will poll somewhere in the 30%, I can see Kerryn Phelps reaching that poll’s 22.5%, and the ALP may well maintain their 17% as I suspect that is the core ALP vote just as the Liberal core vote is in the 30%-40% range, so while I am questing I can see the Greens coming in closer to 7% to 8% which in such a crowded field is actually a good result but I just feel they will be squeezed by the number of candidates particularly running on progressive platforms.

  6. As long as Labor gets at least 80% of preferences off all the other parties they could scrape this, But whoever wins is likely to be a 1 termer, especially if Labor wins, The Liberal Party will pick a very strong candidate and by elections tend to be wonky compared to federal margins, If Sharma wins he could get a very strong independant challenge, Next election. Plus there is no way Sharma would be ever on the ministry or ever be Prime minister, Hes just another Abbott/Dutton Puppet that embraces their policies

  7. Approx 60/40 split lib vs. Non liberal…..this if accurate and it is a big if….as seat polls tend to have big margins of error. That should lead to a non liberal winner.. but who knows. This seat pre 1949 and post 1994? Has had similar boundaries but never alp won….although close on a couple of occasions…….Looking at the results in the turnpike era there is at least 12% which was added to the liberal 2pp which means the margin minus Turnbull is 5 to 7 %……..the libs should be favourites .but would be much closer than the 17% margin

  8. The Libs are not favourites with Sharma as Nominee, He will turn off Moderates and Progressives in the electorate

  9. Website J-Wire has advised that there will be a candidates forum in Wentworth however only 3 candidates have been invited they being the Lab, Lib and an Independent. The forum organisors have repeated dont this in Melbourne Ports as well. Weird stuff but the forum in Melbourne Ports was really only put on to promote outgoing MHR Michael Danby, I my opinion. I live in Melbourne Ports (soon to be renamed Macnamara for the next election).

  10. Adrian
    Candidate Forums have to some extent become less than non partisan. Most are organised with views more conservative or more extreme left than either of major parties and often more extreme than all of the parties standing. Green and Left wing ALP often refuse to attend ACL forums. Half of the candidates at the recent Longman by election were not represented at the Catholic Parents and Friends rForum a few even failed to give the organisers of them the courtesy of a reply.

    The forums have become less lively with questions submitted in writing and only a few questions asked.
    Organisers of forums need to remember that any good candidate will be buggered in the last few weeks of campaign.
    May I suggest that forums should be before the issuing of the writs. This will seperate the prepared from the in prepared and that local newspapers should organise them. Candidates who do not turn up should be rejected by electorate.
    There are far too many minor party candidates who are not real candidates but merely names on a bit of paper. ALP had a candidate a few years ago who had never visited electorate.
    Some of questions need to be knowledge based rather than just opinion based. Eg What is the current revenue received from income tact. What is unemployment rate in xxxx? Gown much does a person on New Start receive.
    The question put to the then .PM about GST on a cake have us a far
    More informative answer than most of the inane questions posed by supposed journalists.

  11. Also most candidate forums are usually attended mostly by supporters of the various candidates. The general public ignore them or do not know that they are on. With local newspaper now mostly junk mail there is little editorial reporting of forums unless it in a niche newspaper like the AJN or on a online websites like J-Wire were this forum was advertised this week.

  12. 50-50 Lib Vs Lab according to latest poll, But if Phelps comes 2nd, she will win, I believe she will win, there is no was Sharma wins this. Many voters are upset with the departure with turnbull as well as picking an out of touch candidate that has never lived in the electorate. If Phelps was the Liberal nominee she would have blown labor away here. it just shows that it all comes down to the candidate, Especially in By-Elections

  13. Labor has been supplying Phelps’ campaign manager and the CFMEU is backing her with the money she needs with Tim giving her his preferences. Now Alex has shown what the Turnbulls are really like and Malcolm went against ScoMo to support a man when polling said they would win with a woman, it seems he wants this seat to be lost and the government to be brought down with an early election to bring in Bill (CFMEU) Shorten to punish those who would not hand over our sovereignty to the UN through the Paris agreement being made law through the NRG agenda.
    It will be close, but Sharma is an even better candidate than Turnbull and the Greens preferences will favor Tim and put him ahead of Phelps. Then preferences from Phelps will put Sharma in and he will hold this seat for many years to come and one day he may be the next PM to represent this seat.

  14. What a big joke, He will never be the PM, Nor a Minister, Sharma is not a better candidate than Turnbull, he is more conservative than Turnbull. This is one of the most socially progressive areas in eastern Sydney. Its Highly unlikely even if he was to win that he will hold this until he retires, Demographic changes and the fact that this area is trending more Progressive will help Labor rather than hinder them, This might become a Battleground in a decade or 2, But i expect that Phelps will win this by less than a PP

  15. Just saw on Sports bet that the odds are $1.88 for Sharma and $1.92 for Phelps. That is about as line ball as it gets…..

    Libs must be feeling the pinch at this point.

  16. The seat can be as progressive as it likes but I seriously doubt it will ever be an ALP seat expect at the odd election or more likely the AEC redistributes it into one, but seats like Wentworth have always been progressive liberal minded but that has never resulted it becoming an ALP seat. There is about as much chance of the ALP winning and holding Wentworth as the Liberals have in Batman.

  17. Agreed, the profile of Wentworth is pretty much the same as the Melbourne seats of Kooyong and to a lesser extent Higgins (small pockets of Higgins are way more left-leaning than anywhere in Wentworth). Progressive and liberal minded but firmly rusted onto the Liberals.

    If by some miracle the ALP won this byelection, it’s almost guaranteed they’d lose it in the general election.

  18. Yes, agree with Trent. An ALP win here would be no more secure than, say, holding Ryan after the ALP won the 2001 by-election there. By the federal election at the end of 2001, the Liberals regained Ryan comfortably.

  19. Kooyong is more akin to North Sydney (established rich and suburban). I would think of Wentworth as more progressive than Higgins. Though Wentworth’s harbour suburbs are firm Liberal territory, and are more like Toorak and Malvern, inner-city Paddington is very similar to South Yarra/Prahran, whilst some of the demographics in the Waverly area would not be out of place in the Inner West (i.e. Balmain), or bayside Macnamara (though Bondi has gentrified substantially more than St Kilda).

    Hence makes Wentworth quite an odd electorate quite distinct from the traditional North Shore Liberal heartland.

  20. Phelps ahead on Sportsbet! 1.75 to Sharma’s 2.00, If the betting/polls turn out to be true this would be a disastrous result for the Liberals, Phelps will likely remain here until she retires or does something stupid, Or they Hypothetically bring back Malcolm

  21. There are three factors that we need to remember –

    1. How far will the liberal primary vote fall? If it hits below 40, they are certainly in trouble.
    2. Can Phelps get into 2nd place and collect preferences from Labor? If she can, then if her Primary vote is within 5-10 of Sharma she will be a shoe-in.
    3. Will people follow the how to vote cards? Wentworth voters are a pretty savvy lot and it will be interesting to see where a lot of minor party preferences go.

    It’s possible that Dave Sharma could still win this seat on a very low primary vote, as long as he comes first and Greens preferences put Tim Murray(Labor) ahead of Phelps. Then Phelps preferences will go to the liberals… assuming people follow the how to vote cards. Which makes this a pretty interesting race.

    Heath has also not issued a HTV card, so lord knows where her voters will end up.

  22. On preferences, Turnbull only picked up about 4% off preferences at the last election so for mine Sharma has to break into the 40% to be a chance unless Phelps doesn’t make the final two but even there he will still want over 40% or this will be a bad result for the Liberals regardless of whether they hold it or not.

  23. out of left field is it possible that Sharma’s preferences are distributed to chose between Murray and Phelps… how will the fake email about Phelps withdrawing and Pauline Hanson’s endorsement of Sharma effect the result?

  24. Turnouts in by elections are usually much lower than general elections. The turnout is a potential wild card. It would seem that the Libs would gain from a lower turnout – a more ‘settled’ demographic. Can’t recall if it was discussed but something similar may have helped the ALP in Batman.

  25. Peter, & Daniel
    You are both getting way, way ahead of yourselves. ANY MP needs to first be a successful minister, before being considered for PM.

  26. Irrespective of who win and looses on Saturday it will all have happen again in less than 6 months time in the general election.

  27. Is Wentworth a case where strategic voting would work for the Liberals?

    If a small amount of Lib voters vote Labor they potentially stop Phelps from getting into second place and harvesting Labor preferences?

  28. A number of Independent women candidates, plus the Greens man, were on the ABC TV panel show “The Drum” on yeterday (Thursday afternoon) and they all spoke well and were more down to earth (to use that over uses phrase) and spoke of things they say voters are more interested in, like freeing the refugees and climate change. In affluent electorates the day to day cost of living and utility prices were not a real issue. We should not rule out some of these excellent women as the winner in addition to the more publicised Dr Phelps.

    The PM’s Harbour Bridge climb with Prince Harry today (Friday) and the Kirribilly House visit could be his last official engagements before the likely hung parliament comes into force.

  29. We know the ALP wont win but ALP voters are more likely to 2nd preference Dr Phelps or another strong independent who may win.

  30. Andrew this has been discussed on pollbludger too…. the danger of doing this is that can backfire and cause Shamra to go into third place and his preferences are the one’s distributed…. also there are logistical problems doing that as I think all htv need to be registered with the aec

  31. Andrew ‘s comment about strategic voting is interesting but this only works to stop either Phelps or ALP winning NOT both of them. Clearly Libs would refer Phelps to ALP but they want to win. HTV do not need to be registered federally. So there is nothing to stop HT V being reprinted at 1030 today to take account of voter behaviour or issuing different HTV for different booths.
    I would like to see ALP, Phelps, Greens and Liberals all defeated. What a choice?

  32. Mick Quinlivan and Andrew Jackson,

    I want the Liberals to lose, so I’ll preface all my remarks with that.

    If Phelps massively outpolls ALP it is irrelevant.
    If ALP massively outpolls Phelps it is irrelevant.
    If the preference flows between both ALP and Phelps are very strong it is irrelevant.

    But a voter who prefers Phelps to Liberals should probably consider putting her higher than the ALP. That’s a fair consideration.

    Also, I imagine there is some ultra small sweet spot of a couple hundred votes where a Liberal voter might consider putting the ALP 1 just to hope they beat Phelps by those couple hundred votes. An ok strategy if you and your ten mates do it, bloody terrible if you and another 4000 people think its a good idea.

  33. thanks Andrew… would be a limit on lib tactical voting… is 1 alp 2 lib in the hope you get labor into 2nd place… 4000 is in excess of 5% of the formal vote… would be hard to organise by word of mouth….. and for the libs to put out 2 htv… would be very confusing

  34. Kerryn Phelps is in it for herself and no one else. She must be tired of following the rules of the AMA. We are doomed no matter who wins this race today. The revolving PM’s office door just keeps turning. With a new face each time it stops. No matter who wins today the status quo still remains.

  35. As usual, the liberals have made a really bad decision to nominate dave sharma AGAIN for this sear. He will not win, Phelps will beat him again by a wider margin than she did last time. She will prove to be a popular local mp. And since the coalition is toxic atm, the victoria election proved that, She should win because of the Labor tide, Im not sure whos betting on sportsbet but whoever is, i have to ask what your on, Because he has no chance of winning here, IND retain, Christine forester would have been better off here,


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